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Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Coral Vass

Heidi Cooper-Smith

Wombat Books, 2024

80pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761111266

Amanda Caomhánach (aka Amanda Commander)  is nearly nine and likes nothing more than hanging out with her two best friends Lucia Cazzoli (aka Rainbow Fudge) and Mai Le (aka Plum Flower). Together they make up the Dolphin Squad meeting at their beachside HQ and solving problems like why Amanda didn’t receive an invitation to Eve’s birthday, the only one in the class not to have one.

This time, Amanda has a tough time fitting back into the friendship groups at school after having a sick day, and so, when Eve has several days off, Amanda is determined she will not face the dame issues, even if it means she, herself, is excluded.

This is the fourth in this series for the newly independent reader, particularly girls, which focuses on the sorts of issues that eight and nine year olds face as they navigate the world of greater independence and making and maintaining friendships. Thus, it will resonate with many who will see themselves in the stories, and start to think about what they might do in the same circumstances.  If someone returns to school after an absence or is new to the school, how will they respond so the transition is smooth and welcoming.

Using all the textual devices that support those making the transition to novels, this is a series that will be a sound stepping stone.  

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.  

 

Dingley the Dancing Dinosaur

Dingley the Dancing Dinosaur

Dingley the Dancing Dinosaur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dingley the Dancing Dinosaur

Karleigh White

Aleksandra Szmidt

Little Steps, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922833709

With his razor-sharp teeth, blistering roar and height, Dingley’s parents want him to be the next leader of the dinosaur pack, but all Dingley wants to do is dance.  But it seems a Tyrannosaurus Rex is not built for dancing – he always trips over his feet or bumps his head on low-hanging branches – and so he sets off to find his dancing groove.  However, after trying tap dancing with Trixy the triceratops, break-dancing with Benny the brachiosaurus, and the salsa with Sally the stegosaurus, Dingley decides that dancing is not for him and despondently, he heads for home.  And then he meets Bella the brachyceratops on her way home from ballet practice…

There have been many stories written for young readers about believing in yourself and finding your unique place in the world, but the premise of a dancing dinosaur is one that will reel in all those with a love of these creatures. As well as the characters and theme, it could be fun to explore the alliteration as they try to think of a name and dance style for their particular favourite dinosaur while others might want to learn more about Bella the brachyceratops , a species they may not be familiar with.  

And to top it all off, imagine the impact of a mural made by the students of the dancing dinosaurs talent show as they retell the story and add their own characters.  Fun!!!

 

Lawrence & Sophia

Lawrence & Sophia

Lawrence & Sophia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence & Sophia

Doreen Cronin

Brian Cronin

Rocky Pond Books, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780593618301

Lawrence stays close to home because “out there” is too big and loud and crowded. Sophia stays high up in the tree branches because “down there” is too bumpy, dark and dangerous. When they meet and become friends, they find ways to enjoy each other’s company without leaving their own safe spots . . . until a storm comes, and both are so worried about the other that they are finally able to take a huge, scary leap into the unknown. Together they feel brave, and the future is suddenly a lot more interesting.

This is a story about feeling vulnerable and scared, and your imagination making things more fearful than they actually are. How gradually taking the first step and then another, can lead to something so amazing that the things you feared just fall away. How sometimes your concern for someone or something else can lead you to do things you would never have considered possible when you are the only one in the picture. And it’s particularly appropriate for this time of the year and new schools loom for so many of our young readers and anxiety increases.  So much easier to stay in your comfort zone than risk being where it seems big and loud and crowded. Talking about the joys that Lawrence and Sophia shared because one day Sophia got the courage to walk to the very end of her branch might just be the impetus for encouraging your child to take their first step.

On a broader scale, research and data gathered since COVID, particularly, are showing that the levels of  anxiety in children and school refusal  is at an all-time high, and while one gently written and illustrated picture book is not going to solve such a complex problem, nevertheless it may be a starting point.  With its deceptively simple text and soft palette, this is a story that offers neither solution nor judgement but allows the anxious child to see themselves in a story and offers them some hope that there can be a life beyond their self-imposed prison that they can be a part of, and that might start with a conversation after sharing the story.  Perhaps musing on why both Lawrence and Sophia only feel safe and comfortable in their own space, putting the conversation at arm’s length so the child doesn’t feel threatened, will offer an insight into what is causing the child to feel so anxious, because it is certainly more than “laziness” and “being okay to stay home” as one commentator recently opined.

This interview between creators Doreen and Brian Cronin offers an insight into the story behind the story including how there is a bit of both Lawrence and Sophia in both of them. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

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. 

Pink Santa

 

 

 

Pink Santa

Pink Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Santa

Tanya Hennessy

Ben Whitehouse

Albert Street, 2023

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761180392

‘Twas the night before Christmas and everything in Santa’s workshop was ready to go – work done, lists checked, biscuits baked, gifts wrapped… But then Santa remembers his suit is still in the dirty clothes hamper from when he wore it last year and it desperately needs a wash before he and the reindeer can go.

 Being helpful, Rudolph volunteers to do it but when he takes it out at the end of the cycle, it has turned PINK. Can Santa be Santa in a pink suit? 

With rollicking, rhyming text and hilarious illustrations, this original story touches on being who you are inside rather than what you look like on the outside, even venturing into stereotypes and preconceptions formed on the basis of appearance. Will the colour of Santa’s suit really affect the joy and delight of the children in the morning? Indeed, with Santa’s proposal to make the following Christmas even more radical, older readers might want to trace how the image has changed since the days of St Nicholas in the 3rd century being variously depicted in the long garb of a bishop and particularly the influence of the Haddon Sundblom images of the 1931 Coca Cola campaign.  

But whether it is used as a stepping stone to learn more about the traditions, the man or ourselves, or just for the sheer fun of it, this is one to keep in your collection.  It is thoroughly modern and will cheer up anyone, even The Grinch!

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9780143778448

Up until now, middle school hasn’t exactly been a joyride for Greg Heffley. So when the town threatens to close the crumbling building, he’s not too broken up about it.

But when Greg realizes this means he’s going to be sent to a different school than his best friend, Rowley Jefferson, he changes his tune. Can Greg and his classmates save their school before it’s shuttered for good? Or is this the start of a whole new chapter for Greg?

Greg Heffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 15 years ago  and this 18th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those series that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong, and for that alone it’s worth having in your collection. One to suggest to parents for the Santa Sack.

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Linings

Katrina Nannestad

ABC Books, 2023

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733342257

Rural New South Wales in 1952 – a new monarch is about to be crowned and for five-year-old Nettie Sweeney life is almost perfect.  She has a dad, three big sisters, a farm full of cows and a cat called Mittens, can read and write and even does spelling with Second Class because she is so clever.  But Nettie longs for a mother.  Her own passed away when she was born (leaving her with all sorts of misconceptions about babies and storks) and she would love to have one who has a gentle touch, sparkles in her eyes and lots of love and hugs to give.  But instead she has cranky Aunty Edith who is quick with her hands and even quicker with her tongue as she clings to the old ways.  

When Dad marries Alice, all Nettie’s dreams come true and the Sweeney home overflows with laughter, love and a new philosophy of looking for the silver linings in everything rather than the dark clouds.  When her baby brother. Billy, is born he becomes  the light of Nettie’s life and her world is perfect.  Until it isn’t…

Those who are familiar with five-year-olds, and even those who aren’t , will laugh out loud all through the beginning of this book as we see life through the unfiltered lens of Nettie and her doll Fancy Nancy.  And they will empathise with the unsophisticated five-year-old who has to handle the family tragedy in her own way because she just isn’t mature enough to know of any other. Her naivety endears her from the beginning and her resilience and courage as events play out inspire. While the big issues of PTSD, loss and depression that are confronted could be anywhere, anytime,  by placing them in the early 50s Nannestad distances them enough from the reader’s here and now for them to be acknowledged but not necessarily absorbed. And for those of us old enough to know better, how will we ever think of Queen Elizabeth II as anything but “the mongoose of the British Umpire” again? 

It’s a rare author who can write a story for young children in a way that has adult readers turning page after page because there has to be a solution, and Nannestad is one of those.  As with The Girl who brought Mischief, this one had me reading past my bedtime because I was so enamoured of Nettie and needed to know there was a happy ending.     

This is one for independent readers who like real-life stories (it is based on family happenings) and if you are preparing a list of books for Christmas stockings, this should be on it.         

What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Need to Be Warm

Neil Gaiman

Bloomsbury, 2023

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

9781526660619

I have neither the desire or the skill to review this book because anything I say or write pales into insignificance in the presence of the wondrous Neil Gaiman. Thus I am going to use the foreword and the publisher’s notes to show what this book is about and why I immediately recommended it to colleagues who were seeking just such a piece…

in 2019, before COVID, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the current Israeli conflict, winter was coming to the northern hemisphere and people were going to be cold , especially people who didn’t have homes because they had fled the fighting in their countries or their homes, often their villages and towns, had been destroyed.  To draw attention to their plight Neil Gaiman asked his social media followers  what reminded them of warmth.  And from the tens of thousands of replies, each with a specific memory, he wove the responses into a long green scarf, so symbolic of being snuggled in warmth, and into a poem that became a film and now a book illustrated by people like Chris Riddell, Benji Davies, Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Daniel Egnéus, Pam Smy, Petr Horácek, Beth Suzanna, Bagram Ibatoulline, Marie-Alice Harel, Majid Adin and Richard Jones, with a thought-provoking cover from Oliver Jeffers.

It is  “an exploration of displacement and flight from conflict through the objects and memories that represent warmth in cold times. It is about our right to feel safe, whoever we are and wherever we are from, and about welcoming those who find themselves far from home. “

Sadly, in 2023, winter is again coming to the northern hemisphere and more people than ever are without a home, or warmth whether that’s wrapping your hands around a baked potato on a winter’s night or wrapping yourself in a blanket knitted by your grandmother or just the warmth of feeling safe indoors, so sales of every copy of this book will help support the work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which helps forcibly displaced communities and stateless people across the world.

And if you want to do more, check out Wrap With Love and perhaps start a knitting group in the new year.

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.