Tag Archives: Imagination

Pages & Co #3: Tilly and the Map of Stories – Anna James

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008229948
  • ISBN 10: 0008229945
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

This series is so utterly charming and original that it has been such pleasure to read and review each of them. Tilly and Oskar continue their adventures with the ongoing quest to thwart the horrible Underwoods who have usurped the British Underlibrary. Book wandering has been prohibited and stories at large are under very real threat of being lost for all time.

Tilly has some clues gathered from story friends and others which she strongly believes might provide a sort of map to the Archivists – the legendary protectors of all stories and imagination. With her mother’s help Tilly and Oskar are off to America to meet up with Orlando and Jorge, her mum’s old friends and the best lead for the first signpost in Tilly’s possession. But the plan goes quickly awry when the pair find that even in America the Underwoods’ influence is infiltrating every layer of story.

It takes all their resourcefulness and courage to navigate their way through the intricate maze that their clues reveal but Tilly and Oskar are determined to not only save the world of stories but their very dear fictional friends. They are not unused to danger but this adventure, with its meandering journey, ultimately presents them with their biggest challenge yet. Can these two intrepid bookwanderers save story and imagination from complete annilhilation?

As with the first two books there are moments of real humour woven into the tension of the plot and readers will particularly find the appearance and help of William Shakespeare himself to be highly amusing.

I absolutely adore this series and have recommended it to many young readers who have all enjoyed it equally. If you’re late to the party I’d suggest you put all three on your orders list for the new year.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Ellie’s Dragon – Bob Graham

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Walker Books

July 2020

ISBN: 9781406387629
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $27.99

Bob Graham, one of our best-loved Australian book characters, once again brings his own brand of magic to this bittersweet story of childhoodand imaginary friends and the inevitable growing-up, or out of, both.

Ellie finds the sweetest little dragon in a box of eggs from the supermarket and immediately sets about making him feel at home – giving him free run of her dolls house (though cleverly also teaching him to use the dragon litter tray she provides!). Although Ellie’s friends can all see Scratch quite clearly, her mother and teachers definitely don’t. As Ellie grows so does Scratch until the tiny dragon becomes huge, all the time remaining the sweetest-natured domesticated pet ever.

But as is the way, Ellie becomes a teenager and as she does, Scratch fades and finally vanishes – although she sometimes thinks she catches just a glimpse of him. Just as the reader feels terribly sad about Scratch’s disappearance, he re-appears just in time to be adopted by a little boy who is equally as imaginative and caring as the little Ellie who was.

The poignancy will affect many an adult reader, especially those of us who often ‘miss’ our little people now they are grown but children will relish the friendships that bring so much joy to the characters. Personally I would love to use this as a read-aloud and explore the possibilities of the imaginary friends children will choose for themselves.

As always Graham’s beautiful illustrations with their predominance of pastel shades enhance the gentle text sublimely. I particularly love the depiction of Ellie and her dad at the movies – watching Max and his family on the screen!

If you haven’t yet added this one to your collection, I urge you to do so without delay.

Here in the Real World – Sara Pennypacker

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Harper Collins Australia

February 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008371692
  • ISBN 10: 0008371695
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

At present we (as a collective global community) are having a great deal of reflection and discussion of what it means to be a hero and for many young readers their perception and definition of this might be relatively narrow. This beautiful new narrative from the author of the highly-acclaimed Pax encourages children to re-think their ideas around this.

Ware is an only child, somewhat over-protected and ‘different’. He’s not the kid who wants to join in, he is content in his own world and his passion is medieval history and all that goes with it: castles, chivalry, fanfare and brave deeds. He’s looking forward to spending summer with his grandmother, happily in his own world,  while his parents work double-shifts desperately pulling together the money to buy their rented house but when Big Deal, his gran, becomes unwell the plans for summer fall apart.  He is, instead, enrolled in the dreaded vacation program at the ‘Rec’ where he supposed to have ‘meaningful social interaction’ and be forced to participate in mind-numbingly boring activities.  After only one day Ware explores the abandoned and demolished church next door to the Rec where he encounters a very fierce and very prickly girl, Jolene, who appears to be quite obsessed with growing plants in tin cans.

Initially the two are at odds, both wanting the space within the old church grounds but as Ware continues to skip Rec and investigate the lot and its potential they begin to find a common ground. While Ware begins to create his own castle from the ruins and Jolene fusses over her papaya plants, they both come to accept each other and the fact that the lot is, for both of them, a refuge from their troubles.   It’s an unlikely friendship but one that, like the little plants, slowly but surely grows and bears fruit that will nourish them both.

The two misfits’ summer proves to be one of teamwork, mutual acceptance and understandings, problem solving, loyalty and purpose. When their sanctuary comes under real threat they must devise a plan to save not only their space but Jolene’s plantation which, for her, is her ticket to a better life.

Woven throughout are the nuances, difficulties and at times hostilities that can permeate family relationships and friendships and the slow but careful resolution of some of these is a truly moving aspect.

I loved this book and read it quickly over two nights. While essentially gentle in its narrative the interaction between all the characters and particularly the two protagonists is very engaging. Not to do it any disservice by comparison but it really put me in mind of Bridge to Terabithia with its similarity in the scope of imagination and the unlikely pairing of the two children. It’s a tremendous read and one that will be very well received by thoughtful readers from around 11 years upwards. It’s certainly one I will be recommending highly to my Choclit group (Year 7-12) as I think many of them will appreciate both the quality of the writing and the premise of the plot.

Click to access Here-In-The-Real-World-Teachers-Notes.pdf

 

The Night of the Hiding Moon – Emma Allen & Sher Rill Ng

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9780642279583

National Library of Australia

March 2020

ISBN:   9780642279583

RRP: $24.99

‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’

Many children are fearful of storms – especially when they are ferocious. The Kid was one of these and would quite literally turn white and visibly tremble. It took a couple of years to build her up to a point where now she almost enjoys a storm – except for when they are really wild and then she will always sit quite close!

When Felix can’t cope with the tremendous crashing and the horrid dark he decides to put his torch to good use and create a ‘light’ friend. What follows is a cavalcade of strong and brave shadow creatures and all are impatient to play. A little uncertain at first, Felix is soon frolicking with them all, confronting his fears of the night and becoming empowered in his own resilience.

Readers will be truly enthralled with the wonderful traditional shadow shapes and will be uber-excited when they reach the end of the book to find some fabulous information on shadow puppets in general and their cultural importance in Asia. To top that off they will able to create their own shadow puppets with the templates and instructions which conclude the book. Puppetry is a dramatic art which never fails to engage children of all ages (our own Year 9 students have been creating puppet play scripts and using some fabulous ‘muppets’ to perform them). Shadow puppets are possibly one of the simplest to achieve with ready-to-hand materials at home which is a big plus and very handy in these times!

Perhaps readers could create their own scripts which echo the bravery and imagination in Felix’ story and then perform them for family.  Alternatively, they might like to recreate favourite stories using shadow puppets. This would certainly be a very rich learning experience all round.

I would highly recommend this for children from around 6 years upwards and the follow-up for families who are looking for a different activity to reduce a little screen time.

You could even make a theatre for your puppet play…

 

The Astronaut’s Cat – Tohby Riddle

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Allen & Unwin

March 2020

ISBN 9781760524944

RRP: $24.99

Tohby Riddle comments that he could not have predicted just how apt  his new book would be given our current circumstances but it really is going to be a perfect story to share and discuss with your readers.

Given how many cats have come and gone in my life and just how many times I’ve maintained ‘this one is going to be an inside cat’ I’m pretty impressed with a cat who despite her insatiable curiosity (like all cats! our kitten fell into the fishpond just ten minutes ago trying to get a better look!) is content to stay inside her astronaut’s space ship and dream of running and leaping in the outdoors whether that be moonscape or Earth. The astronaut’s cat does have plenty to do inside – much of which involves chasing her ball – and she really doesn’t very much like what she can see out of the window. To her mind the moon looks very dull and boring but there would be advantages and she can easily imagine herself leaping gravity-free from one silvery grey rock to another.

As so many are also dreaming of what they might do or where they might be when this looking out the window and ‘stay at home’ strange period of our lives is done, the astronaut’s cat revels in her imagined playspace. So many are bemoaning their forced isolation but we tend to forget that there are those who do this as a matter of course – astronauts, scientists of all disciplines and spiritual beings among them. Perhaps our time now to reflect and dream is a blessing in disguise.

Like all Tohby’s books the illustrations are charming and with quirky details which will amuse the readers just as much as the story.

For another take on the Earth’s wonders, the mystery of the Moon and of course for all cat-lovers I highly recommend this to you and your readers from around 5 years upwards. Certainly a perfect book to share at this point in time!

 

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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The Whispers – Greg Howard

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Penguin

9780241367087

January 22, 2019

Puffin

$14.99

 

Riley has not been coping so well since his mother disappeared. Neither his father nor his brother seems as concerned as he is. Even his much loved grandparents appear to be disengaged from his urgency to solve the mystery. His seemingly never-ending meetings with the police going over and over the events of the last day he saw his mother are frustrating and useless.

When Riley recalls the legend of the Whispers, mysterious creatures who inhabit the woods near his house and rumoured to grant wishes, he determines to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve his dearest desire.

He engages assistance both intentionally and inadvertently from his best friend and his ‘crush’ and the resulting events are both filled with humour and poignancy.

Howard has produced a narrative which is in turn gripping, powerful, sorrowful and joyous. At times I found it difficult to continue as the clues unravelled to the conclusion – too close for comfort really – so I would be cautious about to whom I would give this book to read. That being said, it is masterfully and sensitively written and perfectly suited to able middle school readers from around 12 years upwards.

Collecting Sunshine – Rachel Flynn & Tamsin Ainslie

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sunshine

Penguin Random House

9780143785187

September 3, 2018

Imprint: Viking

 

RRP: $22.99

Like all small children Mabel and Robert love to collect things on their walks (ahh yes, the days when I had to take snap lock bags with me for Small’s treasures) and they pick up all kinds of marvellous finds: beautiful stones, interesting sticks, seeds and berries (ours were often feathers!).

Mabel and Robert take a paper bag for their collecting but alas! when the rain comes pouring down the bag is a disaster and the collection is lost.

Undeterred, the pair determines to keep on collecting and so they find such delights as a bird song, a dog smell, the taste of a fence and the touch of a wall.  When they get home their collection is transferred to drawings and paintings which will continue to give them pleasure. The double page spreads and the divine end papers are a perfect foil for this gentle story and its themes.

This is not only a gorgeous insight into imagination and the magical world of little ones but a gentle reminder to all of us that is not ‘things’ that give us the greatest pleasures, rather the experiences and the memories we make.

Highly recommended for little ones from around Prep up.

Download an activity pack here.

Pages & Co : Tilly and the  Bookwanderers –Anna James

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008229887

ISBN 10: 0008229880

Imprint: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks

On Sale: 18/09/2018

List Price: 9.99 AUD

Ever since Tilly’s mum disappeared when she was tiny, her home has been with her Grandma and Grandpa in their house/bookshop Pages & Co. Inevitably, given that circumstance, Tilly is the ultimate bookworm and constantly loses herself deep in a book, particularly her favourite ones like Anne of Green Gables. She wouldn’t be the only person in the world to do so but the day she happens to encounter Anne herself in the middle of the bookshop would definitely set her aside from the mainstream of readers. It is, after all, one thing to imagine ourselves as part of our favourite book and another altogether to have the characters come out from the book and then lead one inside their story. It seems however that Tilly is a bookwanderer, like her mother and grandparents and many others before her. It might sound thrilling and exciting and definitely is, but can also be dangerous and downright fatal at times as Tilly, and her friend Oskar find out when they both find themselves on the Hispaniola being threatened by Long John Silver.  Particularly it’s sinister when a strange character named Enoch Chalk keeps re-appearing both in real life and in fictional as if he’s stalking Tilly.

This is a superbly original story with a delightful cast of characters and some ingenious plot twists. As a debut novel it is certainly an appetizer for more from this author.  It is imaginative and beautifully written with some great imagery.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

“Our stories are how we will be remembered- so we’ve got to make sure ours are worth telling.”

Dogs Galore!

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A handful of doggy books for the canine lovers amongst us all…

My Dog Socks – Robyn Osbourne/Sadami Konchi

Ford St Publishing

socks

ISBN: 9781925272826 (hardcover)

9781925272833 (paperback)

Publication date: October 2017 (hardcover)

March 2018 (paperback)

Price: AUD$24.95 (hardcover)

AUD$16.95 (paperback)

 

Although it has taken me a while to get to this book that does not diminish its worth in any way. In fact it has been included in the 2018 CBCA Notable Books list and very deservedly.

Many educators of younger children despair of what appears to be a growing lack of imagination and imaginative play in our little people.

This is a beautiful expression of the magic of a child’s imagination as he and his ‘ordinary dog’ share adventures in the bush, on the farm or at the beach.  With a rollicking rhythm and rhyming text chockfull of wonderful onomatopoeic language this makes for a perfect read-aloud. Every child will want to share stories about their own pets after this dog’s ‘tale’.

Highly recommended for children from around four years upwards.

 

Rescue & Jessica: a Life-Changing Friendship – Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes/Scott Magoon

rescue

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9780763696047
Imprint: Candlewick
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

Based on the true life partnership of double-amputee Jessica (injured in the Boston Marathon bombing) and her service dog Rescue this is a book which will give young readers a real insight into the difficulties of living with a disability and how so many people are assisted with a trained service dog.

While Jessica was an adult when she met Rescue the book centres on a little girl called Jessica who faces the same tragedy as the grown up in losing both her legs. Rescue starts out as a Seeing Eye dog trainee but doesn’t quite meet the criteria. However, when his trainer decides he would make a perfect Service dog all falls into place perfectly.

Telling each participant’s story turn about readers will follow the progress of each until the final very happy resolution. The book includes information about the non-profit organisation  that trains such dogs for service with those with physical disabilities, hearing impaired and autism.

This is a wonderful book to share with children in our pursuit of empowering them with empathy.

Recommended for readers from around Year 3 upwards.

 

Dingo – Claire Saxby/ Tannya Harricks

dingo

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781925381283
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

This is a simply stunning addition to the series Nature Storybooks – narrative non-fiction intended to satisfy children’s thirst for knowledge on nature as well as their joy in stories.

As Mother Dingo leaves the den and her sleeping pups readers can follow her through the dusky Victorian Alps as she hunts for food for her growing litter. On each page is another fascinating fact about dingoes as well as the absolutely gorgeous and bold oil painting illustrations.

Another paragraph of general information concludes the text as well as an index for easy reference to specific points.

A fabulous addition to a collection to explore Australian native animals.

Teaching notes here.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 1 upwards.

 

A Stone for Sascha – Aaron Becker

sascha

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9780763665968
Imprint: Candlewick
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

This is a beautifully executed wordless book which will invite much discussion in a shared reading. On the surface it’s a story about a young girl grieving the death of her dog – and who of us does not know that pain when one of our family pets goes over the Rainbow Bridge?  On a deeper level as one explores the double spreads it is an examination of the cyclical nature of time, history and civilisation as well as the rituals and customs of other cultures. Something as simple as a special rock can carry with it the memories of ages past and also seal the memories of the present with a special significance.

This is not a book to be lightly dismissed in a single reading but will demand peeling back layers over repeated sharing and conversation.

I would highly recommend this is a visual text for sharing with children from around Year 4 upwards.

The Dog with Seven Names – Dianne Wolfer

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Penguin Random House

9780143787457

July 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

 

If you have someone like my Miss Small who fell in love with A Dog’s Purpose (and now is adamant about wanting a golden retriever!) this is going to be the perfect read.

It’s  not just the story of one special little terrier x dingo pup but a fascinating look at the impact of the Second World War on a part of Australia, that has been largely ignored by history texts.

When a little runty pup is born on a station in the Pilbara his chances of survival are slim. Elsie’s father is a tough boss with no time for sentiment but as times prove tough, he relents and gives Elsie the pup as her Christmas present. From that time onwards Elsie and her Princess are inseparable. All seems perfect but then the War creeps closer and closer to home and Elsie’s family must leave their home and her father refuses to countenance little Princess going as well.  Elsie is heartbroken and promises to find the little dog as soon as she can when the family is settled into their new home.

Meanwhile Princess is taken on by a stockman who assures Elsie he will find the little dog a special home. From Princess to just Dog, the little terrier survives many adventures and mishaps eventually finding refuge with Doc of the RFDS but also becoming a much loved mascot of the remote hospitals, their staff and patients. The tiny dog with an unwavering determination to be reunited with her Elsie sees much despair and terror but also hope and courage.

This is indeed a magical story filled with special moments and demonstrating the loyalty of rare and memorable animals. Readers will be both sad and happy along with Princess and also learn much about Australia’s history.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.