Last week I provided you with a list of picture books I had reviewed or whose authors and illustrators I had interviewed throughout the year. Of course, I read many more than that. It would be impossible to review all the books I read. However, in this post, I share just ten other picture books I have read and enjoyed this year, not all of which were published this year. I hope you find at least one that appeals to you or your young people. (Note: where I was able to source a video, I have included one.)
The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name
by Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira (a Bright Light book published by Hardie Grant, 2021)
The blurb states that ‘No-one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.’ I think we would all agree with that.
However, when Zimdalamashkermishkada starts school, he knows he will have to do something about his name. He is asked to spell it and repeat it before a friend shortens it to Zim. When he asks his mother if he can shorten Zimdalamashkermishkada to Zim, she explains the reasons for giving him his name and suggests he gives people a chance to learn it. Which is just what he does. He stretches his name out bit by bit to teach his new friend Ella who shares pride in his name and teaches others to use it correctly too.
I love the theme of this book and its message about recognising and accepting others. How many times do we have children in our classes with names that we at first find difficult to pronounce? How tempting is it to simply shorten them because it is easy? How much more important is it for us to acknowledge and learn their given names showing respect for them and their culture and modelling that respect for the children in our class as well as our colleagues. Shortening names may be easy, but it can be hurtful too. This book is a great reminder of that and of appreciating our differences and what it means to be unique.
(Note; while there is a reading of this book on YouTube, I haven’t shared it here as I was disappointed that the reader didn’t even pronounce the author’s name correctly. Sorry, Sandhya.)
Usha and the Big Digger
by Amitha Jagannath Knight and Sandhya Prabhat (a story telling Math book published by Charlesbridge, 2021)
This is another wonderful book that I received as a gift from the author, simply for leaving a comment on an interview with Kaitlyn Sanchez on her blog Math is Everywhere and having my name selected in a random draw.
In my comment, before reading the book, I simply said, ‘This book sounds amazing. I love that the constellation is viewed from different perspectives. What a great introduction to perspective for children – both the maths, and the ideas/points of view. The cover is appealing with the gorgeous night-sky colours. Yes, I’d love to read this one and have added it to my Good Reads Want to Read list. Here in Australia, we have different ways of looking at the constellations too. While we see the images drawn by connecting the dots (stars), our Indigenous Peoples see the shapes in the dark. It’s quite fascinating.’
And for that I received a free book from Amitha. That’s amazing. And the book doesn’t disappoint either. The deep colours that Sandhya Prabhat has used to illustrate the dark of the night and the sky with its stars are just beautiful and add so much depth to the discussions and the themes.
In the story, three girls observe the constellation that I know as the Big Dipper or the saucepan. The older sister also refers to it as the Big Dipper or a big spoon. The younger sister Usha, who loves trucks, sees it as a big digger. Unable to agree, they call on their cousin. But Gloria sees neither a dipper nor a digger. She sees a kite. When they try to see the stars from the others’ perspective, they come to a whole new understanding.
I love the way this book deals with looking at things from different perspectives and coming to an understanding. I also like that it includes information about the constellation, including that it isn’t really a constellation, it’s an asterism, and how it is seen by different cultures around the world. In addition, it includes suggestions for exploring maths related to the story. I wasn’t previously aware that there was a publisher of STEM related books such as Storytelling Math. I’ll be looking for more of their titles as I think picture books are a great way to encourage a love of maths as well as reading. That’s definitely a win-win.
You can listen to Amitha talk about her book here.
Bear in Space
by Deborah Abela and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (published by Walker Books, 2020)
This is a lovely book about difference, being true to yourself, acceptance and finding friendship. Many opportunities for rich discussions about those themes arise in the book. In addition, there are opportunities for discussing maths concepts, space and perspective.
Bear is different from, and has different interests from, the other bears who tend to either laugh at or ignore him. But Bear was fascinated by space and loved to read and talk about space. More than anything, he wanted to travel into space, so he built himself a rocket. There, in the quiet of space, Bear felt at peace. For a while. Just when he started to feel lonely, he saw a speck floating towards him. It was another rocket. And on that rocket was another bear, a panda, who was just as interested in space as Bear was. When they landed back on Earth, they found many new friends willing to crew on their next rocket.
You can listen to Deborah read her story in this video.
The Tiny Star
by Mem Fox and Freya Blackwood (published by Puffin Books, 2019)
This is not Mem’s most recent book. There have been at least two more since its release, but I haven’t shared this one with you before. I was very fortunate, a while back, to attend a launch of the book in which Trent Dalton interviewed Mem. In that interview, Mem not only spoke about the book — she read it to us also. It is always a delight to hear Mem read. It’s also a delight to hear her and Freya discuss their book in this video.
If you watched the video, I don’t need to tell you much about this gorgeous, heart-warming book which Mem wrote to help children cope with the death of a grandparent. But it does so much more than that. It tells the journey of a life that begins when ‘a tiny star fell to earth’ until it is ‘seen again, twinkling in the night sky’. It’s a book that provides comfort and hope as well as an understanding of the circle of life.
My Culture and Me
by Gregg Dreise (published by Puffin Books, 2019)
I previously introduced you to Gregg when I interviewed him about his book Kookoo Kookaburra. Since that interview, the number of Gregg’s publications has grown and those I share here are just two of many.
I love the joy and pride in culture that Gregg shares through his books. The bold, bright colours and patterns in his illustrations identify his cultural heritage and invite all readers to share in its richness. His books are written from the heart with respect for the oldest living culture on Earth. He encourages all of us to develop understanding and respect for each other. I also admire Gregg for his involvement in programs that support Indigenous literacy, including the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Indigenous Literacy Day.
In My Culture and Me, Gregg does just as the title says — he introduces us to his culture, not only so we can understand it, but to pass the joy and knowledge on with his own family.
This is a song Gregg wrote to accompany the book.
Hello and Welcome
by Gregg Dreise (published by Puffin Books, 2021)
In this beautiful book, Gregg once again shows respect for his culture and its elders; past, present and future. He shows the interconnectedness of all the generations and of everything that exists. As in his other books, the message is positive and filled with joy and hope for our future, including the future of Indigenous Cultures.
Gregg reads his book for us in this video.
Took the Children Away
by Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter (published by Simon and Schuster, 2020)
Although this is a sad story, it is very moving and filled with healing and hope. As well as the lyrics to the song, the book contains information about Archie and the situation that to led to his being taken away. He says it is not just his story or his wife Ruby’s story, but the story of many First Nations children from around the world who were taken away from their families. It is a good introduction for young children to this tragic part of our history.
I purchased the book after listening to Archie’s memoir Tell Me Why, which Archie narrates. I highly recommend it.
You can listen to Archie sing Took the Children Away here. It is supported by images, including photographs, from the picture book.
By Jimmy Rees and Briony Stewart (published by Affirm Press, 2021)
This is a fun story for parents to read at bedtime or for teachers to read in class. Children may recognise their own behaviour (even if they are reluctant to admit it) or the behaviour of younger siblings who want to avoid bedtime at all costs.
When Mum goes out for dinner, the twins behave perfectly for Dad who feels extremely proud of his ability to have ‘bedtime sorted’. Everything goes to plan, until … Dad turns out the children’s light and sits down to his own dinner. Everyone is bound to get a smile or two out of this hilarious story.
by Christopher Cheng and Lucia Masciullo (published by National Library of Australia, 2021)
This story is wonderful for discussing the importance of imagination to innovation and invention. It is also a heart-warming story of intergenerational relationships.
Penny is an inventor. She uses her imagination to think up inventions and her hands to make them. But her imagination is bigger than the small apartment in which she lives. When she visits Grandpa in his enormous house, she is flabbergasted by all the amazing contraptions he has. She uses her imagination to invent a wonderful machine for Grandpa.
Another great thing about this book is that, at the back, it has photographs and information about the inventions mentioned in the book.
I’ve left a new Christmas book for last:
Little Bilby’s Aussie Bush Christmas
by Yvonne Mes and Jody Pratt (published by Hachette Books, 2021)
I previously introduced you to Yvonne Mes with Little Bilby’s Aussie Easter Egg Hunt. I am delighted that Yvonne has written another adventure for Little Bilby — an Aussie Bush Christmas. It is just as delightful as the first bilby adventure as the Bilby band changes the ‘Aussie Bush into a Christmas wonderland’. They collect natural objects from their bush friends to decorate their Christmas tree. The book also includes a suggestion for children to make their own Christmas decoration using found natural objects.
I hope you found one or more of these books to be of interest. Enjoy reading — remember, books make wonderful gifts. Perhaps you may like to follow the Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve and then spending the rest of the day reading. How much fun would that be? It’s a tradition I could easily adopt. You can find out more about Jolabokaflod here.
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