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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.

Snap!

Snap!

Snap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snap!

Janet A. Holmes

Daniella Germain

Little Hare 2013

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

9781921714993

It is the first day of school and such days can seem so scary that you just want to hide under your bed.  But sometimes you don’t have a choice and you have to face the monsters, so another strategy is needed.  So put on your crocodile mask and snap and snarl and scare them away.  It will work for a while but it can leave you feeling very lonely.  That is unless you meet a little girl with a wise owl mask who ignores your unfriendliness and makes you something that works better.

In the next couple of weeks, thousands of little people will be facing the unknown and starting pre-school or big school, and this is a lovely title which sensitively explores how such fears can be faced. Because it is written in the first person it gives a voice to what a lot of our newest students are thinking and they will be able to empathise with the little boy.  But as well as showing that they are not alone in their fears, it is also a vehicle for exploring how they can deal with them.  There is great scope for talking about the best strategies to use for making friends, particularly as not making friends is one of the greatest causes of anxiety of school-starters.

As a read-aloud it offers lots of scope for the children to join in enthusiastically and the paper collage illustrations also offer several talking points, both features which will help the children on their literacy journey.  Offer it to your kindergarten teachers to share on that first day – it is one that should be in the their school bag so they too can turn the crocodiles back into the gentle child behind the mark.

Starting School

Starting School

Starting School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting School

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Penguin 2013

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

9780670076765

 

Tim. Hannah, Sunita, Joe and Polly are starting school and while each of them is having a unique experience, each experience is that of every other child who makes that big step to independence.  Each double spread focuses on a different aspect – getting ready, meeting the teacher, making friends, finding their way around the school – all those things that loom large in the minds of littlies and which can be really daunting.  But putting a personal face on them somehow makes them more manageable and not such a big deal. From being strangers at the start of the day, each has a new friend and plenty to tell their parents at the end of the day.

Anna Walker’s gentle illustrations, especially those which run along the bottom of the pages, are the perfect accompaniment to a book that every child should experience before they start school.  Apart from anything else, it will help them understand that the BIG problem that they are wrestling with is one that is shared by others and that there is a solution for it.  Even if they follow a beetle at lunchtime and don’t hear the bell, someone will miss them and find them and show them the way to where they should be. 

As this school year winds down and transition visits from preschools begin, this is a perfect book to help the children prepare for this next step in their lives.  Perhaps it could even be a model for the class to start its own book, documenting the adventures and emotions of those first few days.  The children will look back on it twelve months from now and see how far they have come, and perhaps even share it with the class of 2015!

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Max & George

Max & George

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max & George

Cori Brooke & Sue deGennaro

Penguin/Viking 2013

hbk., col.ill., $A24.99

9780670076352

Max was never lonely.  As long as there was a window, he had a friend because George lived in windows. No matter where the window was, Max could see George and he spent a long time looking at him. Because they were very similar – same height, same clothes, and whenever Max moved, so did George. They even shared the same feelings. But then the time comes for Max to start school. And he’s nervous.  Even though George was there in the school window, Max’s teacher made him sit where he couldn’t see him. Will Max find the confidence to leave George and make a real friend?

This is a delightful book, perfect for the child about to start school and finding it hard to let go of what is known and take the leap into the unknown. With its charming illustrations, it will appeal to all children – those who are like Max and empathise with him, and those like Sam who are a bit more confident and can reassure him.  Tip for parents- teach your child a joke before they leave …

 

 

 

Jellybean Goes to School

Jellybean Goes to School

Jellybean Goes to School

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jellybean Goes to School

Margaret Roc

Laura Hughes

Random House 2013

pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781848530751

It is the most exciting time in a young child’s life and Jellybean is no exception – taking that big leap and starting school. She wants to read by herself and write by herself and find out why clouds are fluffy and spiders spin webs.  But most of all she wants to find a friend, because while she has a baby brother, he’s not big enough for her yet. 

Finally the BIG day arrives and, in her new uniform, she’s ready,  although her tummy is so jittery that she can’t eat her breakfast.  She is SO excited, until she sees the size of the school and the noise of the playground.  Overwhelmed, like many on the same adventure, she thinks she might stay with her mum and brother after all. But Miss Benson is used to children with first-day nerves and introduces Jellybean to Alex, who is also not as confident.  It’s easier to meet the world with a friend.  Miss Benson also knows how to engage and enthuse the children for this new experience, easing them into all that is on offer in a way that the best Foundation teachers do.

Author, Margaret Roc has tapped into Jellybean’s feelings of apprehension perfectly and so has illustrator, Laura Hughes.  At first, when they use the building blocks, Jellybean’s imagination has her far, far away in Rapunzel’s tower but as she and Alex and the other children explore what is on offer, she gradually moves into the here and now and imagines the possibilities of what this new place itself, can offer. The bright colours and familiar backgrounds will enable other Jellybeans to take the journey with her and gain security and comfort from knowing that all the other children are feeling the same.

This is such a lifelike book dealing with such a familiar subject, and one that is coming closer and closer for many that it is sure to have a wide appeal.  Many schools are having transition programs as pre-schoolers learn what big school is really about, and having a library of these sorts of books so parents can borrow them to share with their child or preschool and Foundation teachers can use them to show that nerves are part of the deal, is one way the library can be involved in these programs as well as starting a productive relationship with the parents. “Jellybean Goes to School” deserves its place in that collection.

 

A peek inside

A peek inside

Parachute

Parachute

Parachute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parachute

Danny Parker

Matt Ottley

Little Hare, 2013

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

9781921894206

 

Every morning Toby puts on his parachute.  It’s the one thing that helps him get through his day.  It helps him get out of bed in the morning, navigating that long climb from the top bunk. It helps him get off the breakfast bar stool, and the bathroom stool after he’s brushed his teeth. When you are small, such things as ladders and steps can take you high into the world of adults and it can seem a very long way down. Wherever he goes, that parachute gives him strength and courage, like a security blanket. Until he lends it to his cat Henry when Henry gets stuck up a tree and Toby, on a rescue mission and putting his cat before his fears, finds himself way up high without it.

Accompanying the story are wonderful illustrations by Matt Ottley.  Using perspective to help the reader understand how Toby sees things, we can follow Toby’s growing confidence as they loom large in the beginning of the story and become more realistic as the story progresses.  They also show how where we stand helps us see things in a different way.  There is a big difference in seeing an elephant from the ground and then viewing it from a tree!

This is a sensitive, beautifully illustrated story of a little boy who takes the first steps from anxiety to independence. It offers reassurance for those who are straddling the chasm, wanting the security of the known on one side yet also seeking the adventure of the unknown on the other.  It would have a great place in a discussion with parents or their children about making the leap to big school, perhaps encouraging them to think in advance of strategies that will help them face a situation if it arises, as well as helping the more confident think about how they deal with such things and the sorts of encouragement they can offer if a friend is struggling.  Help them know how to fill their friend’s bucket of confidence rather than dipping into it.

This would be a perfect purchase to offer Foundation teachers as a read-aloud for that first week of Term 1, 2014.  (Make sure you take the cover off and share it with them first – great thinking-starter!)  Just magical.  

A peek inside

A peek inside