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I Love You

I Love You

I Love You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love You

Xiao Mao

Tang Yun

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059762

Preschool teacher Ms Giraffe has three favourite words – “I love you” – and when she teachers Little Badger and her friends how to say them in a variety of different languages, Little Badger is inspired. She practises and practises uttering the words in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian and English to everything she sees, even her new knickers! She is determined to learn and not forget them.

This is a charming story from a Chinese author and illustrator that will have a place in any collection where there are children learning about others and sharing their lives as they discover that there are languages other than English but while words can sound different they can still have the same meaning.  While our Chinese, Spanish, French, German and Italian students will delight in having their language celebrated in this way, it is also a wonderful opportunity for those who speak other languages to share how to say “I love you” in their special way, and contribute to a stunning wall display that demonstrates both diversity and inclusion.  It would be the perfect focus for Harmony Day.

While primarily for younger readers, it could also be a springboard for investigating other common phrases in various languages as well as discovering just how many languages are spoken in the homes of the students.

Books and stories which reach out in this way to those who are new to this country or who are learning English as another language do wonderful things for embracing the multicultural nature of our society and the riches that such a patchwork of origins can bring to all out lives as well as sending a welcoming message to the non-English speakers.  Aroha nui New Frontier for bringing this to our children.

Florette

Florette

Florette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florette

Anna Walker

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079414

For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.

Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle.  There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs.  There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away.  No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.  

But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it.  It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment.  But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest.  But the forest is closed.  And then Mae spots something that changes things…

Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.  

Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does.  Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring…   Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…

A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list. 

Me and You

Me and You

Me and You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and You

Deborah Kelly

Karen Blair

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079247

There are many people in a child’s life – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents’ friends, pets…and that’s before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school!  And the shape of the relationship with each one is different.

In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed – the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days – all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child’s life and cocoon them in love.  

Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language.  Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power.  Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others’ lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don’t work out. Are friendships always smooth sailing?

Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control – as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about “choosing the “right” friends.  She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes.”  By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of “right friends”; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people, now and in the future helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with. and defending those that they wouldn’t. 

Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.

The crazy-daisy dawn-to-dusk days…

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385338

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.  

 

Edward the Emu (mini-book)

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward the Emu

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460753514

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly a bore.

And so Edward decides he will be a seal, and when that doesn’t work out he thinks he would like to be a lion, and then a python until it becomes clear that when you are an emu, that really is the best thing to be.  

Companion to Edwina the Emu and perfectly illustrated by Rod Clement, this is always the go-to book to kickstart a fun storytime and a discussion about being yourself, and that we all have special attributes that make us unique, different but just as important as anyone else. Nearly 30 years since its original publication it sits solidly in the realm of Australian classics for children and now, reprinted in mini-book format so it is the perfect size for little hands, its popularity will peak again.

A must-have in every child’s library.

Feathers for Phoebe (mini book)

Feathers for Phoebe

Feathers for Phoebe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feathers for Phoebe

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460753507

Phoebe is a small grey bird and she doesn’t like it one bit.  Surrounded by the most colourful, exotic birds she feels she is inferior and so desperately wants to be more like them. So with the help of Zelda who runs the most popular beauty salon in the forest she begins a transformation.  But no matter what she adds, no one notices her and stops to admire her.  Even when she is totally transformed and unrecognisable from the small grey Phoebe, no one seems to notice. 

Zelda tells her that sometimes “feathers are not enough” and she needs more – a song, a sound and some moves. So Phoebe spends the day practising until she has the perfect moves for the perfect grooves.  The all-new singing, dancing Phoebe is ready to show herself to the world…

When Miss 10 started school this was the National Simultaneous Storytime of the Year pick and she loved it.  It was a family favourite for months and no bedtime session was complete without reading it.  It’s colour, it’s movement, it’s humour and it’s message about being yourself really appealed to her -as it did to thousands of other children – and sparked endless sessions of creating new feathers for headbands and dressing up in the gaudiest of fabrics and having fun being whoever her imagination decided, but each evening off came the regalia and she got into her ordinary pyjamas, happy to be herself and having her favourite story read yet again.

Now Miss 10 is an independent reader and she reads this book to Miss 5 who is not quite there yet.  But how wonderful it is to have this mini-book version that is just the right size to fit Miss 5’s hands so having heard the story so often already will be reading it for herself very soon.  Christmas stocking sorted!!!

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Mia

Robert Vescio

Claire Richards

Wombat Books, 2016

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

9781925139730

Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely.  But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles.  Even their mums thought they  were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.”  Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.  

When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and  tying a magnificent cardboard castle.  They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness.  They were as close as the materials that held that castle together.  Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life.  Nothing was the same any more.

Across the sea, Mia had also given up.  She was missing Jack just as much.  But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and… 

There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about.  Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.

The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference.  Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.

Heartwarming and positive. 

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cranky Ballerina

Elise Gravel

Katherine Tegan Books, 2016

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

9780062351241

Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet.  Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”. 

But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.

Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity?  Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.  

The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious.  With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities.  There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.

Just the Way We Are

Just the Way We Are

Just the Way We Are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the Way We Are

Jessica Shirvington

Claire Robertson

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733331640

 

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.

small things

Small Things

Small Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

small things

Mel Tregonning

Allen & Unwin, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781742379791

 

Over recent weeks my life seems to have been leading up to opening this book.  

It started with a friend’s son committing suicide and my going back into the classroom as a volunteer to allow a colleague to attend the funeral.

There was RUOK Day which is a big thing for me because suicide has touched my life too many times.

Three schools I’ve been associated with have recently installed buddy benches.

This story came through my Facebook feed-Teen Makes Sit With US App That Helps Students Find Lunch Buddies and then, this morning, this meme…

small_things2

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.

 

Shaun Tan completes graphic novel after author Mel Tregonning’s suicide: ‘Her absence made me try even harder’

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