Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?


Once again, I'm joining in with Jen from Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and other bloggers who share the books they have read the past week.


The imaginitive little hard-hat clad carpenter ants in this picture book had my kids laughing so hard and calling out "read it again" as soon as we finished. So we did! Even my ten-year-old came hovering at the door frame to listen and then climbed into bed with the rest of us! I borrowed this one from the library but they have requested that I buy it. Powerful endorsement!


Wow, wow, wow, I absolutely adored this book! Definitely my current favourite. I finished it and immediately started over again because I wanted to savour it a little longer. It made me want to be a teacher like Mr Daniels, to be that special person who sees past the defences. So insightful and full of memorable quotes. My two favourites:

"People act like the words "slow reader" tell them everything that's inside. Like I'm a can of soup and they can just read the list of ingredients and know everything about me. There's lots of stuff about the soup inside that they can't put on the label, like how it smells and tastes and makes you feel warm when you eat it. There's got to be more to me than just a kid who can't read well." 

and the one on the dust jacket:

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”


Rudger is Amanda's imaginary friend and she is the only person who has ever seen him, that is, until the sinister Mr Bunting comes knocking at her front door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries and he now he is after Rudger. This story is funny, full of suspense and sometimes plain scary and creepy. Emily Gravett's illustrations are stunning and really bring the story to life. I particularly enjoyed the final few chapters, they took me by surprise!

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 2, 2015

It's Monday: What Are You Reading? 2014 CBCA Books


I've had a few weeks off from IMWAYR while we moved interstate and were without internet, but now I'm ready to rejoin Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share the books I have been reading.

I had a big pile of books from the 2014 Children's Book Council of Australia list that I had collected but not read yet, so this was the perfect opportunity to get stuck into them! The official 2014 CBCA winners list can be found here, and the full list of shortlisted books can be found here. I've previously shared some of the books from the 2014 CBCA winners list, including Rules of Summer, The Swap, Banjo and Ruby Red and My Life as an Alphabet here.

I started with the winner from the Older Readers category:


Set in a wilderness education camp, Wildlife is a beautifully raw, honest, and sometimes heart-breaking coming-of-age story told from the perspectives of two very different female characters. Sibylla, who is struggling with typical teenage confusion over friendship, loyalty, love and social-acceptance, and Lou who is overcoming a tragic loss and trying to find the self courage to make new connections. This book is beautifully written, Fiona Wood manages to get the teenage voice just right. After reading the first few chapters it was easy to see why this book won the older reader category.


How cute is that cover? Sam Kinnison is a geeky film buff who loves horror-slasher movies and playing World of Warcraft. His world is flipped when super-cool and confident Camilla, daughter of a rock-star journalist arrives at school and becomes friends with him. This book is sweet and funny, I loved that it was told from a male point of view and that all the characters had vibrant personalities.


A Very Unusual Pursuit was the winner of the 2014 Younger Readers category. Aimed at the 9-12 year old age group, this is a wonderfully written historical fantasy with a strong female heroine. Young Birdie McAdam works for Alfred Bunce, the bogler. With her beautiful voice, she provides the bait that Alfred needs to hunt the child-eating Bogles infesting the houses of London. Catherine Jinks paints detailed descriptions of Victorian London and uses cockney accents and terms to create an authentic, fast-paced story which I found hard to put down.


An Honour Book in the Early Childhood category, I'm A Dirty Dinosaur boasts fun, repetitive and rhyming text. The mud-smeared illustrations will appeal to toddlers, especially the ones who love dinos!


This one has a sweet bedtime lullaby feel to it that reminded me of Time For Bed by Mem Fox.


Oh, I loved this one! The Silver Button was chosen as an Honour Book in the Picture Book category. Jodie is drawing a picture. As she adds the last button to the boot of her penguin, so many things are happening all around her. In her house, her street and the wider world. Some are insignificant, others are momentous. The whole book takes place in the space of just one minute. This book would be a great addition to units relating to the concept of time within the Year 1 Australian Curriculum: History.


King Pig was the other Honour Book in the Picture Book category. You can tell so much about what this book will be about from the cover, the facial expressions of the characters are fantastic. King Pig wants to know why the sheep don't like him. He tries wearing lovely clothes, which of course the sheep have to make for him...but still they don't like him. What can he do? A great reminder to be kind to others.


Toby straps his "parachute" onto his back every morning. He carries it everywhere, just in case he falls. One day he uses it to help someone else and starts to realise that maybe, he might not need it after all. A great story, with delightful illustrations that opens up opportunities to discuss anxiety and fears.


"When the enemy burned the library, everything burned". Everything except the one book that Peter's father had taken home to study. When Peter and his father are forced to flee the town, they take with them their treasure box, containing "no rubies, no silver, no gold", but instead a book about "our people, about us". With its beautiful, gentle illustrations, this book would support deep discussions about war and resilience. The Treasure Box bought tears to my eyes, it's a book that will stay with me.

The family lives on the windiest farm on Windy Hill. It is so windy that sometimes the pigs nearly blow away! Luckily, the family has a positive attitude (especially Grandpa) and Mum is an innovative thinker! The Windy Farm has a strong environmental message and could provoke some great discussions about sustainability in lower primary classrooms.

Unfortunately I haven't read any of the Information Books yet, but I will track those down for another time!

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?


Once again, I'm joining in with Jen from Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and other bloggers who share the books they have read the past week.


The Stone Lion dreams of being real and running in the park opposite the library where he sits. When a young homeless girl and her baby brother take shelter beside him on a cold, snowy night he is destined to change his perspective.

 The Stone Lion is a story of emotional transformation that reads like a fable. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, I literally couldn't stop myself from reaching out to touch the embossed title on the cover. The choice of colours and the dialogue make reading this book a calm and peaceful experience.


The scratchboard artwork in this book is visually stunning! The simple, poetic text provides evocative descriptions of an imminent thunderstorm on a farm. Blue on Blue would be a great book to share with Year 1 Science students studying observable changes in the sky (ACSSU019).


Paper Planes is based on the movie of the same name that has just come out at the cinemas this month. Twelve-year-old Dylan lives with his dad in a small town in outback Western Australia. He discovers he has a talent for folding paper planes and commences a journey to compete in the World Junior Paper Plane championships in Japan.

This very Australian book is written in third person and reads a little like a script. Accordingly, many paragraphs begin with a quick description of the setting. I loved the inclusion of colour photos from the movie and the step-by-step instructions provided in the back of the book that tell you how to fold a paper plane, it made me want to fold one straight away!


Wow, this beautifully written book takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. It is so heart-breaking, I definitely needed my box of tissues. I found the technique of telling the story through the alternating perspectives of Violet and Finch to be really powerful. It gave me so much detail and really brought the characters to life.

This book is for mature readers as it explores the real and serious issues of self-harm, mental illness and grief. I liked that there was a section in the back of the book that contains links to support organisations and websites, the edition I bought was even adapted for Australian and NZ audiences.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


I'm joining in with Jen from Teach Mentor Texts, Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and other bloggers who share the books they have read the past week.

I haven't read any newly released books this week, I've just been catching up on my "to read" list.


Being Summer in Australia, it is the right time of year to be reading this book about the sometimes heart-wrenching impact of bushfire and the dedication of our firefighters. Jackie French's poetic verse grabs you from the very start:

One small spark brought fire awake,
Winding like a small black snake,
Fire flickered, fire crept,
Flames snickered, fire leapt....

The image of a snake winding and the choice of the word "snickered" are so perfect and Bruce Whatley's illustrations are truly spectacular. The way he catches the translucent colours within the flames is magical. Having been heavily involved with wildfire for many years through my forestry work, I made many personal connections with this book. This subject, which could be difficult for many readers, is treated with the care and respect it deserves. A beautiful book.


Can you believe I'd never read Harold? Now that I have, I can see why it is has been a favourite for so many decades, how clever!


My sister took my littlest to the book store to buy her a gift and she chose Journey. Again, I'd never read it, I knew it was wordless and I'd heard plenty of praise, so I was thrilled with her choice.

How funny to have read Harold then Journey one after the other on the same evening! I enjoyed Harold, but I just adored Journey. We lingered on those beautiful illustrations, taking it all in. Such amazing opportunities for inference, which were still accessible to my 4-year-old. I loved the clever twists in the storyline which tied everything together so neatly. Needless to say, my daughter reached for this one again the following night. More smiles!


I really enjoy Aaron Blabey's books. I like the unusual colour palette and the unique way he draws his characters. This story of a boy and girl who are taunted and teased by their classmates but who become best of friends is inspiring and carries a gentle message for all children to be kind to each other.


The Promise is a thought provoking book with a powerful message. It follows the story of a child living in a dull, bleak city who steals from others to survive. When she steals a bag from a lady she makes a promise to use what is inside. As she fulfills her promise she transforms the world around her, bringing colour to herself and the city.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

I know right, how had I not read this before? In a plot reminiscent of Harry Potter, 12-year-old Percy Jackson discovers he is the son of a Greek god he embarks upon a quest to prevent a war between the gods and return Zeus's master lightning bolt. The Lightning Thief is full of action, mythological creatures, exciting duels and narrow escapes.

There is plenty of humour, I was particularly entertained by the odd titles of the chapters and the cleverly written voice of the characters which made this book easy to become immersed in. I enjoyed the incorporation of Greek mythology and the creative way that Riordan integrated the mythology into contemporary society. Overall this was a fun holiday read!

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


I've decided to join in with a community of bloggers who share reviews of books they have read in the past week. Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellie and Ricki from Unleashing Readers host this meme which has a kidlit focus. I've been visiting many of the blogs linked in over the last few months to see what everyone is reading. I have found the reviews extremely useful for discovering all the wonderful books I need to add to my "must-read" list. My children and I have benefited enormously from your blogs - thank you! I thought it would be fun to participate too and maybe add a few Australian books into the mix as well!


Bob Graham's story-board style illustrations are absolutely amazing for developing inference. The text is minimal leaving so much of the understanding to be gleaned from those beautiful illustrations. The concept of freedom and the book's endorsement by Amnesty International may provoke some insightful discussions with older readers.


Many children will readily connect with the anxiety that young Joe experiences as he prepares to leave his mother to attend a friend's birthday party. His mother continually reassures him as his imagination runs wild and he voices all his concerns such as "What if he doesn't like the party?" This book is great to share to help children understand that we all worry, even adults like Joe's mum. What if.....? could make a great writing prompt.


This was adorable! Grandpa is coming over to babysit, but according to the grandson, the roles are reversed and it is actually him who is babysitting grandpa! This book provides all the instructions of how you look after grandpa for the day. I loved the explanation of how to take a walk, how to take a nap and particularly how to say goodbye. How to Babysit a Grandpa provides a great example for modelling procedural writing. It's written in present tense, contains lots of transition words and even provides useful tips.


I was instantly attracted by the quirky illustrations and the limited colour palette on the cover of this book when I saw it during this weeks visit to the library. It was written in 2012 by West Australian author Meg McKinlay who also wrote Duck for a Day and No Bears, two other well-loved books in our house. I'm so glad I grabbed it because it was delightful!

Tessa and Zachary usually travel to school in a swift and splendiferous machine...but one day it breaks down and they are forced to walk. A beautiful reminder to slow down the pace of life so you don't miss all the wonderful experiences that might be whizzing past you.

Hank is not just a good dog, he's a very good dog! He doesn't eat from the table (...when anyone can see him that is) and he doesn't chew your socks (he just helps you wash them). A beautifully illustrated warm and funny picture book from well-known children's author Jackie French to share with pre-schoolers or lower-primary groups.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Friday Barnes: Girl Detective


Reading this first book in the new girl detective series by R.A Spratt (author of the popular Nanny Piggins series), instantly brought back nostalgic memories from my own childhood of reading Nancy Drew and The Famous Five. Friday Barnes is an intelligent eleven-year-old girl who uses her dazzling observational skills to solve a bank robbery. When she decides to use the $50,000 reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country, she discovers that her detective skills are needed once again!

With endearing female characters, challenging vocabulary, plenty of fast-paced adventures and lots of laugh out loud humour, this fun series is sure to inspire a new cohort of super-sleuths! I will be keeping my out out for book #2 which was realeased on the 1st of January.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Reading Goals

For the first time ever I'm setting myself some goals for reading this year. I don't intend for it to be anything too stressful, I just want to have something to aim for and to try to balance my reading a bit. My goals for 2015 are:
  • Read all of the 2014 and 2015 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Winners and Honour Books.
  • Read 200 picture books.
  • Read 50 chapter books.
  • Read 50 non-fiction picture books.
  • Read 10 books I have somehow "missed". There are plenty of popular books or series that I have not got around to reading yet. The Percy Jackson and Lemony Snicket series are top of my list.
That comes to about 350 books altogether, so I've set that as my goal in Goodreads. I'll see how I go!