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Little Paws (Series)

Little Paws

Little Paws

 

 

 

 

 

Little Paws (series)

Welcome Home, Harley

9780143781776

Ringo’s Road Trip

9780143781813

Meg’s Big Mystery

9780143781790

Goldie Makes the Grade

9780143781837

Jess Black

Gabrielle Evans

Penguin Random House Australia, 2017

88pp., pbk,, RRP $A9.99

 

Guide Dogs Australia provide essential services to those with vision impairment as well as those who suffer other conditions through their Pets as Therapy program, relieve the isolation and loneliness of the elderly through Companion Dogs and are piloting Autism Assistance dogs for children so this new series which highlights the training of these dogs as well as helping to raise funds for that training is as much a community service as it is a really good read for those newly independent readers.

Each book focuses on the children in different families helping to train the dogs for their special jobs, taking on the responsibility of all aspects of what is involved, providing an engaging story as well as guidance for how the reader might train their own four-legged, tail-wagging friend. They also shed some insight into how life can be for those whose vision is impaired and the impact having some of the stress removed can have, maybe even encouraging them to become puppy-raisers themselves.  So many refuse to do it because of the heartbreak of having to part with the dog, but there’s a lesson to be learned in suffering a little to give someone else so much.

2017 celebrates 60 years since Guide Dogs Australia placed the first dog and April 26 is International Guide Dogs Day. The purchase of each book supports their work so that even more puppies can bring help and joy to others.  But apart from that, each story is a good read and Miss Dog-Loving 6 who is on the cusp of being ready to read chapter books independently is going to love them.  They will give her that little push she needs to make the leap!

 

 

Be A Friend

Be A Friend

Be A Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be A Friend

Salina Yoon

Bloomsbury, 2016

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408869093

Dennis was an ordinary who liked doing ordinary boy things – BUT instead of talking about them like other boys he expressed himself differently. His hero was the great mime artist Marcel Marceau  and like his hero with his white face and top hat, Dennis would mime what he wanted to say.  While other children climbed trees, Dennis was happy to be a tree.   But trees get lonely and as the other children played happily, Dennis looked on wistfully, feeling invisible, as though he were standing behind a wall t . .. until the day he kicked an imaginary ball and a little girl called Joy caught it.

The blurb on the back of the book says it is “a heart-warming celebration of individuality, imagination and the power of friendship” and that is spot on.  This is a subtle but powerful exploration of children who are different from the “norm”, who literally and figuratively don’t have a voice and who feel invisible because of that difference.  It’s not that the other children are cruel or unkind but they are busy being children and don’t always see beyond their own horizons, let alone have time to understand Dennis and his special needs.  Even though Joy is like Dennis in that she, too, does not speak, the power of friendship that exists between two children can open new worlds for not just them but others around them too.

Yoon’s illustrations are exquisite – a dotted red line captures Dennis’s actions so the reader knows what is happening and the final illustration using the imaginary skipping rope and all the other children running to join in the game is perfect.

While the storyline focuses on Dennis who doesn’t speak, it could apply to anyone who feels different such as a child new to the country with no English or someone with a physical disability or an emotional need – it will resonate with anyone who feels marginalised and who would just like a friend. But just as it is their story, so it can be a story for one of those “ordinary” children.  As educators we must never under-estimate the value of teaching children how to make friends and be friends – it is a skill that will take them far beyond the first few days of Kindergarten.

Making and being friends is the theme of so many stories for young children that you wonder if there could ever be a new slant on it.  Be A Friend has found it.

I was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was Only Nineteen

John Schuman

Craig Smith

Allen & Unwin, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP &A24.99

9781743317235

The banner across the top of the cover of this book says, “The iconic song about the Vietnam War that helped change a nation” and indeed, anyone who has heard the original with the haunting voice of John Schuman as the lead singer of Redgum will find that echoing in their head as they “read” this picture book version of the song that brought the realities of the war to a generation. If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s available on You Tube

While, for the first time in history, war was brought into the family living room through the immediacy of television news programs, it was the personalising of what was happening through the lyrics of this song that not only provided a real insight but which has also endured.  In fact, along with the picture of the little girl running naked from her village after it had been destroyed with napalm bombs it would be one of the most-recalled memories of that time.  Its refrain and final line, “God help me, I was only nineteen” encapsulates it all. Both the words and the sensitive, evocative images of Craig Smith show that war is the antithesis of the great adventure that these soldiers’ ancestors thought that it would be as they hastened to answer the call of 1914 and which will be in our thoughts as we move towards the commemoration of ANZAC Day.

But this is much more than another picture book about Australia’s war effort to support the national history curriculum.

As one of those who was very much involved in the events of the time and worked towards the big-picture objectives of not only having Australia and New Zealand troops out of Vietnam because we were against the “all-the-way-with-LBJ” policies of the prevailing governments but also against sending young men to war who, in their own country could not vote or legally have a beer, we did not consider or understand the effects our actions would have on those young men when they eventually came home, mentally and physically wounded, and to have served in Vietnam was a secret and a shame.  There were no parades or celebrations – you might talk about it with your mates to keep you sane but that was all. There was no respect from the public and each soldier was somehow held personally responsible for the events which we saw each night.  (If you, as an adult, want a greater understanding, read Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard and Smoky Joe’s Café by Bryce Courtenay.)

And so we have the situation today that many of our students have grandparents who are perhaps not as they should be and cannot explain why. They saw and did things that no 19-year-olds should ever have to and it is their experiences, their illnesses, their PTSD, their suicides that have changed the way we now view our serving forces and how they are treated and supported when they come home.  The picture books and television shows always stereotype Grandpa as being loving and jovial and every child deserves such a person – the production of this book might help them understand why theirs is not. It has an important role to play in helping our little ones understand.

If just the lyrics or the clip of the original “I was Only 19” were the only ones used in a study of the Vietnam War, the story would not be complete.  It is through Craig Smith’s final illustrations of the young soldier now a grandfather with his grandson ducking from a chopper, then sharing an ice cream and finally marching on ANZAC Day together that are critical because they show that while he is still troubled by his experiences, he has survived and 40 years on society has moved on to a new and different attitude.  For that we have to thank the continued and sustained efforts of all those Vietnam Vets who would not let us forget. We salute you now as we should have then.

For those who see this as a teaching opportunity, there are teachers’ notes are available.

 

Republished in honour of the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Long Tan.  August 18, 1966

long_tan

 

Elephant Man

Elephant Man

Elephant Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant Man

Mariangela Di Fiore

Hilde Hodnefjeld

Translated by Rosie Hedger

Allen & Unwin, 2016

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760292201

The publishers’ blurb says it best…

“’Gather round – prepare to be amazed! A sight so very gruesome that you simply won’t believe it. Ladies and gentlemen – THE ELEPHANT MAN!’

Joseph doesn’t look like other people. His skin is thick and lumpy, his limbs are oddly shaped, and his head has a big bony bump. People call him Elephant Man and scream in terror when they see him. But inside, Joseph longs for a friend to understand him.

As Joseph is bullied and rejected at every turn, his situation grows more and more desperate. But a meeting with a kind doctor holds the hope to change his life

Based on the famous true story of Joseph Merrick, Elephant Man is a powerful tale about being different, finding happiness in even the hardest circumstances, and discovering beauty inside everyone. The unforgettable true story of one young man’s immense courage and his unbreakable spirit.”

This is a heart-breaking but uplifting story of a young man so badly deformed that he was sent to one of the infamous workhouses of 19th century England at a time when any disability – physical or mental, visible or invisible – was treated with such suspicion that the only solution by ‘genteel society’ was to lock the sufferers away.  “Out of sight, out of mind” would summarise the concept well.  Seeking to escape, Joseph found that exhibiting himself in a human oddities show had more appeal than the life he was living – a sad indictment of the times, indeed. But out of the inhumanity comes Frederick Treves who changes Joseph’s life…

Merrick’s life has been the subject of books, films, plays and documentaries so that over 100 years on, it is still a fascination. This picture book, based on fact but ficitionalised by the inclusion of thoughts and conversations, and cleverly sprinkled with original photos and documents, might seem to have little place in the collection of a primary school of the 21st century. But it’s value is far-reaching for all Joseph really wanted was to be accepted for who he was inside, not his external appearance; as a person first and a person with an illness last.  Extreme example it may be, but what a discussion starter for body image, racism, religious perspectives and all those other characteristics that judgements are made on.  Older students might even examine Hitler’s view of ‘Aryan supremacy’ or Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise.

The book also stands as a testament to how far we have come in our perception and treatment of those who are not “perfect” in a very short time in human history.  As we mark the centenary of World War I, students are reading of those who returned disabled and “shell-shocked”, often shunned by society and certainly with little social support as attitudes did not change.  Indeed, the biggest turnaround was in 1981 in the UN-declared  International Year of Disabled Persons and there was a global spotlight on each nation having a plan of action for “equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities.”  From looking at something as basic as entry into public buildings we now have federal government legislation Disabled Standards for Education  which demands that we adapt our environments and our teaching for inclusivity.   While there is still much to do, gradually we are getting there and it is the understanding, tolerance and idealism of our young that will continue the march.  We should do these things because they are the right thing to do not because we are compelled by legislation.  

Elephant Man is not a gratuitous story about some freak-show oddity – it is a story about a man whose message reaches out across time to teach us so much about belonging, compassion and identity.  There is more information about Joseph Merrick at Biography.com

Emergency Echo

Emergency Echo

Emergency Echo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Echo

George Ivanoff

Penguin Random House. 2016

163pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780857988782

It started as just another game of backyard cricket with her best friend Ben, but the pain in Alice’s tummy isn’t because she has been eating roo meat.  No matter how she tries to ignore it, it soon becomes obvious that something is seriously wrong and when Grandad and Ben finally get her to the local medical centre the news is not good.  Alice has acute appendicitis and needs immediate surgery.  But in remote Mount Magnet, WA, that’s not easy. The nearest facility with the capability is in Perth and the nearest plane from the Royal Flying Doctor service is at least 40 minutes away in Meekatharra!  And there is a massive storm brewing so there is much playing on Alice’s mind apart from the pain, including the fact that her dad went to hospital not so long ago and did not return.

Because her mum can’t leave two-year-old Lewis (and there isn’t room for two) Alice’s grandfather volunteers to travel with her.  He’s a man that Alice is a bit wary of – even though he lives in the granny flat at the back of their house, Alice sees him as being old and “a bit useless’ particularly since he does little except watch television since the death of his son.  But needs must and as he supports and comforts her throughout her ordeal, she starts to understand him a little better and build a new relationship with him.  In the air the storm hits with a vengeance and both Grandad and Doctor Helen distract Alice from her fear and her pain by telling her stories of their own experiences with the RFDS – the echoes of the past that not only keep her mind occupied but also give the reader some insight into this service which began as the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in 1928, the realisation of a dream of the Reverend John Flynn to provide the people of the outback with a “mantle of safety” and made possible by the inventions of the pedal radio by Alfred Traeger 

Emergency Echo is part of a new series about the Royal Flying Doctor Service by George Ivanoff that is perfect for the newly independent reader wanting a good, solid adventure series.  Well-researched and accompanied by information about the Service, the places, the illness (so readers are already informed of what to expect if it befalls them) it is a welcome addition to the quality literature being written for young readers.  Authentic and engaging and different, they will appeal to both boys and girls who will be asking you to get Remote Rescue (already available) and Medical Mission and Fast Flight (coming in May).

There is more information about the books and their origins on George’s website 

‘Same’

'Same'

‘Same’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same

Katrina Roe

Wombat Books, 2015

32pp., hbk RRP $A19.99

9781925139266

 

When Uncle Charlie comes to visit, Ivy runs away and hides.  Uncle Charlie’s hands shake when she’s not expecting it and it’s hard to understand him when he talks.  He is also in an electric wheelchair that is very BIG and seems to move by itself.    When they go to the park to play, Uncle Charlie can’t join in.  He just has to watch.  And when mum reads a story he just has to listen because he can’t hold the book in his unsteady hands. Everything about Uncle Charlie is just a little bit different and it’s a bit scary for a little person.

But a heart-warming miracle happens when Ivy draws a picture for Uncle Charlie and then he draws one for her!

This is another wonderful story from a publisher who is not afraid to give a voice to issues that our students encounter but rarely read about.  With its themes of difference and inclusion, Same acknowledges that people in wheelchairs can be confronting for little people (and even for bigger ones) but if we can see past the physical to the person inside there are many more similarities than differences.  Katrina Roe is the author of Emily Eases her Wheezes  and once again she has captured in both the text and illustrations a common issue in a sensitive way that invites discussion not only about knowing someone with a disability, but also thinking about that person and how it might feel to be left out and forced to sit on the sidelines.

While this story has a domestic setting and Ivy meets Uncle Charlie in her own home, under the Disability Standards for Education legislation it is likely that our students will encounter more and more people who are wheelchair bound in their school lives, so this is a perfect way to not only start a conversation about our commonalities as people but also show how we can embrace and celebrate people’s differences.

Thumbs up to Wombat Books for continuing to go out on the edge!

Do You Remember?

Do You Remember?

Do You Remember?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you remember?

Kelly O’Gara and Anna McNeil

Wombat Books, 2015

hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.99

9781925139242

 

“Do you remember how much we loved each other?” is a strange way to start a story because you would think that two talking to each other would not forget that.  But it is the perfect beginning for this gentle, insightful reflection of that special relationship between grandparent and grandchild.  Beautifully and softly illustrated using mice as characters, it explores a situation that so many of our students are facing as their grandparents and great-grandparents get older and forgetfulness and dementia start to take over. 

“Do you remember when you started hiding things in strange places?”  Do you remember when you flooded your house?”  “Do you remember when you were cross?…You’d never spoken to me like that before. Did I do something wrong?” Such a common experience for so many, but this story has a beautiful twist. Because while Grandma Mouse can’t remember, Grandchild can and so she starts to paint pictures of Grandma’s stories so that even if Grandma has forgotten, the memories won’t be lost entirely.  As gradually the grandchild becomes the ‘adult’ it doesn’t really matter that Grandma can’t remember because they create new memories and the love that binds them together is the strongest memory of all. 

When memory fades to the point where even a child is not recognised, it can be very confronting and difficult to cope with as an adult who understands what is happening on an intellectual level if not an emotional one. Thus it is even more difficult for a child who interprets the loss as personal rejection and banishment and even lack of love.  Sharing Do You Remember? would be a wonderful way for a parent to help a child understand what is happening and the pointers about what dementia is and how a child can interact with the sufferer regardless are so useful.  Little children often fear those who are ageing, especially when they have to move into assisted care and sometimes the visits stop and the relationship wanes –but this book which also gives guidance for parents about how to handle the situation could be the pathway to keeping the love flowing.  Helping our children understand by being upfront with them is the greatest gift we can give them and their grandparents. 

Speaking from personal experience based on my own grandchildren and their Great Gran, O’Gara and McNeil have nailed it.

 

12 Annoying Monsters – self-talk for kids with anxiety

12 Annoying Monsters: Self-talk for kids with anxiety

12 Annoying Monsters: Self-talk for kids with anxiety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Annoying Monsters: Self-talk for kids with anxiety

Dawn Meredith

Shining Press 2013

pbk., 91pp, RRP $A14.95

9781876870669

As a teacher, Dawn Meredith has encountered and worked with many children suffering from anxiety – anxiety so debilitating that it interferes with their daily lives.  As a sufferer herself she felt she had something to offer them to help them help themselves and so she has written this book in which she talks directly to the child to help them understand their fears and then overcome them.

Using language they can understand but which treats them with dignity and acknowledges their intelligence, she explains what anxiety is and invites them to analyse their feelings, offering lists of words that will help describe them.  She also offers step-by-step suggestions for getting in control such as breathing deeply, letting yourself go floppy and banishing the bad thoughts.  Because she has already taught the child about the physiological effects of feeling anxious, these steps connect directly to this and so make sense.  That in itself is calming and helps the sufferer understand that they can be in control.

She then tackles the twelve annoying monsters that are the most common causes of anxiety in children such as “Bad things always happen to me”; “Everything must be perfect”; “I’m all alone and no one loves me” and “It’s my fault.” For each one there is an explanation of the message the monster is giving showing that the monster is wrong, is a liar, or is pathetic and then offers suggestions for self-talk to drown out its voice and practical steps to banish it.

Apart from all of the great advice in this book, the fact that it’s available shows that no one is alone with their fears, they are not freaks but a member of a larger group all with the same feelings, and offers the sufferers some comfort.  ‘No one would bother to make the time and energy to write such a thing if your fear was unique and isolated – you are not alone in this’ can be the message that starts the road to recovery and control.

Given that as teacher librarians we are often the first port of call when someone wants a title that will help a child in a specific situation, this is a must-have on the shelves and worth a whisper in the ear of any students you know that need it.  More information is at the author’s website

 

 

That’s what wings are for

That's what wings are for

That’s what wings are for

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s what wings are for

Patrick Guest

Daniella Germain

Little Hare, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.99

9781742978291

“There are three things that a respectable dragon needs …strong wings for flying, strong lungs for breathing fire and strong shiny scales.”  So what happens if you are a dragon with none of those things?  Instead you have wings that are weak and floppy, breath that is faint and wheezy and your skin is soft and furry and blue.  And you are the only one of you in your school, laughed at and left alone?  For that was Bluey’s story.  He would climb trees and dream of flying even though he could only use his wings to hug.  He was laughed at, scorned and shunned, and when he made the dreadful error of hugging another dragon, his wings were tied up until he could “behave like a proper dragon.”

However no matter what he did, Bluey couldn’t be a “proper dragon”.  But one day his teacher gives him hope.  She tells the class about a dragon who lived beyond the sea, who couldn’t fly and who couldn’t breathe fire but was so wise that others dragons flew to hear his wisdom.  And so Bluey begins a journey that gives him hope and helps him find his place in the world and what his wings are really for.

While this is a charming story in itself illustrated with beautiful pictures in a soft palette that emphasise the gentle nature of Bluey, it is the back story that gives it its punch.  Bluey started life as a soft toy given to the author’s son Noah who had just been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder which affects boys and results in their muscles collapsing with most dying before they are 25. When he was approached by the Duchenne Foundation to write a story about Bluey, Patrick Guest said the words just came to him… the book is dedicated to all with DMD and part of the proceeds will go to the foundation.  View this interview with the author.

But this is a story about more than just DMD – it’s a story about any child who is different and struggles with that difference within the school setting.  While it is hoped that our students would not be as cruel as Bluey’s dragon friends and teachers much more compassionate than Mr Snakeskin, the truth is that a life of being different, especially physically different where the difference is constantly on show is a tough one.  Even though there was a huge impetus in the provisions for those with a physical disability in 1981 with the International Year of Disabled Persons, discrimination still exists so much so that in 2005 the federal government introduced the Disability Standards for Education  Currently under review, it is surprising how many in schools are unaware of their obligations under this Act and so stories like Bluey’s not only continue to inform us but are needed to give us the heads-up.  It is so much more than providing ramps, wide aisles and doorways.

This is not just a book for schools where there are children on crutches and in wheelchairs – it’s a book for all school libraries so our children learn one of the most valuable lessons of life, that of everyone wanting to be accepted for who they are not what they can (or can’t) do. It’s a book to inspire children that there is hope and they will find their place in the world and make a difference.

The Worst Pain in the World

The Worst Pain in the World

The Worst Pain in the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst Pain in the World

Nicky Johnston

Arthritis Foundation of Victoria, 2014

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A14.95

9780992545215

Bella is just like every other little girl with a birthday on the horizon.  She’s so excited preparing for it doing all the things that other little girls do. This is going to be a VERY special day for her.

On birthday morning, Bella wakes up really excited, like all other little girls, but unlike other little girls Bella’s body is wracked with pain.  Her legs ache, her arms are stiff like rusty robots – it even hurts to brush her hair!  Yesterday she could do anything she wanted, today she can scarcely move and all those things she was looking forward to will be impossible. While everyone else comes and has a fabulous time, she will only be able to sit and watch. For Bella has arthritis, a disease that strikes at least 1 in 1000 kids in Australia, particularly girls.

Arthritis is an invisible pain, so while her guests need bandaids, and ice and sign Ethan’s cast on his broken arm, no one sees Bella’s pain, particularly as she tries to hide it because even worse than the physical pain is the pain of missing out on the fun and NOT being like all the other girls.  Even though she is in too much pain to eat her birthday cupcakes, to play the games or even open her presents no one notices until she bursts into tears when Dad takes the group party photo.  That changes things…

Arthritis is an insidious, invisible chronic disease with many symptoms but it is characterised by pain and tiredness, and sometimes the meds for it can be as horrible as the disease itself.  And the invisibility wears two cloaks – firstly there are no outward signs of it, no marks or rashes or bruises or deformities and that then makes it invisible to teachers, friends and sometimes families. So often it is not treated as seriously as more obvious things like cuts, breaks, diabetes, asthma and so forth.  Yet it is very real and debilitating. This book, which is an essential in any collection and which should be brought to the attention of teaching staff, shines a light on this cruelty giving it visibility and validity.

But as Bella shows, even worse than the physical pain is the pain of being different, of being left out, of not being like all the other kids and so at the end there are suggestions for how schools can seek help to help students with the disease as well as ideas for individuals to manage it.  Many of these are adaptable to the school situation such as wearing a badge so that others recognise the day’s pain level and having worthwhile, fun activities available as alternatives to activity when necessary.  Having arthritis is tough enough without being marginalised because of the pain.

Seek out the Bellas in your school and talk to them, their parents and their healthcare worker to make the library a welcoming and safe haven for them on the days when the jumping castle is a bar too high.