Choosing books for young readers

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Reading – Choosing what to read in the holidays? and included an infographic. In the first week of our school holidays I have spent my time looking after three primary school children. Two are just beginning to read on their own. The weather has been cold so although we have spent some time outside, we have also done a few indoor activities as well. Reading with the two boys was part of it. It was a great way to share my enjoyment of some of my favourite children’s books. The boys enjoyed snuggling up and being read to as well as having a go themselves. The Peter Rabbit stories are currently being televised as a cartoon and this was a great starting point.

I thought would share this infographic that seeks to give some advice about books for younger readers if  you are interested in some more  ideas about what might make good starting point. The following is another infographic, created by Personal Creations, that might be a useful starting point. They have analyzed over 50 popular children’s books, from the classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit to the more contemporary bestseller, Harry Potter and given some idea about how long it might take younger readers to finish the books.

They followed the fluency standards for elementary grades, based on academic fluency standards (US) and calculated how long it takes kids to read these books.

How Long It Takes Kids to Read Popular Books shows each book accompanied with the number of words, and the reading time – split into three grades: 2, 3, and 4.

Wondering where your child falls in this list? Follow the fluency standards for elementary grades 1 – 6 below and you can quickly calculate how long it’ll take your eager reader.

Grade 1: 50 words per minute (wpm)
Grade 2: 70 wpm
Grade 3: 100 wpm
Grade 4: 130 wpm
Grade 5: 140 wpm
Grade 6: 160 wpm

Reading comprehension is not built into calculations and it is important to talk about what the young reader has understood about the text and illustrations, but most of all the activity needs to be about encouraging an enjoyment of reading.

Please include attribution to PersonalCreations.com with this graphic.

How Long It Takes To Read Popular Kids Books by PersonalCreations.com

Advertisements

My Gallipoli: Ruth Starke adds another great book to the ANZAC stories

My Gallipoli

My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke, illustrator Robert Hannaford
This very poignant picture book is the second picture book centered around the Gallipoli story that Ruth Starke has  written. The first being An ANZAC Tale (2013) with Greg Holfeld as the illustrator. This book was a CBCA notable book for that year.

This book looks at the history of Gallipoli, from the months immediately before the landing at Anzac Cove in April 1915, through to the Allied retreat and the aftermath of the First World War, and beyond to the present day, where people make pilgrimages to this historic campaign site and take part in increasingly large commemoration ceremonies.

These are rich stories, of courage, valour, bravery, fatalism, despair and loss, told from many different perspectives. There are direct accounts from real participants such as the Australian war correspondent C.E.W. Bean, Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), the weary Chaplain Bill McKenzie who is trying to give the dead a decent burial, Anzac war scout Harry Freame, sniper Billy Sing and Lieutenant Cyril Hughes, a Gallipoli veteran who was with the Graves Registration Unit, part of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
These stories are intermingled with factually based descriptions from other characters including the exhausted nurse treating wounded soldiers aboard HMS Gascon on the night of 25 April, a young indigenous soldier who was more equal in Gallipoli than at home, a mother seeing her wounded son disembark and realising the extent of his injuries for the first time, and an old Turkish man visiting his brother’s grave at Gallipoli 70 years after his death.
Alongside the Australian stories are stories from participants from the different nationalities who were also part of this campaign. There is the story from a young Turkish shepherd recruited to fight for his country, one from a British seaman who towed the first boats carrying soldiers onto the shores of Anzac Cove in the dawn of 25 April, and stories of the Ghurkas, Afghans and Sikhs who fought in the British Indian Army as well as stories from the New Zealand contingent, soldiers from the Auckland and the Wellington Battalions who took part in the battle of Chunuk Bair.
The final story is that of a young woman visiting the Lone Pine Cemetery, quietly contemplating the Gallipoli campaign and the loss of young lives. It is part of a war, now 100 years ago, that changed how our nation saw itself.
The illustrator, Robert Hannaford, captures the characters and the mood of each story as well as the surrounding landscape.
There is also short commentary about each of the stories in the notes section at the back of the book.

View all my reviews

The future is here, almost! Machine Wars by Michael Pryor

Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman. 

Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.

Machine Wars

14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.

Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.

There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.

View all my reviews

From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.

Teacher Notes from Random House here.

CBCA 2014 Books of the Year – Winners and runners-up

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the books below. To their editors and publishers and also the CBCA judges.

The CBCA winning books for 2014 voted on by the judges, were announced this afternoon. The judges have a difficult job and I know that a lot of deliberation and discassion has gone on. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. The books that made to this short list are being read and enjoyed by the boys. I wrote a post about the older readers shortlist with links for follow-up earlier in the year.  As is usually the case the books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.

The 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood

Older readers

Winner: Wildlife by Fiona WoodShortlist

Honour Books

  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

 

Younger readers

City of Orphans - A very unusual pursuit -smlWinner: City of Orphans: A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks. Catherine has an interesting page about the title, there are teaching notes and, from the Allen and Unwin site, there are Reviews by teachers (PDF) also.

Honour Books

 Early Childhood

Winner: The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner.  Teacher notes here 

Honour Books:

 Picture book

Rules Of Summer-smlWinner: Rule of Summer by Shaun Tan. I am so pleased that another wonderful book by the brilliant author Shaun Tan won this section. There are some great resources  – my post with links including to videos, a teachers’ guide here and a podcast on The art of Shaun Tan.

Honour Books

 Eve Pownell Award for Information Books

Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille

Honour Books

One Minute’s Silence: another great picture book remembering WWI

One minute’s silence is another story remembering WWI. This one has text written by an author who I believe captures the Australian character very well and I enjoy reading David’s YA novels. This picture book really showcases his ability to use language emotively. Michael Camilleri’s images are equally powerful. I am thinking about the CBCA Book Week display and the theme this year “Reading to Connect: Connect to reading”. This book certainly enables us to connect to the past and not just to the ANZACs but to the Turkish soldiers as well.

One minute's silenceOne Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen
It is hard to describe this book. You need to read it/experience it. This is a beautifully presented picture book that takes an unusual path to look at WWI’s Gallipoli campaign. It begins in a 21st century classroom with students depicted, in b&w drawings, as fairly uninterested. The minute’s silence for remembering those who died in WWI (at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month) is about to begin.

The text then repeats, page after page, the words “in one minute’s silence….” as it depicts, in b&w illustrations, and describes, in emotionally moving text, what happened at Gallipoli, from both perspectives. Using simple language, the reader is asked to think and imagine what the men at Gallipoli felt/thought/went through. The stories of courage and fear of the young men on both sides of the battle are seamlessly merged offering balance to the campaign that is very well-known in Australia.
The extract from Mustafa Ataturk’s moving speech is a fitting end to the book.
A great deal of careful thought has made the text and images deceptively simple as fit they together to give the reader a powerful experience. David Metzenthen‘ and Michael Camilleri have created an amazing book for all ages.

Some of David’s thoughts here
There are teacher’s notes for the book on the publisher’s website: http://www.allenandunwin.com/default….

View all my reviews

, , , , , , , ,,

A few books about war for children

Quite a few books for children, published over the past 12 months,  have been stories about wartime experiences. With the centenary of WWI, we have been receiving many books to support the commemoration. There have been some beautiful picture books about WWI and the ANZACs but also some equally good YA books from the Australian and British publishers. Luckily I like reading this style of story

Two of the picture books we recently acquired are:

Lone PineLone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (2014). The story begins in December 2008 with a dramatic  image of a lone pine tree being buffeted by a lightning storm in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. The rest of the book explains why and how it came to be there. The story is simply told but the images and the colours chosen to accompany the story are dramatic and emotive. They not only support the text but add to greatly to it. The last two pages in the back of the book briefly explain  the Battle of Lone Pine, a brief summary about the Smith family who were involved in the story and what happened to the pines grown from the seeds.

Downloadable teacher’s notes by Bec Kavanagh are available via the Hardie Grant Egmont site here. 

The Poppy

The Poppy by Andrew Plant (2014) The Poppy is a story of remembrance and a promise made a century ago. It commemorates a battle fought to save the small village of Villers-Bretonneux from being overrun by the German Army. Australian soldiers fought to save the village during the night and morning of April 24th and 25th (the day we now call ANZAC Day) and it was part of the final German offensives of WWI. Many Australians died and are buried in cemeteries there. The story is not one that describes the battle however but about the rebuilding of the school in Villers-Bretonneux, with help from Victorian children, after the war. It is about how the acts of these Australians are honoured and the links that have been forged by these acts. The text is simple but powerful and the beautiful illustrations are positioned so they seem like images in a photograph album. They ably support the text and add to the story. The image of the poppy, and its significance, is a powerful symbol of remembrance on every page. There are some brief, explanatory notes at the end of the book and the endpapers have a map of the Villers-Bretonneux and the Path of the Poppy Petal.

Downloadable teacher’s notes are available from the Ford St publishing site here.

Mission Telemark

The latest children’s novel I finished on the weekend was entitled Mission Telemark by Amanda Mitchison and tells the story of four teenagers trained as Special Operations agents, by the British in the Second World War, for a dangerous sabotage mission in Norway. Each of the teenage characters has different strengths and all are fully described and easy to identify with. All the teenagers have Norwegian backgrounds. Jakob is a dependable boy who is a natural leader, Ase, the only girl, is small but strong, having trained as a gymnast and Fred is physically weak and clumsy but has an encyclopaedic knowledge and a photographic memory. These three are training together in Scotland when they are joined by the last member of the team, Lars, who is a solitary and silent figure but is their outdoor survival expert. Their mission is fraught with danger, from the environment when they go back to Norway and have to survive for weeks in the freezing conditions of the Hardanger Plateau and then from the Nazis when they finally launch their sabotage attempt on the Norsk power station at Vermok, where the Germans are making heavy water. They are not expected to survive.

The story is told from two perspectives, as Jakob and Asa fill in a journal keeping track of their days in training and then on the mission. It is a great story for anyone who likes war stories, historical fiction or spy stories. The well-researched story incorporated many fascinating real details about the Second World War, including the equipment issued to soldiers, SOE advice about survival and an accurate description of the terrain.

There is an interesting interview with the author about the book here and a video where she introduces her book below.

CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers Shortlist 2014

The CBCA short lists came out a few weeks ago and I am always interested to see what the judges have put on the short list. The interesting thing this year is the number of books by younger writers on the list. What a good thing for the Australian YA sector to have debut novels making it to the list.

As usual we did not have the full complement of listed books on our shelves but below is the list, with reviews, of the ones from the older readers list that we do have in our library.

OLDER READERS: (suitable for more mature readers able to cope with challenging themes and controversial characters)

Castagna, Felicity  The Incredible Here and Now (Giramondo Publishing)

  • The way the story is told is interesting. The chapters are like a series of anecdotes/stories from the life of the  main character, Michael.  Set in the suburb of Parramatta, 15-year-old Michael narrates what he thinks, sees and understands the year he turns 15. His world alters more than he expects when he and his beloved brother Dom are involved in a car accident. Dom dies but the story does not dwell on grief. It is about Michael and his growth, from a child to a young man. He is resilient and pragmatic character who has to deal with a lot of things including his grief over the death of his brother and the family turmoil it brings. The world Michael inhabits is described vividly, the characters that are part of that world, his family and friends, are realistic. The reader can relate to their foibles and care about what happens to them in the novel. The writing style is simple and the language suits the character. The chapters short and the events documented are easy to relate to. This a story that most teenage boys could identify with and read with themselves in mind.
  • Website with teaching resources here and reading notes here.  
  • An interview with the author here

Keil, Melissa  Life in Outer Space (Hardie Grant Egmont)

  • Sam Kinnison is happy to be classed as a “geek”. He is an “A” who loves horror movies, the World of Warcraft and all his friends are “nerds”. He is comfortable in his world and knows where he is going, although he is tormented by the jocks at school, his friends are always there for him. Then Camilla Carter arrives at his school. Camilla is more than “cool’. She can be part of whatever group she likes. Sam thinks he can ignore her but her arrival changes everything. People start behaving out of character and Camilla decides that Sam will be part of her life.
  • A debut novel that is funny although there are some sad or difficult moments for Sam. It is a good coming-of-age story that teenagers can identify with.
  • Other reviews: here and an interview with Melissa Keil here

Kostakis, Will The First Third  (Penguin Group)

  • Only the second novel from the author this is both a funny and sad book about families and adolescence. The main character is 17 year old  Billy Tsiolkas and he is part of a Greek-Australian family.  He is the middle son, in a single-parent family and loves his idiosyncratic grandmother, Yiayia. She is a great character in the story and to roughly quote Yiayia’s outlook on life from the novel “Life is made of 3 parts: at first you are embarrassed by your family; in the second part you make your own family and thirdly you embarrass the family you’ve made.”  Yiayia becomes ill and so she gives Billy her list of things to do, her bucket-list. It is a short list of three things but they basically they amount to Billy getting his family, which has drifted apart, back together again. This is a big task and Billy has to deal with all sorts of situations as he tries to follow Yiayia’s instructions. There are many situations and characters that readers would identify with as they read this realistic portrayal of adolescent life in Australia today. I like they way Billy’s character described the Melbourne’s laneways, when he and his friend “Sticks” make a flying visit, to an address supplied by Yiayia.
  • Reviews from Insideadog  
  • Publisher’s website with teaching notes here.
  • Melina Marchetta interviews Will Kostakis here.

Near, Allyse Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Random House) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel

Wood, Fiona Wildlife (Pan Macmillan) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel.

  • Teacher’s notes here

Zorn, Claire The Sky so heavy (UQP)

  • Apocalyptic novel set at the beginning of a nuclear winter. There were elements that reminded me of books I read when at school or starting out in libraries, titles such as Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land and Children of the Dust come to mind. It is not a simple copy of these stories however and the Australian setting along with many current issues underpin the story. Ideas explored here include the heavy reliance of the modern world on electricity and a lack of understanding about living with the natural world and the treatment of refugees, in this case due to an environmental disaster. Many other elements are there as well, survival, starvation, mental strength, bullying and racism.
    It begins like any other day for Fin, a fairly normal Australian teenager. He is living in a small town in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. where everything and everyone is familiar. It it all goes downhill from here. Nuclear missiles detonated after a conflict between two unnamed countries on the other side of the world spell disaster for everyone in Australia. Plunged into a nuclear winter Fin and his younger brother, Max, separated from their parents, have to survive. They are alone with food and water becoming more scarce and cold and darkness setting in. The normal way of behaving changes as people become sick and desperate for food, medicine and fuel. There is nothing coming out from the authorities and any hope of some sort of rescue fades. Suspicion, paranoia and rancour become more and more evident throughout the once friendly neighbourhood. Fin and Max decide to head to Sydney, with some friends, to try find their mother.  The journey to Sydney really brings home the enormity and finality of what has happened to Fin. The realisation that things will never go back to “before” hits home. He and Max are refugees in their own country on the wrong side of the barrier. As the story progresses Fin has many increasingly difficult choices to make and each one has consequences. He is not perfect and his character reacts in very understandable ways. This is a survival adventure story that appealed to a number of our boys. It is a good addition to the apocalyptic story genre.
  • Teacher notes are available here
  • Author interview here

It is interesting to compare the list to the INKY awards (Australian books chosen by young readers) Gold Inky Award long list (Australian books):

  • Zac and Mia by AJ Betts
  • All This Could End by Steph Bowe
  • Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale
  • The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
  • The First Third by Will Kostakis
  • Every Breath by Ellie Marney
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • Run by Tim Sinclair
  • The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn