We have an inspiring Ted Talk for you today. Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a roller coaster! It’s a short, but great talk.
Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image. If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how. Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.
1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare
Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference. These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years. It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles. The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman. Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through. For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.
Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams
The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept. The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre (counting), Jungle Book (animals) and many more.
The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come. It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin. Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once. If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.
Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier
Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism. This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins. Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.
Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan
Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus. To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers. In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go. Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways. For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.
Hamlet by John Marsden
The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine. The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose. While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable. Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.
The term ‘reluctant reader’ is a tricky one because there are a number of reasons why a child may pause before picking up a book…we think it’s super important to recognise why somebody is reluctant and the reasons range from low reading confidence to a lack of interest. Here are our top picks that are bound to pique interest from children who would rather do anything else than pick up a book.
Laugh Out Loud by James Patterson
James Patterson creates books kids love, and his latest book is all about a boy who decides to create books kids love by setting up his own book company. Jimmy is determined to follow his dream of a company run by kids for kids, despite the scepticism of parents, teachers and the bank. The story mixes real life and fantasy, and along the way slips lots of recommendations for other unputdownable children’s books. The pacey narrative, variety of scenes and events, and Jimmy’s straight-to-camera narrative keeps the pages turning nicely.
Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland
Whilst leaving footpaths should never be done, Straying from stories is all sorts of fun!
Little Red Reading Hood loves reading books and making up stories of her own. When she meets a cunning wolf while on her way to the library, he convinces her to stray from the path and read for a little while. But hasn’t she read this in a story before? Perhaps it’s time she came up with a new ending . . .
This is a contemporary and fun take on the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Created by incredible new picture book partnership, Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle, Little Red Reading Hood will inspire children, and adults, about the magic of books and reading.
The Superhero Handbook by James Doyle
There’s no excuse for anyone who, having read this book from cover to cover and followed its instructions carefully, does not emerge a superhero. Contained within its pages is a complete superhero training course. Not only do you learn how to invent your superhero name, and how to choose a sidekick, but you can also have a go at some special superhero activities, such as making a mini jet-pack (you’ll need string, a straw, sticky tape and a balloon), or an electro-magnet. The superhero fun and games are very entertaining, as are the science bits, and it’s all delivered in a friendly, knowing and thoroughly engaging way. An unusual information activity book that cleverly mixes science learning with the allure of superhero-dom.
Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson
Space, family relationships, friendships are all cleverly and vividly described in this entertaining story. Stan is a nerdy but very likeable hero, who wants nothing more than to win a telescope in the science fair so that he can study space. The main obstacle to this and indeed all Stan’s hopes and wishes, is his little brother Fred, a dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old tornado of destruction and unpredictability. Super-orderly Stan resorts to a range of charts and measuring devices to fill us in on his life – pie-charts, ordinary charts, illustrated diagrams, Venn diagrams – and together with his lugubrious, sometimes agonised delivery, it makes for fast and very funny reading. Readers will be on Stan’s side from the start, and this will speak to anyone who has, is or knows a younger brother or sister.
Just Plain Weird by Kaye Umanksy
The Primms and the Weirds are two totally different families. The Primms are fish-eating, hedge-trimming, neighbourhood-watching, they are as strait-laced as they come, while the Weirds are just, weird! Mum is a stunt woman, Dad is an inventor, Gran is very, very small. Despite their differences, when the Weirds move in next door, Pinch Primm becomes friends with Ott Weird, and their adventures make wonderfully comic reading. There are three different stories, each is short, very funny and with a momentum that keeps the pages turning right until the end.
The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams
Are you ready to meet the World’s Worst Children? Five beastly boys and five gruesome girls! Like Sofia Sofa a TV super-fan so stuck to the sofa that she’s turning into one! or Dribbling Drew a boy whose drool gets him into trouble on a school trip! and not to forget Blubbering Bertha a girl who bawls and tells terrible tales!
David Walliams has created a collection of wickedly funny, deliciously mischievous tales, illustrated in glorious colour by the artistic genius Tony Ros.
I love hearing about new or ‘new to me’ children’s books as it’s great to mix-up children’s reading options with some different choices. Sometimes I feel like I know some children’s books off by heart, I have read them so often (like the Mr McGee and some of the Julia Donaldson titles), but I love gifting books that are a bit more unusual. Special books span generations within families, long after the Kmart ‘trend of the moment’ has passed.
Chances are, you may well have heard of some of these titles as they have won a string of awards, but they’re definitely not some of the more well-known children’s books.
I discovered The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg as an adult, studying teaching and absolutely loved it. It’s a picture book containing a series of images by Harris Burdick, a man who mysteriously disappeared. This book is a great resource to start the story-writing process with small children. Many famous authors have written short stories prompted by the stunning black and white images. There is a sinister nature to some of the pictures so best to use with mid-Primary students and above.
When I remember some of the lessons we were taught as kids in schools, I loved collective nouns – in particular, ‘a murder of crows’. I heard about Jennifer Crossin’s beautiful book 101 Collective Nouns just the other day. It’s beautifully illustrated and each page features an image of a different collective noun. This book is lovely to give as a gift and perfect to read aloud with younger readers.
Love a book that starts a discussion? Try Ask me by Antje Damm. I love this book, the questions and images are thought provoking and it’s quite a precious book to share with children. Each page features a question such as ‘Can you see animals in the sky?’ or ‘How do you know that you are growing?’. It’s thought provoking and I see it as a great resource to use with the thinkers and dreamers of the world. In a sea of wonderful fiction written for children, this is a great alternative.
If you are searching for engaging titles for Mid-Primary age boys I feel like your options are either a focus on toilet humour (bum jokes) or the Harry Potter series. Of course there are plenty of girls who enjoy these genres, too. I was delighted to discover the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton recently and fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, these books do contain their fair share of toilet humour, too. But it’s more their rambling, conversational style and nonsensical plot lines that kids love. They’re silly and crazy in a Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan style, making them hugely popular and very readable.
The Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen were a recent discovery and feature a strong female protagonist who is an unofficial teenage detective, as well as dealing with the ups and downs of personal relationships. A character with spunk and heart, the Sammy Keyes books are terrific for readers aged 10-16 as they show the main character struggling to fit in and manage complex feelings, as well as solve mysteries in her new home town.
If you know of some less well-known titles, we would love to hear from you at Booko!
Starting school is a big milestone, not just for children but their parents (well done to everyone for getting this far!) It promises many new and exciting things, but the uncertainty can be scary too. Here’s where story books come to the rescue, and there’s a range of funny and adorable stories to help young children familiarise with what “Big School” will be like. We haven’t forgotten older children either, with some very helpful guides to both students and parents on surviving High School.
My First Day at School by Meredith Costain
It’s the first day of school for Mrs Mellor’s Prep class. We meet Zach, Amira, Ari and Zoe, who take turns telling us what happens. There’s learning to be done, snacks to eat, playtime and lots of rules! Some of the children have nervous moments – what if I don’t make a friend? What if I can’t hang on before I reach the toilet? – that resolve themselves happily. All too soon it’s time to go home! The different personalities and first-person narration will draw child readers into this happy, upbeat story.
Mum at School by Eric Veille and Pauline Martin
Mum at School turns a traditional “starting school” story upside-down and makes it hilarious. The first day of school can be tough. It’s nice if your mum can stay – and, before you know it, she’s cutting and pasting and joining in. Except that school is not that easy for Mum – she forgets to raise her hand and she doesn’t fit at the table. Perhaps… it’s more fun at school when mum’s not around? Mum at School aims to zap any lingering doubts in the most reluctant of new students. Eric Veille’s deadpan drawings add an extra layer of comedy to this story of unexpected chaos!
I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
A classic starting school story about the beloved Charlie and Lola. Charlie has a little sister Lola, who is small and very funny. Mum and Dad think Lola is big enough to go to school, but Lola is not so sure. Lola doesn’t think she needs it – she can already count to ten, and she doesn’t need to read words because she already has all her books in her head! So it’s up to Charlie (and Soren Lorensen, Lola’s invisible friend) to help Lola realise that school is fun, and help you learn lots of useful things, such as how to write letters to Santa.
The Things I Love about School by Trace Moroney
Trace Moroney’s books are great resources for helping young children learn about themselves and their feelings. Her The Things I Love series celebrates the different everyday experiences that form the basis of our children’s world. The Things I Love about School tells children about the fun and enjoyable activities that they can look forward to, or know about already, like making friends and learning new things. This is a very gentle, reassuring story with cute illustrations, aimed at helping children to develop healthy self-esteem and resilience.
The High School Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Studying, Socialising and Succeeding by Jessica Holsman
Jessica Holsman is the star of popular YouTube Channel Study with Jess. Her videos of study tips, organisation skills and life hacks attract millions of views from around the world. Teens know they need to study, but they haven’t always been taught how – and Jess is here to fill that gap. Drawing from her own experiences, Jess has created detailed tips on how to beat stress and enjoy school by staying organised, studying smarter, and balancing study with socialising. Jess has a direct, personal style that helps her connect with her teen audience, making The High School Survival Guide a useful handbook throughout the teen years.
Surviving Year 12: a Sanity Kit for Students and Their Parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Year 12 has become a high stakes, high-stress year, but it doesn’t have to be that way – the last year of school is also a time to make good memories, and to enjoy the independence and respect given to these senior students. Now psychologist and bestselling author Michael Carr-Gregg has created a valuable guide on how to stay well and motivated during this critical year. There’s useful tips on maintaining physical and mental well-being, how to set goals and prepare for exams, how to deal with procrastination, and how to make time for extracurricular activities. A special section aimed at parents will help them manage their own expectations, and learn the best ways to support their children’s goals.
Sometimes, the books you read, and the authors you love, are like staging posts, reflecting particular stages and events in your life; you grow from the experience and move on. Sometimes, what you crave is a life partner – someone whose books engage and resonate with you year after year, come what may. While most authors excel at writing in a specific genre or for a particular age group, there are many who write more broadly and are potential “life partners”. Here are three popular authors who write across genres and age groups… do you have more you can recommend?
Roald Dahl is best known for his children’s stories – including his acclaimed and very entertaining autobiography Boy – but his adult fiction is also incredible. He is a master of the short story, able to evoke a vivid scenario, then throw in a gasp-inducing twist, all within a handful of pages. Where Roald Dahl’s twisted humour makes his children’s stories fantastical, it turns his adult stories hyper-real, emphasising the sinister, nasty side of human nature. A celebrated example is The Champion of the World, a short story about pheasant poaching contained in his compilation Kiss Kiss; its twistedness was then transformed into Danny the Champion of the World, an altogether more whimsical story about the father-son bond and beating the establishment (and pheasant poaching!).
Kaz Cooke is a fearless, frank and funny feminist – the sort of person you wish were your cool best friend, or fun auntie. Kaz works as a cartoonist, journalist, and agony aunt – and she has used these skills to create a range of advice books for women and children. From pregnancy (Up the Duff) to puberty (Girl Stuff) and women’s health (Women’s Stuff), Kaz has pretty much every life stage covered. What I love about these books is their excellent balance between irreverence and information – they are funny and easy to read, yet meticulously researched. Kaz also champions a body-positive message that helps readers block out the BS and learn to love and trust themselves and be more confident.
Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries, which amply showcases her chatty style and deft balancing of comedy, romance and sweet earnestness. Through a series of fifteen books, we see Mia come of age, from a gawky teenager to a confident princess, developing her own personality while honouring duty, and juggling the demands of family, friendship and romance. Meg Cabot has extended this series up into Chick Lit territory with Royal Wedding, where an adult Mia prepares to get married (but not before lots of drama!); and also down into junior fiction, with the spin-off Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. Not content with one hugely successful series, Meg Cabot has also written in other genres, including series of paranormal romance, and murder mysteries.
Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to children’s literature – so it is particularly fitting that we devote an entire week to celebrating this each year. This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is “Escape to Everywhere”, which perfectly describes what great writing means to me: whether it takes you to a fantasy land within your mind, or offers a glimpse of life elsewhere on Earth – a great book stretches your imagination and broadens your horizons. Drumroll please for this year’s winners…
One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn
Claire Zorn is a YA force to be reckoned with – all three of her novels are award-winners, including two CBCA Book of the Year awards (The Protected won in 2015). One Would Think the Deep is about Sam, whose mum dies suddenly, shockingly, in his arms. Having no options, he moves to the coast to live with his estranged aunt and cousins. In this new environment, he struggles to process his grief, shock and anger – but also finds some solace in the surf. One Would Think the Deep is almost painful to read, but Claire Zorn’s complex characterisation and raw, visceral portrayal of grief draws you in and doesn’t let go.
Book of the Year: Younger Readers
Rockhopping by Trace Balla
Trace Balla is another rising star, with both Rockhopping and its prequel, Rivertime, winning major awards. Having travelled down the Glenelg river together in Rivertime, Uncle Egg has finally agreed to take Clancy hiking to the Glenelg’s source in Gariwerd (the Grampians). During their five days in the wilderness, they see lots of flora and fauna, meet other hikers, have some scary moments – and Clancy grows up a little. Trace Balla shows her love of nature through her incredibly detailed illustrations; she also conveys some beautiful messages about slowing down, living in the moment and respecting indigenous culture.
Book of the Year: Early Childhood
Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley
Inspired by life in Tennant Creek, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a great book for reading aloud (loudly!), with lots of opportunities for audience participation. There are too many cheeky dogs in Canteen Creek, but when the weather changes and more cheeky animals arrive, chaos begins! The lively rhythm of the text and child-like illustrations combine to present a hilarious and riotous scenario that will appeal to both school-aged and younger children.
Picture Book of the Year
Home in the Rain by Bob Graham
“Delightful” and “heartwarming” are no exaggeration when it comes to Bob Graham’s books – he is an expert at showing the humour and joy in the minutiae of life. Home in the Rain starts with a little red car stuck in traffic – Francie, her mum and her baby sister (warmly tucked inside Mummy’s tum) face a long drive on a rain-sodden day. From such an ordinary premise, Bob Graham has crafted a tender story that makes your heart glow. Home in the Rain is his eighth CBCA win – and a compelling example of why Bob Graham is one of our most beloved and awarded authors.
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M. Newton
Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks showcases more than 120 animals from 55 National Parks around Australia – from our national icons, through birds, to fish and insects. The book is divided into seven sections, each exploring a different habitat; thus offering additional insights into geography and ecology. Gina M. Newton and NLA Publishing have done a terrific job in making a wealth of information accessible rather than overwhelming, using a range of colour coding, charts, maps and photos. Perfect for browsing as well as for reference.
The Crichton Award for New Illustrators
The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke)
A streetwise gang of children build a patchwork bike using what they can find – branches for handlebars, a flour sack for a flag. This exuberant story highlights the joy of making your own fun using creativity and imagination. The setting is hugely different from suburban Australia, emphasising how play is universally valued by kids, whatever their circumstances. The street-art style of Van T Rudd perfectly matches the rhythmic text of slam-poet Maxine Beneba Clarke.
Bringing books to life for children is a lot of fun and a wonderful learning opportunity for young minds. Reading aloud, drawing pictures and imaginary play are just a few ways you can do this at home which gives children an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, creative thinking, recognising letters, numbers, colours, shapes and patterns, listening, exploring social and emotional skills and sharing and taking turns.
As we grow older our books can also come to life through audio books where the author is reading us their book with amazing inflection and passion, or through television and movie adaptations.
Here are a few of our favourite children’s books that have come alive.
Books we can watch…
Charlotte’s Web written by E.B White
An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads “Some Pig,” convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.
The DVD is available here.
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a prize-winning team and the creators of many bestselling books for Macmillan. Julia Donaldson was a songwriter before becoming an author, and music continues to play an important part in her life. She is always much in demand for her brilliant events at schools and literary festivals. Axel Scheffler is a star illustrator within the children’s book world, and his books have been translated into over 30 languages. His bright, humorous illustrations are a perfect complement to Julia’s lively songs.
The DVD is available here.
Books we listen to…
Road Dahl’s Phizz-Whizzing Audio Collection by Roald Dahl
Spread over eight CDs, these three sumptuous recordings are complete and unabridged, allowing listeners to enjoy Dahl’s work word for word. The stories in this collection have all been skilfully brought to life. ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” read by James Bolam (Abridged): Charlie Bucket thinks he is the luckiest boy alive when he wins an amazing tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. It’s a tour of a lifetime that changes his life beyond belief! “The BFG” read by Geoffrey Palmer (Abridged): The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who spirits Sophie out of bed one night. Together, Sophie and the BFG cook up an ingenious plan to rid the world of child-eating giants forever! “James and the Giant Peach” read by Andrew Sachs (Unabridged): James lives a lonely life with his two beastly aunts.Then one day, something very peculiar happens, something magical that will take him on the most amazing journey …
The books are available here.
Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter
This is a fabulous six-CD audio box-set containing the entire collection of stories by Beatrix Potter, complete and unabridged. The twenty-three tales have never lost their popularity, and sell in their millions all over the world. Meet the famous characters that children love and adore: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Flopsy Bunnies, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and many more. These stories are beautifully brought to life by a talented cast of readers, including Patricia Routledge, Timothy West, Michael Hordern, Janet Maw, and Rosemary Leach.
The books are available here.
Books we can colour and play with…
I Completely Must Do Drawing Now and Painting and Colouring by Lauren Child
Even the rainiest of days is no match for the wonderful imaginations of Charlie and Lola! It may be dull outside, but Charlie and Lola’s world is full of colourful adventure, and with this unique colouring book, kids can join in on the fun. With simple text on the page, activities, and tons of space to draw, the possibilities are endless! It’s the perfect way to bring imagination to life – rainy day or any day!
Maisy’s Farm by Lucy Cousins
This is a huge favourite in our house. This pop-up-and-play book opens up with a free-standing model of Maisy’s barn, garden and farmyard. It comes with a sixteen-page full-colour booklet that features learning activities based on Maisy’s day on the farm. In each room, there’s a sheet of card pieces to press out, tabs to pull, doors to open and more…so much fun!
Keep an eye out for the new initiative from Play School. In celebration of Children’s Book Week this year there will be a delightful new Play School series featuring some of Australia’s much loved celebrities as they snuggle up on the couch and read entertaining picture books written by Australian authors and they will be accompanied by Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Joey.
Abridged or simplified books have been around for a long time, often associated with literary classics, and aimed at English learners. More recently, the idea has expanded to include a wider range of bestselling titles. Often called Young Readers Editions, they aim to simplify the vocabulary without sacrificing the drama and interest of the original. Booko is a big fan of Young Readers Editions, not only because they help us share our favourite reads with children, but also because they offer quick but meaningful reading at times when we can’t commit to denser, longer books! Here’s a selection of our favourites:
Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
In the 40s, 50s and 60s, a group of African-American women made significant contributions towards the American space effort. Their story was little-known until Hidden Figures – both the book and the film – achieved great commercial success. Despite the racial- and gender prejudices prevalent at the time, these women – including Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn – were valued for their mathematical and engineering talents, a culture leading to NASA’s pioneering efforts in desegregation. Young Readers will find Hidden Figures gripping and inspirational, as well as thought-provoking in its reflections on race, gender and equality.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls broke records as the most-funded original book in crowdfunding history, and has since become a bestseller in 30 languages. Challenging gender stereotypes, Good Night Stories profiles 100 women – scientists, athletes, politicians – who have contributed to public life. It further celebrates women by highlighting the work of the two authors and 60 illustrators, who produced this striking and colourful volume. Written in the style of fairytales, Good Night Stories is not just for bedtime or for girls – it is inspirational for all children. Adult readers can also enjoy it as a sampler offering ideas for further reading. Volume 2 is already in the pipeline.
Lion: A Long Way Home Young Readers Edition by Saroo Brierley
Recently I nominated Lion: A Long Way Home as one of Booko’s Favourite Biographies and I can’t resist mentioning it again. Saroo Brierley’s story of how he rediscovers his birth family – based on dim recollections of landmarks half a world away – sounds fantastical until you remember it is true. Young readers are sure to be drawn to little Saroo, who was only five when he was lost on a train in India. In a strange place, with no money and no language, he had to avoid a lot of danger until he started a new life with adoptive parents in Australia. Saroo’s story of survival is full of drama and emotion, and is a celebration of hope, perseverance and the benefits of technology.
Inventor, entrepreneur, maverick: Elon Musk is synonymous with a string of successful tech companies, including Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. He has a no-limits approach to problem solving – taking huge risks and starting from scratch where necessary, willing to tackle the biggest problems, with an attitude that seems to merge sci-fi and science. Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future draws connections between Musk and Iron Man – Robert Downey Jnr reputedly based his portrayal of the superhero on Musk – a comparison that is surprisingly apt for this flamboyant character. The life story of an intelligent, ambitious boy who rose above a difficult childhood (including brutal bullying) to enormous success is sure to inspire any science- and tech-minded young readers.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan
Young Readers Editions are not exclusively about inspirational biographies – many make topical issues accessible to all ages. Published soon after Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (which has its own Young Readers Edition ), The Omnivore’s Dilemma reveals the social and environmental consequences of food production. The Omnivore’s Dilemma helps us understand the interconnections between sustainability, ethics and public health, as we grow increasingly aware of the wider consequences of our food choices. Facts have been updated in this 10th Anniversary reissue, which also includes a new Preface and Afterword.
Awesome by Pete Johnson
Young readers who find reading a little challenging may enjoy “Hi-Lo” books. They are stories that have HI-interest (themes that appeal to older children or teens) but with LO-vocabularly – meaning that older, reluctant / struggling readers are not stuck with books aimed at young kids. Many Hi-Lo titles are by popular and well-known authors, and have additional accessible features including dyslexia-friendly fonts and layouts. Awesome is a comedy about Ben, who is mistaken for a TV star at his new school – you can imagine the mayhem this causes! Awesome is aimed at teen readers and has been edited to a reading age of 7.
Most people are aware that reading to children is beneficial; in fact, it is one of the best preparations for school. When we read to children, we are exposing them to a rich vocabulary, helping them develop listening skills and attention spans, conveying information and fostering a love of reading. These skills create a solid foundation for developing literacy.
Many libraries are now running “1000 Books Before School” programs (sometimes called “1000 Books Before Kindergarten”) to help encourage caregivers and children to keep reading and reap those literacy benefits. The 1000 books goal is based on research – it is big enough to allow children to experience a variety of language, but still achievable – for children who start school at 5, it translates to about one book every 2 days. And for children who prefer to have the same book read over and over, each time counts as one book!
To make the process more fun, libraries and some websites offer record sheets to help families keep track of their reading. Regular milestones (with small rewards) help build a sense of achievement until the big, final graduation.
Families living in Victoria can enrol in the program through the State Library of Victoria website or at your local library.
To get you started, here are some new and older favourites, perfect for sharing with your children. 6 down, 994 to go…
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Sturdy board books are great for the youngest readers, who might show their enjoyment of books by chewing and throwing! In Dear Zoo, a child writes to the zoo to send them a pet. It takes a bit of trial and error to find a pet that is just right! Dear Zoo has been a favourite with both little and big kids for over 30 years. Its combination of a funny story, cute animals, lift-the-flaps and call-and-response makes it an excellent choice for both reading aloud and reading on your own.
Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
Tap the Magic Tree is as much a toy as it is a picture book. Each page invites the reader to tap, shake, jiggle, or pat the book, even to blow it a kiss! Starting with a bare brown tree, we gradually see leaves sprout, buds blossom, apples grow, the leaves yellow and finally blow away with the changing of the seasons. The simple drawings and sparse text combine into an absorbing story that is elegant and sweetly magical.
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
Charlie and Lola stories are laugh-out-loud funny, with vivid characters and situations that perfectly captures life with young children. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is the story that started it all, and is still one of the best. Big brother Charlie – the sensible, long-suffering one – needs to give dinner to his funny little sister Lola. But she is really fussy about her food! So Charlie plays a trick on Lola – what if he is not giving her mashed potato, but cloud fluff from the peak of Mount Fuji?
Mr Huff by Anna Walker
Bill woke up with a bad feeling about his day. As more things go wrong, his huffy feelings coalesce into a big grey thing, who sighs and keeps following Bill around. How can Bill make Mr Huff go away? Mr Huff is a cute and poignant story, and perfect conversation-starter about how to deal with sad, gloomy feelings. Anna Walker’s understated illustrations add surprising amounts of drama and emotion. Well-deserved winner of last year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Award.
Non-fiction (information) books can often engage children who don’t seem interested in stories. Usborne is known as a publisher of beautifully-produced, interesting information books for children, and The Big Book of the Body is no exception. The pages fold out into giant posters showing our main bodily functions, including bones and muscles, heart and blood, lungs, brain and our senses. A mix of short explanations and quirky facts make The Big Book of the Body entertaining as well as educational.
Billie’s Underwater Adventure by Sally Rippin and Alisa Coburn
As your child gets older, why not introduce them to great characters whose stories will keep them company through their school years? Billie’s Underwater Adventure is a picture book where Billie and her friend Jack use their imaginations to have marvellous adventures at Kinder. Then there’s the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series, which are slice-of-life stories aimed at beginner readers; and the Billie B Brown Mysteries is a collection of short chapter books that is perfect for those mystery- and excitement-loving middle graders.