Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ollie and the wind by Ronojoy Ghosh

Oddly my first question about Ollie and the wind (short listed for the 2016 CBCA awards) was who is Ronojoy Ghosh and is Ollie and the wind his first book?  Yes it is. Ronojoy has been working in advertising.  How amazing to have your very first book reach the short list.  Ronojoy has now written his second book - No place like home which you can also find in our school library.

One aspect of this book that appeals to me is the way Ollie is a problem solver.  The wind takes his hat and scarf - how can Ollie get his things back.

"That night as Ollie lay in bed, he thought about why the wind didn't want to play with his toys. Then he had an idea."

I have not yet shared this book with our Kindergarten children but I do think they will laugh as Ollie attempts to catch the wind with a net and an empty can.  I can also see there will be a lot to discuss when the wind rejects Ollie's ball and precious fire truck.

The idea of flying kites at night is also an appealing one especially under a full moon.

Here are some very detailed teaching notes for Ollie and the Wind

After reading this book you could explore some of these books about the wind.  I would also recommend looking at some of our wonderful stories about kites especially The Sea Breeze hotel which is also a story about problem solving.  We will also read Blown Away and Stuck by Oliver Jeffers as books to compare with Ollie and the Wind.

On sudden hill by Linda Sarah illustrated by Benji Davies

I love the idea of imaginative play using something simple like a cardboard box.  This is what happens in the book On Sudden Hill but this book is about so much more.  Young children often experience difficulties with friendships.  Can you be 'best friends' with two or more children?  What is the best way to handle feelings of rejection or jealousy?  On Sudden Hill explores these complex emotions and presents a very satisfying resolution all in the context of a simple picture book aimed at our youngest students.  Please look for this book.  It is one to treasure.

Here is the blurb:

Birt and Etho are best friends.
They spend hours together playing on Sudden Hill.
Then one day a new boy arrives.  He wants to join them.
Can two become three?

Don't rush.  Start on the title page.  There is so much to talk about here.  Where do these boys live?  Do they look rich or poor? Does this matter? Where are they going?  How is the weather?  What might they plan to do with these boxes?  Can you see a mountain beyond the fence?  Do you think it is really called Sudden Hill?  What might the next scene after the title page show?

There are so many examples of exquisite use of language in this book. "Birt loves their two-by-two rhythm."  and "one Monday (it's cramping cold)" when Shu "finally found a big enough box and courage to ask if he can play too."

You can read an interview with the author and illustrator and see some more art from this book here.

Here are some other books I really like about using cardboard boxes for play.

After reading On Sudden Hill make sure you look for my other most favourite book about friendship - A friend like Ed. Take a look at my review of The Storm Whale also by Benji Davies.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Figgy and the President : Growing up can be full of surprises by Tamsin Janu

I really enjoyed Figgy in the world and was hoping it would be selected for our CBCA awards.

Today I read the sequel Figgy and the President and I so happy to say it is just as good as the first installment.

Figgy lives in Ghana.  Her life is not easy.  As a tiny child her mother abandoned her on the doorstep of her grandmother then she lost an eye in a fire and she lives in a remote and very poor village.  Despite this Figgy has so many good things in her life. The deep love of Grandma Ama, the loyalty of her best friend Nana and her own desire to help others.

In this second installment her mother has returned.  Figgy has such mixed feelings about meeting her mother and forging a relationship with this woman she has never met.

"Why did you leave me with Grandma Ama when I was a baby?'  Mama's hand stilled.  For a few seconds I thought she was angry with me for asking.  But she soon resumed stroking my forehead and answered me, her voice calm.  'Because I couldn't look after you as well as your Grandma Ama."

Nana, her best friend, is determined to become the President of Ghana.  He too has experienced some extremely harsh circumstances in his short life including appalling abuse by his father.  Nana has now reached the safety of his new home with Grandma Ama when one day his father returns to claim him. It takes every ounce of ingenuity and bravery for Figgy to follow the trail and save her friend.

These books do go together.  I would recommend reading Figgy in the World first so you meet the amazing people who help Figgy in a variety of ways.  One of the most important is Kofi who again is able to help Figgy in such a wise and loving way.

The Figgy books are perfect for Middle Primary readers.  It can be a wonderful experience to walk a mile or two in the shoes of a different child, living in a different place and hopefully reading these books you will gain an understanding of a life so different from your own.

Bad Ned : A really bad story by Dean Lahn

Bad Ned is such fun because my Grade 5 students and I explore the life of the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly in great depth each year. This means I can really appreciate all the little historical inclusions in this story.

This is not a serious book - it is a romp through the life of Ned using a young boy (coincidentally also called Ned) as a copy-cat to the real Ned.

We see little Ned stealing cupcake, making trouble with the garden hose and the washing line and constructing armor firstly from a set of cardboard boxes but later from a disused water tank.

My favourite part of this book comes when young Ned quotes from the famous Jerilderie letter "Take this you big, ugly, fat-necked, wombat-headed, big bellied, magpies-legged troppers."

Here is a review with more detail.  You might also enjoy Meet Ned Kelly by Janeen Brian, The Oath of Bad Brown Bill by Stephen Axelsen, Wicked Rose by Sally Farrell Odgers and Bossyboots by David Cox.  Sadly some of the books I have listed here will be out of print but you should find them easily in an Australian school library.

Playing from the heart by Peter Reynolds

There is something quite mysterious about the power of music.  I have a friend who is such a talented musician.  As children she could play the most complex music but not in a mechanical way - her music making was filled with a very sophisticated emotional understanding.  I used to have a piano and had lessons as a child.  I will never been skilled at this instrument but that is not important.  For me music touches my soul.  I think this is why I loved this book.  The Kirkus reviewer sees this as a book with more appeal to adults and perhaps that is true but I would still love to share this book with a sensitive child.

Here is a fabulous interview with Peter Reynolds.  It is quite long but well worth your time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rino Alaimo's The boy who loved the moon

"Many years ago, one night in June, the lights of the city went out, one by one, until only a single light illuminated the sky."

This is the light of the moon.  The moon captures the heart of a  lonely boy. He longs to show the moon his love.  He collects a beautiful rose, a deep sea pearl and the diamond eye of a dragon.  Each gift is rejected although not too harshly.  What gift can the boy give the moon?

It seems odd to mention this but today with our Kindergarten classes we read Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch.  This is a much simpler book but it is also contains an deeply felt expression of love for the moon.

One of my annual joys is to attend Little Big Shots - a festival of children's short films.  Last year I saw this little film and I was entranced.  Then I discovered this special book made by the film maker. If you are looking for a text and film to explore with a senior class take a look at The Boy who loved the moon.  You could then look at this review which compares the book and the film.

One reviewer likened this book to The Giving Tree.  With a younger class you might also look at Papa Please get the moon for me, Sarah's Heavy Heart and Laura's Star.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker illustrated by Jon Klassen

In an in awe of an author like Sara Pennypacker.  One of the most wonderful things about reading is when you know you are in the safe hands of a master storyteller especially when realise this right from the start of the story.  You know the characters might experience hardship, difficulties, pain and trauma but you also know the author will bring everyone safely home - not in a sentimental or trite way - but in a way that leaves you gasping at the sheer brilliance of their writing.

From the very first page I knew Pax would be a powerful and memorable book.  Now I have finished reading Pax I know this story will linger with me a long time.

"The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first.  Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists."

Each chapter of Pax alternates between Peter, a young boy grieving the loss of his mother and confused by the reactions and life decisions of his father and Pax, a young fox that Peter has raised from a small cub.  Sara Pennypacker is able to give this wild creature such an authentic voice.

"He lifted his muzzle and bayed a single aching note.  It had been so long since he'd seen his boy. Before this, they'd never been apart for more than half a day. Often Peter would leave in the morning, and Pax would pace his pen in increasing distress until the afternoon, when Peter would come home, smelling of other young humans and of the strange breath of the large yellow bus that delivered him."

In this selection you can see how Sara Pennypacker is able to give the reader a deep insight into the highly developed senses of the fox.  His use of smell and other animal intuitions contrast with those of Peter and yet wild creature and boy have an amazing, spiritual connection.

We sadly need to cover our copy of Pax with plastic to protect it from multiple readings but if you can buy your own copy of Pax make sure you look under the dust jacket.  Megan Dowd Lambert alerted me to this special feature that is added to some picture books and novels.

Here is the author web site and a set of discussion questions.  Here is an audio sample from the first chapter. This book would be a terrific addition to a unit on survival or it could be used with a small group as an extension text.  You can see some images from the book here.

If you enjoy Pax I would recommend the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness beginning with Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver, The Honest Truth, The eye of the Wolf by Daniel Pennac,  Julie of the wolves by Jean Craighead George, A dog's life by Ann Martin and Hatchet.

The quotes below link to reviews in the New York Times and Kirkus.

CBCA Short list for 2016

This is always an exciting time for school libraries and student across Australia when the Children's Book Council announce the short list.

The volunteer judges from around Australia read over 350 books each year, they select the best ones for a Notable list and then six titles in each of five categories as a short list.  In August, at the start of Book Week, the five winners will be announced.

I have blogged a few of the lucky books from the selection this year.

Younger Readers
Sister Heart
Molly and Pim
Run Pip Run

Early Childhood Picture Book of the Year
Mr Huff

Over the coming weeks I will look more closely at many of the other books.  I was a little disappointed that some of my favourite books were not selected especially Teacup and In the evening.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster audio book

And in the very room to which he sat, 
there were books that could take you anywhere ...
Norton Juster The Phantom Tollbooth last page!

It is wonderful to add new books to our library nearly every week but I do worry that some 'classics' might slip off the radar.

One of our splendid teachers recently retired.  The Phantom Tollbooth, first published in 1961, was a firm favourite as a class read-aloud.  I am sure hundreds of children who were lucky enough to be in her class will fondly remember listening to the joyous, turbulent, exciting, funny, wild story.

When I saw the audio book recently I happily purchased it for our school library.  As a bonus this version is read by David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) and he is a splendid narrator.  We have a copy of If you give a pig a pancake by Laura Numeroff which he narrates so I knew I would be in safe hands.

I am in awe of this audio book because David has to sustain so many disparate voices.  He does this brilliantly.  The best voice he saves for right near the end when our intrepid heroes meet the Gelatinous Giant.

I am not going to outline to complex plot for The Phantom Tollbooth.  If you click this quote it will take you to a splendid review in the New Yorker which was written to celebrate the 50th Anniversary.

What Milo discovers is that math and literature, Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, should assume their places not under the pentagon of Purpose and Power but under the presidency of Rhyme and Reason. Learning isn’t a set of things that we know but a world that we enter.

I want to focus one chapter which really tickled my funny bone.  In Chapter 18 Milo, Tock and the Humbug have almost reached the castle.  They are so close the Rhyme and Reason but there is one more obstacle - the senses taker.  Listening to the audio book you will at first think this is the census taker.  I can't wait to use this in August when we have a census here in Australia :

"I'm the official senses taker and I must have some information before I can take your senses.  Now, if you'll just tell me when you were born, where you were born, why you were born, how old you are now, how old you were then, how old you'll be in a little while, your mother's name, your father's name, your aunt's name, your uncle's name, your cousin's name, where you live, how long you've lived there, the schools you've attended, the schools you haven't attended, your telephone number, your shoe size, shirt size, collar size, hat size, and the names and addresses of six people who can verify all this information ... "

There is so much information available to use for your study of this book.  Here are a couple of sites to get you started.

Figurative Language

Video interview with Norton Juster.  This audio book also has a terrific interview at the end of the fourth disk.

Chapter by chapter questions

Plan to pick up the book or the audio book of The Phantom Tollbooth it is indeed a book that can and will take you anywhere!

Snow day by Richard Curtis illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

This book just had to be a winner.  I didn't even need to read it to know that.  Read my review of The Empty Stocking which is another book by this talented team and you will know why I wanted to add Snow Day to our library picture book collection.

Beginning with the end papers you can see lots of snowflakes.  Then on the title page we see Danny looking out of his window at the snow.  A snow day means a day off school for everybody.

"Well ALMOST everyone - because at 8.30 one little boy turned up for school.  His name was Danny. And he was greeted by his teacher.  His name was Mr Trapper."

This is a terrible situation.  Mr Trapper is the strictest teacher in the school and Danny is the "worst" student.  The morning is dreary and dreadful.  Thank goodness for the break.  Danny attempts to make an enormous snowman but he has some problems with the head.  Then something miraculous happens.  Mr Trapper steps over to help. They work together all through the break building large and small snowmen  "And after that they made a whole army of snowmen."  When school resumes the focus of their lessons together completely change. The day is a joyous celebration of learning and companionship.

Now we reach the half way point of this book.  Mr Trapper and Danny head home.  The next day it is school for everyone as usual.  Danny has a terrible day.  He is even given a detention by Mr Trapper.  "At break time, as had happened a hundred times before, Danny sat at one end of the detention room and Mr Trapper sat at the other."  My heart sank when I read these words.

I cannot tell you any more.  Grab this book today!  Even though we don't have snow days in Australia all children are sure to relate to the emotional twists in this fabulous book.

Some other favourite books about snow are Snow by PD Eastman and Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  This book also reminded me of John Patrick Norman McHennessy the boy who was always late.

Love is my favourite thing by Emma Chichester Clark

Later this term we will read a terrific series of books with our Kindergarten stories by Emma Chichester Clark called Blue Kangaroo.  We will also read a book to our Year Three classes called The Dragon and the Minstrel pup which was illustrated by Emma.

I have included two different cover designs here.  We own the red one.

In Love is my favourite thing we meet Plum - he really is Emma's dog.  You can read about him on his own blog page.

Plum, or Plummie as he loves to be called, has a long list of things he loves.  He loves all kinds of weather, his chew toys, treats, bed and sticks


Plum has a happy life with Emma and Rupert until one day at the park when things get a little out of control. "Bad girl!' (Emma) shouted and I knew I'd made a big mistake."

The list of disasters just seems to grow longer and longer.  Plum worries that no one will love her anymore.  She is banished to the basement.  This page will melt your heart and then the final page will make you, and the young child sharing this book with you, smile!

Young dog lovers will love (pardon the pun) this book.  We will add it to our collection of read-a-loud books about dogs which will explore later this year with our Kindergarten classes.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

100 Days of School

Many years ago a young teacher at my school celebrated 100 Days with her Kindergarten class. I was enchanted by this idea.  This event is widely celebrated in US schools but does not receive much attention here in Australia. A couple of weeks ago I visited a Kindergarten classroom and saw the teacher using ten frames to count the school days.  I mentioned the idea of a 100 day celebration.

There are so many picture books that you can use to explore this idea.  The actual 100 days will happen in Australia early in Term 3 (August) while in US schools it happens in February. A search of Pinterest will identify even more picture books and activities to use with your class.

Here are a few new books we have bought for our school library :

Fancy Nancy The 100th Day of School by Jane O'Connor illustrated by Ted Enik

I do love little Fancy Nancy.  She loves to have fun and she loves to explore words. As this little beginner book opens it is the 97th day of school.  Her friends seem to have splendid 100 collections but Fancy Nancy wants something unique, fancy and imaginative. Sadly her goldfish Goldy dies but out of this sad situation Fancy Nancy finds a way to celebrate his life and make a special 100 presentation which everyone will appreciate.  One of my favourite parts of this story comes right at the end when the teacher displays her 100 objects - 100 books for the class to read this year!

Henry's 100 days of Kindergarten by Nancy Carlson

In September the teacher shows the class a jar.  Each day she will add one jelly bean until they reach 100 ready for the class celebration in February.  Young Henry does not have a good track record with 'show and tell' - there was that nasty incident with the spider.  The teacher is a little worried about his 100 presentation but Henry surprises everyone when he presents his Great Grandma Millie who is exactly 100 years old.  Adults who read this little book will laugh at the way the illustrator shows all the wrinkles on Millie who is a mouse.  Teachers could use this book to make a calendar which marks the major events of each month at school.

Let's count to 100! by Masayuku Sebe

This is a visually scrumptious book and so Japanese.  Every page does indeed show 100 - mice, cats, moles, ants, fish, birds, sheep, houses and kids.  This book might give you some display ideas.

100th Day worries by Margery Cuyler illustrated by Arthur Howard

Following an established patter Jessica, who is a worrier, is worried about what to bring for the 100th Day which will be held next week!  She considers ice cubes (too melty), marshmallows (too sticky) or toothpicks (too pointy).  The other kids all seem to have terrific ideas.  Jessica has nothing ready on the morning of the 100th day until her family start to dig into junk drawers and boxes.  Her collection is simply perfect but she only has 90 items.  What can she add?

Rocket's 100th Day of school by Tad Hills

We have a few books about this endearing little dog called Rocket.  Knowing the 100th day is coming soon Rocket begins to make a collection which he stores in a squirrel hole.  Stones, sticks, pencils, a book, acorns, leaves and pinecones.  Have you spotted the problem?  When the 100th day arrives Rocket does not have the 100 items he collected - five things are missing.  His solution will make you smile.

One Hundred days (plus one) by Margaret McNamara illustrated by Mike Gordon

Hannah collects buttons for the 100 day project but sadly she is too sick to go to school.  The next day it is one hundred days plus one but she only has 100 buttons.

Emily's first one hundred days of school by Rosemary Wells

This is one of the best books to use for your 100 day celebrations.  This is a long picture book which takes a journey through the whole 100 days.  You could use it to review your year so far or perhaps read one page each day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Leo a ghost story by Mac Barnett illustrated by Christian Robinson

Today a big box of new books arrived in our school library. This is one of the joys and privileges of my job!  I grabbed a handful and sat down to read and read starting a long time after school had finished and leaving school in the dark.

Leo a ghost story made me gasp with delight.  I do have a particular love for books about imaginary friends - I know Leo is a ghost but he is also a friend and for a short time he does take on the role of an imaginary friend.

Leo has had a happy life living in an empty house "reading books and drawing picture in the dust." One day a new family move into his house.  Leo makes a gesture of friendship.  "He made them mint tea and honey toast.  Leo thought he was being a good host."  The family cannot see Leo and panic. There is a ghost in their new house.  They hide in the bathroom and the little boy says "I hate ghosts!"  Leo knows it is time to leave. He wanders the streets and he sees a city that is both familiar and strange, noisy and wonderful.  As he wanders along he meets little girl drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.  At this point you should stop and look at the end papers which are filled with Jane's drawings.  Jane says hello to Leo and he is amazed.  He is so happy to be seen and he joins her imaginative games with gusto.  Jane has a collection of imaginary friends - Sir Ruffs, a loyal dog, Sir Mews, a loyal cat and Sir Squawks.  

One of the most magical moments in this book comes when Jane says to Leo:

"Don't tell Sir Ruffs ... but you are my best imaginary friend."

The problem is Leo is not an imaginary friend.  He is a ghost.  How can he tell Jane?  Will she reject him when she knows the truth?

If you have a dust jacket copy of the book look at the cover underneath - there is a drawing of the coat of arms designed by Leo as a gift for Jane.  After all they have had a wonderful evening playing knights and dragons.

I am a huge fan of Mac Barnett.  Billy Twitters and his blue whale problem is a firm favourite of mine. Mac Barnett has listed some review comments for Leo a ghost story on his web site.  I also loved sharing Extra Yarn with our classes last year when we explored a mini theme about knitting.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The courage of Cat Campbell by Natasha Lowe

The Courage of Cat Campbell is the sequel to The Power of Poppy Pendle which I previously enjoyed.

I have taken all week to read The Courage of Cat Campbell because I just didn't make time to sit and read but today I 'gobbled' up the final 150 pages quite quickly.  For a reader this means you just have to stick with this book.  While the ending might seem predictable and inevitable it is none the less very rewarding.

Poppy, who we met in the first book, is Catherine's mum but unlike her mother, Cat is desperate to become a witch.  Sadly it seems she does not have 'the gift'.  She is now eleven and almost resigned to a life without magic or broomsticks.  Then she is set a project by her school to research someone famous and she decides to explore the life of Antonia Bigglesmith who was the first woman to fly across the Indian Ocean.  She visits her grandparents to look in their attic for some props and discovers her mother's spell book and wand. Waving the wand with little hope of success she watches with surprise as

"the spider immediately puffed up to the size of a golf ball turning bright neon green."

Cat is a late bloomer.  Now she might be able to attend the school of her dreams Ruthersfield Academy the only accredited school for magic in the country.

While all this is happening to Cat the most infamous witch of all time Madeline Reynolds has escaped from life imprisonment in Scrubs Prison.

Cat applies to enter Ruthersfield but they reject her because her bloomer magic is unpredictable and out of control.  Poppy, her mother, won't help Cat learn to control the magic so she can reapply.  It all seems hopeless until Cat realises Madeline Reynolds will be heading for her town of Potts Bottom. Perhaps there is a way she can save the town, discover the truth about Madeline Reynolds and do something so wonderful she just has to be accepted in Ruthersfield.

As a bonus there are lots of wonderful cakes in this heartwarming story about persistence, dreams and talent.  As Marie Claire says

"There are no such things as failures .. only steps towards success."

Natasha Lowe has a very interesting web site well worth exploring.  At the back of this book and on the author web site there is a list of advice for late bloomers - perhaps it is advice for everyone!

Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Cloudy with a chance of rain

Life is all about perception.  How we see the day can affect our mood.  How we react to friends or events can also 'cloud' our feelings.

Mr Huff is another title listed on the CBCA Notables for 2016.

Everyone has bad mood days.  Bill explains this by imagining Mr Huff - a large, grey blob that over shadows his day.  Mr Huff begins as a small, dark cloud when Bill wakes up but through the morning as things go "wrong" Mr Huff grows.

"He couldn't find his favourite socks
He spilt the milk and his cereal was soggy"

After two days Bill of torment realises he needs to take some action.  He tells Mr Huff "I hate you ... I wish you were never here."

One of the deepest parts of this book comes at this point.  Having confronted Mr Huff,  Bill now looks into his face and sees the reflection of his own sadness.  This where the story turns.  Bill can stay sad and keep seeing the world as a gloomy place where his is alone and perhaps 'depressed' or he can take charge and change things for himself.

Bill decides to see the world in a new way. The puddles are fun.  The sun is shining.  The footpath glistens. The neighborhood kids are ready to play.  Make sure you look at the end papers which reflect this change in Bill.

Here is a review you might like to read.  Here is the web page for the talented Anna Walker and my review of her previously short listed book Peggy. You might also enjoy visiting an exhibition about this book in Melbourne.  Here is a review in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The day was cloudy with a chance of sunshine

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Teacup by Rebecca Young illustrated by Matt Ottley

I would like to start this review with a quote from Matt Ottley (found in the Australian Standing Orders notes Primary Picture Book No. 3, 2015)

Matt Ottley says :

"What spoke to me most about Teacup was quite simply that it was the most beautiful picture book story I'd ever read.  It is such a huge story about the human spirit, about loss and grief, love and joy, about beauty and also high adventure.  Yet it's told in such a spare, minimal way, like a piece of poetry, that there was room for me to interpret the words in so many ways, 
which is an artist's dream."

Teacup is the third book by Rebecca Young and a look at her previous titles (Button Boy and The skunk with no funk) you can see how much she is developing as an author. Teacup is such a profound text and so different from her earlier books.

"Once there was a boy who had to leave home and find another"

There is so much to discuss from these opening lines.  Why did he have to leave?  Who will travel with him?  Will it be a long journey?  Will there be dangers?  Where is he going?

"In his bag he carried .. "

What would you take?  Would this change if you had plenty of time to prepare?  What would you take if you only have a few minutes to flee?

"he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket.  In his teacup held some earth from where he used to play."

This line reminds me of an old book called The Green book which is about people from Earth who are forced to flee to live on a different planet.  While the people do take practical things to set up the new colony there is one little girl who takes a blank book. In Teacup, the boy also takes the practical things for his survival along with his cup.  Teacup also reminded me of Tanglewood. Not just because of the tree and the wild seas but because of the tone - hope for the future.

"where he used to play"

These are such chilling words. The pieces of text I have quoted here come from the first double page spread which should show the amazing depth of this writing.  I think it will be important to read this book very slowly and to explore it several times.

I am really looking forward to discussing this book with my senior students.  I know they will have brilliant ideas that move beyond the literal.  I also know that my own appreciation of this book will grow even stronger as my students share their insights.

I also plan to compare this book from the CBCA Notables list with Flight which has also been nominated along with another important refugee story -  Ziba came by boat.  We will also look at The treasure box by Margaret Wild and My Dog by John Heffernan - both titles from previous CBCA short lists.  These both deal with the trauma of leaving your home and travelling into the unknown.

It might be good to compare the page with the ominous clouds with the page in The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Teacup is sure to be short listed for the CBCA Picture book of the Year award.  I cannot decide if Teacup or Flight will win - perhaps there might be two winners for 2016!

Here is a set of very detailed teacher notes.

Dixie O'Day and the great diamond robbery by Shirley Hughes illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

Dixie O'Day and the great diamond robbery is the second book in this appealing junior series. You might remember I recently talked about Dixie O'Day in the fast lane.

This second installment does not disappoint.  Dixie and his faithful friend Percy set out for the Hotel Splendide.  It is indeed a splendid place but sadly our heroes are not given a warm welcome.  On their journey they were forced off the road and Dixie's car is now covered in dust and mud.  Their near traffic accident is caused on the road to the hotel by none other than the famous Peaches Miaow.  Dixie is totally unimpressed by her fame and entourage but Percy is besotted.

At dinner that night Peaches "swept into the dining room wearing a silver satin dress and a smile as dazzling as her diamond necklace."  As you will have guess from the title these are the diamonds that will be stolen.  On their second night at the hotel a robbery takes place.  Dixie and Percy have previously made friends with a well mannered gentleman named Mr Canteloe.  As they tour his home and venture into some tidal caves beneath his cellar they find the diamonds.  Now comes the dilemma. How will Percy, Dixie and Mr Canteloe prove they did not commit the robbery themselves?

My favourite part of this book comes near the end when the hotel staff return Dixie's car.  "I've had it cleaned and polished for you, Sir ... and may I say what a great pleasure it is to see a car like yours on the road these days."

As I said in my previous review there are some terrific little extras in this series.  The book opens with an interview :

"What do you always pack in your suitcase?
DIXIE : My hot-water bottle, a choice of smart ties and my copy of 100 country walks.
PERCY : Plenty of chocolate."

At the back of the book you will find sample pages from book 3, a quiz, a maze puzzle and a map of Brightsea - location of the Hotel Spendide.  This book is also just seven chapters - one for each night of the week perhaps.

In this review you can see inside the three books from this series.