Friday, 7 October 2016

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls [Junior/Intermediate fiction]

Ways to Live Forever
By Sally Nicholls
Marion Lloyd Books | Scholastic, 2008
ISBN 9781407104997

This debut novel is about 11-year-old Sam who has leukaemia. It is written in the form of a journal over a period of nearly four months, full of lists, stories, pictures and interesting facts.

Sam knows he is going to die and spends a lot of time finding out about what this is going to entail. He asks great questions, getting right down to the facts of what is going to happen to him and what might happen afterwards. His final list is 'Things I want to happen after I am dead'.

He has a friend he made in hospital, Felix, who is also sick. They have lessons together from a tutor who helps them learn new things, like the answers to some of Sam's questions, and encourages Sam in writing this book.

There is a marvellous family, sister Ella, Mum, Dad and Grannie, who all have roles to play in the story as Sam thinks about what affect his illness has on those around him.

There are things he wants to do before the end (another list) and Felix is the main instigator of insisting that they can be done, with his Dad coming on board for the biggest thrill of them all.

Obviously a book that needs a box of tissues, but also is full of bravery, honesty, and a lot of love.

This was Sally Nicholls debut novel at the age of 23, and gained her a stash of awards:
2008 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize
2008 Glen Dimplex (Irish) New Writers Award, 
2008 German Luchs des Jahres
2009 Concorde Children's Book Award
Shortlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award

In 2010 it was made into a movie which I hope I can track down and watch.



Undercover: one of these things is almost like the others by Bastien Contraire [wordless picture book]


Undercover: one of these things is almost like the others
By Bastien Contraire
Phaidon, 2016
ISBN 978071487250

This wordless picture looks deceptively simple, but is curiously absorbing. As the title indicates, it's not just about finding the odd one out, but of noticing all the things that are the same about the objects on each spread.

Simply stencilled duo-tone illustrations in pink, green, and the brown that results when those two intersect reduce the subjects to their simple shapes, and yet there can be so much diversity in the images. It would be interesting to go from this to making some critters or objects yourself from simple shapes and limited colours.



This book was originally published in French, under the title Les Intrus which translates as 'The Intruders' which gives another angle on how the book works - are we looking for what is different, or what is the same, or what is disguised to appear part of the group? The wordless nature of the book also made me consider that they were maintaining their silence so as not to be discovered - just the kind of interesting thoughts that can come to mind when your brain has a chance to operate in the quiet.






Monday, 3 October 2016

I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas [Non-fiction picture book]

I am Jazz 
Written by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
Illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas
Dial / Penguin, 2014
ISBN 9780903741072

This picture book is the true story of Jazz Jennings (credited as co-author) who knew from when she was very young that she was a girl in a boy's body - she is transgender. "I have a girl brain in a boy body."

The picture book introduces Jazz through all the things she loves to do and wear, before revealing that she was born a boy. Her parents take her to see a doctor who explained to her parents that Jazz was transgender, after which they let her be who she really is, which is followed by school also being accepting, with some teasing along the way. 


I'm sure the actual process was nowhere near as smooth as the simple and clear picture book text indicates, but this story is going to enable people to discuss LGBTQ issues with young and older children, and for children who feel that they are different to others, to understand that they are not alone and there is a way to be able to feel like your real self. 

"Mom said that being Jazz would make me different from the other kids at school, but that being different is okay. What's important, she said, is that I'm happy with who I am."

The only quandary I have with this is the depiction of girls as frilly, pink, playing with dolls, dancing princesses, high heels etc, although thank goodness they are also attributed with liking soccer, swimming and doing back flips. 

I love that this is the story of a real person, someone who's making a big difference for others by sharing this story. 


You can see a video clip of Jazz talking about being transgender, and her book on the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation website where you can also find other useful resources.

Check out this excellent article about Jazz from the Daily Mail.

I anticipate that this book won't escape accusations of being inappropriate for some schools like the one mentioned in this article where they've cancelled a reading of the book after threats. No doubt it will end up on the 'banned books' list like some other excellent titles.

Jazz was named one of Time Magazine's 25 most influential teens in 2014.

I borrowed this book from Auckland Libraries  where you will also find another title from Jazz Jennings, Being Jazz in ebook form. It includes the years following those covered in I am Jazz.

Tomboy: a graphic memoir by Liz Prince [Graphic memoir]


Tomboy: a graphic memoir
By Liz Prince
Zest Books, 2014
ISBN 9781936976553

Graphic format seems to be a great way for young people to share their life stories if the number that have been attracting my attention is anything to go by. (See my posts on Dare to disappoint - growing up in Turkey, by Ozge Samanci  Drama by Raina Telgemeier and Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer).

Gender issues abound and Liz Prince tells the story of growing up as a tomboy, and what that meant to her, and how it reflects our society and what the social pressure to appear a certain way has to say about us. Liz didn't want to be a boy, she isn't gay, she just wanted to be herself, but she didn't want to follow the rules that society expected of her as a girl, regarding the clothes she wears, the games she plays, who her friends are and how she behaves.



Fortunately she was a determined young girl who knew what she wanted and kicked up a stink when others tried to make her fit/wear the right clothes/behave the 'right' way.


I particularly admired her when she persuaded school authorities to let her wear a jacket and tie for 'formal day' instead of the very unsuccessful dress the rules said she had to wear. I love the way Liz found her style when she was very young, and has stuck with it. This is what she is happy with. 



I'm going to be boosting the stock in my intermediate school library with books like this where I know some of my students will find not only people to identify with and examples of standing up for yourself, but also a way of sharing their own stories. Graphic storytelling is going to be part of what we do in our Book Week this term.

Read what Liz Prince has to say about writing/drawing Tomboy
Tomboy was a Kirkus Best Books of 2014
You can find a useful Study Guide here if you'd like to use this book in the classroom.
ALA Rainbow Book List
YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens (These lists are a huge resource if you are looking for more great graphic novels.)
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (Also an abundant source of great book titles)

I borrowed this book from Auckland Libraries where they also have it as an e-book

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Flight by Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Armin Greder [Picture book]

Flight 
By Nadia Wheatley
Illustrated by Armin Greder
A Helen Chamberlain Book
Windy Hollow Books, 2015

I listened to Nadia Wheatley talking about this book when she was in Auckland for the IBBY Congress recently, when she'd just had news that it had won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year for 2016. 

The book is sombre in image and message, and urgent too. A man, woman and baby are fleeing across the desert, at first bringing to mind the Nativity story, but then a rumbling invasion of tanks transported me to more modern times, to the many refugees in our modern world; this could be the story of any of those families desperately searching for safety. 

The narrative is simply told, making the seriousness of the story all the more stark. The grainy illustrations, I think done in charcoal and oil pastels, in greys, browns and a gentle yellow and one brief flare of red, emphasise the seriousness of their situation, and the need for the trio to hide away. In a final scene they are at a camp and we know there is no happy ending here. 



Click here to read a piece by Armin Greder about his illustrating of the book, where I was interested to read that he initially turned the manuscript down for this book, because he didn't think the text left enough room for him to be creative. Nadia obviously knew he was the perfect person to illustrate Flight and revised her text, when he then agreed to take on. 

   
Find out more about Nadia Wheatley on her website.
Armin Greder doesn't have a website, but there is some excellent background and information about other books he has illustrated, some of which he's also written, on the fabulous Playing by the Book blog.



Saturday, 1 October 2016

Walter Dean MYERS - Darius & Twig, Hoops, Monster

Walter Dean MYERS (1937-2014)
I've been catching up on this influential author who I've heard a lot about over the years, but had never quite got around to reading his books. He won the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times and was the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the U.S.A. in 2012/13 (equivalent to the Children's Laureate role in other countries).

You can get the full deal on his website or hear him tell his own story in this excellent Youtube video:


"I want to make poor people human beings in my books, so they can look at my books and say "That could be me, and this guy understands who I am as a full person."


First I read Hoops, which focuses on 17-year-old basketball player Lonnie Jackson, who's training with his team for the city-wide Tournament of Champions.


Coach Cal is thought to be a bit of a down-and-outer but proves to have been a pro basketballer when he was young, and made a lot of bad choices which still affect his life today. 

Cal sees Lonnie's potential and wants him to do his best, but warns against giving in to pressure, which comes from so many different sides - his girlfriend, team-mates, family, school, basketball, school and college administration. Full of tension and realistic characters who so often make the wrong choices.

While looking for my cover image I discovered the work of artist Thomas Allen, who created some art works for The Johns Hopkins Hospital based on great children's books. You can see all the info about what he made, and how he did it here. Basically he's taken the books and done clever things with the covers, which he's then photographed. He included Hoops and created silhouettes of the main characters, with a quote from each written on them, then beautifully photographed.



Next to turn up from the library was Darius & Twig, about an African-American and a Dominican boy trying to work out their paths in life, whilst surrounded by violence, drugs, and many, many losers. 

They each have a talent - Twig is a great runner, Darius is a writer and they both have challenges to face, which they take the course of the book to work their way through, to find a mindset that lets them see that they can succeed, even though success often brings unwelcome attention.

Myers has won a slew of awards for many of his more than 100 books, as just a sample here's the list for Darius & Twig:

  • Named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year for 2013
  • Named a Booklist Top Ten Book for 2013 in the category of Black History Books for Youth
  • Named a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2013
  • Featured in the Chicago Tribune’s “Best Children’s Books to Give as Gifts” for 2013
  • Featured in BCCB’s 2013 Guide Book to Gift Books
  • Newsday Summer 2013 Reading List selection
  • Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book, 2014
  • Named a 2014 ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • Named a 2014 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

For the full list of all his awards and nominations have a look here.
Now I've moved on to (but not finished yet) Monster. The version I'm reading is not the original Michael L Printz Award-winning novel, but a graphic novel adaptation (adapted by Guy Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile) of the diary of 16-year-old Steve Harmon who is under trial for murder, the title being what the state prosecutor refers to him, and the three others involved in the crime. I'll add to this once I get to the end.

What an incredible list of awards there are for Monster:
  • Michael L. Printz Award (First)
  • Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor Book
  • National Book Award Honor for Young People’s Literature
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
  • American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • American Library Association Teen Best Books for Young Adults
  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book
  • Amazon.com Top Ten Teen Books
  • Book Sense 76 Pick
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice Selection
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee
  • Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Finalist
  • Horn Book Fanfare Honor List
  • International Board on Books for Young People Honor List
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award Finalist
  • Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award in High School Category Nominee
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
  • New York Times Notable Children's Book
  • Ohio Buckeye Children’s Book Award Nominee
  • Parents’ Guide to Children's Media Outstanding Achievement in Books Honor
  • Publishers Weekly 100 Best Books of the Year
  • Riverbank Review Children’s Book of Distinction
  • Texas Tayshas Reading List
  • Wyoming Soaring Eagle Award Nominee

I'm going to be recommending this author to the many kids I know who have so much potential, but are so easily diverted from their path to success, and also the many able readers who want to see what life is like from the point of view of someone quite different to themselves.




Saturday, 17 September 2016

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer [Graphic memoir]


Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year 
By Ramsey Beyer
Zest Books, 2013
ISBN 9781936976188

I've been reading quite a lot of graphic novels recently, and really loved this memoir from a small town girl, age 18, off to college in the city for the first time. She's used her real livejournal entries, lists and zines she made at the time, linked with comics telling the story of her life over that first year.
It's not particularly thrilling, but it's not meant to be - it's a pretty honest recounting of what it was like to be an innocent teen who's lived her whole life in a small town, who breaks out and goes to art school away from home, experiencing all the things that will be familiar to anyone who's been in that situation - making new friends when you know no-one, getting brave about going out and exploring, suffering the criticism of teachers at a new level of education, learning to balance the budget and the workload and have a social life as well, and maybe even starting an important relationship.

As a girl from the country myself, I headed to the big smoke - Auckland - in my 6th form to go to boarding school after living on farms in the Waikato for most of my childhood. I wasn't as exposed to the big wide world as Ramsey is, going to college, but I had to do the other stuff - making friends from nothing, going from being one of the smart kids in a small high school, to one of the average ones in my big city school. Learning to find my way around town on my own, and breaking out of the schoolgirl mould to find out who I would be.

So this is probably why I liked this book so much. I love books with everyday detail, the domestic stuff about how a life actually works. I also really enjoyed Ramsey's discovery of feminism and gender issues and vegans, things I had certainly known nothing about before I left home too.




Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer [Graphic memoir]


Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year 
By Ramsey Beyer
Zest Books, 2013
ISBN 9781936976188

I've been reading quite a lot of graphic novels recently, and really loved this memoir from a small town girl, age 18, off to college in the city for the first time. She's used her real livejournal entries, lists and zines she made at the time, linked with comics telling the story of her life over that first year.
It's not particularly thrilling, but it's not meant to be - it's a pretty honest recounting of what it was like to be an innocent teen who's lived her whole life in a small town, who breaks out and goes to art school away from home, experiencing all the things that will be familiar to anyone who's been in that situation - making new friends when you know no-one, getting brave about going out and exploring, suffering the criticism of teachers at a new level of education, learning to balance the budget and the workload and have a social life as well, and maybe even starting an important relationship.

As a girl from the country myself, I headed to the big smoke - Auckland - in my 6th form to go to boarding school after living on farms in the Waikato for most of my childhood. I wasn't as exposed to the big wide world as Ramsey is, going to college, but I had to do the other stuff - making friends from nothing, going from being one of the smart kids in a small high school, to one of the average ones in my big city school. Learning to find my way around town on my own, and breaking out of the schoolgirl mould to find out who I would be.

So this is probably why I liked this book so much. I love books with everyday detail, the domestic stuff about how a life actually works. I also really enjoyed Ramsey's discovery of feminism and gender issues and vegans, things I had certainly known nothing about before I left home too.




Thursday, 1 September 2016

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley [Intermediate fiction]

The War that Saved My Life
By Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Text Publishing
Paperback $21


Set in WW2. Ada (10) lives in London with her cruel mother and little brother. She has an untreated clubfoot for which her mother has restricted her to their flat her whole life, seeing the world through a window. 

When her brother is to be evacuated she decides she has to go with him. They duly escape and are sent to a rural village, and the care of Miss Susan Smith, who at first refuses to take them but there are no other options. She does her best but struggles with Ada, as the girl's past experiences leave her unable to trust and to mistrust any kindness done for her, expecting rejection at every turn. 

Ada's lack of knowledge about the world is astonishing (if a little unbelievable, though I appreciate the idea) - even grass is new to her.  She does have a huge dose of determination, and it is the process of her learning to live and to feel love and joy, which is at the heart of the story. 

Teaching herself to ride Butter, Miss Smith's neglected pony, plays a big part, assisted by the gentle teaching given her by the groomsman from a nearby estate. Ada's progress is matched by Susan Smith's growing love for the children until the dreaded reappearance of their mother, leading to some heart wrenching concluding scenes. 9 - adult.

I loved this to bits, in spite of some improbable moments, and so did others - gaining it best-seller status, a Newbery Honor, and the Schneider Family Award for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

9+

Classic: The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett [Junior fiction]

The Family from One End Street 
By Eve Garnett
Puffin Modern Classics, 2010
Introduction by Julia Eccleshare
ISBN 9780141329673
First published by Frederik Muller Ltd in 1937

Eve Garnett (1900-1991) studied art at the Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal Academy School of Art, which I imagine was no easy road for a young woman in those days. She loved to walk the streets of London drawing from life. Her drawings in this classic novel are sketchy, as though quickly drawn, and capture the skinny, gangly children of the Ruggles family. 

They are a lovely rough-and-tumble family - Mr and Mrs (dustman and laundress) and the seven children, including red-headed twins and baby William. Each chapter focuses on one of the children, and a final glorious adventure for everyone as they travel by train from their village to London to see the parade that Mr Ruggles' brother drives his prize-winning horse and cart in. 

There are disasters and adventures, issues with their constricting clothing and exploits which take children away from home for whole days, without too much worry about where they are, particularly the twins, Jim and John, as they endeavour to prove themselves worthy of joining the Gang of the Black Hand. 

Lovely stories. I hope I can convince some young readers to give it a go because I think they're as enjoyable as ever they were.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Creepy & Maud by Anne Touchell [Intermediate/YA fiction]

Creepy & Maud
By Dianne Touchell
Freemantle Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921888953

A marvellous, but rather uncomfortable novel about two misfits who make a connection via their bedroom windows, and take turns telling their stories.

Creepy, the boy, watches the girl he calls Maud with binoculars, looking into her bedroom. The chapter where we meet her is introduced with lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem 'Maud' (every chapter has a literary quotation), though the text doesn't say this is why he calls her Maud, he just does. He admits from the start that he is in love with her.

Maud is a compulsive hair puller, to the extent where she has bald spots on her head, and eventually draws blood. It doesn't stop with her hair - she pulls her eye lashes, and pubic hair. Her parents are hugely embarrassed of her and take her to a therapist for help, but she seems to sink deeper into her unhappiness, or determination to be herself in spite of their expectations of what she should be/do. 
"I am a disappointment. My parents love me but they are disappointed."
The bond between the two seems to be strengthened by Creepy's acceptance of her habits, almost relishing them. They put notes up in their windows with brief messages, questions and quotations. I find it hard to put into words the exact nature of the relationship that grows between the two. They are at once strengthened by their growing, though silent, bond, yet sinking deeper into their disfunction. 

A strangely compelling story - I felt fascinated by their spiralling difficulties, never able to predict how they would next respond to their circumstances.

I've read a later book by Dianne Touchell for my YA book club - A Small Madness - equally as dark, diving deep into the mind of a young woman in trouble - I couldn't quite believe what she did to solve her problem, so startling, but the group all agreed it was a hell of a read, though definitely not for the faint of heart.

Check out Dianne Touchell's website. She has some good teacher notes on the individual books there as well as talking about her writing career. She has a new book Forgetting Foster, just out too.

13+
I borrowed this book from Auckland Libraries


Monday, 25 July 2016

The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin [Intermediate Fiction]

The Dog, Ray
By Linda Coggin
Hot Key Books, 2016
ISBN 9781471403200

Here's a novel with a lot of heart, and that guarantee for a good story - a dog in trouble.

Daisy (age 12) is killed in a car crash (car meets horse, not your usual accident) and her father is paralysed.

Daisy finds herself in that space in between - a waiting room for souls to find their new destiny; Daisy is to become a dog. Because she doesn't follow instructions correctly she is a dog who can remember her life as a girl.

She is taken home from the pound by a rather ghastly boy and his mum who make her sleep in a kennel outside and don't treat her particularly kindly, and when she has the chance she dashes away, determined to find her way home and become an assistance dog for her father, but that's not to be, they have moved away.

Daisy meets a homeless man, and a boy called Pip, who has run away from his foster home; his mother has died and he wants to track down his father, who doesn't even know he exists. It is Pip who gives the name Ray to the dog, and they make a fine pair.

I won't share more of their adventure as it will spoil your reading of it, but there is excitement, emotional upheaval, adventure, and some new friends along the way.

Ray tries to communicate with everyone as she would have when she was a girl, but it's only heard as barking, and as she lives in her dog-self, her girl-self slowly starts to fade, whilst maintaining her loving, courageous character.

A charmer, but then I'm always a sucker for a dog story.

9-14, though obviously adults might enjoy it as I did!


Friday, 22 July 2016

The Mystery of the Clockwork sparrow by Katherine Woodfine [Intermediate fiction]

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
By Katherine Woodfine
Egmont Publishing, 2015
ISBN 9781405276177

A marvellous mystery set in the early 1900s in London where Sinclair's Department Store is just about to open. Our heroine, 14-year-old Sophie Taylor has been hired to work in the millinery department, where the other girls treat her as though she is a snob, although she's really just very shy and nervous of beginning her life in the working world, having been thrust out of education after her father's death and being required to find a way to make her living.

Also in the cast is a young porter, Billy, who is constantly in trouble fore being sidetracked and seeking out-of-the-way hiding spots where he can read his story paper mysteries, and a homeless lad he befriends on the street. Lillian (Lil) Rose is one of the so-called 'Captain's girls', who model all the fine fashions in the store and is also an aspiring actress who has just scored a role in the chorus of a new show. She and Sophie make friends and both take Billy under their wing.

As part of the opening festivities there is to be a grand exhibition featuring an intricate jewelled clockwork sparrow which sings a different tune each time it is played. On the night before the store is to have its grand opening there is a robbery and the sparrow, along with other jewels, is stolen. Sophie happens to have been seen at the store just before it happened and suspicion falls on her.

There's a dangerous gang involved, and danger inside the store as well as outside, culminating in a marvellously exciting scenario which makes heroes of them all.

Sophie, Lil and Billy make a fine team, following clues and facing dangerous and life-threatening situations. They are all better for being friends, and I look forward to following their exploits in further books in the series. I have a lot of girls at school who ask for mystery stories and I'll be happy to add this series to the library stock for them.

10-16.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Classic: Stig of the Dump by Clive King [Junior fiction]

Stig of the Dump 
By Clive King
Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Puffin Modern Classics, 1993
First published in 1963
ISBN 9780141329697

This is the 50th anniversary edition of this classic tale of eight-year-old Barney who falls into the chalk pit behind his Granny's house and discovers a caveman - Stig, living there. The story is set in a village called Ash, in Kent, where author Clive King lived as a boy, his home on the edge of a chalk pit, just as the setting for this story is.

I'd requested the book from the library because it had an introduction by Julia Eccleshare (children's editor at The Guardian, and commentator on all things to do with children's books in the UK. She's coming to New Zealand soon for the IBBY Congress and I'm going to interview her and write about her for Magpies magazine so I've been getting my hands on everything I can in the name of research. 

I've been trying to fill a few gaps in my reading history - classics that I feel like I've read, because I've read so much about them, but haven't actually read the books. Stig seemed like a good place to start as I'm constantly looking out for good 'boy books' for the many reluctant readers I deal with in my job as an intermediate school librarian.

It's a marvellous adventure story. Safe in that it mainly takes place around Barney's Granny's home area, but at the same time seems to be entirely separate. It's a reflection of the times, of course, when children could leave after breakfast and not reappear until tea time and no-one would much worry about them. Not only does Barney disappear for hours at a time, but he takes supplies and tools from the house, which never make it back again, and gets wet and dirty, but no-one much worries about that either.

Barney meets Stig and they make friends, Barney helping to make Stig's primitive living conditions better, and Stig teaching Barney how to do the things Stig knows about like using a spear. Stig can't talk very well, but they make themselves understood somehow. Even when long amounts of time go by, when Barney has to go back home etc, when he returns they just carry on as usual. Barney doesn't keep Stig a secret, but his family obviously think Stig is made up, until his sister comes on an adventure on a hot summer night and meets Stig too, when they are somehow transported back to Stig's time and meet his people who are amazingly setting up the Standing Stones.

Being written in 1963 the language and the details of Barney's daily life are, of course, old fashioned, but it's into the action quickly and it wouldn't take much perseverance for the reader to get into the excitement, and just as the time difference between where Stig is from, and Barney, is easily crossed, so can the distance from our contemporary reader to the chalk pit and all the excitement that takes place there.

The story has twice been adapted for television, and I was also astounded to discover there is a rapper and a television producer who both go by the name Stig(g) of the Dump!

7-10.


Perfect by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood [Picture Book]


Perfect 
Written by Danny Parker 
Illustrated by Freya Blackwood 
Little Hare
ISBN 9781921894848
Hardback

This picture book is one of those gems that are just right for sharing with pre-schoolers who love to see the details of their daily lives on the pages of a book. It is amazingly simple, with brief lyrical text from Danny Parker. Writing text like this for a books is, I think, one of the hardest things to do, to keep it simple but still somehow magical.

It's been illustrated by one of my all-time favourite illustrators, Freya Blackwood. It's definitely worth having a read of her post about illustrating this book.



The story follows three children and their cat, as they move around their home and yard, from one activity to another as the day slides by. From breakfast on the step, to drawing on the footpath...



Some very messy baking and making (and fixing the bowl which had been used for the making but is now broken in pieces). and a walk/hop/climb/run around the yard...


I'm constantly captivated by Freya's ability to capture the child's body with her pencil and paint, the perfect curve of a calf, the tilt of a head, the sticky-out hair. It reminds me of that other great picture book artist, Shirley Hughes. The ordinary child and an everyday environment - an Australian scene with the sandy clay colourings, depicted in such a way that you feel you are there, and could scoop up one of the warm and lovely children for a cuddle. But there are no adults seen here, as the children move on out to wider countryside, flying hand-made kites, then home for food then finally the younger two giving in to sleep, arms flung to the side, while the eldest child reads a book. Perfect.

I borrowed this book from the library, but if you go and buy a copy, there is a free Perfect print inside the book. Treasure indeed.




Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald & J.P. Coovert

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading
Written by Tommy Greenwald
Illustrated by J.P. Coovert
Square Fish
ISBN 9781250003379

This book came with the Reading Enrichment loans for school from National Library. I'd asked for books for mainly male reluctant readers and this fit the bill very well. It was issued as soon as I showed it and whenever it came back would go straight out again, so I thought I'd better actually read it before I sent it back, and having done so I'll buy it, and I'll get some others in the series (there are six).

Charlie Joe (aka CJ) is a determined non-reader, and has all sorts of ways of getting out of reading whenever he can, including a handy arrangement with a friend where CJ reads the first and last chapters of an assigned book, then his mate, in exchange for an ice-cream sandwich, reads the rest and tells CJ what it's all about. One thing I like about CJ is that he doesn't dislike stories, and he doesn't have any difficulty reading, he just doesn't want to read the whole book. As you'll see in the book trailer, he's happy to listen to an audio book or watch the movie of a book and is actually a fan of the library where not only can you get audio books and movies, but there are girls.


As a librarian, of course I hoped that in the course of the story CJ would learn how great books could really be, but he's still a fairly determined non-reader at the end, but in the process of writing the book (a punishment for some particularly bad non-reading behaviour) he tells us all the things that are great about books.

I've had a couple of students at school who stated in no uncertain terms when they came into the library for their English class: "I DON'T READ". And yes, they told me in loud capitals. I, of course, am determined to find something they will find irresistible, and this might be that book.

It's funny but with underlying serious issues, like how to treat friends, be trustworthy, and own up when you're in the wrong. The cartoon illustrations will also ensure you lure in all those determined Wimpy Kid readers who don't want to move on.