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How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be . . . The New Person

Anna Branford

Walker Books, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760655839

Hazel Morrison has a secret habit – pretending to make videos about everyday things. Eight important tips for successfully buttering toast! Putting your hair in a ponytail: a step-by-step guide! But when her family move to the outer suburbs, Hazel has to cope with starting at a new school where she doesn’t exactly feel welcomed. However, she does meet a new friend – her elderly neighbour Veronica,  But then Veronica has to move too.

So when a school project inspires her to create a real video, she knows just what her focus will be – a how-to guide for being “the new person” . . . because everyone, sometime, will meet one, or be one!

Having laughed and cried through Old People’s Home for Teenagers and having seen the impact of the isolation of lockdown on all ages, it would seem to me that loneliness is at the root of the mental health issues of today’s generations.  While older people finding themselves alone after the death of a partner has always been a trigger point, and one to be aware of regardless of their “I’m OK” protestations because they “don’t want to be a burden”, the anti-social nature of social media is a new phenomenon.  Although it allows for easier connectivity, that connectivity can be done alone and in private without having to have face-to-face contact, without having to develop the skills of interaction or relationship-building, and without regard for the impact of the words on the recipient.  No wonder the teens in the television show, most of whom admitted that they spent hours upon hours in their bedrooms, lacked the confidence to mingle with others.

Thus, as we approach the end of another school year and children are facing having to start a new school, whether that’s in a new location or just moving on to high school, anxiety will be starting to build already as they contemplate being “the new kid” and all that that entails.  This book, written for young independent readers, deserves to be shared with our students to open up conversations that allow them to share their anxieties, to learn that they are all feeling the same way, and to develop strategies so they can believe in Veronica’s observation that “Wherever there are lots of people, there is always at least one nice person. You don’t always find them right away but sooner or later you usually do.  And after that, things get easier.”

IMO, instead of focusing on academics and grades and stuff in the last few weeks of the year, the greatest thing we can do for our students is to guide them along the pathway ahead, to show them that there are many walking beside, behind and in front of them, that the apprehension they are feeling is universal and that they can and will find that “one nice person.”  It starts with being one yourself.   

 

If someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Alice Pung

Sher Rill Ng

Working Title Press, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922033932

All through the day, no matter where he is or what he is doing, Xiao Xin’s family is warning him to be careful.  Even the most common things that children do like climbing on the monkey net come with warnings and commands not to do it. If ever an example of helicopter parenting were needed, this is it. 

But rather than feeling loved and protected, Xiao Xin feels stifled. 

They don’t understand what I can do!

They don’t understand what I can be!

For he dreams with his eyes wide open and sees himself as a Red Fire Warrior capable of doing “infinite things”. But more than that, he also sees how this constant care and concern is limiting him and his little sister.

So, when one day Xiao Xin leaves the house to prove he can be independent and safe,  and doesn’t tell anyone, panic sets in, until…

Children are often the most-longed for gift, and certainly the most precious, and so it is understandable that parents want to protect them, but this deeply-layered story with its stunning illustrations which add another dimension in themselves, demonstrates that just as our children grow up, so must we and we must be willing to let them become the confident, competent, independent adults they need to be. 

Written in both English and Mandarin (itself another layer of complexity), it is one that straddles all age groups as the child who hears it may well relate to Xiao Xin’s situation and the parent who reads it might also reflect on how their protectiveness and expectations might be stunting the child’s growth.  I was reminded of a vignette in a recent episode of Old People’s Home for Teenagers in which a young girl who, because of parental expectations, worked hard to excel academically stumbled when presented with a problem that could not be solved by the technology in her hand.  Reading a print street directory was too much of a challenge, but more concerning was her response to not being able to do so.  There is a fine line and Xiao Xin not only pushes it but has the courage to cross it!

Watch for this one in awards season! 

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remarkably Ruby

Terri Libenson

HarperCollins, 2022

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

 9780063139183

Ruby is moving to middle school, a whole new environment with a whole lot of new people to meet.  Which for some, will be an exciting opportunity, but very daunting for one who doesn’t have “the greatest social skills” , whose not into dances, social media or sports, and who is as tall as their money tree. 

More for the upper end of this readership, nevertheless it is a story that will resonate with many who find themselves having to change schools, and its first-person voice, diary-like entries and a format resembling a graphic novel make it accessible to any independent reader.

It is the 6th in the Emmie and Friends series, written to help young girls navigate those tricky tween years by showing them that the problems and issues they face are common and there are ways to work their way through them.  So while some may not resonate so much with Ruby (although many will),  there are others in the series that will definitely speak to them, making it a series that needs to be in the library’s collection as our young girls seek books about those just like themselves, with the same insecurities, confusion and peer pressure.

 

 

 

A Feather on a Wing

A Feather on a Wing

A Feather on a Wing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Feather on a Wing

Maria Speyer

UQP, 2022

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

9780702263255

Sometimes, when it’s dark and you’re lonely, the best thing to make you feel better is to have a big sister to reassure you that you are not alone.  Like a feather on a wing, a flower in a daisy chain, a raindrop in a shower, we are always connected to someone and together we make up a whole that has unlimited potential.

With illustrations as gentle as the rhyming text, imagery that calms as it connects,  and the whole put to music as an addendum, this is a charming story that not only soothes the little girl but also provides the reader with food for thought as they consider the connections in their own lives and the ‘something bigger’ that they are a part of.   Feeling alone, perhaps a little afraid, in the dark is such a relatable experience and in each spread not only does the big sister reinforce the concept of belonging, but gradually widens the circle so that it embraces shared sorties, toys, other children…

Through her use of metaphors, the big sister encourages her little sister to practise mindfulness, to be in the moment, to dream with her eyes open…

What wholes are you part of?

Teachers’ notes are available.

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin's Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chiu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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

9781760526627

The earth trembled as the creature left its lair at night.  It wound its way across the fields and slunk over the town bridge.  It slithered across the churchyard and its skin shimmered as it slid past the windows of the sleeping children,  Its shadow raced along the stone walls by the light of the mood.  It glided across the village green and then silently through the cobblestoned streets,  It went past the pub and the tiny teashops, past the village library, searing. It had known the place for centuries. In the market square it stopped.

It let out a screech that was wild and full of rage.

That cry echoed down the laneways, through the thatched roof cottages, reverberated over the fields.

It was a noise that had not been heard for many years. 

“Meanwhile, dressed in sparkly red shoes with her matching backpack, and carrying her strawberry-scented notebook, Mary-Kate is accompanying her archaeologist mother to the tranquil English countryside to investigate some interesting bones found in an old well. But once they arrive, they realise that the village of Woolington is not as peaceful as it seems. Mysterious noises, earth tremors and a terrifying legend have the locals frightened.

Could there be any truth in the myth of the beast who lives in the ancient well? And if so, why would it return? Mary-Kate might be anxious, but she is not afraid to get to the bottom of this monstrous mystery.”

However, Mary-Kate is not the intrepid adventurer that the publisher’s blurb portrays.  In fact, she is a rather anxious child who likes to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, and while her mother may be used to going off on these sorts of expeditions, Mary-Kate usually stays with her grandmother, which she much prefers. Even the few days away from school which has been Triple H lately – horrible, horrendous and hideous- are little consolation So, reluctantly, she packs her bag with her lucky items – the seven pieces of gum left by her father before he disappeared on Mt Shishapangma; her torch shaped like Big Ben, her little jar with 33 international coins in it and her stress ball shaped like a miniature world globe – and heads off to Woolington Well with her mother. 

This is a new release from the author of Lenny’s Book of Everything  winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature, and Dragon Skin. shortlisted for the 2022 CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers and it is ideal for those who like a fantasy-adventure in which they can put themselves into the story as a character rather than an observer.  Being a sucker for anything set in ye olde English villages, it had me at the prologue but I remained hooked and read well past my bedtime as I willed Mary-Kate and Arabella on as they gradually work out why the wyrm, a “huge limbless and wingless dragon or dragon-like creature” has emerged again and is causing so much destruction, while both learn much about themselves as they do.  

Something different to share as a class read-aloud that will be followed by another in the series  The Trouble with the Two-headed Hydra- so readers can continue sharing Mary-Kate’s adventures. 

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2022

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9780062995087

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. Again, she is late for market day different vegetables selling themselves to the humans in an old-fashioned rural village. Originally created by the kindly but powerful Witch Agnes to be “mute little helpers”, she  has enjoyed their growth into independent contributors to the community. At least with Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.. So when the vegetables notice smoke trailing from the chimneys of a nearby castle, Agnes uses her magic to investigate and discovers that a vampire has moved in.

Because of the belief that garlic drives away vampires,  and in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is tasked with slaying the bloodsucker. Celery goes with her reluctantly, payback for his willingness to sacrifice her for the mission. So, with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes…

Although the theme of believing in yourself in this story is a common refrain, everything else about it is new and refreshing. Vampire lore and information about witchcraft are woven throughout the story, offering an introduction to the premises which underlie many other stories with these sorts of characters,  and Witch Agnes’ wisdom often speaks directly to the audience drawing them into it rather than being passive observers. 

While this is not a complex read, cheerful rather than chilling, with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Sue Whiting

Walker, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760653590

When the special phone rings in the middle of a storm, a phone that is a secret landline of the Adventurologists Guild and only meant to be answered by qualified members of that group, Pearly Woe is sent into a panic,  Her parents are members, she is not, but they should have been home hours ago and it keeps ringing – MOOOO, MOOOO, MOOOO. Should she answer it and break the rules or does she use her initiative and pick it up because such non-stop ringing is so unusual?

For despite being able to speak 27 languages, including some animal tongues,  Pearly Woe is one of the world’s greatest worriers and her over-active imagination creates a dozen different scenarios for even the most common situation. But when she does finally lift the receiver, hearing her mother’s voice does not bring her comfort – instead the strange message with its cryptic clues set off a chain of events that even Pearly’s imagination couldn’t have conjured.  Pearly’s parents have been kidnapped by Emmeline Woods, who is not the nice character she portrays on screen, and who demands that Pearly hand over Pig, her pet pig  whom she talks to all the time to ease her anxiety.  Alarm bells are ringing loudly already but seeing Woods shoot Pig with a tranquiliser gun  galvanises Pearly into mounting a rescue mission that sees her in the icy wastes of Antarctica and having to confront her worries, fears and imagination in ways the she would not have dreamed possible. 

This is a fast-paced, intriguing adventure for young, independent readers who are beginning to want some depth to the stories they read and the characters they meet.  While there are subtle environmental messages embedded in the story, it is Pearly’s anxiety and self-doubt that many will relate to personally, while others will cheer her on to believe in herself and overcome those fears.  It can be amazing how our love and concern for those who are most precious can spur us to do things we never though we would be capable of… even if we can’t speak 27 languages to help us out.

To me, the mark of a quality story is if I can hear myself reading it aloud to a class, and this is definitely one of those. 

  

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263484

When Jackdaw Crow is found underneath an apple tree, orphaned as a tiny baby by a lightning strike, he is taken to Direleafe Hall, where its principal Mrs Beekman, raises him as her own son.  But for all that he is loved and cherished, Jackdaw, as the only boy in that school for girls,  never feels quite content as he feels there is something missing in his life, comfortable though it is.  

Then he overhears a conversation between two of the kitchen girls, one saying that he was responsible for the death of his parents for if he hadn’t been such a crier, they would never have taken him outside to see the storm that killed them; but it is the words of Angharad that ‘clung to his soul’ – “How can a baby, brand new and pure, be blamed for anything? A baby ain’t done nothing yet. A baby has no dreams or calling…” 

And so he sets out to find his calling, the reason he was spared when his parents weren’t.  But when he befriends Angeline, a wildling girl who knows her destiny lies with the circus, he ignores the wisdom of the ghosts of Nell, Florence and Lucy and tries to save her from the brutal Mrs Bristleroad, even though Angeline is determined to save herself – that is her calling- he goes too far and loses sight of what’s most important.

This is the third  in this intriguing trilogy which includes The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn and The Ballad of Melodie Rose both of which also incorporate the themes of lost, lonely souls seeking friendships, struggling with who they are and their reason for being but learning to remain true to themselves regardless, (familiar themes for the readers who face the same issues), but whether it is the beginning or the end of the sequence depends on how you interpret the powerful epilogue which draws the circle together. 

As with its companions, Gordon’s evocative language and phrasing draws the reader in to this other-worldly experience, even those like me who are not particular fans of this genre, and there is much wisdom and food for thought between and beyond the lines, as well as along them.  I loved Wonder Quinn so much that I kept it and now I have all three to pass on to both Miss Almost 16 and Miss Just 11 because I think that each of them, despite being different in both age and taste, will thoroughly enjoy them.  Just as it is a timeless piece of writing, so it is a timeless read.  

Alfie the Brave

Alfie the Brave

Alfie the Brave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfie the Brave

Richard Harris

Simon Howe

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761041358

Alfie was a fine-looking dog. His coat was sleek and shiny like an otter. He was the son of champions.
But Alfie didn’t feel like a champion. While he watched other dogs do things like catching frisbees, swimming, herding cattle, Alfie was scared of . . . everything! He didn’t like loud noises, mice terrified him and even a cat met on a walk would send him scurrying home.
Could Alfie ever be bold and brave like other dogs?

Written by Australian anaesthetist Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris, a key member of the international cave-diving group who rescued the Wild Boar soccer team in Thailand, this is a charming story about how we all wish we could find our brave, and doubt its existence until we need it.  Even though Alfie is not the bravest dog, he is still willing to face the world rather than hide away paralysed by “what-ifs” and he does have other endearing characteristics that make him precious to his family, like snuggling in for family cuddles and just being there. Not everyone is, or has to be, a superhero in a cape.  

Tempered with exquisite illustrations that portray Alfie’s feelings perfectly, this is ideal for sharing with little ones who are facing the unfamiliar or a new challenge like starting school to show them that they all have an inner strength they can draw on when they need to, and  that facing your fears head-on is better than letting your imagination make them bigger and scarier than they already are.  

The story behind the story is available here

 

We Feel Happy

We Feel Happy

We Feel Happy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Feel Happy

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526619907

Our youngest readers are encouraged to explore their emotions in this vibrant book from the creator of such gems as We Catch the Bus and We Wear Pants.  Using  hooks such as counting, first words, recognising animals, interactive speech bubbles, prompts and ideas on how to understand and process emotions,  the reader is involved in the actions as they examine the vignettes to discover  lots of interesting things to spot on each page. While the animals are experiencing lots of different emotions, from the hippos who are excited to visit their friends to the shark who is grumpy about brushing its teeth, not only are there opportunities for the reader to speculate on why the animal is feeling the way it does and make connections, they are also given the opportunity to reflect on the occasions when they share the same emotions. .

Focusing on the feelings of happy, calm, worried, shy, curious, grumpy, sad, scared, sorry, excited, there is also  a non-fiction spread for parents and teachers with lots of useful information for speaking to children about their emotions.

Often when our littlies feel big, overwhelming feelings they don’t realise that these are part of life and everyone experiences them, both the pleasant and the not-so,  Books like these that help them understand that such emotions are common and essential to our well-being are an important part of their development.