Shaun Tan’s new book The Singing Bones.

I have only just bought a copy of Shaun Tan’s new book, The Singing Bones. It is a change in style from the previous publications he has been involved in. The style of the illustrations are very Tan but the medium in which they were created is new. They are quite amazing but I will need to have more time to fully grasp what he has created as he tried to encapsulate the gist of each fairytale. As always the detail and power of his deceptively simple images is amazing. As I looked at them some seem familiar, appearing to be inspired by character drawings in his earlier publications, and others completely new and powerful in their strangeness. I am never disappointed with Shaun Tan’s works, he never ceases to inspire and challenge me as a reader.

The singing bones - Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan was approached to illustrate the German edition of a new Philip Pullman book. On his website Shaun explains how he became involved in the publication. It is interesting to read about how he came to the decision to create the illustrations for the book. It is a collection of many classic fairy tales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman with the title Grimms Märchen.

In the end there were more illustrations than were needed and so these were used to illustrate The Singing Bones.  Jack Zipes has written some short but potent interpretations of the fairytales to accompany the images.

There are other versions of this collection of classic fairytales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman under the title  Grimm Tales: For Young and Old but these are not illustrated with Shaun Tan’s wonderful figures. 

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….

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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.

Shaun Tan’s newest book: Rules of Summer

I have been waiting impatiently for Shaun Tan‘s newest work Rules of Summer (published by Hachette Books.)

An email (from The Little Bookroom) came today reminding me that it is available tomorrow in the bookshops. Of course I did not need to be reminded about availability but it did remind me to forward the email to others on staff and to send out a tweet as well.

Rules of Summer, is a deceptively simple story about two boys, one older and one younger, and the kind of ‘rules’ that might govern any relationship between close friends or siblings. Rules that are often so strange or arbitrary, they seem impossible to understand from the outside. Yet through each exquisite illustration of this nearly wordless narrative, we can enjoy wandering around an emotional landscape that is oddly familiar to us all. (YouTube)

Combining humour and surreal fantasy, Shaun Tan pictures a summer in the lives of two boys. Each spread tells of an event and the lesson learned. By turns, these events become darker and more sinister as the boys push their games further and further. (Hachette)

There are some great supporting videos for the Rules of Summer available on YouTube.

Video 1 was published on 10 June 2013 and Shaun speaks about what Rules of Summer is about and where the ideas came from.

Video 2 was published on 10 Jun 2013. In this video Shaun speaks about how he came up with the theme behind his new book Rules of Summer, available from 8th October 2013.

Video 3  was published on 2 September 2013. Here Shaun explains his drawing process and explores the potential meaning of a particular image from Rules of Summer,

There is more about Rules of Summer on here for extra detail and images.

There is an added bonus this time: There will be a Rules of Summer Exhibition that is open for a brief space of time (3 days)

  • The Venue: Bright Space Gallery, 1st Floor, 8 Martin St, St Kilda. Vic 3182
  • Dates: Friday 25th October – Sunday 27th October 2013
  • Gallery Opening times: 12 – 5pm
  • Price: FREE   If you want to book for group/school bookings please email them

Using Picture Books in Lit circles

One of my colleagues and I decided to use picture books as the genre for our first literature circle book for a year 7 English class.
We used picture books to encourage the students to look beyond what was written in their text. They were encouraged to think critically about all the graphic components and reflect on how they add to the text. The tasks were also developed to encourage the boys to develop their inference skills and respond to the works they were reading on a level that they had not been required to do with their earlier texts.

The boys were asked to choose one of 6 picture books.  Their choice was the basis for the formation of the group they would work with for three weeks. 
The boys read the picture books and were given a number of short tasks to complete; some on an individual basis but then sharing their thoughts/ideas with the rest of their group. All these short tasks were then used to create the basis of a glog for each group.

Today they put their ideas together and prepared to create their glog. The will include text, images and multimedia components. They have also been given a rubric to indicate how their glogs will be assessed. I have put the rubric and details into my Reading wiki.

The work that the groups have done so far has on the whole been excellent and I am hoping to have some great glogs that I can use in the library. I also used part of a lesson to explain the basics of Creative Commons to the class as they began a search for appropriate images and explained that sound and music is available under CC licenses too. The students took this information on baord and I was pleased to see that they were busy finding CC images for their glogs.

I have included a list of the short tasks that were undertaken by the students below.

  • Analysis of the cover: Comment on the picture on the cover – what it tells the reader about the book; the colours used; the style and colour of the lettering used; what questions the cover raises in the mind of the reader; what other information is given on the cover
  •  ‍Scanning skills: Spend 5 minutes browsing through the book and then spend 5 minutes writing what you think the book will be about based on what you see and read.
  •  ‍The introduction: In 50 words outline how the author introduces the book and catches the attention of the reader.
  •  ‍Sharing ideas with the group: Come to an agreement about what works best on the cover. (and anything you don’t think works). As a group create an alternative cover and “Blurb” for your book
  •  ‍Summarising Skills: Make a 100 word summary of the pages which you read for today in your own words. Remember that a summary needs to include the main ideas/information of the text in a logical order. Share your ideas with your group. Do they agree or do they have alternative points?
  •  ‍Creating Questions: Write 5 questions which could be used to test the reader’s comprehension of the text which you read for today. Remember that questions need to include the main information in the text and they need to test whether the reader has understood the text. All questions need to be open-ended to allow for discussion. Share these questions with your group and take note of their answers.
  •  ‍Illustrating skills: Draw a picture which illustrates the section of the book which you read for today. The drawing must show what is in the text and how well you have understood the meaning of the text.
  •  ‍Character description: Pick a character from your book and write either a “missing person” or “wanted” poster for this person. Include in your poster information that you have discovered from the book.