Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Category: Children’s (Page 1 of 5)

Book Review: What We’ll Build

What We’ll Build: Plans for our Together Future – Oliver Jeffers – Philomel Books – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

What shall we build, you and I?
We’ll build a watch to keep our time.
I’ll build your future
and you’ll build mine.

Inspired by the birth of his daughter, and in the same vein as Here We Are, What We’ll Build is a rhythmic and heartwarming father and daughter story from the beloved Oliver Jeffers. Told in rhyming text with Oliver’s signature art, What We’ll Build is the perfect story to cherish together.

My thoughts

Oliver Jeffers can do no wrong when it comes to beautiful picture books. His latest offering is a companion book to Here We Are. Here We Are was written for his son, while What We’ll Build has been written for his daughter. She is the main character alongside Jeffers himself in the story.

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Book Review: Sandcastle

Sandcastle – Einat Tsarfati – Candlewick Press – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

A young girl loves building sandcastles. But not just any sandcastles. She builds one so big and grand and lovely that all the royals of the world come to visit. There are banquets and balls and tournaments, a greenhouse for cacti, a staircase for skateboarding, and ice cream around the clock. Everyone seems to be having fun, until they discover sand in the royal almond strudel . . . and the fig milk bath . . . and everywhere! With a keen eye for the absurd, author-illustrator Einat Tsarfati invites readers beyond the crocodile moat to explore the intricately detailed, increasingly wild festivities that echo the arc of a day at the beach, from euphoria to gritty discomfort. The diverse cast of regal guests, from a Rapunzel-esque princess in pj’s and unicorn slippers to a pair of knights playing badminton, is just as inspired.

My thoughts

Sandcastle is a feast for the imagination. Our main character is a young girl, who while at the beach, builds a sandcastle. But it is not just any sandcastle. Her sandcastle is a castle, with hundreds of rooms and a kitchen that serves ice cream all the time. Kings and queens from around the world come to visit. But there are some problems with living in a castle made of sand, as the guests soon discover.

I love the cover of this book. Bright and colourful, the sandcastle has a rough texture that stands out from the rest of the smooth cover. It will be a shame to cover this library book.

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Book Review: The Crayons’ Christmas

The Crayons’ Christmas – Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (illustrator) – Penguin Workshop – Published 15 October 2019

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Synopsis

‘Tis the season for all of us to write our holiday wishlists. But everyone–even the crayons–know the best presents are the ones that you give. In this unique book, readers get to see how Duncan, the crayons, and their families celebrate the holidays.

My thoughts

If you have read The Day The Crayons Quit and The Return of the Crayons you will know how utterly delightful these books are. The colours are bright, the illustrations fun and the stories lots of fun. There is now a whole collection of Crayon books, including a Valentines Day special, a book of colours and a book of numbers.

This book is perfect as a gift, but it also works as a library book – you’ll just have to keep an eye on the special things in the book pockets. If you or your little readers enjoy the Jolly Postman books, you’ll love this book. Each page has a pocket with something special inside. The pockets are very clever – some made to look like letters or parcels that have arrived and others with a very realistic photo of a box that some clever page design seems to pop from the page.

The format of letters to and from the crayons continues, with a few extra special surprises. There are old character who return, familiar reader favourites and some new characters to meet.

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Book Review: The Worrying Worries

The Worrying Worries – Rachel Rooney and Zehra Hicks (illustrator) – Affirm Press – Published September 2020

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Synopsis

Do you ever worry about your Worries?
They can be awful pests, and they hate to see you happy.
But if you follow some simple steps you can banish those worries for good!

My thoughts

The Worrying Worries is a wonderful story about what to do about those worries that seem to follow you around, the ones you just can’t shake.

The Worrying Worries is Rachel Rooney’s second similar picture book, following The Problem with Problems. Both are brightly illustrated by Zehra Hicks. I love how the illustrations resemble a child’s colourful drawings, especially the crayon circle worry creatures. This would be a great book to follow up with a craft and drawing activity, where students try to create their own similar illustrations.

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Book Review: The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon – Edwina Wyatt – Walker Books – Published 1 November 2019

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Synopsis

Magnolia Moon is very good at keeping secrets.

She knows just what to do with them, and has a way of talking to the jumpy ones to stop them causing trouble.

Which is why people are always leaning in and whispering:

“Can I tell you a secret?”

My thoughts

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is a lyrical and whimsical story about growing up, becoming a big sister and dealing with secrets. Full of metaphors, repetitive sequences that bring a smile to your face and a writing style that uses lots of imagery, this feels like realistic fiction that borders on the fantastical, or at least magical realism.

Magnolia Moon is good at keeping secrets. She’s even better at knowing the exact right thing to do with a secret. In this book Magnolia must learn to let a friend go, start a new friendship and decide how she feels about welcoming a new baby into the house.

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Book Review: The January Stars

The January Stars – Kate Constable – Allen & Unwin – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

When twelve-year old Clancy and her fourteen-year-old sister, Tash, visit their Pa at his aged-care facility, they have no idea that the three of them will soon set out on an intrepid adventure.

Along the way there are many challenges for Tash and Clancy to overcome and in the process, they discover their own resourcefulness and resilience and demonstrate their heartfelt love for their grandfather.

My thoughts

A delightful Australian middle-grade fiction, The January Stars combines a heist (sort of) with a magical (maybe?) journey across Melbourne, that results in a extraordinary story about family, listening and the stars.

When 12-year-old Clancy’s parents leave on an emergency family trip to New Zealand, she and her older sister Tash convince their parents they will be fine to stay with their aunt. But when their aunt also leaves on a trip, the girls find themselves alone. They decide to visit their grandfather in his aged-care facility and thanks to a slight incident with a cat, an open door, runaway residents and an angry nurse, the girls find themselves on the run with their Pa. The girls must pool their resources and shelve their constant fighting if they are going to outrun the growing amount of adults that seem to be chasing them, including an irate real estate agent and the police.

I was totally hooked by the idea of a story in which two young girls steal their grandfather from a nursing home. It was utterly delightful from start to finish. Clancy and Tash manage to accidentally break their Pa out and he couldn’t be happier. After suffering a stroke, Godfrey can’t speak much and relies on a wheelchair to get around but he is plenty able to communicate his happiness to run away with the girls. They start by visiting their old family home and venture from there as various adults challenge them.

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Book Review: We’re Stuck

We’re Stuck – Sue deGennaro – Scholastic Australia – Published 1 April 2019

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Synopsis

When Turtle races into the lift of Building 24, there is a nod and a blink and a step to the side. A grunt and a sigh and a lean to the right. But what happens when the lift stops moving?

Crocodile has a meeting to get to. And Giraffe has a doctors appointment. And Turtle really, really needs to get to the shop.

My thoughts

A beautiful story about community and connections in a busy, moving world. We’re Stuck forces its characters to stop and connect. Together, they must work through their problems and they discover they actually have everything they need. They also join forces to brighten someone else’s day.


Werestuck

Do you know your neighbours? Many of us, especially those living in crowded cities and multi-storey apartment buildings pass one another each day without stopping to say hello or share names or stories.

In We’re Stuck, one day, Turtle is racing to the lift. He has a very important list and he needs to get to the shops and back to his mum. In Building 24, the residents often meet in the lift. They shuffle and move over to let in Crocodile, who needs to get to a meeting, Giraffe who is on the way to the doctors, Lion is due for a haircut and Hippo needs to get the cafe open. But then, suddenly the lift stops. The residents of Building of 24 are STUCK! Much commotion ensues. They are busy and important people with important places to go to and people to meet. But Turtle sits quietly and sadly says it’s his birthday. The others in the lift quickly rally. Balloons made from rubber gloves and fishing line are stung and paper hats are made. But the group also discover that, if they work together, they can solve the others’ problems. Doctor Crocodile takes a look at Giraffe, and whale offers to cut Lion’s hair.

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Book Review: Brave Like That

Brave Like That – Lindsey Stoddard – HarperCollins – Published June 2 2020

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Synopsis

Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is.

Lauded as “remarkable” by the New York Times Book Review, Lindsey Stoddard’s heartfelt stories continue to garner critical acclaim, and her latest novel will have fans new and old rooting for Cyrus and Parker’s special bond and the courage it helps them both to find.

My thoughts

Brave Like That is the same kind of feel-good, heartwarming, uplifting book as Wonder. Brave Like That is utterly delightful to read and I can’t wait to share this with our middle-grade readers.

Cyrus knows very well the story of the night he was found on the steps of the firehouse. He knows how his father had every intention of finding him a new home but decided to keep him. Cyrus has grown up in that firehouse, just as much a part of the fire crew as his dad and the other firefighters. When he discovers a dog, which he names Parker, on the steps of the firehouse, on the eve of his own discovery, he knows that dog belongs with him. He just doesn’t know how to convince his dad, nor how to tell him that he doesn’t actually like football and he would never be brave enough to actually be a fireman. With football season just starting, a new student in school who is being bullied, changes in his friendship group, and the ultimate desire to fight for Parker, Cyrus will have to discover if he can be the kind of brave that stands up for what is right.

I adored everything about this book. It is so easy to read, the story just unfolds and I didn’t want to put it down. There are so many important messages in this book and while they are pretty clearly outlined by Cyrus, the book doesn’t feel self-righteous. Cyrus learns a lot in the book and I was cheering him on every step of the way.

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Book Review: What Grew In Larry’s Garden

What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary and Kass Reich (ill) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world. In his tiny backyard next door to hers, Larry grows the most extraordinary vegetables. Grace loves helping him – watering and weeding, planting and pruning, hoeing and harvesting. And whenever there’s a problem – like bugs burrowing into the carrots or slugs chewing the lettuce – Grace and Larry solve it together. Grace soon learns that Larry has big plans for the vegetables in his special garden. And when that garden faces its biggest problem yet, Grace follows Larry’s example to find the perfect solution.

My thoughts

In this story about a little girl and a man with a garden sits a message about community and helping people to grow and flourish. Inspired by a true story, What Grew in Larry’s Garden is a book that shares a love of nature, problem solving and kindness.

Bright but soft illustrations bring the story to life in greens, browns and splashes of bright red watercolour.

There is much to cherish about this book. Initially it seems a simple story about a young girl who enjoys gardening with her older neighbour. I love the cross-generational friendship and the way the pair work together to creatively and kindly solve the problems they come across in their garden from bugs to squirrels. The tomato plants they grow together have a big future, though, and that’s where the true story comes into the book. Larry is a teacher and he grows tomato plants to share with his students. He then shares with Grace the letters they write to others as they give their tomato plants away. From overcoming broken friendships, sharing small acts of kindness, or giving thanks for service. The author shares a note at the back of the book explaining the inspiration of the book and how Larry’s work with his students and the giving away of tomato plants helped to grow a community and possibility within those students.

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Book Review: The Spirit of Springer

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca – Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings (ill) – Little Bigfoot – Published 24 March 2020

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Synopsis

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life.

My thoughts

The Spirit of Springer is a delightful story that retells the true events of the rescue and successful release of killer whale calf, Springer. The soft illustrations bring the events of the story to life. It’s a detailed and compelling story.

The writing does a fantastic job of placing the reader directly in the story, and setting the scene. The book is told from the perspective of the humans that interacted with Springer, from the ferry worker who spotter her alone to the scientists who worked to reunite her with her family. While this was a project that drew many people together, this book focuses on the work of Dr David Huff, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Dr Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist.

The book explains both the media attention Springer received, the concern of the public and the details of her rescue, rehabilitation and release. Built into the story are explanations of scientific terminology, like dialect.

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