Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Fly by Petr Horacek

Imagine a picture book where the fly is the main character, and you get a humorous story buzzing with action.  "Two goggly eyes, six hairy legs, two transparent wings...It's me! The House Fly. But people don't like me being in the house." The swish and the sudden  flap of the fly swat moves this unusual but entertaining story along until its witty finale. The reader is taken on a journey of the arduous and dangerous day in the life of a much maligned fly, from his food sources, through his daily exercise regime, to his favourite smells. The book has beautiful paintings overlaid with collage and potentially splattering flaps. The the large crayon speech bubbles which dominate the pages constantly emphasize the fly's tiny presence. The entire book consists of double page spreads which is visually appealing and gives the poor fly a larger landscape on which to eke out his otherwise frugal existence. The end covers add a nice touch. Designed primarily for the infant school market, this book also has great appeal to older children too.

Petr's blog is worth visiting and has a couple of animations on it based on two of his other picture books:

The Great Wungle Bungle Aerial Expedition by Jill Arkell, Wayne Talbot and Greg McKee

A great swirling willy willy carries Wendi Wallaby off into the Australian outback skies and thus begins the Wallopa Wallaby's quest to track her down. He enlists the aid of Ranger Bugwatch and together with the talents of Snuffle and Trundle Echidna, Bluey, Bindie and Scribble the Kola Brothers, Wentworth Pelican, Felicity Flossy Fleece the flying doctor, and Ulinga, an indigenous boy, they build a pedal-powered flying machine from recycled materials. This is the first on many  inventions they make in their quest to travel the skies in search of Wendi. There is the giant boomerang, the 18 footer sky boat, an airship, a satellite but all have their own limitations. The detailed and humorous illustrations by Greg McKee and Wayne Talbot are awe inspiring and will keep children poring over them for hours. McKee is a man of many talents with a background in industrial design, zoology, illustration and animation. To read more about him and the illustrations in this book follow the link below; it is well worth your visit..

Braithwaite's Original Brass Band by Peter Stevenson

This wacky picture book by Peter Stevenson focuses on Braithwaite's Original Brass Band, which is supposedly the best band in the land. The band is comprised of a very odd looking group of heavily-moustached men who are clones of each other. One day whilst endeavouring to practise for the Oswaldtwhistle International Musical Championship, their instruments malfunction and  their notes float away into the sky. So they adventure into Outer Space to retrieve their music. They find themselves on a planet inhabited by little pink monsters and thus begins the  negotiation with the Maetstro (a conductor who collects the best bands in the universe) to regain their lost music. I really love the twist at the end when Great-Grandfather's old instruments from the attic are given a new lease of life. Author/illustrator Peter Stevenson has quite a number of books under his belt and his website is worth visiting. He has also written his first book in the Welsh language entitled Oes Ben Tylwyth Teg.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Kate Greenaway

This is an enchanting, stitched,  little hardback published by Chancellor Press. The late eighteenth century style illustrations by Kate Greenaway do justice to these traditional nursery rhymes. Greenaways paintings were reproduced by chromoxlography, a process which was popular from the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth century, by which colours were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks. This is a beautiful facsimile of the original 1881 edition filled with over forty famous nursery rhymes. It is a welcome edition to our poetry section in the Little Library of Rescued Books in our classroom.

The contents page  and one of the first rhyme of the book

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Spy Transport in Art selected by Lucy Mickleethwait

An interesting concept and a great way to introduce children to well-known pieces of art, Lucy Micklethwait's selections take the reader on a journey through the modern world of art. Apparently, children helped with the selection of the art works. Art works include Batmobile from DC Comics, Kandinsky's Birds and Salvador Dali's La Table Solaire, along with ten others. All have to do with different forms of transport, hence the title of the book. Whilst finding the different modes of transport is no where near as hard as the challenge thrown out in the Where's Wally series, it is indeed a great vehicle for talking to your children or students about art.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ben's Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Ben and Margaret pedal quickly to make it to their respective houses before the rain pelts down. Both have to study for an upcoming geography test on great landmarks of the world. Ben arrives home to an empty house and settles down to study. However, the steady rhythm of the rain lulls him to sleep. Only seconds later, the house shakes violently and his finds himself drifting past some of the great landmarks in the world such as the Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to name just a few. Chris Van Allsburg's book will enthrall and mesmerize with the detailed ink drawings, and after reading the end, many readers will be forced back through the book in order to study the drawings more closely and to look for further clues. Many of Allsburg's books switch between the waking and the sleeping worlds and between reality and fantasy.

His amazing website is well worth visiting where you can incidentally watch an animated form of the book

The following website also has some excellent teaching ideas:

The Bunyip Cage by Jill Eggleton

The Bunyip Cage by Jill Eggleton, first published in 1993, is all about  three little aussie children who have their sights set on catching a bunyip down at the local billabong so they can take it to the zoo.  They build  a wooden cage and imagine how it is all going to work out. However things don't pan out as they expected. They do indeed catch an animal but it is a far cry from the mythical bunyip of their imaginations.. The cover really doesn't do justice to the beautiful illustrations by Jeff Fowler enclosed within the book. The first page in the book would have made a striking cover. I just love the Kellogs Cornflakes box which sits on the table in the second illustration of the book. Product placement maybe?

Illustration from The Bunyip Cage by Jeff Fowler

Illustration from The Bunyip Cage by Jeff Fowler

Arnold the Prickly Teddy by Kym Lardner

Prickly fur is definitely not a teddy bear's best asset, it endears you to no-one, so it seems. Arnold sits day after day gathering dust  in a toy shop in the midst of the fast-selling pink and softer variety of ted. Despite a price reduction, he still doesn't sell and finds himself unceremoniously tossed into a rubbish skip. Luckily, after almost two days of lying among broken toys and wrapping paper, a small had reaches up and liberates Arnold, and his life suddenly takes a turn for the better. This is a heart-warming story that really illustrates the power of love. Kim Lardner has a straight-forward engaging writing style and his huge, detailed and very colourful drawings bring the text to life. 

Kym spends a lot of time touring around and entertaining children with his story-telling, illustrations and songs. He came to Illawarra Primary School a few years back when I was teaching there, and I think I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed another performance as much as his.

If you would like to hear Kim Lardner and appreciate his sense of humour, click on the following link:

Australian Verse For the Young by Bindi-Bindi and Lynne Wilson

Poetry at its best,  the book Australian Verse for the Young, written by Bindi-Bindi and beautifully illustrated by Gympie artist Lynne Wilson, offers a fresh and engaging look at some of our Australian animals and landscapes through its verse. Rhyming couplets are a big feature. There are poems about a crocodile and a snake, a bilby, a dolphin, a cassowary and many other well-known Australian animals.. The settings for these poems are typically Australian, the iconic sandy white beach, the Australian Bush and  the outback. There is also a celebration of the Aussie barbecue and one of our great national parks, Kakadu. The book has a handy contents page and also an informative glossary at the back which gives an excellent summary of each of the animals making an appearance in the book. This book is a welcome addition to the poetry bookshelf in our classroom. Finally, a message from the author Bindi-Bindi:

We hope you'll enjoy this book of verse,
Some poems are wordy. others quite terse,
But our fauna is there for you to enjoy,
So come and meet them - don't be coy.

And whenever you open this picture book,
And at each of these creatures, you take a look,
Make them your friends, and you will find,
That animals, like people, will respond if you're kind.

That's Dangerous by Pittau & Gervais

This is a subversively humorous book which explores the dangers toddlers and small children face with the simple descriptor at the end of each possible self-harming activity stating THAT'S DANGEROUS! It looks at things that kids are notorious for doing such as pulling a cat's tail, stinking fingers into a fan, playing with scissors, through to the more life threatening but  less likely behaviours such as using a hair dryer in the bath, or playing with a gun. As the book progresses, the text gets bigger. For sure, some people may be offended by, or critical of such a book,  but it is just something different, and very  tongue in cheek. It's probably not something you would read to your toddler of Kindergarten child. Middle and upper primary students enjoy its bizarre nature. Let's face it, these are things that kids do. The drawings are minimalistic, simplistic but colourful. If you or your child  has a twisted sense of humour, then you will definitely enjoy this book. Francesco Pittau studied painting and carving at Ecole des Beaux-Art. He has written and illustrated many graphic novels and now has turned his skills to producing books for children. Bernadette Gervais was born in Belgium  studied painting  at Ecole des Beaux-Art in Paris and now illustrates books for children and adolescence. They live in the outskirts of Paris with their children and have collaborated together on some forty books.

Parakeets and Peach Pies by Kay Smith and Jose Arugego

Parakeets and Peach Pies by  Kay Smith is an appealing picture book with vibrant water colour illustrations by Jose Aruego which would appeal to young children. Matthew comes home one day to find the house in total disarray. His mother explains that the Ladies Literary League met there today and that things didn't exactly go as planned. It seems that Matthew's menagerie of pets have caused nothing short of chaos all day. This picture book would be excellent to use in the classroom with middle and  upper primary students as part of a study of alliteration as it contains many good examples which students would enjoy along with the colourful illustrations of Jose Aruego:

"The fishbowl fell over, and your fantails flopped into Mrs Franklin's fruit punch."
"Your rabbit ran right through the room and ruined Mrs Richard's report."
"Your chickens chased our charming Clean-Books-for-Children chairman around the chinaberry tree."

The ending is very satisfying as well. Sadly, the Filipino illustrator Jose passed away August this year. He  illustrated  some 82 books including Milton the Early Riser, which I have stored away somewhere safely.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Table, the Donkey and the Stick by Paul Galdone

The Table, the Donkey and the Stick was adapted from a retelling by the Brothers Grimm by Hungarian-born Paul Galdone. There once lived a tailor who had three sons and a goat. As the goat nourishes the tailor and his three sons with her milk it is important that she is well fed. So each day the sons take turns leading her out to graze on the finest grass, shoots and hedges. But because of her lies and greediness for food, the tailor mistakenly drives all three of his sons away. The first son becomes an apprentice to a carpenter, the second works for a miller and the third for a woodcarver. Each of the sons works hard and they are in turn rewarded  and are keen to get back to their father, but each also falls victim to an unscrupulous inn keeper. Author/illustrator Paul Galdone had known this story since he was a child in Hungry. He emigrated to the United States in 1921 and studied art at the Art Students' League and New York School for Industrial Design. He has also retold and illustrated The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Little Red Hen, amongst others. Before his death in 1986, he divided his time between his home in Rockland County, New York and his farm in Vermont. 

The unscrupulous innkeeper

Paul Galdone

Cows of Our Planer by Gary Larson

Cows of Our Planet by Gary Larson is the thirteenth collection of The Far Side comic strips and the majority of the cartoons have to do with animals; it is not a concentrated look at  cows as the cover and title might lead you to believe. However, there are cow cartoons scattered throughout, and the centre of the book is devoted to a fold out colour section of  Cows of Our Planet, which consists of six panels depicting  very strange cows that inhabit Earth. The comics rely on a combination of a visual and verbal jokes. The Far Side was immensely popular in the 1980's with its popularity continuing well into the nineties until Larson retired on  the 1st of January 1995. His works are still popular and his twenty-three book of collected cartoons are still sort after today. 

This one below is pretty funny:

The Tiny Book of Hugs by Kathleen Keating and Mimi Noland

Ah the power of a hug. Hugs ease tension, slow down ageing, dispel loneliness and, helps curb appetite apparently. This tiny little book is dedicated to hugs. It is sprinkled with humorous drawings. It now sits on our little bookshelf of little books in the Little Library of Rescued Books.

Garfield tons of fun by Jim Davis (His 29th book)

Garfield tons of fun, really is tons of fun. Garfield cartoon strips never fail to amuse me. Here is another gem by Jim Davis. This particular compilation begins with 6 Practical Uses For Your Cat. Odie, Pooky, John all make appearances in this book, and there is a pesky spider who keeps appearing and refuses to be despite annihilated Garfield's best efforts. The strips related to the vacation in Guano-Guano are also pretty amusing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Useless Donkeys by Lydia Pender and Judith Cowell

The Useless Donkeys, first published in 1986, is about the Quigleys "six and a bit of them." They enjoy farm life and have a menagerie of animals of which two are the lovable but apparently useless donkeys Garibaldi and Pecadillo.Mr Quigley is their harshest critic as they follow him around, trample his garden and even tread on his clothes. Mrs Quigley, on the other hand, is charmed by them both despite the fact that they they invade her kitchen. The children love them. Then one day there is a terrible storm which floods the farm and leaves the donkeys stranded on a diminishing island of land. Now the family has to decide what should be done. The pictures in this book are very striking and in fact it took illustrator, Judith Cowell,  two years to complete the artwork during which time she said she "lived day and night with the Quigleys." Author, Lydias Pender, began writing poetry for the School Magazine in the 1940's, and has since written many picturebook stories which have received acclaim in America, England and Australia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Townsfolk and Countryfolk by Eugen Sopko

Townsfolk and County Folk (Drei Städter auf dem Land) by Eugen Sopko, is a  very unusual picture book  from Germany which was first published in 1982 and translated into English in the same year. Author/illustrator, Eugen Sopko, writes about three best friends who live in a walled town and who meet every Wednesday evening at the local inn to play cards. We meet George a doctor, Arthur, an astronomer and Henry, a watchmaker, all who are somewhat eccentric. A feature of this book is the beautiful double page spreads which upon closer analysis maybe reveal much more than the accompanying text. One day they decide that they would like to be better acquainted with the countryfolk for whatever reason. I guess, rather like me, they weren't quite expecting to encounter a mad billy goat who evidently can predict wild weather despite the absence of clouds. Inevitably, as the story progresses each of their respective professions comes in handy to some extent.  But by the conclusion of the story it is clear to me that townies don't have all the answers. Maybe something did get lost in translation, or, maybe not.

Poems of Growth selected by Amanda Earl & Danielle Sensier

As the title suggests, Poems About Growth, this is a book all about things that are growing or in the minimalistic sense on the move, but its mainly limited to plants,  the seasons, buildings and physical growth. None of the poems are about personal growth. There are example of Haiku poetry, rhyming couplets but  not really any free verse entries. There are nineteen poems in all and each has an accompanying photograph. The photography is a definite feature of this book. Some of the poets/poetesses  include Christine Rossetti, Robert Fisher, Barbara Baker but there are also a few anonymous ones. There is also a contents page which probably isn't that necessary due to the limited nature of this anthology. Nevertheless, there are some great poems and this will be a useful addition to our basket devoted to poetry.

Loads and Loads of Limericks collected by David C. Harris

This hardback edition contains twenty-six limericks, each with a bold and detailed illustration by Allan Stomann. Some of the limericks have a publisher's note which often adds to the humour. See an example of this below These limericks were collected by David G. Harris (who sadly, does not come from Paris.) There is  a contents page at the beginning which is useful when trying to quickly locate the limerick you want. This compilation was first published in Australia by Angus & Robertson in 1985. It is a welcome edition to my classroom poetry selection.

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Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with no Feathers by John Birningham

Borka the Adventures of a Gooes with no Feathers, John Burningham's first picture book, is a stunning picture book which is somewhat reminiscent of The Ugly Duckling. Only this time, Borka, the goose born without feathers is the bird of central interest. Her mother, Mrs Plumster,  even knits her a grey woollen jersey that looks like feathers to keep her warm, but this just makes her a further object of derision amongst her five siblings. This timeless book deals with difference and exclusion. The big bold illustrations and intricate end papers ensure its appeal. Author/illustrator, John Burningham, is among the most prestitigous illustrators working the children's book arena whose career spans over 60 years. This year he was nominated for The Hans Christian Andersen Award. This particular book won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1964. 

An end paper from Borka

Below is one of my favourite illustrations in the book:

Captain McAllister, Fowler, Borka and Fred

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Garfield Flying High by Jim Davis

This little Garfield gem is chock a block full of funnies about Garfield's enforced diets and his health. Odie doesn't make such a big appearance in this book and most of the strips are about John and Garfield. This one below is one of my favourites:

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Angel and the Wild Animal by Michael Foreman

The Angel and the Wild Animal, first published in 1988 (the year my beautiful daughter Nicola was born), is a beautiful book for preschoolers by well-known  and prolific writer/illustrator Michael Foreman. Most parents could  well and truly relate to the story; I know I can. No-one's child is ever a complete saint or a horror, they just flit between one extreme and another and fortunately at certain points in the day level out to be just normal children.The luminous water colours are a  Foreman trademark and exemplify both the magical and the trying moments well. 

"Sometimes we have an Angel in the house.
Most times at night, and mostly asleep.
But sometimes awake,
a golden head in the dark.
In the day, in the park,
the Angel is brighter than the sun.

In some ways this book reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, especially the illustrations.


The Singing Hat by Tohby Riddle

I just adored this completely absurd story The Singing Hat by Tohby Riddle. Colin Jenkins awakes one day after a nap under a tree only to find that his head is now adorned with a bird's nest complete with bird. Not wishing to interfere with nature, he decides that he can carry on his daily routines with his new hat. The bird brings both positive and negative things into his life. Life becomes even more challenging when the eggs in "hat" hatch just as he is being dismissed from his job! It is a book of contrasts, as too is the illustrative style with solid and lightly sketched images. The pen and ink gouache, collage are cartoon like and add to the humour in the story. It's definitely a book to share with middle and upper primary students as they would appreciate the ambiguity and the amusing incidents much more than a younger reader. This book was first published in 2000 in Australia and has one a number of awards for both literature and design. These include Honour Book in the Australian and CBC Picture Book of the Year Awards and APA Best Designed Cover. So if you enjoy the bizarre you will love this book. The following website has some excellent discussion and teaching ideas on the book as well as some questions which could be explored:

Gorgeous by Caroline Castle & Sam CHilds

If only giving birth was as easy as "Ouch!" Big Zeb gives birth to Little Zeb at the beginning of this beautifully illustrated children's book.  This is a perfect book for toddlers and preschool children with its bright illustrations and minimalistic bold  text. It's all about first words spoken by the innocent. Little Zeb's first words are gorgeous and tip top and these are his main means of communication with others, along with a few other phrases he picks up along the way.The day is passing nicely when along comes a growling lion, now how will Little Zeb deal with him?