This term I have been teaching a course on modern children’s literature (especially Australian), at the Launceston School for Seniors. It’s been extremely successful and I have decided to repeat it next year, though the content will change. The students are all enthusiastic readers but, until recently, haven’t read any of the wonderful books available at the moment. We really do have a fantastic selection of titles published around the world for young people of all ages.
The course has been planned to introduce the participants to a wide range of recent publications. Some of the activities have included looking at past books entered in the CBCA Awards, visiting a bookshop, reading new-to-student titles from the library and over the last 3 weeks browsing through some of the 2012 entries lent to us by Tasmania’s current Book of the Year judge. These last few weeks has given each of us the chance to read the most current books. Here are some of the picture books (which I have enjoyed) from the entries so far.
The Gift by Penny Matthews and Martin McKenna.
The small, plain brown bear sits in a toy shop, surrounded by special Christmas toys. One by one the other toys are bought but bear remains until late Christmas Eve when a small child falls in love with him. McKenna’s digitally created illustrations use a lot of white space and show the bear with all his emotions. It’s a wonderful heart-tugging book, and will especially appeal to those who collect Christmas stories.
Alex and the Watermelon Boat by Chris McKimmie
This story grew from McKimmie’s experiences during the 2011 floods in Brisbane. Alex has to go outside, though forbidden to, when his favourite stuffed toy hopped out the window. Using his watermelon boat to search, he sees the calamities of the flood. McKimmie’s easily recognisable illustrative style uses a wide range of techniques and materials which he lists at the back of the book. I love it.
The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood
The young girl is so mad not to receive her requested bright red backpack as her first school bag. Instead it was a terrible suitcase but the narrator discovers that her bag has many adaptations that she didn’t expect, leading to a wide range of adventures. A multi-layered story.
Show Day by Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean
Matthews and McLean have again collaborated to produce a great book, appropriate for any part of Australia where agricultural shows are held. Many child readers will resonate with the story.
Bush Bash by Sally Morgan and Ambellin Kwaymullina
This is a counting book, combined with a song-like refrain and an I-spy element, using Australian animals. Kwaymullina’s brightly coloured illustrations reflect her Aboriginal heritage.
Pooka by Carol Chataway and Nin Rycroft
The family loves the stray dog that turned up on their doorstep, though Grandad keeps reminding everyone not to become attached. The narrator becomes depressed when Pooka’s owner collects her but bounces back when Pooka and her pups visit. Great use of white space and vibrant illustrations.
The Queen With the Wobbly Bottom by Philip Gwynne and Bruce Whatley
The queen doesn’t like her wobbly bottom and unsuccessfully offers rewards to change it. The poet comes along and teaches her that she is loved. A fun story which shows that praise can go a long way. It’s a great example of verbal and visual texts complementing each other. Whatley’s illustrations are not what we might expect.
Tom the Outback Mailman by Kristin Weidenbach and Timothy Ide
This is a fictionalised account of Tom Kruse, mailman along the Birdsville track from 1936 to 1963. A great way of showing city kids what life along the Track can be like. Lots of scope for further investigations.
Owl Know How by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles
Cloud Town has begun to sink into the branches of a tree, so the friends make a machine to produce owls who life the town back up into the air. This book will be a great addition to school libraries with its illustrations created from 3-dimensional felt, cardboard and recycled materials.
Good Night Sleep Tight by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
Skinny Doug is babysitting Bonnie and Ben who do all in their power not to have to go to sleep. Fox has combined her signature repetitive refrain with traditional nursery rhymes to create an excellent bedtime book.