Wednesday, June 20, 2018

12 Stunning New Release Picture Books

1. 'A Stone for Sasha' by Aaron Becker

I've reviewed a number of Aaron Becker's recent picture books and his wordless wonders are always insightful and challenging. Somehow, the term picture books seems inadequate to communicate the sophisticated works that they are. They are always multi-layered visual texts filled with symbolism of varied kinds, and deep layered meanings. In this tale, a girl grieves when she loses her dog, but that's just the beginning. When her family takes her away to the seaside she stumbles upon something extraordinary. Another classic wordless picture book from this talented Caldecott Honor winner for his previous book 'Journey'.

This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

2. 'Duck' by Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Nathaniel Ecksrtrom

On a quiet afternoon Duck wanders through the farmyard. But when he sees something tumbling from the sky and suggests that they 'Duck!' But there is an unfortunate misunderstanding. The illustrations and the simple text make for a very funny picture book that readers aged 3-6 will love!

Award-winning author Meg McKinlay is brilliant as usual, and illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom offers delightful watercolour drawings. Kids will love this. Perfect for group readalouds for children 2-7 years or independent reading for children aged 5+.
    3. 'Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure' by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson with art by Erica Kepler

    Peg and Cat visit their friends Yasmina and Amir as they celebrate Eid al-Adha. They learn some new things about this special festival.

    Amir explains many things to them. For example, a key part of Eid al-Adha is dividing the meat into three equal parts. One part is shared with someone less fortunate. But with three bowls of meatballs being shared, things become rather confusing. They have a problem!

    But with some scales, some help from a soup kitchen and a better understanding of 'more' and 'less' they sort things out. And with lots of lessons about giving and receiving, all have a great time.

    'Peg + Cat' is from the Emmy Award–winning animated TV series created by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson. Readers 5-7 will enjoy the book.

    4. 'Tropical Terry' by Jarvis

    This is a brilliant book, with so many good themes. Terry the tropical fish wants to stand out. He isn't the most popular fish with the 'in' crowd. Not fancy and flashy enough for others. But he is to learn a great life lesson. Sometimes, it's helpful to blend in and in life there are more important things than being flashy and being in the cool crowd.
    Grey old Terry feels dull. And his skills at playing "Hide A Fish" don't impress many. What if I was flashy like the rest? But how...?

    With the help of some to some others he changes! Will they love him? Will love himself?

    “Hello-o-o everybody! Just call me TROPICAL Terry!”

    He's now part of the in crowd. Now surely, this will end well? Will life as a tropical fish be everything he dreamed of?

    A great little book. Beautifully crafted text and stunning vibrant illustrations from the award-winning Jarvis. The creator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth and Mrs Mole, I’m Home!

    A book that readers and listeners aged 3-7 will love.

      5. 'Spirit' by Cherri Ryan and illustrated by Christina Booth

      What happens when things don’t go the way you plan? Can you try and try again? Can you try and try again? 

      This is a delightful book about hope, resilience and the importance of others who support us.

      This is a book with an almost metaphysical tone that points to without revealing the things that trouble and how resilience can grow and help to conquer the life when things don't turn out as we expect.
      The author Cherri Ryan has been inspired by the children and families she cared for as a family doctor in Australia. She now works in medical education, and enjoys helping people and organisations who help others. 

      The simple but vibrant illustrations are a perfect complement to the text. Her simple flowing lines evoke the experiences of life (for me at least). Even the buttons on her basket boats look like sad faces as they drift along. Delightful. Readers aged 4-6 will enjoy it

      Christina Booth was awarded a CBCA Honour Book Award for her book, Kip, and has won numerous awards including the Environment Award for Children’s Literature for her previous book, 'Welcome Home'.

      6. 'The Day War Came' by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

      This is an amazing book! With an economy of words from Nicola Davies and delightful pencil and crayon illustrations from Rebecca Cobb, they create a book that packs a powerful emotional punch. When I read it to a group of parents recently, the room was so still as the story unfolded, that I could almost hear them breathing. This is a story that needs to be told. How do you shine a light on the UK government decision in 2016 not to accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children?

      When the government made the original decision, Nicola Davies was so angry that she wrote a poem and the Guardian published it. A campaign began in which artists contributed drawings of chairs, to symbolise a seat in a classroom, as well as education, kindness, hope and a future. The poem was to become this moving book.  

      What might one of these children's story look like? Feel like? Rebecca Cobb's images are so evocative. A small child wakes one morning and sits down for an ordinary breakfast and heads off to school, and 'War Came'! It came and took all of her school. So she struggles home, but it is no longer there. Here school, her family, her home, everything had gone! She struggles through broken streets and follows a stream of people to camps, leaky boats and then another nation. But they don't want her at their school, they don't have a chair for her. No place! She retreats to curl up alone in the corner of a lonely hut. But hope and rescue comes in the most amazing way. It is not the grown-ups who rescue her, but children.

      This book will work at many levels from age 6-adult.

      7. 'A First Book of the Sea' by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton

      Another wonderful book from Nicola Davies that celebrates the sea. This 107-page picture book is filled with wonderful poems of the sea and is an outstanding collaboration with Emily Sutton. Together, they celebrate the sea in all its glorious moods; in image and verse. Children will thumb their way through this book for hours

      In a volume brimming with information, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton capture the magic and majesty of the ocean with stunning words and pictures. Poems about manta rays, flying fish, and humpback whales mingle with verses about harbors, storms, and pearl divers. Glimpses of life in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans flow into spreads about tropical islands, coral reefs, and ancient shipwrecks on the seabed. 

      Emily Suttons water colour drawings make you want to pore over every page. The fishing village for the poem 'End of the Journey', or the teeming life of penguins and leopard seals for the poem 'Antarctic' A riot of colour and to support Davies wonderful poetry. I love this book and so will children aged 4-8 years.

      8. 'My Grandfather's War' by Glyn Harper & illustrated by Jenny Cooper

      The award-winning team of Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper share this poignant story about a Vietnam veteran and his relationship with his granddaughter. While the relationship is a positive one, the young girl senses her grandfather’s pain and is curious to find out the cause of it. As she innocently seeks answers, she unknowingly opens old wounds and discovers her grandfather’s sadness is a legacy of the Vietnam War and his experiences there. This is a sensitive exploration of the lingering cost of war and of the PTSD so many returned servicemen experience. 

      This is a lovely book. The 'softness' of Jenny Cooper's beautiful illustrations match the tenderness of Glyn Harper's text. In a simple text that is an authentic representation of the conversation between a young girl and her grandfather, we listen in on a gentle conversation that deepens a relationship between a little girl and her grandfather, and at the same time, helps us to understand a little of the reason the men and women who served in Vietnam felt like the forgotten ones. It is a timely book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh (the Vietnam War’s longest battle). This lovely story will help another generation not to allow this to be a 'forgotten war'. We owe this to the men and women who served. Some lost their loves, many were marked and scarred by it physically and emotionally. This book will help a new generation to understand just a little better all war, but particularly this one. 

      Suitable for readers aged 5-9 years

      9. 'Is it a Mermaid?' by Candy Gourlay and illustrated by Francesca Chessa

      When Benjie and Bel find a strange creature on a tropical beach they know it’s a dugong. But the dugong insists she is a beautiful mermaid and to prove it, she shows them her mermaid’s tail and sings them a mermaid song.

      This is a lovely simple book. It is set in the Philippines it seeks to educate children about Dugongs, a species that is threatened due to the destruction of the seaweed they feed on and the dangers of ships. With the additional themes of friendship and kindness it will appeal to readers aged 4-7.

      10. 'Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin' by Sean Taylor & Khayaal Theatre. Illustrated by Shirin Adl

      Why does Mulla Nasruddin spoon yoghurt into the river? What is the reason he rides his donkey backwards? Why does he paint a picture that is blank? And is he crazy to move into the house of the man who's just burgled him? Find out all about the amazing antics of Nasruddin in these twenty-one hilarious stories and riddles, famous throughout the Middle East for their jokes, riddles and wisdom.

      This book will appeal to a rich multicultural readership and 'audience'. Set in a middle eastern context it is a collection of short stories (100-150 words per 2 page spread). Each is a tale with a funny trick or joke. Along the way, young readers will learn a little about language and traditional tales.  Shirin Adl's illustrations complement the delightfully simple texts that will be enjoyed by independent readers aged 6-9 years. All the tales are set within believable daily contexts for people of Muslim heritage, where expectations of generosity might just be taken to extremes at times. "Would it be possible for me to borrow your washing machine?" but also where fun with the literal interpretation of words might well cause funny misunderstandings. Can you "draw a blank", is it okay to answer one question with another question?

      Delightful as a read aloud or for young independent readers aged 6-8 years.
      11. 'Waves' by Donna Rawlins and illustrated by Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

      Waves is a narrative non-fiction book about the waves of migration to the shores of Australia.
      Every journey is perilous, every situation heartbreaking. Every refugee is a person forced by famine or war or fear to leave their home, their families, their friends and all they know. Children have travelled on the waves of migration to the shores of Australia for tens of thousands of years. This book tells some of their stories.  

      Donna Rawlins presents a collection of short stories centred on the almost universal experience of all people groups who have ancestors who came from across the sea. Mark Jackson and Heather Potter's gentle, slightly abstract line and watercolour images help to bring the book to life. While the characters are fictitious, they are typical of the stories on non-Indigenous Australians who all came to Australia across the sea. At the end of the book Rawlins includes a short history of the many people who have made the journey to Australia. These include the Anak people from what we now know as Indonesia, to British, Portuguese, Jewish refugees, Muslim and many more. This will be a great book to share as teachers or for independent readers aged 7-10 years.

      12. 'Professor Astro Cat's Human Body Odyssey' by Dr Dominic Walliman & illustrated by Benn Newman

      This is the latest Professor Astro Cat adventure. Children who are 'would be' scientists and who have an interest in science and in this case the body! They will love to pore over this book for many hours. It is book that children will read and re-read as they discover new things, and share them with friends. 

      What's a nervous system? How do we understand the brain? Why do we sneeze? What is the point in having skin? How does a mouth work? The human body is complicated! But it is also so fascinating.

      Dominic Wellman's text is beautifully illustrated by Ben Newman as they help Professor Astro Cat and the gang teach us about the body. This will be read and re-read by young scientists aged 6-10 years.

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