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Elephants Can’t Jump

Elephants Can't Jump

Elephants Can’t Jump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephants Can’t Jump

Venita Dimos

Natasha Curtin

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760656140

All the animals have had fun at Mini the elephant’s birthday and now it is time to open the presents.  She deliberately saved opening her best friend Mila’s present until last because Milo always gave the best presents and this one, wrapped in her favourite shade of pink was very big and bulky.  

But she was SO disappointed when she opened it because it was a trampoline  and while all the others could have fun, Milo should have known the elephants can’t jump!  So what use was the present to her?  And she was so angry with Milo she stopped talking to him.  And she got angrier and angrier as Milo suggested other games like hopscotch and hide-and-seek that were no fun for elephants, and so she decided to have nothing to do with Milo, even running away from him.  The final straw came when she went to Milo’s place on Friday afternoon (because Milo always had the most scrumptious food) and all her other friends were having fun on a jumping castle. Will the two ever resolve their differences and be friends again? 

The tag on this book is “Big Skills for Mini People” and it is a series written for our youngest readers to not only help them manage their emotions but help them navigate their way through relationships as they venture into the world of friendships beyond family and have to learn about competitiveness, managing inner voices, learning to listen, and communicating effectively. Learning to negotiate, compromise and consider others as they emerge from that egocentric world of toddlerhood can be tricky and so books like these, read with sensitive adults who can ask questions like “What could Mini have done instead of getting angry?” can help develop skills and strategies that will provide well for the future.  

One for the mindfulness collection that will help young people learning about the issues associated with assuming things.

Dragonboy and the 100 Hearts

Dragonboy and the 100 Hearts

Dragonboy and the 100 Hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonboy and the 100 Hearts

Fabio Napoleoni

Little Brown, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780316462211

It’s raining outside and Dragonboy and his stuffed-animal friends are stuck at home, feeling as gloomy as the weather. For them, the only fun is to be exploring outside and they aren’t particularly interested when Dragonboy suggests exploring inside.  And even though Darwin the sloth was noticing something unusual, they paid him no attention. When they venture into the attic and discover a lot of old toys and games, their day brightens and as they play together, but Darwin’s feelings are hurt…

This is another in this series for very young readers who are learning about friendship and kindness and building relationships through everyday acts of kindness that have nothing to do with material things.  Each time one of the characters shows kindness, a tiny red heart appears and they are invited to count how many they find (there are 100) and think about what it was that triggered it. 

Something a little different that encourages young readers to understand that there are many ways to be a good friend. 

11 Ruby Road: 1900

11 Ruby Road: 1900

11 Ruby Road: 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Ruby Road: 1900

Charlotte Barkla

Walker Books, 2024

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760657949

Ever since her Great Aunt Mildred picked the vacant block on the new housing development as a child in 1863 because she loved its giant Moreton Bay fig tree, it has belonged to Dorothy’s family and now they have moved from the country to the city to live in the house and run the store that Mildred’s mother established.

But city life  is very different to the rural one Dorothy has known. Ruby Road is bustling – full of families and children, horse-drawn carts and even a mysterious dog – and there are many other changes such as having to go to school and crossing swords with Miss Armstrong who insists on perfect printing of letters and needlework , despite Dorothy’s love of writing stories which she does in her secret writing room. Meeting a young Asian boy who also likes to write stories, Dorothy not only finds an outlet and audience for her imagination, but is also exposed to prejudice and racism, particularly towards the Chinese who were blamed for “taking all the gold” from the gold rush and inspired the White Australia Policy, as the colonies united to become one country. Inspired by a declaration by her Aunt Esme that she wouldn’t marry and be the possession of a man, Dorothy dreams of being a famous actress and independent and writes a play that she persuades the neighbourhood children to perform. But then a conversation between her mother and Esme about women having the right to vote and have a say in their lives, inspires a change of focus… and hopefully, a change in thinking for many.

Somewhat akin to the concept of Nadia Wheatley’s classic, My Place, this is the first in a series tracing the stories of the occupants of 11 Ruby Road in Brisbane, introducing young independent readers to the lives of those who lived in the times, as well as the genre of historical fiction.  It opens up many avenues of Australia’s history to explore – federation, racism, the status of women- all of which give today’s children an insight into how things were and an opportunity to investigate how and why they have changed.

A series worth following and offering to those investigating or interested in this country’s history in a way that makes it meaningful and accessible.

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Little Lunch

Danny Katz

Mitch vane

Walker Books, 2024

464pp., pbk, RRP $a19.99

9781760658816

That break known as “little lunch” or “recess” is only 15 minutes in the school day so really, what can happen in such a short time?  Ask any teacher who has ever been on playground duty and you will discover the answer is – a lot! And in this collection from the Little Lunch series are 18 stories that are perfect for those venturing into the world of novels because of their relatable characters and events and text/image balance, the reader discovers what teachers already know- it can be the most significant 15 minutes of the day.

Set in a suburban primary school in Australia each highlights  the adventures of a class of Year 5 students  Manny, Debra-Jo, Tamara, Rory, Atticus and their friends and their teacher Mrs Gonsha during morning recess as relationships ebb and flow over what seems like the most innocuous events. And whether it’s Tamara Noodle hogging the monkey bars, fighting over what kind of sandwich Manny was eating or Batty becoming SUPER BATMAN GUY, each provides an engaging read that not only has heads nodding but also offers opportunities to discuss how the issue was or could be solved without argument or violence.   

The series was first released 20 years ago, was made in to a TV series, still available on iView, in 2015-2016 and is as popular now as it was then because the characters and the things that happen essentially don’t change.  The issues a teacher deals with on the playground today at recess will be similar to those I dealt with all those years ago.  Now bound into a big book, it also includes all sorts of bonus activities to stretch the brain.

Apart from just being a fun read, Danny Katz shows that writing about every day stuff, the stuff you know about and have done can be just as entertaining as the most far-fetched fantasy, and thus the stories in the book could be a basis for a writing exercise for a class. Start as a class exercise by posing a common problem and then asking, “What if ABC said or did XYZ instead?” “How else could the situation have been dealt with?” offering scope for individual scenarios and responses.  Then have them really observe what happens in the playground, analyse the relationships among those involved and how the dynamics made the incident worth watching, show them how to disguise real-life by giving the characters new identities and then have them create their own story for an extra addition to the series. 

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Coral Vass

Heidi Cooper-Smith

Wombat Books, 2024

80pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761111266

Amanda Caomhánach (aka Amanda Commander)  is nearly nine and likes nothing more than hanging out with her two best friends Lucia Cazzoli (aka Rainbow Fudge) and Mai Le (aka Plum Flower). Together they make up the Dolphin Squad meeting at their beachside HQ and solving problems like why Amanda didn’t receive an invitation to Eve’s birthday, the only one in the class not to have one.

This time, Amanda has a tough time fitting back into the friendship groups at school after having a sick day, and so, when Eve has several days off, Amanda is determined she will not face the dame issues, even if it means she, herself, is excluded.

This is the fourth in this series for the newly independent reader, particularly girls, which focuses on the sorts of issues that eight and nine year olds face as they navigate the world of greater independence and making and maintaining friendships. Thus, it will resonate with many who will see themselves in the stories, and start to think about what they might do in the same circumstances.  If someone returns to school after an absence or is new to the school, how will they respond so the transition is smooth and welcoming.

Using all the textual devices that support those making the transition to novels, this is a series that will be a sound stepping stone.  

How to Find a Rainbow

How to Find a Rainbow

How to Find a Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find a Rainbow

Alom Shaha

Sarthak Sinha

Scribble, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761380372

Reena and Rekha may be sisters, but when it comes to the weather, they couldn’t be more different.  Reena hates rainy days because she sees them as grey and gloomy, depriving her of being outside painting all the bright and beautiful things.  Whereas Rekha loves the smell of wet earth and the solitude of being outside when everyone else is in.

As she splashes in the puddles she sees a rainbow, and knows immediately that it is something Reena will want to see.  But by the time Reena joins her, the rainbow has disappeared.  Where can it be?  Will they find it again?

There is a saying, “Without rain, there can be no rainbows”, and this charming story can be read on two levels – that of two sisters in search of a physical rainbow and that of emerging from a gloomy emotional episode and beginning to find joy again.  It offers scope for investigating the science of rainbows (as well as instructions for creating one) , but also helps young readers understand that even if siblings or friends don’t like the same things, there are still ways to come together.  With much of the story carried in the dialogue which is assigned directly to each character, and an original style of artwork, this is a story of two red pandas that offers much to young readers learning to explore the world around them so that they will be looking forward to the next rainy day to explore for themselves. You could even teach them the word “petrichor” which is the grown-up word for the smell of dry earth as rain hits it, and watch them impress others with their knowledge! 

Lawrence & Sophia

Lawrence & Sophia

Lawrence & Sophia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence & Sophia

Doreen Cronin

Brian Cronin

Rocky Pond Books, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780593618301

Lawrence stays close to home because “out there” is too big and loud and crowded. Sophia stays high up in the tree branches because “down there” is too bumpy, dark and dangerous. When they meet and become friends, they find ways to enjoy each other’s company without leaving their own safe spots . . . until a storm comes, and both are so worried about the other that they are finally able to take a huge, scary leap into the unknown. Together they feel brave, and the future is suddenly a lot more interesting.

This is a story about feeling vulnerable and scared, and your imagination making things more fearful than they actually are. How gradually taking the first step and then another, can lead to something so amazing that the things you feared just fall away. How sometimes your concern for someone or something else can lead you to do things you would never have considered possible when you are the only one in the picture. And it’s particularly appropriate for this time of the year and new schools loom for so many of our young readers and anxiety increases.  So much easier to stay in your comfort zone than risk being where it seems big and loud and crowded. Talking about the joys that Lawrence and Sophia shared because one day Sophia got the courage to walk to the very end of her branch might just be the impetus for encouraging your child to take their first step.

On a broader scale, research and data gathered since COVID, particularly, are showing that the levels of  anxiety in children and school refusal  is at an all-time high, and while one gently written and illustrated picture book is not going to solve such a complex problem, nevertheless it may be a starting point.  With its deceptively simple text and soft palette, this is a story that offers neither solution nor judgement but allows the anxious child to see themselves in a story and offers them some hope that there can be a life beyond their self-imposed prison that they can be a part of, and that might start with a conversation after sharing the story.  Perhaps musing on why both Lawrence and Sophia only feel safe and comfortable in their own space, putting the conversation at arm’s length so the child doesn’t feel threatened, will offer an insight into what is causing the child to feel so anxious, because it is certainly more than “laziness” and “being okay to stay home” as one commentator recently opined.

This interview between creators Doreen and Brian Cronin offers an insight into the story behind the story including how there is a bit of both Lawrence and Sophia in both of them. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and the Pen

David Lawrence

Cherie Dignam

EK Books, 2023

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781922539380

Ever since her husband died, Ruby’s mum has tried to manage her grief with a series of boyfriends, each weirder than the last.  Ruby has named the current one Dodgy Dave and not just because he is sending her to boarding school in another state. Grounded and confined to her room, Ruby sneaks out to her favourite markets one last time to sell some of her cartoons and have a little pocket money for the trip, and through a series of mysterious circumstances comes home with an unusual old fountain pen, inscribed with the words manibus futuri meaning  “the future is in your hands. “

Being an excellent cartoonist, Ruby is fascinated by the pen but it is not until she gets to her new school and is being bullied by students and staff alike that she discovers it powers – whatever she draws comes true. But while she is able to protect herself from the bullies through her drawing, she discovers that Dodgy Dave and Mr Lemon, the principal, are in collusion in a very dodgy plan and it is going to take more than the stroke of a pen to disrupt it.  And although that leads her to making some friends, she also finds that there are things like relationships that need more work than a funny/nasty drawing.

With its Trunchbull-like characters and the theme of kids triumphing over adults, this is an engaging read that despite its humour in both text and illustrations, has some powerful undertones about relationships and how they can be much more complex to make and maintain than just having a magic wand to fix problems.

And to cap it off, it concludes with Ruby throwing her pen into the sea and it being purchased, again from a mysterious market stall, by a boy named Xander who loves to draw superheroes

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Unicorn

Josh Funk

Charles Santoso

Viking, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780593206942

It is the beginning of the school year and Connie’s art class is partnering up with pen pals. Both Connie and Nic’s teachers encourage them to to ask their pen pals questions, to talk about their own lives, to be creative, share their likes and dislikes and to enjoy themselves. Even though Connie is a little reluctant to start with, soon both love exchanging letters despite the two of them seeming so very different. Connie takes her art seriously and thinks things like kittens are nothing more than a distraction, while Nic has a more whimsical approach to painting and knows the value of a good cupcake. Both are eagerly awaiting the end of year pen pal art festival where their two classes will finally meet, but what is the surprise that is in store for both of them?

Building on the original concept of Dear Dragon, the story has some clever wordplay (like Connie’s surname summing up her pessimistic outlook) that leads to some misunderstandings that carry both the letter-writing and the story along, and young readers will immerse themselves in the fantasy particularly as, through the illustrations, they can see what Connie and Nic don’t.  What would it like to have a friend such as Nic? Can we be friends with those who seem to be so different from us (even if that is not as extreme as this relationship?)

As well as being useful for exploring the essential give-and-take nature of relationships, and how we can learn from those around us to seek common bonds despite being unique individuals, the book also opens up the almost-extinct concept of penpals, letter-writing and the anticipation of a letter in the mailbox.  Perhaps it will be the spark for building some new connections between classes in this new school year, 

 

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Linings

Katrina Nannestad

ABC Books, 2023

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733342257

Rural New South Wales in 1952 – a new monarch is about to be crowned and for five-year-old Nettie Sweeney life is almost perfect.  She has a dad, three big sisters, a farm full of cows and a cat called Mittens, can read and write and even does spelling with Second Class because she is so clever.  But Nettie longs for a mother.  Her own passed away when she was born (leaving her with all sorts of misconceptions about babies and storks) and she would love to have one who has a gentle touch, sparkles in her eyes and lots of love and hugs to give.  But instead she has cranky Aunty Edith who is quick with her hands and even quicker with her tongue as she clings to the old ways.  

When Dad marries Alice, all Nettie’s dreams come true and the Sweeney home overflows with laughter, love and a new philosophy of looking for the silver linings in everything rather than the dark clouds.  When her baby brother. Billy, is born he becomes  the light of Nettie’s life and her world is perfect.  Until it isn’t…

Those who are familiar with five-year-olds, and even those who aren’t , will laugh out loud all through the beginning of this book as we see life through the unfiltered lens of Nettie and her doll Fancy Nancy.  And they will empathise with the unsophisticated five-year-old who has to handle the family tragedy in her own way because she just isn’t mature enough to know of any other. Her naivety endears her from the beginning and her resilience and courage as events play out inspire. While the big issues of PTSD, loss and depression that are confronted could be anywhere, anytime,  by placing them in the early 50s Nannestad distances them enough from the reader’s here and now for them to be acknowledged but not necessarily absorbed. And for those of us old enough to know better, how will we ever think of Queen Elizabeth II as anything but “the mongoose of the British Umpire” again? 

It’s a rare author who can write a story for young children in a way that has adult readers turning page after page because there has to be a solution, and Nannestad is one of those.  As with The Girl who brought Mischief, this one had me reading past my bedtime because I was so enamoured of Nettie and needed to know there was a happy ending.     

This is one for independent readers who like real-life stories (it is based on family happenings) and if you are preparing a list of books for Christmas stockings, this should be on it.