Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

Grandad Frank is a real Class Act

Class Act - this has two meanings in this book.  Grandad is the star of the show - a class act but also when he visits the classroom you might call this a class act!

Our narrator needs to talk about a family member for show and tell on Friday.  "We can choose one person and talk for one minute, about the things they like and what kind of person they are."  Sadly our narrator cannot see all the advantages of talking about Grandpa Frank or better yet inviting Frank to talk to the class.  "Frank is just a grandad."  Luckily Frank does come to school and he is a hit.

"He carries coloured combs in his pocket."
"He has a special hearing aid that doesn't use batteries."
"He keeps a folded fifty dollar bill in his shoe, and a double headed coin in his hip pocket."

The Frank Show is perfect for our youngest students as they study history through objects. Take a close look at this typewriter.  Even the brand is funny.

Along with typewriters in this book you will see a set of barber's tools, a gramophone, an old concertina style camera and lots more on his shelf of memories.   One little detail that made me smile was the number plate on Franks old car - 388 OAP.

Here is a brief set of teacher notes.  This review makes some good points about ways to discuss this book and things to notice in the illustrations.  You can read an interview with David Macintosh here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Farmer Schultzs ducks by Colin Thiele illustrated by Mary Milton

I have been researching books to share with the teachers at my school as we explore our new Geography Syllabus.  I mentioned this in the last post. Farmer Schultz's ducks appeared on one of the lists I have been exploring. I have not read this book for a long time.  Now I discover this is a perfect book in so many ways.  What a pity it is long out of print.

The language of this book is inspirational as you would expect from a writer a poet like Colin Thiele :

"In springtime there was celery on the breath of the wind and falling blossom like confetti on the slopes, as if the hills were having a wedding."

"There were ducks with necks of opal and wings of amethyst"

"There were ducks with the sheen of emerald, of sapphire and turquoise and jasper, like the glint of Aladdin's treasure."

"And ducklings as tiny as tennis balls and as soft as the bobbles of golden wattle when it bloomed on the hills."

"They held their heads high and addled with dignity, although they had to jostle their elbows when they went through the gate."

For the Geography syllabus this story covers issues of urban development, the impact of people on an environment, town planning, problem solving and the local area of the Onkaparinga River in South Australia.

Farmer Schultz has a very productive farm in South Australia across the road from the river.  He has cows, geese, fruit trees, crops and over fifty ducks.

"Every morning after breakfast Farmer Schultz opened the backyard gate so that the ducks could go down to the river."

Sometimes a car comes by as they cross the road but the drivers always stop.  Sadly though, as time goes by the city begins to sprawl and the traffic becomes heavier.  Rushing cars don't always stop and one dreadful day a drake is run over. The family talk through all the possible solutions.  First they try a sign "Ducks Crossing" as suggested by the youngest family member Anna but this does not work because motorists ignore the sign. Then Anna suggests a bridge.  This works well (perhaps too well as now cars stop to watch the duck parade). Sadly though, once again there is a disaster.  A semi trailer plows into the bridge and this time many more ducks are killed.  There is a solution to this problem and once again it is little Anna who saves the day.

"Why don't you have a pipe,' she said, 'so the ducks can cross under the road?"

We have thousands of picture books in our school library.  Some people might say we have too many! I am sure there are some I could cull but this cannot be based on the age of the book.  Farmer Schulz's ducks was first published in 1986 and I fondly remember when it was short listed for the CBCA award. I was working in a tiny rural school and the students and I painted a huge mural of these very special ducks.  If we had culled Farmer Schultz's ducks In my current school our students would not get an opportunity to experience this wonderful book.

A River by Marc Martin

This term we are focusing on the new Geography syllabus.  I have been hunting for picture books to support our staff and I have found over 70 that are perfect.

A River is a visual delight and it fits in so well with our new syllabus taking the child from their home or local environment and view out of the window, through the city, "beyond the fields that look like giant patchwork quilts", into the hills, the jungle and out to sea.

To fully appreciate this very special book you need to see the art work.  Marc Martin shares nearly every image on his web site.  I would match A River with Cry me a River by Rodney McRae.

Here is a tiny selection of the other picture books for our Geography studies.

The best Birthday present ever! by Ben Mantle

Our Kindergarten classes are focusing on stories where we use our imagination.  When I read The best Birthday present ever I was so excited to show it to our staff because here is a book which celebrates using your imagination.  I actually gave each of our Kindy teachers a copy of this book as a present!

Squirrel is invited to Bear's birthday bonanza and of course the perfect present is a stick.  Squirrel wraps the perfect stick carefully and takes it along to the party.  After all the games and delicious food Bear opens his presents.  He receives a turbo fishing rod, a thunder boom drum kit, a mallow-matic 500 and a pop-up castle tent.  Squirrel hands over his gift nervously.

"Oh!' exclaimed Bear, staring at the stick in surprise."

Joy of joys the stick is the perfect present and Bear and Squirrel enjoy a day of fabulous imaginative games until the stick snaps in half.  Is this a disaster?  Read the book and you will find out.

I would pair this book with The Silver Christmas Tree by Pat Hutchins - a favourite book of mine. I now see Ben Mantle has a Christmas book featuring Squirrel and Bear - I need to add this to my shopping list.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The case of the missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Title : The Case of the Missing Moonstone

Cover : Which one do you like?

Characters :
Augusta Ada Byron later Ada Lovelace
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin later Mary Shelley
Charles Dickens
Charles Babbage

Setting : London 1826

Crime : Theft of the Acorn of Ankara from Turkey made of moonstone (sodium potassium aluminium silicate) said to have the property of mesmerism

Words you need to know : mesmerism, clandestine, constabulary

Ada is eleven and living in a large house all alone except for some loyal servants.  Her absent mother - wife of the famous poet Lord Byron - has arranged for a tutor to take over from Ada's long time nanny or nurse Miss Coverlet.  The new tutor is named Percy Snagsby or Peebs (later revealed to actually be Percy Shelly long time friend of  the now dead Lord Byron) and he is also to tutor a young girl named Mary Godwin - daughter of the famous feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft.  Ada is precocious and incredibly intelligent but not wise at all in the ways of the world.  Mary is a sensible older girl who is well versed in all the limits that society places on young girls in eighteenth century Britain.  The two girls decide to set up The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

There are some difficulties, however.  The girls cannot travel to The Times to place their advertisement or collect their letters.  "Riding a carriage without an escort is modern. But travelling out and about unescorted is unheard of."   This is where the girls enlist the help of a young man called Charles.  He travels each day in the same coach as Mary but he is not supposed to be there as he could never afford the fare. He has made a deal with the coachman and now Charles can happily read in peace on his way to the boot-polish factory each day.  He quickly becomes a friend to Mary.

Our two girls now hear of a crime involving the  Acorn of Ankara and a young lady called Rebecca Verdigris.  Rebecca is convinced her maid Rosie did not steal this jewel even though Rosie has readily confessed and is now in Newgate prison.

Read this review for more details of the plot or just pick up this book and enjoy an engrossing read. As for the hot air balloon you can see on the cover.  You need to read this book to discover where it is located, how it is used and what role it plays in the capture of the jewel thief.

Here is an interview with the author.   By coincidence I made friends with a lady who lives on Salt Spring Island in BC, Canada when I was travelling in Scotland!  Also this book series has a web page with extracts and puzzles.

Kirkus criticize this book series for 'bending the truth' putting famous characters together who in real life, while they may be connected, would not have actually met.  I don't think this is an issue for young readers.  The notes at the end of the book give an excellent explanation of all the famous people who feature in this story and in our school library we have these two picture book biographies which students can read following The Case of the Missing Moonstone.  These lines towards the end made me smile :

"Thank you Lady Ada for a bit of excitement.  It's back to the boot-polish factory for me.' Charles executed a small bow and headed to work.  ... 'Who the dickens was that boy?' asked Peebs."

I really like the illustrations in this book and in fact Kelly Murphy is the illustrator of other books I have reviewed here - The Miniature world of Marvin and James, Secrets at Sea, and Masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Zoo Boy by Sophie Thompson illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown

Hello, dear reader.
Are you sitting, lying down, standing on your head, eating a jam sandwich comfortably?
Then I'll begin ...

Zoo Boy is one of those little books you might miss in all the flurry of new books arriving in our school library and that would be such a pity because this little book is terrific.  Yes it is a very funny little story of a boy who can talk to the animals in the zoo but it is also a poignant tale about the power of giving and gratitude.  It also contains the most delicious words such as scurrilous, mollycoddled and deplorable.

Zoo boy Vince lives beside a zoo. His dad is the zoo keeper and entry to the zoo is via a special Zoo Keepers' Song.  Today Vince has turned eight so it is time to join his dad in the zoo.

"Vince felt like the king of the castle  But before he had time to gloat and imagine all the ermine on his cloak and how big his crown should be, an enormous badger who smelt of old socks appeared from the scrubby shrubbery."

Vince discovers he has grandad's gift - the gift of understanding the language of animals.  This is thrilling but it is also a huge responsibility as the animals gather around Vince and make their demands.  These demands might surprise you :

Penguin - fish fingers
Flamingo - Battenberg Cake - the pink bits
Pig - free range eggs
Owl - sugar mice
Llama - Sherbet lemons
Goat - clover and denim shorts

Luckily down the road there is an Everything You Could Possibly Want For 99p Unless It's Slightly More Expensive Shop. The owner of the shop is "a ridiculously cheerful man called Leviticus Corkindale Percival Calamine Periwig Candlewick Throooob. But everyone just called him Bob."

I also adore the character names used by Sophie Thompson (an English actress) such as Fenella (flamingo), Horace (the helpful wild badger), Asquith (penguin) and Terry (orangutan).

There is so much to love about this book and I think it would make an excellent read-a-loud title for a Grade One or Two class.   When you pick up this book you might like to begin with pages 85 and 86. Events towards the end of this book are so distressing (dear reader) that the narrator inserts an early ending to spare you any pain.

If I haven't convinced you to read this book think about bunting made from a long string of stolen undies all lit by fireflies. Such fun!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Lottie Lipton Adventure : The scroll of Alexandria by Dan Metcalf

We have three of the six books from this series A Lottie Lipton Adventure in our school library.  These are simple mystery books perfect for younger readers.  Each installment features young Lottie, who lives in the British Museum with her uncle, using her detective skills.

"She had lived in the museum ever since her parents had died in an accident during an archaeological dig in Egypt. Her Great Uncle, Professor Bertram West, had sworn to take care of her and and returned to England from Egypt to take a job at the British Museum."

There are five chapters and about seventy pages in each book plus a series of puzzles and cryptic codes which readers are invited to solve before Lottie reveals the answer and more of these to enjoy at the end of each book.

In The Scroll of Alexandria, the crazy museum director Sir Trevelyan Taylor declares he plans to sell all of the books in the museum library.  Lottie, her uncle Bert and Reg the caretaker set off to prove the collection must be preserved by order of King George III.

Lottie opens a small box that arrives with an Egyptian mummy in The Egyptian Enchantment.  She releases twenty shabtis into the museum but because she has only read half the spell these little doll like creatures race around the museum creating chaos. Shabtis are supposed to work as servants in the afterlife but these ones are out of control.

You can read more about each book on the author web site.