Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Where's Julius by John Burningham

Tuesday Treasure

Don't read this book if you are hungry oh and grab an atlas so you can follow Julius around the world.

Mr and Mrs Troutbeck sit down for breakfast, lunch and supper. Mrs Troutbeck prepares a terrific variety of meals but Julius is absent. He is off on wild adventures.

Here are some of the meals - I often think about them when I am cooking.

For supper lamb casserole with potatoes in their jackets and broccoli with butter on top and for "afterwards there is roly-poly pudding."

For breakfast there is "sausage, bacon and egg, toast and marmalade and also a glass of Three Flavour Fruit Juice."

For lunch there is "cheese salad with celery and tomato an an orange for pudding if you want it."

Other desserts are plum duff, apple crumble and steamed pudding.  DELICIOUS!

But where is Julius?

  • He is riding a camel up a pyramid
  • He is cooing the hippos in the Lombo Bombo River
  • He is throwing snowballs at wolves in Novosti Krosky
  • He is climbing the Changa Benang Mountains

Where's Julius follows the format from two earlier Burningham books - Come away from the water, Shirley and Time to get out of the bath, Shirley.  Real life is pale in comparison with the wonderful flights of imagination by our young protagonist.

In his storytelling, he liked to start off quietly, then draw his young readers into the realm of imagination. There was, for instance, “Where’s Julius?” in 1986, in which Mr. and Mrs. Troutbeck wonder why their son hasn’t come down to lunch. The reason is that he has, as most every child has done, made a little fort in his room out of a curtain strung across a couple of chairs. New York Times

Where's Julius was first published in 1986 and so sadly it is out of print but I am certain most Primary school libraries will have a copy of this treasure. If you want a laugh Amazon have a new copy for sale at $1,645!  If you can find a copy this is a book to really enjoy on so many levels and it works well as a Kindergarten read aloud too.  You could follow this with another John Burningham book with a similar structure - Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present.

Monday, November 18, 2019

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies by Jaco Jacobs

Do you judge a book by its title?  I did for this one. Zombies did not sound like a book I wanted to read. I saw this book listed inside the back cover of A Good Day for Climbing Trees.

Then I made three discoveries. First of all I loved A Good Day for Climbing Trees by Jaco Jacobs and so I book talked it during a book week event at a small rural school. While I was talking about A Good Day for Climbing Trees one of the Year 6 students exclaimed with great excitement that she had read another book by Jaco Jacobs - A Good Night for Shooting Zombies. I was curious how this book had reached this reader in Australia (it is from South Africa) and also how a book with such an odd title could elicit such joy.

Secondly Jaco Jacobs has been nominated by IBBY in South Africa for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen medal. As a member of IBBY Australia I am very interested in this award.  Finally I was browsing a discount book store in the city last week and I spied A Good Night for Shooting Zombies at a bargain price so I picked it up.

Last night I started to read this book and by morning it was finished.  Yes it is THAT good.

I love that the title has two meanings. The group of kids, especially Vusi, are making or shooting a movie about zombies. The final scenes in the movie involve shooting the zombies - don't worry they use toy guns and this scene is actually a wonderful celebration of community.

Martin (nickname Clucky) has lots of chickens. His dad showed him how to care for them but sadly his dad has died in a tragic accident. Martin is saving the money he gets from selling the eggs. He has an important reason for doing this. 

Vusi lives next door to Martin. Vusi does not go to school because he has Hodgkin's disease. Vusi loves watching zombie movies and so he has decided to make one of his own.

Clucky meets Vusi when Vusi's dog attacks the chickens and Kathleen (a leghorn chicken) is killed. This meeting is the beginning of an important friendship. Clucky is lonely at school because he is a clever boy who does not fit in. He does not understand why this movie is important to Vusi but he is happy to be involved. Later Chris (Christine) joins them and the action really heats up. Vusi wants to find a shed where they can film some scenes from the movie. Chris has a shed but it does contain a lot of things that belong to her brother who is in jail. When local criminals discover our team of movie makers things become very dangerous.

Spoiler alert - this is a book that ends in tragedy and yet at no time does it feel sad. Using the time they had available these young friends have made special memories for themselves and for the people they love.

One aspect of this book I really enjoyed was Clucky's obsession with numbers. He calculates precisely when things happen, how long they take and he is always calculating the numbers he encounters to check if they are happy numbers. (see page 23).

"While racing home I thought of Aunt Hantie. She said that her husband died ten years ago. That amounts to 3,652 days, if you add two days for leap years. And that amounts to 86,648 hours. How do you survive that many hours when you're as lonely as she is?"

This book has been made into a movie.  You can read about it here and see the trailer. The movie is called Nul is Nie Niks Nie. 

This book was written in 2013 and translated in 2018. Here is the Afrikaans cover:

Never too sentimental or depressing, A Good Night for Shooting Zombies strikes a perfect balance of humor and heartbreak and helps to define what friendship really means. Foreword Reviews

Just like the children in The Little Wave - Martin, Vusi and Chris have complex life experiences and families. I highly recommend A Good Night for Shooting Zombies. I also recommend you look for Kaline Klatteraster's tree house by Haven Kimmel; Swashbuckler by James Moloney; The Goldfish boy by Lisa Thompson and View from the 32nd Floor by Emma Cameron which is long out of print but well worth finding even though the cover is perhaps not very appealing.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

You hug the moon, you know that

"I've thought about my mother, of course. I've wondered where she went to and where's she been. But I guess Aimee is; right I was abandoned ... and I am an orphan. But is it dumb to say I never thought about it like that?  Until now."

It is the summer and Delsie McHill lives on Cape Cod with her Grammy. Each summer several things always happen.  First off the local theatre put on a summer production with island kids in the cast - this year it is Annie. Second, Delsie always meets up with her summer friend Brandy. They have fabulous times exploring the beach and catching up. This summer, though, things will be different and disrupted, awful and really hard for Delsie.

Brandy has a new friend, Tressa, who has also come to stay on Cape Cod for the Summer. You have probably guessed I'm heading for the saying "two's company, three's a crowd."  Tressa is mean and excluding and over the weeks of sunshine and swimming, Delsie watches her special friend Brandy change into someone she no longer recognises.

Delsie's Grammy works cleaning holiday houses at Seahaven. A new guy is managing the place and he has bought his son. Just like Delsie, Ronan is adjusting to change in his life - he going through some very tough times. So now we have four kids - Delsie and Ronan, who over the summer become friends who trust each other enough to share stories and feelings, and Brandy and Tressa who over the summer learn, hopefully, that there are other people in the world, like Delsie, who have feelings and who can be hurt by meanness.

I adore the grandmother in this book. She is wise, she is patient, she cares so deeply about Delsie and she shows a beautiful understanding of the needs of others especially people who have been rejected by conventional society.

You may be wondering about the title. Delsie is a weather expert. She loves storms and she can read the sky. The layer of storms across this story also serve as a metaphor for the ups and severe downs of this summer.

This is a book that will linger with me for a long time. I would follow Shouting at the Rain with Beyond the Bright sea by Lauren Wolk; The Girl who bought mischief by Katrina Nannestad and Jubilee by Patricia Reilly Giff. The kindness of Delsie reminded me of one of my favourite book characters - Hazel Green (Odo Hirsch) and also, of course, the kindness of Opal in Because of Winn Dixie.  On Lynda Mullaly Hunt's web site you can watch a video of her reading part of the story and find other useful links.

I am now getting ready to read another book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt:

On the publisher (Penguin) web site you can listen to an audio sample from Chapter one. Make sure you watch Colby Sharp and his video review of this book. He explains beautifully why this is such a special book.  Here is a trailer with some plot details.

A richly embroidered cast of characters, a thoughtful exploration of how real friends treat one another, and the true meaning of family all combine to make this a thoroughly satisfying coming-of-age tale. Kirkus

Saturday, November 16, 2019

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

These two girls, Avery and Bett, do not know each other. They live in different parts of America. They have no reason to ever meet. That is until the summer they are both twelve. Their dads meet, fall in love and decide to travel to China. Avery and Bett are sent to summer camp.  Can two very different girls become friends? Yes if they have a joint project especially one that affects their precious dads, their family life and even their future.

The story is told via emails (mainly), letters and a few txt messages. Mostly we read the communication between Avery Bloom and Bett (short for Betty she's named after her grandmother) Devlin but as the story progresses we hear from Sam Bloom (Avery's Papa); Marlow Devlin (Bett's Daddy); Gaga (Betty Devlin Bett's grandmother); and Kristina Allenberry (actress and birth mother to Avery). This is an interesting format and means the pace of the story never lets up while also allowing each girl to share her back story, hopes and fears.

These two girls are almost polar opposites. Avery is from New York city. She is an anxious girl who is terrified of water and her interests are science and reading. Bett lives in California and she is LOUD and confident and adores outdoor sports especially those involving water.

As is the way with relationships there are lots of ups and downs for Avery and Bett and of course for Sam and Marlow. Just when the girls decide they will be friends, they discover they really like each other, Sam and Marlow break up! Avery and Bett want to be sisters so now they have to hatch a complex plan to get these two guys back together.  Naturally it doesn't quite work out the way they might have expected.

To Night Owl from Dogfish came to me highly recommended by Beachside Bookshop but I must say I resisted reading this book. I actually started it three or four times and gave up. I was sure this was not my style of book.

Yesterday I was traveling for several hours to my volunteer job at Westmead so I decided to take this book along and give it another try. By the end of the day I had read the whole book - it is certainly a page turner and it has almost 300 pages! So yes you might say I did enjoy this book.  I am going to say here that in my view this book is for 11+ (mature readers). I am not sure that I would have purchased this book for my Primary School library - it seems more suitable for junior high.

Click these review quotes for more plot details:

This is a laugh out loud novel with a cast of great characters. Randomly Reading

Strong and vivid characterisation makes us feel we really know Bett, Avery, Grandma Betty and the parents, and relate to their decisions and feelings. BookTrust

Sloan and Wolitzer nicely differentiate their protagonists’ voices, making the emails believable even while the girls are seeing each other every day at camp. Horn Book

You can listen to an audio sample on the Penguin web site.

Friday, November 15, 2019

If I built a house by Chris van Dusen

My house will be nifty! My house will be neat!
My house will stand out as the best on the street!

If I built a house is the perfect book for budding architects and also for fans of the popular Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton series which begins with the 13 Story Treehouse.

Jack builds the house of his dreams. Yes there are the regular (albeit amazing) rooms such as a kitchen, living room and bathroom but there are also utterly fantastical rooms such as an art room with a giant spool of paper for 1,000,000 drawings, a flying room with no gravity, a racetrack room and a wonderful underwater room.

I have two favourite parts in this book. One is the wonderful blue print end papers - front and back are different. The other thing I love is the little black dog. When you pick up this book (which has just been released in paperback) try to find the dog - he is on every page and he loves all the adventures afforded by this brilliant house. Take an especially close look at the art room where Jack's dog has been used as a model for a sculpture. It is so funny.

There are two other books in this series:

I would pair this book with Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn.

Kind - a book about kindness

Alex Scheffler asked 38 kind illustrators to contribute to this book which was published to support Three Peas - a charity who provide vital help to refugees.

Some names you may recognise among the 38 illustrators are listed here. I've put one book title after each name but of course there would be many more you could explore.

  • Beatrice Alemagna (On a magical do nothing day)
  • Michael Foreman (War and Peas)
  • Sir Quentin Blake (Mr Magnolia)
  • Axel Scheffler (Books by Julia Donaldson such as Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo)
  • Steve Antony (Please Mr Panda)
  • Brigitta Sif (Swish and Squeaks noisy day)
  • Ken Wilson-Max (Astro Girl)
  • Britta Tecentrup (Kindness Grows)
  • Nick Sharratt (Books by Jacqueline Wilson and picture books such as Pants by Giles Andreae)
  • David Roberts (The Dunderheads)
  • Chris Haughton (Shh! we have a plan)
  • Lydia Monks (What the Ladybird heard)
  • Guy Parker-Rees (Giraffes can't dance)
  • Helen Stephens (How to hide a lion)

You can see some pages from this book here.  Here are a set of teaching ideas from the publisher Scholastic.

Here are some examples of the text which these illustrators were given:

"Imagine a world where everyone is kind. How can we make that come true?
Here's a good place to start - just give someone a smile!
There are lots of good ways to be kind.
We can listen to people, especially when they're sad.
We can give them a hug if they're feeling lonely."

"Sometimes people have lived through very hard times. They've had to leave their homes and their countries because of danger. They are brave and amazing and have extraordinary stories to tell."

This is a book to treasure in a library or a home. I love books where a number of illustrators are able to showcase their work in this way.  Here are some other books that follow this format:

I first saw Kind about four months ago at the Westmead Children's Hospital Book Bunker. On that day it was a brand new addition to the collection so I decided to wait a few weeks before borrowing this book so it could be shared with the children. Sometimes we loan books in the hospital to patients with infectious diseases. When this happens we cannot take the books back and so we either gift them to the child or sadly need to destroy the book. Yesterday, when I visited the Book Bunker our replacement copy of Kind had arrived. You have probably guessed what happened to our original copy. I have loved spending time exploring this book and I look forward to putting it into the hands of a child in the hospital over the coming weeks.

If you can find a copy of this book in a shop or a library take a look at these pages. The pages illustrated by Cindy Wume (she is new to me); David Barrow; Susanne Gohlich (an illustrator from Germany); Lucia Gaggiotti (she is new to me); Helen Stephens; Melissa Castrillon (her page is about making a kindness jar); Philip Waechter; Pippa Curnick (she is new to me) and David Roberts.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dumazi and the Big Yellow Lion by Valanga Khoza illustrated by Matt Ottley

Dumazi, a Zulu girl, is on her way to the waterhole to fill her empty calabash pot. She comes across a lion caught in a trap.

"I've been trapped for many days without food or water ... Please save my life and set me free!"

Dumazi has to decide what to do? This story is filled with problem solving and decision making. She asks the lion to promise not to eat her.  He makes the promise so Dumazi sets the lion free but once the ropes fall away he breaks his promise.

"I am so thirsty, I could drink the whole African River Limpopo. And I'm so hungry I could eat a Zulu girl."

Dumazi is shocked but also she is a quick witted girl. She offers to let the lion eat her but suggests they should first talk to the other animals and ask their advice. The lion reluctantly agrees. They ask the giraffe but Aunty Giraffe is worried about humans and the way they are cutting down trees. The giraffe tells the lion he can eat the girl. Dumazi quickly suggests they need to ask one more animal. The lion reluctantly agrees and so walk on and meet an elephant. Just like the giraffe, the elephant is worried about humans - the poachers take tusks. The elephant tells the lion he can eat the girl.

Luckily for Dumazi, a small monkey has been listening to all of this. He is such a clever monkey. He challenges the lion to show him the ropes that held him captive and then he tricks the lion back into those ropes. The lion is trapped, Dumazi is saved but is everything really resolved? No Dumazi feels sorry for the lion.

"She picked up her kalimba and returned to him. From nearby, she played gentle music and the big yellow lion fell into a deep, deep sleep. Dumazi crept up to the sleeping animal and untied the hunter's ropes."

You may be surprised to see what happens next.

This book is the complete package. It is a clever story that reads like a fable or a trickster tale. It has vibrant illustrations, a text with just the right amount of repetition for young readers and as a bonus the book comes with a wonderful music CD all packaged in a beautiful hardcover book. This is a book to enjoy in a classroom, in a library and it is also a book you should consider for your home shelves.

I say music because this CD is so much more than just a reading of the story. It has music composed by Matt Ottley and sung by Valanga Khoza.  The orchestration matches each animal that Dumazi encounters. It is a really special listening treat.  Here is a set of teachers notes from Scholastic made available by Pegi Williams. This is a book you should share with a music teacher. It would be perfect for a collaboration between the library and a music specialist if you are lucky enough to have someone who has this role in your school.

I am going to predict (here is another one) that THIS book will make our CBCA notable titles and from there the 2020 Book of the Year short list.

Listen to an interview with Valanga Khoza where he talks about playing the kalimba, he sings and plays the kalimba in this interview too and he explains his childhood in the Limpopo province of South Africa.