Thursday, September 29, 2011

30th September Nette Hilton (1946)

Nette Hilton is an Australian author of both picture books and novels. Many of her novels are suitable for young fluent readers who are looking for what I call a 'bridging' novel. They want to read chapter books but don't want them to be too long. My favourite of these is The Web, a good story for any unit about grandparents, great-grandparents, the past, memories or just learning from and interacting with the elderly. Jenny, the main character is a particularly good role-model and someone whose empathy readers could do well to emulate.

Nette is probably best known though for her two picture books about Billy Bilby; The Smallest Bilby and the Midnight Star and The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Games. They are good, especially around Easter, but many of her other picture books are still worth taking off the shelves in the library. I particularly like A Proper Little Lady, The Friends of Emily Culpepper, The Blue Bike and Little Platypus.

Monday, September 26, 2011

27th September Bernard Waber (1921-2013) Paul Goble (1933) Martin Handford (1956) G.Brian Karas (1957)

A big day for birthdays. I wrote about Bernard Waber last year, but want to remind everyone about how good Courage is.

English-born American Paul Goble is the author illustrator of the Caldecott Award winner The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses and many other beautifully illustrated books.

Martin Handford is the English illustrator who is responsible for the publishing phenomenon Where's Wally?

And G(eorge). Brian Karas is an American illustrator who I discovered because of Clever Jack Takes the Cake, a wonderfully original fairytale by Candace Fleming. Then I went looking in the library and found more of his work and realised that On Earth and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof, two of my favourite books are also illustrated by him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

25th September Jim Murphy (1947)

American Jim Murphy is an author of many nonfiction books that deal with historical events. Many of these are based on American history so his books are not easily found in Australian libraries. Of the few books of his in my library, the most popular is Backyard Bear. This story is based on a real phenomena where black bears are wondering into towns looking for food because their natural habitat is diminishing. The children I have shared this book with are fascinated by it because bears are so foreign to their experience and they are alarmed by the fear the people in the houses are displaying. Another Truce tells the same story as the award-winning Australian book, In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgenson, where the fighting stops on Christmas Day in the trenches during World War 1. The third, a nonfiction book about dinosaurs is embedded in a story format and only works really for its wonderful illustrations by Mark Alan Weatherby.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

22nd September Elephant Appreciation Day

I have written about my favourite elephant picture books before when we had a new elephant calf born at our zoo, but I thought Elephant Appreciation Day would be a good time to highlight two stories about a very endearing baby elephant named Kidogo. These two stories, Kidogo and Quick, Slow, Mango are by author illustrator and world traveller Anik McGrory. Her gentle artwork combines with stories which show Kidogo to be a mischievous, fun loving and inquisitive 'toddler' that young children will empathise with easily.

21st September International Day of Peace

On this day last year I wrote about the authors and illustrators who were having their birthdays on this International Day of Peace, but this year I want to list picture books on the theme of peace that make good additions to any early childhood library. They are:
Let There Be Peace; Prayers From Around the World by Jeremy Brooks and Jude Daly
Let There Be Peace on Earth: and Let it Begin With Me by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller
A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley
The Peace Book by Todd Parr
What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladamir Rudinsky
Peace Begins With You by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

11th September Festival of the Winds

The Festival of Winds is a colourful Spring festival held annually in the skies above Bondi Beach in Sydney. It is a fun family day out with Australian and international kite flyers demonstrating their expertise, workshops for children and a festival atmosphere.

Whenever I think about kites I am reminded of that wonderful story The Sea-Breeze Hotel by Marcia Vaughan and Patricia Mullins. The kites in this story are magic and make you want to rush out and make your own or at least make tissue paper collages of them flying in the wind. The story theme of co-operation and working together also makes the book a must-read.

If your library doesn't have this book there are always the more factual ones:
Kite Flying by Grace Lin
Catch the Wind by Gail Gibbons
The Story of Kites by Ying Chang Compestine
Kites Sail High by Ruth Heller

9th September Chrysanthemum Day Teddy Bear Day

Two good reasons to celebrate. Chrysanthemum Day is celebrated in Japan on this day. It is one of five sacred festivals of ancient Japan. A wondrous display of chrysanthemums is presented on this day. These flowers seem to keep resurfacing for all sorts of things besides Mothers' Day. I always like to discuss these flowers and the number of flowers that have their names used as girls' names when I read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.

The other reason to celebrate Teddy Bear Day, is much easier to amass children's picture books for, there are just so many of them, besides all the well known favourites such as Corduroy, Paddington, Winnie-the-Pooh, Susanna Gretz's Teddybears series and all of Jane Hissey's gang of Old Bear's friends. A nice one to start with is Gillian Shields and Sebastien Braun's The Beginner's Guide to Bears. In Sydney next month (16th Oct) there will be the Children's Hospital's annual Teddy Bears' Picnic and then there will be teddy bears out in force. In preparation why not have a teddy bears picnic at school and the library is a good place to have it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

8th September International Literacy Day Jeanie Adams (1945) Michael Hague (1948)

Last year on this day I marvelled that there were five birthdays to celebrate on International Literacy Day and yet since then I have learned of two more.

Jeanie Adams is an indigenous Australian author who has published many books for Australian children that help them to see Aboriginal children in their natural family context. My favourite of her books, Pigs and Honey is set in Cape York, the very north of Queensland and it tells about Aboriginal hunting and a picnic in the bush. A young boy describes the weekend he enjoyed with his extended family.

Michael Hague is an American illustrator who has illustrated many of the classics, especially those dealing with fantasy. His illustrations are very realistic but intricately detailed and he chooses rich colours. When you look at his artwork on his website you feel so close to the detail and the characters. I particularly like his fairies.

International Literacy Day continues to be important because according to UNESCO, about 774 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills. One in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. About 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. However, literacy is also a cause for celebration on the day because there are nearly four billion literate people in the world.Statements like this make it all the more important to contribute to Room to Read's Girls' Education Program.

Monday, September 5, 2011

5th September History Week

A good way to celebrate History Week with young children is to dig out some of the Rachel Tonkin picture books that are in your library. Children don't always choose to borrow these themselves, but most libraries have them because they have been shortlisted for Australian book awards. Rachel has illustrated many historical books in meticulous detail so that children can learn about the past. When I Was a Kid is a picture book about life in the 1950s. It is done using a series of vignettes drawn from childhood memories - neighbours, trips to the beach, notable events, domestic routines and general everyday life at the time. What was the War like, Grandma?; Papa and the Olden Days; To the Goldfields and Grandpa's Stories also allow children to view and hear about the past.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3rd September Skyscraper Day

It is interesting that skyscrapers have a day, not that they are not worth highlighting and especially doing it using children's books. This week I bought a new book for the library with 'skyscrapers' in the title so they were certainly highlighted for me. The book Star Gazers, Skyscrapers and Extraodinary Sausages by Claudia Boldt is about Henrietta and her dog Frank and actually has little to do with skyscrapers, but the title is catchy and the illustrations and the feel of the book are wonderful. Certainly lots to talk about with a class here, even if it is not skyscrapers.

A book that is set on a skyscraper in Brisbane is Narelle Oliver's beautiful Home about birds that have been forced to find a new home and choose a highrise roof. Another is the Caldecott Medal winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein which looks at an event that really did occur between two buildings that no longer do.

And of course there are a myriad of non-fiction titles worth exploring. The very large and very heavy Skyscraper by Lynn Curley has text that is far beyond my clientele's reading abilities but they seem to love poring over the pictures and the sheer size of the book. Seymour Simon's Skyscrapers is perfect reading and information-wise.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

1st September Jane Hissey (1952)

English illustrator, Jane Hissey began her children's book career because a publisher spotted a series of greeting cards she had done and encouraged her to write and illustrate a children's book using the characters depicted on her cards. Her first book Old Bear was published in 1988 and other books with the same nursery characters followed. Hissey's characters are drawn from real life and feature her own toys. The library has the characters Little Bear and Jolly Tall as toys to loan out with the books and the videos of the stories are probably even more popular than the books. All of her stories about childhood toys who come to life are gentle and very young children feel very safe and content while viewing or listening to them. In this sense they are old-fashioned, by today's standards but my feeling is that they are good for encouraging children to be involved in their own creative play.

1st September International Primate Day

Today is International Primate Day. It was founded in 2005 by ADI (Animal Defenders International). Campaigners all over the world will be highlighting the abuse of our closest animal cousins. Currently monkeys, in particular are used for scientific research and there is a move to stop this.

There are several books ideal for this day, all of which will raise children's awareness of primates and how closely they are related to us.

There are two picture story books about Jane Goodall who has devoted her working life to chimpanzees:
Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Like Jane Goodall, Australian Carla Litchfield has also devoted much of her adult worklife to working with primates. She has written two non-fiction books:
• The Gorilla Book: Born to be Wild
The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us

and her daughter Kaitie has written a book, The Little One about her life as a child in Uganda handraising a red-tailed monkey. Watch this episode of Behind the News which shows Kaitie and tells the story behind the book.

And of course, who can resist Vicky White's illustrations in Ape by Martin Jenkins.