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One plastic bag by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (2015)

[Published by Millbrook Press]

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The recycling women of the Gambia are outstanding. Imagine a community used to bags made of natural fibres that breakdown quickly when discarded. What happens when plastic bags are introduced?

A steadily growing pile of rubbish lines the streets of Njau in Gambia. Isatou has been only vaguely aware of this, until the day her goat becomes sick. “Many goats have been eating these,” he says. “The bags twist around their insides, and the animals cannot survive.” Isatou realises something must be done, so she starts by picking up one plastic bag from the pile, then two, until she has a hundred.

She and her friends wash the bags and hang them on the line. Inspired by her sister’s crocheting, Isatou 20150724_171353has an idea. Cutting the plastic bags into strips, Isatou and her friends begin to crochet them into purses which they sell in the city. And gradually the pile of discarded plastic grows smaller and smaller.

Miranda Paul explains her experiences in Africa at the end of this amazing story, “Today, Njau is much cleaner, the goats are healthier, and the garden grow better. Residents from nearby towns travel there to learn the craft of recycling.”

An inspiring beautifully told and illustrated story.

Check out One plastic bag at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Picture Books) from Fishpond.

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The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin (2015)

[Published by Bloomsbury]

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I have seen cookbooks beautifully displayed in kitchens, selected because of their ability to perfectly compliment the decor. Look what I found! My very own deliciously matching bathroom picture book. If it ever becomes a thing then I am totally sorted.

I had a very merry time wandering through the pages of The Cloudspotter with my two preschool nephews. The train fan was kept very happy, and it turns out they both love hot air balloons.

Franklin, better known as “The Cloudspotter,” enjoys a lot of entirely solitary cloud observation time. This is the way he likes it, free to pursue adventures in the sky, from swimming with jellyfish to driving racing cars. When The Scruffy Dog sniffs at the edges of his world, Franklin is not happy. “Was she after his clouds?” IMG_1895Eventually Franklin is pushed to drastic measures, enter the hot air balloon. When The Scruffy Dog sails forlornly away The Cloudspotter discovers that he’s pretty darn lonely. After an effective rescue attempt this lovely conclusion is reached, “Because, everyone knows, TWO cloudspotters are better than one… especially when you are BEST FRIENDS!”

The illustration and design of this picture book is truly beautiful. It’s another top to toe package of loveliness.

Check out The Cloudspotter at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The Cloudspotter from Fishpond.

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Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (2005)

[Published by Harcourt Children’s Books]

LeafMan2I was in the central city recently going for a wander and I came across some amazing leaves. They were such perfect leaf-examples that I picked them up and carried them with me to the car. When I got home I pinned them on the wall (remember, renovation, so all the walls in my house have the potential to become pinboards at the moment).

I’ve spotted them regularly over the weeks since they were 20150721_220509pinned and as their colour fades, so does a little bit of their beauty, but they still make me happy.

Today at university I discovered this picture book, and fell just a little bit in love with Lois Ehlert, “When I see a beautiful leaf, I have to pick it up. I can’t help myself; it’s something I’ve done all my life.” Lois’ secret is to take colour copies of the leaves she collects, and it is these images that fill the pages of Leaf Man.

“Leaf man used to live near me, in a pile of leaves. But yesterday the wind blew leaf man away.”

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I’m sorry, my terrible phone photography does not do the artwork of this book justice (a cunning ploy to force you to get your own copy perhaps?) This is a wonderful imaginative story that will no doubt be the starting point from which amazing creative things will happen in your classroom or library.

Check out Leaf Man at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Leaf Man from Fishpond.

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Mouse paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (1989)

[Published by Orchard Books]

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The advantage of being a white mouse on a white piece of paper is that a cat won’t be able to spot you. But one day, our three white mice discover three jars of paint, and life is destined to become a whole lot more colourful.

Very quickly, three white mice become a red, a yellow and a blue mouse. But they don’t stop there, because everyone knows the most fun part of painting is mixing colours! I’m almost certain that if mice came in bright colours like the cuties below there would be a lot less screaming and standing on chairs in the world.

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This wonderful classic is a great introduction to colour-mixing, and lends itself very nicely to a crafting bonanza.

Check out Mouse Paint at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Mouse Paint from Fishpond.

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The skunk with no funk by Rebecca Young; illustrated by Leila Rudge (2015)

[Published by Walker Books Australia]

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This book might be free of funk, but I’ll tell you what it did have, a giant cockroach stuck to its cover when I picked it up from my spare room. I’m not a total wimp, but I will admit it’s taken me some time to forgive old funk-less skunk-features enough to write a review. Everything is okay again now, and hopefully all the holes in our floor (courtesy of a house renovation) are covered so we will be cockroach-free in the future. Shaking it off…

When Woody was born he was lacking a vital detail, “Not a whiff of mud, not a sniff of swamp, not a dash of dung. No smell at all. Woody was a skunk with no funk!”

Woody’s mother worries for his safety, how can he possibly survive in the wild with no nasty smell to deter predators? She refuses to let him out of her sight. When Woody follows the song of a robin one day, he finds himself alone in the middle of a meadow. With hungry owls IMG_1828coming ever closer, Woody discovers that funk comes in many forms.

A beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated story.

Check out The skunk with no funk at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The Skunk with No Funk from Fishpond.

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Beautiful oops! by Barney Saltzberg (2010)

[Published by Workman Publishing]

oopsOopses come in all shapes and sizes, and some people seem to take any type of oops in their stride. For small people a tear, a spill, a stain or a hole can be catastrophic. For those small children, I prescribe Beautiful oops. (And for any parents dealing with such children, I prescribe  Reasons my kid is crying).

A series of oopses are documented in this clever book, complete with their wonderful transformations. Imagine a jagged tear in a page for example, turned into the mouth of a crocodile.IMG_1894

“Oops! A torn piece of paper…

Is just the beginning!”

The paper engineering is awesome, there are all sorts of flaps and folds to interact with, and treasures are revealed on every page. An important message delivered in a beautiful package. “When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something… beautiful!”

Check out Beautiful oops! at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Beautiful Oops! [Board book] from Fishpond.

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The Giant of Jum by Elli Woollard; illustrated by Benji Davies (2015)

[Published by MacMillan]

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This story comes with a warning, a pre-read before unleashing it onto your audience is essential. I haltingly began to read it to my niece and nephews, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth page that I had mastered the metre (I’m a bit rusty on my poetry terms, hopefully that means what I think it means).

The grumpy old Giant of Jum is hungry. Based on the advice of his brother (you may remember him from a tale involving a beanstalk) he decides to go on the hunt for a small child named Jack.

When he makes it to town he stumbles across a large group of delicious small children,

“Fum!” he said and, “Fo!” he said and,”Fi!” he said and, “Fee!”

Children, I feel, make a fabulous meal.IMG_1882

I will gobble you up for my tea!”

The wily children enlist the giant’s help in rescuing their ball and then cat and finally in carrying a small person home. When it turns out the small person’s name is Jack it all becomes a bit edge-of-the-seat-worthy. But happily while there is a feast, no small children were harmed in its making.

With a cheeky wee nod to a traditional fairy tale, and cleverly shifting perspective in the illustrations, this neatly rhyming story (with a little practice) is a lot of fun to read aloud. Your audience will be fee fi fo and fumming all over the place.

Check out The giant of Jum at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The Giant of Jum from Fishpond.