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The Boy and the Moonimal

The Boy and the Moonimal

The Boy and the Moonimal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy and the Moonimal

Debi Gliori

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781408892916

When the boy discovers the moonimal in the toyshop, straight away the boy hugs him tight and because moonimals are made to be hugged tight,  they become inseparable.  They played together and went everywhere together. But one day the boy trips over in the woods and because he broke his glasses he couldn’t see Moonimal lying amongst the leaves.

Convinced the boy will come back for him he lies there for many days and nights until he is discovered by some rabbits, who see him as special because although he looks like them, he has three ears.  And so, instead of snuggling in with them he sleeps alone, rather than being hugged tight.  The adventures for Moonimal are just beginning … snatched by a large bird, dropped in the river, discovered by deer… will he ever be found by the boy again?

Again Debi Gliori has created a charming story for our youngest readers that will resonate with them as the tale of a lost toy is all too familiar.  But telling it from the toy’s point of view is unique and while there is sadness and even intrigue, it is always tinged with hope through Moonimal’s belief that he will be reunited.  The illustrations are full of details that not only enrich the text but offer something new to discover each time the story is read – as it will be, over and over. 

A Glasshouse of Stars

A Glasshouse of Stars

A Glasshouse of Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Glasshouse of Stars

Shirley Marr

Puffin, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781760899547

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

In this intriguing novel, the author has drawn on the good, the bad and the ugly of her own experiences of arriving in Australia in the 1980s after being a refugee on Christmas Island and having to adjust to such a different life and lifestyle.  Her “Western mind and Eastern heart” resonate throughout the story, offering the reader an insight into what it must be like for so many of their peers and perhaps helping them to understand and interact with them better.  

Jessica Townsend, the author of the Nevermoor series, has described this book as “‘Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children’s literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).’  And, really, that says it all. More for the upper end of the readership of this blog, nevertheless it is one that needs to be shared with your mature, capable independent readers who are wanting something that will engage them and stay with them long after the last page is read.  While they will need to have some tissues handy as they ride the rollercoaster of emotions as Meixing faces the changes and the accompanying ‘big scaries’ they will rejoice in her resilience and ultimate triumph. 

 

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton's Endurance:  An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Joanna Grochowicz

Allen & Unwin, 2021 

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526092

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest and victory over Sir Robert Falcon Scott. the fascination with Antarctic exploration was not over. Irishman Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott’s original expedition in 1901-1904, turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. 

Thus, in August 1914, Shackleton and his men set sail for Antarctica, where they plan to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. But in January 1915, his ship, the Endurance, becomes locked in pack ice, slowly being crushed before the shore parties could be landed and, later, sinking without a trace. With no help available, to survive, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men must undertake a trial even more extreme than their planned crossing of the frozen continent. Their aim is to make it home against tremendous odds, with only lifeboats to cross the heavy seas of the South Atlantic. And so the crew camped on the sea ice until it disintegrated, and eventually launched the lifeboats aiming for South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles (1,330 km). As well as the ice and the ocean their constant companions were hunger, exhaustion, and uncertainty but  Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills drive them on.

This is an extraordinary tale of leadership, courage and teamwork made all the more remarkable because it is a true story, and while at the upper end of the readership for this blog, a story that will entice and engage those who crave these sorts of real-life adventures.  Told using narrative non-fiction the reader becomes one of the characters experiencing the events as the meticulously researched historical facts are woven into a compelling story.

A companion to Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey a journey which inspired my own mother throughout her life and led her to become the first female journalist to visit the ice , and Amundsen’s Way,  this is the third in this trilogy of tales from that Age of Antarctic Exploration that take the reader back into a world of curiosity and faith, courage, determination and resilience, well before technology made such exploits “safe”.  

Oona

Oona

Oona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oona

Kelly DiPucchio

Raissa Figueron

Katherine Tegen Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A 29.99

9780062982247

Oona the mermaid and her best friend Otto the pufferfish love to search for treasure on the ocean floor, … but often they find trouble instead.

Messy trouble.

Tricky trouble.

Even shark-related trouble.

That’s never stopped them though! So when Oona spies a beautiful crown caught in the sand at the bottom of a narrow crack she was determined to have it.  But does she have the courage to dive right in and fetch it from the dark, murky depths where who knows what might be waiting for her? 

This is an engaging story that has the unusual twist of Oona actually giving up on retrieving the crown but then continuing with how that made her feel and her resolve returning.  We all know the feeling of dissatisfaction when something we desire, tangible or not, remains just out of reach. We have to consider whether it is a walk-away thing or whether it’s an occasion to rethink our strategies so we can attain or achieve it. So, by not having Oona reach her goal, the author opens up the discussion about what we can do it we don’t win.  In this success-oriented world where children are rewarded just for turning up to something they have committed to, they don’t often have the opportunity to learn to lose, to experience the feelings that that entails and how to not only deal with the loss but also those feelings. 

The other element that sets this apart from other stories about mermaids is the illustrations, for Oona is not the stereotypical pretty white mermaid with long golden locks and fish-scale tail and Otto is not a cute rainbow-fish type companion, so that also could lead to an exploration of stereotypes, their impact on our perception and how something that is completely different from what we were expecting can impact on our reading.  Does the diversity enhance the experience or distract from it?

This is a book for a range of ages – it could be just a story about a mermaid or even a discussion about how the “treasure” she finds ends up in the ocean, it could be the springboard to much more. 

Goal!!!

Goal!!!

Goal!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal!!!

Lydia Williams

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760526146

When we first met Lydia Williams in Saved!!!, she was trying to master all sorts of sports with only the native animals to help her.  Now her family have moved to the city which is big and intimidating and without her old friends, she couldn’t practise her goalkeeping skills. Feeling lonely and alone, she goes to the city zoo to cheer herself up but even the animals don’t want to know her, until the fleetingly fast gibbon steals her ball…

Using the metaphor of the zoo animals with their superior skills to show how listening to and learning from others is the best path to self-improvement, Lydia shows how she worked on her game so that she is now the Australian Matildas first-choice goalkeeper making her debut at just 17, and plays for Arsenal in the UK.  With the Tokyo Olympics on the near horizon and hopefully the Matildas making the nightly news regularly, they have become the role models for so many of our young girls and their matches around the world are eagerly followed.  Thus, this and Saved!!! are both perfectly timed for sharing with them to inspire their aspirations.

How did those NSW and Queensland representative rugby league players rise to shine above the rest? 

Even for those whose dreams may be as far from being a champion soccer player as you can get, the message of listening, learning, friendship and teamwork permeates everything so it is one for everyone. 

 

Salih

Salih

Salih

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salih

Inda Ahmad Zahri

Anne Ryan

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804645

Once Salih’s life was ice creams at the park, his favourite teacher and warm milk at bedtime but now, like his pet tortoise, he carries his home on his back as his family, and thousands of others try to escape the deafening blasts of bombs, the white dust shrouding the sun and the sound of crying in the darkness.  There is some solace when an old man teaches him to paint his happy memories on the scraps of waste paper that blow past their nighttime camps and Salih encourages others to do the same.  He has plans for the pictures, keeping each one and rolling it up and putting it in a bottle to scatter on the ocean.  But when they finally  get there, the sea is angry and tosses the bottles and the families hither and thither – will they find a safe, welcoming new home?

Written in 2018 when thousands fled across the Mediterranean to find sanctuary in Europe, this is a story that will bring a new world to young readers -that of being a refugee, or as in the recent conflict in Gaza, a life that means living with bombs and noise and dust and constant fear. Sadly, it might be all too real for some of our students so this is one that must be handled sensitively by a teacher who knows the students well.  But if we are to acknowledge the perils that some of our students have faced and build awareness and empathy in those who have had an easier upbringing, then sharing stories like this is a way to do it.  There are two sets of teachers’ notes to accompany this story – the first focuses on refugees generally and the activity which has students selecting the items they would take if they had to flee but which must fit into their backpack is very powerful’ the second focuses on a spread by spread examination of the book. Both give students a better understanding of what life is like for too many children in this world. 

A story that puts life into perspective offering a way to help students deal with their own problems even if they are not as dire as Salih’s.  .

Pear of Hope

Pear of Hope

Pear of Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear of Hope

Wenda Shurety

Deb Hudson

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820867

At the bottom of Anna’s garden is an old pear tree that is her favourite place and secret hideout.  She loves being up in its branches, where it gives life and shelter to all sorts of creatures and allows her imagination to wander.  But as autumn and then winter roll in, it loses its magic and wonder, just as Anna does as she succumbs to a deadly illness. The tree stands bare and alone until one day Anna returns and gives it a soft hug. And together they start the journey back to wellness and fullness… 

Using the pear as a symbol of hope, as it is in many parts of the world, this is a delicate story of a young girl’s battle with cancer and chemotherapy tracing Anna’s journey in its illustrations more than its words so the reader really focuses on the parallels between tree and child. Just as the tree loses it leaves in winter but returns to its full glory as the warmer weather returns, so does Anna’s hope and resilience build until she is back able to celebrate her 10th birthday with her friends and family, under the shelter of the pear tree. 

While some of our students may be in Anna’s particular situation, there are many more who are facing other challenges and who need the reassurance that time will pass, and like the pear tree, they will prevail.  So this is one to share and talk about so each can take what they need from it. 

Upside-Down Friday

Upside-Down Friday

Upside-Down Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upside-Down Friday

Lana Spasevski

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820850

Hugo the monkey doesn’t like Upside-Down Fridays. To be able to fit in sport, lunch time and morning tea time have been swapped on Fridays and Hugo’s  routine is the wrong way round. So school has become a scary place full of uncertainty and despite his mother’s explanation and reassurance, Hugo is full of anxiety about what the day will bring. However, with just a small gesture of friendship and understanding from Maddie the giraffe, Hugo begins to feel braver.

Many children depend on the familiar routine of the school day to be able to manage the busy-ness, noise and movement of an environment so much bigger than their home, which is why many teachers now display each day’s timetable clearly so that those dependent on routine can adapt and adjust if they have to.  For those who can adapt easily to change, it is often difficult to understand the anxiety of those who can’t so as well as supporting the routine-dependent by acknowledging their problem, this gentle story helps the others understand. 

Using a common device of depicting Hugo as a monkey and his classmates as familiar jungle animals, the story remains one step removed from any particular child in the classroom enabling anonymity so further anxiety is not caused.  It also offers the opportunity to discuss how normal and natural it is to be concerned about big changes such as going to school or hospital for everyone – we all feel anxious at times – and how to develop strategies to help ourselves and others to build confidence.  How did Maddie know that giving Hugo a balloon would distract him?

Comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the early years of the Australian Curriculum are available to make the most of this delightful story and its perfect illustrations. 

The Little Pirate Queen

The Little Pirate Queen

The Little Pirate Queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Pirate Queen

Sally Anne Garland

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781921928833

Every week Lucy boards her rickety raft and sets sail looking for Far Away Island, a mysterious place that no one had ever reached before and therefore no one knew what treasures might be found there. During the journeys Lucy has to constantly mend the little craft and she and it have been through some rough seas lately and as her friends cruise past her in their more sea-worthy craft, she wishes she had a shiny new yacht. 

But she keeps moving, imagining she is a brave Pirate Queen, and even though sometimes she doesn’t feel brave at all, she sails on.  Then, one day a huge storm hits and a giant wave washes away Lucy and the other children. Even though it is badly damaged her rickety raft is the only one to survive and Lucy discovers the meaning of the saying “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Based on that quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, author and illustrator Sally Anne Garland has crafted a story to show children that the strategies and skills they learn when coping with tough times shape our ability to navigate our future – that if all we know is smooth sailing  then when a storm hits, we might not know what to do. It is a story about resilience and compassion. as well as drawing links between Lucy and pirates generally – for whatever reason, neither quite fits into society and therefore have to learn to adapt and survive, to be brave and bold and mask their vulnerability so they can keep something of themselves for themselves.

Whether read at its surface level of a little girl who turns out to be a brave Pirate Queen, or explored at the metaphorical level, this is a story that can be enjoyed by a wide age range who will see a little of Lucy in each of them. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Flower

Sonya Hartnett

Gabriel Evans

 Puffin, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760894450

Each morning when she wakes up, the little girl doesn’t want to go to school. There are so many reasons why.  She doesn’t make friends as easily as you’re supposed to; she can’t run and jump and climb as well as she is supposed too; she’s not chatty or fast of funny; not bossy or loud or wild.  And she anguishes about answering questions in case she is wrong.  She constantly compares herself to her peers and finds herself wanting, so the anxiety builds and builds.  

But she gathers her courage and goes each day, although it’s at her mother’s insistence.  Finally, her mother asks her why she doesn’t want to go to school and they have a conversation that turns her life around.  With her new-found perspective she ventures outside with her cat Piccolo and begins to see that being different is what everyone is and that it is to be celebrated rather than shunned or feared.  “Things being different is what makes the world wonderful.”

So many children suffer anxiety because they view the world through the lens of what they think they should be, rather than who they are. They watch others do things, listen to adults admire looks and skills and achievements , feel the impact of peer pressure as others boast… and all the while they don’t realise that others are admiring them for their unique attributes.  This story is one for the mindfulness collection as it now only has the power to spark discussion but to promote self-acceptance and a change of mindset.  Anxiety amongst children is on the rise at an alarming rate  and the sooner we can teach them that life is not a competition, that who they are at this time is enough; that it our uniqueness that makes the tapestry richer,  the better,  . Hartnett has done this beautifully.