Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lift Off 100 Tips to Energize by Sarah Merson

Not sure if the kids in my class need to energize themselves much more, but anyway, this is a new edition to the Little Bookshelf of Little Books in the quiet room.  There are quite a few penguin covers there now. 
This entusiastic little book is full of ideas to lift your energy levels. Maybe I should keep it on my desk along with the Little Book of Calm;  a bit of a dichotomy really! 

Tired eyes, lethargic limbs, and fuzzy minds will be things of the past. With exhilarating exercises, energizing foods, and clever mind and body techniques to lift your spirits, you can put the va-va-voom back into your life.

Such is the claim on the back cover of the book.  Maybe all those tired teachers in the school can come up to The Little Classroom up the Back and give it a test run. We'll see.

A Book of Silly Jokes compiled by Robert Rath

Do you enjoy jokes? Do you like to tell them? Inside this book you will find all kinds of riddles and knock knocks enhanced with the bold  illustrations of David Neuhaus. These jokes were apparently collected from kids and cover a wide range of topics from animals through to vampires and volcanoes. This book will be going into the basket with all the other jokes books in The Little Library of Rescued Books. 

How does a dog stop a video?
He presses the paws button.

What has eyes but can't see?
A potato.

A Bear in My Bedroom by Mary Small

A Bear in My Bedroom written by Mary Small was published in Australia in 1976. It is a chapter picture book with beautiful water colour illustrations by Australian artist Ingrid Van Dyk. The main character, Andrew, is a lacklustre six year old British boy, who has a very mundane life with two parents too busy working to notice him. One day his somewhat eccentric Aunt Philomena who has been living in Australia, comes to stay, and Andrew's life suddenly becomes much more exciting and meaningful. Sadly the day comes when she must return to Australia leaving a very forlorn Andrew behind. Then, one day a package containing a koala bear arrives on his doorstep which Andrew immediately discards in disgust believing himself too old for such toys. However, this is no ordinary koala, it comes to life during the night times and Andrew soon finds himself involved in all sorts of adventures in Australia after realising they can move to and from the two countries through a secret tunnel. Andrew meets kangaroos, a cheeky kookaburra, sheep, goannas, fairy penguins and even a bunyip!  There are ten chapters in all and it is a sizeable read for a "picture book."  This is a beautiful hardback edition and for any child who enjoyed Enid Blyton books or the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, they will surely enjoys this book too.

Author, Mary Small was born and educated in England and settled in Australia in 1962. She worked as a speech therapist until she married and after travelling widely with her marine scientist husband she took up writing stories for children.

Ingrid Van Dyk was born in Sydney and studies art at the National Art School. After receiving her Diploma of Sculpture she decided to study for her Diploma of Education. However, instead of teaching she took up book illustrating.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Swan Lake by Lisbeth Zwerger

Another Lisbeth Zwerger book for our little library, nestled alongside Hansel and Gretel. This is one of the best-loved ballet of all time and Hans Christian Anderson medal winner Zwerger does a superb picture book adaptation. The haunting story or an enchanted swan princess is brought to life through her gentle water colour illustrations which are reminiscent of English illustrators of the 19th century. Her version is based on Tchaikovsky's original 1877 ballet and has a happy ending rather than the tragic one of the 1893 production. The young prince is out hunting one day and he nearly injures a swan with one of his arrows.  This swan turns out to be an extremely beautiful princess under the spell of an evil sorcerer and the young prince is desperate to win her hand in marriage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Best Primary Poetry Anthology Ever selected by Lesley Pyott

It seems I have had this poetry wonder forever...well since my third year teaching in 1986. I have used it countless times to inspire children to poetry and it covers many topics, some being: Ghosts, The Circus, Trains, Animals, Cats, Dogs, People, The Beach, just to mention a few of the chapters in this book. Not only does it have a wide variety and forms of poetry, but it also includes some helpful suggestions to get students writing. This book now joins the poetry section in our Little Library of Rescued Books. It contains my favourite poem ever by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Out of the Ashes by Michael Morpurgo

This is one of the most powerfully emotional children's  books I have read.It is simply told but really delivers a powerful blow. I had heard of foot and mouth disease but until I read this novel had not really understood the implications it causes for whole communities and the heart break it brings to each farming family watching their life's work destroyed before their eyes.  This is Becky Morley's story of how she and her family coped with losing all that was precious to them over a few short months, and of her sudden awareness that even her very strong dependable dad cannot cope with such a soul destroying experience. It is told through a diary she received as a thirteenth birthday present from her dad. It tracks the family's days before the outbreak, during the outbreak, until it reaches it heart wrenching conclusion. But, it is also a book about hope and the support that communities give in such times of hardship.  I have always appreciated the illustrative powers of Michel Foreman and his illustrations really do justice to this amazing story. I would also recommend his novels War Horse and Butterfly Lion.

Flipping Brilliant by Patrick Regan and Jonathan Chester

A feel good, often amusing, gift book that likens penguins to people. It contains some little lines of wisdom and the photography is brilliant, as the title suggests. "Life is not black and white. There are two kinds of penguins: the white ones coming toward you and the black ones going away from you. That probably qualifies as the oldest joke in the Antarctic. It's not true of course. There are actually seventeen different kinds of penguins...It's tempting to sometimes see the world in black and white and to take unwavering positions about right and wrong. But things are seldom that simple..."

Each double page spread has a photo and some words of wisdom. The photos are fully explained in the back, regarding the penguin/s in the photos and the location. It's a nice little read and might be worth a revisit from time to time; just to help keep things in life in perspective.

Jonathan Chester, the photographer, is also an author and a film producer. The photographs in this book are from his many Antarctica expeditions. Author, Patrick Regan, has written quite a few gift books including Punch Out the President and The Book of Bad Habits.

The Night Walkers by Otto Coonz

Gulls are dropping out of the sky, dead, Cecil the local tip attendant has mysteriously disappeared and, now Nora's neighbour Martin Craven is suddenly ill and stays in a darkened room away from the light.  Mr Craven's housekeeper, Mrs Cribbins knows something is wrong after Martin tries to attack her and infect her with his soul-destroying illness, but no-one will believe an old lady.  After visiting Marty, Nora's brother Tony starts exhibiting the same symptoms and is taken to hospital. Nora suspects that this mysterious infection afflicting many of the children in Covendale is something far more sinister than just a virus. But no-one will listen to her, not even her parents. So with the help of her friend Max, she sets out to rid the town of this evil.  This book came about because of author, Coontz's concern for environment protection. Despite it's environmentalist bent, it is a gripping read. I read it in one sitting. If you like horror or adventure, give this one a go. I think I'll have to now get hold of his more well-known novel called Isle of the Shapeshifters.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

101 Wacky Facts About Mummies by Jack C, Harris

Do you like to read about weird stuff? If you do all the unbelievable facts about mummies are here in this little paperback. Once a tomb was discovered with over a million mummified birds! I feel sorry for whoever had to count them. Sometimes ground up mummies were used to cure stomach aches. Imagine sprinkling that on the top of your spag bol! Mummies often still have their toenails and eyelashes, now that's pretty gross.  There are no mummy-making manuals to be found, it seems a topic too sacred to write about, or maybe nobody wanted to share their secrets. This is an engrossing read and once you start you won't want to put it down. 

No one knows exactly what secret ingredients the Egyptians used for preserving their mummies. But scientists know that the ingredients included oil of cedar (similar to today's turpentine) and natron, a mineral with a high salt content.

The text is sprinkled with ink illustrations and is divided into the following chapters: Will the Real Mummy Please Lie Down? Wrap Session, The First Mummy Wrappers, Tomb It May Concern, Grave Robberies "R" Us, Farewell Mummy Dearest, I Want My Mummy, The Chinchorro Connection, Natural Beauties and Better Left Shut: The Tomb of King Tut.  Now, did you also know that apparently only a few thousand mummies have been discovered so that means hundreds of millions of mummies are still out their waiting to be discovered. So get your shovel and start digging...failing that, grab this book and start reading.

The Bamboo Cutter's Tale by Sayumi Kawauchi

The first bilingual book in our little classroom library, this book tells the story of a bamboo-cutter who finds a small girl in in a bamboo stick sheathed in light. He takes her home and he and his wife care for her. Soon she grows into a beautiful young maiden and men from all of the country want to marry her. However, she has no desire to marry and leave her loving parents. As time progresses she tells them she must return to the moon. This book has a mix of  full colour plate illustrations and also some black and white ones.The Japanese translation accompanies the text. This is not a demanding read and story is enchanting.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Emperor's New Clothes retold by Susanna Davidson

This version of the famous tale by Hans Christian Anderson is very accessible for most readers and supported with comical, colourful illustrations complete with speech bubbles by Mike Gordon. This hardback has been organised into five short chapters: Nothing to wear, Slimus and Slick, The two cheats, The emperor's visit, and, The royal procession. The king has just about every style of royal clothing, but he is not satisfied. In fact he has seven thousand, three hundred and twenty-two outfits. He wants new clothes, he wants something special. Little does he understand the great swindle which is about to take place. This is a gentle and amusing read, with a really creative and quirky treatment of this age-old tale.

The Dinosaur Diner and Other Poems by Paul Sidey

This hardback book contains twenty-four quirky poems about dinosaurs. It has a fairly sizeable cast including a fun-loving camarasaurus, a postie tyrannosaurus, the swotty iguandon, the struthiomimus who lives in  a penthouse, the parasaurolophous with strange dress sense and many more. The accompanying comical ink illustrations by Susan Hellard,  mirror the text well. This illustrator has a great portfolio which is worth a visit. Click on the link under the cover. The Dinosaur Olympics, one of the longer poems is certainly worth a read.

The Dinosaur rap is very entertaining:

If you wanna be a reptile you gotta stay cool
Snarl at your parents, don't go to school
Talk with your mouth full and pick your nose
Who's gonna stop you, do you suppose?

Get down my man and blow your horn
We're gonna party until dawn
There's no need to read so don't bother to write
It hurts your brain - hey let's go fight

If you mess with me you're gonna get zapped
Who says funky dinosaurs can't adapt?
If the world explodes, OK, no sweat
Let's boogie in the ruins to a rap cassette.

This could well be the anthem for a couple of students in my class this year.  Anyway, this will join the poetry section of our little classroom library and is a great reference point for looking at rhyme schemes and rhyming couplets.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ducks at Play by Sophie Bevan

I picked this book up mainly because of a certain duck called Pee Pee that my son used to own. 

"When brand new ducklings enter the world they will bond with the first moving thing they see. Hopefully, this will be their mother, but it has been known for ducklings to believe they are human and to follow their owners around, mimicking their behaviour."

Now this is exactly what Pee Pee did after been bought from the Hobart Royal Show as a hatchling. Travis didn't used to run round messing on the floor everywhere, but Pee Pee followed him absolutely everywhere and wasn't the least bit interested in me, even though I made him the box with the suspended light bulb and scurried home from school during the recreational breaks to refill the water bowl he would regularly upend. Eventually, Pee Pee, the water-loving duck, became too big to keep in a suburban back, so we released him into a pond on the property of a friend of a friend. 

This little hardback is packed with beautiful photographs of all manner of ducks, quotations from famous writers and some interesting snippets of information. It is a perfect short term read for an upper primary student. It is compprised of four chapters: not so ugly duckling, quack quack, preening poultry,and, a duck to water. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of owning a duck will surely enjoy this little number.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Dictionary of Wimps by Alan Grant, David McPhail and John Gadsby

A funny little wimpy dictionary from our New Zealand neighbours written by well-known television personalities (not that I have heard of any of them.) sure to delight anyone who reads widely and has an extensive knowledge of words and their origins. it is basically a field guide to wimpotence and had me laughing out loud from time to time. So if you are a wimp or think you know one, this book could quite easily appeal to your wimpy side. The ink illustrations by Chicane add greatly to the humour.  Here are a few wimpy definitions starting with the first one in the dictionary.

aardvark: a typically wimpish mammal. Dwells in burrows, only comes out at night, and lives on termites, presumably because it hasn't got the guts to come out in daytime and hunt for real food like a man. Wimps always make a beeline for the aardvark cage whenever they go to the zoo.

Further in we have the jury defined as twelve wimps unable to decide the fate of a real man.

And towards the end we have a discussion of teddy bears apparently many people keep these cuddly soft toys far into adult life. Most wimps, however, were secretly afraid of them and quite glad to get rid of them.

My favourite is probably  team:that which a wimp was never asked to be part of at school, and was only included in because the teacher said that somebody had to have him.