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The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Champ

The Champ 1

9781760526870

Rock ‘n’ Roll

9781761065620

Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Popular and prolific storyteller is back with a new series for young readers transitioning to novels with all the supports these readers need including action-packed plots and relatable characters who have a touch of superpower to turn them from ordinary to extraordinary in times of need.

Summer loves sport, and there is nothing she would love more than to charge down the field towards an open goal, or soar through the air over the basket. She would love to be part of a team but instead she always seems to be the last one picked, probably because of her lack of co-ordination which even she recognises. Then one day something amazing happens and Summer discovers she is no longer the spectator but the superstar. The purple gloop that covered her and landed her in hospital has turned her life around. However what is magical for Summer is misery for her older brother Carl who goes from being a talented upcoming footballer to being in a wheelchair, and Summer finds herself with a lot more responsibility.

With her new expertise, Summer decides to enter contests to earn money to support her family, but as it turns out, there are far more important things for her to do, starting with sorting out a witch who looks strangely familiar and is causing trouble in her home town while keeping her new powers secret because  a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.  In the second in the series, she has to deal with the mysterious Book Witch again when everyone’s favourite rock band is kidnapped.

Younger readers who are just meeting Anh Do as an author will like what they read and easily be able to fit themselves into the story, perhaps even venturing into his many other series  as they wait for Summer’s next adventure, but those more familiar with his works, particularly SkyDragon may find parts of the plot familiar.  That doesn’t decry from the appeal of this new series as there is a reason Do is so popular and this is yet another way to get readers on the cusp of being independent to keep reading. 

 

 

 

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing with Memories

Sally Yule, Maggie Beer & Prof. Ralph Martins 

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342578

I am Lucy and I dance with memories.
Sometimes I remember.
Sometimes I forget.
Sometimes I remember that I forget.
Sometimes I forget that I remember…
My doctor says I have dementia.
I wish I didn’t but I do.
‘Your brain has changed’, she says, ‘but you are still Lucy.’
She knows that I have a brain AND a heart.

Sometimes Lucy remembers that she forgets, and sometimes she forgets that she remembers. But even if her memory plays tricks, she still has all the love in her heart for the people and activities she has always enjoyed.  On this particularly important day, the day of her granddaughter’s wedding, she is determined to get to the wedding on her own even though her daughter has left her a note telling Lucy she will pick her up.  But things go a little astray and she ends up lost….

As grandparents and great-grandparents live longer, more and more of our students are coming into contact with those with dementia and so this is an important book to have on hand to help them understand and cope with the condition. The author, Sally Yule, has been working with people with dementia, including her own parents, for over 30 years and as she says, her main purpose was to help children “learn the role they can play supporting people living with dementia in their family or community.”  Lucy’s story and the lively illustrations which accompany it demonstrate that there is still plenty of love and joy in a patient’s  life even if the memory is muddled, and that the person deserves the same respect and dignity as well as being able to continue to do the things they can for themselves, regardless.  

As well as the story itself, Professor Ralph Martins, Foundation Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University WA, and Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University NSW has contributed a Q & A that helps anyone understand the disease. In my opinion, the core message of this story is summed up in this one paragraph…

Q. Is someone with dementia still the same person on the inside, even though they act differently on the outside?

A. Yes, they are definitely the same person inside.  They can feel so much, even if they cannot tell you about it…

While there is not yet a cure for dementia, scientists are working towards discovering its cause, and, as with many diseases, a healthy diet is always a good start so Maggie Beer’s recipes for healthy lunchboxes that could be shared between child and patient add another dimension and there are some simple teachers’ notes that can offer suggestions for supporting those we know who are living with the illness. 

There is more and more evidence that intergenerational relationships offer so much to all involved, and this is yet another essential addition to the collection to not only promote this but encourage them. 

 

August & Jones

August & Jones

August & Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August & Jones

Pip Harry

Lothian Children’s, 2022

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780734420350 

There is an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining but who knew the extent of it as Jones and her mother and father packed the last of their belongings into their old red ute, and said goodbye to their farm in Cotton forever, driven off by drought and forced to head for life in a tiny apartment in the city where her dad had a job with his brother.  

How could such a move, one made by many in recent years, have such a widespread impact as this story, inspired by the true story of two children in Victoria, unfolds.

Because, as much as 11 year-old Jones misses her rural life, she also has a prosthetic eye because of early childhood cancer, and now the vision in her other eye is getting blurry. Tough and scary at any time but when your passions are running and rock-climbing, it can seem like life is over,  But at her new school, she is paired with August, a somewhat introverted little lad whose dad makes him play footy and even though August hates it, he persists because otherwise he fears being invisible. A friendship blooms and blossoms as together they take on all the challenges facing them, and as the news about Jones’s eye is the worst, make a Must-See bucket list of the things she wants to see before she loses her sight completely – a list that has tentacles that reach out to embrace many and change those lives as well as both Jones and August.

Told by the two children in alternating chapters, this is a moving, heart-warming, tear-jerking story about family and friendship overcoming heartbreak and hardship that will appeal to independent readers who like real-life stories that are both inspirational and aspirational.  And as both Jones and August reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, signaling not the end but the beginning of new adventures, you just want to cheer!!  

It wouldn’t surprise me to see this one among the CBCA Book of the Year nominees in 2023,  following the success of The Little Wave.

Worth reading past your bedtime just to find out what happens…

Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phyllis & Grace

Nigel Gray

Bethan Welby

Scallywag Press, 2022

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

9781912650514

Phyllis and Grace live next door to each other, and Grace like to take Phyllis little gifts like a slice of cake Mum has baked, or biscuits she has baked herself.  Phyllis is always grateful and invites her in, even though she doesn’t always remember Grace’s name or even her own…

This is a delightful story that is being replicated in many communities and families as the Baby Boomers move into senior citizenship and choose to stay in their own homes rather than “being a burden” on family.  Not only does it echo the difficulties faced as their independence declines, but it reflects the rewarding relationships that children and older people can share.  Grace sees Phyllis through the clear lens of a child, accepting her for het she is in the moment and responding to the moment, rather than getting impatient and frustrated as some adults do because they wish the old “Phyllis” who was sharp-thinking and focused was still there.

Grace’s visits give Phyllis the connections she needs, not just with her immediate community but also those she has known before, bringing back the memories of childhood in a gentle way,. Even when Phyllis can no longer live on her own, encouraged by her parents who clearly see this as a friendship that is as important for Grace as it is for Phyllis, Grace continues to visit, meeting Phyllis’s son and learning that this old lady is more than her dementia; that there is so much more to her than an illness or disability.

With soft illustrations as sensitive as the story, this is one to not only help little ones understand dementia better, but also to help them understand that whatever a person’s illness or disability, they are more than that with a rich life to share or dreams and wishes to fulfil.  While their condition might shape their life in the now, there is so much more that was and will be in the sufferer’s story. And that should be our focus as friends.

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

Jarvis

Walker, 2022

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

 9781406392517

David has flowers in his hair and that’s just fine with all the other kids in the class, particularly his best friend. But when the bright, pretty petals start to fall off and David just has spiky twigs, things changed.  David was quiet, he didn’t want to play and he started to wear a hat. He never wore hats.  And when he took it off and reveled that he was twiggy, spiky and brittle, the other kids didn’t want to play with him either.  Until his best friend had an idea…

This is a touching story about what being a best friend really means – being there when your mate is at their most vulnerable, whether that be through illness or any other hardship that might strike.  The clichéed “thick and thin” that few are fortunate to experience, but when they do it means a lifelong bond that is remembered forever. Even though having flowers growing out of your head might be noticeable in the adult world, it is totally accepted as natural by the children who haven’t yet learned about adult perceptions or prejudices. But whether it’s because they’ve heard parental whispers or it just takes them a while to adjust to David’s new look, their attitudes and behaviour changes when he does, leaving him even more vulnerable than he would have been just dealing with its cause. Thank goodness for his best friend who supports him regardless.

While the story itself deals with David’s hair, which, while being the thing we often notice first about a person yet which is really the easiest thing to change, it could apply to any situation where the child feels isolated or marginalised and so, in the hands of a sensitive adult, it can help little ones share their own stories – perhaps illness, divorce, financial hardship, whatever – while helping to build compassion and empathy amongst their mates as they understand that their friend is still the same inside,  

Sensitively written and illustrated, this is one for the mindfulness collection that deserves to be shared and discussed and valued for its bravery/rarity in touching on a delicate subject in such a tactful way. I could use the other cliché, “Ask me how I know” but all I will say is that I have been David, and hopefully I’ve also been his best friend. 

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen

Tony Ross

Walker, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

 9781529502404

Imagine being so sick that you can’t get out of bed, not even to go to the loo.  So sick that it takes three people to even sit you up and that in itself is so exhausting that you beg to be allowed to lie down again, and, when you do, you lie there almost paralysed from the effort it took.  That as much as you want to just lie there, those around you persist because they have faith that you can do this, and s-l-o-w-l-y. s-l-o-w-l-y you begin to share that belief. And even though it takes every bit of strength you have,  and it’s painful and oh-so tiring, your determination overwhelms the desire to just sleep forever, and you begin to move forward.  Literally just baby steps to begin with, but each one a little longer than the last until at last, you are really kicking goals. Your best friend is a walking frame, then a wheelchair, then a walking stick and your greatest achievement could be going to the toilet all by yourself with no helpers – when to be able to do something as natural and necessary as a wee without spectators becomes a red-letter day!   

This is the story of children’s author Michael Rosen, he who gave our children We’re Going on a Bear Hunt amongst so many others, superbly illustrated by Tony Ross who has taken the edge off the seriousness of Rosen’s situation with his perfect artwork, as Rosen recovered from COVID 19 in 2020.  

But it is my story too for in 2021 I found myself following exactly in Rosen’s footsteps (but for a different reason, struck down by the rarest of rare allergies) and sadly, it is also the story of so many of our children who, for many reasons, find themselves on that uphill climb where each metre gained is worthy of celebration. 

However, while I understand Rosen’s journey so well (I’m still kicking goals twelve months on as I recover, so although I can now toilet and shower myself, I still have challenges to face like having the strength to squeeze the nozzle of the petrol pump to fill my car), and I acknowledge that what we have been through has been traumatic both physically and mentally (because staring down death has that effect), what shone through this story for me was his hope, his perseverance, his determination, his courage, his resilience and his faith that he would triumph, once he was able to accept that the doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists were all on his side and that family and friends were cheering for him, literally every step of the way. That for all we like to think we are self-sufficient, perhaps an island, it is the love, connections and support of and with others that infuse us with the wherewithal to keep pushing. 

And for that alone, we should be sharing this story with our students, many of whom are facing seemingly insurmountable battles and helping them understand that it can be an hour at a time, a day at a time, a step at a time and while that step might be a backward one, we believe that they will go forward again.  Yes, we each have an inner strength, stronger than we ever realise until we have to draw on it, but it is that encouragement and belief of those we love that is the driving force to keep trying.  It may not be a physical illness such as Rosen and I had, but for the child it is just as serious and devastating, and thus the need for our support is as vital as Sticky McStickstick in their recovery. And to go a little further, once recovery eventually occurs, to realise that there will be unexpected long-term impacts to deal with so that while Sticky Mcstickstick might spend most of his days in a basket just in case, he still needs to be there both as a support for when we fall and as a reminder of all that we did and learned as we recovered. 

And for me, as well as my own Sticky McStickstick I now have this book  – a story of a journey undertaken and conquered by so many more than me and Rosen. 

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

The Rat-Catcher's Apprentice

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

Maggie Jankuloska

MidnightSun, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781925227949

It is 1665 Rats have infested homes and alleys in Marie Perrin’s  provincial French town. Twelve-year-old Marie is set to become a maid, although she hungers for adventure. However, one mistake alters her fate and as punishment she is forced to apprentice for an intimidating rat-catcher. Away from her parents and twin brother, and handling gnarly rat traps under Gustave Renard’s unusual mentorship, Marie must overcome a new set of challenges which come after a plague enters her town.

This is an absorbing story for mature independent readers, made even moreso because of its parallels with today’s life where it is COVID-19 that has run rampant.  Despite the time difference, the  preventative measures of masks, social distancing, hand-washing and isolation that Gustav insists his wife and Marie follow are the same as those employed today!  But Marie also has to contend with a society built heavily on the distinctions and privileges (or lack of them) imposed by class and one’s station in life, as well as being female-although the latter doesn’t deter her as she dreams of a life of freedom unfettered by her gender.

While some readers may feel confronted by Marie’s predicament, the author has created credible, well-rounded characters whose lives reflect the times in which they are set, but are even more intriguing because they can relate to the conditions of a pandemic – tough enough for some even with modern science, communications and vaccines. Despite the depths of her despair at times, Marie is spurred on by Gustav and Marion’s belief that the bad times will pass and there will be joy again, and that, in itself, is a reason to share this story with your older students.

A debut novel by an author to look for in the future.

Cookie

Cookie

Cookie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cookie

Isabelle Duff

Susannah Crisp

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820959

Right from the time he poked his head out of a shaky cardboard box on the back seat of the car, Cookie the Border Collie puppy loves Girl more than anything.  At first, it’s because she has a ball but it’s soon so much more than that.  With the boy called Stopit (and sometimes Shoosh) they go on walks to find the yummiest smells (with Cookie on a lead so Girl doesn’t get lost) and at night they both sleep in a cuddle.  

But sometimes Girl got really sad and didn’t want to play, a sadness so profound that it made her family sad too, and Cookie learns that cuddles and licks are even better than playing – because everyone knows you can lick sadness off.  But while the underlying causes of Girl’s sadness remain, she understands that Cookie is her responsibility and that she needs to get out of bed to attend to Cookie’s needs.  She has purpose… 

Written by a 19 year old, this is Isabelle Duff’s first picture book and she has drawn on her own experiences as a young student with depression, anxiety and anorexia and her parents buying her a puppy to portray Girl and Cookie. While she sought professional help, she found that there was a stigma attached to that by her peers so while the relationship between Girl and Cookie is a pared down version of her relationship with her own Saffy, it is one that not only will young children relate to but it also makes the issue of mental health accessible so conversations can start and perhaps start to break down that stigma.  This is particularly important as the “shadow pandemic” of mental health continues in our young as much as those who are older, but they don’t necessarily have the words to articulate their concerns. 

Despite the focus there has been on children’s mental health in recent years, clearly there is still shame associated with it and so by telling the story through Cookie’s voice, setting it in a typical family setting with a light touch of humour and through the interactions of all, demonstrating how Girl’s moods impact on the whole family, Duff shows  that this is something that can affect any family and anybody within it.  

The acceptance by educators that childhood mental health is a significant issue means there have been a variety of stories and programs that address it but if we are to have mental illness as “acceptable” as physical illness then the more stories our students hear, the more conversations we have then the more effective we can be so this is another valuable addition to the collection. .  To help this, teachers’ notes are available 

Pear of Hope

Pear of Hope

Pear of Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear of Hope

Wenda Shurety

Deb Hudson

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820867

At the bottom of Anna’s garden is an old pear tree that is her favourite place and secret hideout.  She loves being up in its branches, where it gives life and shelter to all sorts of creatures and allows her imagination to wander.  But as autumn and then winter roll in, it loses its magic and wonder, just as Anna does as she succumbs to a deadly illness. The tree stands bare and alone until one day Anna returns and gives it a soft hug. And together they start the journey back to wellness and fullness… 

Using the pear as a symbol of hope, as it is in many parts of the world, this is a delicate story of a young girl’s battle with cancer and chemotherapy tracing Anna’s journey in its illustrations more than its words so the reader really focuses on the parallels between tree and child. Just as the tree loses it leaves in winter but returns to its full glory as the warmer weather returns, so does Anna’s hope and resilience build until she is back able to celebrate her 10th birthday with her friends and family, under the shelter of the pear tree. 

While some of our students may be in Anna’s particular situation, there are many more who are facing other challenges and who need the reassurance that time will pass, and like the pear tree, they will prevail.  So this is one to share and talk about so each can take what they need from it. 

What is a Virus?

What is a Virus?

What is a Virus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Virus?

Katie Daynes

Kirsti Beautyman

Usborne, 2021

14pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781474991513

If there is one word that children of today know as well as their name it is “virus”. So much of their lives have been affected by this tiny, invisible thing that has had such huge impact.  But what is a virus? Using the successful Lift-the-Flap Q&A format of others in this series, readers can investigate just what a virus is, discovering that there are many more than just COVID 19! They also learn the importance of the rules like social distancing, washing their hands and other personal hygiene issues, important because if they understand the why about the what they are more likely to comply. it also alleviates some of the fear that their imaginations can conjure up.

In the past we have been teaching our littlies about why they need to eat well, sleep long and play hard to have a healthy body and preventing illness has been a peripheral, but things have changed and this is an important addition to the collection so they can better understand this thing that is going to shadow their lives for a long time to come.