Monday, December 31, 2012

My reading list

I visited my school library today and picked up a small collection of books to read.  You might remember I did this a few weeks ago and then I blogged about each one. I certainly discovered some treasures in that bunch.  I have been away from my library for a whole year and many new titles have been added so I have lots of good reading to catch up on.

Here is a list of books I will read this week :

  • Eddie Pipper by Janeen Brian
  • The Ghost at the point by Charlotte Calder
  • Time Vandals by Craig Cormick
  • Noah Barleywater runs away by John Boyne illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
  • Sam I am by Ilene Cooper
  • Stir it up! by Ramin Ganeshram
  • Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak

Keep your eye on my blog and I will post a review of each of these over the coming days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox illustrated by Julie Vivas

As a young child I regularly visited my little Nana in nursing home and now as an adult I am sadly visiting my mum each day as she has moved into care.  Memories are a slippery thing. I can hardly remember anything about my early years at school, for example, and yet I was there every day of the year.  Equally as a teenager I traveled with my family to Europe but most of this three month long trip is lost to me now.  Loss of memory is not something confined to the old but older people do feel this loss more acutely.  I know my mum does.

An old people's home, a nursing home, a care facility what ever you call it, is the setting for Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.  Wilfrid lives next door and he is a regular and very welcome visitor.  I can certainly testify that a visitor with a smile and a word or two can lighten the day of an older person.  He knows all the people "But his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did. He called her Miss Nancy and told her all his secrets."

Wilfrid overhears his parents talking about how Miss Nancy has lost her memory.  Wilfred is a curios and persistent boy so he goes in search an answer to the most important question of all -  what is a memory.  Each older person shares their wisdom with Wilfrid.

"Something warm"
"Something from long ago"
"Something that makes you laugh"
"Something as precious as gold"

To us these might seem like intangible things but not to Wilfred.  He sets off to find memories for Miss Nancy.  He finds a shoe box of shells he gathered last summer, a puppet that always made people laugh, a medal from his grandfather, his football and a warm egg from under a hen.  He gives these treasures to Miss Nancy "then she started to remember... and the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy's memory had been found again by a small boy, who wasn't very old either."

This is such a precious book.  If you have not seen it try and find it soon - you will be richly rewarded by this special reading experience.  Read Mem Fox's  thoughts about this book listen to her reading the story.  You could try a readers theatre version of this story and here are some detailed lesson ideas.  You can also see the whole book here and a review.

There is so much warmth in the illustrations by Julie Vivas. You just want to hug Wilfrid and his friends. I notice that my copy of this book is signed by Julie Vivas.  I know I have met her several times but I have no memory of where or when this signing happened.  It was fun to discover this today. After reading this book look for another old book long out of print called A rabbit named Harris by Nan Hunt.  It is another special book that deals with the difficult issue of memory loss in the old in a gentle and sensitive way.

Owl babies by Martin Waddell illustrated by Patrick Benson

As January approaches my thoughts are turning to the early weeks when Kindergarten students visit our school library for the first time.  There is so much excitement attached to borrowing the first library book and taking it home for mum or dad to read.  I have a small set of books that I like to read over these weeks - I call them participatory stories because each one allows the children to join in as storytellers. I also like to read books that are perhaps familiar either from pre-school or from home collections.  One of these books which is always popular is Owl Babies.  This is one of those books can boast the most special accolade of all because children always say "Read it again".

Every child and adult has experienced the feeling of loss conveyed in this beautiful book.  The mother owl has gone hunting leaving the three little owls at home alone.  The baby owls have feelings of anxiety and concern but each little owl has a different coping mechanism.  Sarah is the practical one, she takes charge and explains why the mother owl has gone.  She knows the younger owls need comfort so she gathers them all together on one branch.  Percy is a future thinker.  He knows the mother owl has to go away so they can all have delicious food. He is looking forward to a reward for his patience. Yes he is worried but he is also philosophical.  Bill is the smallest of the baby owls and his experience of this separation is almost too hard to witness.  He just knows his mother is gone and he wants her back.  His anxiety builds and builds through the story until finally "Soft and silent, she swooped through the trees to Sarah and Percy and Bill....WHAT'S ALL THIS FUSS?  ... You knew I'd come back."  The baby owls are thinkers and yes they knew she would come back.  Bill is especially pleased all the tension and anxiety are gone and he can happily say "I love my mummy!"

The joy of reading this book comes from the individual characters of the baby owls.  I love to use different voices for each one.  The illustrations are so luminous you can almost touch the owl feathers.  Martin Waddell is a master story teller.  I was once lucky to hear him read Owl babies.  He read with such affection and with a perfect languid pace.  We have a DVD of this book in our library too but we only look at it after a careful reading of this classic heart warming story. Here are some teaching notes.  As a final touch I have three tiny baby owl puppets which come out of my library bag when we read this book.

Here is a comment that sums up the power of Owl Babies :

'Books have long been used to give children a way of looking at and understanding issues that are familiar to them by putting them in a different context'

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year Six recommend ...

Each year I report on books that our departing students recommend in their Year Book.  I was not in my school library in 2012 but I am pleased to see a terrific variety of books on this list.  I have only included books that are in our school library.  Here is the list from 2011 and now for 2012 ...

Year Six 2012 recommend …

  • Boom by Carl Hiaasen
  • The invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Once, Then, Gone Morris Gleitzman
  • A series of Unfortunate events by Lemony Snicket
  • Fearless by Tim Lott
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
  • Brotherband by John Flanagan
  • Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

  • Spirit Walker series by Michelle Paver
  • Rangers Apprentice series by John Flanagan
  • Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve
  • Redwall series by Brian Jacques
  • Wildwood by Colin Meloy
  • Narnia series by CS Lewis
  • Snap by Alison McGhee
  • Double act by Jacqueline Wilson
  • Clarice Bean by Lauren Child
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The brilliant world of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

  • Magyk by Angie Sage
  • Angel Creek by Sally Rippin
  • A horse named Elvis by John Heffernan
  • Why I hate school by Michael Fatarsky
  • The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Candy Floss by Jacqueline Wilson
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • Mud sweat and tears by Bear Grylls
  • Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
  • Moonrunner by Mark Thomason
  • Pangur Ban the White cat by Fay Sampson
  • There’s a boy in the girls bathroom by Louis Sacher
  • UFO Unavoidable family outing by Dave Hackett

Friday, December 28, 2012

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

Hello out there - blog reader!  I have made it!  This is my 400th post and I have nearly reached 50,000 hits. I started my blog at the end of 2008 and I can only say I wish I had started it sooner.  This is such a great way to record all the books I read and as a bonus it has allowed me to think a little more deeply as I read - thinking about how I will discuss a book or which quotes I might use.  One more thing - thank you for reading my blog.  Knowing I have an audience is a huge incentive to keep blogging.

I have been working through my favourite Christmas books so I will finish the year with one more title - Auntie Claus.  This seems like a great choice because this book is such fun to read aloud and I read books aloud in my job every day, it has a timely message about giving and receiving and I did visit New York this year which is the setting for this book.  There are also links between this book and Eloise which I reviewed recently and with The Empty Stocking which was a new discovery for me this year and which has a similar theme.

Sophie's family love Christmas.  Mr Kringle is president of the Jingle Bell Bell company, Mrs Kringle owns the Mistle-toe-to Nail Salon and her brother is named Chris.  The other member of the family is the mysterious Auntie Claus.  Each year just after Halloween Auntie Claus disappears claiming to be going on a business trip.  She does not return until Valentines day.  Where does she go?  Sophie decides to stow away in a packing box to uncover the truth but the truth is a huge surprise.  Sophie arrives at the North pole and is assigned a job as a elf in the mail room.  An announcement comes over the loud speaker that someone is needed to volunteer to visit the coal mines and pick up the  B-B-and-G list - Bad boys and girls. Sophie volunteers but when she looks at the list she does not see her own name.  Instead her brother Chis is on the list.  "On his favourite day of the year, Chris would find only a stinky stocking filled with coal and gunk."

Here is an enthusiastic review.  Here is the author web site for this book where you can hear an extract read by Ellen Burstyn and you can hear the author talking about her book on this short video.  I have also discovered that there is a musical version of this book, there are two sequels and the illustrations have featured in Christmas window displays in famous US Department stores.

You might have been waiting for me to name my number one Christmas book. Well I think it is a three way tie - The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and The Silver Christmas Tree by Pat Hutchins. Auntie Claus is certainly in my top ten so you should plan to read it next Christmas or even sooner if you are still in a festive mood.

Figaro and Rumba and the crocodile cafe by Anna Fienberg illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Here are another pair of incongruous friends - a dog, Figaro and a cat called Rumba.  You might think of the Owl and the Pussycat,   Frog and Toad, Little Bear and Little Tiger in Panama by Janosch, Cat and Fish by Neil Curtis, Bear and Mouse created by Bonny Becker and even Minton and Turtle created also by Anna Fienberg.

Figaro and Rumba is a beginning chapter book - it has six chapters with zany illustrations by Stephen Michael King. I enjoyed the final three chapters more than the earlier ones.  I thought perhaps the intention might be to make Rumba a pessimist and Figaro the optimist but this idea is not really sustained.  Rumba is, however, more practical than Figaro.  He knows their house needs cleaning from time to time especially when the windows become so dirty Figaro cannot see outside.  Rumba also takes time to pack food and other supplies when the two friends set out on adventures.  But it is Figaro who saves the day when Rumba is almost kidnapped or catnapped in the final chapter.

Figaro is very keen to travel on The Very Fast Train.  He has seen it advertised on television.  Nate the rat, who is their friend, has told Fiagaro about the speed, the food and the fun.  Before they can set off there are a few things that hold them up.  House cleaning, saving their friend Nate after a canoe accident and an unexpected visit to the doctor - he is a numbat.  The biggest challenge, though, comes on the train itself when the friends meet a crocodile.  "Figaro studied the crocodile's wide mouth.  He didn't trust his smile.  And his voice was too smooth.  It was sugary and sweet like Mrs Fooozy's chocolate icing but with nothing solid underneath.  It was a voice that left you feeling empty, with sore teeth."

If you are looking for a simple, joyful little chapter book Figaro and Rumba and the crocodile cafe is perfect.  After you read this book look for Jeremiah in the dark woods by Allan Ahlberg which also features a dastardly crocodile.  I will predict this book might be short listed in 2013 for the CBCA awards.  If it is I will be very happy because it is always great to have a junior title for younger readers to share before Book Week.  I also imagine there may be some further adventures for Figaro and Rumba.  It would be good to know a little more about their experiences in Cuba.

The last straw by Fredrick H Thury illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen

Based on the idea of the straw that broke the camels back The Last Straw is the Christmas story told from the point of view of a camel who is asked to carry the gifts of the wise men.

Hoshmakaka is an old camel and his body is suffering all the aches and pains of old age but he is also an arrogant and boastful camel. He has a huge ego and so even though he is asked to carry enormous quantities of gifts for the baby king he does not give in although he does grumble under his breath the whole way.

"Why me? If these men are so wise, don't they know about my joints? My gout? My sciatica? What did you say I am to carry?  How much will it weigh? Besides I have other commitments.  There is a water-drinking competition in Rangal. Then I really must go to the cud-chewing convention in Beemish."  In spite of these objections Hoshmakaka agrees to  do as the voices have commanded.  He makes the boast that he is as strong as ten horses.  The young camels who walk beside Hoshmakaka on this journey to deliver rich gifts to the baby king use this boast to keep him walking.

Along the way more gifts are added including milk from some mountain goats, bags of ground corn, fine silks, two rare birds, pillars of oak, sweetmeats and pastries, jars of honey, jewels, beads, rolls of leather and twenty gallons of wine.  Finally one small boy brings a tiny gift for the baby - a piece of straw for his bed.

"And with that, Hoshmakaka fell to his knees... Then from the humble manger, a tiny hand reached out and touched Hosmakaka."

This is another one of those old Christmas books. It was published in 1998 but you might be lucky and find it in a library.  The illustrations and story remind me of books like The greatest treasure of Charlemagne the King by Nadia Wheatley and The Quilt makers gift by Jeff Brumbeau.  Here is a page of teaching ideas.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas present

What did you get for Christmas?  At the end of a hard night of deliveries Santa discovers there is one present still left in his sack so he must set off again.

 "Harvey Slumfenburger's parents were too poor to buy him presents.  He knew that Harvey Slumfenburger only ever got one present, and that was the present which Father Christmas brought him.  He knew that Harvey Slumfenburger lived in a hut at the top of the Roly Poly Mountain, which was far far away."

Reading this book feels like a marathon mirroring the marathon journey that Santa undertakes on Christmas eve - there will be times when you think you can't make it to the top of the mountain.

Santa has to keep explaining his purpose as he struggles to find the right transport. The reindeer have been far to tired to set off again so Santa walks until he meets a man with an aeroplane. The plane is forced to land when the snow storm becomes too heavy. Santa sets off on foot again until he meets a man with a jeep. The jeep skids into a fence and a tree and while no one is hurt Santa must once again set off on foot until he meets a boy on a motorbike. The bike also slides on the ice so Santa sets off again and meets a girl on skis.  The skis break so next he asks for help from a climber with a rope. Santa finally gets to the top of the cliff and walks the last few meters to the hut.  He climbs down the chimney and delivers the present for Harvey and then poor Santa makes the long journey home.

In the morning Harvey Slumfenburger wakes up and sees a present at the end of his bed.

This book is an absolute classic.  It should be on every Christmas picture book list.  There is real tension, the illustrations are wonderful and there is a surprise on the last page.  Here is a review. I adore the work of John Burningham and after you read this book you should look for Avocado Baby, Where's Julius and my all time favourite Cannonball Simp.  One final thing - do you agree the name Harvey Slumfenburger is absolutely perfect?

Melrose and Croc by Emma Chichester Clark

This is the first book in the series about two special friends Melrose - a yellow dog and Croc who is of course a crocodile.

Since writing this it has been re-named Melrose and Croc Together at Christmas but my copy does not have this extra sub title - which I think actually spoils this gentle Christmas story.

Melrose has moved into a new apartment in the city and he begins to put up his Christmas decorations and tree but his heart is sad.  "I wish I had somebody to do this with,' he said to himself. 'I wish someone else could see them."

Meanwhile a small green crocodile has arrived in town eagerly anticipating his visit to Santa the next morning in the big department store.  "Tomorrow,'  thought Croc, "will be wonderful."

Very sadly when Croc arrives at the big store he discovers he is one day too late.  "Croc felt like crying, but he didn't want people to see."  These words always give me a lump in my throat.

Every reader knows these two special souls are destined to meet and more importantly destined to find happiness at Christmas but just how this happens will surprise you.

There are many books in the Melrose and Croc series but this one is my favourite by far.  I also adore the work of Emma Chichester Clark - her Blue Kangaroo series regularly feature on my read-a-loud list.  I recommend you put it on your Christmas list for next year.

Small change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a word that comes to mind after reading this brilliant book Small Change for Stuart.   I have said this many times but I am absolutely sure you will enjoy this book.  I started to read it after breakfast, I had to go out for a couple of hours and then, over lunch, I finished it.  In fact I delayed my afternoon plans just so I could keep reading...

Stuart has moved to the town where his dad lived as a boy.  Stuart is a small boy with the unfortunate name of S Horten.  In his old town he had plenty of friends and life was good but now he is alone.  His dad writes cross word puzzles and has an extreme interest in obscure words and his mother is a doctor, the sort who peers down a microscope.  She has a new job and this is why the family need to move.

Stuart and his dad go for a walk or a perambulation and as they walk his father tells Stuart some things about the family especially about Great Uncle Tony who was a magician and about the family business where they made mechanisms "Locks and safes ... then the business diversified into coin-operated machinery."  The most important thing his father mentions is a money box that Uncle Tony gave him just before he disappeared.  When they arrive home Stuart retrieves the money box, discovers a hidden compartment where he finds eight threepenny bits.  These are going to be very important as Stuart tries to unlock the mystery of his Uncle and his magic.  Along the way Stuart makes some wonderful friends including the girl next door called April.  She has huge amounts of determination and is a brilliant help to Stuart as he works his way through a series of very cryptic clues.

First stop is the local library.  Stuart is chased by the triplet girls next door, including April, and in desperation he jumps into a red phone box to escape.  While he is standing there the phone rings even though it is clear the cord has been cut.  Stuart answers the phone and it is a call for him from the Beeton Public Library telling him his book is ready.

"I have the book here. Fascinating little volume - it was published in nineteen twenty-three, you know.' From behind the desk he took out a tiny paperback with a faded pink cover and a cracked spine.  It had very few pages....(Stuart) took the book and sat down. It was called Modern Beeton: A photographic record and on each of the eight double pages there was a snapshot of the town."

Stuart sees pictures of the phone box, railway station, swimming pool, cinema, petrol station, fairground and a bandstand.  Oddly there is one blank page and a little boy in every picture with a slightly blurred face.  These will be the places where his clues will lead him.

I do not want to spoil this story - it is a mystery after all.  Here is a review that might convince you, if I haven't, to read this book.  Here is another review!  This book reminded me of The Boy with Magic Numbers which I read recently and strangely also Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg. One more piece of great news - there is a sequel to this book called Big Change for Stuart.  Here is an interview with the author where oddly these two books have very different titles.  One more thing this book is easy to read because there is so much lovely white space.  The margins are wide the the print is large - I really like this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas caravan by Jennifer Beck illustrated by Robyn Belton

The Christmas caravan is one title on my top ten Christmas book list.  The town is holding a Christmas Competition for the best decorated house.  Simon and his mother live in a run down caravan park on the outskirts of the town.

Are you thinking ahead?  Simon lives in a caravan.  It is his home but will the judges even come to look.  Simon works hard.  He has no money but he has an ingenious plan using recycled materials. He makes garlands from old tin cans, plastic bottles in to bells and an old spare tire to support his small tree.  Finally he makes a huge star from tin foil which they hang from the aerial on the caravan roof.

The local newspaper publishes a map showing all the entries in the competition.  We have houses like this is streets near me with huge collections of flashing lights, inflatable Santa Claus and Snowmen coming down chimneys.  Simon's address is listed but no one comes to look. On the evening of the actual judging Simon waits anxiously but again no one comes.

"Perhaps they got lost,' his mother said as she comforted him and tucked him into his bunk. Next morning she telephoned the Mayor.  ... 'This caravan is our home. ... and it was my son's idea to decorate it.  He's very disappointed that you and the other judges didn't come to see it."

Well done mum and well done to the Mayor who does come with the Councillors in his big black car.  He talks to Simon about the decorations and even though the prize has already been awarded the Mayor has a wonderful solution.  Simon receives a special award, one that will change their lives forever but I am not going to spoil the ending.  I can only say it will make you smile.

This is a truly heart warming story about the value of dreams and perseverance and about the importance of community.  I am also pleased to discover Jennifer Beck comes from New Zealand.  I found a set of teaching notes.  We have other books illustrated by Robyn Belton in our school library including the wonderful Bantam and the Soldier.

Christmas bear by Sal Murdocca

I have been recommending Christmas Bear as a Christmas read-aloud for years. Sadly this is another one of those treasured books that is now out of print.

Santa has a terrible accident in the snow on Christmas eve.  Bear is old and finding it quite difficult to settle - he should be hibernating. He finally falls into an exhausted sleep when there is a knock on his window. His friend Robin usually wakes him up in the spring after she catches her first worm but she has come on this snowy night because she needs bear to help a man who has fallen in the snow. Bear does not like humans.

"Bear walked slowly though the snow. Squeak, squeak went his big feet and paws.  When they reached the part of the forest where the tall pines grew, Bear saw a small figure lying in the snow. Bear came close and saw that he was dressed in red.  He stood upon his hind legs and growled. But the little man lay still. Bear approached him and sniffed his face.  It was not a bad smell.  Bear picked up the little man and carried him back to the house."

When he wakes Santa explains  - he needs Bear to deliver all the presents this Christmas.  "Bear felt old and tired" but he agrees to help and sets off to find the sleigh and rescue the reindeer.  Getting down all those chimneys is hard work - a tight fit.  Bear returns home after a busy night to a celebration of hot chocolate.  Santa asks Bear what he would like for Christmas. "I would like to be able to catch fish easily. I would love to be able to climb trees and find the honey again."

Santa does grant these wishes but the solution might surprise you. Bear sees two special gifts on his door step when he wakes up in the spring.  One good turn deserves another. Hope you can find Christmas Bear in your library next Christmas.  This book reminded me of Moon Cake by Frank Asch which is also a book about hibernation.

Jesus' Christmas party by Nicholas Allen

If you need a simple version of the Christmas story from the Bible Jesus' Christmas party is perfect.  It is funny, easy to read and contains charming little water colour cartoon-style drawings.

The Innkeeper has settled down for a good night's sleep when there is a knock at the door.  He has no room but he tells Mary and Joseph to go round the back.  A few minutes later they knock again and ask for a small blanket.

"Then the innkeeper shut the door, climbed the stairs, got into bed and went to sleep"

Later there is another knock at the door and another and another as the shepherds and three kings arrive. Finally the Innkeeper becomes furious over all these interruptions.

"RIGHT - THAT DOES IT.  So he got out of bed. Stomped down the stairs, threw open the door, went round the back, stormed into the stable, and was just about to speak when ..'Ssshh!' whispered everybody you'll wake the baby!'  Baby? said the Innkeeper.... And just at that moment, suddenly, amazingly, his anger seemed to fly away."

I highly recommend looking for other titles by Nicholas Allen - his books are just fabulous. If you need a Christmas book that shows a different point of view - this is perfect - the Nativity story from the point of view of the Innkeeper himself.

The simple text is as approachable as Allan's deft, affectionately humorous cartoon-style illustrations, but this is not a trivialization. It's a gentle nudge to the reader's imagination: What would it really have been like to be there? Charming.

If you take a mouse to the movies by Laura Numeroff illustrated by Felicia Bond

Following on from If you give a mouse a cookie it is now Christmas time.  The young boy and his mouse take a snowy walk down the the movies.  Naturally they buy some popcorn.  The mouse wants to string the popcorn together to make a garland for their Christmas tree.

On the way home they buy a Christmas tree, play in the snow and build a snow man.  Back at home the little mouse takes off his wet overalls, settles down to dry off and listens to some Christmas carols.  Then the boy and mouse make some fabulous Christmas ornaments to hang on their tree. Standing back to admire his handiwork the mouse realizes something important is missing from the tree - a popcorn garland.

"So he'll want to make another one.  He'll ask you for some popcorn. And chances are, when you give him the popcorn, he'll want you to take him to the movies."

I adore reading If you take a mouse to the Movies at Christmas time to the youngest children in our school.  It is fun to explain all the different customs to my Australian children. We do not string popcorn - it would go stale or worse - be eaten by bugs or mice.  Young children do not really use the word ornaments we usually call them decorations and of course the children in my summer time school beside the beach are not familiar with snow forts. As a bonus I have a toy of the mouse and under his overalls it is fun to reveal that he is wearing candy cane boxer shorts just like the ones in the book - very cute!

Here is a clever animation of If you give a mouse a cookie. Here are some lesson ideas and a page of classroom inspirations.

The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and only Ivan is one of the saddest books I have ever read.  I hoped when I reached the end the sadness would lift but it does not, well not completely.  Ivan is only partly free - he is now living in a zoo but at least he has the company of other gorillas. Having said that I do think everyone should read this book. Books should make us feel things.  Being sad is a real emotion and not one we should shy away from or avoid.  Ivan is a hero in the true sense of the word. He has wise words to share. At times this book feels like a verse novel.

"I have been in my domain for nine thousand eight hundred and fifty-five days.
For a while when I was young and foolish, I thought I was the last gorilla on earth.
I tried not to dwell on it.  Still, it's hard to stay upbeat when you thing there are no more of you.
Then one night after I watched a movie ... I saw a lush forest. I heard birds murmuring. The grass moved. The trees rustled.
Then I saw him.  He was a bit threadbare and scrawny and not as good-looking as I am, to be honest. But sure enough, he was a gorilla."

Ivan, Stella and later Ruby are part of a collection of animals that live in a shopping mall.  This is a circus that does not travel. There are shows three times a day and gift stores where you can buy souvenirs of your visit. I found this so very very sad. The poster advertising their act is faded, the shopping mall is run down, crowds are dwindling and sadly the man in charge has become vicious.

Here is the web site for this book.  Take a look at the opening video it is so beautiful and poignant and contains some fabulous quotes from authors and reviewers.

I have been hearing about this book all year.  I read the whole book in one sitting.  I am certain the sentiments of this book will linger with me for many years.  I watched a video of a class in America. They were listening to their teacher read a list of top five books. I guess it was the top five for 2012.  There is one little girl close to the front of the camera. She can hardly contain her excitement as she anticipates and hopes The One and Only Ivan will be named the number one book!  When it is, the whole class just explodes!

Here is an interview with the author. Here is a set of teaching ideas. Read an extract on the publisher's web site.

The other hero in this story is Bob, a stray dog who is a secret companion for Ivan.  Ivan promises to take care of young Ruby.

"I shouldn't have made that promise, Bob.  I just wanted ... to make Stella happy, I guess. But I can't save Ruby. I can't even save myself.
I flop onto my back.  The cement is always cold, but tonight it hurts.
Bob leaps on to my belly. 'You are the One and Only Ivan,' he says. 'Mighty Silverback.'
He licks my chin, and he is not even checking for leftovers.
'Say it,' Bob commands.
I look away.
'Say it, Ivan.'
I don't answer so Bob licks my nose until I can't stand it any longer.
'I am the One and Only Ivan,' I mutter.
'And don't you ever forget it,' he says."

On the final pages of this book you will read the astonishing fact that this book is based on real events. There really was a gorilla who was held in a shopping mall for twenty-seven years until community action saved him. Here are some words from the Kirkus review.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas star called Hazel by Vivian French illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

Your teacher announces that your class will do a special play of the Christmas story.  What part do you want?  Hazel expects to be Mary but instead she is cast as a star.  At first she is upset but then the teacher kindly explains "This is a very special star' Mrs Hill told her ... this star is baby Jesus' very own star." Hazel feels better about the role so her thoughts turn to costumes and props but it seems all her ideas are not quite right and Hazel now feels thoroughly upset.  She can only see the negative side of this whole process and is not even happy when her mum says she is coming to watch.

The day of the play arrives.  Mum and baby Paul are in the audience and Hazel looks just like a star but everything is not quite ready.  Someone has forgotten to bring the doll they were going to use as the baby Jesus.  Hazel steps in to save the day.

This Christmas book is perfect to read to a preschool or Kindergarten child.  It was published in 1997 but you might be lucky and find a copy.  Oddly in America this book has the title A Christmas star called Hannah. I wonder why?  Here is the author web site.  The illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert are perfect. I love the way she shows the expressions of the young children.

Truffle's Christmas by Anna Currey

Recently someone asked me which is my favourite Christmas book. This is one of those impossible questions because I have so many Christmas books that I love but this one, Truffle's Christmas by Anna Currey, would definitely be on my short list.

All the young mice write letters to Santa but little Truffle simply cannot decide what to ask for.  He would like a hula hoop but he knows they all need a new blanket to keep out the cold.  Finally Truffle settles on the hula hoop and he throws the blanket letter away.

Here is the envelop from Truffle's letter


On Christmas Eve it is especially cold and Truffle is pushed right to the edge - he simply cannot sleep so he decides to sit up and explain to Santa himself that he has changed his mind - they really do need a new blanket.  He waits in the mousehole, then he decides to venture out into the snow.  He takes an apple core, a bread crust and half a peanut as a night time picnic. He eats each of these treats very very slowly but still Santa does not arrive.  Truffle feels tired and alone and eventually he falls asleep as it starts to snow. He does not notice a fox, owl and tabby cat have been watching him and are all set to pounce.  The tension on this page is wonderful because just as they all jump the sleigh arrives. Truffle wakes up tries to explain to Santa about the blanket and hula hoop dilemma.  When they arrive back at the mousehole Santa finds a tiny but important piece of crumpled paper.

There are two reasons why I think this book tugs at my heart.  I have a strong sense of needs versus wants.  This mouse family need a blanket.  Secondly many many years ago I saw a movie about a poor child who is living in an orphanage and magically on Christmas eve someone picks her up still sleeping and takes her to a new home, family, food and the most beautiful bedroom.  I think it might have been a Shirley Temple movie. This book reminded me of that experience.

Here is a video of the book.  Make sure you look for Truffle's Christmas - it is a magical Christmas story for the whole family.

Thank you Santa by Margaret Wild illustrated by Kerry Argent

Samantha writes to Santa after Christmas and so begins a series of letters over the whole year.  Christmas in Australia can be very hot.  Samantha is worried about the polar bears at the zoo - how hot they look even in Spring.

Samantha is such a lovely giving girl. She has received wool and knitting needles for Christmas so when she hears the littlest reindeer has a runny nose and a bad cough, she sets about knitting a jumper for him.  In Australia we call a sweater a jumper.  In order to understand just how bad things are for the polar bear at the zoo Samantha lies in the hot summer sun wearing three jumpers, a hat, scarf and gloves.

There is one letter in this book for each month of the year and each letter ends with a PS, PPS and PPPS.  Santa shares details of his life at the North Pole and his concern that the littlest reindeer may have to stay home next Christmas.  Meanwhile Samantha asks lots of questions about the weather and animals.  Samantha continues to worry about the littlest reindeer but then she solves the problem herself by knitting him a warm jumper, scarf, cap and bootees.  Mean while Santa has devised a wonderful solution for the polar bear at the zoo.  They also receive a special gift on Christmas day.

The Kerry Argent illustrations in this special Christmas book are just perfect including the twist at the end which shows another year of letter writing is about to begin.  This is a very special Christmas book with a distinctive Australian flavour. Sadly I am sure it is out of print but we do have two copies in our library perhaps it will be in yours.

The good little Christmas tree by Ursula Moray Williams illustrated by Gillian Tyler

It is Christmas eve and this morning I went to my school library and borrowed fifteen Christmas books. I set myself a target of 400 reviews on this blog by the end of the year - actually my original target was 500 but I know now that this was way too optimistic.

The Good Little Christmas Tree is a book that has been in our school library for over ten years but until tonight I had not read it. I now discover it was first published in 1943 and contained special paper cut illustrations made by Ursula Moray Williams herself.

This is quite a wordy Christmas story but it contains a lovely sentiment.  A poor farmer buys a simple, small Christmas tree for his children, the first one they have ever had.  He knows his wife will do her best to make it look quite splendid but he can't help wishing the tree might have a star on top, and tiny toys in the branches and sparkly tinsel.  The man's wife ties cookies to the tree branches with scarlet threads.  That night while everyone is asleep the tree jumps out of his pot and goes in search of special decorations so the children can enjoy some true Christmas magic the next morning.  Sadly everything he needs for his branches involves a sacrifice of  pine needles and even his strong branches.  By the end of the night the little tree does have some splendid decorations but "when he bent over the pool and saw his reflection in the moonlight he was so overcome by his miserable appearance that he shrank back into the snow as if he wished to hide himself completely... It was as if the stars, the slippers, the horse, the candles, the icicles, the toadstools and the diamonds hung on the arms of some ragged scarecrow!"

As he lies in the snow Father Christmas himself passes by.  He listens to the tree and learns about all his good intentions.  I know you are expecting a magical ending - you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Edward Lear born in 1812

2012 has been the National Year of Reading here is Australia but until last week I did not know it was also the anniversary of the birth of Edward Lear.  He is best known for The Owl and the Pussycat but he wrote so many other nonsense verses and famous limericks. Something I did not know, he was also a very skilled illustrator of birds and mammals.

You can listen to a fabulous broadcast about his work here. I was interested to learn Lear painted some Australian fauna sent back to England by John Gould including budgerigars.  He also found inspiration for some of his character names from the local names given to specimens in the Royal Society collection.

Here is a quote from the radio program

A lot of the animals when they came in had really strange local names, like there was an eland that was called the Ging-e-Jonga, and other animals with really quite strange and exotic names; Whiskered Yarke, which I think was a monkey, the Aequitoon, I think they were deer. A lot of them were Indian actually but they were names given to them in their original countries, so when they arrived back they arrived with names like the Jungli-bukra. I think it's an antelope, again it's an Indian one.

Charles Darwin also used the drawings of Edward Lear.

 In my collection I have a copy of The new Vestments with illustrations by Arnold Lobel - marvelous black and white line drawings.

"By way of a hat he'd a loaf of Brown Bread
In the middle of which he inserted his head.
His shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,
The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice."

I first encountered a picture book of this one with an altered title The old man and the edible suit. This is not in our library but I have included a picture of the cover below.

We have over ten editions of The Owl and the Pussycat in our library including audio versions and big books.  It is fun to read this famous poem and see the variety of ways illustrators have interpreted things like the pea green boat and the wonderful runcible spoo not to mention the owl and the pussycat themselves. I am sorry to have missed this, but May 12th was The Owl and the Pussycat day - Edward Lear's birthday.  By the way runcible is a word that if found in some dictionaries thanks to Edward Lear.

The Un-forgotten coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

I am usually very careful not to read similar books back to back.  This is one of the techniques I have that helps me remember plots of the books I have read so that I can talk to my students and staff often years and years after I have originally read a particular book.  Yesterday I made a mistake.  I read Precious and the mystery of Meerkat Hill followed by The Unforgotten coat.  Both books are about the arrival of new students in a school and about how one girl becomes their friends and in turn makes discoveries about the lives of the new students.

Setting is one big difference. Precious and the mystery of Meerkat Hill is firmly set in Botswana in Africa while the Unforgotten coat takes place in Liverpool in England.  Chingis and his brother Nergui have arrived from Mongolia.  Their clothes are strange and they are determined to stay together even though Nergui should be in a class for younger children.  The teacher Mrs Spendlove (yes you should think about this name) seems powerless to intervene.  The narrator, Julie, becomes a Good Guide for the brothers as they navigate life in their new country all documented with the help of a Polaroid camera.

This book set out as a journal and it is a joy to read.  There are moments of laughter, tension and many school scenes you will recognise.

I enjoyed an early scene when Chingis says Nergui cannot take off his hat because the hood is calming - he is an eagle who might go insane and kill someone.

"Year Six.  We had been at school for six years and until that moment I thought I had probably learned all I would ever need to learn.  I knew how to work out the volume of a cube. I knew who had painted the "Sunflowers". I could tell you the history of St Lucia. I knew about the Tudors and lines of symmetry and the importance of eating five portions of fruit a day.  But in all that time I had not had a single lesson in eagle-calming.  I had never even heard the subject mentioned. I''d had no idea that a person might need eagle-calming skills."

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a master story teller.  We have his books Millions and Framed.  This is a much shorter book but that is part of the wonder of the writing that as a reader you are left to think for yourself about these children, their lives, the past and their possible future.  Not everything is spelt out for you here - you have to connect the dots for yourself.

You can read a little more of the plot here.  Here is a detailed review.

The book is great. No question. But it’s the Afterword that deserves just as much attention. In it the reader learns where Boyce got the inspiration for this story. Turns out, during the very first school visit Mr. Boyce ever did, he sat with a group of kids that included a Mongolian girl by the name of Misheel. Then one day the Immigration Authorities took her away in the night and Boyce was left with the image of Misheel’s abandoned coat. He wanted to make a documentary with the kids of going to Mongolia to return the coat but that fell through. So it was he wrote this story instead with new characters and, at its core, an abandoned coat. Again.

Precious and the mystery of Meerkat Hill by Alexander McCall Smith

The first Alexander McCall Smith book I ever read was Mike's magic seeds.  It is such a favourite with me that I read it every year to the students in my school.  Then along came The No. 1  Lady's detective agency books and television series. Now we have a set of junior novels which feature a young Precious Ramotswe and they are brilliant.

Alexander McCall Smith makes writing look so easy - his words and ideas just flow from the page. In this installment two new children arrive at school and Precious is eager to make friends. "... she remembered what it was like to be new to a school. Everybody seems to know lots of people and you know none. It is not at all easy." Precious talks with Pontsho and Ted in the school playground and because she is a curious girl who wants to be a detective in a short time she discovers quite a lot about the newcomers.

"She asked them whether they liked apples, and Teb shook her head. 'I have never tasted an apple,' she said. 'Are they good?'  Precious tried not to show her surprise. Imagine never having tasted an apple!  She herself loved apples ... then she saw something she had not noticed before. Neither of the children was wearing shoes. It did not take her long to work things out. Teb and Pontsho must be very poor."

This is true. The children are poor in material things but rich in the love of their extended family and wonderful pet Meerkat.  When their pregnant cow goes missing Precious joins the search and by following a trail of hoof prints the cow is located and reunited with the family.

In Precious and the mystery of Meerkat Hill there are a number of sub stories and many chapters end with gentle words of wisdom.

"Meerkats like attention.  They like people to pat them on the head and say nice things. Rather like the rest of us don't you think?"

If you like mystery stories and want to read books set in exotic locations look for this series.  We have the first book in our school library Precious and the Monkeys.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Animal Alphabet photos by F. Vopat text by JF Burkegs

I thought tonight I might just share the oldest book in my personal collection - a book that I adored as a child - Animal Alphabet.  I should first mention all the photos are black and white - which now looks quite charming.

I especially remember I loved the end papers (see below), the photo of the lamb and the mysterious Ibex.  Looking at this book now I see the animal choices are quite odd.  There is a horse for H and a Foal for F, Farm animals mingle with zoo and wild creatures and the Hedgehog is not on the H page but rather U for urchin.

"Urchins are often called hedgehogs or hedgepigs though really they are not very like pigs. They are friendly and useful creatures, which eat slugs and other harmful insects.  Some people make pets of them. At first they roll up so that their prickles stick out, but they soon get to know people who are kind to them."

Two things I notice about this text - for an alphabet book intended for a very young audience it seems very wordy and I am not really sure slugs are harmful.

We have a terrific collection of alphabet books in our library.  My favourite is by Satoshi Kitamura What's inside the alphabet book.

The Secret Zoo by Brian Chick

One of the things I enjoy doing is remembering how I came to find a particular book.  This seems quite difficult with an e-book.  With a paper book it might be that you borrowed it from a library - you can see the library stamp,  you might have been given the book as a gift - this is so special you will remember the giver or you might have bought the book for yourself in a bookshop - confronted with a myriad of choices you are sure to remember this occasion when you carefully selected this particular book especially since you have spent time looking at the cover.  None of this is true for an e-book so I have no idea how The Secret Zoo by Brian Chick came to be on my Kindle.  I certainly did not select it based on the Horn Book review as they gave it a four rating which is quite low. I would have given it a five!

I did say in my profile I would share favourite books and books I have read and enjoyed so I probably should not talk about The secret zoo since I think it is one of the most disjointed and messy books I have ever read.  At the end of this story you really know nothing about the three main characters, you have no sense of relief when Megan, Noah's sister is found just as you had no real concern that she was missing from her family home for three weeks.  The animal characters in this book are simply odd.  They understand humans and share some special bond but they cannot communicate with the children except at a very rudimentary level.  The animals have very corny names the polar bear is Blizzard, the overweight large penguin is Podgy, Mr Tail Tail is a langur monkey and Little Big Horn is a rhino.  Speaking of names I kept expecting the name Noah to have some huge significance but it doesn't.  The final laugh for me came when the author had koalas sitting in trees keeping watch doesn't he know they sleep most of the day.

I don't want to try to describe the plot except to say I did like the idea that animals in the zoo had a secret and much better life in another place accessed via tunnels and magic curtains. This is quite a long book, it has disjointed twists and turns especially towards the end and very strangely involves a huge battle with a large number of Sasquatches in the final chapters.  We do not have this book in our library but if it sounds good I am sure you can find it.  There are four books in the series.  The Kirkus reviewer sums up my feelings :

While the plot has page-turner potential, the narrative gets mired down in description, costing the novel much of its sense of suspense. Chick dwells far too long on the history of the zoo and traveling through the intricate system of portals and far too little on developing characters and building a sense of urgency—two things that would go a long way toward keeping readers invested in the story.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Celebrating 200 years of Grimm

The Grimm brothers collected 211 fairy tales starting with a collection published in 1812.  Among the best known are Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel.  In our school library we have a huge collection of illustrated fairy tales some simple versions for younger readers and others intended for an older audience.  Many have gorgeous illustrations. One of my favourite books as a child was a huge fairy tale anthology which included many of the famous stories. You can see a full list of all the tales they collected here.

Today Google celebrated the 200 year anniversary with a cute little slide show or doodle based on Little Red Riding Hood.  You can read about this process here or view a video of the slides with music.

Do you have a favourite Grimm tale? My favourite fairy tale is actually by Hans Christian Andersen and not the Grimm Brothers -  The Six Swans or The Wild Swans.  I have included an image from my old book which features photos of puppets and an interesting cover made from plastic that you move to see in 3D from the 1960s.  This story and this particular edition fascinated me as a child.

The vanishment of Thomas Tull by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

The Vanishment of Thomas Tull is a book from my permanent read-a-loud collection.  I have a handful of books that I read to students every year and Thomas Tull is one of them.  The Ahlbergs are master story tellers - you might know this from The Jolly Postman, Each Peach Pear Plum, Peepo, and Jeremiah in the Dark Woods to name just a handful of their special titles.

"When Thomas Tull was seven years old he stopped growing, which was bad, and began shrinking, which was worse.  By the time he was seven and a half none of his clothes fitted him at all; and when his eighth birthday arrived he had to stand on a box to blow his candles out."

These are the opening lines of The Vanishment of Thomas Tull.  Don't you love that word 'vanishment'.  Thomas is clearly shrinking - will he completely vanish?  Mrs Tull is hysterical with fear and berates her long suffering husband Mr Tull to do something!  A cast of interesting characters arrive after Mr Tull advertises :

"1000 Pounds  REWARD
One thousand pounds reward is offered to any man woman or child who is able to prevent Master Thomas Tull of 158 Balaclava Road from shrinking away.  A further one thousand pounds will be paid to anyone who can restore this well-loved but unfortunate boy to his former size."

The family try food cooked by world famous chefs and doctors from around the world like the Honorable Doctor Chop-Chop from China who uses an Enlargero-Phonotron - but it does not work only his rabbit gets bigger.  Other people come trying to claim the reward.  A little girl even tries to blow Thomas up with a bicycle pump.  Thomas also dances with a duchess and flies with a Baron but Thomas keeps shrinking and then one day he disappears!  Here is a hint - all the downstairs furniture from the Tull's house also disappears that night.

There are detailed line drawings all through this book. I especially like the page where Dr Gristlebone tries to stretch Thomas.  This is another one of those little out of print books but you might be lucky and find a copy in your library I even found one this year in a local second hand bookshop.  You might like to read about Janet and Allan Ahlberg here.

Tuesday by David Wiesner

David Wiesner is one of those super talented illustrators who creates master pieces in the form of picture books. The first David Wiesner book I read was June 29, 1999. It introduced me to some oddly named but real vegetables like arugula.

Tuesday is an almost wordless or textless picture book - it contains an amazing fantasy story all told through rich night time illustrations. The story begins on Tuesday evening around eight.  The scene is a swamp and the moon is rising.  The first surprise comes as you turn the page - two huge frogs sitting on lily pads which are floating above the swamp and so the adventures begins as the frog take off over the neighborhood.  At 11.21 a man sitting in his kitchen enjoying a late night snack sees the frogs outside his window.  Later the frogs fly in the open window of an old lady as she dozes by the television. At 4.38  they flee a slobbering dog.  As the sun rises the frogs arrive back in their swamp.  That morning the town's people and police awake to the mystery of discarded lily pads lying all over the town.  The final twist, though, is on the last page - the time is next Tuesday at 7.58pm.

If you have not seen books illustrated by David Wiesner you are in for a real treat.  Take a look at his web site.  Here is a video of Tuesday. Discussion Questions. We have all of his picture books in our school library so ask to borrow one today.  Here is one word from a review that sums up this quirky book - nifty!

Footprints in the butter by Peter Mayle illustrated by Arthur Robbins

If I am famous for anything it is probably for introducing hundreds of children to Chilly Billy the little man who lives in your 'fridge and turns the light on and off.  The Amazing adventures of Chilly Billy is long out of print which is so sad.  An even more obscure book is the sequel Footprints in the butter.  In 1988 when I read Chilly Billy to a group of Year three children one of the parents from this group spied the sequel at a remainder book shop.  I am so lucky that she bought it for me.

Before you get really excited Footprints in the butter is a fun book to read but it is not nearly as fabulous as The Amazing Adventures of Chilly Billy.

As the story opens Lily or Chilly Lily as she is now known, spies footprints across the top of the butter.  Billy makes a sword from an icicle and the two set out to look for the culprit.  They don't find anyone but Billy has another wonderful tool in his collection (do you remember his amazing stretchy pole for cleaning?) - a Snooper - which lets him find anything that is breathing in the 'fridge.  The Snooper goes BeepBeepBeep near a large bump of ice.  Inside the ice is a ladybird - a gentleman named Spotty.  Now Lily and Billy have a huge dilemma - how will they free Spotty from his ice prison. Just like in the first book, Billy calls for help using his walkie talkie tuning into the I.C.E. (In Case of Emergencies) wavelength.  The Mad Jumper, Stripy Norman, Cousin Albert and a new character Orville the Very Fat Beetle all arrive to help.

Orville is very fat - can you guess how they crack the ice?  All Orville wants for a reward is a nice chunk of liver sausage.  As a thank you Spotty takes Lily and Billy on a flight around the 'fridge.

As in The Amazing Adventures of Chilly Billy, Footprints in the butter has delightful colour illustrations by Arthur Robbins and this second book is a larger format which allows you to get up close to the eccentric cast of characters.

I cannot say look for this book in your library because it won't be there but perhaps one day a publisher will discover this little gem and it will be republished - fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hailstones and Halibut bones Adventures in colour by Mary O'Neill

My love of this old poetry book begins with the front cover.  I am a major fan of lighthouses.  This illustration comes from the poem What is Blue?  Each poem has a title like this - What is Red? What is Gold? and so on.

My favourite poem is What is Green?  Here are some lines that I love:

Green is the grass
And the leaves of trees
Green is the smell
Of a country breeze
Green is coolness
You get in the shade
Of the tall old woods
Where the moss is made.
April is green
Peppermint too.
Every elf has
One green shoe.

In my library I have an old video that compliments this lyrical book.  This book was first published in 1961 but reading it now still feels as fresh as that country breeze.

Here is a set of lesson ideas.  You can see some of the illustrations by Leonard Weisgard here.

You might also like The Black book of Colours. I met the illustrator Rosana Faria at the IBBY Congress in London this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wishbone by Janeen Brian illustrated by Kilmeny Niland

There is a little book in our library called Green Fingers by Emily Rodda from the Solo series.  The premise is that if you plant something - anything - it will grow.  So the boy in this story plants parts of a bicycle and yes!  he grows a bicycle.

In this book Wishbone, Henry is desperate for a dog.  This is something I really identify with.  All through primary school I wished desperately for a dog and then in Year 7 I got one - a beautiful Labrador crossed with Border Collie called Charlie. He was smart and handsome and my very best friend.

Living next door to Henry is a dog called Wagger.  Wagger belongs to Mr Perry and while Wagger is fun to play with Henry really wants a dog of his very own.  Then one day Wagger gives Henry a special bone. Henry plants the bone beside his mother's bean seeds and each day he waters his bone and waits.  The beans grow up big and strong but no dog comes.  "Days passed and the bean plants great tall and green and rambly.  But the place where Henry had planted the bone stayed brown and bare.  Then one morning Henry heard a small excited bark ..."

When I sat down to blog this book tonight I had a lovely surprise because I had not realized the illustrator was Kilmeny Niland.  I went to a tribute exhibition of her work earlier this year. Sadly she died in 2009.

It is fun to read books about dogs and we have so many in our library.  Among my favourite picture books are Cannonball Simp by John Burningham, Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, Francie's Paper Puppy by Achim Broger and Let's get a pup by Bob Graham.  I know Wishbone is the perfect addition to this collection and I will add it as another one to read aloud.  I also collect toys so I have all the special dog characters like Kipper, Clifford and Spot.

You can take a look inside this book here and a review worth reading too.