Monkey was going on a holiday. He was given a very special present to take with him. He’d never been on a holiday before or owned a camera. Monkey begins packing immediately for an adventure like no other, as he travels by plane and boat to reach the famous floating city of Venice. When he arrives, he meets Clarabella the cat, who offers to take him on a tour of the city she knows so well. They walk across small bridges over the canals that connect the city, take a ride on a gondola and stop for some yummy pizza! At the end of a fun filled day, Monkey cannot resist taking just one more photo but – uh oh! Something happens to his camera and then Clarabella disappears and he’s left all alone. Will Clarabella come back? And what exactly happened to his camera? Monkey’s Great Adventures: Afloat in Venice is a charming story of adventure and friendship by Australian artist and author Tina Wilson. Tina uses her own beautiful photographic images of this iconic city to accompany the playful text. The hand knitted toy characters, made by Tina’s mum Joan Wilson, are immediately loveable and most certainly add to the appeal of this heart warming story.
Not only is Matt Ottley an amazing author and illustrator, but he is also an accomplished and talented composer. His music is the perfect companion to Monkey’s adventures in Venice. There is a childlike quality to the opening, and the interaction between clarinet, horn and strings when Clarabella and Monkey first meet is reminiscent of early singsong nursery rhymes. Different time signatures, tempos, dynamics and instruments are employed to reflect the varying moods and movement of the characters as they explore the city. Most children recognise the sound of a piano, and using this instrument as the connecting and supporting thread for the other instruments, makes for a clever and well-constructed musical accompaniment that creates a wonderful aural and visual experience for the reader and listener.
This is a must have story for preschool and early primary school library collections, and one for your own collection too if you have young ones at home. It is the first in a series of adventures for Monkey, and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!
The knitting patterns for the characters and a CD of the music and narration are included at the end of the book. Tina has included some fantastic teaching notes which are available for download on her website. You can also download and listen to the story and music on Matt’s website
Find out more about Tina Wilson
Find out more about Matt Ottley
Due for release September 1, 2021. Published by One Tentacle Publishing
ISBN 9780648511960 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
Award winning Australian author Libby Hathorn is passionate about poetry. So it’s not surprising she’s teamed up with renowned watercolour painter and portraitist Sadami Konchi, to create this beautiful story about Haiku and the 17th Japanese master Matsuo Basho. We Children and The Narrow Road to the Deep North takes us back in time to a small village at the beginning of the Edo era in Japan where three children – Izumi, Ren and little Yoshi - eagerly anticipate a visit by the master poet. Their father has told them Basho is walking a long way to ‘. . . look at things.’ Their mother adds, ‘And then he writes his poems, special poems that will last forever.’ There is great excitement as friends gather that evening in the house of the village poet to listen to Basho’s stories about his journey and hear some of his precious Haiku’s read aloud by the master himself. The next morning before they leave Sora, Basho’s travelling companion, gives each of the children a small drawing as a gift, along with three brushes, to encourage them to capture their own images. Basho’s gift is a special poem for little Yoshi about the small boy’s pet frog, now set free to live in its pond home.
Libby’s gentle and thought-provoking text highlights the emotive nature of words, and how poetry can capture so succinctly the essence of our world. The story is brought to life by Sadami’s gorgeous watercolours that eloquently depict the simplicity of life in 17th century Japan. An important book to have not only as an introduction to Haiku and Matsuo Basho, but also as a reminder that, in our fast paced world words matter, and it’s good to slow down, quietly take note of what’s around us, and enjoy life’s journey.
Find out more about Libby Hathorn
Follow Sadami Konchi on Instagram
Published in 2021 by IPKidz an imprint of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
ISBN 9781922332684 (HB); ISBN 9781922332691 (eBook)
Recommended for ages 7 - 10
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Mrs. Wren. ‘You look very, very sad today.’ Mr. Wren is feeling blue and a bit sorry for himself because he can’t do what all the other magnificent birds he knows can do. He can’t laugh like Kookaburra or soar up high like Eagle, and he certainly doesn’t have a sharp beak like Magpie. But Mrs. Wren knows just how to cheer him up, gently explaining all the things he can do, and helping him appreciate the wonderful things already around him like his family and his forest home. Trevor Todd’s simple, uncomplicated text about being thankful for what we have is beautifully brought to life by the stunning real-life bird images of Mark Eatwell.
From the gorgeous front cover of the blue wren to the last page where the sun’s rays break through the misty forest, this book is a delight. A new way of bringing a traditional story to life, and a great introduction for younger readers to some of our amazing Australian birds.
Find out more about Trevor Todd
Follow Mark Eatwell on Instagram
Published in 2021 by IP Kidz an imprint of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
NB: David P. Reiter Kookaburra image pg. 10.
ISBN 9781922332721(HB); ISBN 9781922332738 (eBook)
Recommended for ages 3 - 5
‘Tell me a story Babushka,’ asks Karina
‘Maybe one of those stories about a princess and monsters, Baba’.
The story opens with young girl asking for a story from her Babushka (grandmother). Babushka begins the tale of a young girl happily tending her flowers and cabbage patch until the day she finds herself and her family caught up in Holodomor, the ‘terror famine’. Mass starvation and confiscation of food and property across the country is happening at the hands of the monsters - Baba’s term for the soldiers. Many families, including that of the young girl, are sent to camps in Siberia. Upon arrival, the children and adults are separated, with neither knowing what will happen or if they will ever see each other again.
Whilst in the camp, the girl finds a matryoshka (a small set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other) under her mattress. She wonders how they came to be there when there are not even any pillows for the children to sleep on, and certainly no toys. She carefully removes one doll after another until, inside the fifth matryoshka, she finds a message of rescue.
As she and some of the other children make their escape with the help of an unknown woman across a frozen forest to a waiting freight train, the girl wraps her scarf around her head, picks up the length of her oversized skirt, and boards the train not knowing where the journey will take her.
As the story concludes, we find out that Babushka was the young girl, and that she eventually found her way to safety and freedom in another land, where she is recounting the story to her granddaughter, Karina.
The Holodomor was the result of Stalin’s decision to collectivize farms and agriculture in the Soviet Union in 1929. Farms, villages, and whole towns in Ukraine were placed on blacklists and prevented from receiving food causing widespread suffering from 1932-1933.
Carola tells the story through simple, gentle and honest text. The strong bond between grandmother and granddaughter is evident from the opening page, emphasizing the importance of generational connections in keeping history alive. Melo’s illustrations are childlike yet evocative, especially the likeness of Babushka to the matryoshka dolls, and the black silhouettes of the soldiers against a blood red background - a stark representation of the cruelty endured by the Ukrainian people.
Stories of war and oppression are never easy to tell, especially to younger children. Tell Me A Story Babushka does so with heart and sensitivity.
I have not read or heard of many books that tell the story of the Holodomor, so this would make a wonderful addition to any library looking to add more stories from the Ukraine and diversify their collections.
Published in 2019 by Carola Schmidt.
Available from Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats
Recommended for ages 5 - 7
'There is a polar bear in the snow. Where is he going?'
In this new story from Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris, we follow a polar bear as he wakes from his hibernation to explore the snowy landscape that is his home. Through simple yet emotive narration that evokes suspense with each page turn, we learn about this majestic animal's icy surroundings, and meet the others that co exist with him. There is a strong underlying theme of the environmental impact made by humans that runs throughout the story, which is clearly evident when bear meets man and roars 'NO!', scaring him away. As we reach the end of the story we are left to ponder and imagine where the polar bear will go next.
Shawn Harris's illustrations and collages are truly stunning. They capture perfectly the white vastness of the land and the intense, beautiful pristine blues of the ocean of the cold north. The contrast in the smallness of man's footsteps as he runs from the polar bear, and the much larger ones of the polar bear itself on the last few pages, are a subtle reminder of the power and fragility of mother nature.
You can find out more about Mac Barnett from his website.
Shawn Harris's extraordinary artwork can be found here.
Published in 2020 by Candlewick Press
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
Lali finds a feather while she's playing in the field. She thinks the feather might be lost so she sets out to find it's home. Along the way she meets la ot of different birds and asks them all the same question, 'Is this feather yours?' Each bird replies 'Na, Lali, Na!', saying the feather is either too little, or not perky or fancy or warm enough, So Lali decides to keep the feather and show the cheeky birds all the wonderful things the feather can do. All of a sudden big old wind comes along and lifts the feather high in the air and it floats away. This makes Lali very sad and, although all of the other birds offer her their fancy feathers, Lali just wants her plain, pokey little feather. When it eventually floats back to the ground, everyone wants to play with this most wonderful feather! The book ends with Lali finding another, equally intriguing object that promises even more adventures.
This is a wonderful story about a young Indian girl with a big imagination, who sees the value and potential in the small things around her. The vibrant illustrations are a perfect match for the text which is interspersed with Indian slang, and helps showcase the diversity inherent in the story. Lali's colourful clothes, her long brown braid and her bindi, are a beautiful depiction of a carefree young Indian girl. This is a must have book to help diversify your library collection for younger readers.
You can find out more about Farhana Zia's books here and about Stephanie Fizer Coleman's beautiful illustrations here.
Published in 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
Bear is a little different to the others in his class. He prefers reading and the quiet of his own thoughts, to the lively goings on of the other bears. Space is quiet too, which is why Bear loves it so much. When he begins to design and build his own rocket ship, his classmates laugh at him, but Bear doesn't take too much notice. Once it's finished, he blasts off into the cosmos and marvels at all the wonderful things he can see. And best of all, in space, no-one laughs at his ideas. After a while though, space begins to feel a little lonely. Suddenly, out of his window, he notices a small speck coming towards him. It's Panda in another rocket ship! Bear invites Panda on board and together they share their stories about space over cups of hot chocolate. That's when Bear discovers that having a friend to share the journey with, is much more fun. A story about differences, friendship, and the power of acceptance.
This beautifully crafted story by Deborah Abela, is brought to life through the wonderful illustrations of Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. Deb's gentle, poignant text captures the loneliness that can be felt by children who are a little different, whilst at the same time celebrating being able to look at the world from another perspective. Marjorie's fun and colourful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text, and with the many smaller details she's included on each page, you'll find something new to discover every time you read the book.
My students fell in love with Bear from the very first page, and this is an excellent book to use for discussions centered around acceptance, tolerance and friendship.
Published August 2020 by Walker Books Australia.
Click here for the official book trailer.
As a teacher librarian, I’ve found very few books about dancing for my younger students. Let’s Dance fills that gap brilliantly. From it’s exuberant cover to the end pages, this is a book full of the joy of movement. Written in simple, musically imaginative rhyme, each double page spread taps, whirls, wiggles, grooves and boogies its way across the globe. The dances encompass both traditional and modern, including my own favourite of Disco. I definitely remember boogieing on down in my youth!
The illustrations are colorful and fun, and highlight perfectly the diversity of the dance origins in the portrayal of each of the characters. There is an easy to understand, illustrated explanation of each of the dances at the end of the story.
Let’s Dance is a wonderful way to introduce dance from around the world to young readers, and will have them wanting to jump up and join in from the very first page!
Published March 2020 by Boyds Mills Press.
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
For more information on Valerie you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram or check out her Website.
For more information on Maine you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or check out her Website.
This hilarious story by well known Australian author Mem Fox and illustrator Jan Thomas takes us on a counting journey like no other. From the very first page of one goat and a bird (with the goat casually chewing on the beach umbrella) this story is full of fun and laughter. Goats are famous for eating anything and everything and that's exactly what they do as we count with them along the way. Goats with maps, goats, with suitcases, goats flying airplanes, with soccer balls, goats with snow balls, goats playing trumpets and a goat with a VERY full belly are just some of the scenes that will have your students roaring with laughter and learning at the same time. The illustrations are wonderful and my students had a lovely time finding the goat in each spread who didn't quite get the idea of what they were supposed to be doing!
Published in 2010 by Beach Lane Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
Normally I'd be reviewing my favourite picture book but I also love Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and Aurora Rising is one Sci-Fi Young Adult novel that I simply could not put down. In this first of the Aurora Cycle trilogy, we meet the members of Squad 312 who've just graduated from the Aurora Academy, the elite training school for peacekeeping forces in the galaxy. Grouped together by accident rather than choice after graduation, they are sent on a routine assignment as their first mission. This assignment turns out to be anything but routine and becomes focused around the story of a stowaway, Auri. Rescued by the squad captain, Tyler, on a clandestine one-last-time-test-flight before graduation, Auri proves that she is integral to the group, and to solving a mystery that sees the squad break every rule in the Academy's Code of Conduct in order to prevent the past from destroying the future. This is a fast paced, unputdownable Sci-Fi adventure from award winning duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff that leaves you wanting more with every page turn.
Published May 2019 by Allen and Unwin Australia
Recommended for ages YA
Click here for the official book trailer.