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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.

 

Eric Makes A Splash

Eric Makes A Splash

Eric Makes A Splash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Makes A Splash

Emily Mackenzie

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408882962

Nothing worried Eric more than trying new things, but luckily he had a brave and kind friend who loved to help him be brave too.  On Monday when Eric was afraid to splash in the muddy puddles Flora suggested he pretends to be a hippo having a bath or a piglet rolling in the mud and soon they were splishing and sploshing together.  On Tuesday she suggested be be a bear so he would have the courage to taste honey sandwiches…  And so it goes on until they receive an invitation to a swimming party.  Eric finally gets his brave on all by himself, but it is Flora who has an attack of the unsures…

This is a new twist on a familiar theme that little ones will love and which parents will appreciate as it offers some new strategies to get timid toddlers to take that first step. Young readers could put themselves into Flora’s shoes and suggest how their friends might overcome a fear in a way that makes it fun. They might even discover that some of the things they are afraid of are common and work out strategies together..

Something a little different.

 

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Mindful Me

Christiane Engel

Quarto US, 2018

36pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781633225107

“Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment” and in this book the creator takes a journey through the alphabet stopping at each letter to link it to an activity or concept that will enable younger readers to be more in touch with the here and now and where they are.  

From Awareness to Zen children are encouraged to learn about being physically, mentally and emotionally healthy as they learn how to limit and manage stress and anxiety through rhyming text and bold pictures which feature a diversity of children.  There are also instructions to make some of the suggestions like a thankfulness tree and a mandala.

With mindfulness such a part of the curriculum these days, this could  almost be the basis of a semester’s program as each child creates their own book showing what the concept for each letter means for them.

Rescue & Jessica: A life-changing friendship

Rescue & Jessica

Rescue & Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue & Jessica

Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Scott Magoon

Candlewick Press, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763696047

Rescue thought he would grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog – after all, that’s what his family does.  However, his handler thinks he would be better as an assistance dog and Rescue is worried that he wouldn’t be any good at that.  He did not want to let anyone down.

Meanwhile, Jessica has had to have one of her legs amputated and will need either a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair to be mobile.  This is not what she thought her life would be like and she worried about whether she will be able to manage the changes.  And then she and Rescue are teamed up…

Based on the true story of a young woman injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, just five years ago, this is a story of how Jessica and Rescue manage the unexpected changes in their lives and how they rescued each other.  Five years on, it is not only a tribute to assistance dogs the world over,  it also highlights the struggles of those who survive these disastrous events and continue to cope long after the headlines have moved on – in this case, more than 260.  

As well as the personal story of Jessica and Rescue, it also highlights the resilience, the perseverance, and the continuing hard work that it takes to go forward from such a life-changing event including those that do not make world headlines. The cause of Jessica’s unhealthy legs is not disclosed within the story and so there are many children who, sadly, can relate to the realisation that life as they know it has changed and life as they had dreamed is irrevocably altered.   Divorce, family break-ups,illness,  car accidents, deaths… these (and more) are part of the fabric of our students’ lives that they may be dealing with in silence and while they might not require an assistance dog, we need to be mindful of their struggles. Sharing this story and discussing Jessica’s feelings of despair and hope, taking one step at a time, one day at a time may help them progress just a little further.

 

 

Visiting You – a journey of love

Visiting You

Visiting You – a journey of love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting You – a journey of love

Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Andrea Edmonds

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335668
There are many ways to visit Hope Meadows.  But whether you go by train, bus, tram or ferry, there is always someone sharing the journey with you.  And whether that is a scruffy, gruff man who is so tall he can touch the roof without stretching who lives apart from his daughter; a gruff and grouchy old man with hair like white fairy floss and a big round nose whose wife has died;  a grouchy and cross girl with hair as black as night and  ring through her nose whose grandfather no longer remembers her; or a woman as big as a bear with tattoos down her arms whose son may not recover from a motorcycle accident; each has the same purpose and a similar story to tell – the loss of someone they loved dearly, whom they miss terribly and who brought joy and love to their lives.  Each of them love and miss their family member just as much as the little girl loves and misses her dad, and while his journey has reached its final destination, this love continues and brings joy.
Undeterred by outward appearances, the little girl asks each the same question – Who are you visiting? – and in return discovers that love is what binds us together regardless of how we present ourselves to the world.  Rather than focusing on physical differences, it is the common humanity of the community and the need to give and receive love that binds us.  This commonality is echoed through the repetitive style of the text and illustrations which feature a pathway of love that connects the memories of each person.
This focus on our similarities rather than our differences is a familiar theme of many stories for children, but Visiting You stands out as it looks beneath the surface to our emotions and helps us understand that really, all you need is love. That will carry you through the most trying situations. It offers an opportunity for the reader to reflect on those whom they love and the memories they would share if something were to happen to that person, perhaps even create a class journey of love so they can be reassured that there is someone in their life who loves them as much as they love in return. 

 

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Amy Curran

Pink Coffee Publishing, 2018

48pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9780646239307

Bobby was the last of Peggy’s litter of Australian cattle dogs to find a new home – some of his brothers and sisters had  already moved to new homes – but he was OK with that because he was just a puppy.  His mother consoled him and told him not to worry because he would find friends and “be accepted by others.”  Because Booby was different.  Instead of having the regular markings and patches of his breed, his face was plain.

He didn’t know he was a bit different until the other cattle dogs at his new home, when a farmer finally came to claim him, wouldn’t play with him and this saddened him  In fact it wasn’t until he befriended Mother Duck and she had him look in a pool of still water that he noticed the difference.  Was he going to spend his life being different and alone? It would seem so until something happens that makes Bobby a hero and finally he is accepted for who he is inside rather than what he looks like.

Based on a real dog and his experiences with other dogs, this story has a strong message of being accepted for who we are rather than what we look like.

Bullying, in all its facets, is certainly at the top of the agenda in these weeks following the suicide of Amy “Dolly’ Everett and there are calls from all quarters for it to be addressed, with the brunt of the expectations falling squarely on the shoulders of schools.  While the other dogs don’t nip or bite or otherwise abuse Bobby in what is the overt form of bullying, excluding him because of his looks is just as damaging and it makes a good discussion starter to raise the issue with young children so they can understand that bullying can take many forms and each can have unforeseen and unseen consequences.

Written for young, almost independent readers, this is the first in a proposed series that is designed to teach young children to look beyond exteriors because “It’s what on the inside that counts.”  There are teachers’ notes available as well as a plush toy that will give the story extra meaning.

 

 

 

 

The Art Garden

The Art Garden

The Art Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art Garden

Penny Harrison

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335590

Sadie loves playing with colour and finding patterns and shapes in unlikely places, looking at details of lines and texture with the eye of an artist.  More than anything she wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom whose brush dances across the page, swooshing and swirling into shapes and stories and drawing Sadie right into them. .   But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush her colours slip and slurp, splatter and splodge and her paintings don’t look anything like the real thing. So instead, she spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom.

But, one day, when she ends up painting herself instead of a picture,  Sadie chucks a tantrum in frustration and climbs her favourite tree – and suddenly gets a look at things from a different perspective and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity. 

This is a unique story, charmingly illustrated in water colour, that will offer a new perspective to those who don’t see themselves as creative just because they cannot paint.  It opens up lots of potential for discussion about how each of us is creative even if “we can’t draw a straight line”, whether it’s working in a different medium such as stone or fabric or in a different field such as words or music or movement. While we each interpret our environment differently. each one of us is creative and it is creativity that drives us forward. 

Like many kids, Sadie focuses on and is frustrated by the things she can’t do rather than paying attention to that which she does well and her self-talk of doubt takes over.  Sadly, sometimes negative language is all that some of our students hear so they need to learn to think “I can…” rather than “I can’t…” with the help of visible affirmations so maybe get the students to write a personal “I can’t …” statement relating to something they really want to achieve, then rephrase it into an “I can …” mantra that can start to change their inner voice and the thinking that drives it.

Quality picture books are like the seeds that Sadie planted … an engaging story that is the  beautiful flower but so much more beneath the surface that is grounding it and helping it grow.  This is quality.

Don’t Leap, Larry

Don't Leap, Larry

Don’t Leap, Larry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Leap, Larry

John Briggs

Nicola Slater

Pavilion, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781843653387

Lemmings are small rodents that live in the Arctic regions and are best known popularly known for the misconception that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs, So when one little lemming decides to stand out from the crowd and not do as they do, there is great confusion and consternation.

This little lemming, who wants to be known as Larry, does not want to look like, sound like or act like his peers. When he is asked if he would jump over a cliff, he says, “No, ” but fronting up wearing a mask and fins just in case he has to.  Instead of digging a tunnel to keep warm, Larry goes sledging with the puffins; while the others squeak and squeal be plays bongos with the seals; and while they nibble moss from under a rock he prefers pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and hot sauce!  He is certainly a very different lemming who stands out from the crowd.

So when the other lemmings call a meeting and unanimously decide that all lemmings should be the same, Larry knows it is time for him to move on.  But he finds life with his other friends a little different from his expectations – sometimes the grass is not always greener.  Is there a new and better life for Larry or is he doomed to join them on that inevitable, fatal leap over the cliff?

Humour and appealing illustrations which begin with the front cover with Larry firmly attached to a parachute as he leaps off the cliff make for a quirky tale that nevertheless has a strong message about remaining true to yourself and encouraging others to question, interpret and think for themselves too.   A great discussion starter about being individuals even in a culture that has children dressing alike, looking alike and learning alike. 

 

Perfect Petunias

Perfect Petunias

Perfect Petunias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Petunias

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335583

Loppy LAC is very worried about not doing his homework well enough. He is always focusing on what he hasn’t done rather than what he has, and he becomes very frustrated. So, his friend Curly teaches him about how petunias grow — in lots of different, imperfect directions that we can’t control! Loppy learns that by trying to control whether he makes mistakes or not it’s as if he’s always trying to grow ‘perfect’ petunias.  Sometimes he just needs to accept that things go a certain way and to change his definition of ‘perfect’ to mean trying his absolute best.

This is the third in a series to help Loppy the LAC (Little Anxious Creature) deal with his anxieties. in this case not being satisfied with anything that he sees as being less than perfect. Children like Loppy are present in every class, either being afraid to start something in case it is not perfect on the first attempt or giving up in tears, frustration and even anger, so a story and strategies that help them focus on the things that they have done well rather than the ‘mistakes’ they have made can go a long way towards helping them accept themselves, their activities and other people with all their imperfections. Helping them to see the glass half-full, the silver lining, the rainbow rather than the rain can lay the foundations for strong mental and emotional health in the future. Developing a mantra of “I can” rather than “I can’t” is so important if they are to take risks to try new things that will open up so many new worlds to them.

Another one for your mindfulness collection and if you want to be able to help children understand how we must make mistakes to learn then watch this TED talk – The Benefits of Failure.

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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

9781406375992

Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not.