Monday, June 29, 2015

Another book in the delightful Violet Mackerel series

Violet Mackerel’s Formal Occasion by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia
This is another one to add to my collection of Violet Mackerel stories – which is being kept for a couple of years until my granddaughter is old enough to enjoy the books. They are delightful little stories that tick all the right boxes – short, easy to read, focusing on situations involving family and friends, illustrated with lively pen and ink pictures, and sporting bright, eye-catching covers. Because they’re hardback they look extra-special and would make excellent presents. This particular story looks at a topic close to the hearts of most little girls – getting dressed up and going out somewhere special. I think this is the eighth book in the series, and I heartily recommend them for newly-competent readers of about six to eight.
See more books in the series here. Craft ideas that complement the books here.

ISBN 978 1 925081 09 1
RRP $24.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Friday, June 5, 2015

Short Stories for the classroom

Flying Free by Adrienne M. Frater (Atawhai Press)

When the author asked if I would review this book I have to confess I wasn't enthused with the idea of a self-published book with only one author's short stories including pages saying why she wrote those stories.  I was very pleasantly surprised when the book arrived in the post, however. From the professionally designed cover with a child's drawing of a bird kite with blue-green water colour wash background, to the child-like fonts, good quality paper,  and children's drawings scattered throughout, it's a beautiful book.  The short stories are all entertaining and pitched exactly right for the intended audience. Most have been published before in anthologies and the School Journal, or read aloud on the Radio. And from a teacher's perspective I could see a lot of use for the introduction before each story where Adrienne explains where she got the idea for the story. Kids love to know a back story. See below for how I would use this section in the classroom.

Flying Free contains 25 short stories ranging from a technology cat, a drought, a dance rehearsal, a boy who hates the fuss at birthday parties, rescuing stranded whales, kite flying, and ghostly friends. They'll thoroughly enjoy reading this collection of stories. There's something for everyone ... funny stories, spooky stories, sporty stories, stories about friendship, and stories about succeeding in spite of problems etc. Recommended for home and school libraries!

Teachers could use this book when teaching how to write short stories. The students could be inspired to write a story with Adrienne's prompts. For example:

  • a child who doesn't like birthdays
  • a sailing trip
  • a cat who's fascinated with technology
  • helping rescued stranded whales float
  • having to move to another town
  • a vivid memory of an event
  • things that make one person happy but make another feel the opposite
If you read Adrienne's stories before the students write you'd have to stress that you don't want them to write that story - you want them to write their own unique story using things that have happened to them as prompts but also changing it as much as their imagination wants to. Students could also look closely at the techniques Adrienne has used in the story and use some of those in their stories.

ISBN: 9780473319144  
  • Published: April 2015
  • Pages: 216
  • RRP $24.50
  • Buy here.

  • Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Another David Elliot collectible for young and old

    Henry's Stars by David Elliot (Random House)

    Stories where animals walk around on two legs, wear an item of clothing, and talk like humans - can often be read on two levels. Young readers can engage with the farm animals they recognise. Parents can encourage children to understand the underlying messages in the story. Some of the most powerful stories have used this device; I'm thinking of 'Animal House' and some of David Elliot's other stories such as 'Henry's Map' and 'The Moon & Farmer McPhee' (the latter written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by David Elliot). In 'Henry's Map' parents can help young readers understand that just because they cannot see something does not mean it has gone (object permanence) - a concept toddlers learn around 2-3 years old.  In 'The Moon & Farmer McPhee' the underlying message is about enjoying life; looking at the beauty in the world, and dancing with joy.

    In 'Henry's Stars' David Elliot encourages the young readers to understand differing perception. When Henry (the pig) looks up at the sky he sees stars aligned in the shape of a Great Pig in the sky. He runs over to the sheep at the woolshed and describes what he has seen. However, much to Henry's disappointment they see a Great Sheep in the sky. When they show the other animals they only see representations of themselves in the stars. By the time the hens thinks they've seen the Great Hens in the sky Henry is quite fed up. Who's right and who's misguided? Read it and find out.

    New Zealanders and Australians (in the southern hemisphere) see the stars upside down according to people in the northern hemisphere. This possibly inspired David Elliot's idea for the story.  With children's avid imagination they can probably see all sorts of things in the sky. Teachers in the Junior Primary could use this delightful book as an introduction to a science unit on Astronomy. Parents can encourage an interest in the stars and point out the constellations.

    David's illustrations of the animals are loaded with expression. Henry's disgruntled expressions are hilarious;  his shoulders droop and his hooves clench. The palette of mostly water colour blues and greens are offset with the pink pig and orange hens and occasional white space. The book begins with starry sky endpapers, and ends with constellations of all the animals in the sky.  A must-have book for school and home libraries.

    David Elliot has illustrated many international books, as well as writing and illustrating award-winning books of his own. 'Henry's Map' was named one of the US School Library Journal's Best Books of 2013.

    RRP $19.99
    ISBN: 978-1-77-553824-0