Last night I was chatting with Sarah Howells about the books below, which are my fav’s from the past month or so. You can purchase the titles by clicking on the links and you can listen to the Soundcloud of the show here.
First up…’tis the season’ and all that and I have a stack of Christmas books at home, and in my school library, which I only allow to be read from end of October each year – cause Christmas books in March is just not a happening thing as far as I’m concerned! 90% of the Christmas titles I recommend will be Australian (see them here) as our Christmas in Australia is a world away from snow and hot roasts by the fire. In keeping with this theme – my favourite new Christmas book this year is one called ‘All I Want for Christmas is Rain’, written by Cori Brooke and illustrated by Megan Forward – two creators I greatly admire.
The story, told in rhyming verse, is a poignant tale of the young Jane who optimistically visits Santa, who is visiting her outback town in his fur suit – poor dude must be hot! She selflessly asks him for rain for her farm for Christmas. The text is extended by evocative watercolour and pencil sketched illustrations by Megan Forward, which perfectly capture the colours of dry rural Australia and the dire nature of drought. An absolute must-have Australian picture book for farm dwelling and city dwelling families.
‘Hello’, by the National Library of Australia and illustrated by Tony Flowers, is a truly fabulous book for home and classroom use. The book is an introduction to 12 languages spoken most frequently in Australian homes, plus three Indigenous languages. Illustrated by the uber-talented Tony Flowers (I looooove following his cafe illustrations on social media), the pictures add humour and help to engage young readers in language learning. Each language and culture is introduced by a child character, with each child telling us about their favourite foods, special days and other points of interest.
This would make for a fascinating text in itself, but in true NLA Publishing style, they go a step further and, using images from the NLA collection, they give more information about each of the 12 languages and cultures and extensive pronunciation guides. We’ve read this book at home many times now as recreational reading and teachers in early childhood settings would be remiss to not have a copy of this exceptional text in their libraries and classrooms.
‘Who is Happy?’ by Little Thinkers and Jarvis. Everyone in Happyhop House experiences lots of feelings during their day. Can you spot who is happy to be playing paper aeroplanes? Who is sad that the last slice of cake has gone? Who is scared of the dark? At age 2, children enter a crucial stage in their development by starting to form friendships. In this fun, interactive question-and-answer book, young readers can look carefully at the pictures to work out who’s feeling what, learning how to understand 12 key emotions and recognise them in others.
‘The Fabulous Friend Machine’ by Nick Bland. Popcorn is, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at Fiddlesticks farm and has a huge amount of friends who adore her. One day she finds a Fabulous Friend Machine in the barn, which children and adult readers alike will recognize as a mobile phone, and she sets about making some brand new friends. But behind the screen of the Fabulous Friend Machine, maybe her new friends are not so friendly after all…
‘The Patchwork Bike’ by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van T Rudd is an utterly joyous picture book which will capture the imagination of readers young and old.When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That’s when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home. Beautifully illustrated by street artist Van T Rudd, the corrugated card backgrounds just begged to be touched and wondered over.
Another author/illustrator who I take great delight in following on social media is Gus Gordon. Stalker-ish it may be, but I really love being able to peek into the process of book creation and I often pull up these images to show students how or where a particular book was created. Gus Gordon’s latest masterpiece (seriously he can do no wrong) is ‘Somewhere Else’ and it will strike a chord with readers young and old. George Laurent, a white duck, has a particular gift for baking and he creates many baked delights including eclairs that are almost as spectacular as soaring high above a sunrise in the Andes (according to his owl friend Penelope Thornwhistle). But while his bird friends fly North, South and ‘somewhere else’, George is simply too busy baking and doing yoga to fly anywhere, or so he tells his friends. And then it is winter. And it is just George and his bear friend Pascal Lombard left looking for a warm place. Finally George admits to Pascal the terrible fact that he is a bird who missed the lesson on flying and Pascal sets about problem solving this truly terrible situation so that they can travel to all the places they have heard about and some they haven’t. An utterly heartwarming story of the thrill of world travel and the immense joy of coming home again….to fresh baked berry pie. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading this text aloud to classes – and if you listen to the Soundcloud of the radio show I’ll read my fav page.
If the story of ‘Somewhere Else’ isn’t exquisite enough for you, then take a look at the multi-layered collage, watercolour, ink and photographic illustrations which take this picture book into the realm of contemporary classic. Gus Gordon books demand many, many re-readings, such is the depth of the visual literacy he encodes within his complex yet utterly engaging visuals. The perfect book for young travellers or their travel loving parents…and watch out for this one on all the 2017 awards shortlists.
‘Radio Rescue’ by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen. Jim and his family live happily on their remote outback station. Yet, sometimes Jim feels lonely. Jim’s Dad enjoys droving and shearing his sheep but sometimes he wishes he could chat to a mate. Jim’s Mum is always busy with the accounts and looking after the chooks, but she sometimes worries about being so far away from everything what would happen if someone got sick?
Then a strange new radio with pedals arrives and Jim’s Mum and Dad can send messages to their neighbours. Jim wants to have a go! ‘When you’re older,’ says Dad. Then something happens that only Jim can deal with. Will he learn how to use the radio in time to save Dad?
It really is hard for children of today to imagine a time when instant communication was not possible. Indeed, most of them do not even recognize a home or public phone, let alone a pedal powered radio. This history of modern communication is a fascinating journey into our past for children of today and the story is well supported by plenty of non fiction information and images from the NLA collection. The factual information at the back of the book explains in detail how the pedal radio worked and how the Flying Doctor and the School of the Air developed as a result.
There is just nothing to fault in this NLA Publishing production. Jane Jolly is a masterful storyteller and Robert Ingpen is a national treasure and recognized internationally for his artiist skill – immediately evident in ‘Radio Rescue!’ . He has created double page spreads which capture the colours and feel of life station pre-technology and these are contrasted with single page monochrome flaps with close up imagery of the faces of the characters.
A sister book to the award-winning Tea and Sugar Christmas, with the same author and illustrator…this is a collection of books to treasure, collect and display.
‘A Most Magical Girl’ by Karen Foxlee. Magical machines, wizards, witches, mysterious underworlds, a race against time – and two most magical girls on an unforgettable adventure.
Annabel Grey has been brought up to be a very proper Victorian young lady. But being ‘proper’ isn’t always easy – especially when you can sometimes see marvellous (as well as terrifying) things in puddles. But parlour tricks such as these are nothing compared to the world that Annabel is about to enter…
After the rather sudden departure of her mother, Annabel is sent to live with her aunts. They claim to be Shoreditch witches, and from a very old family line of them too. They’re keen to introduce Annabel to their world of transformation, potions and flying broomsticks (which seem to have strong personalities of their own) but are horrified when Annabel announces not only does she not know any magic, young ladies shouldn’t believe in such things. But before Annabel has time to decide whether she does or not, she is swept into an urgent quest.
The trees of Highgate have been whispering to Kitty – an extraordinary urchin of a girl, who Annabel’s aunts seem very fond of – and so have the fairies. They talk of a terrible, dark magic that wants to devour all of London. And of a most magical girl who might be able to stop it…
This sparkling and enchanting story is sure to bewitch you, so curl up in front of the fire, and prepare to be swept away…
‘Stories from Stella Street’ by Elizabeth Honey. Honey’s immensely popular 45 + 47 Stella Street and everything that happened turns 21! This special anniversary edition includes three exciting adventures in one big book: 45 + 47 Stella Street, Fiddle-back and The Ballad of Cauldron Bay.
Meet Henni, the tallest girl in school, and her best friend Zev, with amazing electric hair, and Briquette, little Frank’s dog … and everyone else in Stella Street! Read Henni’s original version of what her gang did when the Phonies moved into their street and started to spoil everything! It’s fast and funny and you never know what’s going to happen next. Henni also tells the story of life-changing events when the Stella Street gang all went bush and camped by a wild river, and then how their perfect old-beach-house holiday in Cauldron Bay nearly ended in disaster.Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.