September brings 3 major celebrations: Indigenous Literacy Day, Father’s Day, and the start of Spring.
Indigenous Literacy Day is 7th September and we’re seeking everyone’s help to advocate in raising awareness and importantly funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Why? This independent not for profit charity works to raise literacy levels in remote Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. Focusing on early literacy, it provides three free programs which help to build a culture of literacy in communities and homes where there are few to no books. It does this through two way engagement, publishing books (where communities request) in the first language, in running workshops and through a free book supply program (new, culturally appropriate books, 40% of which are written by Indigenous authors or illustrators). ILF is independent and works without government support. It aims to take small but sustainable steps that empower communities and families. On Indigenous Literacy Day you can buy a book at Gleebooks and a percentage of sales will go to the Foundation, OR you can make a straight donation. Further details on the program are available ilf.org.au.
Grandpa’s Big Adventure
by Paul Newman (ill) Tom Jellett
What a lot of ‘Dad’ books there are, yes I know it’s Father’s Day, and maybe they are redressing the balance of ‘Mum’ books, but still…why? Tom Jellett and Paul Newman’s refreshing new book is a Dad book with a difference: Grandpa’s Big Adventure is a most entertaining take on the Tall Tales and True theme, with a very droll grandfather trying to encourage his grandson to learn to swim. This Grandpa claims to have swum around the world, with a minimum of fuss, and with a high expectation of both comfort and adventure. Tom Jellett’s illustrations are full of humour and expression, a perfect match for Paul Newman’s very amusing text. The really charming part of the story is the wonderful word play, which the illustrator consolidates through his pictures. This is what sets the book apart, and into a much more interesting realm than the norm. Great for 4-8 year olds. ($20, HB) Louise
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel ($30, HB)
In the first picture book that Wenzel has both written and illustrated, what could in less adept hands have been a forgettable addition to this year’s picture books is elevated to ‘Wow!’ status by his imaginative interweaving of the concept through text and art. As the cat pads gracefully through the book its presence is registered by others—a child, a dog, a bird, a fish, a bat and other creatures—all according to their own perceptions and hierarchy in Nature. From the plumply furry bundle to cuddle that the child sees to sleek prey, from world-eclipsing monster looming over a mouse to the object seen through the multifaceted lenses of an insect, the same cat is inventively wrought in an exploration of perception and size. Inevitably we recognise the importance of point of view, while admiring Wenzel’s skill in creating this book which is attracting acclaim from around the world. An unassuming gem of a book that is simply masterful. Lynndy
Copy Cat by Ali Pye ($25, HB)
Being a copycat is not ideal, but it is a part of childhood, and can be a part of learning. Copying someone can be a form of flattery, but it can also be very irritating to the person being copied. Ali Pye’s Copy Cat addresses this childhood habit beautifully, in a picture book about two little cats, Bella and Anna. Bella loves Anna so much she wants to be just like her, until Bella finally gets sick of being copied by her friend, and a spat occurs. Hurt feelings ensue, and Anna goes off by herself and learns how to do something on her own. This is not a preachy book in the least, but it does address a very real part of a child’s social development, and presents a wonderful solution to a problem. Really sweet pictures illustrate the text, with very pretty colours, backgrounds and delightfully expressive kittens. This is an excellent book for those starting kindergarten or school. Louise
FOR THE VERY YOUNG
Give & Take by Lucie Felix ($25, BD)
Here’s a truly original book to engage littlies and the rest of the family. Press-out shaped pieces taken from one picture can be given to the next page, creating a whole new image and building up an awareness of shapes, vocabulary and opposites. The consolidated final picture relates back to the very first, connecting them through the various play pieces. On reading the description I was interested in the concept, but seeing it in action, constructing and deconstructing the images and recognising the inherently clever design had me marvelling and now I’m a convert. Check it out for yourself! Lynndy
The World Treasury of Fairy Tales & Folklore: A Family Heirloom of Stories to Inspire and Entertain (ill) Fausto Bianchi
Presented in order of original publication, this expansive collection of fairy tales ranges beyond the well-known offerings of Perrault, Andersen and the Brothers Grimm to include culturally diverse tales from around the world. The tales are grouped and introduced by leading academics, offering insight into these stories we’ve grown up with. With such breadth within the 400 pages, glorious illustrations by Bianchi, and durable leather binding, this anthology is a perfect gift for individuals or families—I defy you to resist! ($30, Leatherbound) Lynndy
For Keeps: A Treasury of Stories, Poems and Plays Celebrating 100 Years of School Magazine
I’ve yet to meet an adult who grew up in Australia when I did —in the 1960s and 70s, who isn’t moved to enthusiasm by their memories of receiving the School Magazine every month. For Keeps is a wonderful collection of stories, pictures, poems, plays, riddles, all gleaned from the vast treasure trove that must be the School Magazine archives. Well designed, with interesting information about the history of the magazine, and with very endearing photographs from across the decades; full of the best of stories and poems, and rich with illustrations from our best loved illustrators. How wonderful to see the work of Noela Young (the magazine’s “longest serving contributor”), the peerless Walter Cunningham, and the inimitable Kim Gamble. Poetry by Judith Wright, Archie Roach, Michael Rosen, to name just a few, stories by Robin Klein, Margaret Mahy, Anna Feinberg…the list goes on. This is much more than just a nostalgic look at institution, it is fresh and relevant…and will evoke the question, does children’s literature reflect the state of childhood, or does it influence it? In this case, I think the answer is surely the latter. ($30, PB) Louise
In The 78-Storey Treehouse Andy and Terry are making a movie but Andy is replaced by a monkey. So Andy starts to get mad. And everyone likes Terry, even the Andys in Andyland! Unfortunately evil spy cows want to ruin Terry’s fame! But what will happen on the movie premiere day?! This book is better than the last one because it has a watermelon smashing station, an open-air cinema and a scribbletorium. I would recommend it to crazy people who like crazy things (like me!). 4½ stars out of 5. Theo Bird (aged 9).
The Goanna Was Hungry
by Ann James & Sally Morgan
Imagine being at a camp in the Great Victorian Desert in Western Australia with two of Australia’s best-loved author/illustrators and working with them to produce your very own illustrated story. Ten lucky kids had just such an opportunity. In June 2015, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation brought together Sally Morgan and Ann James, and kids from Tjuntjuntjara, Mt Margaret, Menzies and Melbourne for a 5-day writing and illustrating camp on Spinifex Country. The illustrated stories they produced at the camp have been put together in this book—there are stories of friendship and loyalty, experiments that go badly wrong, a battle over a dinosaur bone, and a mysterious bowl. Then there’s a story about a very scary goanna. ($23, PB)