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Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland

Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland

Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland

Marianne McShane

Jordi Solano

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781406394320

Long ago, on the eastern coast of Ireland, a monk from the Abbey of Bangor was collecting driftwood along the shore when he found a boy washed up amid a circle of seals. At first the boy could barely move or speak. But when he regained his strength, he recalled being brought ashore by a lady with long golden hair who sang him to safety and gave him a silver ring. The monks knew the legend of a mermaid who had wandered the coast for three hundred years. Could it possibly have been her?

Inspired by a story told in medieval chronicles of Irish history, seanchaí, Marianne McShane has woven a captivating tale of an orphan, an unlikely rescuer and a lifelong debt that takes the reader back into the hazy past of Ireland where myths, legend and religion are so intermingled they are all but inseparable, creating a new story that may, one day, itself become part of the legend.  The mood of myth and mystery is enhanced but Jordi Solano’s illustrations that have a sombre but warm palette and soft lines that imitate the blurring of old and new. 

An intriguing story that offers an alternative story about mermaids for those who adore these beings. 

 

Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes

Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes

Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes

Shirley Hughes

Walker, 2021

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406390315

Nursery rhymes – those jingles, riddles, tongue-trippers, finger games,  lullabies and prayers that we can still recall from our own childhood – are the heritage of centuries of oral tradition as they were passed from one generation to the next down through the ages.  From the research of Iona and Peter Opie , pioneers in the study of childhood culture, play and literature, it is evident that as well as the oral retelling, nursery rhymes have been in printed format since the reign of England’s George II in the mid-1700s meaning that many more have survived than otherwise might have.

So, as childhood entertainment becomes so much more diverse in both culture and format this collection of 60 of the more well-known rhymes has an important place in not only preserving this form of children’s literature from the past but also in introducing our youngest to common chants that it is presumed they know. How many times have they heard, “Rain, rain go away” recently, the drought being all but a memory?  And while there is also a doorway into times past as many spring from people or events or yesteryear – who has actually seen a child running through the town in a nightgown and carrying a candlestick? – they can also become a  springboard to a whole range of investigations. For example, “The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe” creates opportunities to explore mathematics; “Humpty Dumpty” is a great introduction to investigate the things that come from eggs; “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can take them to the stars and back; and Little Miss Muffet opens up the world of spiders and other mini-beasts Below is a table of contents I prepared for a book I was going to write called Rhyme and Reason which would have introduced littlies to information literacy through nursery rhymes.

 

Rhyme

General Focus

What are little boys made of? The child as a person
The old woman in a shoe The family and the class
Boys and girls come out to play Games and activities
Little Miss Muffet; Incy Wincy Spider Fears, spiders
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; The man in the moon; Hey Diddle Diddle Day & Night; Space
Solomon Grundy Routines,  Days of the Week
Hickory Dickory Dock Time , Mice
Sing a song of sixpence Money & Budgeting
Three Little Kittens Pets
One, two three four five; One, two, buckle my shoe Counting; fish
Hot Cross Buns Easter
The crooked little man Houses and homes
It’s raining it’s pouring; Whether the weather be fine; I hear thunder Weather
Six little mice sat down to spin Staying safe; Protective behaviours
Mary had a little lamb School, On the Farm
Wee Willie Winkie; Starlight star bright Bedtime; Dreams
Queen of Hearts Honesty, Taking responsibility
Thirty days hath September Months
Baa Baa Black Sheep/ Little Boy Blue Farms
Hickety Pickety my black hen Food
Humpty Dumpty The secret life of eggs
Jack and Jill The importance of water
Three Blind Mice Senses
Rub-A-Dub Dub Jobs and careers
Little Boy Blue On the Farm

Many of these rhymes are in this collection and they are illustrated in a style reminiscent of times gone by, giving the whole that olde-world feeling that many of us associate with the collections that we had in the past. And with some imagination, they could form the basis of a year’s work for our youngest readers either at school or at home!

My research for Rhyme and Reason led me down many fascinating paths, particularly the origins of and history associated with these rhymes but it was more difficult to find illustrated collections.  I am thrilled to be able to add this to the tiny collection I was able to acquire.  May there be more. 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Marie Sebag-Montefiore

Usborne, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474989657

In  Children’s literature: A reader’s history from Aesop to Harry Potter. ( 2008, Chicago, IL., USA: University of Chicago Press) Seth Lerer contends that “Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature” and having children learn lessons about life through literature has been a constant thread. Didacticism has been a hallmark of children’s stories from the 18th century moral tale to the modern problem novel as using realism to instruct its readers has always been its central aim. Although this has changed from trying to inculcate better, more mature behaviour to presenting a problem without suggestion of a solution, nevertheless for generations of readers education has always been placed before entertainment.

And that is the central thread of this collection of forgotten fairytales, as common in their time as those of Snow White, Cinderella and their ilk today but lost throughout the years.  With their focus on the many ways we can be courageous or kind, they feature both genders as heroes and diverse cultures demonstrating that essentially, children are the same the world over. With their message of being kind to ourselves, having the courage to stand up for what we believe in, and being compassionate towards others, even though the stories themselves are over a century old, their message today is as applicable as ever.  

Fairytales remain a part of the study of literature across the age groups and this collection offers some “new” stories to compare to the more well-known ones to investigate whether they have a common structure, theme or message that children in 2021 can learn as well as those in 1821. Have things changed so much? 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

 

A Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

Beatrix Potter

Eleanor Taylor

Puffin, 2017

18pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9780241291757

It’s Christmas Eve and Peter Rabbit and his sisters are excited, but Peter is worried too. They have all wished for a special present but Peter can’t sleep, and he knows Father Christmas won’t visit if he’s still awake. As the hours drag by anxious Peter hears a little creak here, and a little bump there, so now he’s even less likely to fall asleep, especially as he is convinced each noise must be Santa and he gets up to investigate. Then he decides to sit and gaze at the lights on the Christmas tree…will Santa come while he’s there?

The charm and delight of Beatrix Potter’s tales about Peter Rabbit have endured over decades and this adaptation is no exception.  Perfect for that final sleep on the BIG night, little ones will empathise with Peter as they share his excitement and find it just as tricky to get to sleep it will become a classic part of the annual Christmas Countdown.

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Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Michael Salmon

Ford Street Publishing, 2012

Pbk., RRP $A12.95

9781921665592 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … no, not a partridge in a pear tree. But a kookaburra in a gum tree! In this quirky re-release of Michael Salmon’s version of the traditional Christmas song, Santa has landed in Australia’s outback and is checking his list.  Although the kangaroos are in charge of the presents, their koala helpers are not helping very much at all.  Are six sharks a-surfing and seven emus laying really what someone wants to find under their tree – or anywhere?

Most of us are familiar with the bright, colourful illustrations that are a signature of Michael Salmon’s work and from the cover to the final page which is a blackline master to be photocopied and coloured in, they just delight the readers and put a smile on their faces.  Not only is the original song one of timeless tradition, but this book is one of timeless quality which will bring joy to yet another generation of little ones.  With ski-ing snakes and dancing dingoes, they are introduced to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures in situations beyond their normal bush habitats and daily habits.  And of course, the whole just begs to be the basis of an improvisation that lets the students demonstrate their knowledge of our fauna and alliteration.  Imagine eleven echidnas eating…

Christmas Day in Australia IS very different from all those snow-covered Christmas card scenes we seem to still hang on to, and this classic proves it!

If your library copy from way back when is tired and over-loved, this is the opportunity to renew it with a sparkling new version.  And don’t forget to introduce the children to the fun and games available in the cave!

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton

Angela Barrett

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781408886915

 

For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Each girl – Frida, Polina, lorna, Ariosta, Chessa, Bellina, Vita, Mariella, Delilah, Flora, Emelia  and the youngest, Agnes – has her own special talents and interests, talents and interests that had been encouraged by their mother but of which King Alberto knew nothing.  To him, girls were of little value, useful for getting married and bringing further wealth to his kingdom of Kalia and so as they grew up, he knew nothing about rearing girls and certainly didn’t approve of them being educated – “a girl may as well have been a sunflower or a trumpet”. So deep in grief at his wife’s death and afraid his daughters will suffer a similar fate because their mother had encouraged their independence and freedom, he removes all the things they love – their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. When Princess Frida defies him, as in the traditional tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm that the story mirrors, the girls are locked in a small room where they spend all their days and nights, except for one hour a day in the garden “to stretch their legs”.

When they find an escape from their cell-like room, sneaking off through a hidden door to a different world 503 steps down underneath the palace, life becomes a bit more bearable but Frida is made aware that there is always a price to pay for such freedom.  And, just as in the original, it is the girls’ worn out dancing shoes that give them away and Frida finds she has to use all her intelligence and ingenuity to keep her sisters safe and eventually free them…

This is a modern day version of that old German tale and by expanding on it, describing the settings, giving the girls personalities and emotions,  breathing life into characters that are usually one-dimensional, although it is somewhat disappointing that when the pilot arrives to try to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing shoes, that each is struck by his looks at first.

This is a story for independent readers who like a bit of meat in their fairy tales, while setting up the question, “Is freedom free?

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760523541

Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey Backwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding a Donkey Backwards

Sean Taylor & Khayaal Theatre

Shirin Adl

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781910959305

The full title of this book is Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin, a traditional beloved Muslim storyteller known as Hodja in Turkey, Afandi in Central Asia, Joha in the Arabic world and Mulla Nasruddin to millions of other Muslims.  His stories make the listeners laugh, think and maybe “even make your thoughts do somersaults inside your mind!”

Therefore to have a collection of traditional stories so well-told and beautifully illustrated that not only opens up a whole new world of stories for our students but also allows a large percentage of our school populations to see their stories alongside the common English ones like Cinderella et al, is a gift.  This is the first collection of these stories that has been published for a young Western audience.

So, why does Nasruddin spoon yoghurt into the river?  Why does he paint a picture that is blank? Is he crazy to move into the house of the man who’s just burgled him? And why does he ride his donkey backwards?  The answers are in the stories, each just a page or so long with stunning illustrations, and each very funny and often with a strong underlying message that makes so much sense and which will provoke discussion and debate. 

Stories are what binds a culture together; these ones will help cross the divide between them.  

The King with Dirty Feet

The King with Dirty Feet

The King with Dirty Feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King with Dirty Feet

Sally Pomme Clayton

Rhiannon Sanderson

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

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

9781910959237

Ask a child to draw a picture of the king and they will always give him a crown.  They would never give him dirty feet!  But that is the problem for the Indian king in this story inspired by a Bengali folktale called The King and the Cobbler.

Even though the king lives in a beautiful palace in a kingdom filled with trees, flowers, animals and a broad flowing river, he himself is not so beautiful because he loathes bathing.  To put it bluntly, he stunk so much that it even offended him and so he reluctantly decides to bathe in the river.  But when he steps out the riverside dust dirties his feet and so he has to get in the water again. But again they are dirty when he steps out. Realising the problem he orders his servant Gabu to remove all the dust and dirt in the kingdom and gives him just three days to do it or…

Gabu’s first two solutions work but the king doesn’t like them.  The third solution works but then a wise old man shows him that the land won’t like it.  Is there a way  for the king to have his clean feet and the land to still produce the plants and animals that make it so remarkable?

This new version of an old story is brought to life by an acclaimed storyteller so it is easy to hear yourself reading it aloud to a captivated audience while the colourful, detailed illustrations  show a different kind of king and kingdom to challenge the stereotype.

Something a little different to share and spark a range of conversations from the importance of hygiene to the purpose of clothes to the stereotyping of particular characters .

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760113261

Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.