Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

There are some books that I read where I just scream at the main character.  I don't want them to fall into danger or make wrong choices or miss warning signs.  This is exactly how I felt right through Bliss.  Rosemary or Rose for short is a wonderful character.  She is full of self doubt and feels unloved and under-appreciated but she is really a very resourceful and caring girl.

Rose lives with her two brothers called Sage and Ty short for Thyme and her baby sister Leigh short for Parsley.  Have you worked this out Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

The family, four children and mum and dad, live at their cake shop. "The kitchen of the Bliss home also happened to be the kitchen of the Follow your Bliss Bakery, which Rose's parents operated out of a sunny front room that faced a bustling street in Calamity Falls.  Where most families had a couch and a television, the Blisses had a counter filled with pies, a cash register, and a few booths and benches for customers."

Purdy Bliss and her husband Albert are called away on urgent business and so Rose and her siblings are left to manage the cake shop but this is no ordinary cake shop.  There is magic behind the refrigerator and a cookbook filled with secret recipes.  Just as they leave, Purdy gives Rose a little key to this important book "an ancient leather bound volume of enchanting recipes."  Rose promises to keep the book locked safely away and never give the key to anyone.

The dust has hardly settled following her parents departure when a mysterious Aunt arrives on a motorcycle.  Her name is Lilly.  "The figure removed its black helmet with gloved hands, coated in silver spikes. The rider was a young woman - the tallest, most sensational-looking woman Rose had ever seen outside of a movie screen. She had strong black eyebrows, a long Roman nose, and short black hair cropped close to her scalp in a chic pixie cut.  Her full lips were painted red, and her big white teeth glinted in the sun.  She was the kind of woman who looked like she belonged in the pages of a magazine - the kind of woman Rose secretly wished she would grow up to become."

This is a wonderful book. I think it would make a great read-a-loud for children aged 9 and up but be warned this is only book one!  There is a sequel called "A Dash of Magic" and I for one need to grab this second book tomorrow so I can keep following Rose and all the twists and turns of her frantic life.

Here is a review of Bliss.

Claude in the spotlight by Alex T Smith

If you are in need of a quick read and a terrific laugh out loud book run and I mean RUN! into your library and grab Claude in the spotlight.  I have talked about this cute little hound called Claude before.  I think these books just get better and better.

Claude and his trusty sidekick Sir Bobblysock go on an adventure where they find themselves in a ballet class. The class are rehearsing for a variety show which will be performed that very day.  Claude dazzles the teacher with his splendid dancing (there is a tiny fly inside his jumper) and so the teacher, with the perfect name of Miss Highkick-Spin, convinces him to enter. The prize is simply way too irresistible to say no - "the best act wins a grand prize - all the cakes you can eat from Mr Lovelybuns' Bakery. He is judging the competition."

There is, however, more than just a fly inside Claude's jumper.  There is a fly in the theater in the form of a ghost and all the acts are ending in chaos.  It is up to Claude to save the day, and perhaps he will even win the prize!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A day to remember by Jackie French illustrated by Mark Wilson

Huge congratulations to Jackie French for all her research and for telling us the story of ANZAC day - ANZAC Day as a commemoration. Equally Marc Wilson has clearly used primary sources as an inspiration for his drawings and illustrated photographs.  The images and text are a perfect partnership.

This book is sure to be given an award by the CBC as you can see it is short listed in the Picture book category.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about A Day to remember because it covers so much of our history from 1915 to the present.  Over the course of this chronological text you can read about various conflict situations and wars that Australia has participated in and read about how our commemorations have evolved in cities and in country towns.

"Across the world, in places where Anzacs served or suffered, remembrances are held."

Over the last fifteen years a large number of excellent picture books have been published which we read to our students around the time of ANZAC Day.  Here is a list of some that are perfect for our youngest students.

Here are some teaching notes for this important book.

I am going to quote from the back cover :

"Each year on 25 April the nation stops to remember.  This is the story of that day.  This beautiful picture book traces the story of Anzac Day through the last century. From those who first stood in silence at dawn, and wore rosemary or poppies for remembrance, to children of today who wear their grandparents' medals, an ever-increasing number in Australia and New Zealand, and around the world pause to remember the first Anzacs landing at Gallipoli."

It's a Miroocool! by Christine Harris illustrated by Ann James

The first thing that struck me reading It's a Miroocool is the wonderful way Ann James has captured the scene.  Her depiction of the Australian bush, a farm in drought and the red dirt and spinifex grass around this outback station are perfect. The book almost feels hot and dry.

I adore reading books about the tooth fairy to children in Grade 1.  It is about this time that nearly all children have lost at least one and often many more teeth.  At this age children are so caught up in the magic of the tooth fairy.  That you could lose some thing and perhaps get money is so exciting.

When we talk about the tooth fairy I like to read Little Big Feet by Ingrid Schubert, Oliver Sundew Tooth Fairy by Sam McBratney, April Underhill tooth fairy by Bob Graham and Andrew's loose tooth by Robert Munsch.

I think the most special part of It's a Miroocool is the ending but I won't spoil this. I also like the way the story has two halves.  Preparation for the arrival of the tooth fairy and the events during the night that threaten to destroy these careful arrangements.

My friend at Kinderbookswitheverything recently showed me her favourite Easter book called Muddy Footprints.  Sadly this book is out of print and I do not have a copy in my school library but if you can find this book it would be fun to compare Muddy Footprints with It's a Miroocool.

There are other books about Audrey but I must confess I have not read them.  Now that I have met Audrey I plan to bring them all home.  Here is a little song about Audrey. Here are some teaching notes.

I always make great discovering when I write this blog and I have just discovered Ann James illustrated the wonderful book A pet for Mrs Arbuckle.  This is such an old book but one that I adore sharing with our students.  I have also found a blog for Audrey herself!

It's a Mirocool is another book short listed by the CBCA.  We now need to wait and see if it is a winner in the eyes of the judges.  I am very sure it will be a winner in the eyes of the children!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Coat by Julie Hunt illustrated by Ron Brooks

The Coat is the perfect book to be selected for the CBCA short list in the Picture Book of the Year category because it is a picture book that will linger with you long after you finish reading it just as John Brown Rose and the midnight cat  did all those year ago.

I am so happy that so many of the short listed books this year have made use of their end papers.  Ron has included two scenes of the countryside in The Coat - one in sepia and the other in full colour.  Perhaps this is a reflection of the life of the man - he lives his life in a small way, his self esteem is low, his life perhaps lacks colour, then he takes a journey with the coat and his life is transformed. On the final end paper we see a mirror image of the same scene but this time it is in full colour.  The leaves on the trees almost seem to shine.

This same theme is used through the book with the colours added as the story progresses.

The coat needs the man to set him free.  The man needs to coat to reach his full potential and by the end of the book the coat and the man are equal partners moving onward through the journey of life.

I love one of the tiny details in this book.  Julie Hunt writes "the man blinked and stared.  He noticed it was the sort of coat someone important would wear.  It had a velvet collar and a buttonhole that looked as if it was waiting for a flower."  Ron Brooks includes this flower on the last page (and on the front cover). "Where are you going?' the doorman asked.  'When will you be back?' 'Who knows,' said the man. 'Who knows,' said the coat.  And they strode off into the night."

I am not an art scholar but here are a number of reviews many of which explain the artist and painting references used by Ron Brooks.

When we read this book over the next few weeks in our school library I plan to also share a very early book written by Ron Brooks called Timothy and Gramps.  It might be interesting to compare these two books.  It would be good to look at another early book too The Pochetto Coat by Ted Greenwood which is also illustrated by Ron Brooks but sadly I no longer have this book in my school library.

One final thing.  I was once lucky enough to hear Ron Brooks speak at the CBC Conference in Hobart and he explained that the font for Fox was very important to him and he struggled for a long time to get this right.  The final 'font' was inspired by his son's simple handwriting.  In The Coat Ron has used Callie Hand - which is a font that looks like neat and even handwriting with a slightly old fashioned feel.  One thing is certain every single detail in these illustrations and in the book design has been very carefully thought through.  My favourite page is the one where the man pulls out the straw and the creatures and puts the coat on.  "It was much too big but he felt like he might grow into it."  This is the heart of The Coat.

The pros and cons of being a frog by Sue deGennaro

There is a subtle little design feature on the front cover of this CBCA Short listed book. If you feel the numbers you will notice number 17 and number 23 are embossed into the cover.  This is because Camille is a numbers girl.  She loves numbers so much she sometimes uses them to communicate.  17 means NO and 23 means YES.  Oddly you wont find 17 or 23 among the jumble of numbers on the end papers.  There is another number shown in this book - 8 but it is not explained.  The reader needs to look closely the context where Camille uses 8 to work it out.  I think 8 might mean a perfect match.

Our unnamed narrator loves to dress up and he loves frogs.  Initially he dresses up as a cat but this leads to difficulties with a local dog.  He tries on other animals suits but it is Camille who finally suggests a frog.  "Frogs are not solitary creatures. I decided I needed a friend.  Camille agreed to help."

This book reminded me of Suzie and Alfred in the night of the paperbag monsters by Helen Craig.  Camille and her friend almost lose each other in the process.  It is up to the narrator to make the peace after he makes a careful list of Pros and Cons....  Here are the cons.

"1.  Not everyone loves wearing a frog costume as much as me.
2.   If you start getting bossy about your frog costume then your friend will get up and leave.
3.   A frog is not a solitary creature so it's no fun for a frog if his friend gets up and leaves."

When we read this book at school we will also look at Henry and Amy right way round and upside down by Stephen Michael King, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley by Aaron Blabey and A friend like Ed by Karen Wagner.

Here is an excellent review.
This gorgeous book is not only cleverly written, it is an absolute delight for the eyes. Sue deGennaro has a brilliant knack for combining modern yet whimsical illustrations with unusual, artsy undertones and design layout that is just so beautiful, it screams avant-garde without feeling alienating or pretentious.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eep! by Joke van Leeuwen

Eep! s is a very quirky little book that was originally published in Dutch.  It reminded me of other terrific little books that were long ago translated such as The story of Bobble who wanted to be rich.

Every aspect of this book is a delight - the main characters, the line drawings and tiny wacky touches of humour that unexpectedly appear.  Warren is a bird watcher and while he is out one day he finds a strange creature - "it was something quite different, something not mentioned in his bird book. Some thing with wings, however, and with legs and feet. But those legs and feet looked a lot like human legs and feet.  Especially the feet with their small toes and tiny toenails and smidgens of dirt underneath the toenails on the toes on the feet on the legs.  What Warren saw lying there looked very much like a human child, except it had feathers instead of clothes. And where arms should have been, there were wings, real ones."

Warren take the creature home to Tina his wife and they name her Beedy but Beedy is a wild creature who needs her freedom.  She tries to fit in with their human ways and Tina tries to accommodate Beedy's needs but one day Beedy flies away and so the adventure begins.

This book is quite hard to explain.  It reminded me a little of Skellig but Eep is a much lighter book.  It also reminded me of Angel Creek but again Eep does not have any of the darkness found in this book.  Here is a review that I enjoyed. Here is some more information about the author and her other books.

Willing readers of all ages will delight in the story’s unusual surprises.

Like pickle juice on a cookie by Julie Sternberg illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie is a terrific little beginning chapter book that girls in Year One and Year Two will enjoy.

If you are a Billie B Brown fan look for Like Pickle Juice on a cookie.  I have also read that the sequel has just been published although it might not be quite as appealing to Australian children who have little or no experience of Summer camp.  It is called Like Bug Juice on a burger.

Eleanor Abigail Kane has had the same babysitter for seven years but now her beloved Bibi needs to move across the other side of the country to care for her father who lives in Florida.  Ellie is inconsolable 

"I had a bad August
A very bad August
As bad as a pickle juice on a cookie.
As bad as a spiderweb on your leg. 
As bad as the black parts of a banana.
I hope your August was better.
I really do."

Using the format of a verse novel we meet the new babysitter Natalie who is young but very wise.  We also meet Ellie's parents and the wonderful mail lady Val.

If you enjoy this book you might look at two picture books Annabelle Swift Kindergartener and Don't forget to come back which both explore the fears of starting school and making new friends.

Here is a detailed interview with the author and illustrator including some of his rough drawings.  Here is a terrific little video of the author explaining her inspiration for this book.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Peggy by Anna Walker

Peggy is another title which has been short listed for the CBCA Awards.

At its heart this book has a simple message "One good turn deserves another."

Take a close look at the front and back end papers before you begin to read this book.  You will see a train travelling from the country to the city - it appears empty at the beginning but there is a surprising passenger at the end.

This is a book for a pre-school aged child.  It will be interesting to see how my Kindergarten students react. I do like the way the visual images go way beyond the written word.  For example when we read  "every day, rain or shine, Peggy ate breakfast, played in her yard and watched the pigeons."  In a series of small comic strip style pictures you will see Peggy eating (five panels), playing with her food bowl, sitting on fence in all weathers including the snow, trampolining, using a sun flower as a spring and gazing at the pigeons overhead.  Similarly the little images later in the book that show all her experiences in the city contain lots of visual jokes.
This book has a neat structure of life in the country, a city adventure, the journey home and a new life back in the country that will never be quite the same.  Peggy's life has certainly been enriched by her recent experiences.

There have been other books with similar themes of giving and receiving such as Jennie's hat by Ezra Jack Keats is one I thought of immediately.  We will also look at Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham which is a about a chicken who makes a journey along with Daisy by Brian Wildsmith which is about a cow who heads off to the city.  This book also made me think about the classic story of Town Mouse and Country Mouse and we have a terrific little edition of this illustrated by Louise Pfanner.  Here is the web site for Anna Walker. Here is a review with teaching ideas.

Peggy by Anna Walker - book trailer from Anna Walker on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A tangle of knots by Lisa Graff

A Tangle of knots is quite simply a perfect book. It epitomizes all the reasons why I adore reading and I why I especially love children's books.

In the world of this book people fall into two categories - those with a talent and others who are called Fair.  There are nine characters in this book and we meet each in his or her own chapter after reading the vital prologue set fifty-three years earlier.  There are also, not by chance, nine delicious cake recipes in this book and if you have been reading my blog then you will know, that like the character Will in this book, I am a cake eater.  "Will and Sally (his ferret) searched for adventure together nearly every day.  They knew exactly what adventure look like because of the storybooks Will read.  Giants. Monsters. Cake.  That was what the knights in the story books always found on their adventures."

As with all books written with this structure the lives of these nine adults and children are intriguingly  and inextricably linked but of course each of them has no idea about the depth and life changing nature of these connections.

Cady or Candence as she has been named at Miss Mallorys' home for lost girls has a talent for baking the right cake to match each person she meets. This talent means she regularly wins cake baking competitions because she is able to make a cake the judge will love.  Miss Mallory has a talent for matching orphans with their perfect family but so far she has not found the right family for Cady.

Meanwhile we read about  a shady character known only as The Owner.  He runs a lost luggage emporium in a building "that had once been an architectural beauty, as famous for its two tall, round turrets as for the goods that were produced inside."

I think this book would make a great read-a-loud for a middle or upper Primary class.  If you read and enjoy A Tangle of Knots then you should look for all the books by Blue Baillett.  Her books have the same tone of mystery and intrigue moving the reader through the type of plot that you just don't want to end and that you anticipate will have a joyous ending for all.  This book also reminded me of Savvy by Ingrid Law which is a book I also loved.

You might like to read a longer review with more plot details here.  Here is the author web site which has some good ideas of other books to read and a video showing how to bake Miss Mallory's Peach cake.  My next plan is to make one or two of these myself!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

This book is my 450th review.  I am very happy that Herman and Rosie has this honor and that it is a short listed title.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book for so many reasons.

1. The end papers - if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know I really appreciate illustrators and book designers who take the time to include end papers that extend the text of a book.  In Herman and Rosie you will see an old map of New York with little stickers attached to show where Rosie and Herman live along with the location of a "great hot dog place".

2.  The ending :  "Rosie found Herman. And Herman found Rosie. The city was never quite the same."  I am such a romantic!

3.  The music which floats through all the glorious illustrations.  I think I will read this book to the children in my library with a soft jazz track playing in the background.

4.  The views of NY city - the Brooklyn Bridge, the subway, the Empire State building and more.

5.  The use of maps.  I adore maps in books and the one Gus has made showing how Herman and Rosie roam all over the city but never quite meet up is perfect.

This is a book about relationships.  We are all different.  We look different.  We enjoy different things and yet we all long to make connections.

Gus Gordon includes an important quote on the imprint page of his book :

"I have at last, after several MONTH'S experience, made up my mind that [New York] is a splendid desert - a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is LONELY in the midst of a million of his race." Mark Twain, June 5, 1967.  I visited New York city just last year and I certainly experienced this exact feeling.  Things might have been different if I had met Herman.

After reading this book I will look at Nobody owns the Moon by Tohby Riddle which has a similar theme of two disparate animals who link up in the city.  The biggest difference is that in Nobody owns the Moon the two friends part at the end and may not see each other again. I remember this made me quite sad. We will also look at the joyous series Melrose and Croc by Emma Chichester Clark which by coincidence also features a crocodile or is Herman an Alligator?  We will also read one of my all time favourite books about friendship - A friend like Ed.

One final thing. Stop and take a few minutes to look very closely at the front and back covers of this book.  You will see it is actually a record inside its sleeve.  Such a perfect nostalgic image.

Look out for the 'boss' of the multinational telemarketing company that Herman works for.  A very funny political comment.

You can read some reviews of this book here.  The reviewer in Magpies can have the final word 
"This picture book is so hip it positively swings, but it also has soul and leaves you feeling like you've eaten honey straight from the jar."  Tali Levi is quoting Herman himself.  Magpies Volume 27 Issue 4 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Too many elephants in this house by Ursula Dubosarsky illustrated by Andrew Joyner

One of the things I especially love in a picture book is when the illustrator or book designers decide to use different end papers - one image at the beginning of the book and a different one at the end. In Too Many elephants in this House Andrew Joyner has squished at least fifteen plump and happy elephants onto the first end paper.  One is holding a small bunch of flowers.  It is a tiny splash of colour in the midst of mass of grey bodies. Flipping to the final end paper we see the same squash of elephants but this time a small boy is happily wedged over an elephant bottom and all the elephant eyes are looking at him.

This is a story about problem solving.  There are too many elephants and the aptly named Eric needs to find a solution. The zoo already has a full quota of elephants, transport to Africa is out of the question and if he just lets them out into the street that is bound to cause mayhem.

You can see many of the exuberant illustrations from this book on the illustrators web site.  I have not met Andrew Joyner but he must be a very happy man - his picture books beam with smiles.  We all enjoyed The Terrible Plop when it was short listed a few years ago and it was fun to show Andrew's little video about how to draw a bear to our students.

After reading this book to my students we will also look at The boy who was followed home by Margaret Mahy.  It has a similar theme of creatures that take over the house.  We will also look at The Great Escape from city zoo by Tohby Riddle. The twenty elephant restaurant by Russell Hoban and Where do you hide two elephants? by Emily Rodda.  I used to have an old book called But No elephants.   I found a video copy which we can use instead.  We will also explore a mini theme about boxes. You can see a terrific pinterest collection of box books here made by my friend at Kinderbookswitheverything.  I do not think this book will win the CBCA awards but I am sure it will be a winner with my youngest students. Look for this book in your library today - it is sure to make you smile too.

The terrible suitcase by Emma Allen illustrated by Freya Blackwood

It is important to begin looking at this book, The Terrible Suitcase, with a close look at the end papers which show a small red suitcase hurtling among the planets. The implication here is that this suitcase has arrived from outer space and perhaps this is confirmed when we see, on the title page, the small red suitcase is now wedged between some old boxes and picture frames perhaps in an attic.

The opening lines of this book establish the character of our un-named narrator.  She is M.A.D. mad! because instead of a wonderful new backpack for her going to school present she has been given a terrible suitcase.  Howard has a rocket backpack which makes her retaliate by throwing playdough and wrecking their game. When she arrives at school for her first day our grumpy girl compares her suitcase with all the wonderful backpacks she sees outside the school or preschool and her displeasure increases.

There are hints all through this book that our little protagonist is a space fan.  She makes a playdough planet which smashes Howard's matchstick sculpture of an intergalactic spacecraft, she chews her space station hologram sticker and can't swap it for one with a photo of Halley's comet and inside her suitcase she has a supply of spacefood sticks. (Are these still available at the supermarket they were popular when I was a child a long time ago?).

The classroom has an imagination corner with a large fridge sized cardboard box which for our narrator makes the perfect rocket and so she climbs inside.  A short time later Millie crawls in and magically the suitcase becomes the centre of their imaginative play becoming a toolkit to repair the rocket and a computer so they can plot their journey to earth.  Our little hero goes to bed that night looking forward to a day of fun with her friends and her suitcase.

I went to school in the age before backpacks were invented and even now I still marvel at all the designs and the ways children add embellishments such as little toys to personalize their bags.  In my school the majority of children have the official green school back pack.  I actually have the suitcase used by my Grandfather when he went to school.  It is so large and must have been very heavy to carry up the hill each day to school.

When we read The Terrible Suitcase in our library next term we will also explore Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes which is also about fitting in at school and acceptance by the peer group and Annabel swift Kindergartener by Amy Schwartz , Jessica's Box by Peter Carnavas and Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. We will also explore the fourteen books in our library illustrated by Freya Blackwood many of which have been short listed and award winners in past years.  You can see some images from The Terrible Suitcase on the illustrator's blog.

On final thought.  Perhaps the suitcase did not come from space instead it is the way you can travel there.  Here is a set of teacher notes.  This book is another title which has been short listed for the CBCA Awards.

With Nan by Tania Cox illustrated by Karen Blair

With Nan is a book which should be read slowly to a very young child.  Reading slowly will match the lovely tone of this book as we see a loving relationship between Simon and his Gran and watch the time they spend together in the garden discovering all sorts of hidden creatures.  The text contains a simple structure :

"Simon didn't quite understand until Nan showed him a leaf (turn the page) that flew,(turn the page) a rock (turn the page) that hopped (turn the page) and ground (turn the page) that scurried away."

This is a book written for pre-school children and so it fits perfectly into the CBCA Early Childhood section.  At first glance the illustrations seem quite child-like but they are full of warmth and expression.  I especially like the first page which shows two sets of gum boots - one yellow set which are small and one purple - the little dog is chewing on one purple boot with a look of bliss on his face.  In the illustrations we also see Nan is quite adventurous.  She looks a little old with her hair in a bun but we see her up in a tree, down on all fours looking in the leaf litter, dancing with sticks and giving little Simon a piggyback home.  Nan lives in the country and I think many young city children will relate to the wonders that come from exploring a large property like this.

I was pleased to discover we have seven other books in our library by Tania Cox and that one was also short listed many years ago - Snap! Went Chester.

When we read With Nan in our school library we will explore all the other books by Tania Cox and also take a look at picture books about camouflage such as Who's hiding here by Yoshi, The Hunt by Narelle Oliver, Lots of spots by Lois Ehlert and Elmer by David McKee.

You can read an interview with Tania Cox here and find a set of notes about the animals in With Nan along with some activities and colouring pages.

CBCA Short list 2013

Exactly one week ago today the Children's Book Council of Australia announced the short listed titles for our Book of the Year awards which will be awarded in August this year.

I was quite excited to discover our school library contains nearly all the titles and I have actually blogged three of them.

CBCA 2013

Book of the Year for Younger Readers

CBCA 2013

Book of the Year Early Childhood

Allen, Emma Ill. Freya Blackwood The Terrible Suitcase 
Cox, Tania Ill. Karen Blair With Nan 
DeGennaro, Sue The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog 
Dubosarsky, Ursula Ill. Andrew Joyner Too Many Elephants in This House 
Harris, Christine Ill. Ann James It’s a Miroocool! 
Walker, Anna Peggy 

CBCA 2013

Picture book of the Year

Brooks, Ron Text: Julie Hunt The Coat
Goodman, Vivienne Text: Margaret Wild Tanglewood 
Gordon, Gus Herman and Rosie
Lester, Alison Sophie Scott Goes South 
Mullins, Patricia Text: Glenda Millard Lightning Jack 
Wilson, Mark Text: Jackie French A Day to Remember

Over the last week I have read nearly all the books on these lists and so I will share my thoughts for each book in this blog but for today I think I will be brave and make some predictions.  I hope Pookie Aleera wins the Younger Readers Award.  In the Early Childhood picture book category I did enjoy It's a Mirocool because it feels so Australian and is a different take on the usual tooth fairy story and for Picture book of the Year I have no firm favourite.  I loved the sentiment and setting of Herman and Rosie, the depth of research in A day to Remember, the philosophical message of Tanglewood and the life affirming and joyous message of The Coat.  I guess we will have to wait and see which books win but meanwhile it will be good to read the thoughts of reviewers, teachers, teacher-librarians and of course the children over the coming months.  In our school library we will begin reading these books next term.

A big thank you to My Book Corner for these book cover images.  I love the way they have created these little sets so you can see all the titles at a glance.

When we read these books I like to make links to other books by the same authors and illustrator along with links to books on a similar theme.  When we read Tanglewood there are some terrific books about trees in our library which I have collected on Pinterest.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nell's Festival of Crisp Winter Glories by Glenda Millard illustrated by Stephen Michael King

"On Sunday morning, Perry Angel chose a pencil from his tin of seventy-two. Its name was Bluephyre and it was the colour of a fairy wren.  Bluephyre was shorter than the other pencils because it was Perry's favourite.  He used it when he and Nell wrote haiku.  But on this morning Perry didn't want Nell to see what he was doing, so he put Bluephyre in his pocket and took it to Annie's studio.  Keeping a secret from Nell was new and strange to Perry. When he was no-one's child, he could not have imagined living with someone you could ask anything of, tell anything to. But Nell was even more than that.  She could read your heart simply by looking into your eyes."

Perry loves Nell so much and he knows she loves to dance. He devises a plan so that Nell and his other most favourite person Jenkins can dance the beautiful Tennessee Waltz.  The whole community begin to make plans for Nell's festival of Crips winter Glories but when Nell has a serious accident it seems Perry's special dream might not come true.

Glenda Millard has done it again.  This is the seventh and final installment in the Kingdom of Silk series and reading it is like looking into a glass filled with sparkling diamonds.

I have already blogged The naming of Tishkin Silk,  Plum Puddings and paper moons, and The Tender Moments of Saffron silk which has just been short listed for the CBCA Younger Readers book of the year awards.

I am a huge fan of the Kingdom of Silk series.  Right now a girl in Grade 6 and her mum are reading them and it is such a joy to see how much they are enjoying these books and also the special bond that comes when two people find a book they both love. I read a lovely quote the other day "people who know and love the same books are you have the road map to your soul."  This is certainly true for me and the glorious Silk series.

My favourite part of this book is when Nell is given a walking aid. It is called "The Intrepid.  It was cherry read with wheels and brakes and a padded eat with a basket underneath.  Nell lifted the seat and looked at the basket. 'That will come in handy for putting vegetables in when I'm out in the garden,' Nell told the physiotherapist. 'And for library books when I'm visiting people at the old folk's home."  When my mum started using a four wheel seat walker like the one Nell has I wanted to give it a name but we never managed to think of one.  I think 'The Intrepid' is such a perfect name - hopefully encouraging the older person to continue a life of adventure and surprises.

Having read the final book in this series I am now going to sit down and start all over again.  It is a rare thing for me to re-read books and it is also a rare thing for me to read every book in a series but I have adored everyone of these books and am so happy I can revisit them in my school library over and over again.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Twits by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake

Of course this is not a new book.  It was first published in 1980 but recently a teacher reported that our CD version was not working so I bought it home to listen.  The CD just needed a quick clean and this then allowed me a glorious few days of listening to this wildly funny story as I drove my car to and from school and other places.

Roald Dahl is so wonderful at creating fabulous vile characters that all readers love to see get 'their just desserts'.  Mr and Mrs Twit are spectacularly awful.  The description of Mr Twit's beard full of  "dried up scrambled egg ... spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr Twit liked to eat" perfectly introduces this awful man.  If you look closely Roald Dahl is so skilled with his use of language.  We read of scrambled eggs - that might be okay.  Then spinach - slightly disgusting.  Tomato ketchup - I wonder if he wanted to say tomato sauce? But it is the final food that really twists at your stomach - chicken livers - these sound the most revolting of all.

Our copy of the audio book is read by Simon Callow and he does a wonderful job with all the voices especially Muggle-Wump the monkey and the delightful Roly-Poly bird. When you read or listen to The Twits I am sure you will cheer for these heroes as they outwit and ultimately destroy Mr and Mrs Twit who have been so cruel and horrid for far too long.

"One week later, on a nice sunny afternoon, a man called Fred came round to read the gas meter.  When nobody answered the door, Fred peeped into the house and there he saw, on the floor of the living room, two bundles of old clothes, two pairs of shoes and a walking stick.  There was nothing more left in this world of Mr and Mrs Twit.  And everyone, including Fred, shouted....HOORAY!"

If you have not read The Twits rush into a library and grab a copy today. If you have read The Twits - rush into a library and re-read it - you will not be disappointed.  Finally if you have no time to read The Twits then look for the audio book and listen while you do other things.