Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Around the World in 80 Tales by Saviour Pirotta

This is a great way to travel around the globe. This beautifully illustrated book takes readers across six continents with folktales from eighty different countries. Author Saviour Pirotta has written more than sixty fiction and non-fiction books for children and his works have been translated into ten languages. He has a special; interest in traditional legends and myths from around the world. The inside covers contain illustrated maps so readers can easily site where each story they read is set. There is even one from Australia called Boomerang. I was pleased to see stories from Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, three of my favourite travel destinations. The book is well organised and is probably the biggests and the most stunning addition to the Little Library of Rescued Books.

Gilbert's Ghost Train by David Metzenthen

This book moves swiftly from the present into the past as Martin Dean explains that his younger brother Dally (Dally) is dead, and then moves on to narrate the series of events preceding his death. The two boys live near the country town of Triggerton and they spend a lot of time hanging out at the old railway station and enjoy the joys of country life, like lighting campfires, riding motorbikes and exploring the old gold mines in the hills. Then Dally's illness gets worse and Martin spends more time outside exploring alone and is having a great deal of trouble coming to terms with the inevitability that his brother is going to die. One day, whilst walking his dog Carl along the tracks of the old station, he meets Gilbert (Gil) a friendship instantly forms. But there are a lot of strange things about Gil, the way he speaks about the past, his clothes, especially the old army slouch hat withe hole in the side. This is an extremely sad book but it helps you get in the mind of a brother and appreciate the complexities of the impending death of a loved one.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Space Travellers by Margaret Wild

  1. Zac and his mum live in a big city and they are homeless. Every evening they sleep in a big rocket which stands in the middle of a park. Zac loves the rocket and at night he dreams he is in outer space. This is a sensitive depiction of homeless life and will hopefully help younger students better understand this problem in society. Gregory Roger's illustrations are stunning, especially the night scenes from the rocket where the city lights do give the reader a closeness to the stars. Margaret Wild has written more than forty popular and award-winning books for children including Let the Celebrations Begin and Our Granny, both of which are available for borrowing from our Little Library of Rescued Books.

Dear Bruno by Alice Trillin

This reassuring little hardback book, illustrated with whimsical drawings by New Yorker cartoonist Koren, is intended for children with cancer. But it is also for their parents, caretakers, and is also an enlightening read for anybody really to gain some understanding of what some patients might go through. The text takes the form of a letter which educator and television producer Trillin wrote in 1979 to Bruno Navasky, a friend's 12-year-old son, who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Trillin, who herself had cancer, shares her experiences with Bruno and tries to cheer up his days with humor and a frank attitude toward the illness. Calvin, Alice's husband wrote a book about his wife who passed away in 2001.

The Loaded Dog by Henry Lawson

The Loaded Dog is Henry Lawson's most popular comic story. Mates Dave, Jim and Andy are sinking a shaft at Stony Creek in search of gold. They like to go fishing in the creek and one day Dave decides it would be easier to blast the fish out with a cartridge of dynamite than to angle in the normal way given the muddy state of the water and banks. The trouble is they own a big, dopey retriever dog known for his idiotic slobbering. Well, as fate would have it, it is not long before the four-footed mate is terrorizing the town with his find. This hardback is filled with the detailed and colourful illustrations of Walter Cunningham who fully captures the amiable silliness of the dog. The end papers of the gold claim are also very effective and interesting to look at.

Friends and Brothers by Dick King-Smith

A simple book about two brothers. William is finding it difficult to get along with his younger brother, Charlie. he thinks he is a show-off, asks far too many questions and is always saying the word "absolutely." It is a little bit dated but anyone who finds younger siblings pesky might relate to this little book. Some of it would be considered politically incorrect these days. Their mum threatens to hit William if he hits Charlie again. There are seven chapters in the book and each chapter is basically a separate story. The chapter called Snapdragon is quite a nice story about Charlie's pet beetle which he has named Snapdragon. One day William is looking in the matchbox where Charlie keeps him and accidentally lets him go...

Never Tomorrow by Nan Hunt

There is an explosion in a church, a young girl runs and then faints. When she comes to, she can't remember anything about her life, not even her real name. Virginia has an American accent but she is alone in Sydney. Where are her parents? Why was she outside the church when the bomb went off? She does know that her life is in danger. There are people in strange clothes who are trying to kidnap her, and then someone sends her a letter bomb. The only comfort she has is the mare from the bay.

Run Damon, Run! by Anne Ingram

This book is set in the city of Syracuse in Sicily and the main character is Damon who is a shepherd. A new king called Dionysius has come to the throne and Damon is threatened with execution. His friend Pythias offers to stand in his place whilst Damon goes to help with his sister's marriage, promising to return within the three days set by the king. However, when he sets out to return, there are a wall of challenges in front of him. Will he make it on time? I feel the illustrations by Junko Morimoto are what make the book.

Earthquakes by William B. Rice

This book is quite informative and has information on what causes an earthquakes, plate movement, what happens during earthquakes, seiche, the Richter Scale, and the San Andreas Fault. It is set out in small chapters and has a glossary and an index. There is a diagram of the earth showing its makeup, useful maps showing the earthquake zones and major plates, as well as photos of actual damage caused by earthquakes. It's a good introductory book to this topic.

Kayuktuk An Arctic Quest by Brian Heinz

Author, Brian Heinz, and illustrator, Jon Van Zyle have produced a stunning book which gives a glimpse into the lives and native traditions of the Inupiat people who live in the Northern Alaskan Arctic. The main character, Aknik, is not allowed to be among the men of the village when they hunt agvik, the bowhead whale, because he fails to bring back meat from his carefully constructed snares and has to face the taunts of the other village boys. There is something stealing his bait and he is advised by the Sharman to discover the identity of the ghostly thief. So Aknik sets off alone one night to track down the offender. The illustrations which are acrylic on masonite board portray the starkness of life on the tundra and the warmth of the Inupiat. Beige end papers and the boarders with the sepia drawings give the book an antique feel. At the back of the book there is a note from the author giving brief background Inupiat people and also a glossary of the Inupiat words which are sprinkled throughout the text. This book could easily be read in a Silent Reading session. To see other books illustrated by Jon Van Zyle click on the link below:

Puppy Fat by Morris Gleitzman

This novel is set in London. The main character, 13 year-old Keith Shipley, introduced in Misery Guts and Worry Warts, is preoccupied with the fact that both of his recently-separated parents are letting their appearances go to such a point that they will not be able to attract new partners. Unbeknownst to either parent, Keith begins a campaign to find them both a suitable partner by placing advertisments in the local paper, and using his artistic abilities to promote them. Meanwhile, his best friend, Tracy who lives in Australia, and her Aunty Bev turn up for a visit. It's as far fetched as a story could, get but Gleitzman's endearing and eccentric characters more than make up for this. Keith's complete incompetence and increasingly grandiose and ridiculous schemes which are doomed to failure, will keep you turning the pages and bring a smile to your face. Why not listen to the author reading the first chapter of the book by clicking on the link below the cover:

Adults Only by Morris Gleitzman

Jake lives on a remote island off the Australian coast with his parents. His best friend is Crusher, an antique stuffed bear. His parents run an "Adults Only" resort on the island and Jake spends his days surfing the internet, exploring the island and keeping a low profile. He does his school lessons via two-way radio. Life for Jake is rather lonely and he would just love to have a few friends, so he decides to invite some of the families of the students in his class. However, he accidentally includes a VIP magazine in his class mailing list and two journalis turn up to do a feature story about the island. Jakes finds himself trapped under the bed in their bedroom and can't believe what is going to happen next. Listen to Morris Gleitzman read the first chapter of the book by clicking on the link below the cover.

Unmentionable by Paul Jennings

Paul Jennings surely is the Australian master of the humorous short story. I picked this book up intending to read a couple of the stories and read the lot in one sitting. These stories will hook you in. There are nine stories in all: Ice Maiden, Birdman, Little Squirt, The Mouth Organ, The Velvet Throne, Cry Baby, Ex Poser, Sloppy Jalopy, and...Eyes Know. Birdman is my favourite story from this book. It is all about a birdman contest, for which the kids all make flying contraptions to see how far they can fly after jumping off the local pier. Sean isn't doing so well especially after his arch enemy steals his glider. But he finds a hat made from a cat on the beach. Now this cat is something of copy cat and when a person puts it on their head strange things can happen. Unmentionable will leave you thinking what a boring life you lead.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dead Men Don't Walk by Max Dann

Dusting is on the hunt for buried treasure, and true to his passive aggressive nature, he has coerced his best friend Roger Thesaurus into helping him acquire it. And, now Millicent has found out about the whole venture, she wants her 30%. As it turns out there is none to be found at the Bailey's house and so Dusting believes they will find gold whilst on their school excursion, considering that he is psychic and all. Psychotic is probably a more apt description. They find a bag of money and then things take a turn for the worst. As always with Dusting and his friends, they make for an enjoyable and humorous read. I read anything by Dann that I can get my hands on.

Thelwell's Brat Race by Norman Thelwell

Bringing up children has never been easy and anyone who thinks it is obviously has never had children. Here is Norman Thelwell's tongue in cheek child-rearing manual, and it is a humorous read. His cartoons say it all. The chapters are:
The Little Stranger, What's in a Name?, The Little Mystics, Children's Pets, Toys and Presents, Children's Ward, How to give a Party, Things That Go Bump in the Night, and...How to Keep Them Happy. So if you are looking for some light reading just grab this book off the shelves on the Little Library of Rescued Books.

Sadly, this wonderful author, cartoonist, is no longer with us but he will live on through his publications. To find out more about this famous British cartoonist and his works, click on the link below to go straight to his website:

Down Behind The Dustbin

Michael Rosen's poems are actually funny and my last year's class just loved him, especially his video clips performing his own poetry which are available on line. This little book was one of his first. He writes about every day objects and circumstances, about things that would happen in a home... like the one about the mum waiting for her son to put his shoes on and he can't find them, or the one about what dad feeds the kids when the mum is away. I always was a big fan of his Down by the dustbin poems.

Down by the dustbin
I met a dog called Jim.
He didn't know me
And I didn't know him.
Check out the clip below of Rosen reciting some of his dustbin poetry.

The Wolf by Margaret Barbalet and Jane Tanner

This allegorical story and beautifully illustrated picture book tells a haunting tail of a family who barricade themselves into their house after hearing a wolf howling outside. The family become increasingly paranoid and fear they will never be able to venture outside again. They virtually become prisoners in their own home. A year passes and finally the youngest son opens the door and they have to confront their worst fears. This story is all about keeping things in proportion and learning to face up to fears. This moral is subtly interwoven into the book and the author doesn't preach. Janet Tanner's realistic illustrations are done in pencil, water colour, and gouache, with the end papers showing the same scene at night time and in daylight giving stunning entrance and departure points to the book
Click on the link below to watch a short clip about this illustrator discussing the different techniques she uses in her drawings.

The Witches and the Singing Mice by Jenny Nimmo

Glenmagraw has three new residents. Three witches have renovated the once tumbled down building on the hill, it's now a solid brick structure with only a peephole for a window. It turns out that they are particularly evil, especially when they don't get their own way and, it's not long before the tradesmen of the village are in real trouble. Tam and Rory, two cats, watch horrified as the witches put the blacksmith's daughter and the carpenter's son into a deep sleep. When the weaver's baby is threatened with a similar fate, the cats decide it is time to act and to track down the singing mice whom the witches are using for their own evil purposes. This book, which retells an old Celtic tale, is complemented with illustrator Barrett's eerie paintings wherein the witches are never more than elusive shadowing images, which makes them more intriguing and sinister. The illustrations of the townspeople, on the other hand, are filled with warmth and light. Visit author, Jenny Nimmo's website to find out more about her life and her other books:

Alien Life by Jack Challoner from the What's the Big Idea series

If you like reading about the universe and what's out there, you will most likely enjoy this book which covers topics such as famous astronomers, our galaxy, UFO sightings and hoaxes. It is a little bit dated as it was published in 1998 but it still contains some very interesting ideas about the possibility of life in outer space. The drawing by Andrew McLynn which dominate the text give the book the feel of a graphic novel.

Thalia the Failure by Robin Klein

Thalia Birtles isn't really interested in being a witch but her dominating mother sends her to Aquila's Academy anyway promising the school a planetarium when Thalia graduates. Despite all her best endeavours, Thalia can only sweep with a broom, fails at cauldron cookery, and can only see her own reflection in a crystal ball. To make matters even worse, the other students comprised of gremlins, hemlocks, genies and Count Dracula 11 despise her wealth and ridicule her efforts, and the Madame Aquila, head of the academy, isn't exactly encouraging. Hectate, the teenage witch is particularly nasty and relentless in her bullying of Thalia. Thalia just want to go to a normal school and be with normal human beings. This book is a quick little read and the text is accompanied by full page ink drawings which bring the characters to life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Water Bombs by Steven Herrick

Steven Herrick is one of Australia's most popular poets. He has published many poetry book for adults, teenagers,and children. He prefers free verse and performs his poems throughout Australian schools, in pubs, at festivals and on radio and television. This is one of my favourites from this book.

10 Things You Will Never Say to Your Teacher:
Yes Mrs Meldrum, we'd love some more homework.
You never give us enough.
Oh no, not Sport again. Can't we stay inside and do Maths, please?
Yes Mrs Meldrum, we'd love to clean the classroom.
We hate it when it looks a mess.
We agree Mrs Meldrum, exams are fun.
What's that? You are sending us to the Principal.
Great! We love the Principal.

Yes Ms, you certainly do look too young to be a teacher.
Oh no, not another excursion!
We hate the beach.
Yes Ms, that was the lunch bell, but let's finish the lesson first.

We can wait for lunch.
But Ms, Mufti Days are so boring.
Can't we wear our uniforms instead?
Is tomorrow the last day of school?
Oh no. We hate holidays.
Can we come to school next week anyway Ms?
Please Ms, please.

Click on the link below to hear Steven reading his poem Trains which is also in this book:

Here's another from the book entitled To My Son Joe:

Greyfriars Bobby by Elanor Atkinson

This book was published in 1912 by Eleanor Atkinson, and it was upon this version that the 1961 Walt Disney film called Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story was based. I have this film on DVD and it is available for borrowing by any student who reads the book. Considering that Atkinson had never been to Edinburgh, she captures the atmosphere of the city in the 1860s very well. Another book in the Little Library of Rescued Books, called The Story of Greyfriars Bobby by Forbes Macgregor, is a much more challenging read but gives a more accurate and more detailed history of both the city, and of the cemetery where the little dog was to spend most of his life. In the story the Skye terrier adores his master Auld Jock, and when the old man passes away, Bobby refuses to leave his grave in Greyfriars Cemetery in Edinburgh. During the day he spends time with the local orphans and eats at a local tavern, and despite concerted efforts by some of the city folk to have him evicted from the cemetery, he manages to faithfully return each night to sleep with his master. There is a small glossary at the back of the book to help readers with Scottish words such as fower (four), kirk (church), claes (clothes), deffle (devil) and so on...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Night Mare by Robert Westall

This now out of print book is set in the 1930's in Tyneside, North England, where author Robert Westall grew up, and is about a gang of boys who get up to all types of mischief. They have a vendetta against a vicious old hag called Miss Crimond who lives in their street who is constantly checking on those families who rent her houses and threatening them with eviction. Some of the boys' plots backfire miserably but they have the occasional victory. Billy's family used to be wealthy but now they live in this street and face the same economical woes as their neighbours. It doesn't help that Billy's father has a drinking problem and often squanders what little money they have. Throw in a broken-down old mare who pulls the dunny can collectors' cart, who wins Billy's heart, and you have the making of a very enjoyable read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stormbreak the Graphic Novel adapted by Anthony Johnston

This graphic novel by Anthony Johnston is reasonably true to the original story penned by Anthony Horowitz although obviously some scenes are shortened The book was illustrated by Kanako Damerum and Yuzuru Takasaki. Alex Rider, the protagonist, discovers his uncle and adopted parent, Ian Rider, is a spy and he himself self is dragged into the spy world shortly after his murder. He is given the special mission of infiltrating a large computer manufacturing facility where computers which are going to be distributed around British schools contain a deadly virus. Alex is posing a an award winning computer geek who has been invited to the facility because of his computer skills.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Animal Stand by Alan W. Vickers

This is a first edition (1991) hardback collectable. In fact it's quite a rare title. It is an Australian bushland adventure with an environmental message. It also has a cleverly coded message for the reader to solve. What is Bossly's message? The animals include is Pira the platypus, Bossly the wombat, Karl the kingfishers and Scaly the frillneck lizard. The animals are battling a developer who wants to destroy their habitat. The full page illustrations are colourful and detailed, it is one of the most stunning Australian picture I have ever seen.

You and Me, Little Bear by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth

This is just one book in the Little Bear Big Bear series which are popular world wide. Little Bear wants to play yet there is a lot of work to be done first. After gathering wood for the fire, fetching water from the stream and cleaning up the cave among other jobs, Big Bear finally takes a rest then spends time playing with Little Bear. This story mirrors what might be a typical day with a preschooler at home with Mum or Dad. Author, Martin Waddell is very skilled at depicting life's lessons in a gentle and natural manner.

Muted water colours and pencil drawings depict the forest habitat and the facial expressions of both bears show the love these two bears have for each other. This would be a great book to take home and share with a pre-school sibling.

Click on the link below to hear this book read in Dutch. So cute:

Undone! by Paul Jennings

This book, a multi award winner, is another collection of short stories from Jennings and they all have twists in their tails. There are eight stories in all. Here is a brief summary about each...

Batty: This story is set in the bush and its all about a boy who has been raised by bats.

Moonies: An illiterate boy moves to a new school, and after signing a contract he can't read, discovers that he has to moon the principal. Now, this is definitely something that someone in their right mind would never do.

Noseweed: A boy is staying with his grandad and is a bit over all the healthy food he has to eat there. One day the boy has to drink cod liver oil that has been mixed with museli and he just can't bring himself to swallow it. That is when a strange sprout appears from his nose.

Wake Up to Yourself: This story is about dreams and reality and there is a young lad who can't distinguish one from the other and all the problems that are associated with this.

Thought Full: Set on a farm this tale features a magic bottle. Now when you drink from this bottle it enables you to read other peoples' minds.

Clear as Mud:er Imagine becoming invisible when you are bitten by a bug. Well in this story magic, biting bug meets bully boy Eric Mud who is about to get much more than he bargained for.

What a Woman: Sally doesn't want to go to school, and you can't really blame her. You see, she is the only girl in the school. The boys are relentless in their bullying of her but one day something happens to turn her luck around...

You Be the Judge: If you eat someone, you are a cannibal. What are you then, if you drink someone? Is this even possible. This story is set in the desert and the main character is in a desperate situation.

There are three copies of this book in the Little Library of Rescued Books so you could read it along with a couple of friends.

Here is the covers from the other version of the book. This one overlays the one below.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shepherd's Pie by Dorothy Clark

Jack the Giant's mum is an amazing cook and she only uses natural ingredients just like me. However, her cottage pie actually has to have real cottages in them, which is very unfortunate for many residents in her area. For kilometres there is not a single cottage left standing. The Woolly family are very worried as their cottage has been taken by Jack's mother. Now, as it so happens Mr Woolly is a shepherd, and he's worried that one day Jack's mum might just want to cook a shepherds pie. Each chapter is supported by illustrations also done by the author. A snappy little read.

Stick Out Your Tongue by Peter & Connie Roop

This joke book which contains riddles and some knock knocks is all to do with doctors, dentists and patients. There is a lot of play on words which will more likely elicit a smile than a belly laugh. If you like jokes you will most likely enjoy this little book which could be easily read in half an hour. The illustrations by Joan Hanson, one per two pages are gorgeous ink line works. Here are a few of them:

When is it polite to stick out your tongue?
At a doctor's office.

What should you do if your knee is cold?
Wear a knee cap.

Why did the window go to the doctor?
It had a pane.

Why did the king go to the dentist?
He needed a new crown.

Za-Za's Baby Brother.avi

This absolutely stunning picture book is all about Za-za and the effect that the new baby has on a household. When Za-za, the little zebra gets a baby brother, the usual routines in her life change radically. Mum returns from hospital, and she's tired, and Za-za is looked after by Granny. The baby receives all the attention from both her parents as well as visitors and Za-za is feeling neglected. Everyone is so busy that there is no time for toys or stories. So how does it all turn out for Za-za? This book is well known because of its use by Tommy's The Baby Charity, as part of their publicity campaign. This would have to be the brightest book in the Little Library of Rescued Books. Watch the video below, it's good fun.

Our Village by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake

John Yeoman and Quentin Blake have created an entire village, filled with interesting, eccentric and endearing characters. It is essentially a book of descriptive poems describing each of the main characters in this village. There is Mr Crumb the Baker, Mr Pruce the Postman, Mr Henry Arkwright who loves his penny-farthing bike, Little Miss Thynne the school teacher, two elderly citizens...Lily Bins and Elsie Crumb and many others.

The use of rhyme keeps the readers walk through the village lively and anticipating the next character. Farmer Trotter is quite memorable:

Old Father Trotter has five pigs,
All fat and pink and white;
He scratches at their backs until
They're grunting with delight.

Quentin Blake is one of my favourite illustrators whose quirky and comical drawings I came to know well though his illustration of Roald Dahl's books. He also illustrates for more recent author, David Walliam's. The maps provided of the village on the end covers of the book make for useful reference points.

The Turtle and the Island retold by Barbara Ker Wilson

A strikingly illustrated tale about how a turtle created Papua New Guinea. One day a turtle is swimming the expanses on the ocean and laments the fact that he has nowhere to rest. He see a lonely man in a cave beneath the sea and upon discovering a small hillock of land jutting from the sea, he decides to bring more sand and create an island for them both.

Sarah and the Stone Man by Françoise Joos, Frédéric Joos

For a hundred years a great stone man has been holding up the ceiling of an ancient castle and he feels that his life is drab worrying that this is all there will be to his life, until one day, a little girl called Sarah befriends him and shows that he can leave the castle. So off they go out into the streets, down to the docks and onto a ship. It is written by talented French artist Frédéric Joos in collaboration with his wife. The colourful cartoon-like characters are very appealing offering a bright contrast to the castle and the township. There are interesting scenarios in the pictures not referred to in the text, like the birds nesting in a shirt on a washing line, and the shadowy business men in the streets. This would be a great book to share with a book buddy.

Cat-Face by Penny Hall

Edwina receives an unusual gift from her Uncle Jack. He is always bringing her gifts, but this one is special; a black jaguar head carved from wood all the way from Mexico. One morning Edwina wakes to discover that her jaguar can talk and has other has special powers as well. She discovers it was in fact carved in the likeness of the rain god's noble head. Edwina takes it to school, and unfortunately her precious cat-face mysteriously goes missing. It seems that Tilly Moon knows more about the jaguar than Edwina would like. This is a short novel of only nine chapters, each with their own ink illustrations by Margaret Power,and could easily be read in a couple of quiet reading sessions.

Skating on Sand by Libby Gleeson

This is the first book in the award winning series about Hannah and her family. In this book the family is off camping at a beach in New South Wales and Hannah is taking her skates even though everyone is telling her there is going to be nowhere suitable to skate. Her two older sisters Lena and Sue practically ignore her the whole trip. Hannah finds herself locked in a toilet, constantly with battle scars and excluded from the friendship group, but still she makes the most of her holiday and is determined to skate on sand. This narrative is driven by Hannah's determination to skate and the illustrations by Ann James, sometimes, full page really help bring the whole family camping scene to life. It is a pleasant and easy read for an upper primary student, probably a great book to slot in between more challenging texts. Her book Hannah Plus One, was Book of the Year in 1997. Check out her website for information on her books for older readers too:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Henry's Holiday by Ella Watkins

How gorgeous is Henry the Goat. This is a special publication by Ella Watkins right out of our own little Holiday Isle, Tasmania. I am so proud to have it in out Little Library of Rescued Books, so that other students can see what wonderful things you can achieve when you follow your dreams and really apply yourself. Ella was twelve when she penned and illustrated this quirky book. Oscar and Rufus head off to Japan but end up in Fiji for some strange reason. Anyway, they make the most of the snorkelling, water skiing and dining opportunities, especially the buffet.
Read more about this Tasmanian author on her blog:
Or watch a short interview with this young Tasmanian writer:

The Rainbow Bear by Michael Morpugo

I am snow bear. I am sea bear. I am white bear. I wander far and wide, king in my wild white wilderness.

Thus begins The Rainbow Bear written from the point of view of the polar bear, with its crisp short sentence delivery, alliteration and poetic text. With its frisking foxes, slow seals, wallowing walruses and flashing fish, and the grinding and groaning ice, the story of the polar bear and the harshness or its existence gently unfolds. He follows rainbows and is desperate to become a rainbow bear, and one day his wish is fulfilled. Then come the hunters, looking for the unique things in nature and his life takes a turn for the worse...I collect polar bear picture books and this one is a welcome addition to my collection. Michael Foreman's delicate and evocative paintings do not disappoint. Be careful what you wish for!

Night Noises by Mem Fox

Whenever I read a picture book about old people now I really appreciate the sentiment especially since my 83 father is now nearing the end of his grand adventure and Mum is hand in hand with Alzheimer's. This is truly a beautiful and dignified story about an old lady called Lily, nearly ninety, who is dreaming about her life and how it has slowly transformed. Yet as things change, some core values and those important things in life remain the same. Seemingly a simple story on the surface, as always with Mem Fox, there is a deeper message about the power of family and loyalty.

It is also a fabulous book for teaching onomatopoeia to students in an interesting way.

Father William by Lewis Carroll

This nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll has been faithfully reproduced and illustrated by John Anthony King. It is a puzzling piece and it would be interesting to know what students may make of it. Father William appears eccentric but full of energy and his idiot questioner probably should be "kicked down the stairs." The young man is worried about becoming old, whereas the old man is content with his age. This poem appears in his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which was published in 1865 and is recited by Alice in chapter 5.Evidently, it is a parody of Robert Southly's didactic poem The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

This book was one of my daughter's favourite books when she was a little girl. It's about as Australian as you can get with Grandma Poss visiting all of Australia's states. It's all about Grandma Poss who dabbles in bush magic and one day she makes baby Hush invisible.Hush just loves this and gets up to a lot of mischief, however, eventually she tires of the novelty and wants to be visible again. But the problem is that Grandma Poss can't remember the necessary magic and so the quest begins...
The water colour illustrations by Julie Vivas are simply stunning and will have young children pouring over them time and time again. This is a lovely book for book buddy session and for older children looking to explore the different states of Australia
Check out this YouTube presentation of the book, it's worth a look:

The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll by Edward and Aingelda Ardizzone

A tiny, unloved doll finds herself discarded in a deep freezer in a grocery shop. Life is cold (obviously) and hard. The doll is lonely, and frightened and constantly dodging the hands or rummaging shoppers. Then one day a little girl comes along, notices the dolls, but is too well-mannered to take something from the supermarket that is not hers. She makes the doll some warm clothes and life in the freezer is suddenly much less frosty for the doll. This is a very quaint little read and the illustrations are quite beautiful and depict the 1960's with the ladies in their hats, the boxed grocery items (not a sign of a plastic bag), the bedroom decor of the little girl. Illustrator Edward Ardizzone was an official war artist and there is an interesting website with a biography and some stunning examples of his gentle art. Click on the link below:

The Fairy Tale Life of Hans Christian Andersen by Eva Moore

One upon a time - over one hundred years ago - there lived a little boy named Hans Christian Andersen. He was the son of a shoemaker, and he lived in the country of Denmark, in a little town called Odense.
Han's mother and father were very poor, but they did everything they could to make him happy.

Thus begins Moore's biography of Hans Christian Andersen written in a fairy tale format. The book is made up of short chapters about significant events in his life, from his childhood, through his infatuation with puppets, struggles in the world of theatre, to his emergence as a respected writer of fairy tales. Hans wrote not only fairy tales, but poems, a travel book about Italy and also translated French plays into Danish.

The chapters in the book are as follows:

A Play
The Comet
The Dancing Shoes
The Chinese Prince
The Danish Prince
Good-bye to Odense
The Singing Teacher
The Elve's Sun
Master Meisling
The Writer, H.C. Anderson
"My life is a beautiful fairy tale"

There was a movie, a musical, made in 1952 about Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kay, and another more recently in 2003. Click on the link below to watch the trailer of Hans Christen Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale:
I have this DVD available for borrowing for any student who reads this book.

Bernice Knows Best by Max Dann

By the time he was eight his house had caught fire twelve times, the plumbing had stopped working, the garage door had stuck and wouldn't open again, the bath had sprung a leak, all the chairs had collapsed, the chain on his bicycle wouldn't stop breaking, and his Dad's begonias didn't look so good.
"Why me? Why me? Why me? he'd ask. But nobody answered him.

You see Hugh is accident-prone, steaming- rolling his way to destruction like a mobile demolition team wherever he goes. Hugh has no friends, no-one visits the house. Enter Bernice, she is clever and vivacious and, unlike members of his family, doesn't feel the need to wear a safety helmet around Hugh. She puts him on a regime designed to cure his clumsiness. Then one day Hugh accidentally finds himself in a big bicycle race, and discovers that Bernice's bizarre exercises have given him the edge. Is he finally going to do something right?

True to Max Dunn style, this humorous little story zips along and the accompanying illustrations by Ann James with the very comical expressions of a wide cast of eccentric characters making it all the more enjoyable. If you are after a relatively quick, funny read, this may be the book you are looking for. Dusting in Love, another book by Dunn, but a slightly more challenging read, is also available in the Little Library of Rescued Books for borrowing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

This is Irish author, John Boyne's first novel for children. It is a touching story of a relationship between two boys under horrendous circumstances. The story begins in Berlin, it is 1942 and one day, the main character, Bruno returns home from school to discover that the family is moving to a new home. His father has received a promotion, however, Bruno finds their new home boring and there is really not a lot for him to do. He is confined to the immediate grounds of the house. However, he soon discovers there is many strange people housed in long huts behind a seemingly never ending fence. One day he decidesto explore this new environment and befriends a young boy named Schmuel who is living in circumstances completely different to his own. The story is told from Bruno's perspective with an air of innocence and I think that the harsh realities of the situation the two boys are in will only be appreciated by a mature reader with some knowledge of the Holocaust. This book has been made into a movie. To view the trailer click on the link below:

Old Coyote by Nancy Wood

With its evocative cover, its beautiful starred-filled end papers, its touching text, and warm yellows and golds throughout the entire publication, this book about an aged coyote would capture anyone's heart. A lone coyote reminisces as he wanders through his habitat, bidding goodbye to his friends and giving thanks to all the elements of nature before he finally ventures forward into a new world. Illustrator Max Grafe's double page spread as coyote contemplates the end of his journey is simple stunning and no text is necessary to convey the poignant sentiment. The back cover suggests this is a book to be enjoyed by 5-8 year olds, but I beg to differ. There are not many books which deal with death as well as this one does. Adults, older readers and the very young can all benefit greatly from this story which very simply and gently portrays death as a natural part of life whether animal or man.

Old coyote went up to the top of the tunnel and looked out. It was a clear night, with millions of stars shining overhead. He knew them all by heart. Little bats flew past. And nighthawks. A full moon shone. "Sister Moon," he said, "light the path I have to take." And sister Moon did just that.

The Story of Greyfrairs Bobby by Forbes Macgregor

This is quite a challenging read and tells the real story of Greyfriars Bobby. The book firstly gives a background into how the Greyfriars Church and cemetery evolved over the centuries. It then gives a clear and detailed description of what Old Edinburg would have been like when John Gray and Bobby were alive.
Old Endinburg was full of closers, courts and wynds like Hall's Court. About a hundred thousand people were packed into this crowded unhealthy town. It was like an enormous rabbit-warren, with dark passages leading from one burrow to another. Crimes were committed and some never discovered by policemen or detectives. But people caught breaking the law were severely punished.
Chapter three then introduces John Gray and his loyal and plucky little Skye terrier, and the story unfolds until the passing of Bobby.

The chapters in the book are as follows:
The Grey Friars
Old Edinburg in Bobby's Time
Enter Bobby, the Skye Terrier Puppy
Bobby is puzzled by Strange Happiness
A Sad Market Day for Wee Bobby
Bobby's Long Watch Begins
Bobby and the One O'clock Gun
Bobby is in Great Danger
Bobby is Now Famous

If this book is too hard going for students, they can always read the picturebook version which is also in the Little Library of Rescued Books, and/or watch the DVD I have purchased for use in the unit. Click on the link below to see the review of the picture book version.