George by Alex Gino

Published: 25th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

I loved George from the get go. At ten years old, George knows who she is and she is tired of living as a boy like others see her. While she doesn’t feel she can do much about it just yet, she can dream. She is honest to herself and she keeps a very big secret but tries to not let it get her down. Gino gets us into George’s mind early on and we see how she sees herself and how she wants to express her true self to the world. She came across as every bit a ten year old, Gino doesn’t try to age her, but they do explore these feelings and thoughts George is having and how she struggles to be the person other people want her to be.

Gino pushes how gendered George’s life is and how she is always forced into situations that make her uncomfortable. The other explanation is that US school are so gender separated which is weird in itself. Either way, it helps to express how George is feeling and the decisions she has to make every day. The focal point of Charlotte’s Web and the play was divine and seeing George draw courage and comfort from Charlotte sometimes breaks your heart.

One of the important truths that Gino explores is that even the nicest parents may not be understanding. While George’s mother doesn’t reject her, she isn’t entirely accepting either. On the other hand I absolutely adored George’s older brother Scott. There is something great about older brother/younger sibling relationships which are so heartfelt, even if those moments are few. Kelly is also an incredible friend and accepting and supportive but not in an over the top or token way. She demonstrates how easily kids accept things, it is the adults who often need more convincing.

It was beautiful to see George and her relationship with Kelly develop even further during the lead up to the play and I loved George for her devotion and her bravery. This is a great message for everyone but especially for kids that anything is possible and while there may be some barriers, all you can do is try. I was expecting the play to be the final moment of George’s story but Gino takes it a bit further and doing so adds an extra element which in some ways may even more important.

This is such an significant book and Gino has done a fantastic job at showing the innocence and the maturity of young transgender kids and there is so much to learn from this story. Overall this is an uplifting story and seeing George’s personal development through the story makes your heart soar.

You can purchase George via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

How Rocket Learnt To Read by Tad Hills

Published: 27th July 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Schwartz & Wade
Illustrator: Tad Hills
Pages: 40
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

This sweet picture book starring an irresistible dog named Rocket and his teacher, a little yellow bird, is perfect for back-to-school! Follow along as Rocket masters the alphabet, sounds out words, and finally . . . learns to read all on his own.

This is the CUTEST book. This is the story of how the little dog Rocket learns to read with the help of a little yellow bird. I can see this being a great book for teaching kids how to spell, though it’s not the sole purpose of the story. It is contained within an adorable story and coupled with the CUTEST illustrations. Hills makes Rocket so expressive and it really conveys when he is excited or annoyed or intimidated.

Hill’s narrative is adorable as well, this little bird starts reading a book and at first annoys Rocket but he soon becomes engaged and intrigued by the story and wants to know how it finishes. The little bird helps Rocket to read and teaches him how to spell all the wonderful things around him.

I love this book, it’s simple and easy to understand and a great tool in how to get kids engaged with learning to spell and how to practice in every day situations. Even away from that it’s a sweet story about Rocket and his love of learning to read and the steps he takes to read, all so he can read a story himself.

I loved seeing how proud Rocket was of his progress, the illustrations marry with the narrative incredible well, and the cute factor definitely played into my enjoyment. I found myself being proud of Rocket and his achievement and I was excited for him to read a story for himself.

You can purchase How Rocket Learnt to Read via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

Angus and Robinson | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton

Published: 1st December 1982Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Laurel Leaf
Pages: 115
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a generosity of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his rowdy students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as enduring as the institution itself. And sad but grateful faces told the story when the time came for the students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips.

 

I can see why this is a much loved and adored book. It took me no more than an hour to read but it is so heartfelt and beautifully written that I could have flipped back to page one and spent another hour in the life of Mr Chipping. This book follows the story of a teacher at an English school through the changes and historical events of the late 19th to the early decades of the 20th century. Mr Chips is wonderfully depicted and his love of his job and commitment is amazing. As the book ended I was so involved that while it was emotional, it was also comforting and almost reassuring I guess. I don’t really know how else to put it. I highly recommend this to anybody and everybody.

You can purchase Goodbye, Mr Chips via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Sorry Day by Coral Vass

Published: 1st May 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
National Library of Australia
Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows a willingness to make things right. The story commemorates both the momentous speech made by the Prime Minister of Australia to say sorry to the indigenous people for past abuse and to also recognise the decades of abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. Told through the eyes of a young girl participating in the ceremony today and, in sepia colours, the eyes of the stolen children in the past.

The anniversary of the apology is actually in February but it is recognised in May as part of National Sorry Day, a day first held on 26 May, 1998. In 2008 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave the apology that indigenous people had been rightly asking for for years, the one that apologised to the stolen generation for the way they had been treated by the government for decades.

I remember vividly watching this on TV, I cried then and I cried now. This is a remarkable book as it celebrates the momentous speech by Kevin Rudd but it also shows the past and the horrors indigenous people had to endure. Vass uses Rudd’s real words and she weaves it into this young girl’s story, not quite understanding the impact, but we see it through her mum and the adults around her.

As one story unfolds about that wonderful February day, it is shadowed by the realities of the history those words represent. The contrast from page to page is a stark reminder and a beautifully heartbreaking juxtaposition about the two eras, and what the importance of the speech means. In the present a young girl loses the hand of her mother and is lost momentarily in the crowd, in the past, young children lose their parents forever.

I loved that each page threw up into a different time in history. From the lawns of Canberra, to the creeks where children hide in terror, then back to watching the speech. It is such a powerful move to bring the voices of the past into the present.

Leffler uses colour to show the differences between eras, colours for the present, with sepia depicting the past. The images are vivid and emotive and coupled with Vass’ words and my own understanding of history, it is incredibly clever to see these two moments side by side.

What I found interesting was the information included at the back about the history from the stolen generation to Prime Minster Keating in the 90s to Rudd in 2008. As I said, Sorry Day is recognised every single year and it is important that people acknowledge and understand what it means.

More people need to remember this speech, remember the impact it had, but also remember why it needed to be said in the first place and wonder just why it took so long to be said. This is the ideal book to tell the story in an impactful yet gentle way and it is certainly one that can spark great discussions.

You can purchase Sorry Day via the following

BooktopiaDymocks

 WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

NSS: Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove

Today is the National Simultaneous Storytime. This event is held annually across Australia and New Zealand in a bid to promote the value of reading and literacy, the joy of books, and it gives a great chance for parents, carers, grandparents, the media and others to participate and enjoy the occasion. Each year a picture book is chosen which was written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator, and is read simultaneously (hence the name) in libraries, schools, bookshops, households, and many other places around the country and across the ditch.

This year at 11:00am participants across Australia and New Zealand will be reading Matt Cosgrove’s Alpacas with Maracas, an excellent addition to the Macca family. If you were unaware of this event or are unable to participate, never fear, Cosgrove’s books are a delight to read at any time of day alone or with a few million people alongside you. If you like, there is still time to check out your local bookshop or library as there is a strong chance they will have a storytime session running that you can attend.

There are many fun things involved with NSS, there are bookmarks, colouring, masks and a host of other activities that each location may be running. You can find more fun activities via the NSS website. To find out more about Matt Cosgrove visit his website.

Because it is NSS today, of course I am going to have to break my Picture Book Corner rules and post on a Wednesday, but for Macca it is totally worth it. I adore Cosgrove’s book so to be able to celebrate his work for such a momentous day is pretty fantastic.

Published: July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Koala Books
Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Macca and pal Al are the best of friends and LOVE spending time together.

When there is an opportunity to enter a talent contest, they just can’t resist. 

But what will their act be? Will they shimmy and shake? Dance and prance? Whatever they choose it will surely be a performance to remember!

Once again Cosgrove has delivered with a funny story featuring our favourite alpaca, Macca. This time Macca is joined by his best mate Al as they try and put their talent to the test and win a contest. I love the boundless enthusiasm of Macca and Al, they are fearless and determined and they want to do something in the show they just don’t know what.

The highlight of all Cosgrove books are his brilliant, adorable illustrations. I love the illustrations because they are bright and colourful, and Macca’s eyes are so delightful and cute that you can’t help but fall in love. I also love how much emotion is portrayed through these alpacas. You see their joy and playfulness as Cosgrove shows off their friendship with humour and love.

Bookmarks we’re giving out at work as well as one of the many cute badges.

One thing I adore about Cosgrove’s books is his rhythmic storytelling. Not only are the rhymes wonderful, but they suit the story and characters. The story is brilliantly lyrical as well; the flow as you read aloud or to yourself has a fantastic pace that makes the narrative seamless.

Cosgrove puts so much personality into his characters that even in a relatively short story, with not many words and not much room to explore, he still can create unique and exciting characters. This is another fantastic addition to Macca’s adventures and it one everyone will love.

You can purchase Alpacas with Maracas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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