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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. 

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is My Dad

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922539076

Leo’s teacher announces that the class’s next focus for Show and Tell will be their fathers and while this excites the other children, Leo’s tummy belly-flopped.  And did another one when Harper asks if their dads can come and share the experience.  Because that can be all well and good for some kids, but what if you don’t have a dad?  And have never known one? “How can I celebrate someone I’ve never met?”

So while his children’s author mother hunts dragons and arrests aliens and rescues her characters from all sorts of predicaments, Leo hunts through the family photos for something he’s not going to find.  And then he has an idea…

Back in the day, teachers would celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with card and gift-making and all sorts of other activities almost without thought – it’s just what was done.  We didn’t really give a lot of consideration to the Leos because two-parent families were the norm – it was rare to have students without that traditional family structure,  But that was back in the day, and now we recognise that families are as individual as the people in them and we cannot take anything for granted.  Clearly Miss Reilly didn’t get the memo and so this is a timely, important look into the anxiety that an announcement such as hers can make, how carefully we have to tread and how we need to change our focus so that our students are not marginalised or become anxious when what to them is “normal”, becomes apparently not-so.  

This is a book to share with a class whenever one of those traditional celebrations rolls around, or the curriculum demands a focus on families.  Apart from resonating with many of the children themselves, it could be a time to examine Leo’s feelings when Miss Reilly made her announcement. Why did his tummy do a belly-flop? They could also look at the strategies that Leo employed to try to solve his problems. Why couldn’t he just tell Miss Reilly he doesn’t have a dad? Is he ashamed, angry, embarrassed? But even better, an astute teacher could involve the students in finding a big-picture question that embraces everyone’s circumstances.  Perhaps something that looks at the ties that bind a group of people into a family unit, rather than its physical structure; perhaps celebrating the influential adults in the child’s life without reference to gender or relationship; or perhaps even comparing human family structures to those of animal families. More able students might like to consider whether a wedding ring makes a family, and delve into the traditions and purposes of marriages, including cultural aspects, 

While the structure of a family becomes more and more diverse and accepted, and the kids themselves don’t look sideways at two mums, two dads, no mum, no dad and every variation in between which also reaches into the extended families,  Leo’s story is a reminder that, nevertheless, we need to tread carefully and between Powell’s writing and Johnston’s illustrations, we not only have a great heads-up for teachers but also a book which appears to be for littlies but which can enable older students to examine their own perspectives at arm’s length, perhaps even reflect on their own situations and how that has shaped them. 

Teachers’ notes are available

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the Butterfly

Helen Cooper

Gill Smith

Walker, 2022

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

9781406397208

Older sister and younger brother have fled their homeland, the only two to survive the perilous boat trip to safer waters, where helping hands gave them sanctuary. And even though they had nothing from before, except each other, older sister said they were lucky because they could have lost so much more. 

But while younger brother didn’t think about that for long and began to make new friends and learn new things, older sister dwelt in the past – she felt she shouldn’t forget and gradually a shadow fell over her mind, as dark and gloomy as their meagre surrounds.  Until one day, younger brother captures a butterfly and brings it home. “Set it free!” cries the older sister, but in its panic it bashes into the walls… Eventually it tires and settles on her hand and doesn’t leave, as though it senses her pain.  Older sister knows what she must do but does she have the courage…

This is a poignant story, sadly a repeat of so many times when people have had to flee their homes, and even today, it is happening again… It reminds us that there is so much more to starting again than the relief of reaching a safe harbour.  Matching the lyrical text are stunning illustrations whose palette mirrors the mood perfectly, contrasting the darkness of older sister’s thoughts and feelings with the hope offered by the bright butterfly.

With so many of our students having found themselves in the predicament of both older sister and younger brother, this is an insight into that long period of adjustment, the grief and fear that must be worked through, and the changes that must be made so we can be more sensitive to the needs of these children.  It is so much more than just a story about refugees. 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

Sue Lawson & Sue Hindle

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036144

With pandemic restrictions easing and life returning to a “COVID-19 normal” one of the most concerning things emerging from the lockdowns and limitations is the amount of global research focusing on the impact the time has had on children’s mental health.  And, with RATs and masks in schools bringing the disease to them directly, the anxiety and discomfort is likely to have  even greater consequences.  But while that might be the black cloud of the last two years, the silver lining is the focus that has been placed on the mental and emotional health of our young people – no longer is it just an illness of older people.

According to the experts, one of the greatest tools we can provide youngsters with is resilience -“the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” – and this book, which talks directly to the reader, offers the tools to build this. Beginning with the affirmation that no one else in the world is like you, if offers practical ways to explore emotions and build a toolkit to help with the days when they “feel worried, worn out or just not quite right.” From learning to breathe deeply, tune into their emotions, and creating a place – physical or mental – that is safe and peaceful, the young person is offered ideas that are simple, doable and achievable.  They’re explicitly stated rather than being embedded in a what-would/could-you-do story that needs to be unpacked and have step-by-step instructions from learning to finger-breathe to writing anxieties , fears and feelings on paper and physically ripping them up. 

Mental health is a curriculum focus, even moreso now, and mindfulness part of everyday activities so as well as helping individuals directly, the suggestions could also be a toolkit for teachers to work through with students whenever there is a moment or a need. Sharing stories such as The World Awaits is an essential part of showing children that their feelings are real, shared and validated and this book is the perfect follow-up, empowering them to not only manage their emotions now but building strategies for the future.  

 

Henry Turnip

Henry Turnip

Henry Turnip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Turnip

Chloe Jasmine Harris

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781760654566

Henry Turnip, the panda, is very wary about change particularly to his routine because he likes to be able to predict what will happen so he can cope with it.  He eats the same breakfast every day and has seven pairs of blue striped overalls, one for each day of the week.  

He finds school noisy and the busyness of it overwhelming at times so he tends to be on the sidelines observing rather than participating in the rough and tumble.  That is until Reuben Moon arrives…

In an environment that seems to appreciate and celebrate extroverts, it is tricky to be an introvert so this story will appeal to those who tend to keep themselves to themselves – and they will recognise Henry’s aloofness for the shyness it is.  But even the introverted have to operate in society and so Reuben’s encouragement for Henry to be a bit braver, a bit more confident may open doors to adventure and fun for those kids as it did for Henry.  Perhaps they too will learn about the joy of jumping into a mud puddle! especially when they realise that everyone else is so busy having their own fun, they’re not taking all that much notice of them. 

Friendships form for many reasons and operate in many ways, but they are best when each acknowledges the differences but appreciates them too – we can all learn from each other. 

 

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Snail Knows

Kathryn Apel

Mandy Foot

UQP, 2022

232pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702265464

“It’s just you and me, Lucy. We don’t need nobody else.” 

How many times had Lucy heard that as Dad packed up their old brown car again, and they moved to yet another caravan park and, for Lucy, a new school? It seems that since her mum died, she and her dad have been constantly on the move from place to place, school to school and if the memories themselves weren’t enough, there were the reminders at school where teachers asked students to make Mother’s Day cards or draw their family tree.  Lucy sees them as just a seed of a family, but desperately wishes there were branches like other families.   

So when she discovers Snail carrying his home on his back, a home he can tuck himself inside whenever things get tough, it seems like the ideal pet for her and so he joins them in his special box in the caravan.  And just as Snail becomes more used to his surroundings, gains confidence and tentatively comes out of his shell, so does Lucy.  Even though there are the usual adjustments to make as she starts yet another new school, gradually she starts to fit in and make friends as together the students investigate how they can help each other, their families and their communities under the sensitive and caring Miss Darling.  Does it really just have to be Lucy and her dad keeping themselves to themselves, or is there room for others as well?

This is a most poignant verse novel for young independent readers that will resonate with so many – Lucys who are the new kid, yet again, and who have already learned to build the defensive walls to protect themselves; teachers who have had new students start this year and who will have a host of reasons for starting a new school but will have “new kid” syndrome in common;  and students who are comfortable in their established friendship groups and are wary of how the dynamics will change if someone new enters…  And each will take something different away after having read it.

Written in the present tense from Lucy’s perspective each poem raises all sorts of issues that can be explored to help students understand the various perspectives and themes, while each blends into the next to build a potent story of loneliness, friendship, acceptance, and building and connecting with community. How can we each reach out to the new kid, our classmates, our families and those in the broader circle, particularly the lonely and the vulnerable, to build communities again, particularly after the isolation of the last two years?  Even without cane toads to conquer, could this rain and these floods on the East Coast, in fact, have a silver lining?

 

The Worst Sleepover in the World

The Worst Sleepover in the World

The Worst Sleepover in the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst Sleepover in the World

Sophie Dahl

Luciano Lozanzo

Walker Books, 2021

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

 9781406384413

Ramona is having her best friend Gracie to stay the night. It’s their first ever sleepover and she wants to make a den, read stories, dance like a wild thing, stay up all night and have a midnight feast. It’ll be the BEST SLEEPOVER IN HISTORY. But nothing quite goes to plan. Gracie turns out to be incredibly fussy, Mum is very understanding but even her patience gets tested, and Ramona is disappointed that her night has not lived up to expectation.  Will they be able to solve their problems and still be friends in the morning?

As a young girl, Sophie Dahl spent a lot of time with her grandfather, the incomparable Roald Dahl (whom she called Mold because “her baby tongue” couldn’t get itself around Norwegian Roo-al [silent d]) and, in her words, he “cast a spell over her childhood.”  But he also gifted her his ability to tell a great story, and although this is only her second children’s book (the first, Madame Badobedah)  it is totally absorbing.  The characters and the situation are so relatable that their will scarcely be an adult or child who won’t be taken back to memories of sleepovers that they have experienced.  Delving into the lives of the Dahls, you can see there are many elements that Sophie has drawn on to portray Gracie, Ramona and even little sister Ruby, so they are very realistic and credible and one imagines her depiction of the single mum trying everything to appease Gracie’s demands so she is safe and comfortable would be aligned to that of her own mum. 

Lozano’s illustrations capture the expressions and the mood exceptionally well and the front cover with mum waving a flag of surrender sums up the story perfectly. 

With school restarting and new friendships being made, the requests for sleepovers is going to get louder and more frequent, and this is the perfect story to share in anticipation!!  The pains and perils and the discoveries and delights of new friendships are explored with humour and a gentle touch, but you have been warned…  

The Claw

The Claw

The Claw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Claw

Karen Witt

Aaron Pocock

Little Steps, 2020

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

9781922358103

‘Clive was charming, friendly and chipper, and on each side of his body, he boasted a nipper.’

He had many friends in the mudflats and played with them during the day although there were occasions when he had to defend himself.  and during one fight he not only lost a nipper but also his confidence.  He felt that because he was not whole and perfect like the others he had no place among them and despite their efforts to entice him out, he spent the day hiding in the weeds 

Mud crabs are born to be BIG and STRONG

But with only one nipper, I don’t belong.

But when his friends are captured by Mr Beerbellio a greedy fisherman, who is intent on crab sandwiches regardless of the storm raging, Clive is forced to set his self-pity aside to help his friends.

While the premise of this story of lacking confidence because of being different is common, interpreting it in this way is new and young readers will enjoy predicting if and how Clive can be a hero, and particularly what might happen in the future given the twist in the end.  The illustrations are the highlight bring Clive and his environment, and particularly Mr Beerbellio to life with their clever choice of colour and use of shading producing a 3D effect. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as resonating with those readers who might also be lacking confidence because they believe they don’t meet the demands of the invisible, anonymous body police, this is also an opportunity to examine the behaviour of those like Mr Beerbellio and consider whether it’s right to take more than you need. Many will have been fishing for all sorts of species over summer and may have been frustrated by bag limits, but what is their purpose?  A gentle way to introduce the concept of sustainability even to our youngest readers.