Monthly Archives: November 2022

Thank You, Teacher from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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  • Penguin Australia
  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241585566
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

They tell me Xmas is rapidly drawing closer – but what is even closer than that is the end of the school year. Most of us are now mid-term so that dreaded moment of finding a gift for your child’s teacher is nigh, and while, of course we don’t mind endless scented candles, bath bombs, potted succulents and so on, what would be really appreciated is a generous voucher to the nearest bottle shop -ok ok, so maybe not everyone wants that.

If you do have a small person and want to show your grateful thanks to their teacher, this is just the sweetest gift with Eric Carle’s inimitable artwork and some simple text that will resonate. Not having a small person any longer – The Kid is gearing up for her final year of school, and as her teacher is me, it would be quite redundant really – this is a gift for a special friend who just also happens to be one of the most superlative teachers I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

And really – for the small price of $12.99 – you could afford to bung it in with a bottle of something to enjoy as well.

Don’t miss out on getting this – and though I say it makes a lovely gift, it certainly won’t hurt to add it to your library or classroom collection as well. I think the kiddos will love reading it and telling their own teacher what it is they love about her or him.

Frankie Stein – Kylie Covark/Shane McG

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Ford St Publishing

September 2022

ISBN: 9781922696120

RRP: $16.95

It has been fantastic in recent years to see the growth in girls becoming more interested in science disciplines. I know I have loved running my Geek Girls groups and hosting events from Tech Girls and the like. And it is equally pleasing to see more and more schools including state primary schools having dedicated STEM specialist lessons. While we may not (many of us) have a whole heap of time in classroom programs to divert to spontaneous topics of interest, this is a book that will easily springboard into these areas.

I road-tested this one this week with a fairly rambunctious Year 2 class I was with (they were out of sorts after a couple of disruptive days and one not-so-effective relief teacher the day before me) but they were all, even to the ‘liveliest’ really engaged with this and it was a very effective read-aloud to settle them after a break. We didn’t have much time to spare in the program the teacher had provided but I stole some to have them ‘monster-fy’ one of their own toys and draw the result. FrankenToys (example) is a really fun activity I have run in library lunchtimes and both littles and bigs enjoy it and all you need is some old toys and some constructions material like hot glue guns.

Frankie is a truly dedicated young scientist, always researching, hypothesising and testing, with her much-loved partner, Bear, always on watch from the shelf. But Frankie really wishes that she and Bear could really talk to each other and that he could become more than just a silent partner. After much experimentation, she comes up with a formula that she’s sure will work – and it does! – only not quite in the way she anticipated. Suddenly, instead of cute, fuzzy Bear she has a great, green, angry monster Bear, intent on eating everything and wrecking a lot as he goes along. Time to come up with another potion – and fast!! It’s certainly a nice twist on friendship and also, arguably, being satisfied with our friends, just as they are. It is also an apt lesson in perseverance and resilience – two qualities high on every school’s values list.

With its rhythmic rhymes and the vibrant illustrations, this will be a definite hit from Prep upwards to around Year 3.

Why not make a point of sharing it with your STEM teacher/coordinator as well as your kiddos?

Highly recommended for 4 years upwards (and don’t forget to stock up on the glue guns, screwdrivers and pliers!)

Moon Sailors – Naomi Woodward. Illustrated by Rachel Gregg

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Ford St Publishing

October 2022

ISBN: 9781922696182

RRP: $16.95

If you are exploring the depths of the ocean or the limitless skies or if you simply are looking for a beautiful lyrical book to share with our kiddos, this would be a wonderful choice. It offers so much for even very young readers with elegant poetical prose, enchanting descriptive language and a richness of imagination that will provide much scope for exciting conversation.

As well as this gorgeous linguistic aspect there are the creatures to be discovered and researched – many of them not so well-known: chitons, periwinkles, and jelly moons along with such wondrous aquatic marvels as Neptune’s necklace or iridescent algae. I can already picture a beautiful wall of art going up in the classroom or library to reflect this

But the two children on their journey of imagination are not just relishing the ocean, they are sailing across the night sky, past the constellations and heading towards Earthrise. The illustrations are every bit as captivating as the text with the subtle shades of ocean greens and blues and the night skies’ indigos, blues and pinks. Each spread is a feast for the eyes and you and your readers will delight in close examination of them picking out delicate details.

I have yet to share this one with a class, but hoping I get to visit my little school just over my back fence this coming week or so, with its strong focus on the ocean, being right on the waterfront as it is. I know the children there will just love it as much as I do.

There are some activities free to download but you will be able to conjure up so many follow-up activities to this one as it just lends itself to so many learning experiences whether English, science, STEAM or Environmental studies.

Highly recommended for little readers from Prep upwards.

Busy Betty – Reese Witherspoon. Illustrated by Xindi Yan

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Penguin Australia

October 2022

Imprint: Puffin

ISBN: 9781761047480

RRP: $19.99

Oh, I’m a huge fan of Reese!.. and I can easily imagine her as a little girl just like Busy Betty. This is pure good fun and kids will love the joyousness of it as much as they relate to the getting into scrapes – albeit, with the best of intentions.

Betty has been busy ever since babyhood and her exuberance and spontaneity can often lead her astray. When she realises her much-loved dog, Frank, is smelly and in need of a bath, she just has to get it done before her bestie Mae arrives for their playdate. But the bath plans are de-railed by one problem after another until both Betty and Frank are in a shocking mess. Luckily best friend Mae, is a little more practical and can see the bigger picture and pretty soon the two girls have turned the disaster into a complete success story.

It’s a delightful exploration of enthusiasm, teamwork and accomplishment to which small children will immediately make connections to their own adventures, mishaps and successes.

I think I speak for a lot of people who are a bit sceptical of the plethora of ‘celebrities’ turned authors but Reese’ association with literature, promoting reading and story-telling have established her credentials for now branching into her own writing. The colourful cartoon style illustrations pick up beautifully on the joyful tone throughout the book and kiddos will enjoy discovering the details in these.

Highly recommended for your youngsters from around Prep upwards.

The Rabbit’s Magician: Shae Millward/Andy Fackrell

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Ford St Publishing

August 2022

ISBN: 9781922696083

RRP: $16.99

From firsthand experience, I can assure you that having a sensitively written, beautifully crafted book to help a child deal with loss is a very valuable commodity. I used several when we lost The Kid’s mum but this one is a very welcome addition to that specific genre.

I am not at all scientfically minded so if you are like me and need a reminder of The Law of Conservation of Energy, by which this is inspired, you can check it out here. Accordingly, sharing this book will not only help your young readers come to terms with the concept of grief and loss but will enable some fascinating experiments into this scientific principle.

The animals are concerned for Ziggy, who is sadly looking up at the moon. Eventually the rabbit explains that his magician, Alby, The Amazing Albertino, has gone missing after (as Ziggy thought) working long and hard on a new trick. Finally, it is wise Owl who shows Ziggy how Alby has performed his greatest disappearing trick ever and how, despite his disappearance, Ziggy can still keep him close.

It is a beautifully and poignantly written and illustrated story of loss, sorrow and comfort and even your smallest of kiddos will grasp the intent of its magic.

Highly recommended for your little peeps from around Kinder upwards to around Year 3 or 4.

11 Words for Love – Randa Abdel-Fattah/Maxine Beneba Clarke

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Hachette

September 2022

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734421203 

RRP: $24.99

In the Arabic language, there are over 50 words describing the degrees of love. That’s 50 stories, 50 life-worlds. This lyrical and heartwarming book takes you on a journey through 11 of these Arabic expressions for love

While this deceptively simple text focuses on the journey of an Arabic family seeking refuge, it is most definitely a book for all children, regardless of their family history or culture. Each Arabic expression (in Arabic symbols/script as well as words) is accompanied by a lyrical one-sentence definition and both are pinned against the backdrop of glorious double spreads full of life and indeed, love. Maxine’s illustrations are gloriously rendered in watercolour pencil and collage, and vibrantly reflect the liveliness of the child who is offering up the words of love.

The child’s family find friends in their new home, along with much joy with nature, pets, neighbours and school, although they do miss their old home and remember it with love as well.

In a world increasingly beset with ugly hate and conflict, we know we must continually reinforce empathy and compassion in our youngsters and, in my opinion, the most effective strategy in our toolbox is through quality literature which is thoughtful and sensitive. Sharing this book will provide a perfect entrée into rich discussions on refugees, migrants, different cultures and languages, kindnes, and ways to make people welcome.

It is a book full of hope as well as love and I would love to share this with children and have them create their own artworks with their depictions of love in its many forms.

Highly recommended for little people from Kinder upwards.

The Big Book of Exhibits – Joan-Marie Hargreaves & Marita Bullock. Illustrated by Liz Rowland.

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Hachette

Septemember 2022

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734419996

RRP: $24.99

We absolutely know that kiddos love information books and, certainly in my experience, the quirkier the better really. This marvellous book is described as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ and indeed it does appear to be exactly that in a written and illustrated form. For example: The Disgusting Food Museum (Sweden), Questionable Medical Devices (Minnesota, USA), Madame Tussaud’s, Banksy art, the Poo Machine (our very own MONA in Tasmania) all is grist for the mill in this panopoly. Of course, there are more pedestrian examples such as the Louvre or the Galileo Museum but it is bound to be the more bizarre by which children will be fascinated.

Museums and private collections, the serious, the playful, the wacky and the wonderful – over 50 exhibitions from around the world and drawn from various time periods. The objects span a wide range of topics which are more than relevant to curriculum including history, natural science, STEAM, medicine, inventions and cultures and the extensive teaching notes will be a huge asset to any teacher, whether clasroom, home or library.

I know that it will find an audience in any setting and with Christmas rapidly approaching, it would make a splendid gift for an inquisitive youngster in your circle. I intend to use it in my relief teaching days as dipping in and out will be perfect for those odd moments in a program to segue from one activity to another.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Gaia: Goddess of Earth – Imogene Greenberg. Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg.

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Bloomsbury Publishing

July 2022

ISBN9781526625700
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $29.99

The Greenberg sisters have taken the ancient myth of Gaia and updated it with a strong environmental message for young readers in this striking graphic novel/picture book. Following the success of their earlier collaboration, the pair continue with their theme of bringing the Greek goddesses to life, this time with clear parallels to modern circumstances.

Gaia, is revered as the creator of Earth and the universe and all of the natural world held within both: She raised trees from their roots to the sky, sent waterfalls tumbling over cliffs and created the tides that sloshed on the shore. She gifted her creation to animals and mortals, and watched as they made it their home.

But as time went on Gaia was unable to control the power wielded by the warring gods who used their wiles to corrupt and orchestrate the events of mortals such as Achilles and Hercules. Helplessly, Gaia had to watch much of her beautiful creation destroyed by thoughtless and greedy mortals, just as happens today. Despite this, she never gave up trying to save her world and the clear message here is that we too must never give up fighting for the preservation of our planet.

A terrific and very different book to include with any unit of work that is environmentally focused and one that will arouse much interest with readers from around middle to upper primary.

Read an interview with the sisters at Edelweiss

Tarni’s Chance – Paul Collins & Jules Ober

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Ford St

July 2022

ISBN: 9781922696052

RRP: $24.99

This is a stunning collaboration between these two fine creators. Paul’s ease and expertise in handling sensitive issues is well established and coupled with Jules’ fantastic mini-sculptures brings this beautiful and poignant story to life with an elegance that will entrance your readers.

Tarni withdraws from the conflict between her parents into her own ‘bubble’ of art and music and when her mother leaves, this becomes all the more commonplace. Then, one morning, Tarni is alerted to the garbage truck rumbling down the road and sees, just in time, the danger a stray dog has got himself into. She rushes to rescue him – and does but the dog runs off. Her moment of hope and happiness subsides as quickly as it arose. But wonderfully the dog reappears and now finds himself a true saviour in Tarni, and she, in turn, finds herself a faithful friend. The partnership is the path by which Tarni is able to discover self-confidence and relief from her anxiety and sadness.

There is a beautiful use of light and dark in the artwork which underpins Tarni’s journey of self-discovery and even young children will readily pick up on this.

A colleague and I were discussing, just a few days ago, the escalating rise in young children with severe anxiety issues, and while, some of this can be apportioned to Covid, it does not all fall to that reason in our opinion. Social issues such as family breakdowns, domestic violence, grief and loss are all major contributors and the need for counsellors far outstrips the profession’s capacity to provide support.

We know that bibliotherapy is a sound way to approach helping to empathise with, and support such needs, and it is sympathetic titles such as this one which can add so much to a reader’s armour.

Highly recommended for your young readers from around 7 years upwards. It would work so well as a shared reading with ensuing careful discussions.

My Baba is the Best – Bachar Houli. Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

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Penguin Australia

August 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761046568
  • Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $19.99

Read more in this piece from SBS Arabic24

This is simply just a joyous read filled with family and fatherly love. It is wonderful that we have an ever-increasing diverse representation of our Australian children in books, and, in particular, picture books.

Bachar proves himself not just a great AFL legend but a fabulous storyteller as he tells this narrative from the PoV of his eldest daughter. In so many ways the book will resonate with many Australian children with shared experiences such as camping and movie nights but it also offers a different perspective for non-Muslim kiddos by describing cultural and religious aspects such as attending mosque and Eid festival.

Everything about this delightful picture book underlines the importance of the loving connection between fathers and daughters, and indeed, family – particularly, sharing and enjoying time together. While children from other backgrounds may find some of the very Muslim aspects a little different, they will also strongly identify the important themes here.

I love this book a lot and believe that sharing it in library, classroom or at home will bring you and your small humans much joy. Highly recommended for readers from Prep up to around Year 3.

You can listen to a Triple R podcast with Bachar talking about the book here.