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Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wemberly Worried

Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books, 2010

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

9780061857768

Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night.

“Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.”

And like many children,  Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realises that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!

Wemberly Mouse’s anxiety is on an extreme scale though and regardless of her family’s reassurances she cannot relax.  She clutches Petal her doll and strokes her ears when the levels rise, but then worries if she strokes them too much they will fall off.  She is so good at thinking “What if” that she may have a career as a writer when she grows up! 

As the year ticks by and many of our younger children are going to start the transition from daycare and preschool to big school, there will be those who are starting to get a little anxious already with all the usual concerns that making such a big step encounters.  And those worries can become so enormous that they become fears and the anticipation and excitement of this new adventure that is somewhat of a rite of passage are overwhelmed. 

Often it is not enough to just say, “Don’t worry”, (as Wemberly’s family does) to children with a high level of anxiety – they need to have their fears listened to and, where appropriate, helped to develop coping strategies should the worst happen.  There are many resources available now to help parents help their child but sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth and have been their confidante and security blanket in stressful times.  And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally.  Wemberly would have been unable to cope without Petal just as Jewel would have been lost without Nibblet.  The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security, and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!  

This book has been in continuous publication since its release in 2000 – that, in itself, says so much about how it resonates with little children and needs to be part of that transition process.  There will be  both a Wemberly and a Jewel in each new cohort.

 

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

Daisy Hirst

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406369137

Monster siblings Natalie and Alphonse love books and stories – picture books read to them by their dad, scary stories read by their mum, Granny’s stories , stories remembered and those made up.  It didn’t matter – they loved their books and the tales within them.  Natalie is so excited that she is going to learn to read…

“When I can read, I’ll have all the stories in the world whenever I want them.” 

“And you can read them to me!” said Alphonse.

But then Natalie got her first school reading book…

In this so-true story Daisy Hirst has captured the experiences of so many little people who can’t wait to go to school because that’s where “real reading” is learned and then have their expectations shattered because they get a book about a cat that like to sit on a mat. *But it isn’t a story… Nothing even happens to the cat.” And with no real story and the letters and words looking like “Scuttling insects with too many legs and eyes” how many other children are like Natalie and declare they “don’t like books anymore”, their reading journey over before it starts! Even all the encouragement that Natalie gets from her family doesn’t overcome the disappointment of a meaningless text. 

I could write a uni assignment based on this book alone but won’t.  Suffice to say that it must be made mandatory reading and discussion material for all those who determine the books and the programs we offer our very earliest readers to start their own reading story and the impact that those decisions can have.  The profound message in its seeming simplicity is enormous!

Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate and The Thing

Heidi Cooper Smith

Wombat Books, 2018

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781925563290

Kate is about to start her first day at a new school, and like thousands of other kids who have to face the same experience, she is feeling anxious and reluctant.  But then a mysterious white Thing comes into her life and helps her set the fear aside temporarily as it shows her the beauty in the colour of the autumn leaves and the joy in the sound of the sidewalk buskers.  All through her first day and the days following, Kate has the Thing by her side, giving her courage and confidence to hang in there, take each new event one step at a time and gradually stepping back so she can go it alone.  

Then one day she spots a new boy, sitting forlornly and lonely on a bench, a Thing next to his side that he hasn’t yet seen…

Every child who has faced being new at somewhere or something will relate to and empathise with Kate.  The feelings of having to step into the unknown and even the uncomfortable will be familiar and they will relate to having The Thing, or Some Thing giving them invisible support to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the walk is mastered, giving great scope for exploring feelings and emotions and building vocabulary.

This story offers a couple of lines of investigation – before and after.  While Kate has The Thing to support her, it’s helpful to teach students how to prepare for new situations by having them envisage what might go wrong and having some strategies to deal with these if indeed they happen.  Knowing that even if the worst comes to the worst you have some action you can take can often give an added boost of confidence. 

At the other end of the spectrum, as teachers many of us will have had new students starting in our classes over the past couple of weeks as new terms start around the states.  So perhaps this is a time to check up on them and see how they are settling in, that no one is slipping through the cracks in the busyness that is the start of the school year.

Heidi Cooper Smith has written a story that everyone can relate to  and which can offer a springboard to more than just the story of Kate and her Thing.

 

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


First Day

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2014

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

 9780733332715

It’s a day like no other – the first day of school.  Together mother and daughter get ready  – waking early, having a special breakfast of pancakes and fruit salad, getting dressed,  new shoes, washing and scrubbing, packing bags – all the routines that will become familiar as the novelty wears off and school becomes the place you go to every day.  

But while this is a theme that has been done in so many ways in so many stories, this one has a particular twist that will not only heighten its appeal to parents but also give pause for thought.  Is it only the child who is encountering new environments and experiences?

Daddo has a knack for taking the unusual within the usual and turning it into a story while Bentley’s illustrations are just perfect.  

One for both preschool and school libraries that can be used to provoke discussion on those transition days, encourage new friendships and perhaps even initiate a follow-up, catch-up, how-are-you-coping meeting that can help overcome anxiety and isolation in the community.

 

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day

Margaret Wild

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk, RRP $A14.99

9781760293918

Like thousands of other children around Australia at this time, Salma, Khalil, Jun, Stephen, Penny and Alex are getting ready for their first day of school.  Each has a different routine and each has different emotions.  Each has things they can do really well and each has things that bother them – differences that every kindergarten teacher knows will make this another exciting year as personalities emerge, learning happens and unbreakable bonds are made.  Because no matter what those differences are – whether they are how the children are feeling, who is in their family, even how they journey to school, like Ms Manoli it is their job to shape and direct these young lives so their first day of school is the best day and each child feels excited and empowered to come back again and again and again… or twelve years!

Sharing First Day on the first day is a great way to start the school year as it will help the children understand that each of them is an individual but whatever their hopes and fears, they are shared by others and they are not alone.  Even adults, like Alex’s mum who is also returning to school for the first time in a long time has similar feelings so it’s not babyish to be feeling apprehensive and concerned.

It could also be a solid foundation for a foray into the early steps of information literacy as each child compares their feelings, expectations, achievements and routines with the children in the story.  There is scope for sequencing as they map the school day; graphing as they discover how each comes to school; mapping as they identify key parts of the school like Stephen who needs to know where all the toilets are – a host of real-life, in-context activities that can kickstart this learning journey.

First Day was first published 20 years ago – it is testament to its quality that it is still in print and still a staple of the early childhood collection.

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Ernest

Emma Allen

Hannah Sommerville

Angus & Robertson, 2017

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

971460750544

It is the first day of school and Oscar has put his brave on along with the knight’s shining helmet from the big dress-up box.  But just as he goes to get the shield he is shoved out of the way by a kid who snatches the dragon tail.  A knight and a dragon are traditional enemies and so it seems to be the case again.  Oscar is intimidated by this scary dragon-child and even though he acts brave he’s not really.  Seeking shelter in the cubby he finds a princess who is  hiding from the crocodiles  and then in comes the dragon…

This is a story that was probably reflected in most of the schools around Australia just three or four weeks ago as the newest bunch of big-schoolers began their new adventure.  No matter how big and brave and fearless they were on the outside, they were just little five-year olds in a big new world on the inside.  While in those traditional scenarios Oscar would have slain that dragon, in this story he faces his fears.  He tells the dragon he is not afraid of him but when they come face to face he is able to articulate that he is a little bit scared and why.  Rather than hiding behind his fears and perhaps not having the best start to school because he makes Ernest scarier than he is, Oscar learns that acknowledging them and facing them can lead to something much better. He also learns that just as he is hiding his concerns behind the knight’s outfit, others might also be hiding behind a brave face and that taking the time to dig a little deeper can lead to some rewarding and fun times.

From the front cover, Sommerville’s illustration bring this text to life – young children will know immediately that this is going to be about two little boys – one a knight, the other a dragon and thus destined for conflict.  But there is also a clue to the outcome in the title – the main character is Oscar but the book is called My Friend Ernest.

Even though the beginning of term is slipping away into the memory, it is only days gone by so this would be a timely book to read to the children and remind them of how they were feeling back then and how far they have already come in conquering their fears and how brave they are and can be.  Life is going to be tricky at times – just how tricky depends on how we deal with the twists and turns.

 

First Day at Bug School

First Day at Bug School

First Day at Bug School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day at Bug School

Sam Lloyd

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408868805

 

At the bottom of the garden
where no one really sees,
a secret school is hidden
amongst the grass and weeds.

And it is the first day of school for all the little bugs that live in the garden.  Spiders have to learn the pitfalls to avoid like climbing up waterspouts, crickets need to know their new song for the summer, ladybirds have to learn to count spots and all of the other things that go with the first day of school, under the watchful, caring eye of Miss Bumblebee.

With a new school year just over the horizon for many of our pre-schoolers this is a delightful story in rhyme that will help them allay their nerves and they start the what-ifs  and their anxiety begins to build.  The illustrations show each bug as a friendly individual (even the spiders) and the idea that school is fun threads its way through helping to quell questions and nerves.

One to add to your preschool collection to be shared as the term moves on – the children might even like to think of a favourite bug and decide what it is they would have to learn.  Would a centipede have to know how to tie shoelaces? 

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Inside

Jack Manning Bancroft

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare 2015

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

9781742974699

It is Jimmy the honeyeater’s first day at flying school and just like all new students he is somewhat anxious.  Would there be other small birds?  Would they sip nectar like him or would they be worm eaters? As he approaches the school he is surrounded by birds of all sorts and sizes- all much bigger than he is.  Full of fear and doubt already, his anxiety is increased when Cockatoo almost crashes into him and immediately blames Jimmy. “No one bumps into me and gets away with it” screeches Cockatoo who demands Jimmy’s lunch. The other birds laugh at him and Jimmy feels so humiliated he huddles at the bottom of the tree and cries.  School is not a place for him.

But then Eagle takes him under his wing and Jimmy (and the other birds) learn a lot of lessons about self-belief, individuality and the eagle inside. 

In his dedication to this book, the author writes. “If you have ever felt alone, undervalued or doubted yourself, this book is for you.  No matter what people say, you can be what you want if you are willing to believe in yourself and back it up with hard work, hard work and more hard work.”  This is a story for everyone who has ever felt intimidated by situation or circumstance, showing that we all have our strengths and an eagle inside.  It’s perfect for the preschooler about to journey on to “big school” but also a reaffirmation for those about to start any new journey into an unknown word.

Renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft has interpreted her son’s words in her distinctive style full of colour, pattern and movement which put Jimmy’s tiny size perfectly in perspective, not only emphasising the reasons for his concerns but how we all feel when we are intimidated if not humiliated. The natural symbiosis between mother and son is evident in the relationship between the text and illustrations and it is no wonder that Ms Bancroft has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards for 2016!

An early contender for the next CBCA Picture Book of the Year nomination, in my opinion!

Chu’s First Day at School

Chu's First Day at School

Chu’s First Day at School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chu’s First Day at School

Neil Gaiman

Adam Rex

Bloomsbury, 2014

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

9781408847039

It is Chu’s first day at school, and like every new-starter he is worried that the others won’t like and they won’t be friendly.  He is somewhat dismayed when his teacher asks them all to share their names and something they are really good at.  One by one, she writes their names and special talents on the board – so many that she has to keep rubbing them off and starting again.  All the while Chu says nothing but at last it is his turn and suddenly everyone finds out what he is good at – with catastrophic results.

I’ve been holding this book back until schools start thinking about next year’s new entrants as transitions to Kindergarten start to happen and “big school” is really in the picture.  This is lovely blend of the anticipation and nerves that beset every child who is starting this new adventure, delightfully offset by Gaiman’s humour and Rex’s illustrations.

This is one for that collection of first-day-of-school books that you have to reassure pre-schoolers that this is a day to be enjoyed and celebrated, even if things don’t go quite the way you want.

 

Bailey Beats the Blah

Bailey Beats the Blah

Bailey Beats the Blah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey Beats the Blah

Karen Tyrrell

Aaron Pocock

Digital Future Press, 2013

pbk., RRP $16.95

9780987274045

ebk 978-0-9872740-5-2

Bailey has moved to a new school and he HATES it. He drags himself around the house getting ready feeling worse and worse as the time to leave gets closer. He has a real dose of the blahs. Even his dog can’t cheer him up. But this isn’t just a case of Monday-it is – Bailey is lonely and isolated and he thinks all the other kids are laughing at him and whispering about him. How can Bailey change his blah to ha-ha-ha? It seems impossible until Miss Darling introduces another new boy to the class…

Author Karen Tyrrell has taken a very common situation and turned it into a story that will resonate with Baileys (and Barbaras) across the nation at this time, as school starts to get into full swing.  There will be many children in new schools who are trying to find their feet in a new environment and create new friendship groups amongst kids who seem to have too much in common to share that they don’t notice the outsider.  For many, there is no hope that they will ever break the code of friendship and even though they are not bullied, they beat themselves up and drive themselves down into what can develop into childhood depression. 

There is a strong message in this book, not the least of which is hope, and scope for discussion about how we can make newcomers welcome particularly in situations like school where there is no choice about attending. It’s a wonderful opportunity to start helping students develop empathy and compassion and the skills to reach out warmly to newcomers, embracing them rather than isolating them. There is also the opportunity to help students start to look within themselves for their own strengths and how they might use these to build their self-worth and help others.  Tom teaches Bailey how to dribble a soccer ball, Bailey helps Tom build a rocket – it shows you don’t have to rely on common experiences to have friendships; you can build new ones on new experiences.

A visit to her website shows that Karen is a strong advocate for kids’ mental health and in Bailey Beats the Blah she shows how a sensitive and astute teacher can subtly intervene before a small thing becomes a huge thing.  Having travelled her own personal path of a psychiatric illness after being so harassed by parents she could take it no longer, she is now making mental health a focus through her writing.  A percentage of the profits of the book are going to Kids Helpline

Aaron Pocock’s cartoon-like illustrations are very appealing and the perfect complement to the text. He makes Bailey’s anxiety palpable, bringing it to life in a way that text, no matter how well written, can. There’s a real sense that this character could be Any Child at Any School.

This would be a very timely purchase for a school collection to be drawn to teachers’ attention so they can touch base with all their new students and see how they’re settling in, and, like Miss Darling, intervene if necessary.  It is aligned to the Kids Matter program, a national mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools and early childhood education and care services.