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
Once upon a fine, fully sick, hotted-up motorcycle…
… there revved a little daredevil, making the loudest noise you ever heard!
‘Oh, he is so annoying!’ the neighbours would proclaim as he roared past on his motorbike.
In a new ‘Epic Fail Tale’ from Matt Cosgrove, Little Red Riding Hood gets a makeover. No character is safe. Little Red Riding Hood undergoes not just a gender change, but now he’s riding a motorbike and bringing mayhem. The neighbourhood will never be the same. Spreads are interspersed with illustrations, thought bubbles, puns and word substitutions. There’s even a bonus Seven Ninjas graphic story at the end.
Don’t say you weren’t warned! ‘Little Stunt Riding Hood’ is the wildest adventure on two wheels, through the most windy, convoluted, gross, punny ‘forest’ you never imagined. This is no fairy tale. But it is a cautionary tale. Just not in any way you’ve ever been cautioned before. Recommended for newly independent readers, and those transitioning from fully illustrated texts. Pun for everyone.
Little Stunt Riding Hood, Matt Cosgrove Scholastic 2018 ISBN: 9781742992501
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
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
Tim takes me back to my home in Lille.
We try to find my uncles and aunts but they are all gone.
Tim says he will be my family.
When Honore walks into a camp on a military airfield, he is cold and hungry. he has been drawn into the camp by the smell of a Christmas turkey. Allowed to stay, because he has no home, soon Honore, an orphan, becomes known as Henry or Young Digger, and makes himself useful around the camp. The airmen all treat him well, but one, named Tim, takes special care of him, treating him like a son. When Henri’s family can’t be located, Tim promises to look after him. So, when the time comes for Tim to return to his home in Australia, he has to find a way to smuggle Henri on board the ship.
The Little Stowaway tells the true story of a young orphan who was befriended by Australian airmen near the end of World War 1 and who w s subsequently brought to live in Australia with his carer, Tim Tovell, and his family. The story has been simplified to key events for the picture book format and uses historical photographs alongside beautiful sepia and grey-scale illustrations.
Primary aged readers will be fascinated by this intriguing piece of Australian and French history.
The Little Stowaway, by Vicki Bennett & Tull Suwannakit
There’s no room on our rock
So it’s ridiculous to say
There’s space for plenty more
Shoo! Go away!
So begins this delightful, important picture book which explains in increasingly strident, mean tones why there is no room on the rock inhabited by a group of seals for two new seals – a mother and baby – to share. Except, when the end of the book is reached, the reader is invited to read the story again, this time from back to front – and reading it this way tells a different story, one of welcome, finishing with those first two pages: ‘So it’s ridiculous to say/There’s no room on our rock. ‘
The novelty of the palindrome format and the gorgeous illustrations will draw young readers in, but the message of compassion is hopefully what will endear them to the book and look for repeated readings and to share both book and message. And, if they enjoy the unusual format, they may also enjoy Drawn Onward, which serendipitously was released in 2017 and also uses the palindrome format to change negativity into hope.
A wonderful tool in the negative climate that surrounds debates about refugees and immigration.
Room on Our Rock, by Kate & Jol Temple, and Terri Rose Banyon
Scholastic Australia, 2018
Grandma looked at the cake … and all the stuff on the ground. ‘You’ve got a long way to go before you know how to use your skills properly,’ she said, ‘and I’m here to help. But your mum’s right. There is no doubt about it, Nelson…you are a NINJA!
Nelson is am awkward uncool nerd, who lives in the junkyard with his mum, grandma and cousin. So when he wakes up on his tenth birthday and can suddenly do things he never could before, he is more than a little weirded out. When he learns that he is, in fact, a ninja – perhaps the last ninja on earth – he thinks there must be a mistake. He can’t even get his undies around the right way, let alone save the world.
From Nerd to Ninja is the first offering the new Ninja Kid series from much loved comedian and children’s author Anh Do. Combining humour with a fast moving story and an unlikely, though likable, hero, the story is sure to impress young readers who will keenly await the next installment.
From Nerd to Ninja, by Anh Do
Scholastic Australia, 2018
The barrage was on.
Buildings, bricks, rocks and debris, in the air.
It is 1918, and the War is still going. While the Russians have withdrawn, it seems Germany remains strong, holding out against the allies across the Western Front. Ned and his tired soldier mates are sent into battle at the small village of Villers-Bretonneux. A win here, they are told, could help to turn the war around. But promises about the end of the war have been heard so many times, it is hard to know what to believe. All Ned wants is for the fighting to be over, and to be back home with his family. First he just needs to survive.
1918 is the gripping last installment in the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic. Each book has seen a different author (disclosure: this reviewer wrote one of the earlier titles, 1915) tell a story set amidst key events of that year of World War One. 1918 brings the final year of the war to life through the eyes of Ned, who struggles with the horror of the war and with his concept of bravery. The role of nurses, and the behind the front treatment of wounded and sick soldiers is also explored, as well as the aftermath of the conscription referendum of 1917, providing lots of insight into the events and impact of the war on those who were there as well as on Australia as a whole.
1918 can be read a stand alone, but young history buffs might be inspred to read the rest of the series.
Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson
‘I…’ I begin to argue, but my dad stops me, leaning forward over the table.
‘Miri, it would be unwise of me to say too much for both our sakes, but I will say this: there are things I used to be involved in – that I used to believe in – that I am no longer involved in or believe in. If you proceed with your current course, there are things I cannot help you with. Matters in which I would be more of a hindrance to you than a help if you were to call upon me. Do you understand what I’m saying?’
Miri should be in high school, but her brilliance and aptitude for medicine have seen her placed in an elite college program and invited to be part of an international secret society. She is thrilled to be part of the Society,and eager to engage in the opportunities it offers – especially the chance to do her own research, unhampered by the need for ethics approvals. But when her research proposal is accepted, she finds herself whisked away to a secret location where she must compete with other young researchers. Miri’s experiment means she is awake night after night , giving the opportunity to see that not everything at the research centre is at it seems. As her doubts grow, she isn’t sure who she can trust, or even if she’ll get out alive.
The Fifth Room is a blend of mystery, romance and psychological thriller. A fairly easy read, it explores concepts surrounding moral dilemmas in an intriguing setting.
The Fifth Room, by A. J. Rushby