Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books – Stephanie Owen Reeder

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Storytime

NLA

September 2019

ISBN:   9780642279408

RRP: $24.99

 

During the week the Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature exhibition was officially opened at the National Library of Australia.

Judging by the photos posted by many friends it was a superb occasion with the glitterati of our children’s literary creators and supporters in attendance.

To commemorate this special celebration a range of products is available but most significantly this truly beautiful book compiled by Stephanie Owen Reeder. This retrospective look at over a century of children’s publishing features outstanding characters from so many much-loved stories. I can only imagine the difficulty that the author had in narrowing her selection down but also, no doubt, the immense joy in presenting each of these in a way that is both informative and light-hearted.

From the 1910s with Albert the Magic Pudding to the 2000s and the always outrageous Mr Chicken this is a truly inter-generational volume that will delight everyone who picks it up. Everyone in the family from grandparents to toddlers will find familiar and fun friends from their favourite childhood books.

It is a delight to hold in one’s hands with the quality of production that we have come to associate with NLA publications and would make a beautiful gift for either someone who cares deeply about our children’s books or perhaps to demonstrate to others our fabulous creators over time

An extensive afterword details the work of so many in preserving the history of our children’s literature including that of the NLA and also the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature.

Whether you are looking for an addition to your personal shelves as a lover of our Australian classics for children or perhaps as a professional reference as you guide youngsters through the rich history of our literature for little people, this is a sublime choice.

I cannot recommend it highly enough – just divine! And not leaving my shelves!

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Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell (Book #1) – Rebecca McRitchie

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jinxed

Harper Collins

August 2019

ISBN: 9781460780169

ISBN 10: 1460780167

RRP: $17.99

Sometimes you pick up a book and it just sparkles! Young Cora is an orphan who was found and raised by elderly Dot. She’d lost an eye with a resulting nasty scar and has a mysterious special bracelet. Dot and Cora are collectors in the virtually ruined city of Urt. They scrounge odd things which they then sell – buttons, silver spoons, shoe polish and more. When Cora goes out alone to find some shoe polish she also finds a strange wooden box containing a message written in some unintelligible language. Trying to fathom this by reading it out, she unwittingly brings down a curse upon herself. A Jinx is after her! Luckily two very unlikely and hirsute fairies arrive to help her out and the adventure begins. A mysterious mission into the world of magic ensues with Cora plus Tick and Tock roaming the world of sorcery and danger with many near escapes. All the while Cora is on a voyage of self-discovery – finding out that she is also magical.

This just hits the right note for readers who love a bit of rollicking fantasy with both tension and humour – with definite overtones (to my mind) of the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett.

Cora may lack in self-confidence initially but she soon reveals her pluck and loyalty to those who help her as well as empathy and insight. Along the way she discovers a whole ‘underworld’ of magic about which she really had no idea until becoming totally immersed in it.

A fabulous read for kiddos from around 8 years upwards, I highly recommend it and am looking forward to the next instalment!

Find teaching notes here and enjoy the ride!

My Culture and Me – Gregg Dreise

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Penguin

May 2019

ISBN: 9780143789376

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

Gregg’s first picture books were contemporary styled versions of traditional stories told to him by his family and elders. They were beautiful, joyous and hugely popular with my readers.

This latest diverges a little but is a glorious celebration of First Australian culture. As readers of this blog are well aware by now, my girls and grandies are Wiradjuri people. This Friday Miss K will play a significant role in her school’s belated NAIDOC celebration and of course I will go to my school late so I can see it! Her mum would be so proud of this deadly young woman – as indeed am I.

In this vibrantly illustrated and lyrically written book Gregg explores and elucidates beautiful highlights of Indigenous culture – a ‘call to arms’ almost for all Australians, whether Indigenous or not, to admire the affinity with country and culture held dear by First Australians.

I particularly love the subtle (or maybe not) inclusion of Gregg himself in the illustrations, a proud Kamilaroi and Euahlayi man, who through his artistry and performance brings the ‘culture, unity and wisdom’ to his audiences.

Having had the privilege of seeing Gregg present to our younger students in 2017 I can thoroughly endorse not only his entertaining and informative presentations but his beautiful and generous spirit.

Highly recommended to all who are looking for special books of inclusion.

Hooray for Book Week!

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We wear ourselves out getting ready for it – with planning over months and are thoroughly but satisfyingly over it by the time it’s done and yet we wait impatiently for the next year’s theme so we can do it all over again!

Our preparations have been underway for weeks and our library looks super, our costumes are ready, the activities, quizzes and competitions sorted and we are ready to rock and roll.

So it’s seems fitting as I try to catch up with so many reviews that I present some of this year’s picture books that feature stories, reading, writing and books – here we go!

It’s a Story, Rory! – Frances Watts & David Legge

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Harper Collins

July 2018

ISBN: 9780733335938

ISBN 10: 0733335934

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

List Price: 24.99 AUD

Like so many of my colleagues Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books remains a staple in the first few weeks of the year as we introduce our littlest library users to the wonders that lay in front of them. Now we have a further addition to our program that will delight and inform young readers. In my opinion this is perfect to use as we introduce our Year 1s to narrative writing. It presents all the necessary structure of a story in a manner that is both entertaining and humorous.

Our clever narrator takes Rory and Millie on an adventure through – well, an adventure! Readers discover the purpose and role of characters, plot, setting, description and genres whilst being thoroughly engaged in the developing storyline. With humour, witty dialogue and fabulous illustrations beginning writers will be well equipped to undertake their own narrative journeys.

Highly recommended for readers from six years upwards.

The Magic Bookshop – Natalie Jane Prior/Cheryl Orsini

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Harper Collins

September 2018

The Fairy Dancers is simply stunning … making it the perfect keepsake gift book’ – Children’s Books Daily

ISBN: 9780733338328

ISBN 10: 0733338321

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

List Price: 19.99 AUD

When Ben spends a rainy afternoon at his grandfather’s bookshop he expects to enjoy some biscuits and reading but certainly has no idea that he will be whisked away on adventures that are both wildly exciting and seemingly unknown to Granddad. Discovering a tiger, spending time in a lighthouse, becoming part of a magician’s act this collection of short stories illustrate perfectly the worlds inside books which only require the reader’s imagination.

If you are looking to enthuse younger readers and light up their own imaginative writing this is a perfect choice for a read-aloud. For children who are ready to move beyond easier picture books and ready to tackle something a little more challenging it will be an engaging read with lots of fun moments.

Recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

 

Sebastian and the Special Stack of Stories – Kelly Hibbert/Sue deGennaro

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Harper Collins

June 2018

ISBN: 9781460753460

ISBN 10: 1460753461

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 24.99 AUD

When you are the smallest of all in a house full of kids and it’s time for some stories, the best place to be is cuddled up close to Mum. This rollicking rhyming book which is chockfull of some terrific onomatopoeia will have little ones bouncing along as its read.

Sebastian is the tiniest with several big brothers with whom to contend but he can carry the stack of books all the way to the sofa while the bigger boys all jostle and scramble for their favoured spot. There’s not much room left when Sebastian finally gets there except for that one tiny spot right next to Mum’s lap and what better place to be?

A fabulous read-aloud for little ones from as young as 2 years old.

It’s Not Scribble to Me – Kate Ritche/Jedda Robard

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A great companion book to the one above as it’s also rhyming and full of wonderful language that will delight the little listener. As parents we’ve probably all experienced those random scribbles that seem to appear on furniture, floors and walls – if we’ve been lucky they’ve been done with something washable! – as grown-ups it’s sometimes easy to feel a little frustrated with the resulting artistic efforts.

But this book reminds us that these early efforts from our little people truly are the beginnings of their imaginative expression and while it’s unlikely any of us are going to advocate such decorative house-styling or even endorse it we can all probably find some ways to allow these early creative moments free rein which will satisfy both sides of the equation.

A delightful picture book which will no doubt lead to many hours of ‘not scribble’ I highly recommend it for readers from 2 or 3 years upwards.

My Storee – Paul Russell and Aska

my-storee

EK Books

November 2018

9781925335774

RRP $24.99

This is for all the children out there who have wonderful stories to tell but are constantly reminded in one way or another of their ‘inadequacies’ to write them down. My girl Miss K is not dyslexic (well she could be but it’s not part of her official verification) but has struggled with language difficulties all her life. At 14 she is now beginning to read and write more confidently albeit still at about a Year 1 or 2 level. As a Year 1 teacher my children ‘wrote’ every day from day one (before the days of official Prep you understand) – their stories consisted of drawings usually at first but soon with attempted text approximations and moved on through invented spelling and so on as their confidence grew. They were never ever made to be feel inadequate but their efforts always recognised as worthy of sharing.

This is a book that should be shared over and over again with children and parents both. We need to start rejecting the negative restrictions and pressures put upon our children to be perfect and never ever make a mistake. Some of us spend half of each day encouraging our students to take risks and just express themselves in a way that will be positively received.

Highly recommended for children, parents and teachers from around six years upwards.

 

Just because you can’t spell doesn’t mean you can’t write

 

 

Bear Out There – Jacob Grant

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Bloomsbury

July 2019

ISBN: 9781526607416
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

 

RRP: $14.99

We all need a friend who will help us out at times and when that friend goes way beyond their ‘comfort zone’ it’s even more special.

Bear and Spider are great friends but they are very different. Spider loves being outdoors with the breeze, the smells, the plants not to mention the bugs 😊. Bear, on the other hand, is more of a homebody who enjoys pottering around the house tidying and sitting comfortably with a cup of tea.

Bear has absolutely no desire to go out with Spider to fly his kite. He has his own plans for the day, none of which involve the great outdoors.  When Spider’s kite is caught up in the gusty wind and blows away of course Bear will help look for it but he grumbles all the way. The forest is full of horrible stuff like itchy plants, pesky weeds and cold rain and even Spider is starting to have enough of nature when at last as the rain clears and the pair look up to the sky there it is! At last the kite is found! Back home the two friends settle back in the comfy armchair with their tea and both fly kites from its warm cosiness.

True friends help each other even when they are opposites. This is a terrific story to explore that idea with little humans.

Highly recommended for readers from around 3 years upwards.

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

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A Brilliant Press-out Paper Adventure

Roald Dahl: Illustrations by Quentin Blake

Penguin

August 2019

ISBN: 9781760891589

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $39.99

Roald Dahl is really like the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ don’t you think? For decades thousands of children have been eating up his stories which all remain as fresh and funny as when they were first published. New generations continue to relish his often wicked humour and unforgettable characters.

This new scrumdiddlyumptious volume will further both entertain and delight readers with its focus on five of Dahl’s favourite stories with fascinating facts about many quirky or purely vile characters (think Mr and Mrs Twit!) and the superbly creative bonus of being able to create their own ‘magical mischievous’ art through the press-out pages.

It is almost too special to start on the press-outs but I’m dying to see what they will look like when done! A really cute (and sensible) addition is the envelope inside the back cover to store the pieces – good thinking!

My only dilemma really is who will be the lucky ‘golden ticket’ winner to be the recipient of my review copy – but I suspect youngest granddaughter will be the fortunate soul 😉.

This is a simply splendiferous concept book which will make the ultimate perfect gift for any existing or potential fan of Dahl’s brilliance in capturing imaginations.

With Roald Dahl Day approaching it would also make for a marvellous prize for a lucky reader if you hold an event for the celebrations or of course, one to stash away for a Christmas parcel.

Highly recommended for imaginative readers from around 8 years upwards.

Here’s an interesting little video I recently stumbled upon that provides some additional insight into Dahl.

Murder Most Unladylike #8: Top Marks for Murder – Robin Stevens

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9780241348383

Penguin

August 2019

ISBN: 9780241348383

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Yes there are seven previous books but this series has been somewhat of a ‘sleeper’ in my library. Now, however, due to the enthusiasm of several devoted fans it is steadily growing in its popularity. I know that this newest volume will be avidly sought after and the reservation list will be frustrating for some of my girls.

Deepdean School for Girls might seem to be an innocent place but that’s never the case and the current state of affairs is no exception. When Daisy and Hazel return after their absence the place is humming with anticipation of the Anniversary Weekend but parents begin to arrive and poisoning sends shock ripples throughout the school. Everything seems to point to a parent being the guilty party and the girls are fearful that if the perpetrator is not caught, Deepdean might cease to exist altogether.

As always this is almost like a very dark and deadly Malory Towers but the power of ‘school stories’ is always evident. When some murder is thrown in amongst a gang of smart and sassy girls there’s bound to be loads of excitement, suspense and clever detection work to be had – an irresistible combination for my middle school readers!

Lucky and Spike – Norma MacDonald

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Magabala Books

February 2019

ISBN: 9781921248177

RRP: $17.99

Back in 2013 Norma MacDonald introduced us to the sprightly joy of a little Spinifex mouse, elusive tiny creature of the Pilbara region in Western Australia– a creature many of us will never otherwise know or see.

Now Norma turns our attention full square onto the dangerous plight that faces not only these adorable little animals but so many others of our natural fauna – feral cats.

I admit it. I’m a cat person. I love our two cats and have owned many before them but I’m also equally passionate about protecting our native animals from them. The prevalence of feral cats, irresponsibly caused by white Australians, has wreaked havoc and continues to do so in our wildlife populations.

Lucky and Spike are out on their nocturnal adventure in search of food and are pursued by one such feral cat as well as a hunting owl. Thankfully in their terror they are able to hide close to the people who are around their campfire. The camp dog takes care of the cat but they still have to evade the owl. It’s a close escape for the intrepid pair – predators abound for such tiny residents of the Pilbara.

This is a great insight into desert natural life and an excellent starting point for simple discussions about protecting our precious species.

Highly recommended for children from about five years upwards.