Anthony Browne never fails to deliver does he? In this vibrant new picture book from the master a little elephant makes quite a big mistake when he wanders away from his herd and into the tempting jungle, mostly because he was feeling just a little bit bored with everything being the same. How often does that sense of ‘blah’ incite a bit of mischief in humans, whether small or big?
At first Ernest finds his jungle journey rather exciting but when he realises that he is quite lost and has no idea at all of how to find his family, his emotions rapidly change. Ernest knows he needs help and he asks one after another of rather large imposing animals; a rude gorilla, a weary lion, an impolite hippo and an uncaring crocodile but none of these are willing to help.
Finally the little elephant comes upon a tiny mouse who quickly volunteers to help. Ernest is pretty sure that such a small creature would be of no assistance at all but working together, the pair are quickly able to locate Ernest’s mum and family.
It is a simple story of how we can find help in the most unexpected of places and that it is not the ‘big important’ people who can be the best friends, and it will certainly resonate with even the youngest of readers who will be able to pinpoint the crux of the theme very easily. My first thought for a teaching experience was to compare and contrast with Aesop’s Lion and the Mouse – one story so very old and one so fresh and modern, yet both with the same simple and direct message.
As always Browne’s illustrations are simply stunning and bring joy to the reader – that jungle certainly is tempting with its jewel-like colours!
Highly recommended for little ones from as young as three for a read-aloud and on up to Year 2/3.
ISBN: 9781760653118 Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $16.99 New Zealand RRP: $19.99
Beautifully timed for NAIDOC Week this new YA novel, which explores the convergence of two periods of Australian history with the common thread being the one family name, will both shock and illuminate many readers regarding some of the darkest moments in our history and how they continue to impact lives today.
Two boys separated by two hundred years are both exiled from all they know; both having faced traumatic circumstances. When Will is sent to his grandparents’ isolated farm in rural NSW it feels like the ends of the earth. As he struggles to deal with his grief over his mother’s death and the abandonment of his father he begins to have what appear to be flashes of memory of this unfamiliar place. However, the memories are not his he quickly realises but whose are they? He begins to realise that his surly and recalcitrant grandfather also has these memories, something which gradually brings the two closer together.
The memories relate to ‘the boy’ whose story is set in 1829 and is told in the first person. The harsh and unforgiving life for a child convict is revealed as each piece of history unfolds. In addition is the shocking revelations of the treatment of the local First Australian peoples, which is graphic and disturbing. In the present, Will’s story is told in the third person and his struggle to reconcile the hurt and grief of his family circumstances gradually begins to be resolved as he forges a new, although very different, kind of life on the farm.
Cameron Nunn has done much research into child convicts using primary sources which include original records and interview transcripts from the London courts, and this forms the basis of both his Ph D and his fiction. For students of history, or those seeking to better understand the often dangerous and certainly traumatic life for a child transported across the world, with little or no hope of ever returning to their family and original home, this is a must read.
It is written with older students in mind – suggested Year 9 upwards – and if you employ a ‘read around your topic’ approach to your history subjects, it will be very much worth adding to your collection. You will find the teaching notes hugely beneficial as an addition to your planning.
Highly recommended for your discerning readers from around 14 upwards.
12 year old Lenny is deeply unhappy. For many kids, their first year in high school is full of wonder and adventure with new experiences and friendships, but for Lenny it represents misery and isolation, as he relentlessly bullied and fat-shamed by other kids (and a very nasty PE teacher). Only one student attempts to reach out to Lenny, but in his state of despair, he fails to see the overtures for their worth. Given Lenny’s home life has been difficult in the past few months this exclusion and torment seems doubly hard to take. With his older brother gone away, for reasons not clear at the start, Lenny’s best mate and protector is far from his side, and both his parents seem too distracted and caught up to take much notice of him, so not surprisingly Lenny feels completely and utterly wretched.
He takes to cutting school and wandering the canals of Glasgow where one particular bench becomes his special place for thinking. When he unthinkingly chucks an empty soft drink can into the canal though, he finds himself face to face with a very irate and, it soon appears, homeless man. Bruce and Lenny build a friendship that is both unusual and completely moving. They recognise themselves as outcasts, cut off from the normal mainstream of society, and both are struggling to heal from trauma. In doing so, these two will move you to tears of both laughter and poignancy as their unlikely partnership as the ‘cardboard cowboys’ becomes an effective means of starting the healing process for both.
Their road trip north to discover Lenny’s brother, Frankie, is a catharsis for the unlikely friends and one that brings the frayed fabric of both lives a little closer to mending. The backstory of both is confronting but not in a way that will traumatise younger readers, rather it will give them pause for thought on the ease with which people can be thrust into circumstances which cause immense pain and evoke those feelings of empathy that we aspire to instil in our young people.
With its themes of homelessness, bullying, isolation and self-discovery this is an extremely worthwhile book to put into the hands of your astute readers from around Year 6 upwards. I have absolutely no hesitation in naming it as one of my top YA reads so far this year and highly recommend it to you.
ISBN: 9781760653040 Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $16.99 New Zealand RRP: $19.99
I had already ordered this for our library collection based on the publisher’s promo so receiving it as a review copy was especially welcome and I am not disappointed. This is a beautiful funny and poignant coming-of-age story that will enchant your lower secondary students in particular. As an additional and very welcome ‘bonus’ it explores the sometimes fraught, but also enriching, experience of having a sibling with a disability.
Jamie is 16 and lives with his mum and his younger brother Oscar, who has Down Syndrome. Life has been tough for the past year following the death of his father and often Jamie thinks he should be helping his mum more, though she insists she is fine and that Jamie should continue to focus on his senior studies. While his grief is still very palpable and Jamie often finds it difficult to contain his grief, his emotions definitely improve when he meets Zara, who has recently arrived at his school. It is particularly apt that Zara also lives with a sibling with a disability but even before the pair discover that, they connect as like-minds who have similar goals and aspirations.
When their mum needs to go away to Perth for a weekend, Jamie volunteers to take care of Oscar. After all, he knows Oscar’s routine and needs inside out and he is confident he can manage but after a weekend filled with mishaps, Monday rolls around and Mum does not appear. At first, it seems this is because a huge storm has delayed flights but days slip by and both Jamie and Oscar begin to be agitated – for very different reasons. Jamie’s challenge to manage his little brother and his needs and find his mum and bring her home makes for one of the most delightful YA narratives I’ve read in some time.
Living with a disability is not easy. Living with someone with a disability is also, often, not easy – and especially, I would say for a young adult. This is a novel that explores this aspect of disability with real sensitivity, humor and resilience. I loved reading this so much that I consumed it in one binge read one night last week (yes last week of term when I was dead tired – pretty good indication how great it is really!!).
Will be talking this up big time with my ChocLit readers and certainly promoting it widely in the library after the holidays.
Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 7 upwards – it’s just a pure delight.
This stunningly beautiful and lyrical book has been one of the most talked about on children’s book lists around the world for the past few weeks, and once you see it and read it, you will quickly realise why it is so. I, for one, cannot wait for this to be shared with our junior students, so many of whom are Asian, and whom, I am sure, will love to see themselves and their culture/s reflected in such a splendid fashion.
This young Asian girl recognises that her eyes look different to so many of her classmates and friends but it is the realisation that they are the same beautiful eyes are her mother’s, her grandmother’s and her little sister’s that makes her heart sing. The strength, resilience, joy and hope she draws from the females in her family resonate deeply with her and empower her as she embraces her own diversity and special features.
Joanna Ho is American-born of Taiwanese/Chinese parents and this combination in itself, will have authentic connections for so many of our young students who are mainly drawn from Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean families (but we do have numerous other nationalities among our student populations – truly a diverse school!). I actually believe that it a book that would be well-received as a read-aloud and springboard for discussion amongst older students as well and intend to share it with my Year 7s as start their literature-based unit after the holidays.
...eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons…
Highly recommended for your readers, no matter their cultural origins, from Prep upwards.
This is the second in Helen Milroy’s exciting series Tales from the BushMob and will be as equally welcome as the first, Willy-willy Wagtail. Either as a read-aloud for your younger students or an independent read for your older ones this is definitely one to put on your list, especially with NAIDOC week coming up.
What is particularly lovely about this series is the message that working together with our friends and community we can solve problems which may otherwise seem insurmountable. The shared wisdom and experience of our friends can make all the difference and for Lofty the Emu, who desperately wants to win the big emu race but is too slow and clumsy, it is the knowledge and help of his bush mob mates who help him on his way to success.
Lofty seeks out his expert flier friends to teach him how to fly but as one might expect, despite their best efforts, emus are just not built for flying in the same way as Bat or Eagle or even Sugar Glider, so needs a solution that is completely unique. Luckily for Lofty, Platypus as the Bush Mob’s resident inventor, comes up with a very creative and highly effective solution which enables the emu to soar to success.
As some people might know the Emu in the Sky is a well-known Aboriginal astronomical constellation, with First Australians being the world’s first astronomers and this lively tale echoes this phenomena and will lead to discussions beyond that of written text. [In fact, it is the perfect time of year to observe this constellation.]
Highly recommended for independent readers from around 6/7 years upwards – or as a fun read-aloud, as part of your cross-cultural perspective in your teaching program.
Fifty young wizards and witches from Year 4 to Year 8 had plenty of magical fun at our big HP Night event yesterday afternoon. On arrival the kids all got a sealed envelope containing their Hogwarts letter, a laminated house themed bookmark (which neatly gave me the groups for the activity rotations) and a temporary tattoo of a lightning bolt.
Making butterbeer and decorating HP-themed biscuits
Wand making/decorating and also completing wand permits
Potions brewing (colour changing tea plus mini-potion bottles)
Papercrafts such as Cubees (Harry Potter & Voldemort), I Spy, Harry Potter ABC, House colour bows and rosettes,
Mini-Quidditch game and chocolate leapfrog game
Trivia and photo ops
Lucky door prizes – every student got a prize, from pencils to figurines, lanyards to badges, loads of bits and pieces I had accumulated during the year from various sources, and then one final draw for a copy of HP and the Half-Blood Prince which I had spare.
We had 3 tables of collectibles most of which belonged to myself, my junior school t-l and my library tech but one of our IT staff also lent us his Lego Diagon Alley for display. My own Lego group had already built the Great Hall during the term to form part of our display – we had some of our new HP books for perusal and a couple of static displays – Flourish & Blotts – with an amazing moving wizard photo of Gilderoy Lockhart (created by my library tech) as well as a Gringotts table.
It was exhausting, noisy, chaotic but hugely fun and exciting for all the kiddos.
Believe me when I tell you that you will fall in love with Xander, and be sad to leave him at the end of this beautiful feel-good coming-of-age novel.
Xander loves to make lists and #1 on his list of People I Love Most in the World is his Nanna, who has lived with him and his mum since Xander’s dad died. Nanna has been Xander’s ally, confidante, support team and his very best friend and now that she has stage 4 cancer, Xander is determined to do whatever it takes to save her. Nanna wants him to make a list of 100 remarkable feats that he will hope to achieve by the end of the school year. It’s going to be a very tricky mission especially with feats like:
#2 Make a friend
#10 Kiss a girl (preferably Ally Collins)
#28 Go to a party
#58 Get a job (any job)
#87 Learn to keep secrets
#100 Save Nanna
As we read Xander’s list we get a very clear insight into his quirky personality and a poignant understanding of why his Nanna has encouraged him to both create and fulfil the remarkable feats. For someone who knows her time is short ,and who has been this beautiful boy’s stalwart support, the greatest gift she can give him is the confidence and skills to step out on his own.
When Xander’s 100 remarkable feats list unintentionally becomes a matter of public record, he is surprised to find that he has help from unexpected quarters and many of his feats are accomplished almost before he realises. Xander’s journey into friendships, new situations and stepping well outside his very narrow comfort zone is both hilarious and moving, with one of the most genuinely likeable cast of characters I have encountered in a long time.
I will certainly be giving it my best and biggest promotion at our final ChocLit meeting for this term during the coming week and I highly recommend it for your readers from around Year 7 upwards. The themes of grief/loss, resilience, identity, belonging, mental health in particular will resonate with many teens, and for your classroom program you will find the teaching guide a great resource.
Put it on your ‘new books’ display and stand well back because the danger of stampede is very real! Twenty books on and everyone’s favourite little schoolgirl is still guaranteed to excite your readers – and not just your junior readers either. I know several older girls – including one who started university this year! – who are still dedicated A-M fans!
In this new adventure Alice-Miranda and her buddies are off on the trip of a lifetime, as part of the Queen’s Colours leadership program; to Egypt, the land of hidden tombs, ancient monuments, fascinating culture and, of course, camels and palm trees. But the cultural and historical aspects of the trip are not the only exciting highlights. As always it seems, wherever Alice-Miranda goes, mysteries follow, and along with those, some other trifling life problems – such as two boys (unsuccessfully) vying for her attention.
Alice-Miranda has several threads to unravel in this sojourn among the sands; the financial problems of the school and Miss Reedy’s anguish over being the possible cause of these, the extremely odd behaviour of the supposed expert standing in for renowned Dr Hassam, Minister for Antiquities, the suspicious actions of Masud, son of the group’s very knowledgeable guide and the puzzle of how precious artefacts are being smuggled out of the country. Really, it’s all pretty much bread-and-butter to our little dynamo – even though she and bestie Millie wonder aloud if they will ever have a ‘quiet’ holiday!- and readers will enjoy the fast-paced action which is interspersed with rich historic and cultural details.
Again Alice-Miranda demonstrates the resourcefulness, intelligence and empathy that we all associate with her character and which endears her so much to her readers. There are also some really top moments in the narrative which bring strong emotions to the fore as what I would call the “Alice-Miranda effect” influences the actions of her team mates, which will really resonate with readers.
There really is never any need to ‘promote’ a new Jacqueline Harvey book and particularly this series – they simply fly off the shelves and are always in high demand – however, you will no doubt still want to book talk it with your other new titles, if only to watch the scramble afterwards to be the first to grab it!
As always, highly recommended for your readers from around Year 4 upwards.
Yesterday at the EdSummit conference Brisbane, I had the great joy of hearing the amazing Aleesah Darlison deliver a lively and engaging presentation called “Saving the Environment through Story”. Uber-talented Aleesah has long been a huge advocate for the environment and has repeatedly taken up the cause of various creatures through her creative work. And what better time to write this review than following that experience on this, World Environment Day!!
This new series from Penguin/Puffin is going to be a real winner with little people, their parents and educators as it explores hitherto not-so-well-known Aussie critters.
First up is the adorable and really very special spotted handfish which is found only in the Derwent estuary near Hobart, Tasmania. Young children will love to hear about Coco and while this is not a narrative in the traditional sense it has a strong sense of story mixed in with the fascinating facts. These sweet and interesting little fish are critically endangered and it is imperative that we all do what we can to protect and conserve the most humblest and smallest of creatures – because they all have their important role to play.
Highlighting the information which is presented in such a palatable and easily accessible way are the absolutely tremendous illustrations from Mel Matthews. Having read the book last weekend, and then listening to Aleesah yesterday my mind immediately raced as to the many possibilities for activities, inquiry and action that one could undertake with kiddos. For those who are looking to focusing on Australian species and taking an active stance on conversation this series is going to be absolute gold, in my opinion.
I’m so thrilled to be able to count Aleesah amongst my literary friends – her talent, generosity of spirit and genuine commitment to educating and encouraging children to take up the challenge of protecting our fragile environment.
Read more about the series here and find teaching resources here – our junior library is about to populate a gifted fish tank with inhabitants and I think this is going to be a perfect accompaniment to that real-life activity.
I cannot recommend this highly enough and am so looking forward to seeing the forthcoming series titles!!! Well done Aleesah on another evident success!!