Monday, 29 February 2016

Tigger on the Couch by Laura James

This book was just gorgeous and for me, filled a literary void. Tigger on the Couch is a clever little exploration of the “neuroses, psychoses, disorders and maladies of our favourite childhood characters.” Each section of the book takes a different fictional setting and looks at the characters that reside there. From Tigger in the Hundred Acre Wood to Alice in Wonderland, Tigger on the Couch has it covered and the case notes are especially brilliant (yep, each character has his / her / its own case notes and diagnoses!). My personal favourites were the Big Bad Wolf (psychopathy), Peter Rabbit (oppositional defiant disorder) and the Wicked Witch (explosive personality disorder). Pretty funny, I know.

Although, at first, I was concerned that the book might ruin childhood fairytales and stories that I had grown up on, let me assure you, it didn’t. If anything it revived them for me (more than once I found myself laughing out loud at just how eccentric and, well, nutty my favourite characters actually are when inspected more closely).

Tigger on the Couch is a witty, original and humorous take on some much loved characters from the pages of story-ville. It’s light, well written and extremely accessible with author Laura James doing a fine job of balancing the clinical with the fantastic.


While this item is not available for loan through our library catalogue you can order a copy via LibraryLink Victoria. LibraryLink Victoria allows you to search other library catalogues and place interlibrary loan requests online. You will need your library card and PIN/Password in order to place your Inter-library loan request. Requests should only be submitted for items not held by Greater Dandenong Libraries and the Swift Library Consortia.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Nick Sharratt

Nick Sharratt is one of those talented creative individuals that can write and illustrate! That’s no mean feat. His distinct style is sentences that rhyme promoting phonetic awareness, guessing ‘what’s next...’ encouraging prediction, and bold bloopy illustrations that are clear enough to quickly identify narrative. These qualities make a terrific choice for early childhood reading. I have read his stories at our Preschool Storytime with good response from children and giggles from carers.

Here are a few of the books I keep on hand for any impromptu reading to young children knowing that they won’t be able to resist joining in:

In the spirit of Nick Sharratt I’ll try my hand at a rhyming ending...
“Happy reading little ones, turn the first page, the fun has just begun!”


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

A friend who’s an author recommended this book. If I recall correctly, she placed it in my hands and said something along the lines of, “This is how every writer should write. You have to read it. It’s the perfect novel.” Big, big call for such a little, little book. Big, big call for any book really.

So, I took her bait and read Dept of Speculation on a train ride home from Warnambool and... I savoured every. Single. Page. I clung to every. Single. Word. I read as slowly and as mindfully as I possibly could without tampering with its beautiful, melody; rhythm.

At its heart it’s a portrait of a marriage. A simple, yet very candid portrait of a marriage. In its entirety though, it’s so much more. I cried and cried and cried so many times while reading this book. Sometimes out of sadness but a lot of the time because it was just so beautiful and technically, well, perfect (yes, my friend’s big, big call was right). It was one of those books that managed to capture all that real ‘stuff’ that makes your life what it is; your relationships what they are but that you can never put your finger on for long enough to be able to express it; articulate it.

I’m not sure whether Dept of Speculation is a poem... or short novel... or symphony and that doesn’t bother me because this book occupies a very, very special space of its own. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


Monday, 22 February 2016

Remembering Harper Lee and Umberto Eco

Over the weekend we lost two literary greats, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. American author Harper Lee (89) passed away on Thursday while Italian philosopher and writer Umberto Eco (84) passed on Friday.

Harper Lee published two novels in her literary career: To kill a mockingbird, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and Go set a watchman, which was published 50 years after her first novel.

Umberto Eco published multiple works but is best known for his novel The Name of the Rose. He also wrote children’s books and literary criticism. He once said “I am a philosopher. I write novels only on the weekend". His last novel, Numero Zero was published in 2015.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Giraffes Can’t Dance By Giles Andreae

Gerald the giraffe longs to dance, but his legs are too skinny and his neck is too long. His knees buckle whenever he tries to twirl. At the Jungle Dance, the warthogs waltz, the chimps cha-cha, and the lions tango. "Giraffes can't dance," they all jeer when it's Gerald's turn to prance. But there is one little creature who believes in Gerald. "Everything makes music," the cricket explains, "if you really want it to." So Gerald starts swaying to his own sweet tune.

Giraffes can’t dance is an enchanting story which teaches children that not everyone is the same and that we all have hidden talents. This is beautiful story for the young and old.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Magician’s Trilogy by Lev Grossman

Think Harry Potter. Think Enid Blyton. Think Narnia. Think The Secret History. Now think all those things together... in the one book. No I’m not kidding, this trilogy is all those things and so much more.

Join Quentin Coldwater on an extraordinary journey of self discovery as he seeks escape from his depressing, monotonous New York life in the wonderful world of magic (modern day sorcery, in New York, really? You betcha!).

Could it be possible that the magical land of Fillory that Quentin read about all those years ago as a child actually exists?

Can he find a way to get there?

Part adventure, part magic, part sci-fi, part thriller, I simply could not put this series of books down.

Enthralling, engrossing, enticing and so pertinent in this ‘grass is greener’ era where we all want more.


Click on the image to place your hold

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

New fiction for February

We have a great mix of new titles for you this month, which is timely as the holds limit has just been increased from 10 to 20 holds per library card.

Medusa chronicles Stephen Baxter
Death of a nurse M.C. Beaton
Jonathan Dark or the evidence of ghosts A.K. Benedict
14th colony Steve Berry
Marked in flesh Anne Bishop
Fire touched Patricia Briggs
Remembrance Meg Cabot
At the edge of the orchard Tracy Chevalier
Devonshire scream Laura Childs
Time of torment John Connolly
Art of war Stephen Coonts
Graveyard of the Hesperides Lindsey Davis
Steel kiss Jeffery Deaver
Lyre thief Jennifer Fallon
Dark promises Christine Feehan
She’s not there Joy Fielding
Vanished Lotte Hammer
Into oblivion Arnaldur Indridason
Other side of silence Philip Kerr
Waters of eternal youth Donna Leon
Passenger Lisa Lutz
Violent crimes Phillip Margolin
Indigo storm Fleur McDonald
No safe secret Fern Michaels
Two if by sea Jacquelyn Mitchard
Mother’s love Santa Montefiore
Under Italian skies Nicky Pellegrino
Obsession Nora Roberts
Now and again Charlotte Rogan
Property of a noble woman Danielle Steel
Road to hell David Weber
Guardian Jack Whyte

Simply click on your chosen title/s and you will be directed to The Vault, where you can place your holds. Remember, all holds are free of charge.


Friday, 5 February 2016

Parent’s Survival Guide to Starting Secondary School by Molly Potter

All this week we'll be featuring staff recommended reads to help you while your child starts kinder, primary or secondary school or is changing schools.

When the suggestion was made that I am in the perfect situation to review A Parent’s Survival Guide to Starting Secondary School, my first thought was one of ‘well, I’m already sorted and there’s probably not much of value in that for me’.

How wrong I was.

This book provides valuable background information which can help parents or carers anticipate any difficulties that their children may experience with the move from primary to secondary school. Useful advice is given aimed at supporting your child through the emotional & social changes that they will encounter. I was pleasantly surprised.

The chapter headings in the book include: Choosing the ‘right’ school ; Preparing for the move ; Starting secondary school ; Settling in ; Heading for the teenage years.

While the book has some elements that are specific to the UK, most of the content will be of value for any child and parent undertaking a similar journey in Australia.

Given that we have already decided on a secondary school for our child, I assumed that the information from the first chapter, Choosing the ‘right’ school, would be of little relevance. Wrong again. In addition to general advice, the chapter covered issues that go beyond the school’s academic reputation and alert you to the ‘extras’ which also define a good school.

The chapters titled Preparing for the move & Starting secondary school cover the issues of anxiety and worry (for both child & parent) and ways in which personality differences will impact on the coping strategies the child may adopt. Both the academic differences and the feelings around change that your child may experience are discussed.

The final two chapters, titled Settling in & Heading for the teenage years, cover all the standard issues of homework, bullying, puberty, relationships and associated life events. Here you are encouraged to listen and communicate with your child at every step of the process.

Overall, this easy to read book has much to offer any parent and child about to undertake the secondary school journey. The book contains many tools that have the potential to be life-changing for both parent and child. Why not set the foundation together?

Also found within this book, is also one of the most enlightening definitions about the futility of worrying that I’ve ever read. Let me know if you agree.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Starting School Survival Guide by Sarah Ebner

All this week we'll be featuring staff recommended reads to help you while your child starts kinder, primary or secondary school or is changing schools.

The Starting School Survival Guide is a helpful and practical read, especially for those parents who have children entering school for the first time and feel that they may not be as well informed as they would like (which is probably most of us). Although the book is drawing upon a UK context, the content is still relevant for an Australian schooling and parenting framework.

Being a guide, the book is just that and tries to direct rather than chastise for whatever has been overlooked or neglected. Consequently, the tone is supportive. The material is also comprehensive and well written.

The book actually begins with school selection, which can be daunting enough in itself, but then spends the remaining chapters unpacking the logistical, social, academic, emotional and behavioural aspects that go hand in hand with the school journey.

Within each chapter, there are several subheadings that attempt to break down the topic into more manageable bits of information. For instance, in chapter 2, preparing your child for school, is broken into, ‘seven sensible-and practical-suggestions to make the transition easier,’ each of which carries a sub heading ranging from talking about school to practising social skills and making friends for you and your child.

The structure of each chapter is also very reader friendly, each chapter usually contains information followed by dot points with questions that parents could be asking of themselves, prospective schools or local authorities. This is usually followed by a relevant quote from a parent or field expert that helps to round out the subject being addressed. This is evidenced in the chapter on navigating the school cliques for children, ‘whenever my two boys have any problems with school friends (which luckily isn’t often) I go on the offensive and ask the other child home to play ASAP. That gives me the chance to a) see for myself what is going on (they might be little angels for the first 15 minutes, but after that, tend to revert to type) and b) make my own comments about what is and isn’t acceptable in ‘our’ house. ’ (Clare mother of two boys, 7 and 4) There are usually quotes for and against particular issues and that tries to maintain a balanced appraisal of a respective topic.

Overall, The Starting School Survival Guide is a useful tool for parents who would simply like some forewarning of what could lie ahead. Given that schooling is such an integral experience in a child’s life, parents might find that the Survival Guide provides a torchlight on unconsidered issues or quite possibly a positive reinforcement of existing approaches.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Birdie's first day of school by Sujean Rim

All this week we'll be featuring staff recommended reads to help you while your child starts kinder, primary or secondary school or is changing schools.

Even though this story is specifically about school, it addresses the sorts of emotions that we all deal with when experiencing new things. Opening on Birdie in her bed unable to sleep in a very gray room, we are presented with an all too familiar discomfort of nervousness and anxiety at the prospect of the new day, bringing with it a new way of life. On the next page, the child-like spirit emerges as Birdie thinks of all the ways she could prepare for her big day, filled with toys, clothes and stationery of various colours and types. This is soon replaced by the insecurity of the possible events that could occur during this new experience: from learning new things, meeting new people, having a bad lunch or that the teacher might be a werewolf (even adults have worry they might have a boss like this).

From this point on the story does get typically ideal, in that everyone is well behaved, gets along and enjoys themselves. Birdie’s mother provides her with a “security blanket” in the form of a locket with Mum and pet dog photos inside. When Birdie reaches her classroom, everything is well ordered and all the children have their pigeon-holes ready to go with their names. The teacher (not a werewolf) welcomed them and begun the day with a “really great book”. Even the lunch was delicious. Coming back to the locket just before the end of the book is really effective, as it presents children with the sort of feeling they may have for the whole day, even with positive experiences: missing the familiar/comfortable comes with its own challenges and this scene shows how we can cope with that change, even in its simplistic way.

The design is sparse but colourful. Primarily utilising image cut-outs and water-colours, the pages do not waste on what is presented; that the pages are white when there is no illustration. The text itself has some structure appearing in blocks, rather than the (appropriate) chaos of some picture books, as well as using a professional looking font, that is easy to read but might not be as appealing to children (Again this is not necessarily relevant seeing as most children at this age aren’t reading).


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Tolon Brown

All this week we'll be featuring staff recommended reads to help you while your child starts kinder, primary or secondary school or is changing schools.

This picture book would act as a useful tool for parents with children about to enter kindergarten/pre-primary/prep, however it must be noted that this book is from a US perspective, therefore preschool is before kindergarten. In Victoria, Australia, for whom this review is for, schooling starts with kindergarten at 3/4 years old, moving to prep at 5 and beginning Grade 1 in the year turning 6. It may be an idea if using this book, to explain to your children that different countries/states may start or approach school in slightly different ways, but that education and getting along with others outside of a familiar setting are the core aspects of schooling.

Utilising a font that is reminiscent of our days in early schooling, children may appreciate this design, more closely related to their own attempts at writing, and be better engaged by it than typical “professional” fonts, even if they can’t necessarily read it.

Building on the anxiety that children would be feeling at this time, the book illustrates this in the first few pages in Monkey’s anxiety and not being ready, culminating with a very busy double-page spread of a panicked Monkey asking negatively skewed “What if...?” questions. From here, the book attempts to assuage parents/children through showing what kindergarten will be like, gradually reducing Monkey’s anxiety (and hopefully any children still worried about school).

The story ends beautifully with just the positive image of kindergarten and the wonderful experiences that are had there. Once Monkey has arrived and his parents has asked “Ready?” the words stop, only illustrating Monkey’s happy entrance to kindergarten and the amazing day he has playing with friends.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Going to playschool by Sarah Garland

All this week we'll be featuring staff recommended reads to help you while your child starts kinder, primary or secondary school or is changing schools.

A very simple, yet effective picture book for parents with children preparing for socialising and learning with others and going to playschool/playgroup. Its a pleasant transitional narrative that illustrates to families the types of experiences they can have as they leave the comfort of home and spend substantial parts of the day with ‘strangers’ at a playgroup.

While the text itself is purposely and effectively sparse, the images are what will prepare children for the environment they are about to enter. Initially, the reader is presented with 2 families approaching the playschool, of differing ethnicities, which is important to highlight to children the idea of diversity and multiculturalism: That others may look different, but we are all equal and can play together.

The image of shyness and discomfort that one of the children is expressing is one that a lot of children will identify with in this time of change, and its inclusion is important for parents to address. Additionally, some children will be excited or curious about this time, as is expressed by the 2 babies of this picture, but being in a more positive state requires less attention from the parent as this child is already content.

Considering the busyness of the pictures, it will be this part of the story that will get parents and children to communicate. As parents read the words, children will notice the pictures and will likely point out things that interest them or ask questions about things that might worry them, or how to behave around others.