Children’s Book Week 2015 – resources, teachers’ notes and activities for kids

Each year I collate this list of resources for a selection of books which have made the CBCA short list. It is by far one of the longest posts it takes me to write, but I love doing it as it exposes me to books I may not have discovered otherwise. The resources while often aimed at teachers are fantastic for parents too – they explain themes, writing styles and provide example questions you can discuss with the kids as you read the books.

This is only a selection of short listed books for this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia’s awards – you can see the full list here. If you are reading via email, it is worth clicking through to read on the blog here as there are many video trailers for the books in this post

Book of the Year: Older Readers

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
PUBLISHERHardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781742978307

“Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails.
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems. ” {source}

RESOURCES – Publisher Hardie Grant Egmont has developed a comprehensive set of teacher notes which can be downloaded here and covers

  • Synopsis
  • Themes
  • Writing style
  • Author motivation
  • Author background
  • Study notes and activities

The Protected

the protected
PUBLISHERUniversity of Queensland Press
ISBN – 9780143568179
AUTHOR WEBSITEAll the King’s Horses

“Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.” {source}

RESOURCES – UQP have a sample chapter you can download for free, which is a brilliant read and I cannot wait for my reservation for this book to come in. There are also comprehensive teaching notes which include:

  • Synopsis
  • Themes
  • Writing Style
  • Study Notes – 2.5 pages of questions
  • Author Motivation
  • About the Author

The Minnow

PUBLISHERText Publishing
ISBN – 9781922182012

“Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.

Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.

And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.

The Minnow is a moving and powerful coming-of-age story with a whimsical element that belies the heartbreaking truth of grief and loss. Tom is a character you will never forget.” {source}

RESOURCES – This book is recommended age:Years 9 and up as it contains mature themes. Text publishing have teaching notes aligned with the Australian
Curriculum that include

  • Before reading – activities and questions for discussion
  • While reading – includes guides on what notes to take and what to look for
  • After reading – questions on style and structure and themes within the novel
  • Responding – deeper questions for essays and activities

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain

PUBLISHERUniversity of Queensland Press
ISBN – 9780702250163
DESCRIPTION – You can download a free sample chapter here, which I did and I loved it. So looking forward to reading the rest of this novel. I think my 9 year old will love it.

Some things are too big for a boy to solve.

Jesse is an eleven-year-old boy tackling many problems in life, especially fitting in to a new school.

Luckily he meets Kate. She has curly black hair, braces and an infectious smile. She wants to
‘Save the Whales’ and needs Jesse’s help.

But they haven’t counted on Hunter, the school bully, who appears to enjoy hurling insults at random.

With Hunter’s catchphrase ‘Ha!’ echoing through the school, something or someone has to give.

But will it be Jesse? Kate? Or is there more to Hunter than everyone thinks?

An inspiring and funny story about the small gestures that can help to make the world a better place. {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:

  • Synopsis
  • Themes
  • Writing Style
  • Study Notes – 2.5 pages of questions
  • Author Motivation
  • About the Author

You can find the teacher’s notes for Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain here.

Two Wolves

PUBLISHERRandom House Australia
ISBN – 9780857982032

“An old man tells his grandson that there is a battle raging inside him, inside all of us. A terrible battle between two wolves. One wolf is bad – pride, jealousy, greed. The other wolf is good – kindness, hope, truth. The child asks, ‘Who will win?’ The grandfather answers simply, ‘The one you feed.’

One afternoon, police officers show up at Ben Silver’s front door. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive home. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. But are they?

It doesn’t take long for Ben to realise that his parents are in trouble. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’. Now Ben gathers evidence and tries to uncover what his parents have done.

The problem is, if he figures it out, what does he do? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run? {source}

RESOURCES – You can download a free chapter here and Random House have comprehensive teaching notes you can find here and include:

  • Keynote
  • Plot summary
  • About the author
  • Book trailer
  • Language and writing style
  • Key themes, motifs and study topics
  • Writing exercises: from the notebook of Tristan Bancks
  • Further reading
  • Worksheets

Figgy in the World

PUBLISHEROmnibus Books, Scholastic Australia
ISBN – 9781742990453

“Figgy has two problems. One is her name. Nobody in Ghana has that name. The other is that her grandmother is ill and needs special medicine. Figgy can’t do much about her name, but she can do something for Grandma Ama.

She will go to America and bring back the medicine, and Kwame — her special goat — will go with her. Out in the wide world she will meet some bad people, but she will also find good friends.” {source}

RESOURCES – The publisher has created some broad based teaching notes which include:

  • Introduction
  • About the author
  • Activities
    • English
    • Creative activities
    • Geography
    • Health
    • Maths

You can find the teacher’s notes for Figgy in the World here.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Pig the Pug

PUBLISHERScholastic Press, Scholastic Australia
ISBN – 9781743624777
AUTHOR WEBSITEaaron blabey books

“Pig was a Pug and I’m sorry to say,
he was greedy and selfish in most every way.

Pig is the greediest Pug in the world. He is grumpy, rude and unreasonable. But when Pig the Pug is asked to share his toys, something unexpected happens… Hopefully Pig has learnt a lesson!” {source}

RESOURCES – You can find a one page download of teaching notes for this book here. It contains discussion points (predominately on the moral of a story and some activities).

A House of Her Own

a house of her own
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Hughes, Jenny, Ill. Bentley, Jonathan
PUBLISHERLittle Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781742974620

“Audrey is bigger than she was yesterday. Now she needs a bigger house. This is a gently humorous story that explores the clash between a quest for independence and the longing for security. Emerging author Jenny Hughes is once again paired with internationally acclaimed illustrator Jonathan Bentley to create a picture book of outstanding warmth, sensitivity and insight.” {source}

RESOURCES – You can download the PDF of the teacher’s notes here. They cover:

  • Synopsis
  • Writing style
  • Illustration style
  • Author background
  • Illustrator background
  • Study notes
  • Activities

Snail and Turtle are Friends

snail and turtle are friends
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – King, Stephen Michael
PUBLISHERScholastic Press, Scholastic Australia
ISBN – 9781743620236

‘Snail and Turtle like hiding, but never from each other.’
Snail and Turtle are friends and love to spend time together. They are sometimes the same, sometimes different. Snail and Turtle like to run, walk and enjoy being quiet together. Snail likes swirls, and Turtle likes shapes and blobs. Step into the small world of Snail and Turtle in this charming and funny story about sharing and friendship.{source}

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

Picture Book of the Year

The Stone Lion

the stone lion
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Voutila, Ritva, Text Wild, Margaret
PUBLISHERLittle Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781921894855

If you have ever been to London, you might remember the stone lion outside the British Museum. Margaret Wild, in this whimsical story, sets him outside the library instead. Here the lion tells the gargoyle that he would love to be alive and the gargoyle says that sometimes a great and generous heart will allow that. The lion is rewarded by rescuing two homeless children from the bleak winter cold.

The story has something of the tone of Han Christian Andersen or even Oscar Wilde about it and reaches deep into the emotions of the reader. The beautiful colour spreads in soft dreamy pastels add to the miracle found in the story with both words and illustrations combining to make this production a ‘must have’ addition for any junior collection. {source}

RESOURCES – You can download the PDF of the teacher’s notes here. They cover:

  • Synopsis
  • Writing style
  • Illustration style
  • Study notes

The Duck and the Darklings

The Duck and the Darklings

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – King, Stephen Michael, Text Millard, Glenda
PUBLISHER – Allen and Unwin
ISBN – 9781743312612

Grandpapa’s eyes shine when he remembers the beauty of the world, long-ago. Peterboy wants to find something wonderful to bring the light to Grandpapa’s eyes and keep it there. What he finds is a duck, wounded and broken, and Grandpapa mends her from top to tail; quack, waddle and wing!

The Duck and the Darklings is a triumphant story, for children and adults, about the coming of hope in dark days, the warmth of friendship and the splendour of a new dawn. {source}

RESOURCES – Allen and Unwin have put together a fabulous set of teacher’s notes you can download here and which include:

  • Introduction
  • Story summary
  • Themes
  • Curriculum topics
  • Study of history, society and environment
  • English language and literacy
  • Visual literacy
  • Creative arts
  • Learning technologies
  • Conclusion
  • About the creators
  • Blackline masters – including three printable activities

My Two Blankets

my two blankets
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Blackwood, Freya, Text Kobald, Irena
PUBLISHERLittle Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN – 9781921714764

My Two Blankets is the story of a young girl called Cartwheel who leaves her own war torn country for somewhere safe. But the new place is so foreign to her she no longer feels like herself. Cartwheel seeks comfort in a metaphorical blanket of her own words and sounds. When a young girl shows her friendship and begins to teach her new words, Cartwheel begins to create a new blanket from these words and sounds she learns.{source}

RESOURCES – The publisher has created comprehensive teachers’ notes you can download here and which covers:

  • Learning outcomes
  • About the story
  • Questions and activities
  • Make a language
  • Immersion activity
  • More from the author

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia

coming of age
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Divaroren, Demet & Pajalic, Amra (editors)
PUBLISHERAllen & Unwin
ISBN – 9781743312926

Muslim people in Australia come from over seventy countries and represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and experiences. Yet we are constantly bombarded by media stories feeding one negative stereotype. What is it really like to grow up Muslim in Australia? In this book, famous and not-so-famous Muslim-Australians tell their stories in their own voices.

The beard, the hijab, the migrant – these are all familiar images associated with Muslim people. But delve deeper and there are many other stories: the young female boxer entering the ring for her first professional bout; a ten-year-old boy who renounces religion; a young woman struggling to reconcile her sexual identity with her faith. These honest and heartfelt stories will resonate with all readers, providing different snapshots of Muslim life in Australia, dispelling myths and stereotypes, and above all celebrating diversity, achievement, courage and determination. {source}

RESOURCES – Allen and Unwin have created thorough teachers’ notes (18 pages) which can be found here. They include:

  • Introduction
  • Summary of the stories
  • Structure of the teachers notes
  • Pre-reading activities/information
  • Themes & activities/discussion
  • Further reading & viewing
  • Related resources
  • Glossary
  • About the editors
  • Appendix: Chart of themes and stories

Tea and Sugar Christmas

Tea and Sugar Christmas
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR – Jolly, Jane, Ill. Ingpen, Robert
PUBLISHERNational Library of Australia
ISBN – 9781921504402

The Tea and Sugar train only came once a week on a Thursday. But the special Christmas train only came once a year.
Today was Sunday.
Four more days without sugar.
Four more days until the Christmas train. Please, please be on time. Please don’t be late.

Join Kathleen in the outback as she eagerly awaits the Christmas Tea and Sugar train. Will she meet Father Christmas? Will she receive a Christmas gift from him?
A delightful, heart-warming story from the National Library of Australia that will intrigue, captivate and introduce readers to a slice of the past.

Wonderful sensitive illustrations, including a beautiful double fold-out image showing the shops inside all the carriages.{source}

RESOURCES – The National Library of Australia have created four pages of teachers’ notes which can be downloaded here. They include:

  • Author information
  • Illustrator information
  • Setting
  • Activities
  • The Tea and Sugar Train – including links to videos to watch
  • Language of the Story
  • The Illustrations: Storyboards
  • Pencil sketching
  • Realism
  • Research

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 2015.

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