Children’s Book Week 2014 – resources and teacher’s notes

I love book week. Each year it is celebrating in August in Australia. It is a great way to put a fun focus on reading and expand kids knowledge of authors and genres of books.

I actually look forward to putting this post together every year. I am not sure I would explore the CBCA short list so thoroughly if I didn’t have to put it together. It inspires me to make some reservations at the library and to undertake some book based activities with the kids.

Below I have collated a selection of activities for books which have been short listed this year for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s awards.

Book of the Year: Older Readers

The Incredible Here and Now

300 The Incredible Here and Now.jpg
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Castagna, Felicity
PUBLISHERGiramondo Publishing
ISBN – 9781922146366

“Michael’s older brother dies at the beginning of the summer he turns 15, but as its title suggests The Incredible Here and Now is a tale of wonder, not of tragedy. Presented as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Sandra Cisneros’ Young Adult classic The House on Mango Street, it tells of Michael’s coming of age in a year which brings him grief and romance; and of the place he lives in Western Sydney where ‘those who don’t know any better drive through the neighbourhood and lock their car doors’, and those who do, flourish in its mix of cultures.” {source}

RESOURCES – There is a comprehensive website to assist teachers teaching and discussing this novel with students which you can find here. The focus is very much centred around story – what is a story, Michael’s story, community stories and the student’s own stories. From the website you can find:

  • Teaching program
  • Formal assessment tasks
  • Worksheets
  • Videos

The First Third

300 the first third.jpg
PUBLISHERPenguin Group (Australia)
ISBN – 9780143568179

“Life is made up of three parts: in The First Third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made.

That’s how Billy’s grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together.

No pressure or anything.

Fixing his family’s not going to be easy and Billy’s not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what?

It’s a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.” {source}

RESOURCES – Penguin have created teacher notes for this book which you can download here. It explores the main characters of the book, with questions for students to deepen their understanding and analysis of each.

  • Character learning activities
  • Close reading passages
  • Exploration of key themes
  • Key quptes matrix
  • Assessment tasks

The Sky so Heavy

300 The Sky So Heavy.jpg
PUBLISHERUniversity of Queensland Press
ISBN – 9780702249761

“For Fin, it’s just like any other day – racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated.

When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learnt in school could have prepared him for this.

With his parents missing and dwindling food and water supplies, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must find a way to survive in a nuclear winter … all on their own.

When things are at their most desperate, where can you go for help?” {source}

RESOURCES – University of Queensland Press have created teacher’s notes for The Sky So Heavy which includes information on:

  • Themes
  • Writing style
  • Study notes – 4 pages of questions with page references for teachers to explore the novel with students

You can find the teacher’s notes for The Sky So Heavy here.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

My Life as an Alphabet

my life as an alphabet

PUBLISHERAllen & Unwin
ISBN – 9781743310977

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.

Laugh-out-loud funny and wonderfully touching, My Life as an Alphabet is a delightful novel about an unusual girl who goes to great lengths to bring love and laughter into the lives of everyone she cares about. {source}

RESOURCES – Allen & Unwin have a comprehensive set of teaching notes. The notes contain many links to videos and additional resource you can use to explore concepts and issues that arise in the book. The notes also cover:

  • Characterisation
  • Structure
  • Narrative perspective
  • Language and style
  • Themes
  • Activities during reading by chapter
  • Further assignments: creative and analytical

You can find the teacher’s notes for My Life as an Alphabet here.

City of Orphans: A Very Unusual Pursuit

a very unusual pursuit

PUBLISHERAllen & Unwin
ISBN – 9781743310977

“A clever adventure with feisty characters, set in a time where science clashes with superstition and monsters lurk in chimneys. Birdie, the singing bogler’s apprentice, will win your heart in this fantastic beginning to an action-packed series.” {source}

RESOURCES – You can find some short teacher’s notes here, which covers:

  • Activities and topics to explore prior to reading the book
  • Questions and activities for students to use to reflect on how the book makes them feel.
  • Topic ideas for group research.

Light Horse Boy

300 light horse boy.jpg
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Wolfer, Dianne Ill. Brian Simmonds
PUBLISHERFremantle Press
ISBN – 9781922089137

“In 1914 Jim and Charlie abandon the Australian outback for the excitement and adventure of the war to end all wars. But in the Light Horse they quickly discover the brutal realities of life on the frontline. And nothing will ever be the same again.
Featuring stunning charcoal sketches by Brian Simmonds alongside primary source documents and historical photos, Light Horse Boy goes behind the scenes of the great ANZAC legends for an intimate look at their experience of World War I.” {source}

RESOURCES – You can download a sample chapter of the book on the Fremantle Press website here. There are also five pages of well organised teacher’s notes you can use to explore the book with children. It includes:

  • A word list table – children write down what they think the meaning of words are and then compare to what the dictionary meaning is.
  • Ideas to further explore WWI before commencing reading the book
  • 24 questions to explore during reading
  • Questions to use after reading to assist children to analyse the text.

You can find the teacher’s notes for Light Horse Boy here.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Banjo and Ruby Red

banjo and ruby red
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Gleeson, Libby Ill. Freya Blackwood
PUBLISHERLittle Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781921541087

“Banjo is a hard-working farm dog and Ruby Red is a haughty chicken, and they never see eye to eye. Can they ever be friends?” {source}

RESOURCES – You can find a one page download of teaching notes for this book here. It highlights the themes of the book and has discussion points and activities.

The Swap

the swap
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Ormerod, Jan Ill. Andrew Joyner
PUBLISHERLittle Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781921541414

“Caroline the crocodile has a new baby brother. Mama Crocodile thinks he is gorgeous, but Caroline doesn’t think so. She thinks he is smelly and he drools too much. Plus Caroline is very jealous of all the attention her brother is getting from Mama Crocodile, especially all the big, smacky-smoochy kisses she gives him.” {source}

RESOURCES -You can download the PDF of the teacher’s notes here. They cover themes, comprehension and activities.

The illustrator has colouring pages you can download on his website here.

Kissed by the Moon

300 kissed by the moon.jpg
PUBLISHERViking, Penguin Group (Australia)
ISBN – 9780670076758

May you, my baby, sleep softly at night, and when dawn lights the world, may you wake up to birdsong.

Part poem, part lullaby, this gentle story celebrates a baby’s wonder at our beautiful world. From much-loved Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester comes a timeless book to share and to treasure. {source}

RESOURCES – You can download the PDF of the teacher’s notes here. They cover themes, discussion points and activities.

The Little Big Book Club also has an activity page you can download here which is aimed at parents to do with their babies.

Picture Book of the Year

The Treasure Box

300 the treasure box.jpg
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Blackwood, Freya, Text. Margaret Wild
PUBLISHERPuffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
ISBN – 9780670073658

From two of our most talented picture-book creators comes this celebration of things that can’t be destroyed by bombs or fire. A haunting and beautiful tale of the power of words, the importance of stories and the resilience of the human spirit.

When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.

As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possessions they carry.

But as the years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it…{source}

RESOURCES – Scholastic have comprehensive teaching notes which you can download here. They include:

  • a synopsis
  • writing style analysis
  • notes and activities by page for teachers

Penguin also provide teachers’ notes created by Erin Wamala which can be downloaded here which include:

  • questions to ask before reading the book
  • questions to ask while reading the book
  • questions on visual literacy
  • questions on the issue of refugees

Silver buttons

300 silver buttons.jpg

PUBLISHER – Walker Books Australia
ISBN – 9781406342246

At 9.59 on Thursday morning, Jodie draws a duck. Just as she is about to add one final silver button to the duck’s boots, her little brother takes his first step. At this exact same moment, a man buys bread, a soldier leaves home, a baby is being born… Here is a book, a story, a philosophy so simply told and yet – in true and inimitable Bob Graham style – so rich with emotion and meaning. It is in the smallest details that we sense the greatest significance and can see the big picture. {source}

RESOURCES -Walker Books have put together a fabulous three page PDF you can download here and which include:

  • Notes the themes of the book
  • Discussion questions and activities for specific pages
  • Visual arts activities
  • Writing activities

Rules of Summer

rules of summer
PUBLISHERHachette Australia
ISBN – 9780734410672

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.{source}

RESOURCES – The book has its own website – which has comprehensive resources you can use including teachers’notes which cover:

  • Author’s inspiration
  • Themes
  • Application to curriculum topics
  • Visual literacy activities
  • Creative arts activities
  • Further topics for discussion and research
  • Printable activity sheets

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books


AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Greenwood, Mark, Ill. Terry Denton
PUBLISHERAllen & Unwin
ISBN – 9781742375700

The epic and tragic story of Jandamarra, Indigenous hero of the Kimberley told through text and illustrations. A story for all Australians, providing a unique insight into an extraordinary man and a powerful slice of history. {source}

RESOURCES – Allen and Unwin have created thorough teachers’ notes which can be found here. They include:

  • Application to curriculum topics
  • Visual literacy activities
  • Creative arts activities
  • SOSE themes
  • SOSE values
  • List of further resources


AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Faille, Christopher, Ill. Danny Snell
PUBLISHERWorking Title Press
ISBN – 9781921504402

Tiny kookaburra, Jeremy, is only a few days old when he falls out of his nest and is
brought home by the family cat. Luckily, Jeremy is a fighter and he loves to eat. Little by little he
grows stronger and stronger, until the time comes when he must say goodbye. This delightful story
about raising and rearing a baby kookaburra is based on a true account.{source}

RESOURCES -Working Title Press have created four pages of teachers notes which can be downloaded here. They include:

  • description of the writing style and illustrations
  • discussion points and activities
  • list of additional resources

More resources

If you are after more ideas and activities for the kids with books, you can also check out the previous year’s posts here:

The Book Chook also has a comprehensive post on activities for CBCA shortlisted books which you can find here – Activities for Children’s Book Week 2014.

Do you have a favourite from this year’s short list?