Friday, October 21, 2016

Reviews, Children’s Picture Books about Animals 2016 (3)

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

On Wednesday, I brought you some reviews of excellent recently published children’s picture books about animals. Here is the second post, with even more wonderful books. Is your chid’s new favourite picture book here?

The Cat Wants Custard by P.Crumble and Lucinda Gifford was published by Scholastic Australia, 2016.

From the publisher:

Meet Kevin, the opinionated feline who is full of cat-titude.

Kevin has a craving. He wants custard, and he wants it NOW! Follow the hilarious antics of a cat trying to get its human companion to give him what he wants, including using his own body to spell the word CUSTARD! Will he succeed? A brilliantly funny picture book treat.

Anyone who knows cats, and that includes kids, will chortle from the beginning to the end. Kevin is so utterly disdainful and sarcastic as he tries to get through to his hopeless human. Gifford’s illustrations ooze with character …and custard.

My Perfect Pup by Sue Walker and Anil Tortop was published by New Frontier Publishing, 2016.

From the publisher:

One puppy sits excitedly in a pet shop waiting for the perfect home. Will it be the twins, Milly and Max, or Joe who takes him home?

Walker shows some of the dilemmas of pet ownership very well - the first “owners” just aren’t the right ones for Tiny, who is much happier as Horse with his next human. I liked the story very much. It’s pitched perfectly at the under 6 readership, and there’s an underlying gentle message about being who you are and allowing others to be that too. Tortop’s exuberant illustrations add lots of movement to My Perfect Pup.

Me and Moo and Roar Too by P.Crumble and Nathaniel Eckstrom was published by Scholastic Australia, 2016. RRP: $24.99.

From the publisher:

This is me, and this is Moo.
And THIS is Roar.

Meet Me and Moo’s new friend, Roar. He likes dressing up, using Mum’s hairbrush and sneaking snacks from the kitchen. But that’s not all—Roar SNORES! What will Mum and Dad have to say when they find out Roar has come to stay too?

If you’re looking for books with a friendship theme that have super-cute illustrations to lure young readers, check out this fun children’s picture book. It also has a gentle message about needing to let some “pets” return to the wild, and does this in a way that kids and adults will both appreciate. I have reviewed and shared several Eckstrom-illustrated books - the kids and I love his art work.

The Whole Caboodle by Lisa Shanahan and Leila Rudge was published by Scholastic Australia, 2016. RRP: $24.99

From the publisher:

Wakey-wakey peachy pear,
my fuzzy-wuzzy grizzly bear,
my tootsy-wootsy fizzyjig,
my hurdie-gurdie whirligig!

It’s walk time! Who shall we see at the park today?

A playful pup takes the lead on a stroll to the park, where many new friends will be found!

I love books that encourage children to delight in the craziness and fun of our language! Shanahan combines this with a simple narrative that invites kids to count and explore all sorts of dogs. The Whole Caboodle makes the 6th Rudge-illustrated book I’ve reviewed - I hope there are many more! She brings a lovely playfulness to a story that is brimming with word fun and humour. Book Chook Feather of Approval!

Here Comes Mister Postmouse
was created by Marianne Dubuc, translated by Greet Pauwelijn, published by Book Island, 2016.

From the publisher:

Have you ever taken a peek inside a rabbit’s toilet or entered the house of a crocodile? Join Mr Postmouse on his daily rounds and visit the extraordinary homes of Mr Bear, Señor Snake, Madam Dung Fly, the Penguins and many other animals.

You'll find something new amongst the fun and colourful illustrations each time you help our mouse-hero make his deliveries.

Dubuc presents a simple journey narrative as our mouse hero goes about his deliveries. What will capture children’s imaginations is the detailed and whimsical depictions of his deliveries! Adults and kids will have such fun marvelling over homes like the hen house, where Mister Postmouse seems to be delivering a not-too-well wrapped parcel of a fox. Inside the cutaway of the home, we see chickens in hammocks, hens laying into a clever incubator, chicks learning maths….there’s lots of humour and heaps to discuss, making this a valuable acquisition for any young reader or library.

Take Ted Instead was written by Cassandra Webb, illustrated by Amanda Francey and published by New Frontier Publishing, 2016. RRP: $24.99.

From the publisher:

It’s bedtime for one tired little boy. Why should he go to bed when everyone else in the house is still awake? He has a plan to keep himself wide awake ...

Our young hero’s attempts to divert his Mum including hiding in places kids will love to “spy” him, and using rhyming names as an alternative off-to-bed candidate. Take Ted Instead would make a simple model for children to innovate on with their own stories. Another fun follow-up activity would be to create a lift-the-flap book for a story re-telling.

Blue and Bertie was created by Kristyna Litten and published by Koala Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016. RRP: $14.99

From the publisher:

Bertie the giraffe’s life runs on very straight lines. He always has the same breakfast. He always takes the same stroll. He always takes his nap under the same tree.

But then, one day, Bertie oversleeps and is left behind by the rest of his herd, and his life begins to take some very unexpected turns...

A warm, emotional story, which celebrates difference.
Blue and Bertie is a very satisfying children’s picture book to share with kids. It’s not hilarious, but nor does it aim to be. It gently explores differences and changes, and does so in a way that will support kids who find such differences or changes difficult to cope with. Litten’s detailed illustrations will ensure kids pore over each page when time comes to read the book independently. The only thing I didn’t like was the change of font size and style throughout which perhaps was meant to underscore the theme but I found distracting.

Noisy Nights by Fleur McDonald and Annie White, published by New Frontier Publishing, 2016. RRP:$24.99

From the publisher:

From bestselling author Fleur McDonald comes her first delightful picture book. A farmer struggles to get to sleep with all the noise from his farm animals. He finally finds the solution to a good night’s sleep.

The premise is simple: a farmer can’t sleep because of all the night noise, mostly from his farm animals. His final solution is one kids will have heard of (counting sheep). But Noisy Nights, although a fairly simple narrative, has opportunities for appreciating beautiful words - the horses nickered to their foals - and many, many invitations to join in with animal noises. Kids will laugh over the farmer’s desperation, and enjoy acting out the story or re-telling it.

Why is that Emu Wearing One Red Shoe? by John Field and David Legge, published by Scholastic (2016) is accompanied by a CD of Field performing the song. RRP: $19.99.

From the publisher:

Once there was an emu wearing one red shoe, Who set out on a walk just like emus do,
Leaving from the town they call Tullabaloo...
Why was that emu wearing one red shoe?
Follow all the animals in this fun singalong mystery from favourite Aussie singer-songwriter John Field and award-winning illustrator David Legge.

Teachers and parents appreciate CDs that scaffold young readers by providing an audio version of text they are “reading”. Lots of Scholastic picture books have this feature. This fun children’s picture book also has bright, colourful, even zany illustrations that will appeal to kids as they enjoy the story/song.

Find more children’s picture books and articles about animals by browsing here: Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015,  Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015 (2), Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015 (3), Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals  2015 (4). Find some of my articles about using animal resources with kids here.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reviews, Children’s Picture Books about Animals 2016 (2)

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

I have so many children’s picture books about animals to share with you this week that I am breaking them up into two posts, one for today and the next for this Friday, 21 October, 2016. My first post about animal-themed picture books in 2016 was earlier this year.

Go Home Cheeky Animals is by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley, published by Allen and Unwin (2016). RRP: $24.99

From the publisher:

In this lively follow-up to Too Many Cheeky Dogs, the camp is invaded by all kinds of cheeky feral animals who are finally chased away by the resident cheeky dogs.

At Canteen Creek where we live, there are cheeky dogs everywhere. But when the cheeky goats, donkeys, buffaloes and camels make mischief in the camp, the dogs just lie there - until those pesky animals really go too far. Then the cheeky camp dogs roar into action!

'A funny, uplifting and beautifully written tale about family, home and place.' Ros Moriarty, author of Listening to Country.

Johanna Bell lives in Darwin and works on storytelling projects as a creative producer and writer.

Dion Beasley is well known for his Cheeky Dogs brand. He lives in Tennant Creek, NT.

The concept is simple, but it’s a winner. Canteen Creek has a problem with animals and despite everyone’s best efforts (except for the dogs!), more and more cheeky animals arrive, causing mayhem. Bell’s narrative brings the scenes to life, and she cleverly provides lots of places for young listeners to join in with a shout at the animals. But it’s Beasley’s illustrations I adored. These are so perfectly aimed at kids: imitating a child-like style to perfection, adding to the humour and chaos. This is an excellent text to share with kids who want to learn about Australia’s remote places and communities, as well as making a great read-aloud for anytime.

Ida, Always is by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso, published by Koala Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016. RRP: $24.99.

From the publisher:

An exquisitely told story of two best friends—inspired by a real bear friendship—and a gentle, moving reminder that loved ones lost will stay in our hearts, always.

Books with a friendship theme are always popular, and make great resources for Mental Health Week (October 9-15, 2016) or Friendship Day (August 6, 2017). But Ida, Always is so much more. You see, Ida the polar bear is dying, and her best friend, Gus, must come to terms with that. Levis and Santoso gift us with a book that is a moving, uplifting , yet pragmatic look at death and the lasting legacy of a loved one in our lives. Beautiful written and illustrated, I have no hesitation in recommending Ida, Always to libraries everywhere.

Outback Lullaby is by Sally Odgers and Lisa Stewart, published by Scholastic, 2016.

From the publisher:

As the sunset spreads its glow,
Little brolga’s dancing slow.
The outback hums with twilight sounds
Numbat dreams of termite mounds.

From the creators of Bushland Lullaby and Rainforest Lullaby comes this desert ballad. Outback Lullaby is an enchanting bedtime companion.

I loved the earlier Lullaby books. This is just as good, a perfect way to introduce kids to poetry about Australia and outback creatures, by the incomparable Sally Odgers. Lisa Stewart’s illustrations are gentle and muted - kids will love them.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins, was published by Simon and Schuster, 2016.

From the publisher:

Once upon a time there was a hungry lion and a bunch of adorable animals…what do you think happened next?

There once was a hungry lion, a penguin (Well he was just here…), a little calico kitten (I could have sworn I just saw him…), a brown mouse (Now wait a second…), a bunny with floppy ears and a bunny with un-floppy ears (Okay this is just getting ridiculous), a frog, a bat, a pig, a slightly bigger pig, a wooly sheep, a koala, a hen, and also a turtle. Hey! What’s going on here…

The very hungry lion is all set to enjoy an exciting day with his other animal pals. But all of a sudden his friends start disappearing at an alarming rate! Is someone stealing the hungry lion’s friends, or is the culprit a little…closer to home?

I loved the slightly dark overtones to A Hungry Lion, and kids will love the repetition, and the twists and turns. It’s a fun children’s picture book that’s great for getting kids to predict what might happen next, and to interpret from the combination of slightly enigmatic words and bright crayon illustrations.

Little Bear’s First Sleep by Lesley Gibbes and Lisa Stewart was published by Scholastic, 2016. RRP $24.99. (I have previously reviewed Gibbes’ Scary Night.)

From the publisher:

It was time for Little Bear’s first winter sleep. ‘All bears sleep through winter,’ said Little Bear’s Mother. ‘And we won’t wake until spring,’ said Little Bear’s Father. ‘It’s a big, big sleep.’

Little Bear is in the cave with his mother and father, who have settled down for their big winter sleep. But Little Bear has a problem—he can’t get to sleep! He snuggles and sings and softly strokes his ear. Will Little Bear be able to get to sleep before springtime?

I think each of us can relate to those times when we know we are supposed to sleep, but can’t. Little Bear makes valiant attempts, so kids will chuckle over his antics, and enjoy trying his unusual methods while they listen. Stewart’s illustrations add a gentle softness and make this a perfect read-aloud for bedtime, or any time at all.

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson, was published by Allen and Unwin, 2016. RRP: $14.99.

From the publisher:

Introducing Teddy is an accessible and heart-warming story about being yourself and being a good friend, while encouraging the youngest readers to think about gender identity.

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it's riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do together.

One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can't figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: 'In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl Teddy, not a boy Teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.' And Errol says, 'I don't care if you're a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.'

A sweet and gentle story about being true to yourself and being a good friend, Introducing Teddy can also help children understand gender identity.
I love this theme of friendship triumphing over gender. Walton’s message isn’t heavy-handed either. While some kids will be at a stage where they want to understand gender transitioning, others will not, but may be ready to think about the less complicated issue of being able to have a friend of a different gender without worrying about “boy germs” or “girl germs”, or about people and teddy bears being able to express themselves without needing to adhere to a strict stereotype. MacPherson’s delightful illustrations add depth and joy to the book.

Don’t Call Me Bear by Aaron Blabey was published by Scholastic Press, 2016. RRP: $16.99.

From the publisher:

G’day my name is Warren, and I’ve got something to share... Just because I’m furry doesn’t mean that I’m a bear.

Warren the Koala is many things—a marsupial, cute and furry, a bit of a grump—but the one thing he’s not is a bear!

Kids will grab this book off the shelves with an anticipatory chuckle, and they won’t be disappointed. Blabey’s Koala has an attitude and it’s not surprising, considering all that incorrect labelling. The rhyme and rhythm and even the grumpy koala shouts make Don’t Call Me a Bear a must-have for read aloud and works as a light-hearted introduction to marsupials.

The Midnight Possum
by Sally Morgan and Jess Racklyeft, published by Omnibus Australia 2016. RRP: $ 24.99.

Possum seems fairly normal - around midnight, once the moon rises, off he goes through the bush, looking for red gum flowers to nibble. But one night he is asked to rescue a baby possum, and reveals himself to be the hero he really is. The simple tale allows kids to explore the Australian bush environment and meet other bush animals. Rackyleft’s illustrations hint at texture through gorgeous collaged art work, blending colours and patterns to great effect. Delightful!

Find more children’s picture books and articles about animals by browsing here: Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015,  Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015 (2), Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015 (3), Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals  2015 (4). Find some of my articles about using animal resources with kids here.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, October 14, 2016

10 Fun Word Challenges for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Activities like challenges involving words can be enjoyable AND educational. They can help kids increase their vocabulary, reinforce spelling and rhyming, and exercise all those critical thinking muscles. But above all, they are lots of fun, so let’s encourage students to also invent their own challenges and try them out on their friends. (Some activities could be adapted for younger kids, but I think the majority would be useful with kids 10+.)

Link through to read how to play the word game, Bug, invented by Keith Schoch and his students.


1. Write a summary of a well known story in (say) three to five sentences. Now re-word the summary, using a dictionary and thesaurus to try to find words that mean the same but are longer or more difficult to recognise, and making it wordier too. See if someone you know can recognise the story from your very wordy summary. Here’s an example:

Simple: Once upon a time there lived three little pigs who wanted to build a house each. But a Big Bad Wolf came and destroyed two of their houses. When the wolf got to the last pig’s house, he couldn’t move the brick house, so he entered the chimney and died in the fire below.

Wordy: In a bygone time, there existed more than two but less than four petite porcine mammals who each yearned for a domicile. But a substantial dangerous lupine mammal materialised and annihilated more than one but less than three of their domiciles. When the substantial dangerous lupine mammal materialised at the domicile of the final petite porcine mammal, he was unable to dislodge the domicile of brick, therefore he penetrated the flue and perished in the conflagration beneath.

2. As a variation to 1. (above), use the website, to translate difficult text into more simple text. See if your partner can then put it into more difficult language again by only using a dictionary and thesaurus.

3. Check out these Shakespearean insults. Make up some of your own insults in a similar style. Swear words are banned!

4. Look at the words that have been giving you and your classmates trouble in spelling. Look at the grammar and punctuation rules your class has been studying. Combine them to create a short passage with errors in it that your class needs to re-write correctly. If you’re typing your text, watch out for spell check! Here’s an example:

we luv to go to the seeside, we play in the warter and bild san castles one saterday. dad drived us to a beech near ow hous and we staid there alday. my littel bruther got the worse Sun Burn i ever sore.

5. Be a word detective! Can you find some words that have smaller, whole words in them? They must be at least three letters to count. For example, potato has “pot” inside it. How many words like this can you find?

6. Be a word detective (2)! This challenge is much harder than the last one, but is similar. Can you find the real words if the syllables are misspelled but with real smaller words that sound almost correct (a bit like homophones of the real syllables)? For example, I could spell mosquito like this: moss - key - tow.

Now try these:
tray - tar =
fill - loss - off - fur =
so - wing =
hop - her - eight =
dee - feat =
tab - bee =
obey - one - kin - obey =
oar - flea =

7. Hink Pink is a great word game. One person thinks of two single syllable rhyming words, like fat cat. She works out a clue that should lead to the answer "fat cat". One clue could be "an obese mouse-catcher" or "a pet that eats too much”. The guesser tries to work out what the two rhyming words are.

Here are some Hink Pinks for you to solve.

A sad kanga:
A shivering raven with white feathers:
My brother sat on my cap:
Alligator’s cousin, made of stone:

Now try some of your own!

8. Hinky Pinky is an extension of this game. If I was thinking of two, double syllable rhyming words: “happy chappy”, then my clue might be “a joyful fellow” or “a man who isn’t sad.”

Here are some Hinky Pinkies for you to solve.

Wet puppy:
Steve isn’t odd:
A doll made out of candy:
Pretending to cook:

Now try some of your own!

9. My Aunt Likes is another great game. It’s all about trying to work out what things have in common and thinking up another example to fit the rule. Here’s one I told to a group of kids:

“My Aunt likes carrots, but not turnips. My Aunt likes cats, but not dogs. My Aunt likes carrying fruit to the bowl but not slicing it up into pieces.”

At first they think she must like vegetables. Carrots are vegetables. But so are turnips and they are vegetables too, so it can’t be that rule. Plus it was too obvious. Let’s try the second one and see if there’s an easier clue there. She likes cats. Okay, so she likes pets, and animals, but she doesn’t like dogs and they can be pets and animals. In the last one she is okay with carrying fruit, but not cutting it. No wait, not slicing it. Hang on. Maybe it’s the words themselves that make the rule: Carrots, cats, carrying - what do they all have in common? Yes, they start with “c”. So the rule must be My Aunt likes things that start with “c”. One of the kids suggests My Aunt Likes curry. Yes! Another suggests My Aunt Likes pizza. No, that person hasn’t worked it out yet. Another one says My Aunt Likes cuddles. The game ends when everyone “gets” it or the rest give in and have it explained.

Try these:

a) “My Aunt Likes dogs but not spiders. My Aunt Likes chairs but not cushions. My Aunt Likes tables but not traffic.”

b) “My Aunt Likes ping-pong but not chess. My Aunt Likes soccer, but not cards. My Aunt Likes skittles but not quoits.”

Now invent some of your own!

10. The answer is ….What is the question?

I am going to give you a word that is the answer to a question. Can you work out what the question might be? If the answer is “happy”, you could decide the question is “What is the opposite of sad?” or “What is a five letter word with “app” in the middle of it?” or even “How do you feel on your birthday?”

The answer is three, what is the question?
The answer is tiger, what is the question?
The answer is mud, what is the question?
The answer is “only in winter”, what is the question?

Now create some of your own!

Answers for 1-5 and 10 are not definitive, but 6 - 9 are below. 

Answers to 6: traitor, philosopher, sewing, operate, defeat, tabby, Obi-Wan Kenobi, awfully
Answers to 7: blue roo; snow crow; flat hat, rock croc.
Answer to 8: soggy doggy; even Steven; lolly dolly; faking baking.
Rule for 9: (a) My Aunt Likes anything with four legs. (b) My Aunt Likes any game that involves a ball of some sort.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Children’s Book Review, Let’s Play

by Susan Stephenson,

Let’s Play is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet, and published by Allen and Unwin in Australia (2016). (Chronicle Books in the USA.)

From the publisher:

Hi there, do you want to play?

Join the yellow dot on an adventure of colour and movement, surprise and imagination.

A fantastic companion to Press Here and Mix it Up!

What do kids love to do? Play! So let’s link reading with play in their minds. Let’s Play is perfect for this. Tullet speaks to kids through the yellow dot, which encourages kids to create a line for its amazing journey through the book. The dot prompts children to find a “hidden” dot, skip jump dots, count to 10, (both handy skills for Maths!) and tip-toe past scary eyes in the dark. Youngsters also discover that clapping their hands and saying Za-Za-Zoom apparently rescues dots from a fix. They’ll love the dot’s adventures and I’ll love to think of some youngsters puzzling out exactly how that tricky dot manages to “move”.

Any children who know the earlier books, Press Here and Mix It Up, will be delighted to discover a new Tullet book. Do seek them all out for your kids. My hard cover copy is RRP: $Au22.99 but it is very sturdy and cleverly made to resist LOTS of re-reading. Can we put a price on kids developing a love of reading? No, it’s priceless!

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Children’s iPad App Reviews, July to September 2016

by Susan Stephenson,

I've discovered it's useful to my readers not only to have access to my app reviews, but to have access to reviews according to theme, or in other groups. Accordingly, I've begun a periodic but regular feature where I curate and share my own iPad app reviews and articles.

In 2013, I did a big round-up of my 2013 iPad app reviews and articles.

In 2014, I gathered my reviews from January to March 2014 into one post, April to June in one post, July to September into one post and October to December into one post.

You can find January - March iPad App reviews from 2015 here, also April - June 2015, July - September 2015, and October - December 2015.

Link through to 2016’s January - March, and April - June if you missed them earlier this year.

Today I’m rounding up my app reviews and articles to do with iPad written in July, August and September of 2016, again with the help of Listly. Using Listly means I can update my lists if I need to, and the post itself automatically updates too. You can embed any list on your own blog, and also vote for apps and articles you like (moderation is on.)

Check out my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

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