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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. 

 

 

The Odds

The Odds

The Odds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Odds

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340635

Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

Matt Stanton is rapidly becoming one of the decade’s most sought after authors by young, newly independent readers who like his humour that is always tempered with a good, solid storyline focusing on activities and issues  that resonate with his audience.  While not all will have dragon-hunting rabbits in their lives, nevertheless they will have those familiar feelings of fitting in, self-doubt and discovering just who they are as they become more and more independent and start to have their own opinions and ideas that shape their identities.

Using his cartooning skills, Stanton has produced a graphic novel that is going to appeal to a wide range of readers, each of whom will see themselves in one of the characters such as the little elephant who really just wants to hide under the covers all day.  Using a graphic novel format means the reader has to engage with the story in an active way taking in all that is going on so the continuity is maintained and in such a visually-dominated world, this is a critical skill.

The first in the series, this is a book that has depth as well as diversity and carries a message that will reach out to even the most reluctant reader.

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fire Wombat

Jackie French 

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781460759332

A curl of smoke appears on the horizon, gradually getting bigger, blacker and more ominous as it comes closer.  The parched earth burns and day becomes night as the ash-thick air envelops all before it and beneath it. 

Nowhere above the ground is safe for anything with two legs or four, but this is not the animals’ first fire and Wombat knows where to go and what to do. And when it is finally safe to emerge, the landscape is unlike the one they had left… grey, charred, burnt, devoid of both food and water. But a primeval instinct drives Wombat and she pushes on and on, seeking the liquid that would mean life…

Written about a little wombat that stumbled onto her Araluen Valley property and then collapsed, this is Jackie French’s own story of resilience and hope amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 when she and those she loves were surrounded by four fires and the future looked bleak, if not dire. It is a story about how when things seem to be at their worst, basic human nature, kindness and goodness prevails and we look out for those who are in worse circumstances, including our precious but often helpless wildlife. Even though what is done initially may not solve the problem, it is something that can lead to something else and something else… Like the Fire Wombat, we just need to keep searching until we find what we need.

It is a story that  embraces all the age groups – on the surface it is a story for little ones about a little wombat whose basic instinct is preservation and which perseveres to find what it needs; but it is also for older students who can consider the sort of assistance that is required and what they can do; maybe even what they can do to prevent fires of the future. The teachers’ notes which I wrote span all these aspects offering another avenue for our students to heal from that awful summer.  Pandemic or not, there are still many wounds to tend to.

No matter at what level you read this beautiful story – along the lines, between them or beyond them – you  will acknowledge that Jackie French is indeed a master storyteller, and her words have been enriched and enhanced by Danny Snell’s sensitive artwork.

And the rainbow after the rain, the dawn after the dark? Jackie has just shared that the Fire Wombat now has a baby of her own, “black as charcoal, fat and bouncing” . She glimpsed them in the valley three weeks ago and Fire Wombat is fat and happy too! 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820393

It is the night before Archie is due to start at a new school and the Worry Monster has crept into his bedroom spruiking all the usual worries about getting lost, not making friends, doing maths all day and no sport that such monsters do.

Normally, Archie would call on his mum and dad to scare it away because it is scared of them, but this time he tries to have a go himself.  He thinks back to the things his mum taught him the last time, and summoning all his courage he applies them.  He takes a deep breath so his lungs make his belly grow bigger like a balloon; he thinks of the facts and tells them to the Worry Monster; he tells the Worrmy Monster to go away; and then he reads a book to ignore it and distract him.  But do his strategies work…

Worry Monsters have been out and about all this year, not just before big events like starting school and any stories that help our littlies develop strategies to send them on their way are welcome.  This one is beautifully written and illustrated and any child could put themselves in Archie’s pyjamas and feel empowered.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Encouraging littlies to dig deep to find the courage and determination to send the Worry Monster scampering is an ongoing process because they’re not necessarily ready to do it at the same time as their siblings or peers.  So to have another book in the arsenal is valuable – sharing Archie’s story might just be the one that reaches a particular child.

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.