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The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whirlpool

Emily Larkin

Helene Magisson

Wombat Books, 2017

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

9781925563047

Life is lovely for Polar Bear Cub.  He has a happy, loving family where he is safe and protected.  He has friends and dreams for the future. Each day is better than the last and he is in charge of his life.  Even the stars shine just for him.

But suddenly all that is snatched away.  Without warning, darkness descends and there is no family or friends.  No hopes and dreams. Loneliness is his only companion – not even the stars are there for him.

Born from a uni assignment of using words and pictures together to make meaning, this is an unusual story because as the text speaks directly to the reader, it is the pictures of Polar Bear Cub that provide such a graphic interpretation of what they are saying, even though there is no reference to him in the words themselves. Together, they give depth and understanding to a situation that many of our children find themselves in when disaster and catastrophe strike their lives and all that is familiar is gone. Even its title is symbolic of the range of emotions that are within us, sometimes raging out of control but always eventually calming to a manageable level.

To children, some things – such as the coming of Santa Claus – seem to take forever, while to adults the time passes in a flash.  Similarly, to a child darkness lasts forever with no hope of light and their emotions are intense.  This book is written “for kids to know that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. It’s okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain – but these times don’t have to last. ”  

The well-being, particularly the mental health, of our students is receiving more and more focus in our curriculum as mindfulness programs are seen as crucial to a student’s success in other areas so this is an timely addition to that collection of resources to initiate discussions and provide support.

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook

 

 

 

 

 

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook

Camping

9781783422593

Dangers and Emergencies

9781783422999

Knots

9781783422982

Maps and Navigation

9781783423002

Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99

 

Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls

Bonnier,2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781786960122

Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  

 

Gary

GAry

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781925081695

Most of the time Gary is like all the other racing pigeons in the loft.  He eats what they do, sleeps with them and is always dreaming of adventures.   He even keeps a scrapbook based on the information they share with him after a race because that’s where Gary is different.  He doesn’t go on the races because he cannot fly. He listens to everything they say and records it in his scrapbook – he has notes about wind speed and directions, stop off points and flight paths. as well as a lot of other stuff they collect for him.

So when one day Gary accidentally finds himself far from home, his scrapbook comes in very handy. His brain becomes more important than his wings and suddenly he has adventures of his own to share that the other pigeons envy.

This is an engaging and clever combination of text and illustrations that require the reader to really interact with them in order to discover how Gary solved his problem. The reason for Gary’s disability is not disclosed – it could be physical or emotional – suggesting that it is not important; what is important is that he overcomes it and leads a full and happy life.  In fact, as in real life often, his adventures inspire others.  Gary, in his cute striped beanie and the racing pigeons in the red-hot jumpers will quickly become favourites with young readers – it deserves to be part of the CBCA 2017 shortlist for Early Childhood..

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780571329731

Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine.  Sound familiar? Probably.  But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know.  She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin.  They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!

How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently  the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.

Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them.  Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.

Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.

As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina.  “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Zanni Louise

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127510

Archie loves being a bear but people just see his as a boy in a bear suit.  Strong-willed, determined and frustrated that people don’t believe him, Archie runs away to the forest where he meets a bear who is all about being a boy.  When Archie comments on the bear’s boy suit the bear growls at him that he is a boy not a bear, and instantly there is a bond between them.  Sharing the things they love like honey sandwiches, fishing and reading they support each other until darkness falls and the night grows cold and suddenly it’s better to be who you really are.

Mackintosh’s illustrations bring each identity to life using scale to show not just the physical relationships but also the emotional ones. And despite being so small, even just a speck in some pictures, Archie’s will remains strong and large saying much about physical size and shape not defining us as people. 

This is a quirky, original story about being true to yourself that will open up all sorts of discussions about imagination, self-belief and friendships. Even though adults might not see Archie as a bear, young readers will get it as the author has climbed into their thinking and they will relate to it. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a powerless little boy in an adult-dominated world.

Discussions may even wander into the field of how each living thing has adapted to its environment, each with its own special needs met within it, and why the ending was inevitable.

Unusual but intriguing.    

We’re All Wonders

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

R.J. Palacio

Puffin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780141386416

Wonder is the unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face that has touched readers all over the world as it became an instant classic, used widely for one-school-one read projects and spread through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Now Palacio has transformed the core message of that book into a picture book that transcends ages with its powerful theme.

Even though he does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice cream and playing ball, Auggie is not an ordinary kid because he does not look like all the other kids in his class.  He knows this and he knows they point and laugh and call him names which hurt his feelings.  But he and his dog Daisy have a remarkable strategy for dealing with things when they get tough… And it certainly puts the hurt into perspective.

Even though he knows he can’t change the ways he looks, perhaps he can change the way people see.

Echoing the cover of the original, Palacio has depicted Auggie has a one-eyed child wearing a bright red t-shirt which stands out like a beacon against the more muted tones of the illustrations, somewhat like Auggie himself standing out amongst the masses. And for someone with no face, Palacio has nevertheless managed to convey a whole range of emotions in the illustrations and text. Every word does a job. 

In a book full of messages about belonging and acceptance perhaps the strongest one is Auggie’s inner strength.  Yes his feelings are hurt but he has learned through his family’s love and acceptance of him as he is that he has the strength to endure, maybe even overcome the insults and prejudices.  Even though he needs time out to heal, he has the resilience to come back stronger than ever.  He knows he is a wonder, he is unique – but then, aren’t we all?

Those who have not read the novel do not need to do so in order to connect to this book (although this one may well inspire them to seek it out) because it’s message is more important than the character.  Every one of us is an Auggie in some way – try being a red-head with freckles and glasses in the 50s when Marilyn Monroe-types were the role models – so every one of us could be the central character.  Written sensitively and with a light hand, particularly when it comes to Auggie’s solution, this book should be at the core of any program focusing on mindfulness, well-being, inclusivity, acceptance of others and being enough just as we are.  Perhaps this book will, indeed, bring Auggie’s hope of changing how people see to fruition.

 

The Most Perfect Snowman

The Most Perfect Snowman

The Most Perfect Snowman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Perfect Snowman

Chris Britt

Balzer & Bray, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062377043

Built in the first flurry of winter snow, Drift was the loneliest of snowmen.  With his stick arms, small mouth and coal eyes he stood forlorn and forgotten amongst the bare winter trees.  He dreamed of having a smart scarf, warm gloves and a long orange carrot nose like the other snowmen so he could join in their banter, their fashion parades, snowball fights and other fun stuff.  But he was too plain and different to be included, so his days were spent swooshing and sliding through the woods, stopping and standing in the shadows to watch the others at play.

Then one day some children gave Drift all that he wanted – a fluffy blue hat, warm mittens, a soft scarf and even a long orange carrot nose.  Suddenly the other snowmen found him acceptable now that he had his new accessories and watched as he played all afternoon with his new friends.  But that night a blizzard blew and Drift lost his smart new clothes and no matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t find them. All he had left were his scarf and his long orange carrot nose.  Then he heard a tiny voice – a little bunny was lost in the snow, frightened and shivery cold.  Drift knows he can save the bunny by wrapping it in his soft scarf and giving it his long orange carrot nose but can he bear to part with them? Can he go back to being that plain snowman with skinny stick eyes, a small nose and coal eyes?

As winter begins to grip southern Australia and some parts are seeing early snowfalls, this is a charming story about what it means to be “perfect” and whether it is about looking a particular way or having the right things or whether it runs deeper than that. What is the meaning of the old adage “Clothes maketh the man” and is it true?  Are we more visible and therefore perhaps more powerful because of our external appearance?

It also raises the concepts of selfishness and selflessness and whether even giving just a little can make any difference.  Do we need to be applauded and rewarded for doing something kind or should it be enough to within that we have made a difference?  Do we have to be the person giving the boldest and brightest present at birthday parties or is it the phone call saying thank you afterwards that is most remembered?

The soft palette echo the gentleness of both the story and its message but this is more than just a story to welcome winter.

 

Olivia’s Voice

Olivia's Voice

Olivia’s Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia’s Voice

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781925227192

Imagine waking to a world of silence – no traffic, no sirens, no strident voices; no birdsong, no waves crashing no children laughing.   That is Olivia’s world.  But despite the lack of sound, it is still a beautiful world for her as she sees the patterns and movement of the life in the gum tree outside her window; smells the tasty fragrance of hot toast with butter;  feels the soft warmth of her mother’s cheek against hers as they hug; and embraces life at school just like every child. 

In this charming journey through Olivia’s day she shows us that there is still a beautiful, wondrous world to be explored even if it doesn’t have a sound accompaniment, teaching the reader to observe, enjoy and appreciate what they do have rather than mourning what they haven’t.  Through photograph-like illustrations and first-person text, we see the joy Olivia finds in life and hear her voice so loudly that we can share her curiosity, her wonder and her contentment with what is rather than what isn’t.  

Children with hearing impairments are part of the fabric of a classroom and they have so much more to teach us than just to look at them when we speak.  Opportunities abound in this book to help our students walk a mile in Olivia’s shoes – through artwork, through music, through games and every other aspect as we encourage them to consider a world without a particular sense. Learning only occurs when we reflect on new information and situations and assimilate them into what we already know, so this would be the perfect book to encourage the children to engage with reflecting on three things that have changed their day each day, encouraging gratitude and empathy and perhaps understanding themselves and their circumstances better. Obstacles are just opportunities for us to learn, grow and know ourselves better.

Stunning, evocative, thought-provoking.

 

 

 

 

Henry and the Yeti

Henry and the Yeti

Henry and the Yeti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry and the Yeti

Russell Ayto

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408876619

 

Henry loves yetis. In fact he is so passionate about them that he is determined to prove their existence by finding one.  Even though others, including the principal, laugh at him and demand evidence when he finds one, Henry remains determined and packs all the equipment he needs for his expedition, especially his camera, and sets off.  It’s an arduous journey out of the city, across an ocean, up a hill, over a river, through a dense forest and up and down several mountains but Henry doesn’t lose his faith – although it does waver a bit.  

But then his luck turns and he has a lovely time playing (and taking lots of photos).  Soon it is time to return home but when he unpacks his bag there is no camera.  So no one believes him until…

This is a story for young readers about believing in yourself and following your dreams, even if they are not quite as grand as proving that yetis exist.  With unique illustrations that bring both Henry and his dream to life even in their minimalist style, it encourages determination, perseverance and resilience.  

As a read-aloud for younger students, it is absorbing and entertaining as they predict whether Henry will achieve his dream and how he will cope with the loss of his camera, but it has wider appeal as it would be a great starting point for those goal-setting sessions that we encourage students to undertake at the beginning of each term.  Ask the students if Henry’s goal was to find a yeti what did he need to know about them and do to make success more likely. Similarly, having identified their own goal – which might not be quite so ambitious but nevertheless just as personally important -what do they need to know and do to achieve it?  Who do they need to seek assistance from; what do they need to have or learn; what are the steps they need to achieve along the way – all those questions that we as teachers ask when putting together our professional learning plans can be applied to students too.

Another book that looks simplistic on the surface but which has much more than meets the eye!

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere.  It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world.  Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!

But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter.  He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly.  When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.

Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…

This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do.  As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue.  But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage.  From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.

Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration.  Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.

I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story.  A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.