Saturday, August 21, 2010

22nd August Children's Book Week

It is Children's Book Week in Australia! Time to celebrate Australian books and all they have to offer children. At school I have been having fun sharing the shortlisted Picture Books and Early Childhood books with classes. We have discussed them, voted for ourselves and argued about why one is better than another. Of course, although we did have voting criteria, it seems inevitable that the children nearly always seem to choose different titles from the adult judges. I think that their main criteria this year was 'humour' as the most popular titles were Bear and Chook By the Sea; The Terrible Plop and Mr Chicken Goes to Paris.

Bear and Chook by the Sea was the winner in the Early Childhood category so the children will be pleased tomorrow when I tell them. Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay's first book about the unusual twosome of Bear and Chook, Bear and Chook was also popular when it was published so we revisited it too. The children love that the characters are so different in every respect, yet are such good friends. They drew comparisons between them and Minton and Turtle in the Minton books where one character is also adventurous and the other extremely wary and negative. I love it when young children make connections such as this. They also noticed how the characters reversed roles later in the story, both in this book and with the rabbit and bear in Ursula Dubosarsky's The Terrible Plop.

Dubosarsky's rollicking rhyme and rhythm in The Terrible Plop together with Andrew Joyner's illustration's fluid lines give this story a pace and drama that sustains children's interest, intrigue and surprise right to the fitting end where the rabbit is almost heroic. The children will also be pleased to hear that this book won The Crichton Award for new illustration for Andrew Joyner and hopefully this means we will get to see more picture books with his name on the cover.

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers won the Picture Book of the Year. This is a beautiful book also with an exciting, fast moving story, but it is textless and therefore very difficult to share en masse with a class. It needs concentrated attention, many readings and time to savour its cleverness. It definitely deserved to win. It is the third book in a series of books about a boy which began with The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard.

In contrast Mr Chicken Goes to Paris seems lightweight, but in a school where French is the language taught in Early Childhood classes and Leigh Hobbs is a favourite because of Old Tom and Horrible Harriet, it is not surprising that humour won out when the children voted. I love Narelle Oliver's books and last term we looked at foxes in children's books and character stereotypes, so Fox and Fine Feathers was voted in second place, possibly by those eager to please me!

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