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Johnny’s Beard

Johnny's Beard

Johnny’s Beard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny’s Beard

Michelle Worthington

Katrin Dreiling

Little Pink Dog Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780648256304

Johnny was very proud of his magnificent, splendiferous, long, red beard and he spent many hours grooming it and making sure it was perfect. He washed it and combed it every day, and each day he walked over the hill and back again so he could enjoy the feeling of the cool breeze blowing through it, or it keeping him warm on cold, foggy days. 

On one cold winter morning Johnny met a twitchy little mouse on his walk and when he asked it what was wrong, the mouse told him its home was too cold and it would freeze when the snow came.  So Johnny invited the mouse to his house for the winter and soon the mouse was snuggled up in his wondrous beard.  Then he met a jittery rabbit who had the same problem so Johnny offered the same solution.  And then he met a shivering raven… and a family of hedgehogs… 

While the animals were all snug and warm, Johnny’s beard was tangled and it stabbed and pecked and tickled and poked.  What is he to do?

This is a charming, funny story that will have little ones imagining all the sorts of things that could have taken up residence in Johnny’s beard, while enjoying the descriptive language that bring both the beard and its residents to life. Katrin’s interpretation of the beard as so long and so thick and so red just adds to the appeal, setting up an opportunity for little listeners to describe the beards of those they know. 

However, it reminded me of the Edward Lear poem There was an old man with a beard and thus, a natural way to introduce little ones to his fun poetry. (He, himself, seems to have sported s splendiferous beard.)  What fun it could be to illustrate this poem as a group, or consider what Australian bird could have nested in it, while learning about rhythm as they try to fit the words in to maintain the beat. As well as learning the format of the limerick, there is also scope to explore rhyme beyond the familiar device of word families and examine all the combinations that could rhyme with beard such as feared, jeered, weird, scared, laird, paired and so on.  Young children love to explore language this way and have something interesting to contribute to the dinner-time conversation.

Given that many of his other poems, like The Owl and the Pussycat  and The Jumblies also inspire mind-pictures not only is there scope for lots of artwork but they are the perfect bridge between nursery rhymes that are familiar to the children and more ‘serious’ poetry within a natural context.    Enjoying the nuances of our language through a new medium as a natural extension of what they already know and love seems to be a win-win for me!

So what seems like just a fun story with bright pictures could lead to so much more and for that, this deserves a place in your collection and promotion to your teaching colleagues. 

Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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

 9781925594249

Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.

 

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794998

Being the daughter of journalists who were sticklers for correct grammar, the structure of our language was drummed into me from an early age and I have to say that all these years on, I’m still what is commonly called a “grammar Nazi.” In fact, just this morning I corrected this image on a friend’s Facebook feed stating that it should read, “What would you do if you knew you COULD not fail?”

And with the return of the “back to basics” of the English strand of the Australian curriculum where even our youngest students are expected to know what “rime and onset” are, the syntax of our language can be overwhelming.  Thus, having a ready reference text that helps young children understand the common parts of speech like nouns, verbs and adjectives and supports their growing knowledge of more obscure things like prepositional phrases, fronted adverbials and reported speech will be a welcome addition to any young student’s collection, (and perhaps, even their teacher’s.)  

While text speech and spelling seems to have overtaken much of our everyday writing, being able to put words on paper that carry a message over time still remains part of that which makes us human and so grammar and punctuation both have a vital place in our learning if we want to be understood by others. 

But although the more formal aspects of writing might seem daunting to those moving on from writing random thoughts and having an adult interpret and transcribe them for them, students are reassured that they know much of what they are going to learn already because every time they speak they use grammar – the purpose of this book is just to show them the different kinds of words and how they fit together.  There’s a clear explanation of how to use the three parts of the book – parts of speech, sentences and clauses, and punctuation – as well as a demonstration of what grammar and punctuation are and how they are critical to both speech and writing. 

We are all familiar with memes like this…

so teaching young children from the get-go the difference is essential if they are to realise those big dreams.

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes First Children’s DictionaryFirst Science EncyclopediaFirst Maths GlossaryFirst Encyclopedia and First How Things Works Encyclopedia, and is going to be a valuable addition to Miss 7’s writing toolkit as she enters the new phase of her formal education. 

 

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143794981

I love this time of the year – the madness that is Christmas is over, the new school year is becoming real and it’s time to reflect on just where Miss 7 and Miss 12 are at with their learning, and how much they have accomplished in the past 12 months.

This year, Miss 12 begins the whole new adventure of high school while Miss 7 moves into Year 3, already an independent reader and wanting to start writing her own stories.  She has a big imagination and big dreams just like May Gibbs so this new Australian dictionary from DK is going to be the perfect addition to her desk.  As part of the generation that believes having a broad vocabulary and using and spelling it correctly is critical for engaging the audience and getting the message across, I believe dictionaries are an essential part of the writer’s toolkit and this one is perfect for the budding storyteller.

With more than 4,000 words and definitions, and featuring a full alphabet on every page to make finding words easy, colourful photographs that bring words to life, and helpful information on word families, spelling and writing, this essential dictionary for Australian children is the perfect reference book, both for home and at school. Each entry provides the part of speech and the word’s plural while the definition is in everyday English so that it is accessible to the user.  It acknowledges that the user has moved on from junior picture dictionaries so there is not a picture for every entry, allowing space for exploring the words that children of this age use. 

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation, First Maths GlossaryFirst Science Encyclopedia and First How Things Work Encyclopedia., all of which will be important additions to Miss 7’s bookshelf this year as well as being extremely useful in any library collection as they could be the central focus of teaching this age group the value of reference tools and how to identify the cues and clues to use them.   Alphabetical order is an essential skill that reaches well beyond understanding how a dictionary works, but the dictionary is the ideal place to master it. 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Priscilla Lamont

New Frontier, 2018

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925594287

The Pigwigs who live at Hodge Podge Lodge are obsessed with acquiring new things.  Pa Pigwig loves to order items online; Ma Pigwig is always shopping; Master Pigwig spends all his money on junk food and Little Miss Pigwig collects all sorts of bits and pieces.  But with new stuff comes packaging – paper, string, tape, plastic wrap, boxes, bottles… the list is endless and sadly the Pigwigs did not do not get rid of it. They just drop it wherever they like and it piles up.  So one day when a big wind sweeps in, it all ends up in the nearby woods proving disastrous for the creatures that live there…

While we are gradually becoming aware of the impact of plastic bags on out marine life, there are still so many other issues with the careless disposal of all sorts of waste that we must acknowledge and this book helps us think about this.  A box might be a nice house for a mouse until the rain collapses it; fishing line can tangle around legs and beaks; paper can blind if it’s flying around… So this is an excellent story that really highlights the message about the amount of rubbish we generate and what happens to it, particularly at this time of gift-giving and summer holidays, in a way that even youngest readers can understand.

Reduce, reuse, recycle are the new 3Rs that we need to continually introduce and reinforce with our youngsters and Little Miss Pigwig’s examples and solutions just might be the inspiration for a cleaner 2019 in your family and your school.

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

David Astle 

Allen & Unwin, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781760633660

Young readers who love playing with words and learning new ones to baffle their parents can journey from ambidextrous to zugzwang in this new book of words from “full-time nerd word” David Astle. He is the devious crossword-setter in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age but children will also know him as the “dictionary man” on the TV show Letters and Numbers.

In this pop-in-your-pocket volume, he has collected lots of new words that children will delight in getting their tongues around and using in their conversations and stories.  And just to add some extra zing, he has included three fake words as well!  Each word, real or fake has a roll-off-the-tongue appeal and is presented with its meaning, pronunciation, history, fun facts and examples of use in a way that is engaging and demands to be read to the end. 

Extending children’s vocabulary is one of the primary goals of reading and writing, and as well as being a great Christmas present for the family word nerd, it would also be an ideal gift for the teacher who likes to challenge students with a word of the week.  There’s always room for a thumbs-up or more tangible reward for the student who uses the word correctly in a conversation or a story. It’s fun books like these that make me wish I was back in schools again!

 

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go Strolling

Katrina Germein

Danny Snell

Little Book Press, 2018

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

9780648115687

Taking a toddler for a walk in a stroller on a sunny day is one of life’s more pleasant and relaxing experiences, especially if it’s a welcome break in a hectic daily routine.  Enjoying the activity, taking notice of nature and the amazing things that can be seen as you stroll rather than rush, sitting in the park, meeting friends with their toddlers – it all goes to making an enjoyable experience for parent and child. 

So this lovely book for preschoolers that focuses on this simple activity and brings it to life is a delight to share, as our soon-to-be readers not only relate to the events but are also encouraged to think more about what they see on their daily walk.  Perhaps it is an opportunity for parent and child to take a lead from Germein’s text and Snell’s illustrations and create their own book about their daily walk.  A few pages that have the repetitive text of “On our walk we saw…” and a photo or drawing will not only become a family favourite but also help the child understand the power they have over words – saying them, writing them and reading them.

This book has been produced under the umbrella of Raising Literacy Australia, and with such experienced authors and illustrators on board, it certainly helps meet the mission and aims of that charity. It’s familiar setting and activity, its simple rhythmic language accompanied by illustrations that enable the young reader to predict the text, and the potential for follow-up are all part of those essential elements that lay the foundations for mastery of print. 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

The Aussie ABC Christmas

The Aussie ABC Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

Nancy Bevington

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594256

In 1788 when the first wave of immigrants from the northern hemisphere came to Australia, they brought with them the celebrations and their associated traditions as they tried to settle into what was a land that was so different from what they knew, it was beyond their imagination.  Subsequent waves of immigrants have done the same thing and so now, 230 years later, so much of what we see and do at Christmas is still rooted in those wintery northern customs and people still strive to create a winter wonderland in their homes.

Slowly though, there are some uniquely Australian twists that are becoming more widespread and artist Nancy Bevington has captured these in this beautifully illustrated alphabet book.  There are B for beach, I for icecream and P for pavlova, and for those things like gifts, reindeer and Santa which are more universal, each illustration is quirkily Australian.  I can’t decide if my favourite is the emu putting the star at the top of the tree or the kookaburras laughing with joy. 

Young readers will delight in seeing so much that is familiar while those sharing this with them will love the humour in each picture. A treat for an Aussie Christmas stocking this year, and while it might be too late for this year as school is all but over, it would be perfect to stimulate a class display (or library display with each class contributing a letter) for next year, perhaps the reveal of each letter being part of the Christmas Countdown. 

Vanishing

Vanishing

Vanishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanishing

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227444

Once, creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered this empty land. They had horns and wings, scales and feathers. They lived in vibrant forests, desert plains and icy tundras. But where are they now?

This is an evocative picture book, lyrically written and sublimely illustrated, that introduces young children to a host of the creatures that have inhabited this planet over the millennia but which have now disappeared, often because of the impact of humans on their habitat or a desire to own what they offered.  But this book goes further than the extinction of its creatures for it warns that humans with their cities and all that they consume will also disappear.

“The humans learned about their past.  But they didn’t learn  enough from it.” 

But there is also hope that perhaps once the humans have gone, the creatures will emerge again. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The recent criticism against the students who chose to display their anger through a national strike about the inaction of governments and corporates towards climate change really angered me. Rather than asking themselves why the students felt compelled to take this action, those self-styled “social commentators” and politicians just demonstrated their ignorance about what our students are concerned about, what they are learning in schools through curricula that they, the politicians, have put in place, and the emphasis placed on transferring what has been learned into action. As well as ignorance, they also showed their arrogance in thinking that they know better and are the only ones with “solutions” to fix things.  

The publication of Vanishing at this time is very timely and it should be an essential element of any study focusing on sustainability of the landscape so that, regardless of their age, they can “learn  enough from it”.  Enough for them to continue asking questions, to examine their own beliefs and practices, to encourage others to think about the then as well as the now, to take the action they did and to maintain it until the changes are stopped if not reversed, and to not give into a future of doom and gloom.  To show those who were of a similar mindset when they were students, that there are more important things than those that they now worship, particularly in a country that is among those with the worst rate of animal species extinction in the world.

A comparison of the front and back end-pages should be enough to pique the interest but further teaching notes are available here.

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Summer

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2018

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

9780143783749

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!

Summer in Australia is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that is very much a family time and this story, as bright as the season it’s about, celebrates this.  With his family involved in all sorts of activities – so many of them familiar to the young readers who will enjoy this – it’s an opportunity to not only get excited about all the outdoor free fun that summer offers, but also for the adult reader to reminisce about happy childhood memories from their own summers. Perhaps even recreate them. 

Backyard cricket, wheelbarrow races, cooling off under the sprinkler, sharing fun with friends at the local swimming pool, ice-cream o’clock. extended bedtimes as the long summer nights laze on as the barbecue smokes in the background, holidays at the beach amidst crowds of people with the same idea  – what could be more iconic than that?

Use it to kickstart an investigation into the seasons, or spend the last week of the year creating a mural of all the activities students are planning to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

At a time when money is often tight because of the Christmas splurge and screens seem to soak up so much time, this is the perfect book to celebrate the season and make memories to last through both winter and adulthood!