Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine. Sound familiar? Probably. But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know. She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin. They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!
How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.
Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them. Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.
Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy.She achieved that in 2015.
As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina. “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”
Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves.
Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..
From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories.
To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces.
This is a new series featuring Ginger Green, a lovable little fox, who likes to dance, do gymnastics, dress up and make-believe. But even more importantly she likes to play with her friends and has lots of playdates, each of which brings a new challenge to negotiate and resolve. Friends who won’t share, friends who prefer her sister, friends who like to do different things, friends who are naughty… each one requires tact and thoughtfulness so it ends in a win-win situation.
Written for emerging independent readers with short chapters, large font and charming illustrations, this is a great series for those just growing into the realm of developing friendships beyond the influence of parents and having to work through the minefield of egos, wants, needs and expectations. Using settings and situations that will be familiar to the audience, the stories provide suggestions for how to handle challenges that the reader will inevitably face without having to rely on parental help, helping build empathy, resilience and compassion.
Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.
However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of. In the first book, Sweet Escape there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.
This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem. Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website for more. With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.
At some stage in their young lives, children have an imaginary friend – one who likes to do the things that you like, eat the things you eat, be scared of the things you are scared of and share good times with you. And so it is with the little girl in this story. Her friend Molly loves playing games, going to the park and going on the slides, eating fish and chips and gelati. She doesn’t mind the other kids who are noisy but the barking dogs are a bit frightening.
But one day Molly disappears and no amount of searching finds her. Things are bleak and lonely especially as school has just started and everyone seems to have a friend already. And then one day a little girl called Zoe offers to share her crayons…
This is not an uncommon theme in children’s storybooks but the remarkable thing about this one is that the author wrote it when she was just 10. She is now just 13. Whimsical characters in colours that echo the mood of the story bring the little girl and her friend to life and reassures those who are about to begin a new phase of their life that there will be someone ready to support them. It opens up opportunities to talk about what friends are and how to initiate friendships through kindness and that through our lives we will have many different friends.
You can read more about this young author here and perhaps her story will inspire the writers in your class to keep at it.
Little girls love to do handstands and Edith is no exception. She is teaching herself and each day she gets a little better increasing her upside-downness by a second each day. But each day something interrupts her concentration like the worm who popped up by her hand, the bird who used her hand for target practice and the spider that crawled down her shorts when she rested her legs against a tree. But nevertheless she keeps on practising…
This is an interesting book – it’s tagline is “a kind of counting book” which it is as Edith manages an extra handstand and an extra second each day and the words and numbers are included in the illustrations. But it is also intriguing because as she encounters each little creature the creature gives its perspective on how Edith has interrupted it, offering an introduction to getting young readers to see things from another point of view. The worm pops his head above ground and sees “a giant hand next to my preferred popping up place”. It could spark some discussion and drawing about how little girls and little boys appear to the creatures in their environment. Resilience is also a theme – how we must practise and practise to get better and not be deterred by trivial things like a spider in your knickers.
The appearance of the book is also interesting – harking back to a time when handstand competitions were features of recess and lunch break entertainment for girls of my era, the colours and style give it a definite retro feel. Even the name ‘Edith’ suggests a bygone time. The illustrations are also what a child the age of the narrator might draw adding to the impression that this is, indeed a young girl telling her story, but the font, presented in the style of a young child might prove tricky for young readers to start with.
Even though this appears to be a counting book at first flick-through, there is much more in it that can provide lots of chat between child and adult and even tempt them to try a new skill. I’m sure Miss 10 and Miss Nearly-6 eyes will boggle at the thought of Grandma being the school handstand champion a lifetime ago!!!
Fancy Nancy’s mum has won a weekend at a resort , and sadly for Nancy, children are not included. So she and little sister JoJo are going to have a sleepover at Mrs DeVine’s. Even though both girls love Mrs DeVine, this is Jo Jo’s first sleepover and she is a little nervous.
Being a good big sister, Nancy is determined to help JoJo overcome her nerves and help her through this experience, rehearsing it, making her a survival kit and showing her the photo album of the sleepover she had recently. Mrs DeVine is also an expert at sleepovers and has much fun planned and in the end, it isn’t JoJo who has trouble going to sleep.
This is a series that will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are big sisters. Lavishly illustrated including a sparkling, glittery cover, it has all the things that little girls love as they take early steps into reading series and learning to carry characters through a number of stories. She has her own website and even her own YouTube channel where all the stories are read.
With the Southern Stars and the Women’s Big Bash League now getting greater coverage on prime time, mainstream television, the name of Ellyse Perry is becoming one that is widely known and recognised. So it is pleasing to see a series of stories that focuses on her sporting career from the choices she had to make at high school through to her current success becoming a part of the literature available to newly independent readers. While there have been other series of this ilk such as Glenn Maxwell and Billy Slater there have been very few focusing on the prowess of Australia’s female sports stars. Ellyse who plays both soccer and cricket at the elite level is a wonderful focal point for inspiring young girls to continue their sport after they leave primary school and she shows that with care and good choices, you can do all that you want. Boys will also enjoy reading about one of Australia’s leading lights.
Pocket Rocket and Magic Feet are available now just in time for the Christmas stocking and Winning Touch and Double Time will be available in early January ready for the long January days after the excitement of Christmas is over and our children are looking for something new.
The ballerina lived in a little wooden box and every day she stood straight and tall and danced for the little girl who would laugh and clap her hands and dance like the ballerina herself. But as the years passed, the little girl grew up and the ballerina danced for her less and less, until, eventually, she danced no longer.
So one day she jumped down from her box, skipped out the windowsill to find a new dance partner. But the bee in the flowers was too busy; the turtle on the seashore wasn’t a dancer; and the leopard on the island wanted her for his lunch! So the ballerina hurried home to her box and danced one last time for the little girl. But sadly, it was not enough and the lid was closed and the box stored away for many years. Until one day another little girl opened the lid…
This is a poignant story about growing up and the treasured keepsakes we grow beyond as we do so. For while it is the story of the ballerina wanting to do what she loves, it is also the story of those things that we always think of when we think of our childhood and which we know we will pass on to our own children in the hope they will get similar joy. Gwynneth Jones’s illustrations are charming – gentle pastels while the ballerina is happy dancing for the girl and a bolder palette as she gets bolder – and feed right into the vision we have when we think about musical boxes with their magic tucked inside.
A great opportunity to talk about memories with our children as well as what they love enough to want to keep for their children, creating bonds across generations.
Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet. Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”.
But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.
Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity? Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.
The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious. With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.
A peek inside…
Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities. There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.