Jeffrey the Giraffe is very unhappy. Even though it is a lovely day, and he is the same size as the other giraffes and has the same spots as them, he has a short neck and that makes him different. As he wanders through the jungle feeling sorry for himself he almost steps on a little bird walking in the grass. The little bird is most indignant but when he hears Jeffrey’s story about being different and lonely he suggests going for a wall.
Jeffrey is surprised that the bird, whose name is Peter suggests a walk when everyone knows birds fly. But like Jeffrey, Peter is different for he cannot fly. That is until an innocent game of hide and seek changes both their lives forever…
First published in 1964, it has been republished several times over the years and now another generation will get to share this story with a theme that not only passes the test of time but endures in a myriad of situations everywhere so it will resonate with today’s readers as much as it did 50 years ago. Steadman’s bright, detailed illustrations are full of fun and echo the artwork of children although there is much to discover with closer examination.
Little ones can be encouraged to predict what might happen at several parts in the story particularly when Jeffrey’s predicament becomes apparent, which encourages them to take risks in a very safe environment, and they will enjoy joining in with the actions and words as the animals try to solve Jeffrey’s problem. Retelling and art opportunities abound! The best stories promote this sort of spontaneous interaction and so it is perfect for helping them understand the fun and enjoyment of stories and the printed word.
This is a classic story about friendship, co-operation and accepting others for what they are not what they look like that will probably still have a place on the shelves 50 years from now.
Once a year the Outback Dance is held near Bunyip’s Bluff
Where animals in fancy pants arrive to strut their stuff…
Dingo loves to dance under the desert’s night sky but he doesn’t have any fancy pants -just his regular coat and while he pretends not to care, deep down he really does.
Meanwhile all the other outback creatures are preparing for the big night, although not without some difficulty. Poor Emu is more suited to scarves – pants are not her thing while Bilby’s britches are still on the line and Kangaroo falls over in his and tears a big hole in them! Wombat seems to have gained some weight since the last dance, Koala has too many choices and makes a big mess and poor Cockatoo is just bamboozled about how a bird can fit into pants! Only Frill-Neck Lizard seems comfortable, looking like something straight from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!
But eventually everyone gets themselves sorted, meeting together near Wombat’s place – and then Dingo turns up in just his coat. At first the animals are concerned for their safety but then when he says that his coat is all he has, Kangaroo breaks the hush that has fallen…
February 16 is World Read Aloud Day and what better way to celebrate than with a rollicking, rhyming yarn that will not only entertain young readers with its humour and bright pictures, but will also allow them to hear the sounds and rhythms of our language and join in the delight that stories give.
Who hasn’t had the dilemma of what to wear to a party and then found that their choice doesn’t work – it’s too small, it’s in the wash, it has a scratchy tag, it’s ripped, it’s just not right somehow? And who has felt awkward and awful about not having a costume when everyone else is in fancy dress? Not only will young readers resonate with the situations in this story but it will also help think about Dingo and how he might be feeling and how they might respond if this was one of their friends. Would they poke fun, making him feel more miserable than he already is, or is there a better way? And what if they were Dingo with no fancy pants to wear? Would they decide to stay home or wrap themselves in a cloak of resilience and go anyway?
Team it with the 1988 classic Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothingby Judi and Ron Barrett and have them design their own fancy dress for the story by giving them “paper doll” cutouts that they have to dress, encouraging them to think about size and structure and fit. Talk about why humans wear clothing, why our clothes are so different, national costumes, fashion, and a host of other related topics.
While illustrator Amanda Graham has many books under her belt, this is the first work of an experienced primary school teacher and to another teacher’s eye it reflects so much of what we know attracts youngsters to the printed word including a strong underlying theme that opens up lots of discussions that will help children think beyond the words and pictures on the page. A book that will be read again and again and which enables a new pathway to be explored each time.
Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen. Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.” This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not. But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world. However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.
Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken. Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy, And then she meets a pig…
This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels. It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.
Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.
Worm loves Worm. So they decide to get married. It shouldn’t be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. “You’ll need someone to marry you. That’s how it’s always been done.” You’ll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band… and so on and so on, because “that’s how it’s always been done.” Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no… there is always something else.
So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both – but that isn’t how it’s always been done. Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???
This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do. It is just a celebration of love. For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change – they don’t always have to be because they have always been. It’s enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it’s about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That’s what little ones understand and accept – intolerance is something they learn.
Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms – there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme.
Perhaps some of our politicians and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.
A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures, and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.
Families come in all sorts of shapes and Anna, Chiara, Henry , Izzy and Jack lovingly introduce the reader to theirs. Anna’s family includes her grandfather who does wonderful things with her after school; Chiara has two dads while Henry lives in one house with his mum and his brother and his dad lives in another house. Izzy is loved by her foster family and there’s only Jack and his mum in his family.
But despite the different configurations there are several things that are all the same – each family does the same sorts of things and enjoys them, each family is full of love and hugs and each family is perfect just the way it is.
With its pastel colours and gentle illustrations, this book is an affirmation of all the different types of families that our children live in and encounter through their friendships and that as long as there is plenty of love and hugs and fun, each family is just the right shape for it. The call for greater diversity of the characters in the stories our children enjoy, both in print and onscreen, is starting to be heard and so it is not only delightful but also important that books like this feature predominantly in our library collections – both school and home. Children have the right and the need to be able to see themselves and their situations reflected in the stories they enjoy so their lives are just as normal as others and marginalisation (and bullying) is minimised.
Using the children’s thumbnail sketches of their families in this book as a role model would be a wonderful way to explore the different shapes of families in the classroom and demonstrate that the common thread of love is the most important of all.
Perhaps this is the time and place to have a disclaimer that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan. Not just for her wonderful way with words and her exquisite illustrations but because no matter how often the topic of a text has been presented before, she always finds a way to present it in a unique way that totally engages her audience and makes them want to keep turning the pages.
A prime example is This is Captain Cook in which the story of the explorer is presented in a way like no other that not only entertains but educates and is likely to have teachers and students begging to do a similar production. Australian Kids Through the Yearslooks at Australian history through the perspective of children’s lives of the times and An Aussie Year is the perfect accompaniment to Harmony Day and all those other times we celebrate the diversity of the children in our care and in our classes.
So it is no wonder I was excited to receive her latest book Australia: Illustrated.
Again, there have been many books that try to explore and explain what it is that makes this country unique; what it is that encapsulates the Australian identity; and what it is that deserves our attention and pride. So why another one? What is its point of difference that will make it stand out and demand to be on shelves in libraries, classes and homes?
“Big, beautiful, and diverse” are the words McCartney uses to describe Australia, and they are the very words that could describe this book. It is big and it is fat (criteria important to some of our junior readers); it is beautiful with colour, iconic illustrations and few words; and it’s diverse with its focus on a range of topics that don’t usually feature in these sorts of texts. Each page is a vibrant explosion of colour and movement that celebrate our places and people in quirky ways like the Sydney Opera House portrayed as being made of chook feathers and little people running around trying to catch the chooks to get their feathers!
Beginning with an overview of the country as a whole, focusing on everything from our native and endangered animals to bush tucker, iconic foods, sports, weather and precious rocks, even our particular brand of English, it then moves on to examine each state and territory and their unique entities and emblems. And yes, both Tasmania and the ACT feature as prominently as the bigger states. But this is not a whole lot of facts and figures accompanying the sorts of staid photos seen on calendars for tourists… each page is just bursting with cartoon-like illustrations and few-word captions. It is peopled with children – many modelled on those whom McCartney knows and who unwrap the miscellany of heritage that makes us so every child will find themselves somewhere -and so it is not too serious her love of words and zany humour is everywhere. Just check out the page featuring the Snowy Mountains in NSW!
Readers will adore looking at places they have been to or things they are familiar with – listen for the chorus of “I’ve been there”” when they see the BIG page – as well finding places and things they want to do or try. Astute teachers might ask why a particular person or item has been included as well as seeking suggestions for things the students would include if they were to design a page or add to an existing one. (They would have to research their suggestion so they could defend its inclusion.)
This is a superb book for examining the Australian identity and answering “What makes me Australian?” It works for all ages because of its format, including those who are learning English for the first time. it would have suited this year’s CBCA Book Week theme Australia: Story Country perfectly as every illustration has a story behind it just waiting for the children to discover it. Younger students can just look at the pictures and use those to work out the words while older students may well be attracted to a particular illustration and want to find out more.
For those of you in and around Canberra there is a launch of the book at Harry Hartog’s in Woden on Saturday the 5th of November at 11am but for those who can’t get to that, there is a virtual launch with all sorts of activities from 24th to 31st of October
Definitely one for the collection and one to promote to your teaching colleagues.
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.
Even so, I was not prepared for the storyline of this important book even though I’d skimmed posts about its launch on my network connections. Let the blurb tell it for you…
An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. small things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with his worries, but who learns that help is always close by.”
Perhaps a storyline that has been done one way or another many times – but then, on the publishers’ blurb there is this…
In 2008, Mel began illustrating a graphic novel about the universal feelings of loneliness and happiness. In May 2014, Mel took her own life.
It is the most absorbing story of a boy who is dealing with lots of the small things in life that we all face but which affect each of us differently – small things that appear to be so unimportant that they don’t even require capital letters in the title. Yet, while for some they may be no big deal, for others they lead to sadness, anxiety and depression exacerbated by the perception that you are the only one feeling this way. Other people can make friends, other people can do pesky maths problems, other people can play basketball – why can’t you? And the thoughts and doubts start grow and become demons which start to chip away from the inside out and then open cracks until you are surrounded by and followed by them. They constantly exude from you without let=up until you are so overwhelmed that the pain of keeping them in is greater than physical pain of letting them out. So you give them a helping hand and for a brief minute one pain exceeds the other. But when even that doesn’t help and the darkness descends…
Mel died before she completed her book and the wondrous Shaun Tan completed the final three pages. And in doing so, he turns the darkness around into a powerful and hopeful ending so that even though there are small things that can cause such despair and desolation there are other small things that can lead to hope and happiness. It’s a story about discovering your place in the world and finding your path through it; about realising that while others’ paths may seem the same as yours, theirs may have obstacles invisible to you and hurdles they find too hard to climb; about being aware of others as well as ourselves and developing and showing empathy; about discovering that others have similar pains and you are not alone; about building a sense of a strong self and knowing and employing the strategies to achieve this. For all its physical, emotional and conceptual darkness, it is a story about light.
With so many of our students, even very young ones, struggling with bullying and mental health issues that too often lead to the dire consequences of drugs and death, this is an important book for teachers to examine so we can be alert to the needs of the children in our care and consider whether the remark made in jest or the less-than-average grade might have a deeper impact than we think. It’s about the need to help our children build a core of resilience and self-esteem so they can cope when their expectations are not realised and to help parents understand that stepping in and solving every problem for a child in the short term in not necessarily the best solution in the long term. It’s about helping our children understand that there are not losers, only learners.
It’s about so much more than one reviewer can express in one review. Perhaps its most critical role is that it even though it encapsulates the feelings and thoughts of the boy in its evocative pictures so well that no words are needed, it becomes the conversation starter – more than that, it generates a loud call to action.
On a literary level I believe this will feature in the CBCA Book of the Year lists in 2017; on a social level it is so much more important than that.
There are Teachers Notes for both primary and secondary available and they come with a warning of how you use it because of the nerves that may be touched, a warning I would echo. Do not share this book as a stand-alone, time-filler. It’s format of many small frames does not readily lend itself to a class sharing, but rather a one-to-one exploration with a sensitive adult taking the helm. However the teachers notes offer some really positive ways of promoting positive mental health and strategies for those who are feeling fragile as well as helping others know how they might help a friend. Asking R U OK? is not just for one day a year.
A most remarkable and life-changing book. We need to nurture those who will sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria but we must also know who the lonely kids are.
But it didn’t happen on the first attempt, or the second or even the third.
As the cow, the cat, the fiddle, the dog, the dish and the spoon sit on the barn roof and watch the moan soar gracefully overhead they decide to make the traditional rhyme come true.
But what they don’t say in the songs from that day
Is the cow didn’t jump it first time.
It seems a moon clearance takes great perseverance…
And that is the underlying theme of this superb story from Tony Wilson and perfectly illustrated by Laura Wood.
The cow’s first attempt was at 9.17 pm when with little preparation or assistance, the cow made her first leap and fell flat on her face! “She never did make it to space”. She’d tripped over the little dog Rover! But she was not to be deterred. Using all sorts of techniques including pole-vaulting and a trampoline, she tried and tried again with the help of her friends who were as determined as she was that she would succeed. Even taking a wrong turn and feeling the burn of the sun just made her more determined. Until on her seventh attempt just as day was dawning and the moon was disappearing…
It is no wonder that this was an Honour Book in the Early Childhood category of the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards. As a standalone story about perseverance, resilience and friendship it is a masterpiece for offering children the hope and encouragement to keep trying and trying until they get all these new things they have to learn and achieve sorted – that growth mindset and determination to succeed that is becoming such a part of the focus on their emotional being these days. By using a familiar rhyme that the age group will relate to rather than an anonymous character for whom there is no connection and its familiar rhythm Wilson has engaged them straight away and right from the get-go they are willing the cow to succeed. They will even offer suggestions about how the friends can support the cow or what they would do to help, helping them to put themselves in the shoes of others and build empathy, respect and a feeling of responsibility to help – more of that consideration for others and positivity for their endeavours essential for mental wellbeing.
But the real story behind the story is its dedication to the author’s son Jack who suffers from cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability affecting childhood.
“Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.” Steptember, 2016
Every 15 hours an Australian child is born with cerebral palsy – that’s one in every 500 births. Tony Wilson’s child Jack is one of those ones and on his blog he talks about Jack’s daily struggle to do something as seemingly simple and everyday as putting a piece of pasta in his mouth. It’s about his goal of being able to walk 100 steps in a day over three sessions while nearly 70 000 people (including me, my son and my granddaughter) are endeavouring to do 10 000 steps a day to raise funds to help with treatment and equipment.
But it’s also about children like Ollie a little boy I met at the school I was teaching at last year; it’s about Jayden whom I taught years ago and who is now representing Australia at the Paralympics in Rio; and it’s about all the other 34 000 Australians living with the condition and the 17 000 000 worldwide. And with no known cure that’s a lot of people for whom living the normal life we take for granted is about as possible as the cow jumping over the moon.
There are many teaching resources to support The Cow Jumped Over the Moon available via an Internet search but if you want to learn more go to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and if you want to help, donate to Steptember. Our team is called The Waddlers but any donation to the cause is welcome.
Tony Wilson and Laura Wood – it’s an honour to review this book. I hope it spreads the message about all the Jacks there are and builds awareness and raises funds.
Chosen as the feature book for National Simultaneous Storytime 2017 .
For the last three years at Cabravale Primary, Christy Ung has been in the same class as Christie Owens. Even though they share the same name, they couldn’t be more different. Loud, brash, attention-seeking it girl Christie Owens is the opposite of shy, quiet, friendless Cambodian Christy – so much so that she has been dubbed “The Other Christy’.
All Christy wants is to have a friend, someone to bake treats for, someone who doesn’t see her as a ‘spare Christy’ and calls her anything but ‘The Other Christy’. But it doesn’t happen. If her class were the solar system, Christie Owens would be the sun, her friends the planets, and Christy is Pluto. She views herself as a meteorite floating around the school, spending her time in the Quiet Quad with the other meteorites who find it tricky to make friends for one reason or another.
She is made to feel even more isolated when she is the only person in the class who doesn’t receive an invitation to Christie’s party but even though her own birthday is just a week later she doesn’t feel she can invite people to her home because her Grandpa whom she lives with has a germ phobia and most of Christy’s home time is spent cleaning. However, her dead mother’s sister has married an Australian and lives nearby so Christy is able to escape some times, learning to bake the most scrumptious treats. It is Christy’s baking skills that bring a huge change in her life as she takes her birthday cake into school – a triple chocolate cheesecake that sets off a chain of events that Christy could not have foreseen. Not only does she start to build friendships (although she doesn’t recognise them at the time) Christie becomes her BFF! But, as is the way of friendships with this age group it has to survive and overcome several hurdles as both girls learn a lot about themselves and others on the way.
This is an engaging and entertaining read that reflects so much of what happens in Year 5 and 6 as friendships wax and wane, ebb and flow, include and exclude, as the children gradually move into adolescence and independence wanting to branch out on their own but needing the safety and solace of family. Christy’s home life, built on a very different life in Cambodia that is gradually revealed, echoes that of many of our students who come here unable to speak English and having to overcome that as well as the cultural changes, let alone making friends in a situation where friendships were cemented in Kindergarten.
Phommavanh says he has drawn on his experiences as a teacher and it is clear he was a very observant one as the dynamics of the relationships could be duplicated in almost any school in the country. It is touching, sensitive and wholly realistic but mostly, it offers hope for those, who, like Christy, want nothing more than to have someone they can call a friend. It’s about staying true to yourself and your beliefs and trusting that who you are is enough.