Sunday, August 7, 2016

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T Smith

This is Little Red
Today she is going to be gobbled up by a lion.

This Lion.
Well that's what he thinks is going to happen ...

Every element of this picture book is perfect. Children will love the gold details on the cover, the end papers do literally book end the story beginning early in the morning and ending in the evening and of course there is the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood with a brilliant twist.

Auntie Rose has spots!  Little Red packs a basket and sets off past the crocodiles, giraffes, monkeys, termites, gazelles, elephants, hippos and meerkats. She sits under a tree for a brief rest before continuing her journey and this is where she meets the lion.  "In the time it took for his tummy to rumble, the Very Hungry Lion cooked up a very naughty plan."

You might think you know the rest but you will be in for a surprise involving hairstyles, teeth, nighties and doughnuts.

Take a look at my review of the first Claude book by the talented Alex T Smith.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Herman's holiday by Tom Percival




Herman's Holiday is the second book about this special pair of friends.  Take a look at Herman's letter which is a book I discovered exactly one year ago.

Herman's holiday has such important messages:

  • We are all different
  • Not everyone likes the same thing
  • Sometimes you need to consider another point of view
  • Kindness is important
Herman and Henry decide to take a holiday but their funds are low.  They settle on a camping trip. Herman is a born camper. He takes all the right gear and he even knows how to keep his donkey moving in the right direction.  Henry has the opposite experience.  When they arrive at their camping spot they each compose a postcard to send home.

Herman writes
"Dear Uncle Harold
We're having an AMAZING time camping!
Henry's really getting into the swing of it.
He even went for a swim last night.
What fun!"

Henry writes
"Dear Aunt Winifred,
Have you ever been camping?  Well,
if you haven't, DON'T, it's AWFUL.
I'm cold, soaking wet and bored.

PS Can you please post me some hot chocolate, I forgot to bring any."


Herman finally notices that Henry is not having a great time.  His solution is kind, ingenious and utterly perfect.

One special feature of this book is the 'real' postcards that you can lift and read. Take a look at the author web site.  The publisher site has a set of activities to use with this book.  This video shows you how to draw Herman.  Here is a detailed review.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

On my reading pile

I will be rushing to complete these books but I need to try to read as many as I can before Thursday which is our annual library donate-a-book day.

I am listing this as the first in my pile but it will be the last one I read because the setting is very similar to The war that saved my life.  I find I need to mix my reading to make it easier to recall a plot line.

I have selected Close to the wind because it was the title explored at my local bookshop discussion group.

Here is part of the blurb :
"In a war-torn country a town is burning.  The last ship to leave has a few places left, but it you don't have the money, or know the right people, you won't get a ticket."

First off this book has 381 pages so I may only be able to read a few chapters before my deadline but Peter Nimble and his fantastic eyes does sound excellent.  Kirkus use words like Dickensian and Tolkienesque.

The blurb says :
" ... the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher - a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes."



A new Australian title by comedian Alan Brough.

The opening lines of Charlie and the war against the Grannies are very promising :

"Seventeen grannies were hurt (just a little bit) during the making of this book."

The first chapter :
The Truth - "I didn't want Mrs Cyclopolos to explode.  I just wanted a paper round."

The Friendship Riddle was sent to use by Kate Colley from Bloomin' books so I know it will be a winner.   With over 350 pages I may only be able to dip in before Thursday.

Here is part of the blurb :
"If there is one thing Ruth Mudd-O'Flaherty can't resist, it's a quest.  So when she finds a riddle hidden in an old library book, she gladly accepts the mission. "

I have often thought it would be fun to hide messages inside library books!

I have started The Green Bicycle and so far it is excellent.  I am sure this will prove to be a powerful and important story.

Here is part of the blurb :
"Wadjda has one simple wish - to ride her very own bicycle in a race with her friend Abdullah, But in Saudi Arabia it is considered improper for girls to ride bikes, and her parents forbid her from having one. Sick of playing by the rules, Wadjda invents different schemes to make money to buy the bike herself. But freedom comes at a high price."

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The war that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

If I could walk, maybe Mam wouldn't be so ashamed of me.  Maybe we could disguise my crippled foot.  
Maybe I could leave the room ... 
That's what happened, though not in the way I thought it would. 





This book is really only suitable for the most mature readers at my school but I do hope I can put in into the hands of a senior student who finds this poignant tale as engrossing as I did.

This is another one of those books that I started one night and almost finished in one sitting - not bad for 314 pages.

Perhaps you have read the classic story Goodnight Mister Tom.  The war that saved my life follows the same historical period and evacuation experience of children sent from London to stay in rural England.

Ada has been born with a club foot.  Her ignorant and abusive mother did not allow any medical intervention when Ada was a tiny baby.  She regards Ada as a cripple and stupid.  Children are being evacuated all over London.  Ada decides she and her younger brother Jamie must leave.  They board a train filled with children bound for Kent.  Reluctantly a lady called Susan Smith takes in the two children.  Very, very gradually the three form a strong bond but for Ada the most special part of her new life is the pony in the field beside the house.  Ada's care of Butter and her determination to learn how to ride and jump mirror the persistence and care of Susan and gradually Ada, Jamie and Susan form a little family unit.

There are several very violent scenes in this book especially early in the story when Ada is locked in a small cupboard by her abusive mother.  While I do highly recommend this book I feel it is only suitable for mature students.

It is very easy to tell the author adores horses.  This is the scene when Ada meets Butter for the first time :

"I toddled and stumbled.  Everything hurt.  The pony watched me.  When I reached the stone wall I sat on it and swung my legs over to the other side.  The pony stepped toward me, lowered his head, sniffed my hands, and pressed his neck against me. I put my arms around him.  I understood how he go his name.  He smelled like butter in the hot sun."

Here is the Kirkus review.  Here is a video interview with the author.  Here is a detailed review in the School Library Journal.  Here is an excellent set of teaching notes from the publisher.  I also found a sample of the audio book which runs for ten minutes.

You might also enjoy Carrie's war, An elephant in the garden, Children of the King or Vinnie's war by David McRobbie.  Mosst importantly though, when you have read The war that saved my life you must read Goodnight Mr Tom.


The Doldrums : A badly planned adventure by Nicholas Gannon

"Out of the thousands of children born every single day, at least one of them will turn out to be a dreamer."




This is book is utterly scrumptious.  Start here with a dip into the very impressive author web site.  You can see the wonderful illustrations, meet the characters, view videos and generally get a feeling for the look, tone and feel of this book.

Archer B Helmsley must be destined to follow in the footsteps of his adventurous explorer grandparents but his mother, and to a lesser extent his father, are determined to prevent this.  Archer has become a prisoner in his own home.  And what a home it is.  Every room is filled with artefacts and taxidermy gathered by Grandpa and Grandma Helmsley.  When news reaches the family that the grandparents have been lost while exploring an iceberg Antarctica things become even worse for Archer.  Luckily he has a wonderful friend living next door.  Oliver Glub has a very different temperament but he is a loyal friend.  A new girl moves into their neighbourhood - Adelaide L Belmont.  She has had her own life tragedy but she is a strong, fearless and wonderful friend.  Now the three of them must find a way to travel to Antarctica and rescue the Helmsley elders.

The adults are determined to prevent this. They range from despicable to indifferent except for the wonderful school librarian!

Things become especially difficult for our friends when the new teacher - Mrs Murkley - arrives.

"Mrs Murkley, a rather bulbous woman with little neck to spare ..."

Read this Canadian review.

You might also enjoy Secret Letters from 0-10, Withering by Sea, Rooftoppers and The Danger Box by Blue Balliett

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yours sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa illustrated by Jun Takabatake

How do I judge a book?


  • The cover - yes this one is bright and appealing
  • The author and illustrator - no I had never heard of these Japanese book creators but I do enjoy books that have been translated from other languages
  • The publisher - YES! Gecko Press always select fabulous, intriguing and very different books


I also enjoy books with letters - especially where we can see the actual hand written letters as you can in Yours sincerely, Giraffe.




Dear You, Whoever you are,
Who lives on the other side of the horizon
I am Giraffe. I live in Africa. 
I'm famous for my long neck. 
Please tell me about yourself.

Yours sincerely
Giraffe.

There are three reasons for writing this letter.  Giraffe is lonely and would like a friend, Giraffe is bored and every day seems to be the same as the one before.  Giraffe sees a sign announcing a new mail service.  A Bored Pelican is offering his services (Fee : up to you) to deliver anything, anytime, anywhere.

Pelican flies off towards the horizon.  He eventually returns with a letter from Penguin.  Penguin has never heard of a neck.  He asks the only whale left at Whale Point, Professor Whale but the answer is far from satisfactory.  So the correspondence begins culminating in a visit by Giraffe over the ocean on a raft.  The meeting is joyous and surprising.

This little gem will make you smile.  Yours sincerely, Giraffe would be an excellent book to read aloud to a young class and there is so much to discuss such as perception of self and others, misinformation, asking the right questions and acceptance of difference.

This book reminded me of Run Hare, Run by John Winch because it explored the work of Albrecht Durer who is famous for his drawings of a rhinoceros which were based on a written description.


The story of Snowflake and Inkdrop

We have two books in our library where the stories are presented like these in The story of Snowflake and Inkdrop - where in the middle of the book you flip the book over so you can read the other half of the story - allowing the two characters or events to collide.  Kirkus call this 'dos-a-dos'. You will see what I mean from the German cover.



This book  was originally written in Italian so there are a number of people involved in the production. Authors - Alessandro Gatti and Pierdomenico Baccalario, Illustrator Simona Mulazzani and translator Brenda Porster.  Simona Mullazzani has illustrated more than 90 books.  I need to search these out and add some more to our library - her work is very special.



It is a challenge to decide where to start but I think the 'front' might be The story of Snowflake.  He drifts across the winder sky looking for somewhere to land.  As you turn the page you will see an intricate die cut pages with a hint of colour.  Here you need to stop and try to guess what lies beneath - a town, a circus, a playground. Meanwhile at the other end of the story a tiny inkdrop, sitting on a table in an artist's studio, longs for freedom.  The wind blows in and the ink drop is thrown out of the window so now the two hearts can collide.



Here is a detailed review with some examples of pages.  The image below comes from a teaching idea on this blog.

The two stories, bound dos-à-dos, meet in the middle on a climactic (in every sense of the word) double gatefold in which images of stars and rolling ocean, animals and people, 
light and dark whirl together: 



You might also look at this book by Cresent Dragonwagon.