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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. 

 

Friday Barnes: Never Fear (series)

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

R.A. Spratt

Random House, 2018

256pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780143784203

A new school term and Friday is dismayed to discover all her stuff is being moved out of the room she shares with best friend Melanie.  There is another surprise when she goes to investigate why with the Headmaster and instead of curmudgeonly old man she is expecting, she is greeted by a “woman in the mid-thirties, not much taller than Friday, wearing a smart fashionable suit”. To Friday’s dismay, Dr Belcredi has ordered that she be promoted to Year 12, away from Melanie and Ian and into a clique that doesn’t like the status quo being threatened by a young upstart, and a seriously intelligent one at that. She is concerned that she is one step away from being ousted from the one place she regards as home and where, despite her social awkwardness, she is nevertheless now liked and admired.

Sneaking out of school with Melanie to visit the old headmaster in hospital where he is in the cardiac ward, Friday gets the first hint that all is not as it should be but he has been paid off by the School Council and cannot afford to say any more. Solving a mystery for the nurses while she is there, Friday’s detective antennae are bristling and she knows that there is something afoot.

Combined with strange men in grey suits and a government car, dodgy builders who blow up a barn full of asbestos, a new headmistress who is not what she appears on paper and the underlying mystery/legend of the gold of Sebastian Dowell the founder of Highcrest Academy, this is an intriguing finale to this popular series – one that Miss 11 was delighted to find in its entirety in her Santa Sack and then to discover #8 sitting in the review pile was too much.  I was given 48 hours to read and review it!!

With Friday being so much like Miss 11 and so many other young ladies -intelligent, quirky, and a bit different from her peers but very comfortable in her own skin, yet deep down wanting to be just like them – she will be missed by her legion of followers but the beauty of this series is that it is one that can be read and read again, each time offering something new. Spratt has hit the mark with her target audience in this series and we eagerly await the new one, The Peski Kids.

The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life of the Party

9781760296681

Game Changer

9781760296698

Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Hat

Andrew Joyner

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143789369

At first there wasn’t a pink hat but after some deft weaving of a skein of wool there was and its maker, an older woman,  wore it all the time because it was so cosy.  That is, until a cat grabbed it and had fun with it.  That is, until it flew out the window as it was thrown around and landed in a tree where some children found it.  But as they climbed the tree to reach it, it dislodged and fell into a stroller where a baby claimed it.  

And so the pink hat’s adventures continued until it became one of millions of pink hats in the largest political march in history and became a symbol for women’s rights and recognition worldwide. Something so simple and common became so powerful. 

Dedicated to the “women who march us forward” this is a masterpiece that brings the equality of half of the world’s population into sharp focus without preaching or bias but with so much scope to take the discussion further as the meaning of the placards carried by the participants – women, men and children – is explored and explained. Its power lies in its subtlety not just in the text but in the monochrome illustrations where the only pop of colour is the hat so that it is the focal point of each page while those who come into contact with it are united in their lack of colour – gender, age, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status become irrelevant. 

As one who lived through the “bra-burning days”, who benefited greatly from what was so hard-won by the women who went before me and who has fought for the recognition of those achievements watching young girls go places and do things never before considered possible because of their gender, it bewildered me that ‘feminism’ had become the second f-word, despised, derided and almost abandoned as though it had sinister connotations.  Now, with this book and another march taking place on all seven continents to continue what was begun, not only will pink hats become the hottest headwear but our young women can continue their inexorable but unending march forward. 

Let the conversations begin and rise in a crescendo.

A picture book for all ages and both genders, excellent for encouraging the answers to “What is the author’s message?’ and “How has it been conveyed?”.

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. 

 

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC Book of Feelings

Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733338298

Many schools are now including mindfulness in their curricula as they encourage children to check in on their own feelings and those of their peers in a bid to promote and protect positive mental health.  This book, the 9th in this series, will be a valuable addition to the resources as it not only introduces the range of human emotions but also reaffirms them as being natural rather than positive or negative; demonstrates that feelings change; and that others might respond to a particular situation in a way that we don’t experience or expect.

The latter point can be a tricky concept for little ones to understand as they are not yet mature enough to step beyond their own response to objectively look at others but the process can be started by having them compare food likes and dislikes so they begin to understand that there can be differences of opinion and that our personal experiences shape who we are and how we respond.  For example, a little one I know who is so totally in tune with nature has no issue with having her pet snake as her hair adornment whilst others will shudder because their experiences with these creatures are very different! But knowing and accepting that we all respond differently can be a step towards minimising teasing and bullying.

Speaking directly to the reader, the authors not only introduce the more common emotions we experience but acknowledge that anger and sadness and apprehension are also natural and offer ways to deal with them so we can move on to a better place.  They explain that other people can influence our feelings and even the way our body is feeling physically can have an impact.  Who hasn’t been cranky when they’re hungry or have a headache or been in the sun too long?

Any book that helps little ones understand and acknowledge their feelings and know that they are the body’s natural response to events and are part of who we are as humans is important in not only helping us to know ourselves better but also to know others and help develop both empathy and resilience, both important in combating bullying.. With its charming illustrations and personalised text, this could be at the core of your collection of mindfulness and mental health resources.

 

Rudolph Shines Again

 

 

 

 

Rudolph Shines Again

Rudolph Shines Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rudolph Shines Again

Robert L. May

Antonio Javier Caparo

Little Simon, 2015

40pp., hbk.

 9781442474987 

It’s a dark and snowy Christmas Eve so once again Santa wants Rudolph to lead the way for the sleigh as his nose shines bold and bright. 

But the other reindeer are jealous and not content with just laughing at Rudolph and calling him names, they are really mean and make him carry the heaviest loads, even using him as the ball when they played football!

Rudolph is so sad and whinges and whines so much that the light on his nose goes out!  With no reason to stay to help and full of self-pity, he leaves the comparative safety of the North Pole for somewhere where he is unknown and unrecognised.  And there he meets some rabbits whose babies are lost in the forest and at the mercy of foxes and wolves. Completely forgetting his own troubles, Rudolph promises to find them – but can he do it without his shiny nose to light the way? Of course he does and with the rescue comes a realisation that is brighter than any nose could be!

Written in 1954, this is the sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but unlike the original which May wrote to entertain children as part of a department store promotion, this one has a stronger message about there always being someone worse off than you, perhaps inspired by his family circumstances as his wife died from cancer as he worked on the original.  While not necessarily the time for an in-depth discussion, nevertheless young children will feel Rudolph’s pain at being bullied and might think about the feelings of others that they tease.  They will also draw encouragement from Rudolph being able to get things in perspective and go back to face his tormentors knowing that he is strong and has a lot to offer.

This new release is stunning with its beautiful artwork bringing another dimension to the story, also told in rhyme, and making a special duo of books for the Christmas Countdown.