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Easy Peasy

Easy Peasy

Easy Peasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy

Ky Garvey

Amy Calautti

EK Books, 2023

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

9781922539441 

When her dad gives her a pair of shiny, sparkly red roller skates for her birthday, Ruby is thrilled and can’t wait to try them out because she thinks roller-skating will be easy-peasy.  She rejects her dad’s offers of help even though she spends a lot of time wibbling and wobbling and crashing.  Luckily, she has all her safety gear on so her injuries are minimal although her pride is hurt and that night, instead of taking the skates to bed she throws them in the cupboard. Will she abandon them altogether, or will she be prepared to take her dad’s offer of help?

This is a story of resilience and perseverance as well as accepting that we can’t all be good at everything we try immediately.  That some things take instruction and practise and we need to be willing to put in the effort needed if we are to move forward and master the skill.  Sadly, some of our students have never experienced failure and so haven’t learned Ruby’s lessons yet, so this is a worthwhile discussion starter particularly as a new school year begins.  Growing and learning involves embracing new challenges and working at them one step at a time to maser them, understanding that mistakes are just opportunities to learn and develop.  Ruby can leave her new skates in the cupboard and never try again, or maybe she can have another go and discover a whole new world of friends and adventures. 

 

 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

Bunny Ideas

9781761068119

Otter-ly Ridiculous

9781761068126

Renee Treml

A&U Children’s 2023

64pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet, but, despite their differences they are best friends who work together to solve mysteries. 

These are the two latest adventures in this graphic novel series  for young readers transitioning from the basal readers of commercial reading schemes to less-controlled books offering a stepping stone to more complex “early chapter books”. Following the format of the previous four where the emphasis is on the conversation between the characters, Treml again places her characters into situations that are familiar to her audience.  In Bunny Ideas Bea is planning some fun games to play with her friends but they must follow her rules while in a game becomes a quarrel that threatens friendships, offering opportunities for the reader to consider what options there are for harmony and what choices they might make in a similar situation.

In a recent media interview I was asked why I thought it was important for little ones to read and apart from fueling their imagination and inspiring their dreams, I emphasised the need for them to read about children and characters who were just like themselves so that they could not only see themselves in stories and thus affirming who they are as they are is enough, but that they could encounter and solve problems such as those in these stories from a distance.  Contemporary realistic fiction has been defined as  “real stories that could happen here and now [in which] the author attempts to weave a story based on believable characters, a plausible plot and a recognisable setting so that young readers … can vicariously live through the story’s characters while they read” (Travers, B. E. & Travers, J. F. (2008) Children’s literature: A developmental perspective. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley) and while it is a term usually applied to literature for young adults, IMO Treml has nailed it in this series for much younger readers.  

Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Your Body

Taryn Brumfitt

Sinead Hanley

Puffin, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760895983

There is something scary in the statistic that 70% of primary school children have a concern about their body image, and when this is coupled with the greatest desire of post-restriction Australia is for beauty salons and gyms to re-open, it is easy to see why and that without intervention, this obsession with how we look is not going to change. From long before the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe to waif-like Twiggy to the more-rounded Kardashians, our obsession with how our bodies look rather than how they perform has dominated so many lives, and this is as true for our males as it is for females.  How many young lads see themselves in the image of a Hemsworth?

In 2016 Taryn Brumfitt wrote and directed a documentary Embrace which encouraged us to love who we are as we are, but that doco received a MA15+ classification and so did not reach down to the roots of where the obsession starts.

So now she is addressing this with the establishment of a number of initiatives that speak directly to our children including another documentary , a song and, based on that song, this book. Based on the mantra that “your body is not an ornament:it is the vehicle to your dreams!”. children of every size, shape, colour and ability are engaged in all sorts of activities  showing the extraordinary things our bodies can do proving that nobody has a body that is the same as anyone else’s and that it is capable of so much more than conforming to some arbitrary stereotyped look.

This book has an important role in the conversations and investigations we have with our youngest students and not just in the health and mindfulness programs we offer. Because we are all individuals it opens up the world of science and maths as we investigate why and how that is, delving into genetics and measurement and a host of other areas that give a deep understanding to the message of the book, including the language we use to describe others. ‘Smart’, ‘clever’, ‘athletic’ are so much better than the pejorative terms of ‘pretty’, ‘handsome’ and ‘strong’.  For if, from an early age, we can grasp that we, as individuals, are a combination of the unique circumstances of both our nature and nurture, then our understanding of and appreciation for who we are is a big step towards valuing the inside regardless of the outside in both ourselves and others. 

It is sad that there is still a need for this sort of book in 2020, just as there was in 1920 and 1960, but if you make and use just one purchase this year, this could be the one that changes lives for the better. 

 

 

Walking Grandma Home

Walking Grandma Home

Walking Grandma Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Grandma Home

Nancy Bo Flood

Ellen Shi

Zonderkidz, 2023

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

9780310771241

When Grandma tells Lee she will soon be “going home,” Lee is confused. Isn’t Grandma already home But as Grandma’s health gets worse and her death approaches, Lee learns what it means to “walk Grandma home” to heaven, while also reflecting on his good memories and dealing with his grief alongside his extended family. 

Written by a child psychologist and counsellor this is a touching and relatable story about a young boy’s grief to help young children  understand what it means to lose a loved one and how to process their own emotions of fear, grief, and joyful remembrance.  It includes a page that explains the child’s perspective to help parents and caregivers to process the child’s emotions in a healthy and loving way and personalise the story to the child’s own experience.  

Sadly, this is a situation that many of our young ones face -just this week there was a request for suggestions for titles for a child who was angry that her grandfather was in a wheelchair and succumbing to dementia when her friends’ grandparents weren’t – and thus any books like this that can be added to our collections to help ease and explain the situation have to be welcome. And while each incidence is unique and can be overwhelming for the child involved, perhaps being able to read such stories and have their experience and emotions validated will help a little. 

 

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2023

128pp. pbk., $A12.99

9781761043338

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

But when the principal announces that there will be a Grandparents’ Day next week when the children can bring their grandparents to school to join in activities – a common event in many schools – Willa discovers that not everyone has a grandparent to ask or that some are just not in a position to attend, including herself.  So she sets out with a plan to make it a day that everyone can enjoy but sometimes plans don’t turn out the way you expect.

This is the third in this series for younger emerging readers following Mimi is Missing and Birthday Business with the fourth due in April, making the wait in between episodes not too long and thus being ideal for demonstrating how books in a series build on each other so the characters become more and more familiar and thus, more real. They begin to care about what happens to them, an essential if they are to finish the book. 

Series are an important part of reading development and are so much more than a commercial decision to attract readers back. Because the reader is already familiar with the characters, the settings and the likely storyline they are able to bring their existing knowledge to the read, predict what is likely to happen and be empowered to tackle more complex stories, using and honing their developing skills as they do so. Each book completed offers a sense of accomplishment and builds a desire and momentum to complete the series, making the choice of the next read easier while continuing to affirm that they can become a “real reader” and encouraging them to seek other books by the same author or in the same genre, ever widening their reading horizons.    

It’s worth finding innovative ways to display series so they are easily accessible by even the most reluctant reader and build on their intrinsic popularity. Authors like Jacqueline Harvey who create characters like Willa and her friends and build stories around things that are really familiar to young readers do so much to make the teacher librarian’s job so much easier. 

 

Sticking Out

Sticking Out

Sticking Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticking Out

Terri Owbridge

Emma Stuart

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922358356

Simon was shy at the best if times, and luckily for him, being a stick insect meant he could change colours to match his surroundings and hide from those around him.  That was until the day he stayed the glowing pink of the rose he had been resting on!  He was certain that all the other bugs who were gathering for the Spring Fest would laugh at him and the thought terrified him, so when a friendly beetle told him that there would be a magic gypsy moth who would help him, Simon set off in search of this saviour.  But as well as eventually finding her, he also discovered something much more important…

Told in rhyme, this theme of who you are as you are is enough is a common one in literature for young children but it is one that they need to hear again and again in all sorts of situations so they learn that it is okay to be pink or purple, or straight or bent, or spotty or striped or whatever… That no one really looks twice at your differences because they’re too busy involved in whatever else is going on, and if someone does make a nasty comment, then they are not worth your time.  For some, this is not something easily accepted and body image can become a major issue in the future so perhaps they can have fun imagining what it would be like to be able to change colour like Simon and how that would change who they are inside.  

As little ones face the challenges of new places, new schools, new people at this time of the year, this is one to help them overcome any anxieties they might have. 

 

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Is The Thing

Johanna Bell

Erica Wagner

A&U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761180026

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
These opening lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope is the thing with feathers   are the inspiration for this stunning picture book  begun after the devastation caused by the bushfires which ravaged so  much of south-east Australia in 2019-2020. 
A young girl who is a bird lover and watcher, as are the book’s creators, focuses on the birds around her as they return to their burnt-out habitats to resume the lives and lifestyles that are natural to them clearly with the hope, indeed expectation, that it will continue as always regardless.  The kookaburra sings, the baby emus learn to run, the parrot nests in the hollow tree, the seagull is still eyeing off the hot chips…
The last years have been tough for many, and there will be those facing new challenges as the new year rolls over, so this is a perfect book to share to show that hope for better things is what drives us forward regardless of how dire the current situation might be. While hope might be seen as unreachable as the eagle able to soar above and be free, it can also be as mundane as the ibis returning to raid the rubbish bins in anticipation of food.   If the bowerbird still seeks the blue among the black ruins of the landscape, we, too, can look for the diamonds amongst the stones. 
Erica Wagner’s extraordinary mixed media illustrations interpret the author’s lyrical words perfectly, the final illustrations showing that with hope, we too can fly…
Perfect for sharing with students at the beginning of the year as they think about their hopes and dreams for the year and start formalising goals they want to achieve.
Erin Hanson Poetry

Erin Hanson Poetry

The Christmas Pig

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Pig

The Christmas Pig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Pig

J. K. Rowling

Jim Field

Little, Brown 2021

312pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781444964912

Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad – starting school, the break-up of his parents’ marriage, moving house, starting a new school, his mother’s remarriage, a new step-sister who is mean… Whenever there is change to be faced, DP is there for him and it doesn’t matter that he’s getting a bit grey and worn and has had surgery on his eyes because he has his own special smell and always knows exactly what is troubling Jack without even having to be told.

Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens – DP is lost. Fed up with step-sister Holly’s nastiness (but too young to understand she is fighting her own demons too), he responds by calling her a loser.  To a gymnastics champ who has just lost an important competition, that is a red rag to a bull and Holly throws his precious DP out the car window onto the motorway. Jack is devastated – even though Grandpa searches, DP is not found and all Jack can imagine is DP lost and alone in the dark, cold and wet.  He trashes his room in anger, and doesn’t want anything to do with the replacement Christmas Pig that Holly buys, throwing it into the corner. 

But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life… even toys. And when strange voices waken Jack he discovers that despite his treatment of it, the Christmas Pig has a daring plan: together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…

J. K. Rowling’s name will forever be associated with the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, and this story has all the charm and originality of those but for a younger audience.  It is a much simpler narrative style and many young readers will relate to the upheavals in Jack’s short life and his attachment to DP, the one constant in a turmoil of change.  I could hear myself reading it as either a bedtime story or as a class read-aloud, and that, to me, is the hallmark of something quite special.  Of the thousands of books I’ve read to children over the 50+ years I’ve been doing that, only a handful reach those heights.  So, definitely one to put in your teacher toolbox or on the parent’s shelf to become part of your Christmas Countdown. 

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Holly Bathie

Usborne, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474999267

Like it or not, use it or not, social media is an integral of today’s life and despite it being illegal for those under 13 to have accounts because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which prevents collection and storage of personal information from children under 13 years of age which originated in the US but which is pretty much universal, many of our young students still access sites and apps daily. 

For many parents, the world of social media and instant connectivity is not one in which they grew up – it’s all happened in the last 20 years –  and so helping their children navigate where they never went when they were children can be tricky.  Perhaps the recent hacking of Optus and Medicare and the exposure of personal date gathered legitimately can have a silver lining if it alerts parents to the spread of their digital footprint and propels them to start considering what they are sharing, and thus, their children. 

For even though way back in 1996 my school had a huge focus on safe surfing of the web and the kids, most of whom did not have access to computers and the internet at home, had the basics drummed into them from the get-go, the issues caused by the use of these instant, anonymous platforms continue to rise as our young people seek attention, fame, and in some cases, notoriety. Who can forget the death of 14 year old Dolly Everett who took her own life because of online bullying.?

Thus this book which enables our young readers, even those under the required 13 years) to manage their life, relationships and mental health on social media platforms and empowers them to stay safe online is an important read for all.  With the usual engaging layout we associate with Usborne, but in monochrome rather than colour, it offers in-depth coverage of a range of important a difficult issues young people face including body image, appearance-enhancing filters, influencers, sexual content and mental health. It uses recognisable themes rather than platform specifics, making the content relevant long-term, and tips on how to set up accounts safely and best manage privacy and messaging settings. It also addresses the user’s online persona, online reputation, and relationships; helps them understand  fake news and information and how to handle online bullying, as well as avoiding trolls.

While social media can have a really positive side – many would have been very isolated without during COVID lockdowns – and it would be wonderful if we could instil such a sense of confidence and well-being in the younger generation that they never feel the need for anonymous, meaningless affirmation, nevertheless there is a dark side and users must be aware of the potential for harm as well as good.  Once it’s out there, it’s out of your control. 

As well as being an important guide for the kids, it is also really useful for parents themselves as they learn what it is their child needs to know and do, understand and value as what was once just “peer pressure” from your immediate social circle is now a universal phenomenon right there in their hand. It goes hand-in hand with the excellent site and work of the E-Safety Commissioner established by the Australian government which has information for everyone from parents to teachers to kids to women to seniors and even a host of diverse groups who may be targeted or marginalised. 

Despite the care we take, every keystroke or finger tap can unknowingly add to our digital footprint, and so the better informed we are the safer we will be. Thus this is one to recommend to parents, to teachers and for yourself if you have responsibility for students or your own children online.