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Book News - January 2003

AUSTRAL ED Contact Details:
a division of gleebooks
PO Box 486
NSW 2037

Phone: 61 2 9660 2333
Fax: 61 2 9660 3597

ABN  87 000 357 317 www.gleebooks.com.au
email: austral@gleebooks.com.au

No 21, January 2003

Very best wishes for the New Year!

And thanks so much for your support during the year. It seems so obvious that it hardly seems worth while saying but without the orders that you send direct to Austral Ed, I wouldn’t be able to send out this newsletter or make up the lists of recommendations. I am glad so many of you find them helpful and continue to support Austral Ed as you change schools and work on so many different continents.

We have now been in our new house in the Adelaide hills for just over 12 months and have been able to enjoy a full four seasons. Not all places in Australia have four seasons but here we do, with a hot dry summer, a mild autumn with autumn colours, a winter that can be wet, windy and sometimes foggy and a bright lively spring. In fact the warmth and colours of spring were so lovely that we looked with dismay at the minus temperatures of Berlin in November and headed reluctantly to the airport. Once we got off the plane of course we really enjoyed visiting Munich and Berlin, fascinating cities and very different. We were able to visit quite a few schools, always enjoyable and interesting and the visits give me ideas for the needs of various schools. Thanks for your hospitality. The ECIS Conference in Berlin was excellent and it was great to catch up with so many of you there.

There are so many Conferences coming up in February and March that it will be impossible to get to them all. The IB Librarians’ Conference for Asia and South Pacific which was to be held in Bali in October 2002 but was cancelled because of the horrific bombing will now be held in Beijing from 7th - 9th March. We are looking forward to it and to visiting schools in Beijing. Our first visit there. However it is a shame that we won’t be able to go to Amsterdam for the ECIS Early Childhood Conference which is being held at the same time.

We shall also definitely be at the EARCOS Conference in Bangkok from March 27 - 29 and shall put on a display. We also would love to go to TARA in Bahrain from Feb 26th - 28th and NESA in Istanbul from 20 - 23 March but we shall see what the world situation looks like in a few weeks. At any rate I am looking forward to seeing many of you over the next few months.

Firstly though there is a celebration! Our eldest son Nathan is getting married in Sydney at the end of January. It will be a wonderful event and we shall all be in Sydney to help celebrate.

And for those of you who enjoyed Crossover written by my younger son Joel, the sequel Breakaway has just been published. There is more fast paced action and political intrigue as Cassandra Kresnov is now part of the Special Forces in Tanusha. As an android, she has highly specialised skills but she also has her own problems in working out how to fit in with the highly complex and at times chaotic society on Tanusha. As was stated in the review of Crossover in the Contra-Costra Times, San Francisco, this is “a rich world” and “it’s good to know that somewhere

androids are still dreaming of electric sheep, and authors wonder what it means to be human.” Joel is working hard at the moment on the third Cassandra Kresnov novel which is due to be published later in the year. And Crossover will be published later in the year in Russian. The first foreign translation!

Joel Shepherd Breakaway pb $ 18.95
Crossover pb $ 17.95

There has been so much interest in the Solos, Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites, all excellent books for beginner readers, that I am including an updated list of these titles with this newsletter.

A subscription form for Magpies and Literature Base has also been included. Magpies is an excellent children’s literature journal published in Australia. It contains reviews with an emphasis on books from Australia, but there are also reviews on books from elsewhere especially the UK and the US. The journal also contains regular author profiles. Again there is an emphasis on authors from Australia but authors from elsewhere are also included and there are other more general articles of interest. Magpies probably has the widest range of book reviews of any reviewing journal that I know and therefore is especially useful for International Schools. In addition a supplement contains author profiles and reviews of books from New Zealand. Literature Base contains a wide range of practical ideas for using literature in the classroom. Again books from Australia and elsewhere are featured. This is one of the benefits of being a small country - we have never been restricted just to books from Australia.

It’s a shame that I will be missing the Early Childhood Conference in Amsterdam as I was looking forward to giving a presentation on Australian children’s picture books. There are so many excellent ones and many of them have an exuberance which is especially directed at children (and not the parents or grandparents who might buying the books) and that I think is a very good thing. At the same time the books are often understated and are not sentimental (something I know that Australians find a bit too frequently for our liking in some books from the US.)

Picture Books from Australia.

(Prices for all the following titles reviewed are in Australian dollars and include GST of 10% which is not applicable to overseas schools. Orders can be sent to Austral Ed by fax, email or post.)

Shutting the Chooks In by Libby Gleeson and Ann James hardback $26.95
Do you need some explanation of the word “chooks”? It is a lovely, very commonly used, expressive word for hens or chickens. A young country boy goes out to shut the chooks into their chookhouse for the night. He rounds them up and feeds them but as he counts them, he discovers one is missing. Dusk is falling as he goes back to the tractor shed to find her, shuts her safely in and then makes a breathless dash through the darkening shadows to the wamth and light of the house. The text is simple, sparse but rhythmic. The illustrations in charcoal and oil pastels also have a simplicity of outline which captures perfectly the vacant expression of the chooks as well as their frantic flapping and squawking. There is much to discuss in this book. Although it has a distinct Australian flavour with its evening portrait of a working farm with half asleep sheepdogs, there are also universal themes.

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley hardback $24.95
Jackie French lives on a farm in New South Wales where she has an amazing garden and orchards. She shares this garden and its produce with a number of wild creatures, of which her favourite is the wombat, a large barrel-shaped burrowing marsupial. Wombats have fascinated her for years and some years ago she wrote a charming short novel about A Wombat named Bosco pb $9.95. (8 - 11 years) This book is an even more intimate account as it is a diary, of a wombat called Mothball. Here is the entry of the first two pages:

Morning: Slept.
Afternoon: Slept.
Evening: Ate grass. Scratched.
Night: Ate grass. Slept.

(This text is accompanied by charming illustrations of a sleepy, barrel like wombat.)

Tuesday is similar except that she decides that grass is boring and a scratch is good but that it is hard to scratch the itchy bits. On Wednesday she fights a battle with a flat hairy creature that was invading her territory (the doormat). She won the battle and demanded a carrot. It was delicious. She demanded more but humans are slow and not very bright and so she had to chew a hole in the door before more carrots appeared. And so on .... This is a very funny book, full of irony and whimsical humour. Bruce Whatley’s illustrations of this hefty, very determined but endearing wombat are also a delight. The text is very simple but because of the layers of irony children would perhaps need to be about five years old before they could really appreciate the humour. Delightful! I am sure that young children will be inspired to make up their own diaries of animals or creatures that they know and love.

Clancy of the Overflow by A B Paterson illustrated by Kilmeny Niland hardback $26.95
“Banjo” Paterson is one of Australia’s best loved poets. In the early 1900s, many people could quote his poems by heart. His was a somewhat romantic view of the outback. In Clancy of the Overflow an accountant compares his confined tedious life in his dingy city office with Clancy’s roaming life as a drover. (Drovers used to drive large mobs of cattle over huge distances cross country to markets). The accountant longs for the wide open countryside and for the beauty of the sunlit plain and the stars at night but in reality the life of a drover was harsh and often lonely. Niland’s illustrations emphasise the humour in the poem and make it more understandable for young children. The cattle are soft and rounded, as are the Australian bush creatures and even the people. (7 - 11 years)

Jethro Byrde Fairy Child by Bob Graham hardback $27.95
I don’t know how Bob Graham manages to maintain such a high standard in his picture books. Or maybe it is just that his sense of humour really appeals to me. His books have such a wonderful whimsical quality. Here the title page contains a large double page spread of a busy city, streets, cars, apartment blocks. At the back of an apartment block, by a fence and next to a large service station, it is just possible to see a few small figures. This is Annabelle and her family enjoying a bit of sun and a picnic in this rather desolate landscape of bare ground and weeds. Annabelle searches every day for fairies although her dad says that there is little chance to find fairies in weeds and cement. However one day next to an empty can and a bottle top she comes face to face with Jethro Byrde, a Fairy child and his family. She brings them back for a picnic lunch with her family but her father can’t see them. Her mother is very happy to bring them special fairy cakes and tea in tiny cups but looks right through them. Bob Graham succeeds again in bringing a touch of the magic and fantasy of a child’s world to the most mundane of family outings. His is a subtle understated sense of humour which I find utterly charming.

What a wealth of information about the culture and stories of Indonesia is obtained through this series of fifteen beautifully illustrated picture books on Indonesia. Murti Bunanta has been the inspiration behind this exciting bilingual series of traditional Indonesian stories, told and illustrated by Indonesian story tellers and illustrators. Another twelve titles have now been added to the original three, giving a wonderfully varied collection of traditional Indonesian stories, told in Bahasa and in English, from very different regions of the Indonesian archipelago. All were published by Murti Bunanta in Indonesia. The first three titles in the series were:
The Youngest Frog illus by Denny A Djoenid hb $27.95 Retold by Murti Bunanta, the hero, the youngest of seven sons and born as a frog, shows great ingenuity and acquires great riches and finally marries a princess. From Kei Archipelago.
Also Onion and Garlic retold by Made Taro illus by I Ketut Nama hb $27.95 A beautifully illustrated story in the traditional Balinese style, of two sisters, of whom one is lazy and spiteful and the other does all the work but gets no recognition from her parents.
Also Golden Cucumber written and illustrated by Suyadi hb $27.95 Suyadi’s cartoon style in this story from Java shows influence from the west and from Indonesia.
The next twelve titles are:
Joko Kendil, the Rice Pot by Suyadi hb $27.95 This is a variation of the story of the frog prince story but in this Javanese folktale the boy is a mischievous rice pot.
Made and his Four Best Friends told and illustrated by Suyadi hb $27.95. A charming story from Bali about a lazy and thoughtless boy who is kind to animals and is rewarded.
Princess Jasmine retold by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by Hardiyono hb $27.95 A folktale from North Sumatra about a beautiful tiny girl destined to marry a tiny prince.
Senggutur retold by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by Denny A Djoenaid hb $27.95 A story from Java about a confrontation between a brave young girl as big as a thumb and a fierce giant.
Si Molek retold by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by G M Sudarta hb $27.95 A story from Riau of a girl who out of obedience to her parents marries a fish who later turns out to be a handsome young man.
Suwidak Loro retold by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by G M Sudarta hb $27.95 A Javanese story about an ugly daughter who had only sixty two hairs on her head but was still loved very much by her mother.
The Eclipse retold and illustrated by Suyadi hb $27.95 This lively story from East Java explains why people make a loud noise beating rice mortars with pestles during an eclipse of the sun or the moon.
The Legend of the Banyan Tree retold by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by Hardiyono hb $27.95. This moving legend from Java has stunning black and white illustrations.
The Mouse Deer, Kancil and the King of the Jungle retold by Suyadi, illustrated by Denny A Djoenaid hb $27.95 A Javanese story in which Kancil, the clever mouse deer outwits the fierce tiger.
The Mouse Deer and the Turtle retold by Murti Bunanta Illustrated by Denny A Djoenaid hb $27.95 Another story, this time from West Kalimantan, about clever Kancil, the mouse deer.
The Yellow Eggplant retold by Putu Oka Sukanta and illustrated by I Ketut Nama hb $27.95 A beautifully illustrated story in the Balinese style of a wicked father who repents his terrible deeds.
Tiny Boy by Murti Bunanta, illustrated by Hardiyono hb $27.95 This story about a very small but brave and clever hero is from South Sulawesi. The story is also a variation of the story of Hansel and Gretel.
Topitu, The Angel from Heaven. Retold by Hardjana HP, illustrated by R Saptanugraha hb $27.95 A story from central Sulawesi about one of seven angel maidens who meets and falls in love with a human.

Fiction for Beginner Readers

Two new Aussie Nibbles that I especially like are:

The Gorilla Suit by Victor Kelleher illustrated by Stephen Michael King pb $9.95
Victor Kelleher normally writes futuristic or fantasy books for young adults but he obviously had great fun writing this story about Tom who is given a gorilla suit for his birthday. Tom loves the suit and enjoys acting like a young gorilla so much that when he goes to the zoo he insists on wearing it. He falls into the gorilla enclosure where he is greeted affectionately by the gorillas. Tom is retrieved by the keeper and is taken home where he behaves in much the same way. In the morning he refuses to take off his gorilla suit and puts his school unform on top. He is a great success at school but when his parents have finally had enough of him behaving like a gorilla and they search for the zip to take off the gorilla suit - there is no zip. They set off for the zoo to return the gorilla and to fetch Tom who was perfectly happy with the gorillas and none too happy to be rescued. This is a very funny story that works perfectly. Kids will love it and it would also be great to read aloud.

No Cat - and That’s That! by Bruce Dawe illustrated by Andrew McLean pb $9.95
Bruce Dawe usually writes poetry for young adults but has succeeded in writing a most appealing story for young readers about a girl called Sam who desperately wants a cat but since the family has a dog already the answer is a definite no! One night when it is raining she hears a kitten mewing ... It is perhaps a predictable story but it is the way that it is told that determines whether the story works and this one definitely does. It has a surprise twist at the end and is told with humour and warmth with very appealing illustrations by Andrew McLean.

Some librarians have said that the Solos have now become even more popular than the Bites and Nibbles. They are written even more simply, the very earliest chapter books possible. They are usually humourous, child oriented in story and format and are written by established children’s authors.

Toto and the Turkey (Solo) by Kate Darling Illustrated by Janine Dawson pb $9.95
Toto is a little girl who is smaller than the pet family turkey. Toto is frightened of the turkey and very resentful of the fact that the turkey is in her backyard. This is the story of a funny confrontation between the two.

Make Me the Flowergirl (Solo) by Pamela Freeman Illustrated by Jill Carpenter pb $9.95
Megan has wanted to be a flowergirl since she was four years old, but because of her habit of tripping and breaking things it wasn’t till she was six years old that she finally gets her chance. And everything is a great success.

Jack’s Owl (Solo) by Penny Matthews Illustrated by Stephen Michael King pb $ 9.95
This is a story about a magical owl with glowing eyes. The owl comes home with Jack and is happy to eat sausage for a while. Jack doesn’t want to lose his friend but when he sees the owl’s eyes are becoming dull, Jack knows he must let the owl go back to the forest.

The Cabbage Patch Pong by Paul Jennings Illustrated by Craig Smith pb $12.95
This is not an Aussie Bite, Nibble or Solo, it is a very funny sequel to the enormously popular The Cabbage Patch Fib (pb $12.95). In that story Chris had to look after just one green cabbage patch baby but in this story there are fifty green babies and two cows, Petal and Rosebud. The Cabbage Patch stories are for younger children than the very well known “Un” stories also written by Paul Jennings. The second title in the series is The Cabbage Patch War (pb $12.95).


Rain May and Captain Daniel
by Catherine Bateson pb $14.95
This was such an enjoyable story that I read it twice - and there just isn’t enough time to do that very often. Rain is the narrator for most of the story, describing how she and her mother leave the city to start a new life in the country, after her mother and father have separated. There she meets Daniel, an unusually intelligent, chess-loving boy, about the same age, whose mother is very protective of him and who has a rough time at school because of the kids there who have no comprehension of his way of thinking or interests. Daniel’s chapters are written in the form of a Star Trek journal and are highly entertaining. Further contrast in writing styles is provided by fridge poems written by Rain and her mother as a way of talking about things to each other that are hard to say aloud. Rain and Daniel are about eleven years old and are very believable characters. They start up a friendship which is maintained even in the face of ridicule from some of Rain’s new friends at school. Catherine Bateson is a poet and her abilities are evident in her sparkling use of language. There are many very amusing situations in this story of an unusual friendship. (9 - 13 years)

Parvana’s Journey
by Deborah Ellis pb $15.95
This is the sequel to Parvana (pb $14.95) which I reviewed in February. Parvana was an eleven year old girl when the Taliban took power in Kabul. In order to try and get food for the family she had to disguise herself as a boy. This book continues the story of her family’s struggle to survive. She and her father set out travelling north to find the rest of the family and when he dies, she continues on alone, still disguised as a boy. She continually fights exhaustion and hunger and danger from mines and bombs as tries to keep herself and two other children alive. When they finally reach a Camp for Internally Displaced Refugees, conditions in some ways are worse not better as the people there have become so dispirited by the endless waiting in queues for a little bread and water and because of the cold and sickness. Deborah Ellis spent some time interviewing women and children at refugee camps in Afghanistan and so writes convincingly of what she was told. This is a confronting account told in the Parvana’s words of a child’s view of the horror of a country at war. (10 - 15 years)

My Forbidden Face Growing Up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman’s Story by Latifa pb $19.95
This is the true story of Latifa who was born in 1980 into an educated middle class family in Kabul. She was sixteen years old when the Taliban seized power. She was studying to be a journalist and had enjoyed going to the cinema and going out with friends when suddenly with her mother and elder sister, she became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed and her mother was banned from practising as a gynaecologist. This is a vivid and detailed portrait of the days that followed the Taliban’s seizure of power and the desperate circumstances for many Afghanis, especially the women. Although written from a personal point of view, the book is also very helpful in giving some understanding of the complex situation in Afghanistan as it does describe some of the political background, but always within a personal context. Latifa becomes very depressed and sick because of her enforced confinement, but when she, her sister and a friend set up a clandestine school for children they shake off their feeling of utter uselessnes. She is finally invited to speak about the plight of Afghani women in Paris and is smuggled out of the country at great risk. Excellent. (12 years up)

The Girl from the Sea by James Aldridge pb $16.95
This is an entrancing story. Set in the fifties on the coast of Provence between Nice and Monaco, it captures the beauty of a summer spent there by the shimmering sea. It also captures something of the toughness and eccentricity of its people and of its history of fishing and smuggling as well as a sense of the colloquialism of the Provencal dialect and of the wonderful Provencal food. However it is Lelee who is the girl from the sea and the one who captivates us. She swims and dives as though she belongs to the sea and is totally in command of every situation except for her one vulnerability - her inability to read and write. She is just thirteen, the same age as Beau who comes to Provence to stay with his Aunt Mimi in an attempt to recover from a shocking accident that left him half crippled and half blind. The story is told from Beau’s viewpoint. His sister Fanny is just eight years old and the description of how these three children get to know each other and become so attached to each other makes for an absorbing story. (12 years up)

The Full Story by Brian Caswell and David Chiem pb $18.95
This is a companion story to Only the Heart (pb $17.95) which was also written as a collaboration between Brian Caswell, well known children and young adult author, and David Chiem, a Vietnamese Australian. It is a complex beautifully constructed story which describes the intense relationship between Libby and Anh (or Andy as Libby calls him), a Vietnamese Australian. It is a love story but it is also very much about the devastating separateness that grows between Anh and his father, as his father takes to drink to drown his anguish about everything that he lost tragically in Vietnam and as his son tries to work out his own way of life in Australia. The story is vividly and movingly described at times by Libby, at times by a narrator and through flashbacks to Vietnam as the authors endeavour to portray something of the full story of the complexity of relationships and of the experiences of this immigrant community. (14 years up)
Nonfiction with an International Theme

At the display at the ECIS Conference in Berlin, our stand was right next to the IB Organisation display. I really enjoyed the chats I had with a number of IB exhibitors about books whenever there was a brief moment of quiet. There was lots of enthusiasm for some of the titles such as Scripts of the World by Suzanne Bukiet (hardback $46.95), Houses from Many Lands by John Nicholson (pb $15.95) and Picture the World: Children’s Art around the Globe by Tracy Spates (hardback $49.95) which are all listed on the list of recommended Books with an International Theme.
(See the website www.australed.iinet.net.au)

Here are some more titles which I am sure would also be enjoyed. I shall add them to the list as soon as I have time!

Kids Around the World Play! by Arlette N Braman illustrated by Michele Nidenoff pb $24.95
This is an excellent array of games from round the world clearly described and illustrated so that children can make their own and then play them. The games are divided into those that Tease Your Brain, Games of Chance, Board games, Toys and also Games of skill. They include word games from Russia, games of chance from India, China and Italy and Board games from Kenya, Germany and Ancient Egypt. It also contains some interesting additional information about games. I hadn’t realised that the first crossword puzzle was invented only in 1913. There is also information on the history and culture of each country. (8 - 12 years)

Life Be In It Book of World Games pb $29.95
This has an even larger and more varied selection of games from round the world. The descriptions are a little shorter and instructions for making or playing the games perhaps less detailed and so the book is suitable for an older age range. There is an amazing range of games from round the world. (9 years up)

A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World hardback $39.95
This book has been published in association with UNICEF. The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the basic needs of all children and this book explores how these needs are met in countries throughout the world. The book is divided into sections on Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. After a brief general description of these needs, photographs and short text give examples of the lives of children in various parts of the world. As an example, in the section on Survival, the importance of water is discussed followed by a brief description of how three children from India, Afghanistan and Jamaica each have to collect all the water they use in buckets and carry it home. There are similar brief discussions on food, home and health with photographs of children from many countries. There are also major sections on Education, Play, Love and Care and Work. This is a very appealing book with excellent photographs of children round the world showing the diversity of their lives. It provides a good introduction to some very complex questions. (8 - 12 years.)

Art Around the World series hardback $33.95 each
Art Around the World at the Time of Michelangelo (The Renaissance Period)
Art Around the World at the Time of Renoir (The Impressionist Era)
Art Around the World at the Time of Picasso (The Foundations of Modern Art)
Art Around the World at the Time of Warhol (The Development of Modern Art)
The concept of showing what was going on in art around the world at a given period of time is an excellent one. In practice the emphasis is very much on European art and the descriptions of what is happening in art in other countries around the world are very short. Still it is a good introduction and students can then go on to do their own further research. The sections on European artists from both the Renaissance and the Impressionist periods are excellent. Beautifully presented with many colour plates of paintings from the period, the text is clear, interesting and very informative and includes details of social and technological changes which contributed to some of the striking developments in art at those times. I hadn’t realised that such a simple but important technical change as the availability of small readymade tubes of oil paint made it much easier for artists to paint “en plein air” during the Impressionist period. Fascinating. (11 years up)

Reference Books

Young Writers Guide 2nd edition by Rodney Martin pb $24.75
Never having consulted a writers guide before and with memories of grammar at school which are not happy ones, I picked up this Writers Guide reluctantly and to my surprise found myself browsing through the entire book. It is fascinating. As the book explains, it is not at all a grammar textbook. It explains and gives examples of English language in use and techniques for writing. The setting out is very simple and makes for easy browsing. I guess the main attractions for me were the examples of usage. Many were very funny and others just extremely interesting. As an illustration of writing style, the following sentences were given:

“The child bit the dog.
The dog was bitten by the child.
“I bit the dog,” said the child.
By the child in a fit, the doggy was bit.
The youngster bit the pooch.
The kid sank her teeth into the mutt.”

Great for beginning a discussion of writing styles! There is also a section of word histories which again I found fascinating. Did you know that the word shampoo comes from the Hindi word champo meaning to massage? Biros are named after the original inventor, Laszlo Biro a Hungarian journalist who was a journalist and wanted a pen with ink that dried quickly. Window means “eye of the wind” and comes from the Viking vindr (wind ) and auga (eye). A vindauga was a hole in the wall which let air in. And by the way do you know why the word answer is spelt with a silent letter w? The answer is in the book. This guide is an excellent reference to help young writers think about the different ways of structuring reports, recounts or arguments etc and it is also full of information on writing conventions. It is also available as a CD-ROM $59.40 For upper elementary and also middle school students.

Learning for the Future : Developing Information Services in Schools 2nd edition Australian School Library Association and the Australian Library and Information Association pb $32.95
Not being a librarian, I don’t normally review books such as these as I don’t know enough about librarianship to assess them. However a number of librarians in European International Schools have told me that this book has attracted considerable interest and discussion and so I thought I could at least outline the contents of the book. Learning for the Future focuses on the advancements in technology over recent years. It contains chapters on Learners and Learning, Teaching and Teaching, Resourcing the Curriculum, Facilitating Access to Information and Developing the Physical Environment and has appendices on Policy Statements and Staffing. It discusses the practice of effective learning and successful development of information and communication technologies in both primary and secondary schools. It looks like a very useful resource.

If you would like to order any of the books reviewed in this newsletter or in the accompanying list, send orders to Austral Ed by fax, post or email.

All prices are in Australian dollars. Prices include GST of 10% which is not applicable to overseas schools.

For additional lists of recommended books and newsletters from Austral Ed, visit our website www.australed.iinet.net.au

© Kate Shepherd 2010.