Wednesday, March 31, 2010

1st April Gina Wilson (1943) Paul Howard (1967)

Amazingly, this British author, Gina Wilson and British illustrator, Paul Howard have done a book together! Gina Wilson writes novels and the occasional picture book, of which we have three. Her best known picture book would be Ignis which I have written about before because of its illustrator, P.J.Lynch. Then there is Prowlpuss, illustrated by David Parkins which is a poor McTavity-the-mystery-cat-type poem, but because it is in a picture book, accessible to younger children and good for a descriptive language and vocabulary study. And the third, Grandma's Bears which is illustrated by Paul Howard, is a softer, warmer story about Nat and his sleepover at Grandma's.

Paul Howard's illustrations are memorable. They are warm, a little 'cherubic' and make animals look particularly friendly and approachable. To see this, look at any of the Jill Tomlinson animal stories that he has illustrated. Recently, while reading The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and The Penguin Who Wanted to Know to classes we compared the illustrations from an older version of the books with Howard's new illustrations. The children decided that the new illustrations 'were mischievous and cheeky' much more in keeping with Tomlinson's humorous stories. So, hopefully Howard will continue to turn the rest of Tomlinson's stories into beautiful picture books.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

31st March Steve Jenkins (1952)

I hang out for the next Steve Jenkins' book. I am addicted to his illustrations. His animals seem so real yet the intricate collage is amazing. I watched him making illustrations in the making books section of his website. The papers he uses are textured and patterned and his cutting and paper placement is meticulous. He makes non-fiction books inspiring, to a reader like me who much prefers to read fiction. I can glean information while poring over exquisite art. I'd love to own an original! Mem Fox was so lucky to have him illustrate one of her books. If Australia can claim Hello Baby! then can we claim Steve Jenkins too?

Monday, March 29, 2010

30th March Passover (Pesach)

"We call the festival Passover because the Israelites marked their houses with lamb's blood and the Angel of Death passed over them." These words come from Granny Sarah who is explaining why Jewish people celebrate Passover in Adele Geras' Rebecca's Passover. This book tells of how Rebecca and her brother Josh help their Granny Sarah to prepare for Passover. As they busy themselves Granny Sarah tells them of the significance of each special part of the celebration. The other two books pictured here, do a similar thing. Four Special Questions by Jonny Zucker is for a younger audience, but it too has an appendix explaining each of the specific Hebrew words used in the story. Rebecca's Passover and Norma Simon's The Story of Passover also include recipes. Each of these books gives enough detail for a non-Jewish child to understand what Passover is and why it is celebrated.

30th March Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)

Vincent van Gogh was only an artist for the last ten years of his life, that is from 27 to 37. In that time he made over 1700 drawings and paintings. That's almost one every two days! And, he only sold one in his lifetime. These facts came from Vincent van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub. This book is set out as if it is an assignment where a child has to write a report about a famous artist. It is easy to read but still full of information and makes connections with the implied author's own life.

Another book about van Gogh that is worth including in any early childhood library is Vincent's Colors. This book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York uses words and pictures by van Gogh. He wrote a lot of letters, in particular to his brother, Theo and the words are taken from these letters and matched to a painting of his. The paintings have become whole page illustrations so they are large enough to share with a class.

A third book about van Gogh is Laurence Anholt's Camille and the Sunflowers. This is a fiction picture book, but much of it could be true and it focuses on one period in van Gogh's life when he was painting in France. This book also highlights how people can be very cruel to someone who is different from themselves and would therefore make a good 'circle time' book.

29th March Lauren Stringer

Lauren Stringer is an American illustrator whose pictures have rich, solid colour and seem to thrust themselves off the pages at you. They will not be ignored. I haven't seen all of her work, but in the books of hers that are in my library (see covers) this is certainly the case. Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George combines poems with origami. Our Family Tree by Lisa Westberg Peters allows very young readers to grapple with the concept of evolution and Mud by Mary Lyn Ray just revels in mud!

Lauren Singer's website shows her art, including some fascinating, opening sculptures and alerts me to other books that I am especially keen to follow up on. The last two books which are coming out this year are by Australian authors Wendy Orr and Mem Fox.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

28th March Byrd Baylor (1924) Julia Jarman (1946)

Today's two birthday girls are very different in their approach to writing for children. Byrd lives in Southern Arizona near the Mexican border and her books have a very strong sense of place. They depict her environment and it is clear that she loves the land and its unique qualities. My library only has two of her books, Everybody Needs a Rock and So You Are a Hunter of Fossils, both of which are sparingly illustrated by Peter Parnell because Year 1 do a unit of enquiry that looks at under the ground. These are perfect for this.

Julia Jarman on the other hand is British and her picture books have mischievous children as their main characters and are pure fun. Among her books that we have in the library Class Two at the Zoo, and Class Three at Sea illustrated by Lynne Chapman; Big Red Bath and Big Blue Train illustrated by Adrian Reynolds; and two readers, Tooth Fairy in Trouble and The Magic Backpack are extremely popular and regularly borrowed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

25th March Kate DiCamillo (1964)

Kate DiCamillo is very well known because of her wonderful book, The Tale of Despereaux, which has since been made into a movie. I haven't seen the movie, but I love the book and so do the second class children I teach. The sales blurbs say that it is a book for 9 to 12 year olds, but as a serial it is accessible to younger children. I love the characters names. I was in high school doing art when I was first introduced to the Italian word 'chiaroscuro' and the teacher told us about juxtaposition of light and dark. I remember thinking it was a great word and it certainly is a great starting point forthe character, Roscuro who is a rat. Originally I thought 'despereaux' was French for 'desperate' and I thought that too was a wonderful name for the mouse character. I know now it is not a real word, but it is still appropriate and Pea for the princess also creates plenty of things to discuss.
DiCamillo names always resonate. Timothy Basil Ering has used chiaroscuro drawings to create stunning illustrations that befit the 'feel' of the story.

More recently one of the American expat teachers at school came back from the States with a DiCamillo picture book, Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken. It hasn't proved to be as popular as her novels, but whenever it is on display it is borrowed. It has a very unlikely heroine which is in keeping with what DiCamillo likes to do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

27th March Dick King-Smith (1922)

Dick King-Smith is a prolific British author who is probably best known for his novel Sheep Pig which became the movie Babe and the book seems to have been renamed this too. Dick King-Smith makes an ideal author study because:
• he has written so many books that it is easy to locate enough books for a whole class.
• the range of reading abilities his novels cover mean there will be a book for every kind of reader, from the one who needs lots of scaffolding right up to the reader who is both a fluent and independent reader.
• he has a wonderful way with words. The vocabulary and turn of phrase allows for plenty of discussion and research.
• his books are humorous.
• his books have common themes and can be grouped using a variety of criteria.
• there is a number of children's biographies written about him.

My favourite books to serialise are:
The Hodgeheg
• Hairy Hezekiah
• Aristotle and
but there are so many more. See a full list.

My daughter still often mentions the year she went to the Book Week dress-up parade as The Invisible Dog and how the school librarian wasn't amused. She obviously hadn't read the book!

26th March Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) Natalie M. Rosinsky

It is American poet, Robert Frost's birthday. The poem that springs readily to mind when his name is mentioned is Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. In Australia this poem depicts an experience that is very foreign unless you live in the Snowy Mountains. Many children would not experience snow or the rural life it encapsulates, but when it is combined with Susan Jeffers' illustrations as it is in this beautiful picture book the experience is much more easily imagined. The purity of the black and white illustrations, with minor green and red touches creates a perfect atmosphere for the gentle, reflective words of the poem, where the traveller stops to admire the beauty of the woods but then is pulled back to his obligations.

Natalie M. Rosinsky is not as well-known as Robert Frost and I do not know her birth year, but she is a writer of non-fiction books. Rosinsky's books Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth and Rough; Dirt: The Scoop on Soil and Water: Up , Down and all Around which are part of the Amazing Science series are worth a look if you are looking for simple information books for under eights.

24th March

No birthdays! Friday is Bandaged Bear Day in New South Wales, so if your library has Cory Taylor and Peter Townsend's Bandaged Bear books, now is a good time to dig them out. Bandaged Bear is the mascot of the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney. The series of books published by Scholastic address issues affecting children, such as asthma, accidents and staying in hospital. They do this in a non-threatening and entertaining way. My library has these three:
Bandaged Bear and the Broken Bones
• Bandaged Bear Saves his Breath
• Bandaged Bear and the Birthday Party

Monday, March 22, 2010

23rd March World Meteorological Day

No birthdays and I can't show you photos of Poetry Day because I left the camera at school, but I did want to tell you about an amazing poetry book that I used a lot last year during Book Week when the theme was Book Safari. The book, Flamingo Bendalingo: Poems from the Zoo is a collection of animal poems by New Zealand poet, Paula Green and fifty children. Paula runs poetry workshops and after a series of workshops she took two groups of children to the Auckland Zoo to do more activities that she had designed. The result, this book, which is divided into two parts, a part with poems that she wrote, and another part with poems written by the children.

These poems have then been illustrated by prominent New Zealand artist, Michael Hight who also happens to be Paula Green's partner. The illustrations, black ink outlines with colour wash are divine - light and mischievous. And then to top off all this there is a glossary of poetry terms in the back with a myriad of examples that make you want to rush out and try writing or teaching them.

Here are two poems I loved:
Flamingo Ballet
Pink legs like statues
Lithe rubber necks stretch and bend
Flamingo ballet
Jessica Kyne 9

An Elephanty Poem

Loom large
Jumbo diddy elephiddy
Large loom
Jambo daddy elephaddy
Looming barge
Jimbo doddy elephinty
Large boom
Jumbo body elephanty.

Paula Green

Now to search for more by this talented duo!

And if you want to note Meteorological Day, why not start a discussion with Lilian Moore's poem:

Weather Report

Pinging rain
stinging sleet

Frost at dawn,
sun in the morning.

Ice-bearing trees,
a glass

A noonwind will
harvesting the brittle crop,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

22nd March Randolph Caldecott (1846 -1886) World Water Day

Randolph Caldecott was an English 19th century illustrator around the same time as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. It is interesting that he was honoured by being chosen for the American picture book award. He was travelling in America with his wife when he died, just short of his fortieth birthday. The illustration depicted on the medal of a moving horse clearly shows the dynamicism of his illustrations in comparison to those of Kate Greenaway.

World Water Day is a day when we need to remember the important role water plays in our lives. Several children's books do this very well, but a deceptively simple one that has all the facts, is Did a Dinosaur Drink This Water? by Robert E. Wells. It starts with the premise that "the water we drink every day isn't new. It's been recycled - not once, but thousands of times!" and goes on to explain the water cycle in a very entertaining way. The illustrations are cartoon-like and certainly not beautiful, but you can get the artwork from other water books such as
• Frank Asch's Water
• Libby Hathorn & Peter Gouldthorpe's The Wonder Thing
• Thomas Locker's Water Dance, and
• Walter Wick's A Drop of Water

21st March Margaret Mahy (1936) Michael Foreman (1938) David Wisniewski (1953 - 2002) World Poetry Day

Too much on today to do any of them justice, and each of them is very important in the world of children's literature and needs their own entry!

Firstly, Margaret Mahy. She is probably New Zealand's best-known children's author and she deserves to be. She won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006, she has a sculpture in her honour in Christchurch and she has won numerous writing awards such as the Carnegie medal. She writes fantastic novels and short stories , but the children I teach know her because of her picture books, especially The Great White Man-eating Shark and The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate. Have you read The Great Piratical Rumbustification? The story is great fun and the children love saying 'rumbustification'.

Secondly, Michael Foreman who is one of Britain's best-known author/illustrators. His first book was published over fifty years ago. The General has just been republished so that it can be enjoyed again. A lot of Foreman's books after this one continue to have war and conflict as themes. Last year he published A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope which also continued this theme, but that is not to say his books are depressing or unneccessarily negative. Three of his more popular books in my library, One World (1990), Seal Surfer (1996) and Wonder Goal (2002) have very positive messages.

Foreman has won the Greenaway medal twice, in 1982 and 1989. He has collaborated with Michael Morpurgo on many books (see Dolphin Boy), likes to do biographical-type stories and often sets his books in Cornwall. His illustrations are usually luminous, very blue, with vast skies and watercolour washes. Their lightness and colour are not something I immediately associate with the weather in Britain. He needs to paint in Australia!

And thirdly, an American author/illustrator who was born in England, David Wisniewski who did amazing illustrations with layers of cut paper. His book Golem won the Caldecott medal in 1997, but my favourite of his is Rain Player where Mayan boy Pik meets the rain God and is challenged to a ball game.

World Poetry Day can wait till tomorrow. We are celebrating it at school tomorrow so I should have some photos!

20th March Bill Martin Jr (1916 - 2004) Mitsumasa Anno (1926) Lois Lowry (1937) Louis Sachar (1954)

So many birthdays! I wrote about Bill Martin yesterday and as Lowry and Sachar are better known for novels than picture books I am going to write about Mitsumasa Anno, a very talented Japanese author/illustrator. When I started teaching in the 80s, each of his books was eagerly awaited. My classes revelled in Anno's Journey and Anno's Mediaeval World. They were like the Wally books were to children of the 90s. They were books where you followed a character on his journey through a myriad of locations, meeting many well known 'icons' along the way. One fifth class I had spent a whole afternoon listing all the fairytale characters they could find in Anno's Britain. Anno's illustrations are amazingly detailed and they cannot be fully appreciated from a casual browse. They need to be pored over. You need to get involved. They are great to view with a friend so you see 'twice as much'.

Many of Anno's books explore mathematical and scientific concepts or themes. Most 'work' at various levels, meaning there is something in there for children, teens and adults. He includes hidden jokes and visual pranks and he reminds you at times of Escher. Each of his books begs revisiting.

Anno grew up in a small town called Tsuwano in Japan. In 2001 the town honoured him by opening the Mitsumasa Anno Museum. Now I need a trip to Japan!

19th March

No birthday today, but there are four tomorrow so today I want to write about Bill Martin Jr whose birthday is tomorrow. What would a kindergarten classroom be without Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Every child learns to read with this book and every child believes they can read because of the very strong correlation between the rhythmic, patterned text and the bright Eric Carle illustrations which allow them to participate successfully in the reading process. Having read this book, they very quickly read Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

If you read Bill Martin's biography he talks about growing up in a house without books and not reading a book for himself until he was in college. He does say though that, " a blessed thing happened to me. I had a teacher who read to me. Miss Davis never missed a day reading to us...She turned my ears to literate language, to the voice of text." Every teacher needs to hear this and know that they should read to their class every day too. We are so much luckier than Miss Davis, there is just so much quality literature to choose from. We have no excuse!

Bill Martin Jr has left such a wonderful legacy and teachers need to know about it and ensure that we heed what he has said. You also need to listen to how wonderfully he reads Brown Bear on Youtube. Really he almost sings it, he is so enthusiastic about it.

Also, another of his books worth looking at as we come up to Poetry Day is Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry which is also illustrated by Eric Carle. It is thick and heavy but packed with poems!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

18th March Douglas Florian (1950)

The Sharks
Sharks can park
Wherever they wish.
They do not fear
The other fish.
Sharks can swim
Wherever they please.
On this each other
Fish agrees.

This is one of the fabulous sea creature poems that are in Douglas Florian's In the Swim.Young Australian children are fascinated by sharks and they will borrow shark books again and again, so a poster of this poem displayed in the library would be well read. American, Florian writes very quirky poems about all sorts of things and then illustrates the poems himself with equally unique paintings. His animal poetry anthologies such as Mammalabilia; Beast Feast and Insectopedia are fun to share with children. He writes about skinks, aardvarks, camels, flying fish, absolutely everything that you can think of. There is a very interesting interview explaining his unconventional work. His poems will be perfect for World Poetry Day on the 21st March!

PS. While researching for and collecting poems for Poetry Day I learned that Lillian Moore's birthday was yesterday and I didn't mention her. How remiss. She started her working life as a teacher so her poems appeal to young children. See her anthology I'm Small and Other Verse. Add her to your calendar. This poem of hers is very fitting for this moment!

I Left My Head


I left my head
Put it down for
a minute.
Under the
On a chair?
Wish I were
to say
Everything I need
in it!

17th March Kate Greenaway (1846 - 1901) St Patrick's Day

Kate Greenaway was one of the first illustrators of books for children. She illustrated nursery rhymes and verse and her books were sort after. They are still sort after, but now by collectors, not children. For the children of today, she is probably known more for the prestigious award that has her name attached to it. The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children.

While the award is administered and awarded in England, two Australian illustrators have won it. In 1995 Gregory Rogers won it for his illustrations of Libby Hathorn's Way Home. This book about a homeless boy was quite controversial when it was published because of its theme, but it was never intended for a very young audience and it is a book that elicited much discussion among the audience it was intended for. I had the honour of working on the teachers notes with a colleague and got to know the book well. The other winner is Bob Graham who needs no introduction and who is a well-deserved recipient. He won for Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child.

If you are looking for books to celebrate St Patrick's Day that are not factual, but literary, I think I would look for something Irish like Jude Daly's Fair, Brown and Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story or something by Tomie de Paola like the Irish folk tale Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato. Apparently, de Paola even has a picture book about St Patrick, but I haven't seen it. Perhaps your library will have it.

16th March Donna Rawlins (1956) Giles Andreae (1966)

Donna Rawlins is probably best known by Australian teachers for her illustrations of Nadia Wheatley's text for My Place which celebrated the Bicentennial so aptly. This book has been so successful that it now has a 20th anniversary edition and has been made into a television series. In a Prep school library though she is better known for her colourful illustrations in books for a much younger audience. Among them is Sue Whiting's The Firefighters; Simon French's Guess the Baby and What Will I Be? and a favourite of mine, Morag Loh's The Kinder Hat.

Giles Andreae, like Donna Rawlins has produced many picture books but as the writer not the illustrator. It is interesting that he chooses not to illustrate his own books because he is well known as the creator of the Purple Ronnie cartoons and cards. He is also a poet and popular books such as Giraffes Can't Dance and Commotion in the Ocean attest to this fact. He has gone on though to create other series of books, such as the Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs books, the Billy Bonkers novels and the Pants books. I like the way he includes his children in his books, with Captain Flinn for son, Flinn; Nat Fantastic for son, Nat and The Magic Donkey Ride for daughter Freya. No matter whether his words are illustrated by Nick Sharratt, Russell Ayto, Vanessa Cabban, Guy Parker-Rees or David Wojtowycz they seem to be read and borrowed. Oh to be so talented!

15th March Adele Geras (1944)

Adele Geras is a prolific children's author, but in my library she is best known for her two picture books about ballet, The Ballet Class and Little Ballet Star. The girls are attracted to the pink covers and the size of the book, so Geras needs to thank Shelagh McNicholas, the illustrator and the designer for making them so attractive. Once they have read one though, they are back for another. Geras and McNicholas could do more in this series!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

14th March International Pi Day, Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Pi Day is an excuse to celebrate maths, but while doing so take the opportunity to combine it with some books.

Pi represents the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference. Why was a Greek letter used to represent this relationship?

Cindy Neuschwander, an American teacher who has written several books about Sir Cumference has found a fun way to extend children's understanding of maths concepts. One of her books is called Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. Here Sir Cumference drinks a potion which turns him into a dragon and his son Radius has to search for the magic number known as pi which will restore him to his former shape. If your library doesn't have this or you want something simpler use a book about shapes, such as those by Tana Hoban, Circus by Lois Ehlert or the newer Shapes That Roll by Karen Berman Nagel.

To celebrate Albert Einstein's birthday either do some research in factual books or locate a biography of his life such as Odd Boy Out by Don Brown.

13th March Noela Young (1930) Diane Dillon (1933)

Noela Young has been illustrating children's books in Australia for over fifty years. She is probably best known for her illustrations of The Muddle-headed Wombat by Ruth Park. She has illustrated many novels by Emily Rodda and Gillian Rubinstein as well, but her picture books have very special qualities, especially when they deal with sensitive and serious themes such as old age and death, as Grandpa by Lilith Norman and Toby by Margaret Wild do. I cannot read Toby without crying. The illustrations of that beautiful golden retriever 'get to me' every time.

Diane Dillon illustrates with her husband Leo, who I wrote about on 2nd March. Their most recent book The Goblin and the Empty Chair was written by Mem Fox, so here there is an Australian and American collaboration of March birthdays! For me this book is a departure from what I would expect from both parties. Check it out and see what you think.

12th March Virginia Hamilton (1936 - 2002)

Not much to say today. The only birthday I could find for today was Virginia Hamilton and I am not familiar with her books at all. I know though that she has won every major award to do with children's literature, including the Hans Christian Anderson Award, so I do need to learn more about her work. Her website enlightened me somewhat. Now to locate some books.

A postscript to my elephant books... I forgot to include Baby by Tania Cox and Ann James. One of the kindergarten classes at school came to borrow it yesterday as a follow up to one child's news. All the children were abuzz with the news of the elephant calf.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

10th March Birth of an Elephant

Today a new baby elephant was born at Taronga Park Zoo. This is a momentous event and tomorrow the children at school will be full of talk about it so I will need to get out elephant books. Last time an elephant baby was born they were besotted. Hopefully this one will thrive and they will have another calf to visit. We have a large number of both stories and factual books about elephants, but those that deal with the birth of elephants and baby elephants will be best. Among the display will be these books because each of them is a beautiful and factual depiction of elephant life:
Little Elephant Thunderfoot by Sally Grindley & John Butler
Bashi, Elephant Baby by Theresa Radcliffe & John Butler
Kidogo by Anik McGrory
Elephants by Steve Bloom

Monday, March 8, 2010

11th March Wanda Gag (1893 - 1946) Ezra Jack Keats (1916 -1983) Jonathan London (1947) Ronda Armitage (1943)

It would seem that if you want to make it in the world of children's books, then the 11th March is a good day to be born! There are four birthdays today, starting with Wanda Gag whose books were among the first picture books that were specifically designed for children. Millions of Cats with its repetitive, rhythmic refrain "hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats" and fancy curly font is a classic, and still in print! If the Caldecott Medal had existed in 1929 it surely would have won, instead of receiving a Newbery Honour Award.

Secondly, someone who also has an enduring reputation, Ezra Jack Keats. He won the Caldecott in 1963 for The Snowy Day. Peter, the main character in this story appears in many of Keats' books, growing older in each one. Peter is an African American child with such endearing physical features and the books depict the simple routines of family life and a multicultural urban setting with great warmth. See A Letter For Amy; Goggles! and Peter's Chair.

Next, another American, Jonathan London. As well as all his Froggy titles he has a series of picture books about animals in the wild which are beautifully illustrated by Jon Van Zyle. My favourites are The Eyes of Gray Wolf and Honey Paw and Lightfoot, perhaps because being about wolves and bears, animals that I have no experience of, I find them fascinating.

The other author, Ronda Armitage was born in New Zealand but now lives in Britain. She is probably best known for The Lighthouse Keeper series of books which are illustrated by her husband, David Armitage. My favourite is still the first book, The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch. I use this series of books with Kindergarten to teach problem/solution. Mr Grinling always seems to have a problem and Mrs Grinling always manages to solve his problems. The vocabulary is rich and the children remember words like 'catastrophe', 'varmints' and 'lackaday'. More recently she has written two books about Small Knight and George which have illustrations by Arthur Robins.

9th March The Mitchell Library is 100!

The Mitchell Library in Sydney opened its doors to the public on 9th March 1910. It has survived one hundred years of collecting and resourcing the people of Sydney. While you may think there is nothing there for children as young as those I teach, it is still worth a visit and it could be fascinating for many children who have only experienced a school or municipal library.

Look at the statue of Matthew Flinders outside the library and then find the bronze statue of his cat Trim sitting on the window ledge behind him. This brave cat came to Australia from England with Flinders and then was there for the circumnavigation of Australia too. Flinders kept a diary and Trim was 'the star' of it. Years ago Annette Macarthur-Onslow illustrated his journal and it was marketed under the title of Trim, but it would be long out of print, but The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim by Cassandra Golds and Stephen Axelson would be easier to find and it even has teaching notes to accompany it that come from the Curriculum Corporation.

10th March Jack Kent (1920 - 1985)

Jack Kent illustrated lots of books, but my favourite is his retelling of the Danish folk tale The Fat Cat. I have never read it to a class that haven't been riveted. They love the concept and gaze in amazement as the cat keeps eating more and more and looks more and more balloon-like. The names Skohottentot and Skolinkenlot are fun and the repeated refrain gets them joining in. The library's copy is tatty because it is well-loved!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

8th March Kenneth Grahame (1859 - 1932)

Kenneth Grahame is best known for Wind in the Willows but for young children I think The Reluctant Dragon is more accessible. Both have been published in abridged editions and this makes the essence of the stories and their plot details readily available to children, but they inevitably lose some Grahame's wonderful language and turn of phrase. I like the abridged version of The Reluctant Dragon that Inga Moore has created. Her illustrations show the very gentle dragon who really doesn't want to behave in the more stereotypical dragon manner.

A newer book, Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi of Spiderwick fame is inspired by Grahame's Reluctant Dragon. This is the story of a rabbit called Kenneth (Kenny) and his two friends, George who is a bookshop owner and retired dragonslayer, and Grahame who is a dragon who enjoys reading poetry. While this spoof is not as literary as the original it is easier to read and children will read it themselves! It too, is worth a look just for the illustrations.