Archives

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. 

The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Valley of Lost Secrets

Lesley Parr

Bloomsbury, 2021

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526620521

September, 1939. Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are “in another country that feels like another world [and] there’s a big scary war on that no one seems to be talking about.”  Evacuated from London to a small coal-mining village in Wales where the landscape is so different; the family they are billeted with are viewed with suspicion by the locals; and London friends are now enemies and vice versa it is no wonder that 12-year-old Jimmy finds it so much harder to fit in than 6-year-old Ronnie.  And on top of that, by accident he finds a human skull in the hollow at the base of an old tree.  What are the secrets it holds?

This is an intriguing read that kept me absorbed from beginning to end as it will any young independent reader who likes a mystery that twists and turns but ends up just as it should. Taking them to a real period in history when the children were sent to stay with strangers in strange places to keep them safe from the expected bombs that would fall on London, the characters, although unfamiliar, are very relatable and the whole thing epitomised this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds opening up a different but real way of life.  While it’s not the green lush countryside his Dad promised him, and he can’t read the sign at the train station, to Jimmy nothing feels right  and everything feels wrong. Although Ronnie quickly settles in and embraces his new life with Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun, Jimmy is reluctant, resentful. and, at time, rude. Confused by the circumstances, and convinced the war will be over by Christmas, he doesn’t want to accept their kindness feeling like it would be a betrayal to his family. Despite being surrounded by people, he feels alone. His best friend has changed and there’s no one he can confide in. Even though he knows that when he finds the skull it is a discovery that is too big to bear alone, and his imagination goes wild, he still keeps the secret close in a town where everyone seems to know everyone’s business and have an opinion about it.

While this is a debut novel, it has the power to send readers on a new reading journey as they seek to find out more about this period and the stories of children who endured so much more than they will ever know. Both Jimmy and Florence learn a lot about themselves and each other as the story evolves, encouraging the reader to perhaps look beyond the surface of their peers and be more compassionate and considerate in the future.

Added to that, the author has embedded another mystery in the pages for the reader to solve, making this a must-have read that deserves all the praise it is getting.

 

Good Question

Good Question

Good Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Question

Sue Whiting

Annie White

Walker, 2020

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

9781760650841

Remember the story of Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and their mates who were on their way to tell the King that the sky was falling when they met up with Fox? Well, this is the story behind the story that explains just how Fox came to be in the right place at the right time to get himself something to fill his empty tummy.

There is a hint on the front endpapers that there is more to this story than meets the eye with a number of familiar fairytale characters in the woods, although the main story starts with Fox high in a tree talking to the reader and ready to explain why he is there.  It’s an intriguing tale of cause and effect that takes the reader back through his frustrating day told in a monologue that engages the  reader and makes them want to turn the page.  How do all those characters fit in to one story?

Accompanied by action-packed illustrations that enrich Fox’s narrative in the best way, there is a repetitive refrain that drives the story on until we are back to why Fox is up the tree.  And what happens then? Good question.  I thought you’d never ask.  And to discover the answer you have to look closely and follow right to the final endpages.

As well as being a most entertaining story, this has so much potential to be a model for a class or individual story.  The great storytellers always say they start with the end in mind – they know where their main character is going to finish up and then it’s a matter of working backwards to untangle how that happens and how they got there.  So the story end becomes the story start. Younger writers might all start with the same stimulus of a particular picture that has a character in an unusual situation and track the story backwards, offering the potential for a class book of imaginative interpretations while older students might choose their own character and situation.

This really deserves its place as a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

My Favorite Memories

My Favorite Memories

My Favorite Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Memories

Sepdeh Sarihi

Julie Völk

Blue Dot, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781733121248

When her parents tell her that the family is moving to another country, the little girl is quite excited particularly as she is allowed to take her favorite things.  But she changes her mind when she discovers that she cannot fit her aquarium, her wooden chair that her grandpa made, the pear tree that was the exact same age as she is, her bus driver and her best friend into the small suitcase her parents give her.

“In that case, I cannot come,” she tells her mother and wanders down to the ocean, another of her favourite things.  But there, she has an idea and discovers a way that perhaps she can go with her family and have her favourite things. And it takes sharp eyes to see her solution!

Moving to a new place, even if it is not a new country, can be a tough time for children as they don’t yet have the knowledge and wisdom to understand that while it may mean leaving the old and familiar, it is also an opportunity to explore the new and unknown so this touching story, translated from the original German is one that will resonate with many of our students. It will also help them understand that while we may have to leave some things behind physically, there is always the memory that we can revisit when we want to remember them.

With illustrations as gentle as the text and its message, this is something new and different to share and talk about.  If they were asked to pack their favourite things, what would they be? what would they do with those things that are too big for the suitcase?

 

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers' Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Chris Kunz, Harry Cripps, Shaun Grant

ABC Books, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341670

On a family holiday to Thailand, Noah’s mum has a fall with devastating consequences – confined to a wheelchair for the future.

On a stormy night in Sydney’s Northern Beaches a little magpie has a fall from its nest – a broken wing for a magpie is like a broken back to a human.

But the two are miraculously connected and from that has emerged a story of hope, love, kindness and the lessons we can learn if we are ready to learn them.

Sometimes bad things happen to people and no matter what, you have to deal with it and in this edition of this story for young readers the focus is not so much on the accident and all the medical stuff but how a family had to come together to deal with it.  There is Sam Bloom, angry, bewildered and trying to come to terms with who she was, who she now is and who she thought she would be. There is her husband photographer Cam Bloom, father of Noah, Reuben and Oli who is walking the fine line of holding the family together juggling the balls of dependence and independence; there is Nana Jan whose daughter has catastrophic injuries and she can’t fix them; there are Noah’s young brothers Oli and Reuben, who despite his mother’s predicament still continue to leap off the roof to bounce on the trampoline below.  And there is Noah who is convinced his mum blames him for the accident because he discovered the viewing platform that gave way when she leaned on it,  And binding them together, eventually, is a little magpie chick named Penguin.

Noah tells the story of the family’s healing from his perspective talking directly to the reader, openly admitting that there are bad bits and bad days and exposing these as part of the process of becoming a family again, one that is different to what they thought it would be but still one that is whole.

This story spoke to me on many levels, not the least of which is because my own sister-in-law is in Sam’s situation after an afternoon walk with her dog went so very wrong. We live in the bush with our resident family of magpies who raise their babies on the lawn in front of us each year so Penguin’s antics were so familiar. And there are the kids who have been in my care as a teacher over the years who have had to face similar circumstances and somehow have had to navigate a way through.

Students may well have seen the movie Penguin Bloom – Noah’s story will give them an extra layer of understanding.

 

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Lone Swallow

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326195

Florence, Italy , around 1805 and as night falls a lone swallow leaves her babies and flies across the city, with the single sole purpose of finding her mate who has not returned.

But it is not the courage and determination of the swallow in her mission that is the hallmark of this story, but the beautiful, lyrical description of her journey accompanied by the exquisite, soft illustrations that are the perfect match. 

For most of us, night comes in each day almost unnoticed in its regularity and sameness, unless there is a stunning sunset or storm to catch the eye. But in this simple story, Fenton and Swan, creators of other sensitive stories like Scrufflenut, turn the reader’s focus to the sights and sounds of nightfall, not just in Florence on this night but their own backyard. What are the sights, sounds, smells and colours that they hear as night falls across their home?  If they were like the swallow and could have a bird’s-eye view what would attract their attention as dusk and then night settles across the city? Is it a swift or lingering event?  Why? Would it be different if we were in a city, the bush, by the sea? Would it have been different in another time? Given this is set in 1805, what is noticeably missing if it were set today?  Perhaps this could inspire an individual, group or class poem focusing on how Fenton has made the ordinary extraordinary through her word choices and phrasing, and with illustrations that, like those of Swan, become an integral part of the tale told.

A perfect opportunity to encourage our students to take a close look at their environment and engage all their senses. 

Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Ghost

Tony Mitton

Diana Mayo

Bloomsbury, 2020

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

9781408876633

“Snow Ghost came whispering out of the air,

Oh, for a home to be happy – but where?

Snow Ghost is looking for a home. Through the dark winter sky, she swoops and swirls, past the whirling traffic of town, into the dense, tangled wood and to the top of the blustery hill, searching endlessly to no avail, unwanted. And then on the moors she spots a small farm where children are playing in the snow. She has found her home at last.

This is a beautiful story, written in rhyme with rich imagery and exquisitely and delicately illustrated that, on the surface, would appear to be about the weather. T But what if it were a metaphor for the refugees and the struggles they face when they have to flee their country and find it difficult to find friendly shelter, particularly in these times? That theme opens up a whole lot of possibilities that not only take the reader into a different world but raise their awareness of the challenges that have to be faced, racism being just one… It is about hope and an inner knowing that there will be the perfect place to belong, and having the resilience to find it. So even though it is not winter, and there are few places here that see snow, it has a much broader appeal and application.

 

Code Name Bananas

Code Name Bananas

Code Name Bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Code Name Bananas

David Walliams

HarperCollins, 2020

480pp., pbk. RRP $A22.99

9780008454296

London in 1940, at the height of the Blitz where the city was continually bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II.  Eleven-year-old Eric has lost both his parents and bereft, bewildered and alone the only place he feels any happiness is at London Zoo.  There, he has befriended one of the zoos oldest inhabitants, Gertrude the Gorilla, who loves to show off for the crowds, in exchange for a banana or two.

Eric, who has sticky-out ears that have earned him the nickname “wingnut” hates school and every day as soon as the bell rings, he detours to the zoo here his great-uncle Sid. a zoo keeper, would smuggle him in for free (provided he knew that day’s secret password)  as Eric liked nothing better than working alongside him with the animals. But his grandmother, with whom he now lives, does not like him spending his time at the zoo and after a particularly nasty argument, Eric runs away and joins Sid. As the bombs rain down, it is clear that the zoo is not safe and they must rescue Gertrude. So the three go on the run. But while hiding out at the seaside they uncover a top-secret Nazi plot…

This is David Walliams at his best.  Unlike his recent offerings , this is a not a collection of short stories but a full adventure that will keep the reader absorbed for hours.  Despite its length, it is an easy read with many illustrations and format techniques that make it easily accessible to the newly independent reader.  Walliams take the reader on a journey to another world, one that actually happened, and introduces them to a time of daily fear where just waking up each morning was not guaranteed, and the bombs were not discriminatory.  It was a dangerous for Eric and all the other children who had not been evacuated as it was for the adults. But with typical Walliams humour the reality is softened somewhat so it becomes manageable.

Given current events where certain sections are placed into stay-at-home lockdown as COVID raises its head, it puts that experience into some sort of perspective showing our children that even though they can’t go out to play or visit their friends, the experience, while harrowing, could be much worse.  The theme for the CBCA Book Week 2021 is Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and while that may seem an opportunity to explore the fictional world of science fiction and fantasy, it is also an opportunity to explore the world of children in times gone by and this book, is perfect for that, either as a read-aloud, read-alone or read-along. 

Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lion –  A Long Way Home

Saroo Brierly

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143795094

Born in Khandwa, India, in 1986 at the age of just 5, Saroo Brierley was separated from his brother at a train station and, not knowing his family name or where he was from, he managed to survive for weeks on the streets of Calcutta before finally being taken to an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian family. Even though he was happy growing up in Tasmania, he always wondered about his long-lost family and the story of his search for them has become an award-winning movie based on the adult version of his autobiography.

This incredible story of love, resilience and hope has been exquisitely illustrated by Bruce Whatley in a version for younger readers that will intrigue and inspire as they are touched by his need to discover his roots and what happened, particularly to his older brother whom he was with.  In its own way, it will be the story of many of the children in our care who have two families and who want to know and love both. They might not have the geographical journey that Saroo has to navigate, but  there is the emotional one they have to negotiate as they discover where and how they fit in.  There is the powerful realisation that it is possible to love and be loved by more than one, and that each significant relationship we form will influence our lives and characters.

It also opens up a window to the world beyond their own bubble so they begin to understand that not all children share the life they do, and that poverty and homelessness are real for Australian children as well as India and other countries.

Comprehensive teachers’ notes are available.

For those who want to read further, there is also the co-release of Lioness, by Sue Brierly, Saroo’s adoptive mother.

Derek Dool Supercool 3: Run For Your Life

Derek Dool Supercool 3: Run For Your Life

Derek Dool Supercool 3: Run For Your Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derek Dool Supercool 3: Run For Your Life

Adrian Beck

Scott Edgar

Puffin, 2021

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760892975

Derek Dilbert Dool knows he is supercool -but no one else thinks so.  Thus, he spends his life trying to prove it but none of his escapades ever quite end the way he envisages.  

In this third adventure, he somehow finds himself going from a meatball eating competition in the local food court as part of a celebration of Ruttsmell twinning with a Norwegian city to being determined to win the school cross-country, even though he is far from being a natural athlete. But underneath the bravado and the look-at-me antics, there is a young lad who really just wants to be accepted and liked for who he is, even if his name his Derek.  Written for all those boys who are newly independent readers who like a particular sort of unsubtle, gross humour supported by short chapters and lots of illustrations, this series will resonate with many who are similar to Derek as they struggle with crossing that bridge between who they are and who they think they should be. Underpinned with themes of self-confidence, self-worth, the need for family and friends, and staying true to yourself, it has serious core encased in bravado, humour and crazy antics.  Derek Dool actually DOES what the reader would like to do, if only he were brave (or foolish) enough.

As 2021 gives us a new batch of boys who are looking for something to tempt them to keep reading now that they can, this is a series that is worth introducing them to as another step/pathway in their reading journey.