Best books 1-5 stars. The best book is at the end of the post…
*Sheep on a Beach, by P Crumble and Danielle McDonald. PB from scholastic. RRP $13.99
A very simple story about a sheep, in a most unusual setting– at the beach. The rhyming text is really only an accompaniment to the pictures, and the pictures are really to talk about—why the sheep feels so hot, and why it puts zinc on its nose, and to compare how the sheep feels, and about his activities with what a child might do at the beach too. Simple story for 3-5 year olds.
*The Yoga Ogre by Peter Bently and Simon Rickery. HB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $19.99
This story is amusing, but with a serious message. Ogden the Ogre’s pyjamas have become too tight, and his friends tell him he needs to exercise, and eat less. Ogden tries several sports, but all have unfortunate consequences because it is hard for an ogre to find a sport where he does not damage something. The drawings are great, and the kids to whom I have shown this book have tried to predict what his next sports attempt will be. The colourful drawings are amusing, and the variations in font size reinforce the emphases of the book. Good fun for 3-6 year olds.
**The Unexpected Crocodile by Kim Kane and Sara Acton. HB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $24.99
This is almost a cautionary tale. Some new neighbours have been invited to tea. When they arrive, Peggy and her family don’t find them all that pleasant, because they complain about what is offered. To Peggy’s delight, when the crocodile turns up for tea too, he eats the neighbours one at a time, until they are all gone! Fortunately the crocodile never reappears, so Peggy and her family relax again. This is a funny story, and kids enjoy talking about the picky neighbours, and about how easily the crocodile solves the problem. For children of 3-6 years.
The Great Snortle Hunt by Claire Freedman. HB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $19.99
Another good quality story, with evocative illustrations to help the story along as Mouse, Cat, and Dog, then Rabbit as well, try to find the Snortle which is making noises in the night. The story becomes quite scary until at the end, with the Snortle found snoring in a bed upstairs, it is obvious that the Snortle is not scary after all. This is definitely a story to be read while sitting securely with a sympathetic adult, at least for the first reading. For children of 4-6 years.
*The Magnificent Tree. By Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King. HB from Scholastic. RRP $24.99
There is usually more than one way to make something. This story shows how to make a tree- Bonny’s idea was to plant a seed, Pop’s idea involved lots of metal bits and pieces, and a lot of time. What the two of them wanted was to attract the birds. Pop’s tree took a long time to build, but then it was great as a support for a swing. Bonny’s tree attracted the birds, and gave shade for Pop while Bonny enjoyed the swing. A fun story, and a happy ending. Excellent reading for 3-6 year olds again.
**The Terrible Suitcase, by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood. HB from Scholastic. RRP $24.99
When Emma first goes to school she finds that she is the only person who doesn’t have a smart backpack. Instead she has a very solid red suitcase. Emma feels right out of things and decides that she hates school until she discovers that having a suitcase has benefits, and leads to her meeting and enjoying time with lots of new friends, so that school doesn’t seem so bad after all. A gentle message that being different doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on good friends. For readers of 4-6 years.
*Too Cold for a Tutu. By Mini Goss. HB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $19.99
Although it is very cold outside, even her brother Barry can’t stop Stella from wearing her new tutu. Stella a will not admit she is cold, but then she and Barry both enjoy Barry’s new cardigan, and turning it into all sorts of magical things. It’s a fun story about dressing up, but also about the creation of toys by knitting, as the author has made the dolls, and this makes for an excellent source of conversation about the dolls and the story. For readers of 3-6 years.
*Cupcake Catastrophe and Best Friend Showdown, both by Yvette Poshoglian. PBs from Scholastic. RRP $7.99 each
These are the two latest in the Ella and Olivia series about two sisters who are keen cooks. In the first of these two simple stories, the girls make cupcakes for Dad’s birthday; in the second Ella is a competitor, with her friend Zoe, for the chocolate drive prize. Both are easy to read book for girls of about 6-8 years. The vocabulary in these stories has been carefully selected, and where there is a hard word like ‘competition,’ it is written in different font the first time. A good way to introduce young girls to stories which are a step up from picture books.
***Tom Gates. Everything’s Amazing (sort of). By L Pichon. PB form Scholastic. RRP $15.99
This is rather similar to the two Ella and Olivia books for girls, but this is for boys. I have found that my young reluctant reader boys are delighted by these books. Not only can they read them, with all the helpful drawings, captions and different fonts, but also they are fun stories. The book also is very think, and it has given one young 8 year old a huge boost of confidence to know that he can read such a big book, and enjoy the stories about the local dog show, and how Granny almost wrecks Tom’s birthday by her cooking. For boys of 7-9 years.
**The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Three Dimensional Expanding Pocket guide. From Walker books. Probably about $15
This is an unfolding 3 D book, which unravels to reveal simplified diagrams of various areas of the London Mt Museum of Art. There is the Temple of Dendur, which was reconstructed in the Museum when the Aswan high Dam in Egypt meant that the temple had to be moved, or covered with water. There is also a patio from a castle in Spain of Renaissance times, and the woodwork and furniture form a chateau in France. Really, just a sample, but one to make the thought of actually visiting the museum quite enticing. For children of 6-15 years. Not for really young children, because it is an intricate construction, and would easily be destroyed.
*The Fantastic Flying books of Mr Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. HB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $19.99
When Morris’s book, the story of his life, was one day blown away in the wind, Morris wandered in search of his lost words. He met a lady being pulled along in the air, by a huge number of books and when she gave Morris a book, it led him along to a wonderful book filled building. Morris found that the books needed to be read, but also to be looked after, and so he began to care for them. As he did so, he began to write his own story in his book again until it was time for him to be pulled along in the air by all the books—then of course, on his way, he found a happy little girl, who was delighted to be given a copy of Morris’s own book—and so the story starts again. A myth, but a lovely one, and accompanied by appealing drawings. For children of 4-10 years, to read and re read.
*Black Fella White Fella. By Neil Murray. PB from Scholastic. RRP $19.99
The words of this book are also the words of a song, and is described as an anthem for all people, because as an elder in the northern Territory told the song’s author, Martin Flanagan, ‘we all have the same heart. “Blackfella, Whitefella, doesn’t matter what your colour, long as you a true fella, long as you a real fella” The illustrations and words of this simple song are attractive, and the words and the beat of the song will stay with the kids as they read and reread this story, and enjoy the pictures drawn by children from all around Australia. Recommended for children of 4-8 years.
*****Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley. PB from Walker Books. RRP about $20
This book has been awarded honour book status by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. It shows and tells the story of Luke, who saw things differently from every one else. The story is also about Luke’s teacher Mr Barraclough, and his inability to accept Luke’s paintings, and to recognise that Luke had a very special imagination, to see behind reality to other wonderful places and images. One day Luke decided to avoid school and Mr Barraclough, and he caught a bus, getting off at a big building with an open door. Inside Luke found lots and lots of paintings with which he felt amazingly comfortable, and also excited by them all. When he went home and back to school it was with renewed confidence to continue to paint as he felt suited the occasion. This time, perhaps sensing that Luke was totally in control of what he felt and painted, Mr Barraclough was silent.
Why is this book an Honour book? Because of the empathy for Luke which it elicits from the readers, both adult and child, because of the thoughtful composition of the story, and the excellence of the accompanying pictures. For children of 4-10 years, and yes, it is highly recommended.