Hello, and a warm welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for May 2019.
Children’s books continue to be very popular among AWW challenge participants. A total of seventeen book reviews were submitted by six reviewers since the last round-up, providing a diverse range of children’s books to include in this post.
And with school holidays only a few weeks away, I hope children and adults of all ages will find themselves snuggled up with a pile of books as the winter weather rages outside. Don’t forget to link any of those reads to the AWW database!
On to this month’s reviews:
When the Moon is a Smile is a sentimental tale that will melt your heart. One of the hardest moments in a child’s life is dealing with the pain of parental separation. Often their protests when one parent has to leave can be agonising and distressful for all parties. Teena Raffa-Mulligan has recognised this common situation and has devised a picture book that helps a young child to understand that although their parents may live separately, they are still loved.
With a beautiful analogy, using the moon as a reference point, the young girl in the story is reassured that her dad will come back to her – she just needs to put her faith in the night sky.
When the Moon is a Smile is a book that Amanda highly recommends for use in the home, school or childcare setting to assist young children to find an outlet for their emotions at a difficult time in their lives. It could also be utilised effectively for children who have parents that work away, or those who are in the defence forces serving our country.
When the Moon is a Smile is a book to hold dear. It encourages readers of all ages to hug their loved ones just that bit tighter and gaze at the moon together in harmony.
This is a story about iconic Australian writer Stella Miles Franklin, namesake of two major literary prizes, during her brief but formative time as a governess in rural New South Wales. Teenager Stella Miles Franklin has to work to help support her family. Stella is unhappy in her job and longs for the freedom and excitement of city life. While working, she meets a young orphan girl, Imp, who is almost as feisty as Stella herself, and who spurs the older girl to follow her dreams.
Ashleigh believes picture books can help introduce children to history, and people that sometimes are never encountered, or only encountered in adulthood. Now, at a young age, children will have the chance to meet Stella Miles Franklin, and find out more about who she is as they get older.
This is as much a story about encouraging you to follow your dreams as it is about how Miles got to where she did, and how she became such a well-known author that we now have a prize for women authors named after her: The Stella Prize.
This is the kind of picture book Ashleigh would have adored when she was younger because it is so different to what is usually out there, and there seems to be a trend these days for picture books centred around significant women in history, and Ashleigh hope this trend grows.
She says they are both great instalments in the series, each moving the characters and journey forward. Filled with adventure and friendship, the books show kids that working together is a good thing, and this has been a theme Ashleigh has found throughout the series – hoping it will continue.
As each book builds on the other, there are hints dropped here and there about what is to come, but at the same time, there are many surprises that keep people engaged and reading on, which shows just how popular this series is.
Two things you need to know. Firstly, your favourite thing in the whole world is the letter B. And secondly, you’re about to sneeze and all the Bs are going to be blown out of the book. So until you can get your favourite letter back, you’re about to sound really, really silly …
Amy believes this is an ideal book to read aloud as it provides a great chance to make silly noises and say silly things. The book certainly lives up to the claim that it will drive kids crazy because it’s interactive and funny and gets sillier as it goes along.
Amy liked the simplistic format and the changing colours of the pages. It became more enjoyingly dire as the missing letter in words came into play, which makes reading it aloud more of a challenge and certainly funnier to hear.
The chance to let kids yell things out and have input in a story is rewarding, and it teaches them about words that start with B at the same time.
The Stantons have done an excellent job in creating an enjoyable story that both kids and adults will love, and it’s clever – which is always a bonus with picture books.
Jacob’s Toys, by Claudia Woods (Ages 2+) was reviewed by both Amy @ Lost in a Good Book, and Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Synopsis: Jacob tells his mother that he is too old for soft toys and he wants to give them away. His mother washes them and hangs them on the line to dry. But wild weather sets the toys free and sends them on an exciting adventure across the garden.
What will become of the toys? Will they make it to their new home safely?
Amy says: Woods has written a great story not only about the adventure of lost toys, but also one about maybe not being quite as ready to grow up as you might think you are.
The story is told with repetition and rhyme, the toys’ names being repeated over and over with a few variations as their adventure dictates. This creates a wonderful melody and rhythm as you read that flows from start to finish. The toys are often at the mercy of the weather or their circumstance but there is still a great adventure to be had.
One of the most notable things about this story is the illustrations. They are a creative combination of different materials; the author uses pencils, paint and a wonderful mix of natural and recycled components to show off the toys’ adventures. The combination of materials is a unique change from typical illustrations and the addition of a ‘look and find’ feature also provides a fun element while you read.
Veronica says: Each page is beautifully depicted in colourful collage materials and hiding on each page is a special insect to find. The author manipulates the text to emphasise the story using variations in size, colour and special effects to match the meaning of the word and in turn encourages the reader to change expression according to the text.
Veronica has read this book with her daughter many times over the last few weeks and sometimes just enjoyed looking through the pictures. If you click through to her review, there are some photos of Veronica and Dot recreating scenes from the book with their own collage of materials from the backyard and craft box.
Nalini Haynes @ Dark Matter Zine contributed nine of the children’s reviews this month. I’ve featured four of them in this round-up, but you can click this link if you’d like to see more from Nalini.
One day a wisp lands at Idris’s feet — feet trapped in a dark refugee camp surrounded by rolls of barbed wire. Idris finds the wisp’s owner, who remembers better days, days of hope and wonder. This happens many times, showing Idris colour and sights he’s never seen. Then, one day, a wisp comes for Idris, but he’s always lived in this refugee camp…
Zana Fraillon writes beautifully about refugees and poverty, with her previous books Bone Sparrow and The Ones That Disappeared receiving accolades. This deceptively simple story can be shared with even younger audiences.
Baker-Smith’s illustrations convey the emotion of the narrative, concealing in darkness without hope, trails of barbed wire in the background, then building memories through colour and shape with little narrative necessary.
Wisp is a beautiful story to be shared by all Australians.
The story of the cyclone that destroyed Darwin in the 1970s is told in rhyming verse with evocative watercolour illustrations. While Darwin is destroyed, families are separated and Christmas is ruined as families lose all their worldly possessions. However, their new house is built to endure and Christmas is around the corner again at the end of the book.
With climate change causing catastrophic floods and fires, Cyclone is an excellent book for teaching children about what can happen but also that they can endure, that communities can be resilient and that life goes on after trauma. This simple poem picture book is an excellent read, not only for children but for adults too. Nalini found it to be an encouraging reminder that there is life after tragedy.
Every Saturday Jake visits Planet Dad where Dad is awesome and they do awesome things together, until one day a Space Alien invades Jake’s space.
This is a cute book with an engaging story and colourful drawings for kids whose parents have separated and are introducing new partners to their kids, or perhaps introducing new step-siblings.
The best part is that Jake and the Space Alien develop a relationship of their own, based on mutual understanding, the Space Alien looking after Jake and then sharing his interests.
In her review, Nalini says that the book may present reading difficulty for some readers (click here for more detail), and suggests that it is a story to be read to children — not for young children to read by themselves.
Overall, Nalini believes Space Alien At Planet Dad is an engaging story to help parents and children approach a difficult life change by reading and discussing it together. It is “Recommended, 2017 Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature for Picture Book and Younger Readers”.
The Cloud Road is a gorgeous little hardcover book aimed at younger readers, complete with pen and ink drawings scattered throughout.
This gentle story holds sufficient action and suspense to keep the young reader engaged but not overwhelmed. There is danger but it’s not excessive (depending on the child of course). Themes include survival during and after a crisis (for example earthquake or bushfire); loss and homelessness; destruction of animals and habitat for ‘progress.’
The language is deceptively simple, conveying complex world-building and inter-species communication difficulties. Some of the latter provides humour: Nalini says she can imagine reading this to a class in early primary school who would be delighted at being ‘in the know’, engaging with this story as with a pantomime.
All the characters are alien on this nameless planet, with striking speech patterns. Their language is consistent within their species alongside subtle differences for individual characters. The two point of view characters, Bily and Zluty, influence the narrative voice. This voice carries a slightly alien intonation although feeling more human than the dialogue, and yet the language used is deceptively simple.
That was certainly a bumper of a Round-Up! Thank you for continuing to link your reviews to the AWW database (please click on this link if you haven’t already signed up to our 2019 challenge.)
I look forward to bringing you the next children’s round-up on 16 July 2019. Until then – stay warm & happy reading!
In awe of words from an early age, reading, writing and banter have become an obsession of mine. As a mother of two (who are growing up faster than I’d like), I am passionate about instilling a long-lasting love of reading in children. I am excited about joining the AWW team and sharing my love of children’s literature with you.