Tuesday, April 30, 2019

12 New Picture Books that are Keepers!

1. 'In the Bush I see' by Kiara Honeychurch

This is another great title from Magabala Books, the Indigenous publishers located in the remote North Western Australian town of Broome. It is a delightful little board book for toddlers aged 1-4 years. A wonderful first book that children will flip through again and again. They will also learn the simple text descriptions of each wonderful creature. Like "a screeching cockatoo", "a waddling echidna" and a "watchful bandicoot". Kiara is inspired by the bush creatures she encounters in her rural home near Hobart. With a bold and sophisticated colour palette, Kiara unleashes the beauty and character of each creature. Well done Kiara, I hope there will be more books.

2. 'The Anzac Billy' by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

This is the story of one little boy lovingly selecting, with the help of his mum and grandma, favourite and useful things for his dad's billy – butterscotch, nuts, handkerchiefs, writing paper and more. Then, with a wish that the billy makes it in time for Christmas Day, he sends it on its way... Sail, big ship of billies, sail far across the sea. Until you reach the other side, until you reach my dad...

This wonderful new picture book from successful writer Claire Saxby is a gem. The book will introduce young readers to a little-known aspect of World War I, and a simple way that our troops were supported.

During World War I, Australian soldiers serving on the front were sent Christmas care packages. This was a collection of gifts from home. They were carefully placed in tin billies used for boiling water to make tea or heat some food over an open fire. They billy cans were filled by families and friends. Then collected and sent to the front line.
And what happens if it doesn't make it to the loved one? You'll have to read this special book to find out. A wonderful contribution to the extensive list of great picture books about war. This makes its own special contribution. Beautifully illustrated by Mark Jackson and Heather Potter. Wonderful!

3.  'Up to Something' by Katrina McKelvey & illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan

This new book is from the same author/illustrator team responsible for one of my favourite picture books in 2017 'Dandelion', that reviewed previously on this blog. 

One day, Dad invites Billy into his shed to build something, but Billy soon finds out that he is only allowed to watch. As Dad becomes engrossed in his project, Billy takes Dad’s off-cuts and other items from around the yard and shed and starts to copy what his Dad is building. Dad remains blissfully unaware! At the end of the day, they reveal their creations — two very different racing carts — and Dad discovers that Billy has more skills and abilities than his dad had ever imagined! 

I love this book. It offers a lovely insight into a father-son relationship. The small boy wanting to do things for himself and his Dad not quite trusting him to do more than watch. The outcome is special. The delightful simple text is beautifully complemented by Kirrili Lonergan's soft pencil and water colour illustrations. The style is similar to 'Dandelion' and works beautifully.

4. 'Little Frida' by Anthony Browne

One great artist inspires another, as former Children's Laureate and twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal Anthony Browne creates a beautiful story about Frida Kahlo.

There have been many books written about famous artist Frida Kahlo, but Anthony Browne weaves his magic to create a special picture book, that will bring the remarkable story of Frida Kahlo to a new generation.

Anthony Browne is former Children's Laureate and twice winner of the ultimate award for illustrated picture books, the Kate Greenaway Medal. Browne tells the story of Frida Kahlo for a young audience. has inspired. This beautiful and almost surreal work is delightfully illustrated as we would expect. It tells the story of Frida's lonely life, and how she discovered the power of her own imagination to open up new worlds of possibility. It is a lovely book that explores the themes of belonging and hope. A great book for 4-7 year olds. The book has a brief biography of Frida Kahlo at the back that parents and teachers will want to share after they've read Browne's story. 

5. 'The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears', by Alastair Chisholm & illustrated by Jez Tuya

An action-packed storytelling adventure that flips the traditional fairy tale on its head. When it's time for Jamie's bedtime story, his dad begins to tell an age-old fairy tale about a prince in a faraway land full of dragons, wolves and princesses in distress. But inquisitive Jamie can't help but add to his dad's story, and the prince is soon joined by an evil-eyed witch who turns people to jelly, a broccoli-wielding ninja frog and a jewel-thief, lock picking princess. It may not be the story Dad set out to tell, but together, he and Jamie create something much more energetic and hilarious than they could have alone.

This is a zany little book that children will love sharing with other children, as will teachers love sharing it with their students. Any adult who has shared a made up story with a child before, will know how challenging (and yet fun) it is to have to adjust your story to the wishes and suggestions of young listeners. An unusual twist in a market where it's hard to surprise the reader with something different. I've enjoyed sharing the book with some of the children in my life.

6. 'Angry Cookie' by Laura Dockrill & illustrated by Maria Karipidou

Laura Dockrill is a well-known performance poet who has produced the text for a funny book that features a reluctant cookie who resents our attention as readers. As we open the book he cries out:

Oooohhh . . . not you again!
AGGGHH It’s so bright! . . . Close this book this very second, you nosy noodle!

It seems that Cookie has woken in a very bad mood! Why? You'll need to read the book to find out, but watch out! It seems Cookie has a lot that annoys him in life, and yet his flatmate gets out her new recorder. Of course he "HATES THE RECORDER!!" But that's not all, there are so many things that annoy him. But you'll have to read the book yourself to find out how the problem of an angry cookie is resolved.

The wonderful crayon and watercolour illustrations are delightful, and the graphic design is perfect for this quirky book. I can see only one thing that must annoy writer and illustrator just as much, the colour choices for the cover have rendered their names almost invisible on the cover.

A wonderful book that teachers and parents will love reading to children aged 3-7 years, and of course young readers will love reading for themselves, or each other.

7. 'Crash! Boom! A Maths Tale' by Robie Harris & illustrated by Chris Chatterton

Elephant has a bucket of blocks and wants to build something tall. Something as tall as Elephant. But will it stay up? CRASH! BOOM! Not this time. Build it again? One block. Two blocks? Four blocks? It’s still not as tall as Elephant. More blocks! Now will it stay up? Now will it be as tall as Elephant? Build, balance, count — question, estimate, measure — predict, crash, and build again! Young children will happily follow along as Elephant goes through the ups and downs of creating something new and finally celebrates the joy and pride of success.

This is a delightful new mathematical concepts picture book that preschool teachers will find fun to share. This cute little elephant will be well-loved by readers. Appropriate for listeners and readers aged 1-5 years. Beautifully illustrated by Chris Chatterton

8. 'The Jacket' by Sue-Ellen Pashley & illustrated by Thea Baker

I love this book! Now any parent will not miss the deep sentiment in the story about a favourite jacket that is worn and worn and past down to other children, but then is seemingly to be discarded. This is a jacket that becomes 'woven into the lives of one ordinary family'.

"The jacket was no ordinary jacket. It was soft, like dandelion fluff. It was comforting, like a hug from your favourite teddy. And it had four dazzling buttons down the front..."

Amelia wears her favourite jacket everywhere. She wears it to nursery. And to Aunty Kath's house. And to the shops. Even to bed! But, one day, she can't fit into it any more. So Mum suggests she give it to her little sister, Lily. And so, that way, the jacket lives on...

A beautiful story that is also wonderfully illustrated with a wonderful book design that helps to make this a special book. Like Amelia's jacket, it's what we call in our house "a keeper!"

9. 'Maple the Brave' by Chloe Jasmine Harris

Chloe Jasmine Harris is a debut author/illustrator. This is a well-crafted story about a little girl called Maple who has to face her fears and find strength and skills she didn't know she could have.  

Maple lives in a tree house in the woods. She’s scared of most things, especially the animals who live below. But one day, when she bravely steps out of her comfort zone, she finds that the animals are really quite kind. With their help, she awakens a sense of bravery she never knew she had. This is a gentle, Jungle Book-like adventure, where our doll-like heroine ultimately returns to her tree house stronger, more confident, and with a whole forest of friends.

The delightful story is well supported by Chloe's detailed and colourful line and watercolour illustrations. These will delight young readers as they look deep into each page to follow Maple's encounters with her new friends in the forest who help her to grow.

10. 'Lucky and Spike' by Norma MacDonald

This is another wonderful picture book from Magabala Books. This is a spin-off from the first book about Lucky and Spike. I reviewed Spinifex Mouse in a previous post. These two endearing mice leave their burrow each night to search the barren remote inland plains of Australia. This is dangerous! There are many predators to avoid, including a feral cat and a ravenous owl. They race to the people’s camp to forage for spinifex seeds and come face-to-face with a prowling cat. The chase is on! They race past people dancing near a camp fire. But will they avoid the camp dog and the ravenous owl?

I hope that they live to appear in another Lucky and Spike tale. A fast moving tale beautifully illustrated by Norma MacDonald. 

 11. 'Little Bird's Day' by Sally Morgan & illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

A simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she sings the world alive, flies with Cloud, travels with Wind, nestles with Moon and dreams of flying among the stars.

This is a gorgeous book! From the deep earth colours of the cover, the inside covers with stunning images of the night sky, to the wonderful more traditional images of the creatures that punctuate Little Bird's day, it is beautiful. And, as you'd expect Sally Morgan's beautifully crafted text makes for a memorable picture book. Is there any wonder it was the winner of the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award. 

As with many Magabala books some excellent Teacher's notes can be found on the Magabala Books website.

12. 'Wilam: A Birrarung Story' by Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

This is another stunning Indigenous picture book, this time from Black Dog books. Talented Indigenous artist Lisa Kennedy, respected Elder Aunty Joy Murphy and Yarra River keeper Andrew Kelly combine to create a special book. It tells the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s beautiful Yarra river, from its source to its mouth, and from its pre-history to the present day.

Lisa Kennedy is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania. She was born in Melbourne and as a child lived close to the Maribyrnong River. Here she experienced the gradual restoration of the natural river environment alongside cultural regeneration and reclamation. The experience of loss and reclamation is embedded in her work. The illustrations are richly coloured with a bright palette of green, red, blue, yellow and brown. Many of the plates would be stunning works of art on their own. But in combination with the text from Aunty Joy and Andrew Kelly, we have a special book to share with children aged 3-8 years of age.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

6 Great Books for Teachers, Parents & Grandparents who love children's books

Followers of this blog know that I write about all aspects of language, literacy and children's literature. I often review literature to be read by or shared with children. But in this post, I want to share some of the great books that I receive that I'm sure adults and lovers of kids' books will enjoy. There might even be a great present here for a teacher, parent or grandparent you know.

1. Flights of Fancy: Stories, pictures and inspiration from ten Children's Laureates 

This wonderful book from Walker Books profiles the inspirational work of 10 well-known British writers of children's literature. With household names like Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Anthony Brown, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo this is a remarkable group.

These well-known storytellers through words and pictures, are the first 10 people to have been appointed in Britain as Children's Laureate. This is a two year appointment that recognises outstanding achievement in children's literature. What I love about the book is that each chapter offers a little of the background and work of each person, and a unique twist each time on what they share. For example, Qentin blake shares some unusual large scale "splatter creatures" and talks about his experimentation with images.

Above: Anthony Browne's Shirley Hughes
On the other hand, Anne Fine shares much about her home library and her love of bookplates. Michael Morpurgo offers an insight into his writing processes,  Michael Rosen plays with words to say great things about poetry (no surprise there), Anthony Browne draws some of the other laureates, and so on. This is a wonderful feast of insights into writing and illustration by giants in the field.

2. 'Encyclopedia of Grannies' by Eric Veillé

Now this might just be written for children, but I doubt that any grandmother will be able to put it down without laughing. This  clever French writer illustrator, gives us an insight into just how diverse 'grannies' are. Did you know there are Grannies in ski suits, some who love nature, surfboard riding Australian grannies, young grannies and old ones? Every grannie has a nickname like 'Mimi', 'Abuela', 'G-ma', 'Meemaw' and more! It's amazing what grannies do with their time - talking, opening oysters, getting names muddled, tempting us with cream buns and more.

Grannies seem to know a lot of things that will surprise you (and maybe some grannies). Their wisdom and sayings are priceless! Some grannies knit cardigans for people, covers for cat tails, warmers for camel humps and even gloves for snowmen. Then of course, there is much to learn about the moods of grannies. And we mustn't forget about the travel of grannies and much, much more. A great book for grannies to enjoy alone or with someone on their knee!

3. 'Poe: Stories and Poems' by Gareth Hinds (graphic novel)

Any adult who loves poetry will love this graphic novel, and you'll look cool with your teenage grandchildren or students! Hind has taken some of the best-known works from Edgar Allan Poe and transformed them into illustrated works. Gareth Hind is well-known for his own work with graphic novels and this book won't disappoint. While Poe's work might seem challenging to some, Hind's treatment of the poems and stories might well get some teenagers (and maybe adults) across the line to love these works.

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” a man exacts revenge on a disloyal friend at carnival, luring him into catacombs below the city. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” a prince shielding himself from plague hosts a doomed party inside his abbey stronghold. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, faced with a swinging blade and swarming rats, can’t see his tormentors in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a milky eye and a deafening heartbeat reveal the effects of conscience and creeping madness. Alongside these tales are visual interpretations of three poems — “The Raven,” “The Bells,” and Poe’s poignant elegy to lost love, “Annabel Lee.” The seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.

Some might be offended by a few word changes, but these are limited and do little more than shorten some sentences and occasionally connect others. The majority of the text used within the graphic novel format is verbatim, but the illustrations alone will make it come to life. Adults will enjoy the book and will have some fun discussing it with their students, children or grandchildren.

4. 'The Book that Made Me' Ed Judith Ridge

This is the book for the would-be writers (just about everyone!). It is an edited book that contains 32 personal stories from children’s and young adult authors as they explore the books, stories, and experiences that changed them as readers. The authors include Shaun Tan, Simon French, Jaclyn Moriarty, Ursula Dubosarky, Catherine Johnson, Julia Lawrinson and Jared Thomas.

What was the book that made them fall in love, or made them understand something for the first time? What was the book that made them feel challenged in ways they never knew they could be, emotionally, intellectually, or politically? What book made them readers, or made them writers, or made them laugh, think, or cry?

This one looks a bit more like a text book, but the short chapters are rich in experiences and insights into each author's life as well as their formative literary experiences.

5. 'Five on Brexit Island' by Bruno Vincent

I bought my copy of 'Five on BREXIT Island' last year when in London. I just couldn't resist. Only the fear of excess baggage made me leave some of the other titles on the shelves. This is of course Enid Blyton with a serious twist. Obviously, Enid Blyton for grown-ups or thoughtful teenagers. In a way, this book in the series has been made even better by the 12 months of political chaos in Britain over the exit from the EU.

The story starts on the night of the referendum. The Five are gathered relaxing on Kirrin Island. Julian has politics on his mind. He steps forward and clears his throat.

"There's been a lot of scaremongering going on," he said, "about the potential consequences of this vote: about subsidies, about people's livelihoods being threatened, about the economy and about hope in the future." He implores the gathering to fight for the values of the Island. For of course, "... Britain is great, and Kirrin Island is great too - and they are better - together!"

Hopefully, this will whet your appetite.

Other titles include 'Five go on a strategy away day', 'Five go parenting', 'Five give up the booze' and one for the ages, 'Five go gluten free'.

6. 'Raising Readers: How to nurture a child's love of books' by Megan Daley

Some kids refuse to read, others won't stop - not even at the dinner table! Either way, many parents question the best way to support their child's literacy journey. When can you start reading to your child? How do you find that special book to inspire a reluctant reader? How can you tell if a book is age appropriate? What can you do to keep your tween reading into their adolescent years?

Teacher librarian Megan Daley has fifteen years of experience and shares many of her in sights. Her opening chapter has some great advice on "raising a reader" in the years 0 to 5. Later chapters have good advice on the nature of reading, where technology fits, getting the most of out of a library and setting up the library or a classroom. There also excellent chapters on a balanced diet of varied reading genres (historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, plays, poetry, novels and more). As well she tackles multimodal and digital reading and books that reflect cultural diversity. 

You'll find lots of practical tips, suggested reading lists and things as practical as how to run book-themed activities. The book is a great resource for parents and educators.