This is a stunning new picture book for your younger readers that will take them around Australia to visit various mobs on Country and find out a little more about each. Authors, Jacinta and Taylor, are the co-founders of Birrang Cultural Connections, based in Victoria [check out the fabulous photos on their FB page!]. Their aim is to provide cross-cultural learning experiences to children in the Albury/Wodonga district. In this book they can take that learning experience further afield, introducing kiddos to their First Nations peers from one end of the country to the other.
With each double spread readers are introduced to another proud Aboriginal kidand find out a little about customs or practices in their own Country. Through the simple but effective and expressive text, children will ‘meet’ a kid from a particular mob, and learn about their own personal connection to country and customs. Each of these is illustrated beautifully with Seantelle’s sensitive and exquisitely rendered interpretations of each child and their own experiences, with reference to traditional art techniques.
I absolutely love this book! It’s such a fabulous way to show all kids the differences and variety from one mob to another, and your readers will truly enjoy getting to know each one. And while each page is lovely in its own right – our favourite is, of course, the Wiradjuri page with little Arlo and his Pop :-), and the story of the nation totem, the gugaa.
This is a must for your shelves so if you haven’t already, get it on order now.
Highly recommended for readers from 3 year olds in kindy upwards to mid-primary. And there are some terrific and comprehensive teaching notes to accompany it.
What to do when your home is destroyed? There is nothing, except to take what belongings you can,and try to find a new place to live. The woodland creatures are forced to flee when their homes and woods are flattened for new urban housing. They try to find refuge in the city but it is all so very different and unpleasant. Then they discover the underbelly of the metropolis – a smelly, dirty, awful place indeed. But what choices do they have?
Mouse is the one who rallies their spirits, and encourages them to clean, scrub, repair and build to make this their new home, and one of which to be proud. And so, they create Sewertown and all is well. Until, that is, they are discovered by the city dwellers who do not make them welcome at all.
Fortunately, there is a voice of compassion. One small girl with kindness and generosity in her heart implores the city folk to open their hearts and minds. So side-by-side ‘the furries and thesmoothskins have chosen to unite‘ and both now have two beautiful and happy environments to enjoy. This is a beautiful modern day fable which will inspire educators and families alike to choose kindness and encourage empathy.
Even those of us who have relatively little often have more than many others. It is up to all of us to show humanity and fellow feeling, wherever and whenever we can. The world could really use some kindness right now, and we must help our children to see that their future will depend on their actions.
Some very comprehensive teaching notes will be useful to those who wish to incorporate this into their classroom or library teaching. Tull’s text and illustrations are perfect with subtle references and tiny details to explore for the keenly observant (a visual reference to ‘Nighthawks’ and a Pride flag among these).
Highly recommended for littles from around 4 years upwards, who will easily grasp many of the big concepts contained within.
As always, I am grateful to have the opportunity to review a book that provides young people with a perspective of one the darkest times in human history, particularly in order to endeavour that such atrocities will never be repeated. In this novel’s dedication Catherine Bauer writes: This story is dedicated to the survivors, far and wide, who shared their stories with or committed their memories to print – and to those who didn’t make it. Their stories and those of other genocides must never be forgotten – especially in times like this. We can underline, I think ‘especially in times like this’. I have previously commented in this space, that despite the upswell of kindness and generosity of spirit shown in many quarters since the start of the pandemic, the general global trend towards hatred and violence is not just disturbing, but frightening. We must hold onto the belief that essentially most humans have the capacity for compassion and empathy. Bauer’s novel follows the wartime experience of Lena, a young Jewish girl who lives in Amsterdam in a comfortable and loving home, until the invasion of the Nazis.
Much to her dismay her parents decide to leave Amsterdam and place her with a trusted Dutch friend, music teacher, Ilse Graf. Her parents know that Lena will be safer in hiding with Ilse than on the run with them, until they can find safe haven. Lena’s unhappiness multiplies as the days turn to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years.
Yet she comes to realise how fortunate she is to be safe when the madness all around swallows so many of her Jewish friends. Her isolation in Ilse’s house is relieved with her discovery of a secret tunnel which leads to the house next door, which is, in fact, the home of one of her pre-war friends. The bond between these two – Dutch boy/Jewish girl – will be forged in fire and tempest but will be one that lasts forever. Lena’s story is dramatic and engrossing.
Young readers will feel for her in all her many moods and gain yet another insight into the shameful blot on 20th century history. The triumph of the human spirit is one that resonates throughout Holocaust histories, both factual and based-in-fact and is always one that inspires students and leads them to a position of true empathy.
I highly recommend this to you for your collection, but would also strongly encourage you to bring it to the attention of your HASS/History faculty to consider for a ‘read around your topic’ title. It is suitable for readers from Upper Primary to Mid Secondary. Extensive teaching notes are available.
Whatever, and however you celebrate I wish you all safe and happy holidays, from me and The Kid. Many thanks to all who follow and bother to read my reviews – which are haphazardly posted at best – and I’m thrilled to see that this year the blog has had well over 10 000 views!!!! Wow!! 2023 marks a decade since I decided to start collating the reviews I was doing in one place ,and began Just So Stories, and there have been many, many changes in my life since then. It looks like my full-time teaching days are over but will still need to keep earning somehow for a while to support The Kid so new adventures await.
Not only do I want to thank you all but also the wonderful authors, illustrators, creators and of course the publicists at various publishing houses who let me play in their world. I have a couple of Christmas reviews to write up and post today, and then about twenty more to catch up on (!!) after the festivities are done.
I do hope your own celebrations are filled with joy – The Kid and I will be in our happy place for three days (very like Kev in that illustration!) and ours will be slow and salty.
Well it was a bit of a mammoth effort and one I haven’t undertaken for a few years but a new PB review posted each day of the month – whew!! Thanks for anyone who played along with me :-). Hope you discovered some treasures for your collections!! and of course, thanks to the publishers who are kind enough to let me read voraciously for them :-).
Now SO many others to catch up on – about 18 piled up from biographies to MG novels – lucky holidays are imminent!!
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!)
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.
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.
Honestly, my first thought as I really got underway with this new offering from Martin Chatterton was: the Stranger Things fans are going to LOVE this! Lo and behold when I visited Martin’s website before beginning to write this review, he makes the same comment. Always good to know you’ve got the right take on a book – haha!
It’s Australian Gothic horror/dark comedy at its best and if you have those readers who seek out the somewhat bizarre or unusual plot lines, make sure you get this on your orders list now.
14-year-old Theo Sumner lives in a Queensland mining town, Scorpion Falls, where he is a bit of a loner – and often a victim of school bullying. His best friend Ari and her parents run the Iguana Motel, where Theo works after school. His mother is wheelchair-bound with MS and things are exactly a picnic for Theo either at home or elsewhere.
When a creepy stranger moves into the motel and even creepier things start happening around Theo, he begins to see a very different side to dull and boring Scorpi (start thinking Upside Down style!). Cue the samecreepy stranger finding a pair of ‘gooey’ eyeballs on his bed, and Theo’s mum admitting she put them there – and away this twisting and turning plot goes! A mysterious white van, the apparent abduction but then re-appearance of Theo’s nemesis, a student (who has apparently never existed) being dragged into a store room and vanishing without a trace – all this and more is doing Theo’s head in.
Teenagers disappearing, fake cops, robotic spiders, winding subterranean tunnels, a kid literally laughing his head off – it’s all unravelling in a completely disturbing and spooky way in Theo’s world.
Chatterton explores themes of trust, friendship, exclusion, racism, identity and mortality. The sting in the scorpion’s tail will completely blow readers away and I’m looking forward to my first kiddos to read it to see their reactions!
Jacqueline is an only child and has always dreamed of having a sister. Little does she know she will find one in the most unexpected and, arguably, difficult circumstances ever. When the Second World War breaks out, Jacqueline’s life is turned topsy-turvy. Her father goes away to the front, she and her mother are sent away to the country. France had become a dangerous and troubled country for its people. The times are dark but there are moments of light. When Papa comes home with a puppy for Jacqueline, she is overjoyed but it is not long after that the Germans invade and poor little Chiffon is shot. Papa is imprisoned and Maman and Jacqueline bravely ride to the town where he is locked up and plan an escape. After making it to the French Free Zone, Papa announces that he is going to join the French African Army, so the whole family travel to Algiers where life is strange and confusing, and for Jacqueline quite lonely as she does not fit in. Then the Allied troops arrive and Jacqueline realises that the long war is finally coming to an end. Two years later Jacqueline is back in a bombed, and defeated Germany and her family move into a requisitioned house along with its German owners. Jacqueline and Hildegard, the daughter of the family, are very antagonistic at first but over time the two girls discover they actually have much in common and their life-long friendship is forged. 75 years later their friendship still holds true.
This is a remarkable story made all the more striking because of the highly creative format in which it is told – modelled miniatures, photography and artistic – it is both highly poignant and evocative. It is exactly the type of picture book that demands to be shared with audiences of all ages and there is no doubt in my mind that as a springboard into studies of history this is a front runner of real distinction.
I would strongly recommend adding it to any collection either primary or secondary and will certainly be drawing attention to it with both my students and my Humanities staff.