Mamie by Tania McCartney

We know her as May Gibbs, the creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, but to her family, she was known as ‘Mamie’ (pronounced May-me). This year is the 100th birthday of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918-2018).

In her exquisite picture book, Tania McCartney brings a young Mamie to life in a magical modern day setting.

Mamie is a little girl with a big imagination who ‘could draw as soon as she could walk’. Her world is filled with fairy friends and singing and dancing in made up plays until her life is turned upside when her family ‘moves to the bottom of the world’. Accompanied by her Scotty dog, Mamie explores and draws her strange new home of ‘shimmering bushland’, but Mamie misses her magical friends until one night she dreams of a little fairy with a gumnut on his head…a bush fairy.

Like me, I know that you will be spending a lot of time pouring over the many tiny details in Tania’s vibrant illustrations that lovingly capture the essence of May Gibbs as a little girl and celebrate the power of imagination. Mamie is one of my favourite books this year!

I was very lucky to win a copy of Mamie. Thank you, Tania! 

You can download some activities for Mamie here

Happy reading!

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards

Our roof is noisy!
Thump!
Thump!
Thump!

Our favourite hippopotamus is back and this time he’s having lots of fun getting ready for Christmas in There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake. A perfect book to add to your Christmas collection!

Deborah Niland’s classic illustrations show hippo busy writing his present list (that’s a LOT of cakes), having messy fun icing his large Christmas cake, doing a special Christmas cake dance, some Christmassy dressing up and singing Carols by Cakelight. The little boy in the house below is also excitedly getting ready for Christmas with his family and has made a scrumptious Christmas present for his hippopotamus friend.

What does your family do to get ready for Christmas? Do you have a favourite activity?

There are lots of fun Christmas activities for you to download in this Hippo Christmas Activity Pack

Hazel Edwards wrote her first hippopotamus book There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Caravan Roof Eating Cake in 1980 and this is the seventh book about her much loved hippopotamus. These days, Hazel is often called ‘The Hippo Lady’! 

Do you have a favourite hippopotamus book by Hazel?

Happy Christmas reading! 

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Karen Foxlee, will take your feelings on a roller-coaster ride when you read Lenny’s Book of Everything as Lenny and her brother Davey burrow their way into your heart and remind you of the wonder and preciousness of life.

On the day Davey Spink was born his mum had a ‘dark heart feeling’ and felt ‘something’s not right’. Her feeling is right when Davey turns five and starts growing faster than he should. Davey is diagnosed with gigantism, a rare condition that causes him to keep growing. By the time Davey is seven he is man-sized and this is harmful for his health. Lenny is very protective of her younger brother, but she has her own challenges and it’s not easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. 

Lenny, Davey and their mum who works two jobs don’t have much, but they have each other. Their mum wins a free subscription to Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia and Fridays become the highlight of the week when each new volume arrives. The encyclopedia transports Lenny and Davey to places beyond the walls of their tiny apartment and brings knowledge and the wonder of the world into their lives. 

The B volume fuels Lenny’s fascination for beetles and her dream to become a coleopterist and the bird section introduces Davey to golden eagles. He even invents his own imaginary eagle called Timothy who sits on his shoulder and he feeds him imaginary crumbs. When the C volume arrives they discover Canada. Lenny as ‘chief imagineer’ imagines them travelling to Bear Lake. Planning their adventurous trip there and the log cabin Davey wants to build, carries them through the ups and downs of Davey’s health until the day Lenny and Davey squeeze goodbye in Morse Code.

Karen Brownlee exquisitely weaves the story and its characters together using the volumes of Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia with Lenny as the narrator. As you read, think about how Karen’s words make you feel, how she describes her characters or the images she creates in you mind with her carefully chosen words.

If you have read Wonder by R.J. Palacio or Ugly by Robert Hoge you might also like Lenny’s Book of Everything. Auggie, Robert and Davey’s stories give us an opportunity to walk in their shoes and help us to understand a little more some of the challenges of living with a disability. 

Click HERE to read this National Geographic Kids’ interview with Karen Foxlee.

Look closely at the front cover. How does the image connect to the story? Click HERE to see how the cover was created. This is a rare novel with endpapers. Why do you think they have been included?

Click  HERE to read an extract of Lenny’s Book of Everything.

Happy reading and a BIG TISSUE ALERT!

Teacher notes

Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler

Ava has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that leaves her unable to speak or walk and she needs help with moving and eating. She is a regular 11 year-old girl on the inside who hears, sees and understands everything, but Ava can’t communicate because she is trapped in her body that won’t work properly.

How do you say you want jam and not vegemite on your toast, that your favourite colour is pink not purple or tell your big sister that you don’t want to be an embarrassment and just want to hang out with her like sisters do?

Ava has a disability, but she is also strong, feisty and funny, and as the narrator of the story she gives us an insight into the challenges of every day life with Rett syndrome as well as the challenges it can also bring to a family.

One day I’ll talk like Aimee.
One day I’ll find a way.

Thanks to the encouragement of her new friend, Aimee and the determination and problem solving of Kieran, her occupational therapist, it is Ava’s eyes that provide the key for her to be heard at last. You are going to be cheering Ava on alongside her family when she communicates with them for the first time!

I didn’t know about Rett Syndrome until I read this book. Samantha Wheeler has written this story with so much heart and understanding because her own daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when she was fourteen. 

If you enjoy books that give you an opportunity to walk in somebody else’s footsteps and experience a life that is different to yours then Everything I’ve Never Said is a perfect choice.

“Everyone has something to say, whether they communicate in a conventional way or not. We just need empathy and understanding” (Samantha Wheeler)

Happy reading!

Beware The Deep Dark Forest by Sue Whiting

“You must beware the deep, dark forest,”
Rosie told Tinky.
“Never, ever go in there.”

Rosie has never gone into the deep, dark forest, but when her puppy Tinky runs off into the forest she has to find him. 

“But the deep, dark forest is thick with danger,” warned Rosie’s Grandma. “Carnivorous plants they say.”
And venomous snakes,” said Rosie’s dad. “So I’ve heard.”

Would you go into the deep, dark forest?

Rosie can’t leave Tinky lost and alone in the dangerous forest and goes on a quest to rescue him. She needs to have courage as the forest becomes deeper, darker and muddier. Along the way, Rosie has to bravely sneak past a big, bristly brute, find a way to cross a place that is dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully deep and face a menacing, monstrous, muddy creature to save Tinky.

Sometimes like Rosie we don’t know how brave and clever we can be.

Sue Whiting has written a story that is like a fairytale. It is lots of fun to read aloud with its repetition and descriptive words, especially when Rosie stands up to the muddy creature at the end! Can you find ways Sue has used words to make her writing scary, exciting and fun? 

Annie White‘s earthy water colour illustrations take you into the forest with Rosie and often as the reader you can see things in the forest that Rosie can’t see. Can you see any carnivorous plants and venomous snakes or spot the shadow of the menacing, monstrous muddy creature? What has been printed on the purple endpapers, can you explain why?

If you like scary stories that are fun and going on quests where you can be a hero, then Beware The Deep Dark Forest is just the book for you!

Happy reading!

Teacher notes by Sue Whiting

Why I Love Summer by Michael Wagner

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all AWESOME, but only one gets to be summer.

We are getting closer to summer here in Australia and along with Mitch, lots of people LOVE summer. In summer the sun shines, the sky is blue, days are longer and for a while everyone in the family is on holidays at the same time.

Summer is time to put on your t-shirt, cap and sunscreen and spend hours outside playing with friends, riding your bike, epic backyard cricket games, water fights, doing bombs in the pool and going nuts in the sun. There’s also Mitch’s favourite time of the day, Ice-cream O’Clock and family barbecues when you can stay up later than school nights because there are hardly any rules in summer. Mitch and his family along with many other families in summer go camping at the beach where everyone is happy and there’s so much to do…and Mitch can be with his family all the time.

Michael Wagner (author of Why I Love Footyreminds of what we love about summer in such a fun way. What are some of your favourite things to do in summer? Ask your mum and dad or even your grandparents what they liked to do in their summer holidays when they were kids. What was their favourite ice cream? 

Tom Jellet‘s illustrations are a celebration of our Australian summer and capture in colourful detail the ways our summer is unique. Take a close look at the ice creams on the endpapers, what dad’s cooking on the barbie, the fun summer activities, and I’m sure walking down that sandy path and catching a glimpse of the beach will be familiar to many of you.

You can also download a fabulous Why I Love Summer Activity Pack and have fun inventing an icy-pole, writing a holiday postcard or spotting things in the beach picture like a one-legged seagull and even Santa Claus!

Thank you Michael and Tom for such a fun book to remind us of why we love summer and wish it could last forever…

Happy reading!

Total Quack Up! edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Becks

Total Quack Up! is a collection of short stories from some of Australia’s funniest children’s authors guaranteed to have you quacking up and laughing out loud! So be careful where you read this book…

Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck are the editors of Total Quack Up! They wanted to help raise money for Dymocks Children’s Charities who work very hard to make sure kids across the country get their hands on great books and develop the skills they need to read them. Sally and Adrian asked eight author friends if they would like to write a funny story and James Foley to be the illustrator. These generous people donated their story and illustrations to create this book and all of the proceeds from Total Quack Up! will go to Dymock’s Children’s Charities.

Buying a copy of Total Quack Up! is a ‘win-win’ because you get a funny book to enjoy AND you will be helping other kids to have books so they can enjoy reading too!

Here’s a taste of the stories in Total Quack Up!…

After reading Total Quack Up! you might be inspired to write your own funny short story…

Happy reading!

Kids Book Fest Wrap Up

On Saturday, The Little Bookroom celebrated it’s 58th birthday with it’s inaugural Kids Books Fest. It was a day of celebrating books and reading with a session for young readers in the morning and I attended the afternoon for primary school children.

(Watch in full screen by clicking on the square)

By 2pm everyone was seated and eager for our exciting afternoon to begin…

Author vs Illustrator Debate
We were treated to a lively debate between author and illustrator partners  chaired by Peter Helliar (Frankie Fish series). The panel was made up of Danny Katz and Mitch Vane (The Little Lunch and Poppa Platoon series), Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood (Real Pigeons series) and Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts (Bab Sharkey and the Animal Mummies series). They had to convince us which is more important – words or pictures? What do you think?

Illustration Battle
The illustrators battled each other under extreme pressure with just THREE minutes to draw requests from the audience! It’s not easy drawing a moth with cheese for antennas or a zombie unicorn with a banana horn. Mitch Vane and Ben Wood’s illustrations were so close they used ‘Paper, Scissors, Rock’ to decide the winner! The final result was a draw between Mitch Vane and Jessica Roberts.

Total Quack Up! 
Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck are the editors of Total Quack Up! They wanted to do something to help raise money for Dymocks Children’s Charities who provide books to children who don’t have access to books. Sally and Adrian approached eight author friends to write a funny story for the book and James Foley to be the illustrator. All of these generous people donated their story and illustrations to create this book. Total Quack Up! is guaranteed to have you laughing and quacking up! Buying a copy means you will be helping other kids to have books so they can enjoy reading too.

We had laughed lots while listening to Adrian and Sally read ‘Who Blocked Up the Dunny?’ written by Ella Wallace who won a competition to have her story published as James Foley illustrated the ‘unplugging’ part of the story. 

Gastronauts Launch
James Foley launched his book Gastronauts which is the third book in his Sally Tinker series. We were all blown away when James showed us his dummy book of illustrations that stretched across the front of the room and round the corner! 

In Conversation: Sally Rippin and Elliot Perlman
Elliot Perlman is a famous author of adult books who has written his first book for children called The Adventures of Catvinkle Elliot told Sally that Ula the dog in the story is based on his dog called Ula when he was growing up. The children in the audience were very lucky to be the first children to hear Elliot read his book aloud – what a treat it was!

 A BIG thank you to Leesa and the staff of The Little Bookroom and all of the authors and illustrators for a fabulous afternoon of celebrating books and reading. See you next year!

Happy reading!

Lemonade Jones by Davina Bell

Lemonade Jones has the BEST name! She is a six year old who bubbles with sass and enthusiasm. Lemonade Jones is full of questions, tells the truth (a bit too honestly at times) and finds it hard to stick to rules because she likes things to be loud and exciting.

Lemonade Jones’ feisty and funny character has been delightfully created by Davina Bell and brought to life with Karen Blair’s water colour and pencil illustrations that perfectly capture Lemonade’s world at home and school.

In The First Day Back, Lemonade Jones’ old school has closed and she is starting at a new school. The day doesn’t begin well when Lemonade Jones discovers she isn’t in the same Year One class as her best friend Clark Dark. How can they get married if they’re in different classrooms? There are also rules to remember and students to deal with like Leela Blue who likes to be the best. Adjusting to a new teacher and class is hard and Lemonade Jones even has to spend time in the Quiet Corner after a rather unfortunate incident with Marcus Crackle. At the end of a long first day, Miss Wisby reminds Lemonade Jones that each day is a new chance to learn and she can start afresh tomorrow.

Lemonade Jones is celebrating her sixth birthday and has invited the whole class to her first party in The Zoo That Comes To You. In Show and Grow she delights in telling everyone about all of the zoo animals that will be at her party. On the day however, the zoo keeper and zoo animals are not at all what Lemonade Jones had been expecting, but imagination, creativity and a fire engine save the day! “That was the best birthday party ever” said Clark Dark.

I’m really looking forward to following more of Lemonade Jones’ adventures in her very own series.

Happy Reading!

Teacher notes

His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda

Emily Rodda is one of Australia’s most well known children’s authors and you may have already enjoyed her Rowan, Rondo or Deltora Quest fantasy series. Rowan of Rin is still one of my favourite books! Emily Rodda’s real name is Jeanette Rowe. She writes using Emily Rodda for her children’s books and as Jeanette Rowe for her adult mystery books. 

Emily Rodda’s latest book, His Name Was Walter is mystery, fantasy, supernatural, historical fiction and part love story all rolled into one book. It is a story within a story that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happened to Walter and why it is so important to the anonymous author that he is remembered. 

When the mini bus breaks down on their history excursion, Mrs Fiori and four students take shelter overnight in an abandoned mansion in Storm Valley. Little do they know how a piece of history will change after this night. In the kitchen, Colin notices an elegant handcrafted writing desk where he discovers a secret drawer containing amongst other treasures, a beautifully handwritten book filled with exquisite water colour illustrations. It’s title is His Name Was Walter.

Colin and Tara are drawn to the mysterious book and secretly read it by torch light when the others go to sleep and become lost in Walter’s story. After being abandoned, Walter is raised in a beehive, works for mice, befriends a witch who can turn into a cat, falls in love with a girl who can turn into a sparrow and battles a beast. Colin and Tara feel compelled to finish the book as they sense the menacing mansion is hiding a tragic secret. Mrs Fiori and her students discover His Name Was Walter is more than a  fairytale and it helps them to right an injustice so Walter can be remembered as an honest, brave and loyal young man.

Who was Walter?

Why did Sparrow want Walter’s story to be told?
 

You can read the first three chapters HERE.

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes