Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pilgrim by Jo Oliver

A boy's first time on the sea with his father in their boat Pilgrim is a journey of wonder, intimacy and at the same time a celebration of the legacy of  past Australian war heroes. It is primarily about a spiritual journey and the idea of arriving home safely; a father and son moment as they set out on their first fishing trip together in a boat the young boy's great grandfather (an ANZAC) built. This book was produced primarily to commemorate ANZAC day and the beautiful lino print illustrations tell it all. The young boy protagonist attempts to come to terms with his fear of the sea and is able to appreciate his new experience. This book reminds me so much of another picture book by Peter Goldthorpe called First Light, although that particular book does not have war references. 

Lone Pine by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner

Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner is an emotionally charged picture book which focuses on the Battle of Lone Pine, the loss of life, and the ramifications it has on the home front which was a very lonely existence of waiting for many women whose sons and husbands had gone off to war. It is also a book about remembrance and the tree which lives on today in various propagated forms as a symbol of hope and endurance. The book is based on a true story. The story commences in Turkey in August 1915 at the well- known Battle of Lone Pine describing how the trees were used by soldiers on both sides to disguise and protect their trenches. At the heart-wrenching conclusion of the battle a brother collects a pine cone to send home to his mum. Some time later on the mum takes the cone from the drawer where she has kept it and plants out some of its seeds. She nurtures three saplings which have grown from the seeds, but only two survive, just as only two out of three of her sons returned from the war. One tree is planted at Inverell where the boys grew up and the other at the Australian War Memorial in 1934. Today, the pine at the memorial it reaches over 20 metres in height. This book beautifully illustrated by freelance artist Sebastian Ciaffaglione is a welcome edition to my war literature for children collection. Click on the link below to appreciate some of his amazing works of art:

Arno the Garbo by Gary Crew & Craig Smith

Arno the Garbo by Gary Crew and Craig Smith is an off-beat book about a boy who basically, smells like and looks like garbage. You see Arno lives smack bang in the middle of a tip and this of course makes him the target of many jokes at school where he is known as Rat Head, Stink Bum, and Arno the Garbo. Academically, his performance is dismal and he has no friends. In fact his only consolation in life is his ability to make amazing inventions out of garbage. One day he decides to build a mechanical boy in his own image; the replica turns out to be smart, heroic and popular with the girls, and best off all minus the junkyard pong. This is certainly not in my top five favourite Gary Crew books, nevertheless the quirky illustrations by Craig Smith are up to his usual standard with many jokes to be had from the illustrations.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Magic Eye A New Way of Looking at the World by N.E. Thing Enterprises

Magic Eye mania hit Australia in the early 1990's and was a popular craze in Japan. You can stare into the seemingly abstract fields of colour and a 3D image will materialise. You don't need any funny glasses! Some students will get the hang of it straight away whilst others will have to work on their viewing technique for quite a while. Grab this book off our bookshelves and start training your gist for deeper vision today. Some simple instructions for how to achieve a good viewing outcome are available on the back of the book.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

November and the Truffle Pig by Joan Smith

November and the Truffle Pig, published in 1977, and set in France  takes the reader on a journey into the truffle producing landscape of France, around Rocamadour. It revolves around Jean-Paul and his pig, Pogie,  who was once the runt of the litter and who must now earn her living as a truffle-hunting sow after the death of the family's old truffle pig, sniffing out these precious and rare money-earning delicacies.  Failing this, she will become pork slices in the local butcher's shop. Pogie is a slow learner, so it seems. Grandpere says, "She has nostrils of cement." Jean-Paul is beside himself, that is until he learns of a miracle which could save her life. This little novel really captured my attention as recently I enjoyed six weeks in France and spent a few days in the famous cliff-hanging village of Rocamadour. The ink drawings sprinkled throughout the text are magic, especially if you have ever spent any time in beautiful Perigord.
Rocamadour as I remember it 2011

The Magic of Verse with poetry selected by Carol Odell

The School Bus Breaks Down is one of my favourites in this compilation of Australian poetry called The Magic of Verse.  I remember learning this poem for an Eisteddfod when I attended Ulverstone Central Primary School...and since I caught the bust to school for half of my school life, it holds a special place in my heart. The chance of missing even one lesson as a result of a bus breakdown was an extremely exciting prospect. This book also contains poetry by C.J. Dennis, Mary Gilmore, L. Porter, Judith Wright, Lydia Pender and Pixie O' Harris.  And of course, no compilation  Australian poetry could possibly be complete or considered seriously without at least one entry from A. B. Patterson. The illustrations by one of Australia's most respected and admired illustrators, Noela Young, are  welcome additions to the poems.

The Most Important Building in Town by Garry Hurle & Mali Moir

The Most Important Building in Town written  by Garry Hurle and illustrated by Mali Moir, is based on a very unusual topic. It is all about a dusky wood swallow spreading the news about the most important building in town. The town pigeons can't decide which building it could possibly be. Could it be the cinema, the fire station, the town hall, the church, the post office, the railway station, the department store, the medical clinic, the museum or perhaps the bank? The little swallow takes them along to the building and all is revealed, especially the power of the written word. The pigeons have to come to terms with the Mincemeat the lethal-lunging feline and work together with fellow animals of the town to convince Mayor Morogetti that the building is not " a terrible waste of council money." The text is quite dense and is suitable for independent readers 7-12 and the intricate illustrations by Moir bring a refreshing vibrancy to this story. The ending is sad and will be predicted by more capable readers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

School by Colin and Jacqui Hawkins

School by Colin and Jacqui Hawkins takes a comical look inside British schools. It puts kid types under the microscope analysing the school bully, the teacher's pet, the creep, the cry baby, the blabbermouth (you know...the walking megaphone) and of course the goody-goody who presides in every classroom. And please let's not forget those kids who are just plain evil! Every school has those dark and sinister beings courtesy of the today's growing number of disfunctional families. Then there are the dunces, the smokers, and the zombies, and just plain bonkers, known as the twits. You can also explore the curriculum looking closely at lessons and learning. What does clock watching mean?  What does an "x" on your work really signify? Then there is the horror or horrors; the dreaded homework! School would not be complete without nits and zits, now what does that mean for you? This book even has an instructional text on how to deal with those annoying pimples and abscesses. But beware: this section is not for the light-hearted.  If you are not sure on how to conduct yourself, refer to the very informative section  called Mind Your Manners and learn how to socially acceptably deal with burping, boogies, flatulence and excessive snot. Learn what to do when the classroom budget is blown and there are no tissues. The teacher types and traits section is equally entertaining and you are sure to be able to classify your teacher. As for punishments, the mind boggles! Decide for yourself the relevance in this day and age of the cane, lines, detentions, reports and of course the age old tradition of expulsion which simply means everyone in a position of authority has  run out of ideas. The labelled illustrations only add to the fun. read a copy of School today and get ahead! The end papers are just as entertaining, especially at the back. Hmm, I can remember writing at least a thousand times in Miss Vickers class "I must not swing on my chair."

Keri the wonderful kiwi who flew by H.R.Hopkins

Keri the Wonderful Kiwi Who Flew is a beautifully illustrated New Zealand publication of 1969, by H.R. Hopkins. It has been  written in rhyming couplet verse and is all about Mother Kiwi and Father Kiwi who produce an amazing offspring. The story begins with the hatching of Keri who was incidentally named because of the first sound he made: KK-EEE-RRRRR-IIII. On the day his parents kick him unceremoniously from the nest, they discover he has fully fledged wings, but decided that even though he is definitely "queer," they will ignore jibes he might endure from his flightless relations. Then, one day after foraging for food Keri becomes lost in the forest and has to spend night under a log. The following morning he is  rudely awakened to the barks of the super-sniffing farm dog Ranger. It's then that all hell breaks loose and Keri decides to finally use his wings, although  it seems this will result in further grief. The book is a pleasure for children and adults alike and illustrations abound throughout the book.

But Keri flew on in his wobbly course.
He was seen by some girls and a man on a horse.
The girls were out gathering mushrooms for Mum,
And they got a surprise when they saw Keri come.

The Little Worm Book by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

The Little Worm Book by the well-known author/illustrators Janet and Allan Ahlberg, which was first published in 1979, is a tongue in cheek study of worms for little kids with a subversive sense of humour. It looks at the physical characteristics of a worm, worms as pets and what to look out for when buying your first worm, worms around the world, and worms in warfare. My favourite section is the main health hazards which a worm faces:

So if you want something light-hearted which would provoke a lot of philosophical discussion about worms, then this is a great book to share with anyone really, except maybe a blackbird. Just remember worms makes good pets, being more loyal than snails, much more fun than a slug and less liable to fly away than a ladybird.

Flashback the Amazing Adventures of a Film Horse by Gillian Rubenstein

The  novel Flashback the Amazing Adventures of a Film Horse, by Gillian Rubinstein, deals with the trials and tribulations of Antony Abel who was leading a very mundane but safe existence with his very conservative great aunt and uncle on a property of some  two hundred acres called Oonoobooloo.  The one real joy he has in life is his pony, Flashback, whom he has only just started to train.  After an unfortunate accident  on his beloved pony, Antony  loses his memory and  finds himself hanging out with stuntmen, Doggo Slim and Pablo Pequeno (Small Paul),  from the film company Tasman True Productions. They are currently working on a film with the narcissistic and greedy actor, Tasman True, whom even the director Oliver Bolivar can't control. Tasman True insists that he needs someone to play his double to make the dare-devil leap across the very wide gap at Desolution Gorge. I must admit I found this book a bit hard-going in terms of interest stakes, but if you like rough riding and eccentric characters and improbable plots,  then maybe you will enjoy this novel.

The BFG Film Storybook by Cosgrove Hall Productions

The book which takes the form of a film storybook (bit like a graphic novel) is adapted from Roald  Dahl's book the BFG, and the pictures are from the animated film by Cosgrove Hall Productions. I have just finished reading it with my niece and nephew, Katrina and Vincent, and it is pretty true to the original story. Sophie is kidnapped by the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and taken back to his cave where she is introduced to the disgusting snozzcumber, the only food available to eat in giant land. Then she has an even nastier introduction to the Bloodbottler and narrowly escapes with her life. The BFG shares his dream hunting and dream distributing practices and together they set about to rid the world of the Bloodbottler and then even bigger and more ferocious Fleshlumpeater. This book would be a good introduction to the original novel by Dahl. Below is the popular whizzpopper scene. Kids just love the whole frobscottle senario.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sam Sunday and the Strange Disappearance of Chester Cats by Robyn Supraner and Robert Tallon

Sam Sunday and the Strange Disappearance of Chester Cats is a very quirky picture book published in 1978  aimed at the 5-9 age bracket. The story is somewhat absurd and revolves around a certain detective called Sam Sunday who is endeavouring to find Mrs Cat's son, Chester, who has failed to appear for a delicious salmon pie lunch. Chester is not your usual tabby, for he has an earring in his left ear. Sam Sunday firstly visits the zoo, then the library where he insults the librarian, he then drops in on a band of gypsies in the woods, and finally decides to check out the aquarium, The tempera and pen and ink illustrations by New Yorker, Robert Tallon, speak to the young and old and drive the story along as much as the text does. This book is the kind of story kids ask you to read over and over again until you feel compelled to hide it away.  This beautiful hardback addition now graces the shelves of The Little Library of Rescued Books.

His portfolio of artworks is definitely worth visiting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville

My Teacher is an Alien is one of a four-book science fiction series by Bruce Coville. I found this delightful little read in an Ulverstone second hand bookshop during my reminiscent visit back to my hometown after nearly thirty year absence. It will look great on my desk on the first day of third term. It is essentially about three children: Peter Thompson who is somewhat of a nerdy character, Susan Simmons, who is a bit of a drama queen, and bully boy Duncan Douglas. Susan is not happy to arrive back at school after the spring holidays to discover that her favourite teacher, Ms Schwartz, is mysteriously absent and  has been replaced by Mr Smith to whom she takes an instant dislike. After finishing a maths test early Susan decides to write a nasty note about Mr Smith to her friend Stacy, but unfortunately Mr Smith collects it when he is gathering up the tests. Anxious to retrieve the note before he reads it, Susan follows him to his house and that's when she discovers that he is not all is cracked up to be, and could in fact be planning a world invasion. This is also the stage in which I discover the description of the alien in the book does not match the cover on this Lion's edition:

"His enormous orange eyes slanted up and away from his nose like a pair of butterfly wings. A series of muscular looking ridges stretched from his eyes down to his lipless mouth...He smiled at himself in the mirror showing two rows of rounded purplish teeth." 

This cover is probably closer to the mark:

or this French edition which was on track with the eyes:

Anyway, it's still all good fun and a great read. To learn more about the author visit this site; it's worth a look:

The Best of Hägar the Horrible by Dik Browne

The Best Hägar  the Horrible probably is the best of the cartoons done by Dik Browne. This strip has been one of  my favourites as far as cartoon features in newspapers go. I was first alerted to the cartoons by my dad who has been a long term fan and who would always patiently explain the ones I didn't understand as a child.  Although Dik Browne has passed on, we can still enjoy Hägar's antics thanks to Dik's son, Chris Browne. This book contains only the strips done by Dik. One of my friends once commented to me that you don't often see Hägar without his horned helmet, and that is true. So here are a couple of him minus his helmet.