Friday, July 12, 2019

Young Dark Emu - a truer history

Bruce Pascoe
Magabala Books

I love this book .....
It is the long waited and much needed children's version of Bruce Pascoe's award winning and hugely popular title Dark Emu.

The beautifully presented book includes many extracts from original nineteenth century colonial diaries - many of which show that prior to colonisation the Aboriginal people had been working together actors the country to farm and care for the land. As Bruce says in his introduction "... I give examples of firsthand accounts, including diaries and illustrations, from early settlers and explorers. These eyewitness accounts showing how Aboriginal people lived at the time of colonisation provides a view that does not fit with the traditional idea of the Aboriginal nomadic hunter-gatherer.  Readers will see Australia as it was before colonisation. It will inspire investigation into the land, the animals and plants, and how the Aboriginal people were intertwined with the land. just a few snippets from the book:

  • Just as most Australian towns have cemeteries and sacred places today, so did Aboriginal villages.
  • European settlers saw fire as a threat. Aboriginal people viewed it differently.
  • Indigenous plants... do not require any more water than the climate supplies, no more fertiliser and no pesticides. 

With bibliography, picture credits and thorough index, this is a wonderful book to use for discussion - especially in this moment of constitutional reflection and inclusion.

and see this clip of Bruce talking about Young Dark Emu.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Little Bird's Day

It's been a while between posts but here we resume.

And I am thrilled to reboot this blog that showcases some of the delightful books that come across our front portal with this new title from the wonderful Australian Indigenous press Magabala Books

Little Bird's Day
Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr 
Magabala Books

Some weeks ago, when I was sent this title I mentioned to the Magabala crew that this is the best book that they have created - it is one already one of my favourites from the past few years.
The story is deceptively simple - the universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she goes about her daily activities, starting with 'time to sing the world alive', before circling with the wind and travelling with the clouds, and being washed in the rain, before journeying with Dusk to roost. 
The art is really stunning using simple colours from a limited palette; so beautifully crafted and proportioned (endpapers and the textured cover grabbed straight away; very different to what we have seen before. The narrative within the artwork is worthy of its own close examination. The illustrator Johnny Warrkatja Malibarr is the inaugural winner of Magabala' Book's  Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award

I know my wife absolutely loves this title too and has said that it is perfect for Year of Indigenous Languages … and has already promoted it through the librarian listserve that she runs, and another where she is a contributor too. 

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.


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