Friday, June 10, 2016

Ten Great New Books for Readers Aged 4-16 Years

1. 'Yak & Gnu' by Juliette MacIver & illustrated by Cat Chapman

This delightful example of rhyming prose is a lot of fun. Yak & Gnu love to row down the river, one in their kayak, and the other in their canoe. Of course, a simple paddle on the river turns into a grand tour with others joining them along the way. A goat in a boat (can that be true?), and a laughing raft, on a raft. You should now get it. All is as expected until the "hippopotamus would have gotten us" without a quick turn. Eventually they survive and reach the sea.

Yak and Gnu conclude that there is no other beast quite like either of them. Climb aboard for a nonsensical voyage featuring an eclectic collection of animals, awash in rhyme and tongue twisters perfect for reading aloud.

2. 'Something About a Bear' by Jackie Morris

Jackie Morris is a wonderful illustrator and writer. This beautiful picture book is a factual picture book about bears. She uses a narrative form and her rich illustrations to introduce us to some of the world's most wonderful creatures. It has pretty much all of my favourites - Brown bears, Spectacled bears, Moon bears, Polar bears, Sun bears and more. The book begins with a large brown bear staring at a child's toy bear, and then launches into wonderful double page spreads showing nine bears. The first is the Brown bear:
'Where the water churns with salmon, thick and rich with leaping fishes, there the brown bear stands and catches the wild king of the river. On the shore the young bears watch him; still others swim the waters, but they are careful not to challenge, for he is the strongest of them all.'

With stunning watercolour paintings, this lyrical picture book describes eight bears from all over the world, all shown in their natural habitats: Black Bear, Polar Bear, Sloth Bear, Spectacle Bear, Sun Bear, Panda, Moon Bear, and Brown Bear.

But which is the best bear of all? Your own teddy bear of course!

3. 'Footpath Flowers' by JonArno Lawson & Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

This wordless picture book is a visual delight. The ink and watercolour illustrations of Sydney Smith are incredible. The 'story' told by the illustrations is subtle and multi layered. Your journey through the full page and comic-sized multi-framed pages is through the eyes of a small girl with red hooded top who sees a world of flowers in a dense urban landscape. She collects them on her walk with her Dad (largely unnoticed by him), and distributes them in the most delightful way.

Award winning poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith have produced a gem!

4. 'Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War' by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & illustrated by Robin Cowcher

This is a very simple but powerful picture book that encourages us to remember those who serve in war. Each double page has but one or two sentences. It parallels images of war with images of adults and children observing commemorative services and ANZAC Day marches. We see images of legs marching; some soldiers in battle, others ordinary families. It begins:

'Left! Left! Left! Right! Left!
We make our way in the dark.'

Next we see soldiers on the battle field huddled writing to loved ones, while on the next page we see families battling terrible weather conditions as they head of for commemorative services.

The delightful water colour drawings and text work beautifully together to offer a wonderful tribute to our service men and women and at the same time, an encouragement to remember them.

The book ends with an author's note that gives short descriptions of different theatres of war that Australians have participated in.

5. 'Willy's Stories' by Anthony Browne

This isn't a new title (published 2014), but I hadn't seen a copy until recently. Any new Anthony Browne title is always an exciting discovery.  Browne is one of the most celebrated author-illustrators in the world.

This book, like many before it, is a wonderful celebration of Browne's ability as a storyteller who stimulates the imagination. Once a week, Willy walks through an ordinary-looking set of doors and straight into an adventure with echoes of other great imaginative tales like 'Alice in Wonderland'. Each day we wonder where the doors will take him - a mysterious desert island with footprints in the sand; an adventure with Friar Tuck in Sherwood Forest; an encounter with Peter Pan and Captain Hook; falling down a deep, dark rabbit hole full of curious objects; or being swept away like Dorothy on the head of a tornado. Each page a new adventure, and an echo of another tale. Willy is unmistakable as we are drawn into the book and the memory of our favourite tales. A great example of Browne's genius!

6. 'The Cat with the Coloured Tail' by Gillian Mears & illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera

Mr. Hooper and The Cat with the Coloured Tail travel through the countryside in their ice-cream van. They enjoy looking for heart shapes (their favourite game) and making people happy with their delicious moon-creams. But a dark feeling is following the cat. Something is wrong. When the ice-cream van enters the forest, Mr Hooper and the cat realise the heart of the world is in danger. Will they be able to save it? A lyrical fable about love and healing.

This is a wonderful tale of two companions. But this cat with a face shaped like a heart is no ordinary cat! This is a special book about kindness and hope. The work of Danalie Dabarera as illustrator adds greatly to this 74 page book for readers aged 7-9 years.

7. 'The Rest of us Just Live Here' by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness has twice won the Carnegie Medal the UK's premier children's literature award to the writer of an outstanding book written in English for children and young people.

Mikey is the main character. He is an anxious 17-year-old who worries about the same things that other young adults worry about: relationships, sex, popularity, love, parents, their future and so on. Does life make sense?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

This new offering from Ness reminds readers aged 14+ that there are many different ways to live your life, and many ways to be remarkable in the 'unremarkable' in it.
A delightful book filled with empathy and hope for adolescents!

8. 'A single stone' by Meg McKinlay

Every girl dreams of being part of the line—the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line—strong, respected, reliable. And—as all girls must be—she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question the world she knows? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

This is a delightful tale set in a dystopian world where Jenna's village has been cut off from the outside world. They have no way out so the villagers need to adapt their lives to this existence. Girls of fine bones are desirable and special, but boys have little value. Jenna begins to question the work that she was born to do. This is a shocking tale in its own way, but there is also hope.

9. 'I'll Give You the Sun' by Jandy Nelson

This is another book from the acclaimed author of 'The Sky Is Everywhere'.

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close - until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don't realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

This is a novel that will pull the reader's emotions in all directions. The reader will move from laughter to tears as they enter the story of two inseparable twins who are torn apart of a tragedy. 

10. 'The Cardturner' by Louis Sacher

This is the latest young adult novel from Louis Sachar, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newbery Medal in 1999 for 'Holes'. 'The Cardturner' is an exploration of the human condition. "How are we supposed to be partners? He can’t see the cards and I don’t know the rules!"

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him, he has no money and no job, and his parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester, who is old, blind, very sick, and very rich, to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner.

But Alton's parents aren't the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp's good graces. There is Trapp's longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family.

 Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda, as he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.
In this excellent novel Sachar explores the disparity between what we know and what we think we might know. What is the difference between perception and reality?

All My Posts on Children's Literature HERE

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