Wednesday, January 26, 2022

13 Great Children's Books to Start 2022

I can't think of a better way to start the school year (or term) than with a Baker's Dozen of books to share with children aged 0-12 years. All are new titles received in recent months. I've arranged them in rough order from young readers to older readers.

1. 'Toy Mountain' by written by Stef Gemmill & illustrated by Katharine Hall

Sam is tired of his toys. Why would he want his Grandma’s old train set and teddy, when there’s a toy factory high up in the clouds that makes rumbly red toys, grumbly green toys and so much more? In this important story about reducing waste and taking responsibility for the environment, Sam is about to find out what matters most.

Sam's dream of new toys comes to fruition when his Grandma comes home one day and tells him that the 'Tiny Hands Toy Company' needs a toy tester. Within no time boxes of toys begin to arrive for him to test. First one box, then two, three, then trucks full! He is excited at first, but soon he realises that the new toys break quickly. He ends up with a mountain of broken toys, and is overwhelmed. He longs for his well-loved toys handed down to him from his Grandma.

This is a funny book with a serious but subtle message about ‘consumer culture’, and the value of looking after our belongings. This is a message we all need to hear in a world where we generate 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic each year. The story is also beautifully illustrated by Katharine Hall. 

2.  'What if ...?' by Lynn Jenkins & illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan

This is such a lovely book. Anyone who has been a parent will understand the 'What if'? question. It is a gentle story and the illustrations by Kirrili Lonergan contribute beautifully to the 'calmness' of the narrative.
What if there is a monster in my cupboard? she wonders before going to sleep. Or What if my floor turns into quicksand and swallows my bed? 
In this delightful book Issy is a master of the question, but her Mum knows just how to respond.

The book has been written by an experienced author/clinical psychologist and illustrator/art therapist. It is an exploration of how children think, and how we can help them "to turn those worries into wonders."

Children under six, parents, carers, teachers and therapists will all find it helpful and kids will enjoy it too.

3. 'Cookie' by Isabelle Duff & Susannah Crispe

Cookie the Border Collie loves lots of things, like smelling smelly smells, chewing chewy things, going for adventures and making friends. But most of all, Cookie loves Girl. Join this inseparable pair as they play together and learn how to make each other happy, even on the days when Cookie is the only one who can make Girl smile.

This is such a lovely book. Cookie is a heart-warming story about the love between a pet and the person who owns them. It is also a sensitive exploration of childhood depression and anxiety, and the importance of empathy. With beautiful words and playful illustrations, it provides a gentle starting point for big conversations when children are troubled.

19-year-old author Isabelle Duff was inspired to write Cookie by her personal experiences with acute depressive disorder and anxiety, and by her wonderful dog, Saffy, who has been an invaluable support to her. The result is a valuable resource for reducing the fear and mystery of mental illness, and is a tribute to the loved ones who are able to get you out of bed when nothing else can.

Anyone who picks up 'Cookie' will find themselves learning something from this mischievous pup and his 'Girl'. It is also suitable for children who have experienced depression and anxiety just like 'Girl'. It's also for kids who don’t understand why someone close to them is so sad. It will also be helpful for child psychologists who need to talk to young people about mental illness. And, of course, it is for dog-lovers everywhere. Susannah Crisp's delightful water colours offer their own special 'softness' to the gentleness of the text.

 4. 'Arabella's Alphabet Adventure' by Christopher Nielson

I just love this book about "an alphabet, a daring adventure and a book who learns she is perfect, just the way she is." It opens

“Not so long ago,
In a town not far away,
On a shelf marked
sat a book
waiting to be read.
 What better way to start a book about books?!

'Arabella’s Alphabet Adventure' is the most beautiful and most borrowed book in the library - but only ever by children. Tired of having her pages torn by sticky fingers, Arabella slips into the Very Serious Book section of the library and takes an adventure within the pages of an African travel guide. But will Arabella realise that where she belongs is closer than she thinks?

 5. 'Sticky McStickstick' by Michael Rosen & illustrated by Tony Ross 

A powerful and personal story from one of Britain's best-loved authors about his recovery from coronavirus.

After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with COVID-19, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. This very personal story by a famous children's author will be encouraging for many. It is a true story of resilience and the will to recover from illness.
With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names "Sticky McStickstick", he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. 
This a very personal story from the former Children's Laureate, and is beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross. The book allows us into Rosen's story of perseverance and hope.

6. 'Cat Problems' by Jory John & illustrated by Lane Smith

This is an intriguing and engaging book from an author who clearly knows cats! And we find out at the end of the story that of course Jory John & Lane Smith do have a 'special' cat. Here's a little of the dialogue from this story about a cat that thinks it is the centre of the world. The cat is examining its food bowl.

A few dry kernels of dry food.
Thanks for remembering folks!
What does it take to get a little service around here?

This funny and real-to-life story about a home bound cat and their relationship to their owner is very funny. The text moves quickly and is engaging and the illustrations are just wonderful. Such an expressive cat! And for the author to get 'into the mind' of this seemingly self-focused cat, is clever.

Jory John and Lane Smith once again have a winner here that is a companion book to 'Penguin Problems' and 'Giraffe Problems'.
7. 'A Good Place' by Lucy Cousins

Follow four adorable insect friends as they look for a good place to live. A delightful new picture book from the award-wining author and illustrator Lucy Cousins.

Four insect friends have a problem. They can't find a good place to live. A place where there aren't hard pavements, polluted water, noise, rubbish, or where poisons and insecticides are being used. Until they meet a lovely butterfly who shows them a wonderful garden that they can share. A place where insects are welcomed and play a part in the diversity and balance of the world.  
As usual for Cousins, this is a beautifully crafted text and illustrations which will draw in young readers and listeners aged 1-5 years.

8. 'Piano Fingers' by Caroline Magerl

Isla and Bea are two sisters from a very musical family. Big sister Isla plays the violin and her little sister Bea is keen to begin music too. When will she be able to play something like her sister? She tries the triangle, but that doesn't work (sister Isla is less than encouraging). Perhaps if the triangle doesn't work she needs to tackle another instrument - the piano?!! 
And who could have guessed, the piano will be her instrument, for she has "piano fingers"! At last Isla and Bea are able to make wonderful music together.
This is a simple story that many children will relate to. The wonderful water colour illustrations support the simple but engaging text to create a wonderful picture book.

9. 'Our Country Ancient Wonders' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac

Mark Greenwood is well known to children's literature fanatics. He has teamed up with a number of fine illustrators to produce stunning picture books that offer rich stories about Australia and its people.  This first book in the 'Our Country' series takes readers on a journey across Australia to encounter our unique geology and geography.

He has also teamed up with Frané Lessac the wonderful illustrator, to produce a beautiful book that takes us on a journey to find out about the prehistoric beasts that roamed the land in Winton in remote northern Australia. This journey allows us to explore the lava-formed caves at Undara, experience the fiery glow of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and much more. 

Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac are both highly awarded and have previously collaborated on books like 'Midnight', 'Simpson and his Donkey' and 'Ned Kelly and the Green Sash' and others. This is another stunning book from Mark & Frané.
Other bopks by Mark Greenwood include 'Simpson and His Donkey' with Frané Lessac, a CBCA Honour Book and a USBBY Outstanding International Book. As well 'Jandamarra' (illustrated by Terry Denton), was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature and the West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards. 'The Happiness Box', illustrated by Andrew McLean, was also a 2019 CBCA Honour book. 

10. 'We Were Wolves' written & illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

This stunning book has been Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal.

'Boy' lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer.
But dark forces are circling – like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age...

An intense, darkly spellbinding story of a boy awaiting his father's return from prison as an ancient woodland awakes.

Jason Cockcroft was born in New Zealand, and raised in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He graduated from Falmouth School of Art and is the illustrator and author of over forty books for children, including the illustrated covers for the last three books in the Harry Potter series. Jason won the inaugural Blue Peter Book Award and has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

11. 'Saving Celeste' by Timothée de Fombelle (translated by Sarah Ardizzone)

This is a moving and powerful story about climate change by one of France’s greatest writers for children, the world is now run by Industry and the only thing that matters is to buy, buy, buy. People live in crowded cities where cars are stacked vertically and shopping centres run miles into the sky. On the day Celeste starts school on the 110th floor of a tower block, she meets a lonely, young boy. The next day she doesn't return. Her blood has become as polluted as the seas and rivers. On a mission to save her, the boy battles the forces of Industry and takes her far, far away. Will the world realise the truth of Celeste’s disease? Will there be time for her, and the planet, to recover?
This is an interesting and thought provoking environmental fable that centres on two children who are 'fighting' for a better world. Celeste arrives at Bryce's school and he is immediately captivated by her. The story unfolds as the dialogue shifts from Bryce talking about Celeste to Celeste talking about Bryce. Eventually, the dialogue merges as their relationship grows and they fight for a cleaner and more. sustainable world. 

12. 'Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairybeast' by Sue Whiting

This is fast-paced junior fiction adventure with a plucky heroine who needs to face her fears in order to save her parents, her friend and the day!

Pearly Woe is a worrier. She worries about everything, especially that she’ll never be brave enough to become a member of the top-secret group of stealth adventurers – The Adventurologists’ Guild. Pearly also has a special talent – she can talk to animals. Her favourite animal to talk to is her pet pig, called Pig. But with her parents missing, Pig pig-napped and Pearly a stowaway on an icebreaker heading for Antarctica, Pearly’s worries just got REAL.

Author Sue Whiting is an award-winning children’s book writer, former teacher and publishing manager. 'Pearly and Pig' is the first book in a new series centred on the main characters Pearly Woe and Pig. In this book Pearly is a worrier and hence one of the themes of the book is children's mental well being. 
She has written numerous books in a variety of genres: fiction and nonfiction, picture books through to YA, including the best-selling 'The Firefighters and Missing', the award-winning 'A Swim in the Sea' and the CBCA Notable Books, 'Get a Grip Cooper Jones', 'Platypus' and 'Beware the Deep Dark Forest'.

13. 'Return to Factopia' by Kate Hale & illustrated by Andy Smith

Kate Hale (& Andy Smith) are back in collaboration to produce a follow up to their previous book 'Factopia'. Their latest effort is 'Return to Factopia: Follow the trail of 400 more facts'. Readers can choose their own path through this fun and informative book 9-12 years olds.

Did you know that bacteria from between people’s toes has been used to make cheese? Or that the world’s most expensive cheese is made from donkey milk? Or that the milk from one species of cockroach is the most nutritious substance on Earth? Or that a cockroach can survive for weeks without its head? Welcome back to FACTopia!, a world of perfectly amazing facts, all of which are verified by Encyclopedia Britannica!

The genius of the book is that every fact is connected to the next using a clever trail of information. But this isn't a simple sequential trail, there can be many trails. Your path can branch and you can choose to jump to a totally different places in the book.

A great book for the curious who are prepared to allow their curiosity to lead them through this fun book and its wealth of wonderful facts!

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