The one problem with book anniversaries is just how old it makes one feel!
The amazing creative partnership of these two literary talents resulted in the CBCA Highly Commended Picture Book award for 1982 and forty years after publication it is still evident why this was considered to be outstanding.
The glimpse into a Sydney long past when trams rattle noisily down the streets of Bondi encapsulates an era of simpler times when children had very different aspirations and interests. Kieran wants nothing more than to be a paperboy just like those he sees on the busy streets selling papers to the passengers on the trams that he loves so much, but his father thinks he is just too young. On his ninth birthday his father finally agrees to speak to local newsagent, Mr Francis, who agrees that he can certainly use another helper for ‘rush hour’ (if only Sydney rush hour was still the same!). He promises that Saxon, the older and more experienced paper boy, will look after Kieran. Saxon, however, has other ideas. He’s very resentful of someone else on his turf. It takes a near disaster for the older boy to accept his younger colleague and together the two boys establish a successful arrangement, satisfying to both.
Vivas’ illustrations of the Bondi of the past: streets, beach, residents, family life, are redolent of the time and would offer a great opportunity for exploration and discovery of children’s own local history. Spreads that are jumping with action are balanced with those which make wonderful use of white space to provide a whole vista of a long-gone scene.
Together these two have crafted a narrative that is nostalgic for older people but a wondrous insight into the past for young readers. This is an anniversary to put on your library calendar for sure with endless opportunities for children to be involved – old-time dress, faux tram rides with tickets, rolling and throwing newspapers, investigating the past of their local areas and family history.
As deserving of a place on your shelves now as it was forty years ago, I thoroughly recommend it to you for readers from around 6 years upwards.
Kids love words – there’s no doubt about that all – and they particularly love rambunctious words I have found. One time, when I taught my darling Year 1/2 class about onomatopoeia in our little school (just 100 kids), they were so delighted with being able to say it. I swore them to secrecy to not, under any circumstances, tell the Year 7s when they went out to the playground – as ‘those big kids, you know, they’re not good with difficult words’ ;-). Naturally the first thing they all did was run shrieking at any big kid they saw “We can say ‘onomatopoeia’ and you can’t!’. It was rather amusing.
Of course, ‘poo’ is a very popular word with little kiddos especially but just think how you could enrich them with words such as squeegee, dilly-dally and succotash!
That’s what this riotously funny book is all about – the magic of weird and wonderful words. Tom Jellett’s always distinctive illustrations fill each page with glorious colour and vibrancy and the children will just lap it all up. The addition of a glossary to inform the reader of meanings of the crazy words is a superb touch!
This will easily springboard into an ongoing word wall with some little word detectives sleuthing out some additional unusual, quirky or obsolete words to build into their burgeoning vocabularies. I’m pretty sure that it will also be a pretty simple step towards moving away from ‘POO!’ into something far more hilarious for common usage – ‘bumbershoot’ perhaps?
Highly recommended for fun and learning for little – or even bigger – readers from around 3 years upwards.
A year ago Australia was gripped by the raging fires that were sweeping through so many areas with ferocity causing so much devastation in their wake that the whole world was gasping as the scenes were broadcast. According to sources the destruction wreaked by Black Summer was unprecedented: 72 000 square miles burnt, 5 900 buildings destroyed (around half of these homes) and 34 people lost their lives. An estimated three billion land animals were impacted with some endangered species suspected to be now extinct. The Kid and I were visiting family in the Blue Mountains and the constant vigilance and state of alert around the fires that kept springing up across the ranges was both exhausting and stressful. Jackie French was just one of thousands evacuated when her home came under threat and given that the valley in which she lives is heavily populated with wildlife she was a firsthand witness to the dreadful impact on our native species.
With so many animals displaced and their food/water supplies destroyed an army of volunteers took on the role of providing fodder and clean water for thousands of creatures who otherwise would have succumbed as victims in the aftermath.
The Fire Wombat is just one of these and Jackie has crafted a beautiful testament in rhyme to illustrate the survival of our fauna, both with their own instincts and the compassionate help of so many.
One small wombat realises that bushfire is approaching and leads other animals to the shelter of her burrow, knowing that underground is the safest place to be. When the inferno has passed the creatures emerge and try to make their way out of the charred remains of their home territory, scalding their paws as they traverse the baked earth. But the fires have destroyed everything – grass, seeds, foliage, creeks and waterholes. If not for the legion of helpers dropping tons of carrots and other fodder as well as providing water, the decimation of our native wildlife would have been even greater. Jackie has captured this moving moment in our history beautifully and Danny Snell’s illustrations are a perfect accompaniment providing visual insight into the terrible destruction of the forests and mountainsides.
A truly beautiful book to both springboard discussions about supporting our fragile environment, caring for our wildlife and preparing for as well as recovering from bushfire season.
Watch Jackie’s video clip of the real Fire Wombat – now chubby and healthy after her recuperation.
You can find other images of animal rescue from Black Summer here at the Atlantic and an inspiring video of the work done by volunteers in saving animals.
I cannot recommend this highly enough – I would encourage multiple copies for your collection – and teaching notes are also available which will provide excellent scaffolding for use in your library or classroom.
R. A. Spratt (aka Rachel) said to me ‘NO spoilers’ when I mentioned I was about to review this new Friday Barnes instalment and given she is both fit and feisty albeit small, I am not about to quibble! So here’s my rather ‘different’ review ;-).
A) Friday is now the same age as The Kid – growing up indeed!
B) The Kid will be going on her first ever school camp this year as she commences Year 10 at her new school and I will be running full checks on any accompanying teachers – just saying.
C) We live with an Italian, and know others, and I have come to the conclusion that they are ALL crazy!
D) When I reviewed #8 in the series on this blog two years ago I commented that I almost had a full-scale riot in my library when I said it would (as I had been told) be the last in the series. Like me, my kiddos just love Friday so much – so they are going to go wild when this new one appears when school goes back.
As with the others in this series there is loads of action and double doses of laugh-out-loud humour as Friday continues to awkwardly navigate her way through confronting social and emotional situations without ever losing her brilliance and genius-level powers of deduction. I loved it, your kids will love it too. I strongly suggest buying multiple copies so put it on your orders list now!!!!
Thanks so much R. A. for bringing Friday back – you know how much we all love her – horrible brown cardigan, porkpie hat, quirky but smart and, above all, the kid you’d most want to have as your friend.
Check out the blurb here at Penguin – then I can’t be blamed for any spoilers!!
Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.
This is exactly the type of information book that appealed to me, the nerd-child, and still does. Big, bold and beautiful, Peter Goes’ distinctive illustrative style takes the reader through the development of technology and science through history with each double spread featuring a specific time frame.
Exploring science including information tech and medicine, music and entertainment as well as everyday living this journey begins with prehistoric man and concludes in 2020 with insights into objects and concepts as diverse as early flutes, the evolution of farm equipment, discovery of DNA, the printing press, advances in architecture and so much more. It would be a marvellous springboard for classroom discussions or project based learning on such discoveries and inventions.
Children from around seven years upwards will pore over each double spread closely examining each aspect of the period described and they will absolutely LOVE the fact that its such a gigantic book!
I foresee this will be very highly sought after by both the children who love to walk out of the library carrying a book almost as big as themselves as well as those who are genuinely interested in STEM and related topics.
Highly recommended for kiddos from around Year 3 upwards.
Unfortunately this one didn’t arrive in time for Christmas but that’s no reason to hesitate in getting a copy ready for later in the year. This is a really cute rhyming story taking its cue from Clement Moore’s famous poem. Peppa and George like all small children are very excited about Christmas but it looks like there’s more to do than decorate and wait. Santa has a problem – his sleigh lights are broken and that’s going to make it really difficult to navigate around the world. Luckily Peppa has a great idea – her toy unicorn with its magical light up horn will be just the thing! Whew!! Christmas is saved and of course there’s celebrations in store for everyone – though Daddy Pig is rather bemused to look out the window on Christmas morning to see Santa delivering back Peppa’s unicorn.
Peppa Pig: Peppa Loves Easter
16 February 2021
On the other hand, this one has arrived in plenty of time for Easter. I don’t know about you but we have decided that our selection of Easter themed picture books is pretty tired and at times downright dreary so this will be a very popular addition. For little people in your circle – or for a gift for a first Easter – it will be just perfect!
This is truly adorable and if I were still working with little ones would definitely be inspired by the wonderful Easter egg-stravaganza Miss Rabbit organises for Peppa’s playgroup. Following a trail of clues the children decorate their own Easter cupcakes, make a card, decorate their own egg cup, walk through a field of pretty flowers and finally arrive to find lots of fluffy little chicks running around just waiting to be petted. All throughout this fun game the children are wondering where Miss Rabbit can be – after all she is the one who has organised all this for them. Among all the little chicks is a giant Easter egg – what could possibly be in it? A lovely surprise for the playgroup of course!
Both these titles have the delightful sparkly covers that are so enticing for little readers and both just beg to be read aloud.
Highly recommended for your tinies from around toddler upwards.
Imagine the man you married was a murderer, in fact, one of the most infamous murderers in history. Susannah Chapman fears she is married to the monster who came to be known as Jack the Ripper.
Step into Victorian London where the wealthy and outwardly respectable live cheek-by-jowl with the dregs of society, each with their own sordid secrets: drugs, alcohol, violence, homosexuality, sexual perversions and cruelty. Sometimes the most dangerous are those who appear to be the most refined.
Born illegitimate to a mother not long out of childhood herself, Susannah becomes an orphan at five years old when her mother is brutally killed by one of her customers. Raised by grandparents the girl has always been a little different. Her kindly grandfather appreciates her more unusual nature but her strict grandmother despairs of her and is continually frustrated in her attempts to subdue what she sees as a wayward child. When her grandfather dies, Susannah assumes the role of carer for her ailing grandmother and dreams of a time when she will be free to make her own way in the world. Eventually that time arrives as Susannah nears thirty and she takes up training as a nurse at the London Hospital. Finally she feels she has achieved some independence and self-worth and with her closest friend, Aisling, makes a pretty fair nurse at a time when that profession is just beginning the transformation into the one we know today. When Aisling is killed by a violent drunk Susannah is devastated and begins to doubt her direction in life. But then she catches the eye of handsome young surgeon, Thomas Lancaster.
After a whirlwind romance, the pair are married but within weeks of their passionate honeymoon, cracks begin to appear feeding Susannah’s doubts about her own worth. Thomas is cruel and violent, capricious and erratic and as the weeks turn into months, his behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable. The newspapers are filled with lurid reports of the shocking murders of Whitechapel prostitutes and Susannah’s preoccupation with the details of these bring her to a strong suspicion that her husband could well be the violent perpetrator being sought by the police.
As the narrative proceeds the reader turns to first one and then another character, each of them with dark secrets, with growing unease while poor Susannah becomes more and more isolated and frightened for her own safety. Clare Whitfield has created in this, her debut novel, a marvellously wrought historical novel which swiftly becomes not just a murder mystery but a thriller with plot twists that are both unexpected and astonishing. It’s a page-turner of extraordinary depths – dare I say – a ripping yarn though not for the faint-hearted. There is liberal strong language and graphic bloody violence but a great read with a denouement that will make you gasp.
I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves a terrific suspenseful novel.
One book about children surviving in the conflict of war that has always remained with me was Journey into War by Margaret Donaldson. It was one I used often with upper primary children and it offered so much scope for discussion and reflection. I have long lamented that I don’t have a copy of my own as it is out-of-print. Now at last I have a truly worthy alternative.
The Wolf family must leave their home and everything they know as the Russian army swarms into East Prussia. Carrying as much as they can Mother, Liesel, Otto, baby Mia and their grandparents join a long procession of refugees in an arduous trek in search of safety. But such escapes are rarely easy and when the children find themselves completely alone and lost, they must do whatever they can to survive and for Liesel, protecting her little brother and sister is her primary concern. Surviving in the depths of winter is a nigh-impossible task for any children but to do so with the last violence of a war raging around is another entirely.
So the Wolf children become indeed wolves. Living like wild creatures, often without shelter, stealing food and clothes, raiding where ever they are able just to stay alive. They are not the only child casualties of the terrible war that has ravaged their country and, at times, they join forces with other wildlings. When they are caught up by Russians things look very grim for them but fortunately one of the soldiers becomes their friend and helps them along their way.
Eventually the children find themselves in Lithuania where they are taken in by a kindly elderly couple and finally have some respite and safety. They grieve desperately for their family – parents and grandparents – but are at least able to feel secure and cared for. Even in the darkest times miracles can happen and the outcome for the Wolf children proves that hope, warmth and kindness can exist in the worst of circumstances.
Young readers will be mesmerized by the gripping adventure and the challenges faced by the children and will be uplifted by their grit and resilience. Katrina Nannestad has wrought a novel that will hold its place for many years.
Highly recommended for your collection and if your teachers are searching for a fresh and engaging class read this would make a perfect suggestion.