Archives

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Flavia Z. Drago

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406398502

 Gustavo is a ghost. He is good at doing all sorts of paranormal things, like walking through walls, making objects fly and glowing in the dark. And he loves playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo also has a problem. He is SHY. Which means some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye-scream or talking to the other monsters. But Gustavo longs to be a part of something, he longs to be seen. More than anything, he wants to make a friend. So, plucking up all his courage, he sends a very special letter: “Dear Monsters, I would like to invite you to my violin concert at the Day of the Dead party…”

But will anybody come?

This is a most delightful, award-winning story that will resonate with so many who find their shyness crippling, to the point that it really impacts their life and stifles their dreams.  Based on the creator’s own childhood, it offers hope to those who would really like to make a friend by encouraging them to discover their strengths and passions, play to them and share them. Even for those who are not as shy as Gustavo, a lack of confidence in who we are can prevent us from making the most of the situations that present themselves, and this has been quite noticeable after months of having to be t  home without the physical contact of our friends,  So sharing Gustavo’s story, considering the worst that might happen in a situation and then suggesting strategies that could be used if it does can be a starting point to taking that first step.  If Gustavo can find a way, our children can.  

One to share with all our students as the social season really starts to take off, and even if it’s making the first move to make a new friend in the caravan park at the beach, it will open up new horizons. 

Cookie

Cookie

Cookie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cookie

Isabelle Duff

Susannah Crisp

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820959

Right from the time he poked his head out of a shaky cardboard box on the back seat of the car, Cookie the Border Collie puppy loves Girl more than anything.  At first, it’s because she has a ball but it’s soon so much more than that.  With the boy called Stopit (and sometimes Shoosh) they go on walks to find the yummiest smells (with Cookie on a lead so Girl doesn’t get lost) and at night they both sleep in a cuddle.  

But sometimes Girl got really sad and didn’t want to play, a sadness so profound that it made her family sad too, and Cookie learns that cuddles and licks are even better than playing – because everyone knows you can lick sadness off.  But while the underlying causes of Girl’s sadness remain, she understands that Cookie is her responsibility and that she needs to get out of bed to attend to Cookie’s needs.  She has purpose… 

Written by a 19 year old, this is Isabelle Duff’s first picture book and she has drawn on her own experiences as a young student with depression, anxiety and anorexia and her parents buying her a puppy to portray Girl and Cookie. While she sought professional help, she found that there was a stigma attached to that by her peers so while the relationship between Girl and Cookie is a pared down version of her relationship with her own Saffy, it is one that not only will young children relate to but it also makes the issue of mental health accessible so conversations can start and perhaps start to break down that stigma.  This is particularly important as the “shadow pandemic” of mental health continues in our young as much as those who are older, but they don’t necessarily have the words to articulate their concerns. 

Despite the focus there has been on children’s mental health in recent years, clearly there is still shame associated with it and so by telling the story through Cookie’s voice, setting it in a typical family setting with a light touch of humour and through the interactions of all, demonstrating how Girl’s moods impact on the whole family, Duff shows  that this is something that can affect any family and anybody within it.  

The acceptance by educators that childhood mental health is a significant issue means there have been a variety of stories and programs that address it but if we are to have mental illness as “acceptable” as physical illness then the more stories our students hear, the more conversations we have then the more effective we can be so this is another valuable addition to the collection. .  To help this, teachers’ notes are available 

Bluey: Sleepytime

Bluey: Sleepytime

Bluey: Sleepytime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Sleepytime

Joe Brumm

Puffin, 2021

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

 9781761041198

It’s bedtime in the Heeler household and while Bluey is fast asleep, Mum finishes off the final story with Bingo.  As she turns out the light, she reminds Bingo that she is always there if Bingo needs her but Bingo really wants to do a Big Girl sleep and wake up in her own bed.  But will she?

Based on the television episode of the same name, this is a story that will resonate so deeply with the adult sharing it as the familiarity of children waking in the night, moving into their bed, wanting water, hogging the blankets, having good dreams and not-so that it will seem like there has been a camera in their own bedroom.  

Using a large format including foldout pages, now our young readers can return to their favourite bedtime episode time and again now it is in print format, while parents can use it to remind them that they are going to have a Big Kid night and stay in their own bed. And those that wish can also take their child on a journey through the night sky .

The connection between print and audiovisual versions of the same stories with their familiar characters and settings already in place is strong as children build their knowledge about what to expect from both formats.  To have such a superb series such as Bluey available whenever the child wants to return to it is such a bonus. 

What if … ?

What if … ?

What if … ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if … ?

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820973

Issy’s mind was always very busy. She was always wondering “What if…” and then imagining all sorts of situations that scared her.  She worried about monsters in her cupboard, aliens taking her in the middle of the night, her bedroom floor turning to quicksand and sucking up both her bed and her.

But her wise mother recognises the anxiety her imagination causes and the power of those two little words, and as she tucks Issy into bed she takes her turn at the “What if…”” But instead of scary things, she takes Issy and her imagination on an amazing and humorous trip of people walking on their hands and wearing their undies on their head; of clouds of different colours that smell of fairy floss and popcorn… Then she invites Issy to try and when she takes her mind in a new direction, her anxiety vanishes.

This is another beautiful offering from the pairing that gave us stories like Tree, and the Little Anxious Creatures series as the author draws on her expertise and experience as a clinical psychologist to acknowledge children’s big feelings and then articulates them in a way that both resonated with the child and helps them develop strategies that empower them to deal with them for themselves.  Changing thinking from what if a storm brews, a tree crashes through my window and a vampire bat flies into my bedroom to what if there were hot air balloons that could take me anywhere I wanted to go following a path made by the stars is as powerful as those two words themselves. As Jenkins says, “we are the bosses of our brains” and thus we can choose what we want to think. Lonergan’s illustrations in soft pastel colours are as gentle as the story itself,  and would be the ideal model for little ones to think of their own what if and then illustrate it, thinking of the way colour can portray mood as much as any other element.  A physical reminder to look at whenever their mind starts to wander down dark paths…

There has been much talk about the impact that the last 18-20 months has had on the mental health of our children and so this book, and the others by this couple, are more critical to know about and share than ever.

As well as teachers’ notes, Jenkins shares the story herself.

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526612991

Tilda’s world is just the way she likes it.  She has her toys, books and friends.  But then something happens that turns everything upside down and nothing is the way it was.  Nothing seems to be right and gradually Tilda retreats into herself, into a dark place where she doesn’t want to do or try anything.  What’s the point?  

Toys, books and friends are abandoned and she is swallowed by the darkness.  Until one day she sees a ladybird on its back, struggling to get back on her feet again…

This is another in this series  which includes Perfectly NormanRuby’s Worry,   Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends , that examines the big feelings that are a natural part of a child’s life, feelings that they might not yet be able to articulate and don’t have the strategies to deal with.  It gives the reader some guidance into coping with tricky situations that threaten to overwhelm,  to help them build resilience and embrace a ‘can do’ approach to life. It offers affirmation that everyone has to confront those times when nothing works out quite as they wished, usually because there are factors beyond our control, and that we have to deal with the altered circumstances rather than what we dreamt of.  That even though the clouds may surround us in gloom, they move on to show the sun is still shining and the birds still singing, if we put our brave on and stare them down. 

This is a series that is going to be particularly important in the weeks ahead as children return from weeks of isolation and all the negative feelings and events that that has entailed and emerge to be with friends again, navigating and negotiating the new boundaries -emotional, mental, social and physical – that separation has altered and shaped who we now are. By starting with a story and inviting others to share theirs, little ones can start to understand that their big feelings are normal and can be managed. 

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Monsters

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008305741

Howler is a little werewolf with a big problem.  Whenever he tries to howl at the moon, his voice is really squeaky and not at all scary.  Because all the other werewolves laugh at him, his parents send him to Monster School so he can learn to be frightening.  

But Howler finds the school itself frightening- he’s not sure if the teachers or the students are the scariest, particularly when he can’t meet their standards for scary smiles, spooking, or growling.  The others laugh at him, his teacher mocks him and he is so woeful he gets expelled!

But on his way home back to the forest in shame, Howler meets some kids out on their annual Hallowe’en trick or treat fun, and he suddenly discovers that it is not only okay to be different but it is also quite useful. 

David Walliams has a knack of reaching out to those children who feel they don’t quite fit in and being able to encapsulate their anxiety and then alleviate it in stories that resonate and appeal.  Even though they might not aspire to be scary like Howler, nevertheless there is always something we’d like to achieve but not quite reach the peak we set. So this story that shows that the best we can do is good enough and that it can have its own rewards is very reaffirming. This is particularly so at this time when our students are heading back to school after a long absence and may be worried that they haven’t achieved all their peers might have because they haven’t had the same opportunities.  While it will have appeal as a story for those who celebrate Hallowe’en, it is one for a broader spectrum because of its life lessons.  

But even without going into that sort of depth, it is just a great story with illustrations that epitomise all that we imagine vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, ogres and werewolves to be! 

 

A Trip to the Hospital

A Trip to the Hospital

A Trip to the Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to the Hospital

Freda Chiu

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760526702

Sadly, many of our children visit hospitals as patients more times than we like. either because of an accident or illness.  Even for adults, they can be intimidating places and even moreso if the visit is an unexpected emergency – ask me how I know!!!

But it can be made less traumatic if children know what to expect and so this book, based on an Australian hospital, is very timely and useful.  Following the journey three children, each being admitted for a different reason, the book’s purpose is to show that  hospitals are amazing places filled with clever people all doing incredible things, including making you feel better. The emphasis is on the people who may look scary because they’re wearing masks (although that’s not so uncommon these days) and that the tools and machines they use are there to help them. 

But as well as reassuring the would-be patient, with hospital admissions on the increase because of COVID-19, it also helps them understand what is happening to their family and friends who might also be admitted.

If we know what to expect in unfamiliar situations then our anxiety levels are lowered and we are much more able to cope.  This book certainly does that. 

Bluey: Daddy Putdown

Bluey: Daddy Putdown

Bluey: Daddy Putdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Daddy Putdown

Bluey

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761041174

Mummy has gone to a baby shower and Daddy has been left to put Bluey and Bingo to bed.  But Bluey is very concerned because it won’t be the same. No matter what ideas Daddy has, she longs for her mum to be home.  Until she has an idea…

Based on the highly successful television series, this new release strengthens  the link between screen and media, a critical one as they learn about the value of being able to take their time with print, examine the illustrations and read it again and again whenever they want – all vital concepts about print. They easily relate to characters they know which as well as adding another dimension to them by offering a behind-the-scenes look at their lives and loves,  they can also focus on the story more deeply.

Perfect for fans of the show…

 

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If, Pig?

Linzie Hunter

HarperCollins, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008409470

Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, endlessly thoughtful and fabulously fun, that he is the best friend anyone could ever have. But Pig also has a big secret… he’s a tremendous worrier!

So when he decides to throw a party for all his friends the concern kicks in and he worries about everything from a lion eating the invitations to his guests comparing this party to others.  In fact, he worries so much that he decides to call it off.

Luckily, Mouse is attuned to Pig’s mental health and suggests a walk so they can talk things over before he makes a final decision…

Anxiety about the what ifs are becoming a real part of the psyche of so many of our students these days because adults seem to be attaching such high stakes to the smallest things. And with lockdown in many places stretching out seemingly endlessly the lack of that interaction with their peers that normally provides some perspective and balance is lacking and so molehills become mountains very quickly.  So sharing stories like this in which we are assured that “things don’t stay grey for very long” is an essential part of helping our little ones cope and develop strategies for when the what ifs seem to take over. 

As well as the positive story which is charming in itself, the quirky illustrations and visual tricks with the text really make this book stand out, offering an introduction to the ways illustrators and designers can add so much to words on a page.  It demonstrates the differences in style between artists -compare this pig to one from Three Little Pigs for example and talk about the similarities and differences yet the legitimacy of each style.  This is the age when children become super-critical of their own artwork, and if it doesn’t look like the real thing or what they envisage, many dismiss their efforts, tell themselves they “can’t draw” and this self-talk destroys  their creativity.

So, all in all, this is a must-have for so many reasons. 

A Way with Wild Things

A Way with Wild Things

A Way with Wild Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Way with Wild Things

Larissa Theule

Sara Palacios

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526628565

Poppy Ann Fields liked bugs.  In fact she liked them much more than she liked people and she much preferred letting the ants march over her or watching the spider spin her web than mixing with humans.   At any social occasion she kept in the background, often dressed in patterns that allowed her to blend in with the background so she could scarcely be seen.  Even when Grandma Phyllis turned 100 and all the family and friends were there to celebrate , she stayed well out of the limelight until a dragonfly landed on the top of the birthday cake, its wings shimmering in the light of the candles.  Then she found her voice, one she didn’t know she had and her life changed…

When I read this story it reminded me so much of a friend’s granddaughter who lost her mum at a very early age and who was so much more at home in the world of wildlife than people. For a little one she was like a mini David Attenborough (her hero) and knew so much more about the natural world than any of us adults who were “loud” and “scary” and “not nearly as nice” as the Goliath stick insect who was her particular pet.  (We don’t need to mention Frankie the snake who travelled entwined in her ponytail.)

So even though we don’t necessarily see them,  (and young readers will have fun trying to spot Poppy in the illustrations) there are lots of Poppies and Ks in the world, children for whom the limelight and the spotlight are too bright  and who are often overlooked or even unseen.  But regardless of how shy they might be, sometimes it is nice to be acknowledged and while we shouldn’t be looking for ways to  make them the focus, if we can defer to their special knowledge or interest (of any subject) in authentic ways, that can sometimes give them that warm glow that tells them we know they are there and we respect who they are and what they know.  Perhaps they, like Poppy, will also gain enough confidence to bloom like a wildflower, rather than always blending in with the background.  At the very least, sharing this story with younger readers will let them know that we know they are there – they are not invisible because someone has seen them and cares enough to have written a story about them.