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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.  

 

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2024

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

9781922539373

Nova has created a special portrait of her dad to give to him at his birthday celebration this evening.  But now she can’t find it anywhere!  She searches and searches in every place she can think of but the missing masterpiece is nowhere to be found.  The more frustrated that Nova gets, the more frantic the search but despite this all the while her little dog Harley seems unperturbed. And gradually Nova starts to notice some of his behaviours – breathing in long and slow, having a drink – and gradually she calms down enough to keep searching as she tries the same things. But will she find the picture in time for the party?

We all know the anxiety and frustration of not being able to find something that we really need; the searching in the most unlikely places in case it may miraculously appear and as we get older we are more able to self-calm and think more clearly.  But for children of Nova’s age that is a skill yet to be learnt so this is a great story to help start teaching it.  Every child will have their own story to tell so a group discussion of strategies like breathing, like taking a few minutes, like doing something else can be the beginning of helping children learn to take a step back, relax and think.

But even without extracting this theme from the story, this is just a good read that will resonate with many. 

 

Ruby’s Repair Cafe

Ruby's Repair Cafe

Ruby’s Repair Café

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Repair Café

Michelle Worthington

Zoe Bennett

New Frontier, 2023

32[[., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922326805

If you broke something, tore something or just needed something to go again, then you (and everyone else in town) went to The Repair Café and Ruby would mend it for you.  It was the busiest shop in town, long before the phrase “reduce, reuse and recycle” was mentioned.  That was until the new department store opened next door and suddenly everyone wanted new and shiny and, instead of going to Ruby’s, the local tip filled with ditched and discarded stuff.  Sadly Ruby’s Repair Café  had to close down even though the stink from the tip wafted over the town and the piles pf garbage threatened to bury it! 

But one night a huge storm sweeps through the town causing immense damage – even though it destroys so much, can it be the thing that saves it?

This is a captivating and original  story that not only focuses on the environmental message but also has a touch of David and Goliath about it as the big chain store swallows up small business. a story playing out in rural towns like mine almost every week.  (We’ve just seen our beloved pet shop close its doors because of one of the arrival of one of the chains.)  So, as well as consolidating the message about our impact on the planet through our incessant demands for new and shiny, it has the potential to introduce students to that old biblical story and start them thinking about shopping locally and supporting all those mum-and-dad businesses in their neighbourhood. Just as they are aware of their environmental choices, can they also be more-informed consumers?  Is price necessarily the most important factor? 

Young children will appreciate the solution of how both Mr Bigg and Ruby resolve their dilemma but they might also start to look at their own habits, particularly as Christmas draws near and there is going to be another wave of stuff to swamp them.  

Under the Red Shawl

Under the Red Shawl

Under the Red Shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Red Shawl

Vikki Conley

Martina Heiduczek

New Frontier, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922326829

On the day that Salim was born everyone was leaving town, looking for a safer place, and so Mama wrapped him tightly in her red shawl and, with a few precious things packed onto the donkey, joined the exodus…

Based on many stories told by children in Africa and the Middle East to the author during her work with World Vision, sadly this is more than just Salim’s story and as we watched the families fleeing Gaza, it is one that is common and continuous.  While the reasons for leaving may differ, nevertheless there are several constants regardless of the people involved – there is the love of parents for their children that protects the little ones regardless of the hardships that the adults might encounter and endure; the friendliness of strangers and the willingness to open their doors; and the belief that there is a better, safer place somewhere.

So while this is Salim’s story of a journey, it is also the story of so many – including that of many of our students.  

While there will be those with anxiety about starting a new school in the new year, or moving to another town and having to leave and then build friendships, that can be put onto perspective somewhat by imagining what it would be like to have to leave and have no idea where you’re going or what you might face.  How do you keep your dreams alive?

As with Amira’s Suitcase, Vikki Conley has brought the reality of the world of the refugee child right into the realm of more fortunate children, but has tempered it with layers of love and friendship and hope for they are the elements that connect us regardless of belief or circumstance.

 

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Ash (series)

Sports Carnival

9781460764633

Puppy Playtime

9781460764640

Ash Barty

Jasmine McCaughey

Jade Goodwin

HarperCollins, 2023

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Hot on the heels of the successful launch of the junior version of her autobiography comes the latest two in this series for young, newly independent readers.  

As with the others, they feature themes that are likely to be familiar to the audience – getting a puppy, and having to put the greater good before your own desires – and encouraging the reader to consider what they would do in a similar circumstance. Part of learning to win is learning to lose, and it is refreshing to have plots where the main character, who in real life we all seem to expect to win all the time, actually faces difficulties and defeat and has to handle that.  It is also refreshing to read stories where, even for champions, success doesn’t come easily – there is a lot of trial and error and practice that has to be endured, and not just with sport.  So many children who find something like learning to read comes easy naturally expect things like maths or music will also require little effort and when faced with a challenge either turn away or label themselves as “no good at that”.    

As sports stars come and go, much in the same way as new waves of young readers discover they can read by themselves, series like this also come and go and are very popular and useful at their time.  Students discover that those they admire most face similar dilemmas and choices as they do, making them more real and, at the same time, showing them that they do have power to determine things for themselves. And with their subject matter and format carefully designed for those emerging readers, regardless of the celebrity on the masthead, they also show them that they can read independently, that reading is something they can master and enjoy and that it will open a whole variety of new worlds and pathways.  So this is another important addition to your Stepping Stone collection with application and attraction beyond just those who like tennis. 

Nightsong

Nightsong

Nightsong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightsong

Sally Soweol Han

UQP, 2023

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

9780702266188

Lewis has been in the noise of the city all day and he is really looking forward to the peace and quiet of his country home.  But on the way home, the bus gets a puncture and they are stranded.  Straight away the adults start to chatter-chatter-chatter so Lewis moves away and as he climbs into a field a whole new world of sound and songs opens up to him…

Anyone who, like me, lives in the country, will empathise with Lewis in his desire to escape the noise and busyness of the city.  Han has used a clever technique of using speech bubbles and words in the illustrations to convey all the sounds in this story, and this emphasises the continual and constant cacophony that we are surrounded by every day, particularly if you live in the city.  So not only is the peace of the countryside so different, it is very welcoming and restful.  And sometimes, even then, it is not until we are forced to listen do we actually hear, as Lewis does.

In her book,  Tiny Wonders, the focus was on the greyness of the city where everybody is too busy to stop and look at the colours in the cracks and crevices, and this is similar as we seem to be so busy making our own noise we don’t hear the songs that nature provides us with. 

Mem Fox once said that reading a story at bedtime is like “drawing the curtains on the day” and this story offers an additional element to that.  By taking the time and having our children listen to the sounds of night falling – the natural sounds of Mother Nature closing some things down while others awake to start their new day – can be very calming and soporific.  What sounds can be heard? What is making the noise?  Why are some creatures waking up when others are going to sleep?  All questions that can be explored in the morning…

 

Giant-Sized Butterflies On My First Day of School

Giant-Sized Butterflies On My First Day of School

Giant-Sized Butterflies On My First Day of School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant-Sized Butterflies On My First Day of School

Justin Roberts

Paola Escobar

Putnam, 2023

33pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780525516439

When a little girl wakes up on the first day of school, the butterflies in her stomach feel positively giant-sized! She really wants her mom to stay with her, on this first day. As she and her mother make their way to school, her mother explains how the butterflies are a good thing. Everyone gets them (including parents) and they are a sign of something exciting happening—that we’re about to learn and grow from a new experience and they can help us through it.
So with the butterflies as her guide, the girl soars into her first day.

As little ones’ thoughts turn to the next big step in their lives – moving from preschool to big school – it is natural that there are going to be nerves and anxiety as the transition will be daunting for many. So this is another one to add to that collection to share to reassure them that their feelings are natural but they can be managed if they look through a positive lens.  Even though it is American, it carries the universal message that everyone shares a fear of the unknown to some degree and that, in itself, can bring peace and calm.  It also reassures them that they are old enough and brave enough to take this step, and it will only be a short time with new and familiar friends  before their butterflies have disappeared. 

 

 

 

A Footy Tail

A Footy Tail

A Footy Tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Footy Tail

Alex Johnston

Gregg Dreise

A & U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761180316

A fluffle of Bunnies play at the park.

They sprint and they tackle from dawn until dark,
They always train hard, but it’s never enough . . .
the other teams are just bigger and stronger. It’s tough!
Dispirited and disheartened, the bunnies fear the opposition who have sharp teeth, loud barks, can fly high and even breathe fire.  But then along comes Crow with wise advice, encouragement and the vision and means to introduce some new players – a croc called Alex, a goanna called Cody and a kangaroo named Trell…
Inspired by the South Sydney Rabbitohs, written by NRL star Alex Johnston and illustrated by celebrated First Nations artist Gregg Dreise, this rhyming picture book about an underdog team of bunnies who are up against the stronger teams of animals is a wonderful story of unity, togetherness, resilience and teamwork.
This is a picture book for any young Rugby League fan, not just Rabbitohs supporters, particularly those whose own teams need a boost if they haven’t reached the heights they have dreamed of.  While they may not have a Russell Crowe to swoop in and rescue them, nevertheless there is a strong message of the importance of practice and self-belief so they approach each game with a can-do attitude.  Importantly though, it also offers opportunities to discuss not just the feelings of winning and losing, but also how to win and lose. Our elite sports people are role models of behaviour both on and off the field for so many of our young students so they can learn so much about accepting defeat (something parents often try to protect them from) and being generous in success (is win-at-all-costs the best mantra) by watching our their heroes behave.  How did the bunnies think and feel before and after each game when they were losing all the time and how did that change when the other creatures joined them?  What is the meaning of the saying “There is no I in TEAM?” What is Alex Johnstone trying to teach them by writing this story? How can they take what they have learned from it and share that with their teammates?

Finn’s Little Fibs

Finn's Little Fibs

Finn’s Little Fibs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn’s Little Fibs

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2023

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

9781526642479

Finn loves going to stay with his gran because it is always a time of special treats and privileges.  But when he bounces his ball too high and breaks her special clock, then blames his little sister Simone, he learns the truth about the old adage, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”>

Once again, Tom Percival has tackled a tricky issue in this Big Bright Feelings series that helps young readers understand their responses to certain situations and how to deal with them.  The series which includes Tilda Tries Again,  Perfectly NormanRuby’s Worry Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends, 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. Finn finds it easier to blame Simone than own up but he discovers that one fib leads not only to others, but also some really uncomfortable feelings.

The series affirms that such actions and feelings are normal and common, which, in itself, helps the child confront and control them but also shows the consequences of not listening to that inner voice.  Using a story format depersonalises the situation and makes a perfect conversation starter for early childhood readers.  

Millie Mak the Maker

Millie Mak the Maker

Millie Mak the Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millie Mak the Maker

Alice Pung

Sher Rill Ng

HarperCollins, 2023

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781460763773

Life has been pretty tricky lately for nine-year-old Millie Mak. As well as her family moving to a new neighbourhood to be closer to her mother’s parents, she has started a new school and being quiet and somewhat shy, she has found it hard to make friends, not made easier by being Scottish-Chinese with Asian features and flaming red hair.  Things come to a head when she and her Granny find an old dolls house put out on the street for Hard Rubbish Day collection, perfect for them to renovate, but which is also seen by the young sister of one of the mean girls who throws a tantrum when she does not get it.  

But Millie and her grandmother have been revitalising and renewing old stuff  together for a long time and now it’s in Millie’s nature to look for new ways to use old things, turning them into something beautiful and useful.  So when she sees her other Chinese grandmother who lives with them and takes care of the household, including two year old Rosie, making sleeve savers from an old pillowcase, she has an even better idea using her dad’s broken umbrella. She learns even more when she goes to the holiday program at the local community centre – not the expensive Awesome Kids workshops she was hoping for – and meets Veesa and Glee whose mums actually make the popular brand-name clothes that everyone, including those mean girls, are paying so much money for.  Who knew you could make a trendy skirt from some tea towels?

The second story also focuses on making something from almost nothing, as a new girl, Amrita, starts at the school and being Sikh, experiences the same isolation that Millie did.  But the two girls strike up a friendship that not only opens new doors for both of them but has them having the most popular stall at the school fete.

All the familiar themes and feelings of starting a new school are threaded through this story – isolation, bullying, racism, stereotyping – as well as having to grapple with issues at home like the rivalry between her grandmothers and her dad unable to work because of an accident, so it will resonate with many readers but its focus on recycling and upcycling will really appeal to those who love to do the same, particularly those learning to sew – made even moreso because there are clear instructions given for some of the projects at the end of each story as well as some other avenues to explore.  Who knew that fabric could come from animals, minerals and plants and we could be wearing all at the same time?

Both Millie’s family and the situations she and Rita, particularly, face will not only be familiar to those who have walked that path, but there are also lessons to be learned by those on the other side, particularly about making assumptions about how someone might feel or react.   Teaching notes offer other ideas for exploring the issues in greater depth – there is so much but a book review can only be so long.

When a friend recently offered sewing classes for children, she was so overwhelmed with the responses that she had to add extra sessions, and so there are many boys and girls who have an interest in this sort of creativity and this is the ideal book for feeding that interest as well as sparking inspiration for others.  Being one of those who sews every day and knits each night, I read it in one sitting and kept thinking of how I could share it with one of the little ones in Jane’s sewing classes because I know they would love it.  

 Luckily for those budding creators, this is just the first in the series and Children’s Books Daily has an interview with the author to share.