The plan is to eat as many leaves as you can.
Then weave a cocoon.
Two weeks later…
TA-DA, you’re a moth!
With wings to fly! Easy peasy! I can’t wait.
Dawn and her caterpillar friends have known each other since they were larvae – and now they have a plan. They are eating every leaf they can find so they can get ready to build cocoons and, when their wings have grown, become moths. Dawn gets busy and soon she is snug in her cocoon. But inside, she waits impatiently, worrying whether her wings will develop, and how she will get out.
Cocoon is a sumptuous hard cover picturebook about the development of a moth from caterpillar to hatching, told through the voice of Dawn, with illustrations filled with whimsy and colour showing Dawn and her friends preparing for their metamorphosis. Once Dawn is in her cocoon, each spread shows just her, through a cross section of the cocoon, and illustrator Aura Parker cleverly uses a range of movements and some anthropomorphic props (books, a lantern, and even a teapot) to avoid repetition and add humour. The final images, showing Dawn and her friends emerging, are stunning, as are the endpapers.
Perfect to be enjoyed for the story alone, Cocoon would also have lots of classroom applicability.
Cocoon, by Aura Parker
Trip, trap, trip trap,
Three billy groats named gruff want to cross a bridge to eat the sweet grass on the other side – but first they must get past the grumpy troll who lives under the bridge and wants to eat them for his dinner.
While many adult readers will be familiar with this tale, many younger readers will not. author/illustrator Nick Bland brings it to life with his humorous style, which many will recognise from such favourites as the Very Hungry Bear. The text is simple, with visual features such as bold and larger font for key words, and the troll is rendered with humour making him more comic than fearsome to the reader.
Perfect for classroom or home reading.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Australia, 2019
If you are angry…
Say something to help people understand.
There are many ways to say the things that matter to you – through art, through actions and, of course, through speaking up – against wrongs, expressing needs, or voicing feelings. In this hardcover picture book, author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds uses simple text and cartoon-style images against colourful backgrounds to inspire readers to speak out, in whatever form they feel able, reminding readers that everyone has an opinion.
Using speech bubbles for both the narratorial voice, and for some of the depicted characters to speak to each other, the text speaks directly to readers of any age, and the accompanying illustration shows a diverse range of young people living out the message of the book – speaking, singing, painting, carrying protest signs and more.
Whether the reader is set to take part on a large scale demonstration, or simply needs encouragement to express themselves, Say Something will speak to them.
Say Something, by Peter H. Reynolds
Scholastic Australia, 2019
Just because you can’t spell doesn’t mean you can’t write.
With a head full of fabulous story ideas, the young hero of this story loves to write and create – but only at home. At school, his writing efforts come back covered in corrections – his teachers tell him his spelling is wrong, and they can’t understand his work. Then a new teacher arrives at school, and sees past the spelling to the creativity beneath. Mr Watson tells the boy – and the whole class – that ideas an creativity come first, and spelling can be fixed later.
My Storee is a delightful look at the importance of creativity, and the problems faced by many writers around spelling and grammar. the message is not that spelling never matters, but that creativity is needed too – and should be valued by creator and teacher alike. While being a good message for youngsters about taking risks, it is also a good reminder for teachers and parents that putting technical correctness ahead of creativity can stifle the latter and thus lead to students not writing at all.
As with the title, the text is riddled with ‘misspellings’, presented in a different font, so that readers can identify them, yet see that the meaning of the story remains clear. There are lots of learning opportunities here for students to practice editing, though it would be a shame to see the message of the story overshadowed by this. Illustrations are filled with whimsy, with words and story snippets scattered throughout.
My Storee, by Paul Russell & Aśka
EK Books, 2018
It was a quiet afternoon on the farm, when suddenly…
The animals of the farm are doing what animals do – the horse swishing his tail, the cow chewing her cud, the pig wallowing and sheep sheeping. So, when duck starts yelling ‘Duck!’ and interrupting the peace, the other animals are not impressed. They don’t understand why Duck keeps yelling her name. Rather than listening to the warning, they chastise Duck – until Duck realises, a little too late, that ‘Run!’ might have been a better warning.
Duck! is a humorous picture book story about word play and confusing messages. Young readers will love the silliness of Duck’s dilemma – and the other animals’ inability to heed the warning as a tornado bears down on them. Picture clues will let readers in on what is happening, and the digital and acrylic illustration are filled with enough humour to make the characters endearing and the situation amusing.
Lots of fun in a story that will be requested again and again.
Duck!, by Meg McKinlay & Nathaniel Eckstrom
Walker Books, 2018
A sudden gust of wind brushed the curtains aside, setting the candles on the dresses quivering, and sweeping around the feather into the centre of the star. It swirled to a halt, quill towards Emma. At the same time, the candle representing ‘Fire’ flared up, and the door rattled in its frame.
Emma is delighted when her Dad falls in love and proposes – until she realises that this means that Pip will be her stepsister. Emma and Pip do not see eye to eye about anything, and now they are going to be living together! Things don’t improve after the wedding, with Pip doing everything she can to make Emma’s life difficult. Then, when she drags Emma into her attempts to cast magic spells, something strange happens – it is Emma who can suddenly do magic. Emma has never wanted to be a witch, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to reverse the spell. In the meantime, can she use her powers to change the status quo?
Wyrd traces the challenges of blended families, friendship and bullying, in a story which uses just a touch of fantasy, with Pip’s fascination for magic seemingly unproductive until well into the story. Young readers will enjoy the challenges and moral dilemmas which Emma’s new skills create.
Suitable for middle primary aged readers.
Wyrd, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus Books, 2018
We are the voices too often unheard, the people too often unseen. But we are here; we are speaking. And through this book, we invite you into our worlds.
Meet us at the intersections.
As the introduction to this collection reminds us, there is a startling lack of diversity in the books offered to children and teens the world over. Most importantly, stories told by diverse creators are significantly under represented in the publishing landscape, and thus in bookstores, libraries and schools. Meet Me at the Intersection aims to bridge this gap by offering an anthology written by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ aor who live with disability.
Included stories include memoir, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction and poetry and each includes a brief biography of the writer and their aims and considerations in producing their contribution to the anthology.
Edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina and iwth contributions form a mix of established and emerging creators, including Alice Pung, Kelly Gardiner and Amra Pajalic, the collection offers a range of unique perspectives of life for readers of all backgrounds.
Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2018
Harry’s perfect life was straying way off track. he looked pleadingly at Mum. Surely she could see? Spending an entire weekend tramping around stinking-hot snake-filled scrub was a horrible mistake. But doing it without a phone? That was just brutal.
Harry is not happy. Not only has his mum moved him from his comfortable life in Sydney to live in Perth, but now she’s agreed to spend the weekend hiking in the bush with her old friend Ana, and her daughter Deepika. There are snakes, and spiders and insects in the bush – and, worst of all, no mobile phones allowed. Well, not for Harry, anyway. Mum seems to be the only one allowed to have her phone. She says it’s in case of emergencies, but Harry knows she’ll be using it every chance she gets. Out on the Bibbulmun Track, his worst fears are realised – there really are snakes and spiders. And every time they are in range, Mum has her phone out. Then, just when he starts to enjoy himself, Harry discovers that things really can go wrong out in the bush.
Off the Track highlights the Australian outdoors, and especially Western Australia’s iconic Bibbulmun Track, in a pleasing blend of adventure and self-discovery. Many young readers will relate to Harry’s dismay of being ‘forced’ to live without every day conveniences like flushing toilets, beds, and technology. Others will love the outdoors setting and the taste of hiking the story offers.
Gripping junior fiction.
Off the Track, by Cristy Burne
Fremantle Press, 2018
They haven’t seen each other for years, but here they are, falling onto the same old pattern as though there’s no other worth considering. Maybe it’s more to do with the place they’re walking through. Maybe the land has designs on them – maybe it always had – robbing them of the power to choose alternatives.
It’s been twenty years since they first walked the rail as teens, and twenty years since their friendship fell apart. Now, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole are walking the same trail, in an attempt to salvage something, even though it is clear to at least two of them what its they are trying to salvage.
That first hike was meant to be an adventure, a kind of coming of age in the wilderness, but what happened in those five days changed all of them, and severed their friendship. Will revisiting the scene of those terrible five days really mend their friendship, and will it help each woman to heal the wounds which continue to effect their lives?
The Geography of Friendship is a finely woven story. the use of three perspectives, and the shift bewteen the events of the past, the present and those in the intervening years, could become complicated, but rather makes for a pleasing complexity as the reader gets to know each woman and gradually piece together what has happened.
Absorbing and satisfying.
The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper
One day, Molly was walking in the forest when a Mysterious Thing rolled out from behind a fern.
And, even though she knew she shouldn’t,
Molly took it home.
Molly lives on a peaceful farm near a Mysterious Forest, which she loves to explore. When she finds a Mysterious Thing, she decides to take it home and, when it hatches and out comes a baby dinosaur, she decides to keep him as a pet, and name him Rex. But Rex grows quickly, and Molly soon realises that having a dinosaur on a farm can be a big problem.
Dogosaurus is a humorous offering, which youngsters will lvoe for its silliness. At the same time, the gentle underlying messages of conversation and ownership are valuable. Rex is a friendly looking, playful dinosaur with goggly eyes and a goofy smile so that even when he wreaks havoc, he is endearing to readers.
Great for young dinosaur fans, or anyone who needs a smile.
Dogosaurus, by Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic Australia, 2018