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Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Days of Kindness

Cori Brooke

Fiona Burrows

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594751

Nabila is the new girl in school and like many new kids, she’s finding it hard to fit in with the established crew, particularly when she looks different to them and eats her strange lunches alone. But Holly comes to her rescue as their common love for soccer takes over.  But when both Holly and Nabila are picked for the school team, there is still disunity and the two girls realise if they are to come together to play well, they need a plan…

A search for “Twelve Days of Kindness” on the Internet brings up a number of projects and resources, mostly connected to Christmas but this is something that could be developed by a group or an individual at anytime to promote kindness, compassion, empathy and build something harmonious. Some schools like to take students on camp in the early days of Term 1 to build bonds for a successful year, but if this is not viable, organising something like Twelve Days of Kindness could be an alternative.  Having students directly involved by having them articulate those things they don’t like and identifying how such behaviour can be changed and the environment they would like to be in gives ownership and helps them understand the power to change is in their hands.  Promoting empathy activities  rather than always focusing on the ‘don’ts’ of bullying can be a new approach that has an impact by making it personal.  Again, the solution is theirs to decide and implement.

Author of the CBCA shortlisted All I Want for Christmas is Rain, (as appropriate now as it was in 2016) Brooke has again delivered a story that promotes thought and inspires action.

 

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Caveman Next Door

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594850

Penny’s street and home were just like any others until a caveman moved into an empty lot next door.  A caveman who cooked his meals outside, didn’t have a TV, didn’t wear socks and whose furniture (what there was of it) was made of sticks and stones. And he didn’t speak English – all he could do was grunt.

One day after school, Penny decided to show him around the neighbourhood – the library, the bus, the park, a restaurant… But wherever they went, and no matter how hard he tried, Ogg didn’t know what to do or how to act and they were shown the door of every place. Until Penny took him to her school…

It’s hard enough fitting into a new neighbourhood when you speak the language and have mastered the social niceties, but to do so without either of these like Ogg, must be overwhelming and daunting.  And yet, with our multicultural and global perspective that welcomes people from all over the world, this must be a common experience for many.  While the children are able to go to school, make friends, learn the language and the expectations, parents, particularly mums, are left at home isolated, mixing only with others who share their lifestyle and so a vicious cycle of exclusion and racism begins.  While Ogg’s attempts to do the right thing are funny, there is an underlying pathos at his awkwardness and also a sadness at the actions of those who object to his actions.  Only at school does he find compassion.  

Using a caveman analogy to bring awareness to the issues of being different is clever because not only does it highlight just how hard it can be, no one can criticise the author for being insensitive towards one group or another.  It certainly opens up the opportunities for discussions about how we respond to newcomers and identifying those things peculiar to us that they might have difficulty adjusting to as well as putting the students in Ogg’s shoes.  With space travel on the horizon, what if they went to Mars to live and found there were indeed Martians…?

While the theme of being different, fitting in and accepting others is common in children’s picture book, even though it might be expressed in a unique way each time, the more often we expose our students to these sorts of stories and talk about them, provoke their thinking and even develop strategies to embrace all, then the better and stronger the communities we build will be.  Strong, united communities are the key to a peaceful, harmonious future if we are to move beyond the current, nationalistic “our best interests” philosophy and look at what is good for humanity as a whole.

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Robert Vescio

Amanda Edmonds

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925820034

Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many. 

War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.

But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion  for their peers who have lived the nightmare.  But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean

Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma  of leaving  all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.

Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Look for this one in the 2020 awards lists.

 

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2019

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760524715

“Bold: typically describes one who is willing to take risks; who is brave in heart as well as deed.”

In this new collection of rewritten, remastered fairy tales featuring  Jack and the BeanstalkHansel and GretelThe Emperor’s New Clothes and Prince Leo and the Sleeping Princess, Susannah McFarlane  editor of Stuff Happens one of my favourite series for boys,  shows that there is more to brave than brawn and bravado slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress. It’s about doing what’s right, being clever and honest, that how you do something is as important as what you do.

Illustrated by Simon Howe, Matt Huynh, Louie Joyce and Brenton McKenna, four of our leading illustrators, in a style that takes the book beyond the realm of the cutsey, Disneyfied fairytale, it is the perfect companion to Fairytales for Feisty Girls which turns  Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina around to meet the demands of the modern young lady. 

Designed for independent readers in novel format with chapters within each story, it is ideal for re-engaging young students with the traditional tales of childhood literature and start discussions about how things change over time to meet the needs of the audience – these are indeed a long way from the didactic tales of Grimm et al whose purpose was to scare little ones into doing the right thing because of the dire consequences that awaited if they didn’t. 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594768

As winter leaves tumble and twirl a wisp of memory wraps itself about me and whispers me back to long ago…

As a child, her Nanny Clementine took her to the park where she played on the swings and the see-saw and rode the carousel horses for as long as time.  And one day, she sees a squirrel, one that the others squirrels growl at and chase away because he has a stumpy tail, not a magnificent curled one like theirs. And so begins a brief friendship between them – the little squirrel who is a bit different and the little girl who is also a bit different – and there is a strong sense of empathy that builds up, until the snow falls and the park is closed. What is it that the little girl learned from that squirrel in those few short days that has stayed with her all her life?

Sensitive, with beautifully descriptive passages that are sublimely illustrated in a palette and manner as soft and gentle as the story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings for we all know the child who is shunned because of their “stumpy tail” and the silent pain and rejection they feel.  One to share and talk about what it would be like to be the one that is on the outside, rather than being part of the Bully-Bunch, and perhaps change a few perceptions. 

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running with the Horses

Alison Lester

Puffin, 2019

96pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760892760

Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is a mare called Zelda – an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.

When Nina’s world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city. Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn. It will require all of Nina’s bravery, daring and faith in an extraordinary old horse.

This is a new edition of the picture book first released 10 years ago, now in a format that will attract newly independent readers to enjoy this story inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War, offering yet another story and insight into that conflict. although Lester insists it is a work of fiction.

With all the original illustrations – the main characters being in  black and white line drawings set against lavish colourful backgrounds – this is an intriguing read that justifies its re-release and promotion to a whole new generation.  

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Dead of the Night

Arthur McBain

Tom Knight

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760503413

It’s a cold, rainy night and a storm is outside
Rain beats on the window by Lily’s bedside
She’s scared of the dark so she shuts her eyes tight
She hates nothing more than the dead of the night

Tap. Tap. Tap. Comes a noise from the hallway …

There is something about hearing strange sounds in the middle of the night that makes our imaginations run wild as we think about the possibilities – is there a monster with horns on its head; a vampire looking for prey; or a mesmerised ghost? All of these ideas fill Lily’s head as she lies there listening to the Tap. Tap. Tap. But, remembering her little brother is also asleep and needs protecting, she summons her courage and determines to conquer whatever is making the noise…

Using rhyme and repetitive text, and stunning illustrations that are fearsome but not too scary, McBain and Knight have managed to build a story that reaches a crescendo of tension but which resolves itself with an unusual twist which will resonate with lots of young readers whose imaginations are as active as Lily’s.  It’s an opportunity to talk about what might be making the tap, tap, tap and for little ones to share their fears about the dark and the noises of the night, and to reassure them that even as adults, we are all scared of the unknown at times and we have to summon our courage to investigate too. 

Reassuring and different.

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Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Children Who Changed the World

Children Who Changed the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Marcia Williams

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406384109

Have you heard of Malala Yousafzai?  What about Baruani Ndume?  Or Ryan Hreljac?

Forty years ago the UN declared that 1979 was to be the International Year of the Child  and as part of that. in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was proclaimed, setting out 54 equally important articles that 196 countries have agreed to follow so that each child, no matter where they live, has the support and protection they deserve.  

Using her iconic graphic format, Marcia Williams has explored the lives of 13 children, all born since the Declaration and all of whom have made a significant difference to the lives of the children in their home countries and beyond.  Each double spread is devoted to the pivotal work of the child under the banner of one of those UN rights.

Deliberately designed to inform children of their rights, Williams speaks directly to the reader in the introduction and encourages them to not only be aware of those rights but to take action when they see injustice or something that needs changing.  With our students being so aware of the global picture these days, and being involved in actions like School Strike 4 Climate this is an important and timely release to help our students know that they can make a difference and will.  Perhaps one of them will become the new Greta Thunberg, who has risen to prominence since the book was prepared but who not only deserves a place in it but also demonstrates that kids can be heard and supported and change can happen. 

This is a book that needs to be promoted to kids everywhere, to give them inspiration and hope that their voices will be heard.

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Home for Luna

Stef Gemmill

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594843

On a cold, moonlit night a dark crate washes up on a lonely shore, and out crawls a bedraggled, lonely cat, wary of her surroundings so different from the home she remembers, but glad to be out of the ceaseless motion of the sea.  As daylight creeps up, she woke and looked around only to find herself among creatures that didn’t look like anything she had seen, certainly not cats, but the familiar fishy smell drew her forward. 

Too tired to move, she lay on the rocks watching the penguins swim and return with fish, making her tummy rumbled.  And then one of them approached her… is this a friendly move or one fraught with fear?

Mel Armstrong, an experienced illustrator making her children’s book debut, has created bold illustrations which suggest that Luna is  no weak, wimpy cat and so the reader expects that this story is going to go well beyond that initial meeting and that conflict or camaraderie. there is some meat to it.

On the surface, this is a simple story about two creatures forming an unlikely friendship, one that reaches a climax when humans arrive at the colony and decide that it is no place for a cat.  But looking beneath the surface, could it be the story of a refugee arriving in a strange land amongst strange people, and being accepted just for who they are, rather than anything else?  And a government making a determination about their suitability to stay?  Or am I viewing it through the lens of so many news stories about worthy people facing deportation, so much so my views of a children’s story have been tainted and I see allegory each time I read a story like this?  Whichever, it is refreshing to read one that is about resilience and hope and which has the sort of ending we would all wish for, whether it’s a cat washed ashore or a person. 

Read more about the story behind the story here

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who's Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594706

Unlike the not-nice wolf pack he lived with, Wilfred was a quite-nice wolf, who, instead of eating rabbits they captured, he preferred to help them! Rather than being a carnivore, he was a vegetarian much to the disgust of his wolf-pack brothers. So when they propose to raid the local herd of sheep, Wilfred is not only alarmed but feels he must do something…

Given a new meaning to “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, this is an hilarious romp that will engage young readers from cover to endpaper, as it celebrates the courage of the individual to be true to themselves and who they are rather than give into the pack and peer pressure. How hard was it for Wilfred to “betray” the leader of the pack?  But it could also spark discussions about stereotypes and the perceptions we hold about people and creatures because of our experiences or what we have been told, and perhaps encourage broader investigations. Stories that work well as entertainment, as this does, are fabulous but those that make the mind probe a little deeper, see the world through different eyes and perhaps hear a different tune are even better.  This is one of those.