Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yours sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa illustrated by Jun Takabatake

How do I judge a book?

  • The cover - yes this one is bright and appealing
  • The author and illustrator - no I had never heard of these Japanese book creators but I do enjoy books that have been translated from other languages
  • The publisher - YES! Gecko Press always select fabulous, intriguing and very different books

I also enjoy books with letters - especially where we can see the actual hand written letters as you can in Yours sincerely, Giraffe.

Dear You, Whoever you are,
Who lives on the other side of the horizon
I am Giraffe. I live in Africa. 
I'm famous for my long neck. 
Please tell me about yourself.

Yours sincerely

There are three reasons for writing this letter.  Giraffe is lonely and would like a friend, Giraffe is bored and every day seems to be the same as the one before.  Giraffe sees a sign announcing a new mail service.  A Bored Pelican is offering his services (Fee : up to you) to deliver anything, anytime, anywhere.

Pelican flies off towards the horizon.  He eventually returns with a letter from Penguin.  Penguin has never heard of a neck.  He asks the only whale left at Whale Point, Professor Whale but the answer is far from satisfactory.  So the correspondence begins culminating in a visit by Giraffe over the ocean on a raft.  The meeting is joyous and surprising.

This little gem will make you smile.  Yours sincerely, Giraffe would be an excellent book to read aloud to a young class and there is so much to discuss such as perception of self and others, misinformation, asking the right questions and acceptance of difference.

This book reminded me of Run Hare, Run by John Winch because it explored the work of Albrecht Durer who is famous for his drawings of a rhinoceros which were based on a written description.

The story of Snowflake and Inkdrop

We have two books in our library where the stories are presented like these in The story of Snowflake and Inkdrop - where in the middle of the book you flip the book over so you can read the other half of the story - allowing the two characters or events to collide.  Kirkus call this 'dos-a-dos'. You will see what I mean from the German cover.

This book  was originally written in Italian so there are a number of people involved in the production. Authors - Alessandro Gatti and Pierdomenico Baccalario, Illustrator Simona Mulazzani and translator Brenda Porster.  Simona Mullazzani has illustrated more than 90 books.  I need to search these out and add some more to our library - her work is very special.

It is a challenge to decide where to start but I think the 'front' might be The story of Snowflake.  He drifts across the winder sky looking for somewhere to land.  As you turn the page you will see an intricate die cut pages with a hint of colour.  Here you need to stop and try to guess what lies beneath - a town, a circus, a playground. Meanwhile at the other end of the story a tiny inkdrop, sitting on a table in an artist's studio, longs for freedom.  The wind blows in and the ink drop is thrown out of the window so now the two hearts can collide.

Here is a detailed review with some examples of pages.  The image below comes from a teaching idea on this blog.

The two stories, bound dos-à-dos, meet in the middle on a climactic (in every sense of the word) double gatefold in which images of stars and rolling ocean, animals and people, 
light and dark whirl together: 

You might also look at this book by Cresent Dragonwagon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Serafina and the black cloak by Robert Beatty

Start with the trailer for this book - it is fabulous.

Now read this book - Yes!! you must read this book you will understand what I am about to share. I started this book last night thinking (as usual I would read a few pages).  I read over 100.  Today I took the book to a meeting.  I sat in the car and grabbed a few reading minutes. At chapter 24 something truly terrifying happens and I had to stop reading to get to my meeting!  Waiting to get back to this book was agony.

Serafina works with her Pa at the Biltmore Estate owned by the Vanderbilt family.  Serafina seems not quite human : "She had a skinny little body, nothing but muscle and bone .. Her long hair wasn't a single color like normal people had, but varying shades of gold and light brown. ... She had large, steady amber eyes. She could see at night as well as she could during the day."  This last skill is important because it is her job to catch rats around the house.  She is the CRC - Chief Rat Catcher although the Valerbilts don't even know she exists.

One night Serafina witnesses some thing truly frightening.  She sees a little girl in a yellow dress being chased through the dark corridors of the house by a man in a huge black silk cloak.  "He tangled her in his arms. She flailed and struck him in the face with her tiny fists .... the folds of the cloak slithered around her like the tentacles of a hungry serpent ... Then the fold closed over her, the scream went silent and the girl disappeared, leaving nothing but the blackness of the cloak."

This little girl, who is now missing, is called Clara.  She is the first of many missing children. Together with her new ally and friend Braeden Vanderbilt, nephew to Mrs and Mrs Vanderbilt, Serafina knows this is a mystery which must be solved but at what cost?  The final scenes will leave you gasping.

Read this review by my fellow blogger Mr K.  This is how I discovered this gem.  You can read  part of the first chapter on the Disney web site.  Good news there is a sequel - it is now on my shopping list.  Here is a set of teaching notes and a set about the vocabulary used in the book which is set in the Southern United States.

After reading Serafina and the black cloak I suggest TheThickety series, Fire girl or Fearless by Tim Lott.  All of these books are for very mature Primary readers.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lord and Lady Bunny - almost royalty translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath

Polly Horvath must have had so much fun writing this book - sequel to Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives extraordinary. I suggest reading these books in order so you can fully appreciate this hilarious bunny couple.  I kept thinking about the BBC television series Keeping up Appearances.  I do think  Mrs Bunny and Hyacinth would be such great friends.

"It was several hours after Mrs. Bunny's great recovery that she finally spilled the beans about her plans for herself and Mr Bunny. Mr Bunny had said many times that he was all ears, but Mrs Bunny said she was awaiting the perfect stellar moment.  It came one lovely summer's eve with butterflies flitting about the hollyhocks, a freshly baked carrot cake (Mrs Bunny was no novice when it came to springing plans on Mr Bunny), some just squeezed beet juice and the pleasant burble of the water feature Mrs Bunny had installed in the flower garden."

In this installment Mrs Bunny hits upon a terrific plan to become Queen.  Never mind that England already has a queen - surely there is room for another.  Meanwhile Madeline along with her best friend Katherine and her very odd parents are also on their way to England.  Everyone is travelling on the same ship.

"Then, perhaps because of champagne had caused them to throw caution to the winds, Mr and Mrs Bunny, instead of dancing discreetly under the table, hopped out to the dance floor."

Read a little more about the plot by clicking the link below or reading this review.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Somewhere in Australia by Marcello Pennacchio illustrated by Danny Snell

Do you know this little song?

Over in the meadow in a pond in the sun,
Lived an old mother duck and her little duck one,
Quack said the mother,
Quack said the one,
And they quacked and were happy in their pond in the sun.

Somewhere in Australia is an innovation on this classic text adding a decidedly Australian flavour.

I am making a collection of picture books to read to our youngest classes as we explore the CBCA slogan of 2016

Australia: Story Country

Here is the text for the first verse of this version :

Somewhere in Australia, in a land of scorching sun,
Lived a mother kangaroo and her little joey one.
'Hop,' said the mother. 'I hop,' said the one,
as they hopped over land scorched by the hot sun.

Next we meet two kookaburra chicks, three platypus babies (platy-pups), four Tassie devils, five dingo pups and so on all the way to ten red-back spiders.

Teachers could make excellent use of the verbs in this book :
hop, laugh, swim, growl, howl, slither, bask, run, jump and hunt.

You could also make a list of other Australian animals and write more verses for the song perhaps.

For international readers baby platypus are not called platy-pups - they are called puggles but in this story Marcello Pennacchio needed to maintain his rhyming scheme and I do like the idea of platy-pups.

Danny Snell adds fabulous illustrations to this book.  Take a look at my previous review of his book Seagull.  Jeremy was a popular book during Book Week in 2014.

The final lines of this book match perfectly with our 2016 slogan :

All across Australia, in the dreams of sleepy little ones,
Are sand and sea, bush and desert, the land of the scorching sun.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG is, of course, such a famous book.  I won't go into all the plot details, inventive and amazing words or the very special relationship between this brave little girl and her gentle giant friend. Read here for some ideas to use with a class.  Next item on my school shopping list is the audio book read by David Walliams.

Instead I just thought I might quote a couple of my favourite passages :

"The butler, an imposing personage named Mr Tibbs, was in supreme command of all the palace servants and he did the best he could in the short time available.  A man does not rise to become the Queen's butler unless he is gifted with extraordinary cunning, sophistication, sagacity, discretion and a host of other talents that neither you nor I possess."

"Sophie, still wearing only her nightie, was reclining comfortably in a crevice of the BFG's right ear. She was actually in the outer rim of the ear, near the top, where the edge of the ear folds over, and this fold-over bit made a sort of roof for her and gave her wonderful protection against the rushing wind. What is more, she was lying on skin that was soft and warm and almost velvety. Nobody, she told herself, had ever travelled in greater comfort."

"Then out he came!
Twenty-four feet tall, wearing his back cloak with the grace of a nobleman, still carrying his long trumpet in one hand, he strode magnificently across the Palace lawn toward the window .. he stopped and made a graceful bow ... 'Your Majester ... I is your humbug servant."

I re-read The BFG today in preparation for seeing the new movie. I do hope it has the same magic (and marvelous words) that make the book so special for every generation.

Home Now by Lesley Beake illustrated by Karin Littlewood

I have been looking for books to link with the CBCA short listed titles.  I do like to extend our reading of these books with an exploration of the author or illustrator or perhaps the topic.

Home now links quite nicely with One step at a time.   Listen to an interview with Jane Jolley and Sally Heinrich.  They talk about the horror of land mines and their impact on the people and animals in Thailand.

In Home now we meet Sieta, has recently become an orphan in South Africa, and read how a special baby elephant is able to help her as she adjusts to her new life.

"Sieta remembered a green garden in a dry land. ... Sieta remembered when she and Ma and Pa went to church on Sundays."

Sieta goes on a school excursion to an elephant park.  She meets orphan elephants and forms an immediate bond with Satara - the baby. "Sieta smelled his elephant smell and it smelled like wild places far, far away."  The next day, straight after school,  Sieta goes back to visit Satara.  Back in her village she looks on the scene with new eyes.  This is a new and strange place but perhaps it can become her new home - a place for new memories and new pictures in her mind.

After reading Home Now you might compare this with The colour of home which has the same illustrator - Karin Littlewood.  For class reading you could also use Tua and the elephant and Elephant Mountain from the Aussie Bites series.