Our Country, Our Stories – Reviews and Activities

It’s that glorious time again where teachers, parents, children, literacy creatives and advocates raid the bookshelves (and craft cupboards) in honour of the annual Book Week celebrations! Hosted by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and running from August 20th to 26th, this year’s theme is inspiring; it’s ‘Australia! Story Country’.

Last year I wrote the articles Books Light Up Our World and More Books to Light Up Our World posts. In accordance, this year I will provide a summary of books in the Early Childhood category from the CBCA’s Shortlisted Award winners along with an educational activity relating to the Book Week theme.

So let’s praise these amazing creators in their talents and ability to empower our nation to love and celebrate reading, learning and books!

imagePiranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, Aaron Blabey (author, illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

Review –
A little bit crude, extremely cheeky but so very funny, ‘Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas’ is an absolute crack up (pardon the puns!). Aaron Blabey certainly utilises his winning formula with his witty rhyming couplets, tongue-in-cheek (there’s that pun again!) humour, pesky yet endearing characters and in-your-face illustrations. Persistent pirahna, Brian, desperately tries to persuade his meat-loving gang that fruit and vegetables are the preferred dietary option, as opposed to human body parts! But they refuse to change their flesh-eating ways, and that is the bottom line (sorry!). Energetic,  hysterical and refreshing, not to be missed!

Educational Activity –
Literacy: Reading
Make your own playing cards with words and pictures of your favourite fruits and vegetables. Play matching games such as Memory or Snap.

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Arts
Make a fish-to-piranha fold (and other Australian sea life) and feed it with the words and pictures, naming them as you go. See paper fold instructions at Craft Whack.

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imageOllie and the Wind, Ronojoy Ghosh (author, illus.), Random House Australia, 2015.

Review –
Here’s a feisty, vibrant story to encourage fresh perspectives and bonding on another level. Young Ollie hopes to be reunited with his scarf and hat that were suddenly snatched from him by the wind. In his attempts to get on side with this ‘invisible’ being, Ollie offers some of his favourite toys, and even engages in a nighttime, kite-flying escapade. Will his mood end on a high? Minimal yet impactful, Ghosh’s words and pictures are equally full of depth and meaning, uniqueness and charisma. ‘Ollie and the Wind’ is a playful exploration of friendship and meteorology ideal for preschoolers.

Educational Activity –
Language, Arts
To represent the Indigenous culture, make a dot painting showing an abstract wind or your favourite flying activity to do at the beach. For example, flying a kite, boomerang, remote airplane / helicopter, parachute, etc. Select only three or four colours of acrylic paint and cotton buds to create your picture. You might even like to do a dot painting on natural objects such as rocks, shells or sticks on a wind chime.

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imageMy Dog Bigsy, Alison Lester (author, illus.), Penguin Random House Australia, 2015.

Review –
Children from age two will take huge delight in this energetic romp with the most lovable four-legged pooch around. Alison Lester’s cut out characters and frayed-edged textures make for a gorgeously rustic feel as Bigsy galavants his way around the farm. The animated onomatopoeia provides another sensory backdrop facilitating an engaging listening and language experience for its readers. With true blue Aussie animals from screeching cockies to thumping kangaroos, snuffling horses and lazy cattle, fearless pigs and non-mathematical hens. In ‘My Dog Bigsy’, there’s plenty of fun and action, and some snuggle time with a favourite friend too. Just adorable!

Read about our special meeting with Alison Lester here.

Educational Activity –
Language, Arts, Biology.
Make your own textured book with the animals seen in the story and their associated sounds. Use materials including a range of fabrics, coloured and textured paper for children to feel. Discuss and animate the sounds of the animals.

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There are some gorgeous Quiet Book ideas at Whitney McAdams’ blog.

imagePerfect, Danny Parker (author), Freya Blackwood (illus.), Little Hare Books, 2015.

Review –
Three children and their cat enjoy a beautifully carefree Summer baking, constructing and balancing on fallen tree logs out in the fresh air. With Danny Parker’s lush, poetic verse and Freya Blackwood’s transcendent, soft beachy shades, the characters’ path of exploration and discovery along the seaside is the ‘perfect’ big day out. Tranquil, radiant and tender, ‘Perfect’ perfectly captures the spirit and warmth of childhood and togetherness.

Educational Activity –
Language, Arts
Make a sensory tub with items found in nature, including sand, tanbark, sticks, gumnuts, flowers, leaves, rocks, etc. Add in other things to represent your favourite outdoor activities, such as a container of water for a beach / pool, or make structures of famous Australian landmarks. Create your own photo stick puppet for role playing on your ‘big day out’.

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imageMr Huff, Anna Walker (author, illus.), Penguin Books, 2015.

Review –
A story of apprehension, life’s meaning and beauty, ‘Mr Huff’ is an emotionally-charged book that touches every heart and soul to the core. In her characteristically gorgeous manner, Anna Walker has yet again masterfully incorporated humour, delight and depth amongst the darkness that exists within the main character’s mind. Bill goes on a soul-searching journey to reclaim his positive outlook on life. Along the way he is overshadowed by Mr Huff; his symbolic worry and internal struggle, with whom precedes Bill at every part of the day. It takes a raging storm to explode and finally the sun is able to shine through the clouds again. Multi-textured and layered on every level, from the intricate illustrations to the delicacies of the theme of anxiety, ‘Mr Huff’ is a sensitive, empowering and charming book for young and old. (See more here from our visit to Anna Walker’s Mr Huff Exhibition).

Educational Activity –
Social/Emotional, Language, Arts
Discuss a variety of emotions and how they affect you, including happiness, worry, anger, etc. Make a chart/s with pictures and words reflecting a chosen emotion. For example, draw and write about things in your life (outings, people, toys, food, etc) that make you happy, worried, and so on. How do you deal with each emotion? Which one/s do you like/dislike? Can you change the way you are feeling if you don’t like it? You might like to try illustrate your pictures like Anna Walker does with cut out drawings, collage or stamping.

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imageThe Cow Tripped Over the Moon, Tony Wilson (author), Laura Wood (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

Review –
Based on the old nursery rhyme, ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, here is a hilarious version of a determined cow and his graciously encouraging friends. Recapping all the highlights of how the jump over the moon actually panned out, we are thrown in the midst of the hapless cow’s seven challenging attempts to conquer his feat. With plenty of trips, crashes, meterorite-rides and bottoms-a-blazing, it is the support of his mates that helps Cow fulfil his happy ending. Together Tony Wilson and illustrator Laura Wood have produced a clever, witty and all-round moo-tastic read aloud book with ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’.

Educational Activity –
Language, Numeracy, Arts
Count how many times the cow attempted to jump over the moon. What attempts did he make and how did he fail? Make a number wheel showing the cow on his journey around the moon. Write the numbers as numerals and words. Decorate the front with the cow’s humorous attempts, and make a cow stick puppet to circle the wheel, counting as you go. It might be fun to act out the story, or chart the moon’s phases, too!

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Check out the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s website for ‘Australia! Story Country’ downloads and Book Week ideas.
And here are some Book Week costumes from Mum’s Grapevine to get you inspired.

Any other ideas or links are most welcome! Enjoy your Book Week! 😍 📚

This post appeared first on Just Write For Kids.

Lessons and photography by Romi Sharp, BECS, Dip.Ed (Primary).

© My Little Story Corner, 2016.

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All sourced resources have been credited. These educational ideas are for personal and classroom use only and are not permitted for commercial use without written consent.

This post contains affiliate links to Boomerang Books.

These reviews and lessons are not paid and are my own educated opinion.

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