Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures: Finding the Good When Things Seem Bad

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures










Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures: Finding the Good When Things Seem Bad

Josh Langley

Big Sky, 2020

100pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


When we look back over a period in our lives, it seems that the memories that stand out are those of the times we failed, made a mistake, stuffed up… It seems to be human nature to remember the bad rather than the good; to dwell on those times when we don’t meet our own or others’ expectations; and sadly, we often let those times shape and define us, changing our purpose and pathway for ever.

The catchcry of “learn from your mistakes” is often easier said than done but in this book, Josh Langley, author of It’s OK to feel the way you do shares uplifting affirmations and simple strategies to help deal with those inevitable times when, in hindsight, we realise we could have done things differently or made better choices. Perhaps the most important of these is understanding that EVERYONE has times that they wish they could do again but that, at the time, we were doing the best we could with what we knew and had. No one gets it right all the time.

To prove this, Langley expresses his motivation for writing this book in this interview

I remember as a kid, I was constantly making mistakes and getting into trouble, so I wanted to show kids that it wasn’t the end of the world if you stuff up every now and then. We’re human and we’ll keep making mistakes and that’s how we can become better people. I was also hearing from a lot of teachers saying that kids were having difficulty recovering from when things went wrong and would awfulise over the smallest issue. I wanted to help in some way by sharing what I’ve learnt.

I also wanted to show kids that failing isn’t a bad thing and that many wonderful things can arise out of failure. I wouldn’t have become an award winning copywriter and children’s author if I hadn’t failed high school.

Using his signature illustration style set on solid block colour and text which speaks directly to the reader continually reaffirming that the world is a better place because they are in it, he encourages kids to look for the opportunities that might arise from their “failures”. In his case he discovered his love of writing and illustrating after constantly being the worst in the class at sport.

However, IMO, while self-affirmation, self-talk and positive action are critical in building resilience, we, as teachers and parents, also need to be very aware of how we respond to the child’s “mistakes” and look beyond the immediate behavioural expression to the underlying cause.  This graphic is just one of many available that encourage this.

No amount of self-talk will ever drown out the voices of those we love and respect and hold as role models, so we ourselves need to be mindful of the messages we are giving those who are just learning their way in the world.

Langley’s work is so positive and so constantly reaffirms for the reader that who they are is enough, echoing my own personal mantra of many years, that it is no wonder I am such a fan. And it is So good to have yet another resource to add to the Mindfulness and Mental Health collections, something that was scarcely heard of for kids just 10 years ago.


Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes








Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Gavin Aung Than

Puffin, 2020

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Junior Justice (aka JJ) and his super sidekick pals are back in the third instalment in this graphic novel series . Having just saved the world they’ve now been invited to join H.E.R.O. – the Heroic Earth Righteousness Organisation – an exclusive club for the planet’s most famous superheroes. But before they can become members, the team must pass the hardest challenge in the universe, a test so scary and difficult only the truly heroic can survive.

With its graphic novel format ensuring an abundance of action this new episode will be welcomed by the growing body of fans of the series as students return to school and are eagerly seeking something new to read.  With the first two only being published in 2019, they are still available for those who haven’t yet met this band of mini superheroes so there’s opportunity to catch up if the series has escaped your notice.  Pitch it to those newly independent readers who like action and adventure as well as a feeling of being on the side of right, particularly at a time when movie theatres are closed and there is nothing new to take their attention and streamed reruns are rapidly losing their appeal. 


You Are Positively Awesome: Good Vibes And Self-Care Prompts For All Life’s Ups And Downs

You Are Positively Awesome

You Are Positively Awesome










You Are Positively Awesome: Good Vibes And Self-Care Prompts For All Life’s Ups And Downs

Stacie Swift

Pavilion, 2020

144pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


One of the greatest concerns of this pandemic that has engulfed the globe is the mental health of those who have been in lockdown for some time.  Humans are sociable creatures, particularly our young folk who haven’t yet developed the wherewithal to be comfortable in their own company for long periods and who need the contact with their peers to validate and boost their sense of self-worth. Even though governments may have offered millions of dollars to help with the crisis, including for organisations like Kids Helpline , not all will reach out to such bodies and so books like this that talk directly to them and offer positive affirmations such as 

  • we are all in this together
  • we all need a bit of TLC 
  • we have all survived every bad day and overcome every obstacle we’ve faced

can be very valuable in the hands of those who can help. With chapters that include headings such as 

  • Hey, you’re awesome!
  • Why is this stuff important?
  • We all have times when life is a bit rainy
  • It’s okay
  • Self-love matters
  • You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say ‘NO’
  • Say yes to self-care

each page has an affirmation, information and often an activity that can offer a pathway forward.  For example, in chapter 7 which focuses on self-care, the advice goes much deeper than temporary fixes like bath bombs and candles and offers some strategies for a 5-minute self care as well as identifying those things  that matter to the individual so they can build their own circle of self-care and make sure they complete it each day.  

As well as being an essential tool in the teacher’s well-being box so that students consciously learn the strategies of mindfulness and taking care of their own mental health, this could also be a gift to a young one who might be adrift because of the loss of their immediate peer support at this time.  Even as students gradually return to school, that return is different from coming back from school holidays because families will have had to have faced a whole range of unprecedented experiences unique to them, some might feel shame or anxiety about the loss of income or whatever, and so working through the things in this book should form part of each child’s learning over the next weeks.  Help them to understand that while each has had a unique set of circumstances to deal with and these will continue to be endured for some time to come, we are in this together and  together we can survive and thrive. That said though, help them build the mindset and strategies that will build resilience and help them to help themselves when those difficulties arise. 

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)








Cinders and Sparks (series)

Magic at Midnight


Fairies in the Forest


Goblins and Gold


Lindsay Kelk

Pippa Curnick

HarperCollins, 2019-2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Cinders lives a boring life with her selfish stepsisters and mean stepmother, doing the chores and tending to their every need, just like her traditional counterpart.  While they prefer to stay indoors all day listening to their mother read, Cinders would dearly love to be outside playing and although they can’t see the value of that she is allowed to do so once her chores are completed.  But something strange happens while she is outside –  her dog Sparks starts talking to her, her wishes start coming true and her fairy godmother, Brian, materialises.  (It’s been hard to track Cinders down because she is not on social media.)

And so begins a new series for young independent girls who are ready for a solid adventure story but still believe in magic and the characters of their childhood.  Easy to read, engaging and funny in parts,familiar characters and an ongoing quest make this a great read but at the same time, it has an underlying message that celebrates diversity and reaffirms that it is OK to be different. 

Miss 9 asked for The Worst Witch series for her birthday six weeks ago, and she is going to be thrilled when she discovers this series in her letterbox as a follow up because it will be perfect for her.  Thoroughly modern, thoroughly entertaining and just right for a winter read.


Old Enough to Save the Planet

Old Enough to Save the Planet

Old Enough to Save the Planet










Old Enough to Save the Planet

Loll Kirby

Adelina Lirius

Magic Cat, 2020

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


Before this virus sent the world off on a different track, climate change was the global issue receiving the most attention, exacerbated by the worst bushfire season in history.  Our kids were concerned and worried about the future of the planet and themselves within it, yet feeling somewhat powerless about what they could do to change the course.  In this new publication, we meet 12 children from around the globe who have identified an issue and then worked to redress it. 

Each double-page spread features a child like 9-year-old Eunita from Kenya whose mission is to save the bees and with a minimum of text her work is depicted in pictures, demonstrating how simple some things can be to do locally while having a global impact.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…

This is accompanied by some suggestions that even our youngest readers can adopt such as walking or using public transport, mending things instead of throwing them away, or even just buying less stuff – things that are within their control and which can make a difference. There are also suggestions for how they can make their voices heard, and given that the planet has had a bit of a breather with this virus and has healed a little with less pollution, now is the time to maintain that impetus. 

For some months now, and more to come, our little ones have been directed by adults with few freedoms to give them any sense of control, but this book shows that even while we are in such constraints and restraints, it’s possible to do something. Perhaps their home-project could be to plant a tub of flowers that will be ready to welcome the bees back when Spring comes again – just as Eunita did. At the very least, as they watch the progress they will be reassured that Spring will come again.

Lottie Perkins: The Ultimate Collection

Lottie Perkins: The Ultimate Collection

Lottie Perkins: The Ultimate Collection










Lottie Perkins: The Ultimate Collection

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2020

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each story – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of the series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

Included in this compendium are the first four books in the series – Movie Star, Ballerina, Pop Singer and Fashion Designer – offering  young girls who are becoming independent readers some great reading while supporting their new skills with  large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. 

Collections like these are always good value and during this stay-at-home time, four stories for the price of one will be welcome.

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

To The Bridge









To The Bridge; the journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Corinne Fenton

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Little Lennie Gwyther is fascinated by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but unlikely to ever see it because it’s a long way from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in NSW.  And even less likely because the country is in the grip of the Great Depression and money is tight for train fares.  But when his father his hospitalised and Lenny takes up the responsibility of running the family farm, his parent decide to reward him for his hard work.  Lennie knows what he wants to do but because train fares are so expensive, he decides to saddle up his horse Ginger Mick and begin a journey that is the stuff of legends, 90 years later. So much so, that he is remembered in his home town with a statue to tell his story

Both Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean have created a sensitive reconstruction of Lennie’s quest, bringing to life a time of great hardship for families that might be being echoed in homes again now.  But Lennie had a dream and he was able to make it come true, so perhaps this will offer some hope and comfort to a new generation facing an uncertain future. Lennie’s story is one worth sharing, even moreso now.  Why not set up an opportunity for students to investigate stories of kids who achieved their dreams like Lennie and maybe share the dreams of their own?















Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2020 

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


High up in the Cloud Tower, the little Quig stared at the world way below him.  As his brothers and sisters rolled out of their eggs, they did the same, quickly learning to use their clever tails and powerful fins to climb and clamber over the tower. But the little Quig didn’t join in because his tail was stumpy, not clever, and his fins were thin and wrinkly, not powerful.  And he was afraid of the open spaces around and beneath him.

So he sat and watched the others, trying to pluck up the courage to jump too, and enduring their torments because he was so different. But one day when their taunts got too much, he did jump.  And discovered something amazing…

If there was a signature book for this year’s Book Week theme of Curious Creatures, Wild Minds then this has to be it!  For Stumpy the Quig is indeed a curious creature and he does have a wild mind.  But he is also resilient and is not daunted about being different, which is the central theme. He may not be the same as the other Quigs but he has other talents that are probably going to make them very jealous when they are revealed!

Whenever I get a book by Andrew Plant to review, I know I’m going to get a beautifully illustrated, unique story and this is no different.  It is made for sharing and discussing.



The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon










The Night of the Hiding Moon

Emma Allen

Sher Rill Ng

NLA Publishing, 2020

4099., hbk., RRP $A24.99


‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’

Alone in his room, Felix is frightened – he imagines he can hear giants gathering on the rooftop. As a wild storm thunders through the night, Felix turns to his trusty torch, creating strong, brave shadow creatures who can keep him company and protect him from the ferocity of the wind and rain.

One by one, frolicking creatures crowd Felix’s bedroom. With his shadow friends impatient to play in the night, Felix must decide whether to stay, alone, or venture out shoulder to shoulder with his friends and confront his fears.’

Storms can be terrifying for young people (and not-so) and how well I remember being told that lightning was just the angels having a fireworks party and thunder, the clouds banging together – explanations I shared with both my son and my grandchildren when they crept into my bed seeking comfort. So Felix’s fear is understandable and will resonate with young readers and perhaps offer them some reassurance. It offers an opportunity to not only investigate the origins of storms but also to play around with shadows and discover how they are caused.

But being from the NLA, this story has the added bonus of extra pages and these one focus on the art of telling stories with shadows, particularly shadow puppets.  There are even instructions for making your own and patterns that can be used. In these times of schools not necessarily being in physical spaces, this is one that could be recommended to parents (it’s available for purchase online) to offer lots of creativity and fun as well as learning. 

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet










Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury 2020 

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


Many of our students now know the name of Greta Thunberg,  but do they know the names of the women on whose shoulders she stands?  With its very visual, colourful layout, this is one of a series from a creator whose own name is synonymous with women who changed the world, and introduces just a handful of the women who have made it their mission to respect and protect the planet.

Young readers are introduced to people such as  Isatou Ceesay  whose recycling of plastic waste into beautiful objects became the beginning of the ban on single-use plastics;. Jane Goodall’s whose work with chimpanzsees is legendary; Anita Roddick and The Body Shop who highlighted the need for fair trade and cruelty-free products;  Wangari Maathai who recognised the dangers of devastating deforestation and planted seeds of change and the two Aboriginal women Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield who led the campaign to stop the building of a nuclear waste dump near their desert home of Woomera in South Australia. 

Offering inspiration and evidence that even small things can lead to large outcomes with the most ordinary people doing extraordinary things, it also challenges the reader to consider how they will speak up for the planet. Perhaps these women will become as well-known as today’s activists, but what is more important than their names is the work they did and why we, as a planet, are so much better for that.