Friday, October 12, 2012

Picture Book Treats

These are beatuiful words and must be seen.

Unforgotten Tohby Riddle (Allen&Unwin)
This is a lusciously created book told in three parts with minimal words and exquisitely created pictures telling the story of the impossible birds of the big sky. Nobody knows where they come from but they come to earth to watch over, to warm and to mend. But their work is hard and one falls to the ground unable to resume flight and seems as though it will be imprisoned here. Six human and non-human inhabitants rescue the now frozen statue and they in turn watch over, warm and mend the fallen impossible bird. Now healed it resumes flight.
As well as the creator’s exquisite characters the artwork contains archival photographic images as well as those from slides taken by the author’s father.
As Shaun Tan states 'Reading this book is like being quietly ushered into another dimension by winged strangers, a place beyond the tread of normal earth-bound language. Ephemeral as a feather, timeless as a rock, and as true as both, Unforgotten is a magical experience.'
This beautiful moving book Unforgotten in unforgettable.
See the book trailer:

Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie Kim Michelle Toft (silkimbooks)
This environmentally themed book has lavish illustrations which the illustrator first created on silk. The main text on each double page has the 13 short steps required to create the recipe that is the Perfect Planet Pie. Each double page spread also contains a panel of Helpful hints, facts and information about the environment on that page and the conservation methods required like keeping beaches free from litter.
The book concludes with a list of features of the environment eg: flowers, crabs and snow, pollution and greenhouse gasses, and also a list of actions that humans can take to conserve Planet Earth.
A beautiful visual work.

Today We Have No Plans Jane Godwin & Anna Walker (Viking)
This loving tale tells the story of a family’s busy week and their one unplanned weekend day.
The first six days are planned and well structured. There is a lot of rushing around and frenetic family activities that include, playing school sport on Friday, playing in the orchestra on Thursdays, and the after school swimming class on Tuesdays. But on Sunday it is family time and the clocks seem to slow their hands. Sunday is unplanned and quieter. The family might forget the time and do things like wear pjs all day, imagine, play, investigate, sleep in, and daydream.
The text for the first six days, Monday to Saturday, is written in two stanzas; a five line couplet and then two lines of rhyming verse while Sunday is less structured and rhyming. The unique ink, pencil and collage illustrations of the illustrator show the business of the days until Sunday arrives and is revealed with generous space and freedom.
Today We Have No Plans with padded cover is a beautiful celebration of families and precious family time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


These fiction titles I could not put down. They just had to be read.

After Morris Gleitzman (Penguin)
After is the fourth title in the World War Two story of Felix, now 13 years and old and still in hiding. He attempts to rescue his friend Gabriek and learns that not only is he good at mending but he is also good a killing for he helps the Partisans and Felix has just witnessed him attack train and to be allowed to live Felix soon is entwined with the Partisans and attacking the local Nazis. Gabriek is injured and moved to another camp, Felix unsuccessfully attempts to escape the watchful eyes of the partisans and find him; he becomes friends with another partisan Yuli; assists the medical officers, and also attempts to find his parents in the camps as the war ends. There is war and death and healing.
This is another powerfully crafted book, wonderfully written, that draws out every emotion of the reader. Also look for the previous trhee titles - Once, Then, and Now.

Louis Beside Himself Anna Fienberg (Penguin)
Louis’ best friends are Singo and Hassan and they are into basketball and skateboarding but Louis is into words, like reverie, phenomenon, livid, sagaciously, bewildered and perilous (and that’s just in the first chapter). Louis’s widowed dad is into wrestling and wants to build him up and teach him some self defence moves as he imagines dangers that might befall Louis so Louis joins in reluctantly.
But when Louis’ dad breaks a mirror during a kitchen wrestling routine, things start to go bad – even though Louis doesn’t really believe in broken mirrors and curses. A burglar with problems of her own breaks into the house and ends up spending a few nights camped in a tent in the backyard – even though Louis knows he should have wrestled her to the ground as his father had taught him. Louis’ dad falls in love, the girl in the tent is a runaway, Louis dad is thrilled with his new fund ability at house maintenance (although it isn’t Louis’ handywork) and Louis finds his courange and attempts to unite the runaway and her mother and solves a few family problems along the way.
This book is delightful. The characters and the antics they are entwined in are amusing and the relationships between all of the characters, both children and adult, are warm and engaging.
Some words are explained in the text and others are in the word bank at the back of the book.

Malice Conspiracy 365, Gabrielle Lord (Scholastic)
First it was Conspiracy 365 that had Callum, Winter, Boges and Winter running for their lives and trying to survive 365 days to solve the Ormond Singularity. Now Winter has received a piece of old torn newspaper with the words The Drowner … 30 days and Winger has the feeling that someone is watching her and has been reading her diary. This time though Callum is completing flight school and mystery needs to be solved. An abandoned old house, a mysterious criminal from the past returns, sea caves and rising waters, an old chest from a shipwreck containing gold coins in mint condition, old photos revealing long ago secret and much more are in these pages.
A great read and amazing continuation of Conspiracy 365. More to come next year.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Picture Book Delights

These picture book are absolute delights.

Bush Bash Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina (Little Hare)
One dashing dingo is off and looking very excited and along the way many of the Australian bush animals ask “where is he going?” Dingo won’t say but he does invite the nosy numbats, the flying frogs, the burrowing bilbies and the rest of the menagerie to follow him to his final destination. Here the animals discover that dingo has come, with the other animals in tow, to celebrate emu’s birthday. .
This is a lusciously beautiful counting book with bold colours that simply jump off the page. The text is clear and simple with appropriate alliteration, like slithering sea snake, and waddling wombats and the colours entrancing in this wonderful Australian animal counting book.
As well as the featured native animal on each double page spread there is also an animal that does not belong in the Australian bush and an aboriginal object all there for the reader to discovery. Look for the dingo prints too. Hints for finding these are on the final page. Just lovely!

My Dad's the Coolest Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley (Scholastic)
It’s alwasy the right time to mention a book especially about wonderful dads and this is one of those delightful books. It has simple well spaced text and large single page illustrations of beautiful animals.
This is a joyful celebration about cool dads and their offspring … and all the cool things that they do together, whether it be teaching to dig, playing hide-and-seek, climbing together, feathery tickles, dancing or simply having fun, dads are cool! And the dad animals demonstrating this coolness are beautifully illustrated with delightful animals with perfect facial expressions.
This book is the companion book to My Mum's the Best.
Hooray for wonderful dads.

Alex and the Watermelon Boat Chris McKimmie (Allen&Unwin)
For slightly older readers, this book, inspired by the 2011 Brisbane floods, is the story of Alex who is told not to go outside because the river had burst its banks, the dam was overflowing and the water was rising. But rabbit, his most valuable stuffed toy, had hopped out the window so Alex too heads out the window, climbs aboard his watermelon boat and sets sail in search of rabbit. He floats through the town noticing the dramatic changes that have occurred including the cat stuck on the roof, the rooftop BBQ, the man in the boat filled with supplies, the floating pots and pans and amusing incidents like the shark causing a trafiic jam. Soon Alex is lost until he hears something familiar – a car radio that leads him to rabbit and their eventual escape, via a winding ladder, back home. The story nicely concludes with the return to normality and the planting of a tree.
This is another amazingly and intriguingly crafted picture book in McKimmie style with many font styles and with art a mix that varies from collage, child-like pencil line drawings, to splotches and patches of colour throughout and with beautiful endpapers. This book will be investigated many times with each revealing something new.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Treats for Younger Readers

Three delightful books for younger readers.

Rainbow Street Pets Wendy Orr (Allen&Unwin)
Rainbow Street Animal Shelter is not the usual animal rescue centre. It has a talking cockatoo in the reception area greeting visitors as they arrive.
The roll call of characters through the shelter include Bear the border collie, Buster the marmalade cat, a pony called Pebbles and Bessy the goat, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs and mice – and of course the children who interact with the animals. Even a lion cub is part of the Rainbow Street story. The stories include Mona, her grandparetns and a very old house, and the creation of the Animal Shelter is delightful; a dog who was lost by one and found by another; a cat that is lost and rescied and then needs a new home. 
This is a lovely book, perfect for younger readers who love animals. First released internationally as six individual stories, this compilation will be rapidly read. The stories are warm and show the loving relationship between humans and their pets – or the pets and their humans! Great lessons too about the responsibility of pet ownership and giving pets as presents.

Tournament Trouble (Sword Girl #3) Frances Watts & Gregory Rogers (Allen&Unwin)
She is back again … Thomasina, the scruffy maid, who became the Flamant Castle’s Keeper of the Blades (Sword Girl) who one days hope to become a squire. To do that she first must learn to ride and to joust but her task is to maintain the castle swords in perfect condition for the knights. She fears that the castle will never let a girl ride in a tournament but that soon changes when one of the squires is injured during jousting training. Sir Benedict offers Tommy a place in the tournament but first she has to learn to ride but how can she do that in just a few days. And to make things worse her horse Bess throws Tommy every time she sits on his back. Why doesn’t the calmest horse in the castle like Tommy? Or is there something more sinister involved?

The Sword Girl series for younger readers – especially girls who want a strong girl character - are just a delight. Tommy is a wonderful, strong-willed, determined and daring. She is also kind, thoughtful and a little vulnerable as well. There is a talking cat that gives advice, a crocodiddle who also talks and int his story provides the essential riding lessons that sword girl needs. There are the castle swords that talk – and of course a trouble-making boy!
The humorous illustrations by Gregory Rogers are a perfect part of the Sword Girl stories.
Also available The Siege Scare (Sword Girl # 4)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beautiful Picture Books

These are deflightful picture books with simple text and gorgeous illustrations. .

The Magnificent Tree Nicholas Bland & Stephen Michael King (Scholastic)

A gorgeous title simply told and wonderfully illustrated about a girl, Bonny and her Pop, their loving relationship and the simplicity and complexity of the ideas of the young and the not-so-young.
Both Pop and the Bonny are creative and full of ideas. Bonny’s are simple clever and properly made. Pop’s are big brave and brilliant with bits sticking out. Together they make a wonderful team and have idea for just about everything. And when they decide that they need a tree to attract the birds they both set about creating a tree and when spring arrives Bonny, Pop and the birds are in for a big surprise when the trees are revealed.

The Terrible Suitcase Emma Allen & Freya Blackwood (Omnibus)
This is a delightful tale about first days of school, going-to-school presents, suitcases and the beauty of a child’s imagination.
A young girl receives a terrible suitcase as her going to school present, not the backpack with silver rockets she wanted that her friend Howard then received. The girl was M.A.D. and mad became grumpy because you should be happy on the first day of school. So on that first day she tells all her friends, who have backpacks, that he suitcase had a secret compartment holding space dust. And that is where the imagination really takes off for soon the terrible suitcase assist the space travelling crew to fly home and holds spacefood sticks, and becomes a toolkit for a rocket, a computer.

In the Lion James Foley (Walker Books)
This tale is funny, with humorous illustrations that the young reader will be searching many times. Lots of giggles are in store.
A young boy called Richard is visiting the zoo with his family and at the lion’s den he watches the dentist brush the lion’s teeth but then the dentist disappears. And when the hairdresser comes to comb the lion’s mane the same fate awaits her too. Soon, watched by the growing throng of zoo visitors, more and more staff attending the lion disappear until it is the nearby animals who soon disappear. Eventually it is up to Richard to save the day armed with a giant toothbrush.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Books for Reluctant and Emerging Readers

Recently I presented a talk at the MANTLE teacher librarian conference in Newcastle on books for reluctant readers. Here are some of the recently published books I mentioned, great for reluctant readers - and some for emerging readers too (those who are just moving from picture books).

Andy Roid and the Superhuman Secret (Andy Roid Series #1) Felice Arena (Penguin)
Andy’s parents seemed to be normal parents who ran a bakery and he was a normal human boy -- until the day of the accident. Then his parents (who were really scientists working from the store basement)  created Andy Roid – half boy, half machine with amazing robotic applications.
When a Silverback gorilla goes on the rampage at the zoo Andy starts to discover just how heroic a boy with robotic parts can be, much to his parents dismay, and nothing is ever the same again!
A great new series with lots of action and twists that will have readers wanting to grab the next book and find out Andy's next adventure.
See the trailer at:

Meet the Supersons (Freak Street #14) Knife & Packer (Scholastic)
On Freak Street live rather average families – the Aliensons, the Humansons, the Wizardsons, the Zombiesons, the Vampiresons and now also The Supersons.
The Supersons are a family of (wanting to retire) superheroes and they should make the whole neighbourhood safe and sound even if they have given up fulltime crime fighting – they now only come out in emergencies so when a super villain arrives it is time to put their powers into super use.
The Freak Street titles have full colour glossy illustrations on every page and a website for downloadable wallpapers and activities.

Code Crimson (Arkie Sparkle Treasure Hunter #1) Petra James (PanMacmillan)
Arkie’s parents are archaeologists and they have been kidnapped but the kidnappers have left clues and set Arkie seven tasks to find seven treasures located on seven continents that must be completed in seven days if her parents are to be found so with her genius cousin TJ and her basset hound Cleo, Arkie begins.
With links to history scattered within the story (this time it is ancient Egypt and a treasure located in the temple of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses 11), gadgetry, time travel, and codes and illustrations throughout the book this is an engaging read.
This is the first title in a seven part series.
Fun and exciting read.

Spilling Secrets (Star Girl #13) Louise Park (Scholastic)
Star Girl Adelaide Banks is back and now she is in her final year at the space agent boarding school, Space Education and Action School (SEAS). Starting her third year training as Space Agent-in-Training Star Girl and her team, complete with protective visors, space boots and all the space gadgetry needed, like Molecular Movers, set off to investigate strange happenings on planet Catlabrator and where the catralabs are drowning. When they arrive they discover sluice channels and rushing water and they also find a missing third year student who might be up to no good!

Especially for emerging readers:

Losing Turtle (Walker Stories) Adrienne Frater & Cat Chapman (Walker Books)
Three short stories about Sam, and his family. Sam and Gran and lots of jumpers; Sam and his dad’s special scary birthday present; and Sam making scrambled eggs for his injured Gran.
Sam’s Gran knits lots of jumper. She is an excellent knitter and she gives one to Sam every time she comes to stay. Sam has lots of Gran’s hand knitted jumpers. None of Sam’s friends have hand-knitted jumpers so when she gives him a turtle jumper Sam decides to accidentally loose his new turtle jumper.
When Sam’s dad’s birthday is approaching Sam unsuccessfully tries to come up with all sorts of ideas for a birthday present until he goes into his fathers shed.
Sam’s gran has injured her ankle so it is up to Sam to make the scrambled eggs for dinner. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to scramble the eggs.

The Deep End Sally Rippin & Aki Fukuoka (HardieGrantEgmont)
Billie’s class used to swim in the lttle pool. This year they have moved to the bigger pool but Billie is scared of the deep end – and so is another of her classmates which is a real surprise for Billie! Find out how they battle their fears and conquer the deep end.

An earlier post about these titles:
Billie B Brown is a terrific new star for the younger readers - especially girls - who want to move to their first chapter books. The books are 44 pages in length and have a large font size. There are generous illustrations scattered throughout. BUT most importantly Billie B brown is a delightful character. She is strong, determined, brave, and clever ... and a bit sassy too! This girl will soon be in demand!
And what does the B in Billie B Brown stand for? So far it is something different in each title. She also has her best friend Jack appearing in the titles, so the boys are in there too.
There is also fun at the supporting website:

The Worry Monster Sally Rippin & Stephaie Spartels (HardieGrantEgmont)
And Billie’s friend Jack has his own series too – Hey Jack!
In this new title Jack has a spelling test coming up but he hates spelling and doesn’t want to practise his words so it’s up to his dad to come up with an ingenious method to help Jack learn the words.
These are fun lovely titles.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lovely Picture Books

Picture books for giggling and for sharing

The Very Hungry Bear Nick Bland (Scholastic)
First he was cranky. Then he was itchy. Now he is back in the latest installment and this time he is hungry, very hungry! Yes - the very cranky bear is back.
Bear is very hungry and grumpy. Since the break of day he had been unable to catch any fish but suddenly something huge had been hooked - a polar bear with an armful of fish. Polar Bear’s iceberg is shrinking and he is willing to give away his whole catch if the cranky (now hungry) bear will find him somewhere to stay. So Bear with an armful of fish, and Polar Bear with a block of ice set out to find a new home, with a visit to a few friends along the way.
This is another rollicking bear tale told in well constructed rhyming verse with delightful bear images. Bear is a wonderful loveable character that every child will want to know.

Fearless in Love Colin Thompson and Sarah Davis (HarperCollins)
First there was Fearless now Fearless returns and he is in love!
When Fearless goes to live with his new family he remembers his mother's special words “Life is much better if you love everyone”.
All around his new family there was love. There were people to love and there were things to love. Unfortunately the love from Fearless could be just a little destructive … and maybe covered in puppy drool too! Of course the new family was not too thrilled with all the Fearless love, they even locked Fearless outside in the rain. Fearless soon decides that not everything has to be loved - and then he discovers Primrose!
Lovely tale an beautiful illustrations once again. Bulldogs have never looked so cute!

Two Mates Melanie & Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books)
Two young boys, growing up in Broome (Western Australia) have a very special bond. They do just about everything together including hunting in the bush, visiting food stalls at the markets, searching for Hermit Crabs, swimming and going to school. They are mates, but it is not until the final page of the text that the specialness of their bond is revealed.
This true story is delightfully told and should be read as far and wide as possible.

A Bear and a Tree Stephen Michael King (Penguin)
This is a another beautiful title wonderfully crafted in text and illustrations. It is a book about caring and sharing and friendship between the most improbable companions is just gorgeous.
Bear is getting ready for his winter sleep collecting leaves and discovers Ren crying because her favourite tree has lost its leaves. She knows that it is time for Bear’s big sleep but together the two spend one more day - their first winter’s day - together. Ren asks Bear questions abut the snow and winter and the two are soon making patterns in the snow. They jump and bounce and share the day and then play with the night time stars before the next day rolls around. They share one more activity together and Bear leaves Ren with a special gift.

Wonderful books to share!


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