Book Week Activities 2011 – Ideas for CBCA Shortlisted Books

Book Week in Australia this year is August 20th – 26th. The theme in 2011 is One World, Many Stories highlighting the ways in which cultural difference can be expressed and celebrated through literature.

I love Book Week and the way children’s literature has such a focus that week in schools and in the lead up to it. For me also the associated Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards help reinvigorate my story time with the kids. Around this time each year I make my way through the shortlist for the awards and place reservations at the local library. Some of the authors are known to me, but it is a great way to introduce myself and the kids to new authors and illustrators.

You can download a PDF of the shortlist here – Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards Short List 2011. Below are 10 of the shortlisted books that have online resources that can be used in the classroom by teachers or at home by parent. Some of our reservations have come through and we have been enjoying the new books – I can highly recommend adding your name to the reservations lists now as lots of these book are very popular at the moment!

1. Toppling by Sally Murphy – Younger Readers

Book Week Ideas- Toppling by Sally Murphy

Toppling is a fantastic new verse novel from Sally Murphy and a fitting partner title with her first title with Walker Books, Pearl Verses the World. John is obsessed with dominoes. But not with playing the traditional game, he is obsessed with toppling. He spends hours setting up spirals, ramps, patterns and lines of dominoes all for that satisfying toppling beginning with a small push in the right direction, everything falls as it is meant to. When John’s friend Dom falls sick and is diagnosed with cancer, it is John and his friends’ worlds that fall apart. Can they face Dom and support him through this uncomfortable illness? It’s hard for all at first but John and his friends find a way to comfort Dom and laugh with him again.

On the publisher’s website Walker Books Australia has two great resources:

  1. An activity sheet so kids can make their own dominoes by drawing the right number of dots on each domino and cut-out to play.
  2. A 5 page PDF that goes through the book chapter by chapter with ideas for the classroom, themes to explore and questions to ask.

2. Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay – Younger Readers

Book Week Ideas - Duck for a day

Duck for a Day is a contemporary story set in a primary school class, where the teacher, Mrs Melvino, brings in a new class pet. A duck called Max. All of the students, including the main character, Abby, want to take Max home for the night, however they must abide by Max’s strict demands before Mrs Melvino allows it.

This book aimed at children from 7 – 9 years old looks at themes like:

  • Friendship
  • Pets
  • Responsibility
  • Persistence
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving & flexible thinking

The classroom notes provided by Walker Books gives great ideas on how to explore these themes both before and after reading the book.

3. Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford – Younger Readers

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Violet Mackerel thinks she would QUITE LIKE to own the blue china bird at the Saturday markets. This is not just a SILLY WISH. It is instead the start of a VERY IMPORTANT idea. But what she needs is a PLOT. A BRILLIANT plot.

My 7 year old daughter loved this book and so did I. It is a book filled with hope, even though not everything always goes right all the time. Walker Books have excellent class room notes that are perfect for parents too. It includes a template of a bird for children to decorate.

Violet Mackerel even has her very own website (going to be a series of books I think) with a full page of activities and downloads for children to explore.

4. Family Forest – Written by Kim Kane Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo – Picture Book of the Year

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Family Forest is the story of a family. But not a regular family. This family has half sisters, whole sisters, dads, mums, step-mums, big brothers and more!

In this beautifully illustrated book, Kim Kane explores what makes up a modern family and the language that we use to describe the people in it.

It is the simplicity of this book that makes it work so well. There is only minimal text, but the descriptions are so well written it provides opportunity for great discussion with the kids. Hardie Grant Egmont have a PDF of teaching notes to download with great activities to explore further what families can look like.

5. Two Peas in a Pod by Chris McKimmie – Picture Book of the Year

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Marvin and Violet have been friends since they were babies. They are like two peas in a pod. But then Violet moves away… With a unique Australian flavour, this story of friendship is both tender and truthful.

Two Peas in a Pod is the perfect book for kids if they are having a friend move away. We related this story back to our cousin who moved away nearly two years ago, but who will be coming back soon. My kids loved the illustrations in this book. I can understand why. McKimmie uses a number of mediums in the pictures just like they do (the younger kids will often use both textas and pencils in their drawings).

Allen and Unwin have comprehensive teaching notes which cover how the book can be used in curriculum topics for ages 3-6+.

6. Mirror by Jeannie Baker – Picture Book of the Year

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This innovative picture book is comprised of two parts, designed to be read simultaneously – one from the left, the other from the right. Page by page, we experience a day in the lives of two boys and their families – one from inner city Sydney, Australia and the other from a small, remote village in Morocco, North Africa.

This was my favourite of all the shortlisted books we read. Other than the introduction and a note from the author at the end, the story is without words. The illustrations are amazing using a combination of natural and artificial materials. The detail in the pictures brought up so much discussion amongst the kids. This book drew in even my older boys.

In explaining her inspiration for Mirror, Baker notes:

The idea for this book came from my delight travelling in a country very different from my own. At the time, in my own country, there was much political poisoning of attitudes towards foreigners and foreignness.
But travelling alone in remote Morocco, a woman “stranger” myself, I was met with much friendliness and generosity from “strangers”.

The classroom ideas PDF from Walker Books has some brilliant activities to do with kids of all ages.

7. The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies Tom Niland Champion, Kilmeny Niland and Deborah Niland – Picture Book of the Year

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From a much-loved family team, this hilarious story is a riotous triumph of problem-solving.

My preschooler thought The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies was hilarious – I think all kids like seeing adults given a hard time by kids! The illustrations are full of emotion and having curly haired members in our family, he was particularly keen on the dad’s curly hair.

You can see an extract from the book on the Allen and Unwin website.

8. Noni the Pony by Alison Lester – Picture Book of the Year

A satisfying and delightful rhyming pony story for young children by the much-loved Alison Lester – Noni is the nicest pony any little child could ever hope to meet.

Noni the Pony has been the toddlers favourite. The illustrations as you can see in the video are very cute and help explain the story through their simplicity. But it is the gorgeous rhyming of the story that I think the toddler loves most of all. And even after having read it at least four times a day for the last week, I am still enjoying reading it too!

9. Look See, Look at Me – Leonie Norrington and Dee Huxley – Picture Book of the Year

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Every family with young kids will relate to this story about growing up and exploring the world.Perfect for 2-4 year olds, it features lively and engaging illustrations featuring Indigenous kids and a terrific read-aloud text.

Look See, Look at Me was a book I could so easily relate to. The way three year olds (and others!) see themselves as front and center in their world.

The illustrations depict an indigenous life style that my little ones are not overly familiar with. With the picture of parents sitting on the ground in groups for example, which with the help of the older kids, allowed us to discuss the differences in lifestyle with the backdrop of a very similar preschooler who hops, runs and climbs trees.

10. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, staged on the page by Nicki Greenberg – Picture Book of the Year

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In this sumptuous staging of Shakespeare’s enigmatic play on the page, Nicki Greenberg has created an extraordinary visual feast that sweeps up all in its path as the drama intensifies both on stage and off.
An astounding work – unique, gripping and, as ever, tragic.

Although in the picture book category, Hamlet is not for youngsters. The teacher’s notes from Allen and Unwin have it as being recommended for ages 14+, but my 12 year old has enjoyed reading it. He has however read an abridged version of Hamlet before which I think helped. The illustrations are fascinating and at times quite dark reflecting the plot line of moral decay and treachery.

What are your favourites from the CBCA shortlists this year?