Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My Brown Bear Barney by Dorothy Butler illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller

Tuesday Treasure

My Brown Bear Barney was first published in 1988 so the 21st Birthday sticker on this copy is from 2009. My Brown Bear Barney is out of print but I did notice one supplier listing a new printing due in May, 2019 although the listed ISBN is from 2011.

My Brown Bear Barney is the perfect book to read sitting side by side with a young child and it is one to enjoy reading over and over again. I certainly did this many young children. Barney is a patient friend who accompanies the little girl to the shops, the beach, on a bike ride and to a sleep over at grandmas but mum explains he cannot go to school.

"When I go to school, next year or the next, I'll take
a new school bag, some lunch, my dinosaur badge and a pencil with a rubber on the end.
But not my brown bear Barney.
My mother says that bears don't go to school.

We'll see about that!"

The accompanying illustration will make you smile. This little girl has no intention of leaving her faithful companion at home no matter where she is going.

One of the strengths of this book, written by New Zealand reading advocate Dorothy Butler, is the brilliant rhythm of the words:

Shopping - my mother, my little brother, my yellow basket, my red umbrella and my brown bear Barney.
Riding - my bike, our old dog Charlie, two apples from our tree, my gumboots and my brown bear Barney.
Grandmas - my pyjamas in a suitcase, a flower in green paper, a tasty tidbit for her cat, some carrots from my garden and my brown bear Barney.

Dorothy Butler wrote 32 books for children, she died in 2015 aged 90. There were several sequels to My Brown Bear Barney:

The simple, nicely cadenced text by the well-known New Zealand author of Babies Need Books gives the illustrator a perfect opportunity to portray the important places and things in a little girl's life--what she wears, the items named ... and more complex scenes that incorporate many more identifiable details--and always Barney himself, joining in as a good friend should. Kirkus

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sweet Adversity by Sheryl Gwyther

"Addie gasped. ... Through the front window was a magnificent sight. A huge arch spanned the inlet - the new Sydney Harbour Bridge, its curved spans almost joined in the middle. Up on its highest point, bridge builders climbed over the span like tiny ants. 'People will be able to walk to the other side of Sydney one day' Addie said ... "

Adversity is the perfect name for the main character in this book. Adversity McAllister is only twelve years old but her life is filled with adversity.  She is living in an orphanage and, as is the usual way with orphanages in stories, this place is filled with cruelty and injustice. Addie is told her mother and father are dead. Her parents are Shakespearean actors and they think they have left Addie in a safe place while they try to make enough money to survive during the hard days of the Depression in 1930s Australia. The orphanage is awful but Addie has worked out ways to survive and has befriended the cook and the gardener. Later they will prove to be important allies. The other children adore her storytelling and acting especially with her co-performer, a cockatiel, called Macbeth.  His outbursts of Shakespearean quotes make everyone, except Matron Maddox of course, smile and laugh.  Acting out the plays her parents performed makes Addie so happy but Matron has rules - there will be NO FRIVOLITY, NO SINGING AND NO DANCING.

Addie is constantly at war with the Matron. Addie tries to protect the younger children from Matron's angry outbursts and from dangers such as the laundry boiler. Matron, however, has her own plans for Addie. She makes money selling children to unscrupulous dealers. Addie has a beautiful singing voice and she has recently won the Coal Country Eisteddfod. An evil showman called Mr Barnett E. Scrimshaw arrives and he is determined to get his hands on Adversity and exploit her talent. Matron is very willing to sell Addie if the price is right.

I love the Shakespearean chapter headings in this book:

  • This above all: to thine own self be true
  • Something wicked this way comes
  • My kingdom for a horse
  • Exit pursued by a bear
  • If music be the food of love, play on

A class could research the origin of each chapter heading - there are 33 of them.

I also thoroughly appreciated the inclusion of historical references and the way they are gently introduced in context. I find so many stories with an historical base try too hard and way too many 'facts' are included in ways that detract from the plot. The opposite is true for Sweet Adversity. There is a true flavour of 1930 here in Australia and especially in Sydney with references to a swagman looking for work, notice of evictions in The Rocks area of Sydney, building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the general poverty Addie encounters as she tries to escape from Matron Maddox and the evil Mr Scrimshaw. The Reading Time reviewer said "The research, while extensive, is woven in seamlessly, never hindering the narrative."

Here is a set of very detailed and very useful teachers notes by Robyn Sheahan-Bright. If you pick up this book and need a text preview read Chapter 19 - it is filled with tension.

Read some reviews (click on each link):

Kids' Book ReviewSheryl Gwyther gets it right. Her ability to immerse young readers into worlds of yesteryear with such a clear strong presence of today is exemplary. Her narrative slides along as alluringly as a sweet mountain brook, mesmerizing readers with plenty of action and emotion.

Just so StoriesThis is a tale of courage and resilience set against a backdrop of extraordinarily difficult times and seemingly insurmountable odds. Addie is an impressive hero. Despite her youth and her troubles, she refuses to bow to the immense pressures and evil predation put upon her.

The Book Bubble: In Sweet Adversity, Sheryl Gwyther has produced an adventure story with a strong female hero, a touch of history and some fantastic bad guys who keep the story interesting. 

Sweet Adversity is listed as a Notable CBCA book (Younger Readers) for 2019. I am working my way through the twenty titles.  I have now read twelve. I especially like Shine Mountain, Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt and this book from today - Sweet Adversity.  I also think His name was Walter and The Slightly alarming tale of the Whispering Wars (which I have just started reading) will also make the final list of six.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How does a lighthouse work? by Roman Belyaev translated by Masha Kulikova

I am so excited to share this book with you. I love lighthouses but here is another feature which might 'blow you away'. This is a Russian book! I don't usually notice publishers but this one has an intriguing name 'b small'. The only tiny detail missing from their copyright page is the Russian title but you can see it here on the author web site along with some illustrations from this wonderful book.

The information in How Does a Lighthouse work? opens with a first person narrative. The class are off on a school trip to the lighthouse. There are fifteen questions in this book and each is covered with a double page of easy to read information, illustrations and diagrams.

  • What is a lighthouse for?
  • What will I find at a lighthouse station?
  • What's it like on the top deck?
  • How does the light shine so far?
  • How do you tell lighthouses apart?

There are pages at the back with famous lighthouses from around the world and a page where you make design decisions for your own lighthouse based on the new knowledge you have from reading this book.

I have visited lighthouses in many parts of the world and I have done several lighthouse tours (just like the children in this book) but I learnt some new things here. For example, I did not know that "lighthouses have different patterns on them" so that sailors can tell them apart and get an accurate location for their ship.

This book is the first in a planned series - How it works. The next title will be How does a bridge work?

Here is an excellent detailed review by Minerva reads.  Here is a quote: "this book’s beam of knowledge should stretch across the widest seas."

My fascination with lighthouses goes back to childhood holidays spent on Lighthouse Road at Port Macquarie in NSW. There was, naturally, a lighthouse the end of the street and I loved spending time sitting beside the white walls in the sunshine. The isolated lives of the lighthouse keeper and his family, the tower shape and glorious locations of lighthouses also fascinate me.  You can see some other picture books about Lighthouses on my friend's kinderbookswitheverything page. I have a Pinterest of ideas which I gathered when one of my teachers did a unit of work using The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch.

Here are two of my favourite lighthouses.

Lighthouse at Peggy's Cove, Canada 
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peggy%27s_Point_Lighthouse_at_Peggy%27s_Cove.jpg

Port Macquarie, NSW Australia Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port_Macquarie.JPG

Keep an eye out for this new book - winner of the 2019 Caldecott Medal. It is a must read for all lighthouse fans.

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Square is the second book in a set of three. You can probably guess all the titles Circle, Triangle and here is Square. One very interesting thing I noticed after reading reviews of the Shapes Trilogy is the wildly divergent audience suggestions. Kirkus say Square is for 10+, Triangle is for ages 2-4 and Circle is for 4-8.  I wonder if these were the ages Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen anticipated for these three wonderful books.  In my view these three books could easily be enjoyed by children in Kindergarten right up to adult readers.

Square is such a deep book. How amazing. It has very few words. It does not use a complex vocabulary and has only two shapes as the characters. For me, though, this is not a simple book. It is a book about work (is it futile?), creativity, self esteem and point of view. There would be so much to discuss here with a class of older students.

Square is working hard. His 'job' seems to follow the same routine every day. He seems okay with his life. Perhaps he doesn't question why the blocks need moving each day. Along comes Circle. She sees his blocks and declares they are a work of art. Square in not sure about this new idea. Circle praises the talents of Square and commissions him to make a circle. Square tries so hard but making a perfect circle from one his blocks proves impossible. Square feels like a failure but Circle sees the world in a different way. She sees wonder in his work - a circle of stones with a puddle in the middle which provides a perfect reflection.

"You are a genius,' said Circle.
But was he really?"

I love the shape of Square - it is a square, of course, but with rounded edges. I love the cover made from thick card the kind you usually find on board books. And I love those expressive eyes which seem to look straight at the reader.

Walker Books have made a set of teaching notes based around all three books. Watch this video where Mac and Jon talk about their books. Here is an interview with Mac and Jon.

Read some reviews.

This book takes a sweeter turn from its prankish predecessor in that Square works hard to create something for Circle, only to feel like he failed; but when Circle sees what he created, she is “beguiled” once more by his genius.  School Library Journal

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent

There is a lot going on in Cassie's life right now. On the surface two peacocks have escaped from the holiday flats across the road. Cassie knows she has terrific powers of observation and she has also had some success, in the past, as a peacock detective. Cassie enlists the help of her friend Jonas and they set off to look around their town even crossing the bridge to The Other Side of Town.

"I'm not allowed to go over the bridge by myself, because over the bridge is The Other Side of Town."

All of that would make for a simple detective or mystery story but The Peacock Detectives is so much more.

Just as we saw in The Elephant by Peter Carnavas something is wrong with Cassie's dad. He is sad, he spends a lot of time in his study and strangely he keeps buying small china ornaments which are stored in their boxes on every spare shelf in the house. Then to top all of this off mum says she is moving to a flat on The Other Side of Town, Cassie's sister Diana is now sleeping in a tent in the backyard and practicing Buddhism and Grandpa is very ill in hospital and Cassie is not allowed to see him.

Here are a set of Book Club questions. Text Publishing also have a set of teaching notes. Take minute to read the comments by Kids Book Review.   The Peacock Detectives is a 2019 CBCA Notable book (Younger Readers).

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Raising Readers by Megan Daley

"When you find the perfect book gift for an occasion such as a christening ... buy it in bulk."

On page 205 of her new book Megan Daley offers these words of wisdom which I think apply to her own book.  If you have friends with a new baby, if you have friends with young children, if you are about to become a grandparent or aunt or uncle this book is the PERFECT present. Actually I might go so far as to say it is an essential purchase to give to anyone with children. Later I am going to talk about why this book is also important reading for Teacher-Librarians.

When my close friends had their babies I bought books like Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler and Reading Magic by Mem Fox. I would now add Raising Readers into their gift boxes.

I first discovered Children's Books Daily back in 2012 (I think that is when Megan began her blog childrensbookdaily). I immediately loved the 'voice' of this reviewer and the name of the blog - suggesting we should be reading books every day. Of course there is also the lovely match of Daley and daily!

I like to think that one day Megan Daley and I will sit down for a long chat about the books we both love. On the first pages of Raising Readers the very first book she mentions made me sigh with happiness - Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt.  Perhaps we could meet in a coffee shop (note to Megan sorry to say I don't drink coffee) and the conversation could begin. I have lots of questions but first off I would like to ask Megan was it a difficult decision to include book lists in Raising Readers? People who pick up this book will expect book lists but there are problems with this. Megan explains her decision regarding the choices she makes:

"All book recommendation lists in Raising Readers do not include well-known or classic books. I have instead selected less obvious choices from my personal favourites. Consider each list a springboard for you to seek out other books that might be a good fit for a young reader."

There are some great positives which come out of this idea. Megan mentions books that might be lost in the mists of time and she draws our attention to books that need to be discovered but which perhaps did not receive awards or receive huge publisher promotion.  One example of this is What the Sky Knows. This book was short listed by the CBCA in 2006 and I loved reading it to many classes but I am sure it has languished on many library shelves ever since. Try to find this one - it is a very special book which you can share with older children too.

I do realise the author Nike Bourke and Megan may be friends as they both live in Brisbane but that is irrelevant I just happy to see a mention of this, and other, very special but perhaps less well known books. I am going to mention a few more here.  The Flying Orchestra by Clare McFadden, Puffling by Margaret Wild, Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs, The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Appel and 45 & 47 Stella Street by Elizabeth Honey. Take look at the lists in Raising Readers you will find so many treasures.

The book is organised in a logical way but with some surprise chapters such as:

Chapter 3 The School Library
Chapter 4 Spaces for Reading
Chapter 11 Reading for the future: Sustainability and Nature
Chapter 12 Reading Mindfully

I love the way Megan's own fresh voice can be heard throughout the book with words such as "oh my glory".

Also scattered throughout the book are contributions by people such as Kathryn Apel, Joy Lawn, Natalie Jane Prior and Allison Tait. If you just want to dip into this book reading these sections would be a good way to start.

Just to finish with a few important and resonant quotes from my favourite chapter - The School Library!

"Well-resourced school libraries, with exemplary teacher librarians and library support staff, develop and sustain a vibrant reading culture, promote innovative use of digital technologies and are a participatory hub within the school."  Note to school principals this one sentence contains all the criteria needed for writing a job advertisement for a teacher librarian.

"School libraries are wonderful places which are the beating heart of many school communities and a refuge for those in need of time away from a busy school environment."

And from Chapter 4:
"Library displays should be dotted around the library, be ever-changing, professional, eye catching with all the books facing forwards and able to be borrowed from the display."

Now I am going to re-write this sentence with my own shouting voice. (Megan says its okay to be loud!)

"Library displays should be dotted around the library, be ever-changing, professional, eye catching with all the books facing forwards and able to be borrowed from the display."

Raising Readers is a practical and easy to read book and it should be added to school libraries for parents to borrow, as I said it would be the perfect gift for a family and I would also share this book with anyone who is new to the role of Teacher-Librarian. This book made me smile, laugh, cry (yes) and cheer!

Huge thanks to University of Queensland Press for supplying me with an advance copy of Raising Readers. We will have copies for you to purchase at our IBBY International Children's Book Day event on 6th April, 2019. The actual publication date is 2nd April, 2019.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tuesday Treasures - the list

Today is not Tuesday but I thought I might list here the books I plan to include in my Tuesday Treasures posts over the coming months. This list will help me plan my posts and hunt for books to borrow from my friend's wonderful school library and I do have a few in my own collection too. There are a range of Picture Books here from those you might read to children aged 3-5 right through to titles for a senior primary class and beyond.

In Australian school libraries the term for removing books from a collection is weeding. Weeding is an important library housekeeping procedure to make space for new books and to remove damaged copies but  hidden among the huge piles of weeding, teachers and teacher librarians, have to keep an eye for for treasures. 

Very sadly these titles have recently been weeded from my former library.  I hope to use these Tuesday Treasure posts to alert others to the value of each of these titles and in the hope another library might decide to keep these very special books. Some are personal favourites, some have quite important syllabus links, some allow a teacher or teacher librarian to explore the body of work by a particular author or illustrator (especially those by an Australian) and some are just perfect books to read aloud to a class either for a purpose (such as bullying) or just to read for fun. Nearly all of these books are out of print.

Aktil’s Bicycle Ride by Inga Moore
Aktil’s big swim by Inga Moore
Albert and Lila by Rafik Schami
Anno’s mysterious multiplying jar by Anno
At home with Tom and Pippo by Helen Oxenbury
Bad hare day by Miriam Moss

Banjo and Ruby Red Libby Gleeson
Barty’s Scarf by Sally Chambers
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka
Bear goes to town Anthony Browne
A book of Letters by Ken Wilson-Max
The boy with two shadows Margaret Mahy
Can I keep him: stories about pets 
Clouds by Peggy Blakley
Come on rain by Karen Hesse
Daisy by Brian Wildsmith

Dreadful David by Sally Odgers
Eight by Lynn Lee
Elizabeth and Larry by Marilyn Sadler
Elizabeth Larry and Ed by Marilyn Sadler
Francie’s paper puppy by Achim Broger
I like books Anthony Browne
Jody’s beans by Malachy Doyle
Katherine and the garbage dump by Martha Morris
Leaving Mrs Ellis by Catherine Robinson
Little bear’s little boat by Eve Bunting
The loud book by Deborah Underwood

Mouse paint by Ellen Walsh
Mouse Shapes by Ellen Walsh
The magic dictionary Bruce Whatley
Marty and Mei Ling by Phil Cummings
Motor Bill and the Lovely Caroline by Jenny Wagner
The mouse with the too long tail by Bani McSpedden
My brown bear Barney by Dorothy Butler

Nana upstairs and Nana downstairs by Tomie dePaola
Out and about with Tom and Pippo by Helen Oxenbury
Pancakes for Findus by Sven Nordqvist
The park in the dark by Martin Waddell
Patricia by Stephen Michael King
Pig pig grows up by David McPhaill
A pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman
Princess Beatrice and the rotten robber by Elizabeth Honey
Q Pootle 5 by Nick Butterworth
Q Pootle 5 in Space by Nick Butterworth
A rabbit named Harris by Nan Hunt

Zoom by Istvan Banyai
Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai
Rude Ramsay and the roaring radishes by Margaret Attwood
Rummage by Christobel Mattingley
The sad little monster and the jelly bean queen by Kym Lardner
Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester
Shock Monday by Gillian Bradshaw
So few of me by Peter Reynolds
Six Dinner Sid a Highland adventure by Inga Moore
Sloppy Kisses by Elizabeth Winthrop
Snow White in New York by Fiona French

Squiggle Diddle plop! by Guundie Kuchling
Stanza by Jill Esbaum
The story of Chicken Licken by Jan Ormerod
Susie and Alfred in a welcome for Anne by Helen Craig
Tenrec’s twigs by Bert Kitchen
Ten tiny things by Meg McKinlay
The time it took Tom by Nick Sharratt
Timothy and  Gramps by Ron Brooks
Tin Lizzie and little Nell by David Cox
The tip at the end of the street by Tohby Riddle
Tom and Pippo go for a walk by Helen Oxenbury

Tom and Pippo make a mess by Helen Oxenbury
Tom and Pippo read a story by Helen Oxenbury
The tooth fairy by Peter Collington
The tough Princess by Martin Waddell
Tucking Mummy in by Morag Loh
Vote for Duck by Doreen Cronin
The weird things in Nanna’s house by Ann Maree Mason
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
What sort of Day? by Sally Heinrich
Whatever by William Bee
You’re all animals by Nicholas Allen
Somebody and the three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst
Cornelius P Mud series by Barney Saltzberg
Baloney Henry P by Jon Scieszka
Black Dog by Christabel Mattingley
The Boss by Alan Baillie

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dougal the Garbage dump bear by Matt Dray

Tuesday Treasure

I have decided to highlight an older book each Tuesday for the next few months. Many of these will be out of print but you may/should find them in a school library. They are books I enjoyed reading in my school library.

Recently I met a lady who was driving a yellow and black Smart car with the number plate BeeBee.

It made me think of the bee character named Bumble in Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear. I love to quote his lines:

"To bee or to bee."
"As long as we all bee-have ourselves."
"Why can't he just let us bee?"

In my memory Bumble also said "I want to bee a bee." but I seem to have made that one up!

Dougal, the teddy bear, is discarded by his family and finds himself taken to the garbage dump. The workers rescue him and sit him on a bench by the pond. After a few lonely days, Dougal is joined by Bumble and then over time many more soft toys join them including "a shaggy thing with one eye that didn't know what it was." The boss finally arrives and says 45 toys are too many for the dump so the kindly workers take all of them to a cottage by the sea. "They couldn't believe their luck."

I love the little touches of humour in this book along with the extras in the illustrations such as coffee stains, a dead fly and the photo of a spiral binding because this book is designed to look like a photo album.

Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear was shortlisted by the CBC in 2005 in the Early Childhood picture book category. The winner that year was Where is the Green sheep? which is still available in many formats while sadly Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear is out of print although it did reappear as a board book in 2012. If you enjoy controversy, some libraries in the US banned Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear because of these lines:

And some days, mostly on Fridays, they would go out with the men after work and play pool and get home very late.
And always the next day, they would both feel very sick from drinking too many ginger beers, and have to sleep it off in the airconditioned dragon.
'Never again,' Bumble would say.
'I need an iced coffee,' Dougal would say.

I am so pleased to share this quote from the Kirkus reviewer:

The juxtaposition of Dray’s wry narrative with his quixotic and uniquely compelling snapshots proves engaging across the generations. A heartfelt message at tale’s end regarding triumphing over adversity proves that this odd duckling of a story is truly a swan.

Two other treasures which could link with this book are Katherine and the Garbage Dump and Simp (originally published as Cannonball Simp).

Monday, March 11, 2019

Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin illustrated by Anna Walker

When you have new clothes it is fun to wear them straight away and to wear them everywhere. Go Go has to put up with hand-me-down clothes but she is allowed to have new shoes. She goes shopping with her mum and sees the perfect pair of silver sneakers. "Mum bought them a bit big, so they would last longer."

Go Go wears the shoes everywhere including on an adventure to the creek with her brothers. Astute readers will have already guessed there will be a disaster. One shoe is lost. Go Go says she doesn't care and she continues to wear her one silver shoe on her left foot and a different shoe on her right foot. She bravely copes with the teasing of her classmates. Then a new girl arrives in her class. Ellie is fascinated by Go Go's silver shoe. After school the pair head over to Ellie's house and, well as you have guessed the pair of shoes are back together but what will happen now?

Here are a set of excellent teaching notes. Reading these I discovered Jane Godwin was inspired to write this book because

  • she saw a lone shoe abandoned near a creek
  • she heard the name Go Go (short for Marigold) and loved it
  • she is interest in the idea of fate

There are so many great Picture books for your youngest students. written about shoes. My friend at Kinderbookswitheverything has an excellent collection on her blog. Make sure you include some fairy tales too.

Go Go and the Silver shoes is a 2019 CBCA Notable book (Picture book of Year). With an older class I would pair Go Go and the Silver shoes with Four feet Two Sandals and Those Shoes. There are some other text ideas here.

Looking for ideas connected with this book I discovered this wonderful site for shoe fans - The Virtual Shoe Museum. You can select material, type, colour, designer and more and see a huge array of wild shoes. Go Go and the Silver Shoes could be an inspiration for an art activity designing and decorating shoes.

From its sparkly cover to its stunning endpages, this is a unique story that had me enthralled to the end. Barbara Braxton The Bottom Shelf

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bureau of Weights and Measures by Anne-Gaelle Balpe illustrated by Vincent Mahe

I have been wrapping books for our IBBY International Children's Book day event. The Bureau of Weights and Measures will be in one of our raffle book bundles but I wanted to talk about it here before I pop it into the parcel.

I ADORE this book. I am so excited that I have discovered it. Why?

  • It's a book that has been translated, in this case from French. I always think books from other contexts and cultures have an extra wow factor.
  • This is a book that explores emotions - a topic of importance to me.
  • I love the retro colour palette of blue, orange, green and cream and the tall format.
  • At it's heart this is a book about problems and solutions and it is also about repairing mistakes.
  • Marcel and his son have a brilliant relationship.
  • You could share this book with a young child 6+ and also with an older group because there is so much to discuss.

Here is the first page:

"My dad's name is Marcel Gramme. He is an engineer at the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Every day he confirms that one gram weights exactly one gram, that one metre is exactly a metre, that one degree of temperature is exactly one degree, and that three plus three still equals six."

It is true that there are lots of things in the world that you can measure and it is important that these measurements are accurate and reliable but what about things like sadness, smiles, love, jealousy and greed. How do we measure these?

Marcel is sure there must be a way so he works on some new measuring instruments and his son gives the units of measurement inventive and wonderful sounding names:

Smile - measured using a compass and measured in yippees, centi-yippees, milli-yippees
Sadness - measured using a cryometre and measured in sniffebels from three hundred to thirty giga-snifflebels.
Love - measured with a combination metronome and stethoscope and measured in kilopassion units.

Of course things don't quite go as planned and human foibles and failings take over. People start to complain that their partners, children and friends do not measure up.  Marcel and his son decide to ask everyone to return the new measuring instruments but rather than just dispose of them Dad has a brilliant idea. By the way did you notice the little joke in dad's name?

Here is a review with more details. Take a look at the art of Vincent Mahe.

If you want to create a mini theme around this book then these two titles would be absolutely perfect:

Teachers notes:  http://www.wilkinsfarago.com.au/Dad_teachers_notes.pdf

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Young Vikings by James Moloney

I am reading my way through the twenty CBCA Notable titles (Younger Readers) and I keep being surprised.  Here is a book I would probably not have picked up. I'm not really interested in Vikings and the cover doesn't appeal to me.  It is good to know I was wrong. This is a terrific action packed story filled with fierce battles, friendship and, the part I liked best, a hero who uses his intelligence.

"I was desperate to avenge my father's murder. I heard him cry for blood every night in my dreams. I wanted blood on my sword more than anyone. There in front of the young Vikings, I asked Torsten the only question that really mattered. 'Could we take on Bloodtooth's men in Belvor?"

I will use this quote to explain the plot of The Young Vikings.

Agnor Bloodtooth and his men have attacked the village of Moberg. Hauk and his young friends arrive home after a hunting trip and find all the adult males of the village are dead. The boys decided to avenge their fathers. To do this they begin to train with axes and swords but tempers and rivalries hinder their progress.  Hauk can see their plan will not work. He enlists the help of Torsten, a former warrior whose injuries mean he only has one leg. The boys do grow stronger and more skilled and eventually Hauk, himself becomes their leader, but really it will still be a battle of boys against men. Hauk has a better idea. The group should try to reclaim the village longboat - Sea Wolf.  This plan will take courage, problem solving, teamwork and trust.

The final battle scenes are not for the faint hearted but this is a Viking story so I did expect quite a lot of blood to be spilled before the Young Vikings could proclaim their victory.

You can read an interview with James Moloney here. From what I can discover this book may be the first in a series but this installment does have a satisfying ending. James Moloney has other books that I have enjoyed such as Swashbuckler, Buzzard Breath and Brains, and several Aussie Bite and Nibble titles. I especially enjoyed Disappearing Act and his After Dark title - The Pipe. I also recently read one of his YA titles - A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove.

If the topic of Vikings interests you or your readers look for these titles in your library:

For the youngest children I would begin with The Last Viking and The Last Viking Returns by Norman Jorgensen.

Then I would look for this very old book which is great fun:

For older primary students:

You might also look for the Viking Magic series by Anna Ciddor.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Brindabella by Ursula Dubosarsky illustrated by Andrew Joyner

"If Pender and his father had looked back, they would have seen that Brindabella was now standing at the open door. This was her time! She sniffed the air. She heard the rustling leaves high up on the hill. Hurry, Brindabella! Hurry! .. Out, out, away, away she went, far away and up the hill into the deep freedom of the bush."

The fierce love of the boy, Pender, is central in this story. He finds a joey kangaroo in the  pouch of her dead mother.  Finding a baby animal which has survived like this is sure to appeal to all young readers. Pender is living in a remote part of Australia. His father is loving but reclusive spending his daylight hours in his studio painting. Pender relies on farm routines and the companionship of his dog Billy-Bob.  Finding the joey gives Pender a new focus. He needs to make sure she is feed and keep her safe and he loves to draw sketches of her but he does know one day she must return to the wild.

It is easy to understand Pender's feelings and love towards Brindabella but Ursula Dubosarsky  also allows us to 'hear' Brindabella herself and she is quite a fiesty, confident and opinionated young girl.

"She knew that Pender cared for her, held her close, kept her safe, and fed her. But she didn't belong to him. She belonged to no-one but herself. 
'Why should he love me?' she asked, shrugging her shoulders. 'I don't love anybody.'
She thumped her tail in the dust, which rose in a puff. That was what she loved - her strong, beautiful tail."

This is a book in three acts - rather like a play:

Act One Pender - finding and raising Brindabella and happy times on the farm.
Act Two Brindabella -  the escape and new life in the bush learning to keep safe and make new friends.
Act Three Meeting again - There are hunters in the bush, Pender and his faithful dog Billy-Bob need to make sure Brindabella is safe.

The relationship between Pender and his father is a complex one. Their communication is limited and we are not told why his father becomes ill but an astute reader will recognise it is connected with grief.

Here are a set of detailed and very useful teachers notes written by Joy Lawn. Brindabella has been included in the CBCA Notables (Younger Readers) for 2019. On 26th March the six short listed titles will be announced. I hope Brindabella makes the cut. You can see some of the art by Andrew Joyner from the book here. I would recommend this book for children aged 8+ because there is a very tragic moment toward the end which may shock a younger child.

If you want to explore the idea of raising a young animal like Brindabella take a look at Sebastian lives in a Hat. Also below you can see the Polish edition of Brindabella. How exciting to see this book about the Australian bush reaching an international audience.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Everything is hard for Kasienka. She and her mother have travelled from Poland to Coventry in England. Mama hopes to find her husband who left the family. Kasienka is not hopeful. The first day of school is simply awful. Swimming is her only refuge.

The Weight of Water is a verse novel. I am a huge fan of verse novels.  Here are a few text quotes which show the power of this writing and give you a glimpse of the plot:

The brown children
Play with the white children
The black children
Play with the brown children ...

I'm not welcome to play.
The reason I'm too white.

No-one likes too white,
Eastern white,
Polish winter white,
Vampire fright white.

Why can't they see what's happening?
Why don't they notice the looks,
The smirks, the eye-rolling?

And why don't they ask if I'm OK?
I'll tell them I'm not.

Mama is wasting money
We don't have.
She prints posters
With Tata's picture on them
And the word MISSING.

She makes one hundred copies
On purple paper,
So people will notice them
Stapled to the trees
Around Coventry.

I wish I knew how I found this book. I keep a 'list' of books I see that I want to read. A local bookseller was offering free freight so I ordered The weight of water. This is a profound and moving story and one I would like to put into the hands of many Young Adult readers.

You can find a reading guide on the Bloomsbury web site. You can see some pages from the book here. This is a Young Adult title for readers 13+ - the themes and strong language are not suitable for younger students.

Narrating in image-rich free verse that packs an emotional punch, Kasienka describes what life is like for a new arrival while also exploring universal themes of abandonment, loyalty, bullying and first love. Kirkus

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Shine Mountain by Julie Hunt

"But if the instrument could give, it could also take away, 
 and what it took was harmony."

I am reading my way through the CBCA Notables (Younger Readers). A few of the titles were in my local public library including Shine Mountain. How did I miss this one last year?

One of the things I love about reading is when a book is so inventive, so powerful and so unpredictable I just have to keep reading and reading. I started Shine Mountain one morning and devoured about a third. Then I had to go out but Shine Mountain was calling me home. I just had to get back into the world of Ellie and her friends (human and animal). I left everything when I came home and sat down to read right through to the end.

The opening scenes of Shine Mountain read like a movie. Pop is dying. Unfamiliar family members have gathered at the farm. Ellie and Oma know the time is close and so they are making their preparations. Late in the evening the shine-moth arrives.

"A slab of moonlight fell on Pop's bed and I saw the shine-moth land on the bedhead. It was still for a moment, then it opened its wings and began a slow, steady beating. Pop gave a sigh as the insect took over his breathing. He looked so relieved I thought he might die right then ... "

Pop still has a few hours left. The shine-moth grows bigger but there is time for Pop to write his will.  All of this goes along as expected with gifts for various family members but then Pop asks for a box which is under his bed. Pop asks the family to bury this box with him in his grave.

"I thought it was a little jewel box at first. It was a pretty thing with a pattern of leaves carved on what seemed to be the lid, but when Tod opened it I realised it was a button-box, a tiny concertina."

Pop plays a tune, sings a song and Oma joins in. They sing about Spring and the music seems to work. Plants start to grow, the ice cap on top of Mount Ossa begins to melt. Pop quietly dies and is buried along with the button box but the lawyer has a greedy eye. He sets off late in the night returning to the city on his horse but on the way he stops at the grave and digs up the button box. Ellie sees him but she cannot get close enough to stop him. The lawyer is drunk. There is an accident. The button box lies broken on the ground. Ellie knows there is a mystery about this old instrument but she has also seen the good effect it seemed to have on the farm and on her Oma. She picks up the pieces and organises for the repairs.

The dangerous thing, though, is that while the music of the button box can bring prosperity it can also bring terrible hardship. As quickly as things became good so they become bad. The heat ramps up. Crops die and Oma is failing. Ellie needs to set things right. She needs to take this button box back through the Palisades to Shine Mountain but this will be a dangerous journey in every way - physical danger of course but also the danger when she discovers the truth about her identity.

There is a link on the publisher web site (Allen and Unwin) to a set of very useful discussion questions to use with Shine Mountain.

I don't talk about covers often enough. I adore this one. It is by Geoff Kelly and he did the map too. I have said this before but I enjoy exploring maps.  Perhaps you have seen one of Geoff's earliest books - Power and Glory by Emily Rodda. It was an amazing book about a computer game. More recently Geoff did the covers for two new Paul Jennings books A different Dog and A different Boy.

Okay here is my BIG request/prediction/wish/plea/hope - Shine Mountain just HAS to make the CBCA short list. YES YES it is that good! If it is not on your reading pile go out and grab a copy now. Are you still with me?  Off you go and find this book - NOW! Fingers crossed for Julie Hunt.

I would link Shine Mountain with The Firework Maker's daughter by Philip Pullman.

I loved so many parts of this story: Luca's gift of weather making; the kindness of the wonderful Meridian and her ability as a Way-Lady; and the idea of map making using dust or dirt from your home. The descriptions are also wonderful. I can just see Harlan's shoes: "His boots had pointed toes and they were laced up at the side with leather thonging."

There are links in Shine Mountain with other books by Julie. An accordion (found in The Coat) and the coat itself worn by Harland: "He wore old-fashioned garb, a ragged frockcoat that hung on his thin frame and a wide hat that was turned up at the back.". If you look at The Coat illustrated by Ron Brooks it looks just like this. I asked Julie about this and she said she seems to have a 'thing' about concertinas, coats and white gloves. The white gloves are a reference to her book KidGlovz.

This is a mysterious magical quest for truth, identity, and reparation. It is designed to shine a light on the importance and necessity of stories handed down over time.  It is a movement of music in four parts. The story is made up of strands of the characters’ lives interwoven with the strongest strand being Ellie, in the middle, to hold it all together. Kids Book Review

Read my earlier post about Song for a Scarlet Runner also by Julie Hunt.

Here is a button Box concertina - click the link to hear it played.

Image source and video of this instrument being played: https://www.buttonbox.com/new-concertinas.html