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Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Ava's Spectacular Spectacles

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Alice Rex

Angela Perrini

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781912076536

Ava does not like wearing her spectacles at school so she finds it difficult to see the board and read her books.  Her teacher understands this and knows she has to help Ava feel okay with wearing them so she begins to talk to Ava.  “If only Little Red Riding Hood had put on her glasses the day she went to visit her grandmother…she would have seen the big teeth and big eyes.”

Ava stops crying and Mrs Cook continues, gradually getting Ava to understand that wearing glasses is helpful and a good thing, not a badge of shame.

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Ava was me 60 years ago, right down to the red hair tied up in bunches. It’s as though illustrator Angela Perrini had been looking at my family photo albums (although we didn’t have coloured photos way back then!)  And then six years ago, it was my granddaughter who was Ava and in the intervening time, hundreds of other kids too. No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  As a teacher of 45 years, I’ve seen it over and over although luckily there is much greater acceptance these days.  Oh, to have had a teacher as understanding and as smart as Mrs Cook.

This is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers but which should be actively promoted to both teachers and parents as a strategy for getting little ones to be comfortable with wearing their glasses rather than ashamed.  While Mrs Cook sticks to well-known stories and rhymes where 20/20 vision would have been helpful there would be plenty of incidents, real and imaginary, that teachers and parents could draw on to play the what-if game.  

So many children will see this book as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves, while others will see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Ava and others feel and how they can be more empathetic. They might even explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Superb.

A Canadian Year – Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada's Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canadian Year -Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

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

9781925335439

Continuing this fabulous series which includes A Kiwi Year , An Aussie Year and a host of others, young children are introduced to the children of Canada.  There is Chloe, who speaks both French and English; Oki who is Inuit, Ava who is of Chinese heritage; Liam of Scottish heritage and Noah whose dream is to place ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks – kids just like those found in every classroom in Australia but whose lives are subtly different because of their geographic location.  Whoever heard of it being -30° in January and instead of being at the beach kids are skiing, skating and sledding?  And as we currently shiver through early winter and another Big Wet, it’s hard to imagine there are children on summer vacation for two months, kayaking, salmon fishing in the ocean, swimming, camping in the wilderness and visiting Santa’s Summer House just outside Toronto.  If nothing else, and there is SO much more, students will learn about the seasons being somewhat different in the northern hemisphere.

Offered as vignettes for each month, young children learn that there are places beyond their immediate horizons and there are kids who do things that are a bit different but overall, despite the timeframe, they enjoy and do the same things as kids everywhere so there is more that binds than divides. 

Intercultural understanding is a mandated part of the Australian Curriculum so that students “understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture” and this series is the perfect way to start this with young children whose concepts of the world are just developing. 

As usual, there is the is a double-page spread featuring intriguing facts and figures which just invite comparisons with Australia – if ‘Canada” comes from ‘kanata’ meaning village, where does “Australia” come from? If Canada is the world’s second-largest country, what is the largest?  What’s the difference between large as in area and large as in population? While teachers’ notes are available, the children themselves will generate enough questions to drive their own investigations. 

Why not use it as a model for a class calendar, highlighting the important events of each child’s life in each month visually exploring the unity and the diversity and promoting an important bond of belonging and acceptance so that lives and heritage are celebrated.  Create a wall display for each month and invite the children to contribute to it, and then compare what is happening with other children in other parts of the world using this series as the key resource.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Katrina Germein

Janine Dawson

Ford Street, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781925272673

Aussie Rules is awesome.  Out on the boundary Bailey warms up.  He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends towards me.”

As well as taking a romp through an Aussie Rules football game, this book also takes a romp through the alphabet using alliteration as a clever but not contrived device to keep the text flowing.  Those familiar with the game and its terminology will enjoy the story as friends enjoy their game despite the appalling weather, while those who are not so aware will learn a little more so they might be tempted to watch a match or two.  

There are few picture books about football written for the reluctant reader so this may also capture that market, as they recognise the action, the words and their meanings and start to believe that there is something in this reading thing for them.

Janine Dawson has not only captured the movement and action of the game but she has incorporated kids of both genders and a range of backgrounds that reflects the inclusivity of Aussie Rules and sport in general, so each child should be able to find themselves in the game somewhere.  The fun and enjoyment of playing together in a team lifts right off the page and the score becomes irrelevant -just as it should be. Even the rain turning the oval into a quagmire so everyone is slithering and sliding in mud just adds to the fun, and the detail in the background (like the lady trading her umbrella for the pooper-scooper) emphasises the fact that weather cannot be the determinant of our activities.

An uplifting read about going out and having fun with friends, whether it’s Aussie Rules or something else, cleverly told so that is has a wider audience than just the AFL aficionado.  

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whirlpool

Emily Larkin

Helene Magisson

Wombat Books, 2017

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

9781925563047

Life is lovely for Polar Bear Cub.  He has a happy, loving family where he is safe and protected.  He has friends and dreams for the future. Each day is better than the last and he is in charge of his life.  Even the stars shine just for him.

But suddenly all that is snatched away.  Without warning, darkness descends and there is no family or friends.  No hopes and dreams. Loneliness is his only companion – not even the stars are there for him.

Born from a uni assignment of using words and pictures together to make meaning, this is an unusual story because as the text speaks directly to the reader, it is the pictures of Polar Bear Cub that provide such a graphic interpretation of what they are saying, even though there is no reference to him in the words themselves. Together, they give depth and understanding to a situation that many of our children find themselves in when disaster and catastrophe strike their lives and all that is familiar is gone. Even its title is symbolic of the range of emotions that are within us, sometimes raging out of control but always eventually calming to a manageable level.

To children, some things – such as the coming of Santa Claus – seem to take forever, while to adults the time passes in a flash.  Similarly, to a child darkness lasts forever with no hope of light and their emotions are intense.  This book is written “for kids to know that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. It’s okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain – but these times don’t have to last. ”  

The well-being, particularly the mental health, of our students is receiving more and more focus in our curriculum as mindfulness programs are seen as crucial to a student’s success in other areas so this is an timely addition to that collection of resources to initiate discussions and provide support.

Brothers from a Different Mother

Brothers from a Different Mother

Brothers from a Different Mother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers from a Different Mother

Phillip Gwynne

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Penguin Viking 2017

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

9780670078486

Tapir lives in the jungle and Pig lives in the village but they meet at a common waterhole where they each go to play.  W  brothers or sisters of their own, they recognise they are similar but different but the differences don’t stop them eventually playing together, having fun swimming, chasing butterflies, wallowing in the mud and looking for yummy things to eat.  They decide they are brothers from a different mother.

But when their fathers discover they are playing with each other, they are forbidden to mix with each other – simply because they are pig and tapir and thus different.  Pig and Tapir are very unhappy and lonely and so they decide to disobey their fathers.  Tapir heads for the village while Pig goes to the jungle, each meeting with opposition to their search but determined to forge on.  And when they do meet up, all the fun is back on again as they wallow in the mud.  But then their fathers come looking for them..

Superbly illustrated, this is a tale that reflects what happens in the schoolyard with kids all the time.  They look for similarities not differences and friendships are as diverse as the children.  Racist, ethnic, religious, economic and social differences are not part of their perspectives – those are concepts imposed on them by adults.  Using a saying that is currently popular amongst close friends, Gwynne has brought to life its true meaning and as well as creating a charming story he has offered a great springboard for discussions about acceptance, tolerance, diversity, inclusivity and understanding as our children encounter all these things every day in the playground.  One might suggest that there are adults in this world who could learn more from this story than their children.

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780571329731

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.”

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

R.J. Palacio

Puffin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780141386416

Wonder is the unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face that has touched readers all over the world as it became an instant classic, used widely for one-school-one read projects and spread through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Now Palacio has transformed the core message of that book into a picture book that transcends ages with its powerful theme.

Even though he does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice cream and playing ball, Auggie is not an ordinary kid because he does not look like all the other kids in his class.  He knows this and he knows they point and laugh and call him names which hurt his feelings.  But he and his dog Daisy have a remarkable strategy for dealing with things when they get tough… And it certainly puts the hurt into perspective.

Even though he knows he can’t change the ways he looks, perhaps he can change the way people see.

Echoing the cover of the original, Palacio has depicted Auggie has a one-eyed child wearing a bright red t-shirt which stands out like a beacon against the more muted tones of the illustrations, somewhat like Auggie himself standing out amongst the masses. And for someone with no face, Palacio has nevertheless managed to convey a whole range of emotions in the illustrations and text. Every word does a job. 

In a book full of messages about belonging and acceptance perhaps the strongest one is Auggie’s inner strength.  Yes his feelings are hurt but he has learned through his family’s love and acceptance of him as he is that he has the strength to endure, maybe even overcome the insults and prejudices.  Even though he needs time out to heal, he has the resilience to come back stronger than ever.  He knows he is a wonder, he is unique – but then, aren’t we all?

Those who have not read the novel do not need to do so in order to connect to this book (although this one may well inspire them to seek it out) because it’s message is more important than the character.  Every one of us is an Auggie in some way – try being a red-head with freckles and glasses in the 50s when Marilyn Monroe-types were the role models – so every one of us could be the central character.  Written sensitively and with a light hand, particularly when it comes to Auggie’s solution, this book should be at the core of any program focusing on mindfulness, well-being, inclusivity, acceptance of others and being enough just as we are.  Perhaps this book will, indeed, bring Auggie’s hope of changing how people see to fruition.

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

A Kiwi Year

A Kiwi Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99

9781925335446

On the surface there don’t appear to be many difference between Australian kids and their Kiwi cousins apart from the fact the we Kiwis “talk funny”.  But as five Kiwi kids – Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia – show us as they journey through their year, there are subtle distinctions, enough to make their lives special and unique.

As well as different vocabulary like ‘tramping’ not ‘bushwalking’ and ‘jandals’ not ‘thongs’ Kiwi kids love rugby not rugby league or Australian Rules and are familiar with a very different range of flora and fauna.  Maori culture and the influence of our Pacific Island neighbours is very strong with official places and concepts being in both languages. Maoritanga is a mandatory part of the school curriculum.  The land is younger and much more mountainous and so winter is more severe with more opportunities to participate in snow sports, but summer sees us at the beach and playing cricket, even if we still remember that infamous underarm bowling incident.  

But like Australia, ANZAC Day is sacred and we remember those who put the NZ in the word, and with the European forefathers of both country being predominantly from the United Kingdom many of the annual festivals are the same.  But there are some that are unique that celebrate our heritage and landscape bringing a richness to our lives and our culture that is unique.

So many times I’ve heard Australians say they don’t want to go to New Zealand because it would be just like Australia in miniature, but once having been there, change their tune and marvel at just how different it is. Tania and Tina have ferreted out those things that make this country and its people unique and bring them to life through the eyes of the children, celebrating them in such a special way that this book will be handed on to my grandchildren (whose dad is also a Kiwi) so they can understand where they come from – and why Grandma is just a tad different at times!  LOL.

Olivia’s Voice

Olivia's Voice

Olivia’s Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia’s Voice

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781925227192

Imagine waking to a world of silence – no traffic, no sirens, no strident voices; no birdsong, no waves crashing no children laughing.   That is Olivia’s world.  But despite the lack of sound, it is still a beautiful world for her as she sees the patterns and movement of the life in the gum tree outside her window; smells the tasty fragrance of hot toast with butter;  feels the soft warmth of her mother’s cheek against hers as they hug; and embraces life at school just like every child. 

In this charming journey through Olivia’s day she shows us that there is still a beautiful, wondrous world to be explored even if it doesn’t have a sound accompaniment, teaching the reader to observe, enjoy and appreciate what they do have rather than mourning what they haven’t.  Through photograph-like illustrations and first-person text, we see the joy Olivia finds in life and hear her voice so loudly that we can share her curiosity, her wonder and her contentment with what is rather than what isn’t.  

Children with hearing impairments are part of the fabric of a classroom and they have so much more to teach us than just to look at them when we speak.  Opportunities abound in this book to help our students walk a mile in Olivia’s shoes – through artwork, through music, through games and every other aspect as we encourage them to consider a world without a particular sense. Learning only occurs when we reflect on new information and situations and assimilate them into what we already know, so this would be the perfect book to encourage the children to engage with reflecting on three things that have changed their day each day, encouraging gratitude and empathy and perhaps understanding themselves and their circumstances better. Obstacles are just opportunities for us to learn, grow and know ourselves better.

Stunning, evocative, thought-provoking.

 

 

 

 

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!