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Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets & Spells

9781925520101

Hauntings & Hexes

9781925520576

Plots & Potions

9781925675252

Aleesah Darlison

Big Sky Publishing, 2017-2018

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

The tiny beach town of Mixton Bay isn’t Courtney’s idea of a holiday. In fact, she thinks it the sleepiest, most boring holiday place ever and the house she is to stay in is so ugly even a dog wouldn’t sleep in it. But now her grandmother, whom she never met and whom her father hasn’t spoken to for years has died and her house must be sorted and sold.  But once she gets there her curiosity takes over and she starts asking questions about her family’s history and why it has been so fractured.  Little does she know that those family secrets, magic and mystery, and the memory of her grandma Delia will result in a special holiday to remember.

 When she finds a mystical ‘Book of Spells’ with her name on the box, discovers Ink the talking cat and a new surfer friend, Justice who has a secret of his own, suddenly her life gets very interesting and is changed forever.

The Little Witch Series features wholesome magical stories with gentle elements of tween/teen romance. The stories deal with realistic family and relationship issues set against a backdrop of fantasy and magical escapism centred in the real world. Light-hearted and funny, this series feature a strong, independent and unique female lead character whom readers will relate to as she confronts familiar situations with new solutions, learning more and more about her family and herself as she does so. 

No matter what series Darlison writes she has a knack of creating totally believable characters who are great role models for young readers showing independence, imagination and ingenuity while still engrossing them in a compelling and intriguing adventure.  

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

Mark Lee

Chris Jevons

Carolrhoda Books, 2018 

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781512426014

“If you ask me, a best friend is the best thing in the world .  Best friends enjoy the same things. They play together all the time. and they always get along with each other.”

So it was never going to end well when one wanted to be the captain of the spaceship and the other, the captain of the pirate ship.  Harsh words are said, a friendship is split and a new best friend has to be found.  But dogs, cats, hamsters and even goldfish have their drawbacks as best friends and so…

This seamless combination of text and illustrations challenges the concept that many little people have that best friends are like peas in a pod, liking and doing the same things at the same time and never being different.  Is it possible to have different ideas and do different things and still be best friends? If someone disagrees with us, does that mean the friendship is doomed or does it offer an opportunity to explore and respect the differences, perhaps even learn something new?  Can we have more than one friend at a time? How is a best friend different from a regular friend? While in this book the friends look similar, is this a pre-requisite to being friends?  How do shared values and beliefs affect friendships? Is it OK to be angry with or disappointed in or surprised by your best friend?

“What is a friend?” is a perennial topic in early childhood education and this book can take the conversation a step further by having the children consider those sorts of questions. Having friends is about being a friend and there are many facets to that.

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

Michael Speechley

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143788973

Remember the fidget spinners of last year that were the essential, all-new, must-have for kids?  The beyblades? The shopkins? And a hundred other toys that clever advertising has made top-of-the-toy-parade but which fade as quickly as they appear?  Well, Harvey had them all – and then some! Boxes and buckets full of them! So when he heard about The All New Must Have Orange 430 then he had to have that too.

The only thing that was empty in Harvey’s room was his money box but after checking everything and everywhere he finally found enough coins to be able to buy his latest desire.  So intent was he on owning it that he didn’t notice the huge April Fools’ Sale sign or that this  All New Must Have Orange 430 sat on a shelf surrounded by items such as dead batteries, free fat, grey fluff and even a lead balloon! He was only focused on having The All New Must Have Orange 430!

When he got home he eagerly unwrapped it.  It had EVERYTHING _ a thingy that did nothing; a whatsit that did squat; a dooverlacky that was whacky; and a something that was silly.  But what did it do? No matter what he did, it did nothing and he finally realised it was “actually completely useless.”

So he decided to take it back – and then his life changed forever.

In a world that seems to be all about having the latest and greatest, keeping-up-with-the-Jones is paramount and we are bombarded by advertisements in every aspect of our lives (even in public toilets),  this book is a breath of fresh air.  As parents find it easier to give into pester power than suffer the sulks of a firm “no’ as their children mimic their own consumer-driven behaviour, the ideas of looking for value or even restraint and second thoughts seems to have disappeared in this age of instant gratification. So to have a well-written, superbly illustrated book that compels the reader to think before they buy is excellent and will serve as a brilliant teaching tool to introduce the power of advertising, peer pressure, impulse buying, the value of money and even saving for something that seems to be beyond the mindset of so many, including Miss 12! Maybe, for those who are a little older, there could be an examination of the psychology that drives the need to belong, to be one of the flock rather than individual.

Its sepia tones used for all but The All New Must Have Orange 430 add to its layers as they depict what appears to be a beige life with the only spot of colour being a new purchase. But once the brief thrill of the purchase is made, and everyone has what the other does, it too fades to beige in anticipation of the next best-thing.  

As nearly all of us seek more and more storage for more and more stuff, swearing that we will declutter someday soon, reading and taking heed of the important themes of this book may help our younger students refrain from being Harveys in the first place!  

Definitely one for Miss 12 and Miss 7 – perhaps even their parents!  And definitely one for any unit of work that focuses on consumerism and marketing. 

Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave!

Scaredy Book

Scaredy Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave!

Devon Sillett

Cara King

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335682

Book lived among many friends in the comfortable, warm, peaceful library and loved it.  From where he perched he could see his friends skip out the door tucked under the arm or in the library bag of a delighted child as they went on great adventures and met new friends and then returned to tell the tale. Book would have liked to have had those sorts of adventures for himself but he was afraid – he thought of those books that came back damaged -creased, ripped, sticky or even with their pages missing – or never returned at all leaving a gap in the shelves where they had once stood proudly. 

Will he ever overcome his fear and let himself go on an adventure? What happens when he meets Emma whose favourite place is the library?

This is a delightful, original story that sensitively explores the fear of the unknown and the courage involved in stepping outside our comfort zones to experience those things we would really like to if we weren’t so timid. Book, Emma and all of us have an imagination that can sometimes cripple us from taking action because of the ‘what-ifs’ and we can make the negatives so huge they outweigh the positives.  But it also a book that can inspire moving forward – by turning the ‘what-if’ into something we can develop a strategy for in advance if, indeed it does happen.  It can also inspire empathy by helping the worried child consider the concerns of those they are going to meet – perhaps they are just as scared.

Quite different from her debut book The Leaky Story, nevertheless this is another great example of the “what-if’ story starter that triggers speculative fiction that has been the focus of Sillett’s academic research.  The illustrations are in a gentle palette with soft lines that emphasise the tone of the story and reinforce the atmosphere of calm and peace and tranquility that prevail.

Either as a class or a personal read, this is a wonderful way to have children begin to talk about the things that concern them and help them navigate their way through them so they, like Book, can discover a whole new world of adventures.

I Am Enough

I am Enough

I am Enough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Enough

Grace Byers

Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer + Bray, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062667120

Like the sun, I’m here to shine…

Like time, I’m here to be, and be everything I can.

In a time where there seems to be an expectation that we will each be smarter, richer, thinner, bigger, better than anyone else, it seems to be impossible to just be – and let who you are be enough. But in this stunning new release, the little girl does not feel the need to compete with anyone.  She not only accepts who she is and is proud of that but also respects the individuality of others…

I know that we don’t look the same: our skin, our eyes, our hair, our frame.

But that does not dictate our worth; we both have places here on earth.

Apart from the powerful message that all children, indeed everyone, needs to take away from this book, it’s other strength is its diversity – each child is different in ethnicity, religion, and even physical ability although their gender is the same and that perhaps is its one negative.  Perhaps in a world where gender equality is still an issue. showing girls and boys together could have added just a little more.

Nevertheless, this is an important book to share and discuss as we try to promote positive mental health from an early age and that needs to start with the acceptance of ourselves as we are with no compulsion to compete to match someone else’s expectations. 

 

 

Sorry Day

Sorry Day

Sorry Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry Day

Coral Vass

Dub Leffler

NLA Publishing, 2018

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279033

Standing amidst the large crowd gathered on the slopes of Parliament House in Canberra is light-haired, fair-skinned Maggie clutching her Aboriginal mother’s hand waiting for the most important speech from a politician for generations.  It is February 13, 2008 and, on behalf of a more enlightened nation,  the newly-elected Prime Minister is about to deliver the long-awaited apology to all Australia’s indigenous peoples for their losses in past times when it was thought that their children would be better off if they were taken to live with and be raised by white families – the Stolen Generations.

In a time ‘long ago and not-so-long-ago’ children were taken from their parents, their ‘sorrow echoing across the land’. 

Intertwined with Maggie’s story of anticipation and sudden loss as she falls among the legs of the crowd, is that of her mother, a young girl in different times when the roar of a truck and the thud of boots was a signal to hide before the white men came to take them.

“Screams echoed across the land as they scrambled to escape, sliding in the mud with every step.”

But, in the final fold-out flap the stories merge as Kevin Rudd proclaims,For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.  To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry… We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.”  

And at last, hope glimmers.

The recognition of the treatment of Australia’s indigenous peoples was a central focus of the 2007 election campaign for it had been 40 years since the referendum to acknowledge and include  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as citizens of Australia, and ten years since the historic Bringing Them Home report  was tabled in Federal Parliament. 

While many of an older generation will remember where they were on the day of the speech, our younger generations may not understand its significance seeing it as just another day paid homage during the school year. So to have such a beautifully written story with such evocative illustrations to explain its importance – perhaps akin to ANZAC Day in the shaping of our nation – is superb and a must-have in every school library collection, particularly as there are two pages of explanation and illustrations drawing on the collection of the National Library of Australia  to complete it. 

In a few, well-chosen words and sublimely constructed sentences, Coral Vass has written an evocative story that not only expresses the heartbreak of those whose children were taken but also the fear of the children as Maggie is briefly separated from her mother.  Accompanied by unforgettable illustrations that capture the landscape, the emotions and the tension of both Maggie and her mother’s stories, this is a unique story that enables all of us to understand the importance of May 26 each year.

Teachers notes are available

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Can I Touch Your Hair?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Vandenberg sets her 5th grade class a poetry project and then says, “Pick a partner.”  Within seconds the only one left for Irene is you-never-know-what-he-is-going-to-say Charles and for Charles it’s hardly-says-anything Irene.  But that’s not the main difference they see – Charles is black and Irene is white.  Nevertheless, an assignment is an assignment and with no boundaries they select everyday topics like buying shoes, their hair, going to church and the beach to write about, each using blank verse to describe their experiences.  For Irene who is painfully shy and likes her “stringy, dishwater, blonde” hair because it’s a curtain she can hide behind, her first poems focus on how she would like to be like the popular girls in class.  “I’d rather be sun-burned than sugar-sand white.” For Charles, for whom words fly off the page and out of his mouth, they’re about how he too, would like to fit in better but is shunned because of the colour of his skin and the confusion that that sets up inside him.

But as they write and share their poems, the topics getting more personal and revealing, gradually a greater understanding grows and they realise they have many more similarities than differences, seeing each other as individuals, and that they are both so much more than black and white. However, the poems don’t just explore their growing connections – they also explore their personal conundrums.  Charles watches the news and sees people walking by as black people are being “choked, pummelled, shot, killed by police officers” and yet he has a special friendship with local (white) Officer Brassard; Irene is shunned by Shonda in the playground but when Shonda presents her family tree draped in chains, Irene feels the need to say, “Sorry”.  

Subtitled, Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship,  this book grew from a friendship that began as an email but evolved from all that had gone before in the authors; and illustrators’  lives to shape them into their current personalities.  Imagining what it would be like if they had met in a modern-day 5th grade class, rather than a book of unrelated poems this one tells the story of an evolving friendship between two people with seemingly distinct lives, diverse experiences and different perceptions using the format of the poem to be the voice of each, and each shedding light on innermost thoughts that illuminate a path that few get to tread.

Unlike other books with “we’re-all-the-same-on-the-inside” messages, this one tackles the issue of race head on so that conversations can be started and differences can be explored rather than ignored.  Because even though we may be the same on the inside, all that has gone before us even before we are born has gone into the making of who we are now, and while that makes us unique individuals regardless of skin colour, it is that skin colour that can be the greatest division as first impressions are so deeply shaped by existing attitudes, perceptions and preconceptions.  Charles was picked first for the basketball team simply because of his skin colour and lanky legs, but things changed when he muffed an easy shot.

This is a complex book with so many layers that it risks being left unopened on the shelf if it is not shared with the child by an astute adult, either parent or teacher, who can begin and sensitively guide the conversations.  Cultural differences – racial, religious, sexual, lingual, socio-economic – are a big issue in our schoolyards as the focus on bullying demonstrates, so something new that approaches the issues in a radical way can be a catalyst for change.  What is we were all Mrs Vandenbergs and set our students a similar challenge, instead of the one-size-fits-all novel study, and insisted that students work with someone they have never worked with before?  

Extraordinary.

If you are in an Australian school and would like my review copy of this book to use with your students, be the first to contact me and ask for it.  Please include your name and postal address.

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons of a LAC

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781925335828

In one village on one side of the mountains live the LACs – Little Anxious Children who constantly look for danger and who only have negative self-talk; in another village on the other side of the mountains live their enemies the Calmsters who can take life as it comes because of their positive self-talk.  The two sides are constantly battling because when one wins, the other shrinks.

One day Loppy the LAC decides to climb the mountain and spy on the Calmsters but his anxiety goes through the roof when he spies a Calmster looking back.  And not only looking back, but coming to meet him! Who will win the impending battle? Does there have to be a winner and a loser?

Anxiety amongst children in on the increase.  According to a recent national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents, approximately 278,000 Australian children aged between 4 and 17 struggle with clinical symptoms of Anxiety. (For a summary see kidsfirst children’s services) Therefore books which shine a light on this condition which affects 1 in 7 of those between 4 and 17 and which can be used as a starting point to help the child manage the symptoms are both important and welcome, particularly as mindfulness and mental health are gaining traction in school curricula. While there are almost as many causes of anxiety as there are children affected by it,  such as not being perfect, helping children turn their self-talk around, as Curly did for Loppy, is a critical starting point and many classrooms are now displaying images such as these…

 

Not only do such explicit statements give the anxious child prompts for the new words, but they also acknowledge that anxiety is real and that there are others who are anxious too.  While climbing that internal mountain as Loppy did can be hard, knowing that there are others who also battle can be reassuring. While teachers are not clinical psychologists like the author, having tools like the Loppy books in the mindfulness collection and using them not only to help the Loppies move forward but also to help the Calmsters learn that some of their friends may be like Loppy so deserve  and need understanding rather than ridicule can be a starting point in achieving harmony in the classroom.

Teachers’ notes which extend the story into practical applications are available.

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Juana Martinez-Neal

Candlewick Press, 2018

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

9780763693558

Sometimes parents give their babies names that are bigger than they are- even when the baby grows up! And so it is with Alma Sofia, Esperanza Jose Pura Candela.  So she turns to her Daddy to explain why she has six names and as he tells her, she learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; the spiritual Pura and her activist grandmother Candela.  As she hears the story of her name and her history, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell.

Parents choose our names for so many reasons – my own was changed to be the initials of the harbour board of which my grandfather was the chief engineer, initials which were on the risers of the steps leading to his important office so I was convinced they were my personal stairway to heaven – and to discover those reasons can be a fascinating insight into what life was like for our parents at the time, just as it was for Alma. But despite, or because of, our names we all remain unique individuals who will, in time, have our own stories to tell – just as Alma does.

There are so many cross-curriculum activities that can be done just by playing with and exploring our names – my students loved to see how much their names were worth if each letter had the dollar value of a Scrabble tile – that to have such a clever, poignant but fascinating story such as this to kickstart the investigations is just perfect.  (If you’re looking for suggestions scramble through your Teacher Resource section and see if you have a copy of Maths  About Me, written in 1991 under my other name of Hosie.)

Maths About Me

Maths About Me

Parvana – a graphic novel

Parvana - a graphic novel

Parvana – a graphic novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parvana – a graphic novel

Deborah Ellis

Allen & Unwin, 2018

80pp., graphic novel, RRP $A19.99

9781760631970

In 2000, Canadian author Deborah Ellis told the story of Parvana, an 11 year old girl who living in  Kabul, Afghanistan with her mother Fatana, her father, her older sister Nooria, and two younger siblings, Maryam and Ali when Taliban soldiers enter her house and arrest her father for having a foreign education and beginning a fascinating, intriguing, award-winning series of books which include Parvana’s Journey , Shauzia  and Parvana’s Promise that shone a spotlight on the conditions of women and girls in Afghanistan that continues to this day.

As a series it is an amazing, true-to-life story of a young girl living in circumstances that the rest of the world knew little about but which has now led to the establishment of international organisations which support not only Afghan women but the recognition and provision of education for girls in male-dominated countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As a story, it is one of courage, resilience, determination and grit that is inspirational as well as educational.  So many young girls that I know who have read this have commented about how it puts their own issues into perspective.

Renamed The Breadwinner in the US, it was made into a film of the same name and now that has been adapted into graphic novel format which will enable so many more to learn about Parvana’s story and perhaps continue to read the entire series.

If this series is not on your shelves for your Year 5/6+ readers, it should be.  If it is but has not circulated, perhaps it is time to promote it to a new audience.   In my opinion, it is a modern classic that should be read by all as an introduction to the world beyond the Australian classroom.

 

NB If you are searching for the series it also has the titles The Breadwinner (1),  Mud City (3) and My Name is Parvana (4)