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The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Immortal Jellyfish

Sang Miao

Flying Eye Books, 2019 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781911171799

Grandpa is explaining about the immortal jellyfish to his grandson, a creature that begins its life again when it is about to die.  When the boy asks his grandfather if humans are immortal, he is told that there are other ways humans can live on but sadly the old man dies before he can explain.  While the boy is devastated, one night his grandpa appears in a dream and takes him on a journey to the Life Transfer City where those that have died can choose a new identity.  But before he discovers his grandfather’s choice he is taken back to the real world on the back of a beautiful white bird…. Will he ever recognise his grandfather again?

At first glance, this seems a rather morbid book with its dark palette, but it really is a most beautiful way to help young children deal with the passing of a loved one as sadly, so many have to. Helping them understand that those who die live on in our memories and thoughts, the things we see, do and smell or taste, even when they are no longer physically here is a way that we can help with the grieving process, particularly if there is no religious belief of an afterlife. It offers a way for the bereaved child to think about those memories and what their loved one might choose to be, as well as being able to share those thoughts rather than not talk at all, which is so often the case. Grown-ups often want to protect little ones by not talking, but often that’s just what the child needs to do. 

Sensitive and heart-warming, but not sickly-sentimental, this is something special for one of the most difficult parts of growing up. 

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Vikki Conley

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335255

When Mrs Gooseberry was in her front yard she always seemed grumpy, slamming her door and making the children afraid to ask for their ball when they accidentally kick it into her yard.  But when Ella, who lived next door, saw Mrs Gooseberry in her backyard, it was a different story.  She had a lovely vegetable garden  and chickens that she talked to and she seemed happy.  Confused, Ella asks her mum how a person could be grumpy in their front yard yet happy in the back and she learns that Mrs Gooseberry has “lost her love.” That confuses her even more because she didn’t know that you could lose love and whether it might be found again.

She asks the important adults in her life what love is and gets a different answer from each one, and gradually realises that love can be many things. When she sees her cat’s kittens snuggling into their mother’s warm tummy, she has an idea…

This is a charming story that will help young readers understand that love can take many forms and it doesn’t always have to be encased in the words, “I love you.”  It can be expressed in the things we do (or don’t do); the way we look at and treat others; the care we take; the extra gestures or actions we make… It is an ideal way for them to start thinking about how those who are important to them show their love and how they reciprocate those feelings.  It cries out for an activity where children inscribe one side of a heart with “My —— loves me because —–” and the other side with “I love —– because —-” where the blanks are filled with the little personal things that show love without being words.  Apart from raising awareness of how they are loved, it might also inspire them to think of new ways to express their love such as cleaning their room or doing the dishes so the adults have one less thing to do. And perhaps it might show those who think they have lost their love, that they haven’t – it’s just in a different shape now.

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Ways to Make the World Better

Lisa M. Gerry

National Geographic Kids. 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781426329975  

From something as manageable as forgiving someone or leaving a complimentary note in their locker to more complex ideas such as taking a First Aid class or letting your trash be someone else’s treasures, this is a small book full of big ideas about how to make the world a better place both physically and emotionally. 

With philosophy such as being the kind of friend you’d like to have and being inclusive, it covers personal issues that can help the individual be more calm, more mindful and more responsive to their world while also taking actions that can help shape the world into what they want it to be.   Ideas are presented as simple concepts with engaging graphics and photographs, and many are followed by detailed supporting information, including advice from Nat Geo explorers, interviews with experts and weird but true facts. readers can get a sense of their own power to make a difference and an understanding of what actions contribute to positive outcomes and how they can change things by themselves.

While journalling and personal challenges are becoming a popular way to have students focus on the positives and support their mental health, sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming so this could be used to guide that journey by having students set themselves the 100 tasks over the school year, and help them structure their progress that way as they work their way through them. They might also have spaces for another 20 ways they discover that are not mentioned in the book and these could be added to a class wall chart to inspire others to look more widely. 

While these sorts of books always inspire when you first pick them up, without accountability life can go back to routine quickly so offering ways to keep the ideas in focus and support the reader over time will not only help them, but also the adult offering that support. We can all make our world better. 

 

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Girl

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780702260025

Mary is one of those children who treads lightly on this planet, preferring to look and listen and learn its wonders and secrets rather than be an in-your-face master of it. But when she tries to share her discoveries her voice is too quiet for most people to hear, and even though she tries to speak up she is still not heard.  And so she withdraws more and more into herself, becoming more and more invisible to the world, even her parents.  And then one day one of her little bird friends comes to the window and suddenly her mother discovers that she has no idea where Mary is.  She begins to look, shouting and calling and soon the whole neighbourhood is looking for Mary. Will they be able to find her?  What must they do if they want to discover where she is?

Peter Carnavas is a master at crafting stories out of very ordinary situations, turning the gentle and everyday around so the pack a powerful punch. A Quiet Girl is no exception and he reminds us of those more introverted souls we know, who really do have much to say and share but just are not heard over the raucous, busy, noisy world that seems to be today’s norm.  (No wonder there are so many successful television programs about escaping to the country!)  Rather than be constantly on the chase for the “next big thing”, to be over the fence on the greener grass, or being the Joneses that other strive to keep up with, perhaps there is more calm, peace and pleasure in living life at a gentler pace; being the meandering stream rather than the rushing river.

Mary can teach us all lessons about listening, looking, thinking and appreciating and how it is often as important to be an observant bystander as much as an active participant.  And she can also teach us lessons about embracing and encouraging those who are not as bold as we are, but rather than urging them to join our noisy world we should visit theirs. She can also teach us about being true to ourselves and who we are, believing in our strengths and talents and being resilient enough to withstand the criticism and demands of those more outgoing, and understanding that being loud doesn’t mean being more confident. 

There could even be a broader message here as Australia heads towards a federal election – who are the quiet voices with concerns and considerations who are being drowned out by the big voices and the big bucks? Will those quiet voices still be there when the noise dies down?

The teachers’ notes offer some questions and activities that may help you explore this book and its concepts with your students, particularly as we strive to help them become more mindful. 

 

 

One Tree

One Tree

One Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Tree

Christopher Cheng

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143786733

Long, long ago Grandfather lived high on a hill in a one-room house with nine other people, a dog and a goldfish. He loved his mountain home. “Better than an Emperor’s palace “, he would say, and when he went to the village market he could always see his home perched beside the tallest tree on the mountain.  At night, Grandfather would tell stories and everyone gathered around to hear them because his stories were the best.

But time passes and Grandfather is old and now he lives in his grandson’s apartment in the city, a busy, noisy, crowded city that has swallowed up the fields, killed the trees and silenced the birds. No longer does he tell stories – he just stares at the fading painting of his mountain and a visit to the markets is one of haste rather than leisure, of fie de lah rather than conversation, where all the buildings look the same and there is no way they can spot their apartment. 

But one day the little boy sees a little plant with two pale leaves growing through a crack in the path, and knowing that it will soon be crushed by the hundreds of rushing feet, he rescues it and despite his grandfather’s pessimism about its future, the little boy nourishes it and it flourishes – and slowly something amazing begins to happen…

If you pick up a book by Christopher Cheng , you know you are going to get an outstanding story, one that will have a profound effect on you. In my opinion, One Tree is as impressive as his iconic One Child  (now 21 years old) with its powerful message about the power of one and the change that can happen because just one child believes. 

And true to form, Bruce Whatley who says he would “get bored if I stuck to one or two [illustration styles}” has illustrated this book in a completely new style, one that complements the text perfectly. “For One Tree I wanted to do something new yet it had to have a traditional feel. I have fond memories of doing Linocuts in college, carving into soft ochre layers, taking away the space between the lines. Then rolling ink onto it and printing the result. Such a great medium. Not having the time or space and being mobile for most of the time I decided to create the technique using Photoshop on my portable Wacom Cintiq tablet and my Mac. I constructed 3 layers in Photoshop, an off white base layer, a dark ochre middle layer, (these colours echoed the lino and were purely for nostalgic reasons) and a top transparent layer where I copied my pencil roughs. I then used the eraser tool with a stylus pen on the ochre layer to ‘gouge’ out the space between the lines. What was left I converted to a black textured line and added the colours on the layer beneath.” Books Illustrated

Like all quality picture books, this is one that spreads itself across all age groups, inspires the reader to act on what they have read and is a pleasure to read, review and recommend. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Circle

Circle

Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2019

4899., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781406384222

Triangle and Square are visiting Circle, who lives at the waterfall. When they play hide-and-seek, Circle tells the friends the one rule: not to go behind the falling water. But after she closes her eyes to count to ten, of course that’s exactly where Triangle goes. Will Circle find Triangle? And what OTHER shapes might be lurking back there?

This is the third in this trilogy which started with Triangle  and continued with Square., and it is just as engaging as its predecessors.  As well as Barnett’s text, Klassen’s almost monochromatic illustrations carry the action with much of it being conveyed through the eyes alone. As with the other two, there is a subtle message in the story – this time, after running out from behind the waterfall because they are scared of the unknown shape, Circle ponders about whether the unknown really is scary.  In addition, the reader is invited to imagine just which shape the two may have been talking to, opening up the scope to explore other common 2D shapes and perhaps even craft their own stories about them.

This is an intriguing trilogy, unlike anything done before which deserves a place in any home or school library because it is timeless and will cross the generations.

The King Who Banned The Dark

The King Who Banned The Dark

The King Who Banned The Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King Who Banned The Dark

Emily Haworth-Booth

Pavilion, 2018

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

 9781843653974

As a small boy, the prince was afraid of the dark and so be vowed that when he became king he would banish the dark.  And, despite the people’s protests, that’s what he did. Employing a popular political tactic of spreading disinformation so that the people thought the dark was a bad thing and demanded it be banned, he “succumbed” to their wishes and the ban was put in place. He had a huge artificial sun hung above the palace so that the night was as light as the day,  and light inspectors were employed to report and punish anyone who turned lights off in their houses.

At first the people thought it was a great idea and celebrated the light, but then their opinions began to change…

As well as being an engaging read for young readers that could have them investigating night and day and how life needs the dark to continue its cycle,  it could offer them an opportunity to talk about their nighttime fears, perhaps discovering that they are not alone with them and finding some strategies to deal with them. Would the prince have been better to find another way to ward off his fear of the dark? What sorts of things could he do?

It could also provoke a lot of discussion with older students about current political practices, acting in haste on a tide of popular opinion and the collective power we, in democracies, have to make change.  There could also be philosophical discussions about how we need dark to appreciate the light, rain to appreciate rainbows and so forth, focusing on the need for ups and downs in our lives and that like the night, the downs will pass and the ups will come again and we will value them all the more.

The predominantly yellow, black and white colour palette is perfect for spotlighting the messages of the story, whether literal or figurative, and given the depth of the story, one that spans many age groups.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dress Like a Girl

Patricia Toht

Lorian Tu-Dean

Harper, 2019

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

9780062798923

Time for a sleepover and the guests have been instructed to “dress like a girl”.  But what does that mean? 

Does it really mean dresses and high heels, buttons and bows?  Or could it mean a space suit, a wetsuit, a medico’s coat or something entirely original?  

Told in rhyme the opening stanza sums up the focus and purpose of this book perfectly…

What does it mean to dress like a girl

Many will tell you in this big, wide world

that there are strict rules that must be addressed,

rules you will need when looking your best.

But when you are given these rules to obey,

the secret is heeding them-in your own way.

The strong message is that we are each individuals and we should be dressing to suit ourselves rather than what others might say about our appearance, or what “fashion” dictates or other external influences. Written for the young girl who is becoming more aware of the world around her, what others are doing and wearing and starting to shape her own tastes and preferences, this is a timely release that should spark lots of discussions not just about what is “acceptable” but also self-acceptance and the influence of peer pressure. Do “clothes maketh the man”? 

While Tu-Dean has depicted a diverse range of ethnicities and origins in the illustrations, there is a strong theme of events like slumber parties being about the friendships and fun that are common desires of everyone, rather than differences that divide or separate or having to conform to a given look to be accepted. Great for the mindfulness collection.

Queen Celine

Queen Celine

Queen Celine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Celine

Matt Shanks

Walker Books, 2019

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

 9781760650346

Celine Beaufort was an ordinary girl. She did ordinary things, on ordinary days, in ordinary ways. But every now and then, Celine was a Queen, Of a kingdom by the sea.” And while it was difficult to pick just one, Celine had found the perfect rock pool with stunning clear water, a host of creatures but all seemingly threatened by a flock of hungry seagulls.  So to preserve the perfection, Celine scared the birds away and then proceeded to keep her pool pristine and perfect by building a wall that kept the inhabitants in and the intruders, including the tides, out.  But the results were not as she intended… Does she see the error of her actions and fix them, or is she blind to all but her own aspirations?

This beautifully illustrated book has a strong environmental message about maintaining the balance so that things can survive and thrive as dependent on change as they are on stability, as on each other as they are on new blood.  But given the political events in the world at the moment, it could also be used with older students as an allegory for exclusivity and inclusivity as well as what leadership really means.  Another excellent example of showing that picture books just aren’t for beginning readers!

 

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848699519

In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!