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As Bright as a Rainbow

As Bright as a Rainbow

As Bright as a Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Bright as a Rainbow

Romy Ash

Blue Jaryn

Working Title Press, 2024

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922033062

When we think of the colour blue, do we all visualise the exact same shade or do we see hues like cornflower, ultramarine, azure, cerulean? Perhaps even turquoise like the ocean – but is the ocean just turquoise? Or can it be one of the myriad of iterations of green?

Just like there are so many ways to describe the core colours of the rainbow, then so are there many ways to express yourself as a boy or a girl and this book encourages young children to understand that there is no specific, set-in-concrete way to define one or the other.  

Gradually, we are moving away from the stereotype notion of “pink for girls and blue for boys” (so many ask for gender0neutral colours for baby items in the chop where I volunteer), although it was only 10 years ago when there was an enormous fuss in some places with the release of Jacob’s New Dress and people asked if girls can wear trousers, why can’t boys wear dresses? But while schoolboys wearing skirts in protest of school dress codes still get headlines around the world, and others roll their eyes and tut-tut if someone signs their email indicating their preferred pronouns, it is clear there is still a way to travel and this book for young readers not only raises awareness of the issue, particularly for those struggling with their identity, but does it in a way that is so simple to understand = an analogy that could be used to explore any sort of difference or diversity.

Regardless of the progress that has been made, gender diversity remains a struggle for those who are diverse, so perhaps this is a way to change thinking from the very beginning.  It is somewhat ground-breaking, would certainly be banned in some states of the US and perhaps in some schools here, but nevertheless it is an important contribution to the well0being of those who are different.  

 

What is love?

What is love?

What is love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is love?

Katie Daynes

Daniel Sosa

Usborne, 2023

12pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781803701943

There are so many books written for our youngest readers to help them to explore their emotions, understand that these are natural and experienced at certain times by everyone.  But generally, they focus on “negative” feelings like anger and frustration and sadness so it is pleasant to discover one that focuses on love and all it facets and ways it can be expressed. 

Over a century ago, Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked, in Sonnet 43, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways and while this little book might not be as erudite as that, for its intended audience it is perfect as they can lift the flaps and explore what it means to love and be loved, from cleaning out your hamster’s cage and forgiving your brother to Dad making you your favourite sandwiches, even that sometimes it means saying or being told “no.” There is so much more to the emotion than that romantic love that seems to be life’s goal and so using everyday, relatable situations young children can begin to understand different kinds of love and to think up their own examples.

Chloe’s Lunar New Year

Chloe's Lunar New Year

Chloe’s Lunar New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chloe’s Lunar New Year

Lily LaMotte

Michelle Lee

HarperCollins. 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780063076518

It’s almost Lunar New Year, and Chloe can’t wait to celebrate! But first, Chloe and her family must prepare for the new year. They buy new shoes, lay out good-luck oranges in a bowl, decorate the red envelope, and make a crispy turnip cake. Everyone comes together to cook a fantastic feast, saving a plate for A-má, no longer with them, of course. Chloe enjoys the festive celebration and yummy food, but most of all, she loves spending time with her family.

As many of our students start to prepare for their most important annual celebration, just as with the traditions of Christmas there are core elements that all observe, but this story focuses on the traditional things that form part of the Taiwanese version of the celebration, particularly the reunion dinner. There are many dishes, each with a special significance for individual members of the family and it is this coming together and sharing this special time that flows through this story.

The upcoming year is the Year of the Dragon, and while this opens up all sorts of possibilities to investigate, perhaps this story will encourage an exploration of how each of our Asian neighbours celebrate, especially the different emphases on various elements and the food that is shared.   Students could share their stories, acknowledging their culture and customs and feeling that they are continuing those traditions by teaching others about them.  A search of SCIS shows very few picture books about this important celebration that are readily available in Australia, so maybe this is an opportunity to collect the students’ stories and create a new resource for the collection. 

Peggy and Molly

Peggy and Molly

Peggy and Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peggy and Molly

Juliette Wells

Ebury Australia, 2023

128pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781761344503

In September 2020 Molly the magpie fledgling was rescued by Peggy the Staffordshire terrier’s owners and nursed back to health, and the two creatures formed a bond that made them inseparable. There was a surprise when Molly eventually revealed that he was a male, but nevertheless, he was a family member and when Peggy had pups he formed just as close a bon with Ruby, the only female in the litter. 

This little book, full of photographs of the trio, celebrates their connections and is captioned to encourage the reader to be “kind, humble and happy”.

There is a little more about their story on their webpage, with regular updates for those who have access to Facebook, including a video of Molly barking just like her friends.

 

Secret Sparrow

Secret Sparrow

Secret Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Sparrow

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2023

256pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460760468

September 1978 and Arjun is walking to the local mall when he hears the roar of a flash flood approaching and sees the river become a turbulent mass of brown, white-flecked water with cars bobbing along like plastic bath toys.  Miraculously a motor bike appears and he is urged to climb on, as the rider heads to the only high part of this flat landscape that should never have been built on – a grassy knoll that boasts only a small carpark and a rubbish bin on a pedestal. 

As surprised as he is by the ferocity and the swiftness of the flood, he is even moreso when he discovers his rescuer is an elderly woman! And that she is  a woman with an amazing story to tell as the waters rise and she makes him climb in the rubbish bin and use old newspapers for warmth and has the wisdom to know his thoughts need diverting from both the  current situation and the fate of his mates trapped in the mall.  It is a story of going from growing up in an English village during World War I to being commandeered into serving her country despite being only 16;  to being torpedoed by a German U-boat while crossing the English Channel to living and working in the hell of the trenches of France… all because she learned Morse Code while competing with her older brothers and became so fast and accurate her skills had been noticed.

But this is not just Jean McLain’s story told to keep a young lad calm and distracted – this is the story of at least 3600 women who were used as signallers as she was during World War I who not only signed an oath that they would never divulge their role even decades after the war was over but whose service was never formerly recognised and so they received only their Post Office employee pay while they served and had to pay for their own medical treatment if they were injured, and whose army records were deliberately destroyed by the authorities because of their embarrassment at having to admit that they not only had to rely on women to serve, but the women had excelled. To have to admit that so many had been able to step up and cope in situations that required “physical strength, mechanical knowledge and the courage to work under fire” when such physical and emotional circumstances as war and its inevitable death were seen as “unwomanly”, was an anathema to many men and so not only were individual stories never told, they were lost altogether.

But, using her usual meticulous research, author Jackie French has brought it to light, as once again she winkles out those contributions of women to our history that seldom appear in the versions of history told by men.  So as well as Arjun being so intrigued by Jean McLain’s story as the night passes, dawn appears and she teaches him to use her long-ago skills to summon help, our more mature, independent readers (and their teachers) can also learn something of that which we were never told.  Because, apart from those in the roles like Jean McLain who could be prosecuted for sharing their wartime adventures even with their family, there was an unwritten code of the survivors of all wars that the horrors would not be shared because, apart from being horrific, unless you were there you would never understand.  But now at the age my grandfather was when he died, I have learned a smidgeon of what it must have been like for him on the notorious Somme and can only wonder at how he went on to become who he did.  

It is estimated that World War I claimed the lives of some 16 million people worldwide, 9.5 million of which were military deaths. It is also estimated that around 20 million were wounded, including 8 million left permanently disabled in some way. Of those lives lost, 54 000 were young Australian lads who were so eager to sign up for this grand new ‘adventure’ that they lied about their age and 18 000 young Kiwis who, like my grandfather, believed it was their duty to fight for “King and Country”. But only now, through stories like this and The Great Gallipoli Escape, are we learning the real story and through the questions she has her characters ask and answer are we being encouraged to question things for ourselves, not just about the war but also what we stand for. Often in the story Jean McLain is spurred on by her belief in her need to  “do her duty” and that her actions are saving lives, but then she poses the same situation to Arjun. “What are we worth if we don’t do our duty to each other? What kind of life is it if you don’t love someone or something enough to die for them? What matters to you, eh?’ 

As well as teaching us about the past, French inspires us to think about the future – and that is a gift that only writers if her calibre can give our students. 

  

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Rebecca Lim

Cai Tse

Albert Street Books, 2023

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

9781761180637

Starting on  February 10, 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and the family, like so many around the world, are making all the traditional preparations ready for this special celebration.  The house is clean so all the bad luck is outside with the rubbish, special foods have been cooked, and so much else has been done as the anticipation of the dragon’s arrival reaches fever point. 

The advent of the Lunar New Year is celebrated not just in Asia but around the globe as people from many nationalities honour the traditions and customs of their heritage and this new picture book is the perfect introduction to this time as its sense of expectation and energy builds through both words and pictures. As both a classroom teacher and teacher librarian, this was always one of the richest festivals to draw on, not just because of all the teaching and display opportunities that it offered but also because it touched so many children and their families. Then, as well as exploring all the possibilities that that topic offers, it can be extended into a broader investigation of how and when New Year is celebrated by the school’s families.

Many of our students will be starting the new school year with the excitement of such an important occasion looming, and this is a great way to share that joy as well as acknowledging their culture. 

 

A Chinese New Year display

A Chinese New Year display

 

What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?

What's In A Dumpling, Grandma?

What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?

Linda Meeker

Sandra Eide

Thomas Nelson,2023

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

 9781400244225

It’s a special day for  Grey and his cousin Mila because they are going to  Grandma’s and she is going to teach them how to cook bánh loc, traditional Vietnamese dumplings.  But it becomes more than just a cooking lesson as Grandma tells of her memories of sharing this heritage comfort food with other loved ones.

Celebrating the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, this is a story that shows that there is so much more in traditional family recipes beyond the physical ingredients. As well as inspiring young readers to investigate their traditional family recipes so they too can learn to make them and pass on their heritage, it has the recipe for Grandma’s fish sauce and a guide to the pronunciation of some of the key Vietnamese words used in the story, perhaps an encouragement for them to learn their ancestral language too. 

The names we have, the way we look and the food we share are perhaps the most important cultural ties that families share, so used with Joanna Ho’s Say My Name , Eyes that Kiss in the Corners,  and Eyes that Speak to the Stars, this could form the basis of a significant unit that not only welcomes all children to the class but encourages each of them to explore and share their heritage. 

Always Never Always

Always Never Always

Always Never Always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always Never Always

Meg McKinlay

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760655204

Always follow secret tracks –
the paths that wind and wend through cracks.
Never worry where they go.
When you get there, then you’ll know.

If ever there were an example of the symbiosis between the text of a picture book and its illustrations, then this would be it.  

While the words offer advice and guidance that encourage the young child to be open to exploring their world, using their imagination and seeing and appreciating its wonders, particularly those right in front of them, the pictures take a young girl on an adventure with her wind-up duck following what ever opens up before them.  

Always take time to look on every cranny, every nook

Never go so fast you miss important things like that and this…

Written in rhyme that carries the metaphor of moving forward on life’s journey as we must, it encourages the young child to take the next step but there is always a word of caution to temper what could become reckless… 

Always test a secret door. And keep that key! There could be more!)

Never close it at your back, but leave it open just a crack.

There is so much meaning that could be taken from lines like these beyond the illustration of the young girl opening a door in a vast, vine-entwined tree trunk opening opportunities for older readers to compare literal and figurative language. Added to this is the image of the key used on both the endpapers and throughout the book, suggesting that there is so much in life that can be unlocked so what appears on the surface to be a book for young readers itself unlocks a lot of lessons for those a bit older.

Say My Name

Say My Name

Say My Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say My Name

Joanna Ho

Khoa Le

HarperCollins, 2023

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

9780063205338

There is an old riddle that goes, “What is yours alone but used by everyone else? Your name”. 

There is so much embodied in a person’s name that it can be (and was) one of the most popular units of work that I did with my students at the beginning of each year.  They loved to discover why they had the name they did, its history and significance within their family, its meaning, its cultural connections  and how it shaped their own identity. They enjoyed having conversations with family members about why it was chosen, seeing their birth announcements and sharing their stories.  But most importantly, they wanted to teach us how to say it properly because that demonstrated that we respected them, cared enough about them,  to make the effort to learn it and use it and acknowledge that they were not invisible.  Even though some chose to use a more common “European” name, there was always a spark in their eyes if their birth name was used and pronounced correctly.

In this new book by Joanna Ho, whose stories  Eyes the Kiss in the Corners and Eyes that Speak to the Stars embody and celebrate diversity in a perception-changing way, six children of Chinese, Tongan, Persian, Diné, Nahuatl, or Akan descent share the meaning and history of their names. Names that are “full of tones and rhythms, melodies and harmonies, chords and cadences, Each syllable, each sound, is a building block in an architecture constructed over oceans and across generations.” (And there is a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to help you out.)

Accompanied by stunning illustrations that are rich in the symbolism of the culture of the child, the lyrical text shows us how important it is to each child, indeed each person on the planet, to say their name correctly because “My name is a window to my world, a door to my destiny, a key to unlock the dreams of my ancestors, the hopes of my family and the divine that lives within. Anything less is not me.”

Sadly for some children having someone say their name and smile is the only positive acknowledgement that they will get in a day and it is that affirmation that they exist that is enough to bring them back to school for one more day.  If ever there was a book that demonstrates just how important your name is and how we each cling to its uniqueness, this is it.  With a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to serve as a model for each child’s story, here, embedded in this literary treasure,  is your program for the first few weeks of Term 1 2024 sorted…

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah and the Flying Carpet

9781761111105

Pepper Masalah and the Temple of Cats 

9781761111143

Pepper Masalah and the Giant Bird

9781761111204

80pp., pbk., RRP $A11.99

 Nine year old Zamir lives with his father and grandmother on an olive farm in Australia with his cat Pepper Masalah (who looks like a mini panther).  Although Pepper Masalah prefers to spend her days sleeping in front of the fire on a red and blue carpet, one that Zam’s grandmother brought with her from Kashmir and which she believes can fly even though it hasn’t done so for many years.  But one night during a storm, Sam and his cat discover  discovered that the rug does have magical powers and they find themselves flying off on all sorts of adventures that take them to all sorts of places, particularly those in the mysterious Middle East.

Inspired by her own circumstances, this is a new series for newly independent readers sharpening their skills, particularly those who love cats and adventures and have dreams of flying off on their own magic carpet. But underlying this, the books also introduce the reader to various cultures, stories and beliefs that they may be unfamiliar with and, in an age-appropriate way, some real world issues, particularly those relating to children.

As well as taking the reader to a region that is in the news but of which little is generally known by the target audience, the series offers the opportunity for the reader to think about where they might go if they had their own magic carpet, perhaps even sparking a way to celebrate all the nationalities represented in the classroom.  Students could design their own magic carpet and then create a display of the important things about their country of birth or ancestry.  

While there are many series written for this age group, this one combines the fantasy of a magic carpet ride, the friendship between a boy and his pet, and the familiarity of the personalities of cats in situations that may offer cause for consideration.  Each story has some information pages at the end as well as a glossary of local words and their pronunciation, grounding the stories in reality.

Something out of the ordinary that will open readers’ eyes to new places and introduce them to children who live different lives from them.