Sunday, August 31, 2014

Billy and the Big New School by Catherine & Laurence Anholt

This book by Catherine and Laurence Anholt is about the anxiety that some children feel before starting school for the first time. Billy is quite concerned and worried about the big new school with the great big children. His mum tells him he is just like a litttle bird who doesn't want to leave its nest. Billy loves birds and takes some comfort in this and tells the birds he feeds in the garden all about his worries. That's when he finds a little sparrow who can't fly properly and who is being harassed by other birds. So Billy decides to take him under his human wing. And soon...just as the bird has to go back out into the big skies, so must Billy go to school.  And is school as bad as he thought? Pre-schoolers and adults alike will enjoy sharing and discussing this beautiful picture book with its insight into the joys and trepidations of  starting school.

Good Old Rosie by Jane Maxey

The picture book Good old Rosie basically revolves around a sheep called Rosie, and comes to you right out of  the land of sheep, New Zealand. It focuses on a carefree, young girl, Jessica who lives in the country, and her relationship with her family and her pets; her favourite pet being Rosie the white sheep with the black face and legs. Rosie is evidently named after Great Aunt Rose on account of her black stockings. Then one day she finds Rosie in a predicament and wonders if she can get her out alive. The detailed black and ink illustrations are a real feature of the book. The story line itself is uncomplicated but fun. It was published by Oxford University Press in Wellington in 1980
Jessica and Rosie

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Plants that Eat Animals by Linna Bentley and Colin Threadgall

This natural science picture book written by Linna Bentley and exquisitely illustrated by Colin Threadgall was well worth salvaging from a recent library cull. The illustrations alone have so much artistic merit. This edition was published in 1975 but was first printed in 1967. It basically deals with carnivorous plants which with their clever baits and traps endeavour to ensure the survival of their species. Over forty years on, it is still a fascinating read.  Following the successful capture of their prey these amazing plants are able to dissolve solid animals with some being as big as mice and small birds, absorb them and then reset their deadly traps. The traps have been categorised into four basic types: sticky-surface trap, the jug-of-water trap, the suction trap and the snap trap; the latter being my all time favourite. Indeed, I had one of these, a Venus fly trap, in my loungeroom. However, it unfortunately only survived a year: too many little fingers triggering the snap mechanism I am guessing. Anyway, this interesting book cover plants such as the Sundews, the Pitcher Plants (American, Australian and the tropical),  the Venus fly trap, the Bladderworts and the Underwater Bladderworts. There is a contents page at the beginning so the reader can quickly find what they are looking for.  The drawings, as stated previously, are just amazing. I am glad to add this beauty to the Little Library of Rescued Books.

 Tropical Pitcher Plants by Colin Threadgall
Venus Fly Traps by Colin Threadgall

My Brown Bear Barney in Trouble by Dorothy Butler and Elizabeth Fuller

This is a beautiful story which is the sequel to My Brown Bear Barney continues the story of the friendship of a preschool girl and her beloved teddy bear. She and Barney are inseparable and each day brings a new outing and a new mishap. They spend time in the garden, time with Fred, her friend, ride climb their special tree, go shopping, visit the dentist and the library. Finally, they visit Granny. It's a busy week and the days are sprinkled with incidents with an accident prone Barney. However, come Sunday, the little girl and her constant companion are so tired they spend the day reading stories and taking a nap. They need all of their energy for the upcoming week which promises to be just as hectic as the one that is now over. The appealing, cleanly designed water colour illustrations by New Zealand illustrator, Elizabeth Anne Fuller,  add warmth to this familiar story. In fact they are what really make this text and would make text prediction attainable to most infant children.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The third book in the series by Veronica Roth is Allegiant and you will discover all in the first two stories is just a mirage. It's basically one city invading the rights and privacy of another and manipulating them to the extent of being able to eliminate their minds, their memories and their very existence. Just how many times is each city of factions reset you surely must ask yourself. A masterstroke as far as an author is concerned especially given that the majority of her audience is aged between twelve and eighteen. This is a real plot twister. Note Veronica's hair gets considerably shorter with each book promo. Does that mean she will be bald when she promotes her prequel Four? Anyway, this novel continues the story of Beatrice Prior and her romantic interest Four. Mind you, I would only give this semi-romantic and somewhat dubious love interest a three for his performance as the secondary narrator to Tris; a new feature introduced into this final novel in the triology. Can't have been that great as Roth feels the need to write a prequel to the whole series trying to explain and maybe exonerate the dismal appearance of Four in this novel. Whilst I enjoyed it, I feel it lacked the drive and charisma of the first two novels, a characteristic it shares with the third book in the  Hunger Games triad.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

In the second book Insurgent,in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, things are hotting up in the city of factions especially between the Erudite and the Abnegation factions. Tris and Four are caught between loyalties to their old faction and the ideal of avoiding a total societal breakdown in the city. In this novel you see the emergence of a more assertive, if not at times an aggressive verging on somewhat cruel Tris. She now faces questions of grief, forgiveness, loyalty, politics and most importantly identity. As a reader, you start to question her motives and actions. Dauntless is torn apart as Erudite try to establish dominance and suddenly Tris and Four are fugitives and have to seek refuge in the Amity sector. Dauntless traitors abound and action now needs to be taken to ensure a total bloodbath does not occur threatening the whole existence of all five factions, and the factionless, who have gained a power unforseen by all the legitimate factions suddenly become a power to contend with. But who is watching all of this unfold? There is a much bigger picture, maybe they are just all pawns.  All is to be revealed in the final book of the triology, Allegiance. 

If you would like to hear an excerpt being read, click here:

Divergent by Veronica Roth

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games series, you will most likey enjoy this dystopian debut novel by Veronica Roth and the three other books which make up the set in a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. The story is told through the eyes of sixteen year old Beatrice Prior as she tries to find out who she really is in a society that defines its inhabitants by their personality-related affiliation to five different factions. There is Candor, Erudite, Abnegation, Amity and Dauntless. At age sixteen all adolescents must attend the Choosing Ceremony and select their faction. This will be their faction for life unless they are rejected and exiled to the poverty stricken sector of the factionless.  For Tris (Beatrice), her choice means leaving the relative safety of the Abnegation faction to join the Dauntless, one where traits of strength, courage, ruthlessness and recklessness are actively encouraged. During the rigorous initiation process, she meets and becomes close to Four, who endeavours to look after her despite her determination to forge her own future. If anyone discovers that Tris is in fact a a rare personality type known as "divergent" she faces possible death or the the very least expulsion from the faction.  The following video of author Veronica Roth discussing this book is well worth viewing. All four books are available for borrowing from The Little Library of Rescued Books.  What faction would you choose if you had to? Watch out for Jeanine, the malevolent presence and purveyor of others' lives in the first two books. She's the character you love to hate...along with the big bombastic initiate Molly endeavouring to win a position of dominance in the Dauntless faction. Peter's no angel either.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Max by Bob Graham

 Max is an appealing and large hardback book (25 x 30 cm) which will capture the imagination of toddlers through to lower primary school children. This book was winner of the 2000 Nestle Children's Book Prize Gold Medal and its easy to see why. Author and illustrator Bob Graham goes straight to the heart
of children’s experiences, creating gentle dramas from familiar situations. He masterminds an instantly recognisable world within which children feel secure and can relate to. Baby Max lives in an ordinary street in an ordinary town, but his house is far from ordinary; its big and yellow and the shape of a lightening bolt that  reaches high above the other residences towards the sky. He is the son of two superheroes, who dressed in their Superman-like attire, fly around the world tracking down thieves and bullies. These are the big footsteps in which Max is expected to follow, however, he is finding learning to fly an exceedingly difficult task despite the encouragement and cajoling he receives from his parents. Then one day a baby birds falls from its nest and Max has to take action. Woven into the very heart of this fantasy story are issues of identity, bullying and difference. Bravery and heroism, are equally valuable, whether applied to big or small causes. The illustrations are bright and bold and a mix of full page ones, double page spreads and a series of comic strip style layouts. All in all, good fun.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Out For Sampson by Libby Hathorn and Ann James

Looking after a younger sibling can be loads of fun but sometimes downright frustrating. This story follows the highs and lows of  Bronwyn who is increasingly put in charge of caring for her younger brother Sampson. To complicate matters, a family friend is staying with the family, and her daughter, Cherlyl,  is nothing short of obnoxious and likes nothing better than to criticize Bronwyn and put down her family and their way of life.

"I mean it does look a bit funny a big man like that in a tiny little apron. It's great that he wants to do the cooking but  must say its very unusual about the apron" 

She's the character you love to hate. Then one day they all go for a beach outing and once again Cheryl does her best to dominate the family's attention and steal the limelight. Bronywn feels hard done by and then... Sampson suddenly disappears.

This book is a great bridging book from picture books to novels written for the 7-12 age range. Each double page of text is accompanied by an illustration underscoring the Australian way of life. This is a welcome addition to The Little Library of Rescued Books and I know there are some students in the class who could really relate to this very Australian story. 

Mummy Goes to Work by Kes Gray and David Milgrim

First published in 2006, this is a great book for all working mums explaining the love for their little one despite the realities of having to return to work. It simply explains that mum would like to be home doing lots of fun activities and it also explains that when mum is home the phenomenal effort she puts in; same could easily be said of the working dads. It is a cheerful; comforting picture book which will strike a chord in any home with a working parent. Author Kes Gray resides in Essex with his wife and young son, young family a menagerie of animals. He has already won awards after only one year of publishing his first book.David Milgrim has illustrated some 15 books. The bright illustrations leap of a stark white background clearly reinforcing the words of a mother's dedication to her son and also the humour that comes with Mum doing "SO MUCH!". I liked this one so much that I bought it for my grandson Archie who now goes to childcare.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

School Days: Cartoons from the New Yorker

This is a collection of 100 cartoons which focus on a variety of situations and characters, including teachers (the undervalued and the outstanding), students (slackers and leaders), and parents (uninterested through to the demanding ones.) However, sadly, much of the humour will only be truly appreciated by the north American audience. Most of it will go over the heads of my students but it will assume a place in the "Fun Stuff" section of our classroom library anyway. I particularly enjoyed the following cartoon: 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fireflies in the Night by Judy Hawes and Kazue Mizumura

How do fireflies light up the night? It's a process scientists are still investigating, but this very accessible book for young children provides some of the answers through the eyes of a young boy who collects them in a jar to make his own cool light lantern. The book offers interesting facts about the use of these insects in lanterns in Japanese gardens, in operations and jungles, their mating habits, as well as some information on the chemicals they use to light up. Illustrator, Kazue Mizumura, employs accurate scientific pictures of them as well as beautiful water colour scenes of gardens and jungles. This is the Crowell Crocodile Edition published in 1976. The book was first published in 1963 and has recently been revised and reprinted using the illustrations of Ellen Alexander. This time the protagonist is a young girl.

Firefly lanterns in a Japanese garden

Fox Eyes by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams

"Whiskerchew," is the catchphrase in this retro picture book which made its debut in 1951.  It is also the word uttered by the old fox as he goes about his daily activities and notices the hiding places of other woodland animals and their secret stashes of food. They are unnerved by the red fox and are panicked into departing from their daily routines. Author, Margaret Wise broom  published over a hundred children's books and unfortunately for the literary world only lived to be forty-two. This little gem which introduced many a ninety-year old to reading is now sadly out of publication. The above Collins Picture Lions edition was published in 1980. Below is one of the beautiful illustrations by illustrator  Garth Williams and you can see the fox spying through the rocks.