Archive | November 28, 2013

Coming Home

Coming Home

Coming Home










Coming Home

Sharon McGuinness

Shannon Melville

Wombat Books, 2012

hbk., RRP $24.95



“Gemma watches her dad as he sits alone in his garden. Waiting. Day after day.  Looking but not seeing. Shoulders hunched.  Body slumped.”  No matter what Gemma does – whirling like a ballerina, turning cartwheels, even playing a tune on her recorder – nothing seems to break through to that dark and lonely place that her dad inhabits these days.  She even wonders if he loves her any more.  Weeks pass and then one day…

I waited and waited to review this remarkable book by teacher librarian Sharon McGuinness – she who is behind the wonderful Mrs Mac’s Library that is such a wonderful resource for all of us.  Gemma’s dad suffers from depression and in Coming Home, Sharon has dared to tackle an issue that she knows much about, that many of our students experience within their families, and yet few bring into the open through contemporary realistic fiction that is aimed at the primary school child. 

This sensitively illustrated picture book that starts in a dark place with just a few spots of colour of hope blossoms into a beautiful story that needs to be shared. Despite its focus, it is a story of hope and learning to enjoy what is, not worry about what might be.  Gemma’s dad may relapse, but, for now, Gemma’s just glad to have him ‘home’. The words may seem simple, but they are carefully chosen and convey a powerful message.   Perhaps it will be your lead-in to RUOK Day .

Mental health issues are very slowly losing the taboo that has surrounded them for centuries, and by writing Coming Home Sharon has given us a story that can help us open discussions with a group or be gently suggested to a particular student because the teacher librarian knows both students and the collection.  This is a story written with such delicacy that you know it has been written by one who has lived the life and knows how to reach out to children.

Sharon has developed a book trailer which is available on Mrs Mac’s Books   next week, and teachers’ notes  are available.  She is also donating all royalties to the Black Dog Institute to help fund education programs and further research.

Even if you only have $25.00 left in your budget for this year, spend it on this book.  Congratulations, and thank you, Sharon.

Advice, support and treatment for depression is available from

Black Dog Institute

Beyond Blue

Headspace (Australia’s national youth mental health foundation)




Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day









Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Judith Viorst

Ray Cruz

Angus & Robertson, 1973


Alexander is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.It starts with waking up with gum in his hair, tripping over his skateboard that he left on the floor, and dropping his sweater in the sink while the water was running and he knew it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

And he was right.  From only finding cereal in his breakfast cereal box when his brothers found amazing toys, to being scrunched and smushed in the middle of the backseat on the school run, to a visit to the dentist and kissing on TV, Alexander has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  It’s so bad he thinks he will move to Timbuktu but even there…

This is one of my all-time favourite read-alouds.  Told in a droll, monotone with such a catchy phrase repeated throughout, the children are captured as they live through Alexander’s day, empathising with his morfortunes as they remember their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  The accompanying monochrome drawings add to the atmosphere and altogether, it makes for a story that has been on my read-with-kids list since it was first published in my first year of teaching. There would be few children who have been in my care during those 40 years who have not heard it, or its sequels Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me, I mean it!) Going to Move and Alexander, who used to be rich last Sunday (great for building maths activities on.)

An internet search will bring up lots of activities that can be used to accompany the story, but my favourite was getting them to write about their terrific, fabulous, super-duper, do-it-again day. But it also offers opportunities for a discussion about feelings and emotions, starting the concept that it is OK to talk about your mental health early and perhaps breaking down barriers.

Even though this is an old book, it is still readily available and its release as a movie in 2014 will ensure its popularity with another generation. (Read this for a more complex analysis.)


A peek inside...

A peek inside…

If your child enjoys this adventure then try…

Alexander who used to be rich last Sunday

Alexander who used to be rich last Sunday

Alexander Who's Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Not Going to Move

Alexander Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Not Going to Move

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


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