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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Book Review: My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young

Posted by Lisa Hill on February 26, 2014

My Nanna is a Ninja
I think I may have mentioned before that I’m writing up some poetry units for the Australian Curriculum?  I am beginning to doubt that they will ever be finished, because as fast as I finalise a lesson on the units I’ve done, somebody produces another gorgeous book and of course I have to use it, and so my unit is out of date five minutes after I’ve planned it.

So it is with this fabulous book from Damon Young: My Nanna is a Ninja is hilarious – I can’t wait to use it with my Year 4 poetry class.

Some nannas dress in blue while they bake sweet apple pies.
Some nannas dress in red as they fly about the skies.
Some nannas dress in pink while they jog around the track.
But my nanna is a ninja so she dresses up in black.

(You can download the sample pages that these couplets come from on the UQP site so that you can see the wonderful illustrations by Peter Carnavas.  There are teachers’ notes there too. )

These four nannas defy stereotypes: they are young, or young-at-heart, they are all active and they all express their love for their grandchildren in different ways. The illustrations work with the text to show us a grandma ballooning, riding on wild horses, and otherwise living life to the full.  The ninja grandma sneaks out for midnight feasts, and uses a ninja sword as a satay stick for eating watermelon.

I’m going to use this book to explore rhythm and rhyme, but I don’t think we’ll try to emulate it in our own poems.  Too hard!  We’ll talk about other forms of poetry that we could use to write about grandmothers so that we focus on meaning.  We could try acrostics, maybe haiku, or free verse: the important thing will be to capture the mood of individuality that modern grandmas have, and the special relationship that they have with their grandchildren.

Sometimes, the creativity of Australian picture book authors and illustrators makes a teacher-librarian’s job a real delight …

Author: Damon Young
Title: My Nanna is a Ninja
Illustrated by Peter Carnavas
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press), 2014
ISBN: 9780702250095
Source: Review copy courtesy of UQP.


Fishpond: My Nanna Is A Ninja
Or direct from UQP.

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Poetry, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Book review: Night Monsters, by Nina Poulos

Posted by Lisa Hill on February 16, 2014

Night MonstersNight Monsters is another of the NLA’s picture books which can be used to teach young children about Australian animals.

Written in rhyming couplets – which also makes the book useful for teaching the Literature component of the Australian Curriculum for English – the story confronts the fears that children have about monsters in the night.  The animals of the bush are scared too, and so Cackle Kookaburra gathers them together so that they can admit their fears and find out what’s causing them:

Cackle Kookaburra sat in a tree
She was glad it was finally light.
For friends had told this wise old bird
Of monsters in the night.

So Cackle called her friends around,
She thought it would be best
To share their tales and find the truth
And put their fears to rest.

Waddle Wombat hears a witch making her teeth go ‘clack’; Rowdy Roo hears hissing; Ernest Echidna is sure that there’s a dinosaur snarling; and Doris Dingo hears growling and grunting that she thinks is a bear (which most Australian children will know couldn’t possibly be, in the Australian bush).  Wallis Wallaby is worried about the beat of a dragon’s wings; Paddle Platypus thinks that a goblin is snoring; and Prunella Possum says she’s seen a giant roaring.  But Cackle Kookaburra knows what’s causing all these spooky noises – it’s Larry Lyrebird, a remarkable mimic!

All’s well that ends well, and the last page of the book features facts about the lyrebird, complete with some images from the NLA’s collection, some of them very early ones from the 18th century.  The rest of the pictures are bright and lively full colour illustrations by Cheryl Westenberg, who also illustrated What’s Dad Doing? which is a very popular book in our school library. (See my review).

The book is produced on high quality paper, with a cover that is more robust and durable than most paperbacks, giving it a longer shelf-life in a school library.

Author: Nina Poulos
Title: Night Monsters
Illustrated by Cheryl Westenberg
Publisher: National Library of Australia (NLA), 2013
ISBN: 9780642278333
Source: review copy courtesy of the NLA

Fishpond: Night Monsters
Or direct from the NLA

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Book review: Dance Like a Pirate, by Stephanie Owen Reeder

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 25, 2013

Dance Like a PirateThe blurb for this new lift-the-flap book Dance Like a Pirate is says it’s the perfect way to encourage kids to get active and to teach them body parts, but more than that, I think it’s a wonderful stimulus for imaginative play.

Each page has its own theme for dressing up.  The children can be fantasy characters like witches and wizards, fairies, mermaids and mermen or dragons; they can be  dancers, firemen, rock stars, or sailors; and they can be pirates, superheroes, royalty, clowns, or rabbits.   The brightly coloured pictures of children in costume is accompanied by verses in rhyming couplets with a strong, bouncing rhythm, perfect for children to join in:

Let’s leap like a dancer in tutu and tights,
Soaring across the stage like a bird in flight
So stretch your ankles and flex your calves,
Raise your hands and aim for the stars.

Glide and pirouette, slide and twirl,
Head held high, both arms curled.
Twist around and around like a top.
Do you feel dizzy when you stop?

Up, up and away! Let’s leap!
(underneath the flap) How high can you fly?

The body parts vocabulary is highlighted in bright colours, and at the back of the book there are labelled diagrams of a boy and a girl. (But they’ve omitted the label for calves!) No, they haven’t, but it’s printed in orange which makes it a little bit hard to see, see the author’s clarification below.  Sorry, Stephanie!

There are also, at the back of the book, small reproductions of some of the photos and drawings that Inspired the illustrator’s images.  The hopping rabbits, for example, draw on a photo of a mincing male dancer from the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Although I suspect that the inclusion of these images might ‘go over the heads’ of the target audience for this book, as one who is interested in art but has no skill at all in creating it, I found it fascinating, to see how the movements of the adult dancers in these images have been transformed.

I think prep Foundation and kindergarten teachers will love this book.  A few props in the dress-up box, and the children will have a great time!

Author and illustrator: Stephanie Owen Reeder
Title: Dance Like a Pirate
Publisher: NLA (National Library of Australia), 2013
ISBN: 9780642277794
Source: Review copy courtesy of the NLA


Fishpond:  Dance Like a Pirate
Book Depository: Dance Like a Pirate
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Posted in Book Reviews, Fun stuff, Learning and teaching, Poetry, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Book review: Tell Me All, by Dorothy Plummer

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 4, 2013

Tell Me 001Tell Me All, A Story for Children is the latest in a series of rhyming books by Dorothy Plummer.   Dorothy’s previous titles, Tell Me, Tell Me; Tell Me Too; and Tell Me Please were anthologies of poems pitched at small children but this one is a story in rhyme.

Based on Dorothy’s memories of childhood in 1930s Melbourne, it tells the story of her friendship with Etheleen and at the front of the book there’s a gorgeous photo of the two of them together when they were aged four. The book begins like this:

Dorothy Mavis Prissy Missy Harris
was the most decorated girl in Australia

She wore ear-rings, a necklace and twenty-four bangles,
She wore every jewel that jingles and jangles
She carried a purse, wore a brooch and some rings
Held a cuddly blue teddy, and a muff with long strings.
On top of her head was a bow, holding curls
And dangling out back were her mother’s old pearls.
The smile on her face let everyone know
That this girl was keen to put on a show.
The sight was essentially fashion from Paris
On Dorothy Mavis Prissy Missy Harris –
Yes, this most decorated girl in Australia
Wore far too much fancy paraphernalia.

Queenie: One Elephant's Story Dorothy is the bravest girl in Australia, the strongest, the cleverest, the most daring, and the toughest.  She rides Queenie the Elephant at the zoo but disaster strikes when Etheleen wants a ride too.  In fact, poor Etheleen triggers disasters everywhere, but fortunately Dorothy is the friendliest girl in Australia too, so arm-in-arm they come to no harm …

Despite the pearls and paraphernalia, Dorothy is an adventurous little miss, with a lively imagination.  This book made me feel quite nostalgic for the days when kids played outdoors, and had the freedom to play more-or-less where they liked.  Emerging readers will (with a little help) enjoy reading this book as a window on ‘the olden days’ and on the joy of enduring friendship.

Disclosure: Please note that Dorothy is a friend of mine through the Mordialloc Writers Group.

Author: Dorothy Plummer
Title: Tell Me All, A Story for Children
Illustrator: Bill Straede
Publisher: Helen Merrick-Andrews, 2012
ISBN: 9781876761202
Source: review copy courtesy of the author.

Contact the author at PO Box 5267 Mordialloc 3195

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Book review: Seadog, by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 15, 2013

SeadogI am a complete sucker for picture books about dogs, but I especially like Seadog by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett because it reminds me of a similar rapscallion from my childhood menagerie of pets.

On hot days, my mother used to pick us up from school and take us to Brighton Beach for a swim.  On one of these afternoons, we made the acquaintance of the dirtiest, smelliest, noisiest dog in creation, all alone and homeless.  He was also very big, almost as big as the thieving Rhodesian Ridgeback we once had, that sabotaged friendly relations with all our neighbours.  Anyway, somehow we squeezed him into the back of the Hillman Minx and took him home.

I suspect that my mother was desperately hoping that the calls to the Lost Dogs’ Home would bear fruit, but she took it stoically when his (possibly relieved) owners failed to materialise.  We named him Willoughby, and we loved him to bits, despite his penchant for rolling in the dirt and running away at bathtime.  Until one day he jumped our tall front fence and we never saw him again.  No doubt he found another family with whom to share his enthusiasms.  He was that kind of street-smart dog.

Seadog has a similar attitude to smelly things.  Teachers looking for texts for the Australian Curriculum English Literature strand will love the rhyme and rhythm of this book.  It’s perfect for Preps (Foundation) and Years One and Two:

Ours is not a clean dog,
a shiny or a fluffy dog,
our dog is a Seadog,
a find-and-roll-in-fish dog.
Pee-ee-euw, Seadog!

The illustrations by Tom Jellett are bright and colourful in cheery primary colours.  I won’t be surprised if this title is shortlisted in awards this year.

Author: Claire Saxby
Illustrator: Tom Jellett
Title: Seadog
Publisher: Random House 2013
ISBN: 9781742756509
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House

Available from May 2013 (and you can preorder now)

Fishpond: Seadog
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Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Poetry, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Book review: Seadog, by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett

Book review: new series of chant and rhyme books from Peter Durkin and Peter Viska

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 2, 2013

Peter Viska chant and rhyme books

You know how it is: it happens to all of us sometimes.  I was just back at work after a week off with a crook back and still feeling rather fragile, and of course I didn’t have a work program ready for my first classes.   I needed to prepare something fast!

I can’t tell you how grateful I was to Scott Eathorne from Quikmark Media for sending me this new collection of chant and rhyme books by the inimitable Peter Viska and Peter Durkin (much-loved by children everywhere for their naughty collection –  Far Out, Brussel Sprout; All Right Vegemite and others).

There are four books in the new series and Scott had sent me two sets, so I had enough books for 4 tables of 4-6 children.  I told them that I wasn’t going to read them a story this week; I needed them to help me write a review of these new books.  I showed them where the poetry shelves were in the library so that they could find the books next time, and I read them a few samples from each of the books.  Of course they were delighted!

I gave the children the books and some paper to write and draw on, and then a hush descended on the room, rising and falling with the murmur of children reading and laughing and sharing with each other.  They loved these books, and there was a real sigh of disappointment at the end of the library lesson when we had to pack up.

Many thanks to Areesh, Dania, Emma, Gavin, Seth, Sina, Taonga, Amar, Ameer, Daniel, Justin and Nadia for letting me share their work with readers of LisaHillSchoolStuff.

This is the publicity blurb that came with the books, but I think the children’s work in the slideshow below it speaks for itself.

New Chant & Rhyme picture book series from best-selling illustrator Peter Viska

Peter Viska’s understanding of children has rewarded him with a lifetime of publishing and TV success. His Far Out, Brussel Sprout! series has been printed over 40 times by three publishers in Australia and have sold in excess of a million copies. Now Peter is set to release a brand new series of four children’s picture books through Alicat Publishing that are packed with fun, irreverence and good time cheekiness.

Titled In Your Eye Meat Pie!, Hang Loose Mother Goose!, Stay Cool April Fool! and Take A Stroll Sausage Roll!, these four books are packed with colourful chants and rhymes and matching outrageous illustrations. Readers learn what really happened to Mary’s little lamb, where Little Jack Horner really stuck his thumb – and just exactly what Old Mother Hubbard found in her cupboard! A fun read for children of all ages! Available from all good book stores at $7.95 each or online at

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Posted in Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Fun stuff, Poetry, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »