Archive | October 2020

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820393

It is the night before Archie is due to start at a new school and the Worry Monster has crept into his bedroom spruiking all the usual worries about getting lost, not making friends, doing maths all day and no sport that such monsters do.

Normally, Archie would call on his mum and dad to scare it away because it is scared of them, but this time he tries to have a go himself.  He thinks back to the things his mum taught him the last time, and summoning all his courage he applies them.  He takes a deep breath so his lungs make his belly grow bigger like a balloon; he thinks of the facts and tells them to the Worry Monster; he tells the Worrmy Monster to go away; and then he reads a book to ignore it and distract him.  But do his strategies work…

Worry Monsters have been out and about all this year, not just before big events like starting school and any stories that help our littlies develop strategies to send them on their way are welcome.  This one is beautifully written and illustrated and any child could put themselves in Archie’s pyjamas and feel empowered.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Encouraging littlies to dig deep to find the courage and determination to send the Worry Monster scampering is an ongoing process because they’re not necessarily ready to do it at the same time as their siblings or peers.  So to have another book in the arsenal is valuable – sharing Archie’s story might just be the one that reaches a particular child.

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702262821

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Lucy Barnard

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781921928758

Ruby the red squirrel loves to party and have fun, whereas Graham the grey squirrel prefers to be more organised and less spontaneous.  Between them, Acorn Wood is a good place to live although, to Graham, Ruby seems to be more popular and have more friends.  So one day he decides that the party life is for him so he throws away his clipboard with its list of things to do and joins in the fun.  If changing who he is means more fun and more friends, then that’s the life for him.

But as he parties, gradually Acorn Woods starts to change and it is no longer the pleasant place it was. Chaos and confusion become the norm. No one liked it, least of all Ruby who decided she would speak to Graham about it and confesses her secret desire… 

Little ones will love this story that shows them that while each of us is different, it is the differences that keep everything in balance.  We can’t all be spontaneous and carefree like Ruby, no matter how much fun that might look from the outside, and trying to change who we really are inside can be tricky.  But it is possible to be both sensible and sensational at the same time – it’s just that there are different times for the different sides to shine! 

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meesha Makes Friends

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2020

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

9781526612953

Meesha was skilled at craft work and  loved using her imagination to make all sorts of things. But the one thing she could not make were friends.  No matter how she tried, she never knew what to say, when to say it or what to do.  So she stayed alone and lonely, until one day she took out her craft tools and made a whole lot of little friends.  These were friends she could take with her everywhere, and even though they couldn’t play football or tennis or catch, she was comfortable with them.

One day her mother took her to a party and it wasn’t long before Meesha was alone again, so she started making her own kind of friends.  And then she noticed someone watching her… Maybe she wasn’t as alone as she thought. 

This is the fourth in this series for younger readers which includes Perfectly Norman, Ruby’s Worry, and Ravi’s Roareach designed to help them navigate social situations that can feel overwhelming by sparking conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Reading stories and talking to children about what they might encounter in certain situations before they arise is a sound way to provide them with a range of strategies they can draw on if they feel they are sinking under the weight of anxiety.  

If we ask a child, or an adult for that matter, what is the most worrying thing they will be confronted with in a new situation, the most likely answer is that they will know no one or will not have any friends.  So this book, particularly, deserves a place in that collection that addresses friendship, making friends and overcoming anxiety.

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature

Renée Treml

Allen & Unwin, 2020

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760525262

Sherlock Bones, a talkative tawny frogmouth skeleton, and his companion Watts, a mute, stuffed Indian ringneck parrot are joined by Grace, a sassy raccoon in the second in this series, with a new mystery to solve in their natural history museum home.  Drawing on his years as an exhibit in the museum, this time Bones is exploring a new exhibition focusing on the life between reef and shore. It includes a mangrove forest and shallow coral reef habitat. When Sherlock overhears a that a swamp monster has been sighted, he gathers his team to investigate. At first Sherlock Bones suspects Nivlac, a quirky octopus with a talent for camouflage–and tank pranks. But then, loud bellowing leads Bones and the team to the mangroves, where they find a horrifying long-haired green beast…

This graphic novel is quite different to the books for preschoolers that we generally associate with Renée Treml although her eye for detail is still evident as she includes an amazing amount of detail and information in the backgrounds of the illustrations. Nevertheless, with its humour and using the technique of Bones telling the story as a conversation with the reader, it is an engaging story for the newly independent reader in a format that offers much more than just a tale told well.  Treml’s skill as an illustrator is teamed with her environmental science degree to produce something quite different.

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Before Rainbows

Smriti Halls

David Litchfield

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406382358

Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun…

With pictures as stunning as its title and as gentle as its message, this is a beautiful book that encourages children to hang in there, that whatever they are facing right now will pass and there will be a brighter time coming. The text is quite simple on the surface as the girl and her friendly fox climb mountains, face dragons and endure dark days as they strive towards their dreams.  Along the way they discover that there are friends to help, alternative paths to follow and ropes to hold on to as they seek the treasure of a new day.  While younger readers can follow along seeing the journey in a literal way,  it is the metaphorical message that will resonate with the older reader who is able to operate at a more abstract level.

This is a story about trust, resilience, optimism and hope that will empower young readers to have the courage to keep moving forward, to follow their dreams, to see obstacles as opportunities and to be willing to be open to new things and be proactive.  That, for all the storm might be noisy and scary, there is nevertheless beauty in it and  the calm on the other side is savoured even more deeply because of the contrast.

These themes of courage, resilience and hope are featuring in many recent books for our young readers but given the calamity that has been 2020, it could be argued that the more we have access to the better, because at least one of them has to resonate and reach out to a child in need.  And if it does, then the work of the author, illustrator and the adult who placed it in their world, is done. 

Molly Moores Has A House Like Yours

Molly Moores Has A House Like Yours

Molly Moores Has A House Like Yours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Moores Has A House Like Yours

Kaliah Tsakalidis

Ross Morgan

Little Book Press, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780648591573

“There is a child named Molly Moores who has a house, just like yours with walls and windows and a timber floor. And a path that leads to a creaky door. 

But there’s a difference that you should note Around Molly’s house is a very deep moat…”

So begins an hilarious read for the little people in your life that just delights in the rhyme, rhythm and repetition of our language.  Using the familiar concept and contents of a fairly ordinary suburban house that young readers will recognise, each page has a twist to it that relies on the rhyme of the previous page. Little ears are encouraged to tune into that rhyme and try to predict just how Molly’s house might be different this time. While they may well come up with something that rhymes it is unlikely that it will be as wacky as the ideas that the author has imagined, ideas that are fun and madcap and which lead to all sorts of speculation.  Who has plants that grow rainbow trout?

Ross Morgan has interpreted the text into pictures that are as imaginative as the text, and the ending is just unexpected! But so much fun!

Children to learn to speak their native language by listening to the sounds and nuances of the language that is spoken around them, long before they are able to speak it themselves and to be able to share a story that revels in the fun of the spoken word and the visual impact is a surefire way of capturing their attention and having them share in its magic. Focusing on the rhyme to carry the story forward helps them develop their audial acuity, such a vital part of early reading behaviour.

This is a story to lift the spirits and just share in the joys of reading to our little ones.

Little Inventors Go Green: Inventing for a Better Planet

Little Inventors Go Green: Inventing for a Better Planet

Little Inventors Go Green: Inventing for a Better Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Inventors Go Green: Inventing for a Better Planet

Katherine Mengardon

Dominic Wilcox

Collins, 2020

152pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008382896

Little Inventors is a creative education organisation that inspires imagination by taking children’s amazing ideas seriously. Their mission is to give children across the world the opportunity to develop and showcase their creativity and problem-solving skills, build their confidence, curiosity and resilience to become caring citizens of our planet, all invaluable attributes that will support them as adults in their everyday life and chosen career paths.

The organisation is designed specifically to encourage and support children to invent things and they do this by

  • creating free resources for organisations, teachers and parents to encourage children to think up and draw great invention ideas, working with partners to run challenges, events and workshops
  • challenging skilled experts and makers to work with children to turn their ideas into reality, from the practical to the fantastical, no limits.
  • showcasing children’s inventions online and in books and exhibitions to inspire tomorrow’s inventors, scientists, makers and problem-solvers to believe in their ability to make a difference.

As well as offering children the chance to take part in mini-challenges, the organisers also offer them the opportunity to upload their own ideas to the website.  Little Inventors Go Green is the latest in a series of books (including The Little Inventors’ Handbook) which features information and ideas that will inspire young inventors to consider how they can make this planet a better, greener place for its inhabitants.  While there have been any number of books focusing on climate change and how even our youngest students can take action to help fix it, this one uses the children’s own ideas rather than those created by adults. 

Using diagrams and minimal text that is accessible and speaks directly to the reader motivating them to put their thinking caps on to address whichever problem resonates with them, its format oozes energy and an urge to get involved in doing something. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

With the support available from the website and an enthusiastic teacher offering guidance this is a book, and a series, that could easily morph into a lunchtime club attracting kids who like to explore their curiosity, who like to ask questions such as what if…, what could…, how would…, who have lots of ideas whizzing around their head which they just need an outlet for, and who enjoy the company of like-minded thinkers.