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What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If, Pig?

Linzie Hunter

HarperCollins, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008409470

Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, endlessly thoughtful and fabulously fun, that he is the best friend anyone could ever have. But Pig also has a big secret… he’s a tremendous worrier!

So when he decides to throw a party for all his friends the concern kicks in and he worries about everything from a lion eating the invitations to his guests comparing this party to others.  In fact, he worries so much that he decides to call it off.

Luckily, Mouse is attuned to Pig’s mental health and suggests a walk so they can talk things over before he makes a final decision…

Anxiety about the what ifs are becoming a real part of the psyche of so many of our students these days because adults seem to be attaching such high stakes to the smallest things. And with lockdown in many places stretching out seemingly endlessly the lack of that interaction with their peers that normally provides some perspective and balance is lacking and so molehills become mountains very quickly.  So sharing stories like this in which we are assured that “things don’t stay grey for very long” is an essential part of helping our little ones cope and develop strategies for when the what ifs seem to take over. 

As well as the positive story which is charming in itself, the quirky illustrations and visual tricks with the text really make this book stand out, offering an introduction to the ways illustrators and designers can add so much to words on a page.  It demonstrates the differences in style between artists -compare this pig to one from Three Little Pigs for example and talk about the similarities and differences yet the legitimacy of each style.  This is the age when children become super-critical of their own artwork, and if it doesn’t look like the real thing or what they envisage, many dismiss their efforts, tell themselves they “can’t draw” and this self-talk destroys  their creativity.

So, all in all, this is a must-have for so many reasons. 

Mertales (series)

Mertales (series)

Mertales (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mertales (series)

The Best Friend Promise

9781760526528

The Daring Reef Rescue

9781760526566

Rebecca Timms

Albert Street Books, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Newly independent readers will love this new series about mermaids and sea creatures that is written to encourage them to keep reading.  With all the supports needed for those transitioning to more complex novels including short chapters and lots of illustrations, the adventures of the mermaids of Cockleshell Cove will delight those who are fascinated by these mystical creatures but who want some substance to their stories.

With the second due in September, the series with its focus on friendship and female characters  with a can-do attitude will be a welcome addition to the school library’s offerings when students are finally able to return to school. In the meantime. parents might like something to continue the excitement of Book Week to keep their girls reading.

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Sort of Normal

Abigail Balfe

Puffin, 2021

240pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780241508794

It begins with a poem, the last stanza of which says,

This is for ANYONE

Who has ever felt out of place

You don’t have to be the “odd one out”

You’re unique and that’s just great.

It continues with a childhood memory of a Punch and Judy birthday treat that she hated and when she later asked her mum why, her mum said, “I wanted you to be a normal child.  I didn’t want you to be an outcast like I was.”

The blurb says the rest…

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*.

This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself.

There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.

If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in . . . this book is for you.

While there are a lot of books that explore autism so others can have an insight, such as Annabel’s Dance; The Chalk Rainbow; and A Boy called BAT this is the first I’ve read that is written by someone on the spectrum for others on the spectrum.  It maps her journey through childhood through a time when she didn’t know that there was a scientific reason for her difference, just all the while feeling confused, unwanted and left out.  

It is a unique book, one for children and adults alike and made all the more poignant because of its honesty, truthfulness and lack of sugar-coating.  The author explains her reasons for sharing her story and while she had to navigate the world alone because she did not have a diagnosis, to help others pave a different path she has produced a poster that helps us to be an ally to those we know. 

Even though it is written directly to encourage children who are autistic to understand that while they ae unique, what they experience is not unique to them and they are not alone, it is one for anyone who has anything to do with children.  Because if we don’t understand we can’t empathise.

The Bark Book

The Bark Book

The Bark Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bark Book

Victoria Mackinlay

Beth Harvey

ABC Books, 2021

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

Being a dog can be lonely if you’re stuck inside while everyone else is at school or work.  But when your owner comes through the door and you know that that means time for a walk outside, then the adventures are innumerable and the excitement immeasurable.  And there is a bark for every part of the journey, even when you’re stuck because you chased a skink.

Combining minimal but clever text with equally clever illustrations (check the tree’s expression embedded in the bark when the dogs wees on it), this is a story that every dog owner who has walked their pooch will relate to.  And the young reader will get just as much joy from the read as the dog gets from its walk.  It is one that needs to be shared together because the words and pictures are so dependent on each other, and each time it is shared there will be something new to discover!

Mini Rabbit Come Home

Mini Rabbit Come Home

Mini Rabbit Come Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Rabbit Come Home

John Bond

HarperCollins, 2021

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

 9780008264932

Mini Rabbit is making a camp in the garden.
He can’t wait. It’s going to be the BEST DAY ever!

But there are still a few last things he needs to get – rope to hold the den down, wood for the campfire and marshmallows to toast on it. And it looks like it might rain. 

There are few things as much fun (or as scary) as sleeping out under the stars, particularly if it’s the first time.  So setting up camp in the backyard is always a good start – how well I remember the grandies spending the first night in their Christmas tent in the country-dark when the city-light was what they were used to!  So this new adventure with Mini Rabbit will resonate with a lot of little readers, including the ending.

So many of our little ones are confined to home at the moment so perhaps suggesting a backyard sleepout could give them something to plan for and look forward to.  Working out what they need, how they will build their den, making lists like Mother Rabbit and bringing it all together not only make for a great adventure but also offer lots of screen-free learning.  And if photos are shared with classmates…

Dr Margaret Merga has written an interesting article about how books can be a healing retreat during isolation – this one fulfils that concept both physically and metaphorically.

Megamonster

Megamonster

Megamonster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Megamonster

David Walliams

Tony Ross 

HarperCollins, 2021

384pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

. On a volcanic island, in the middle of shark-infested waters, stands The Cruel School. The lessons are appalling, the school dinners are revolting and the teachers are terrifying – especially the mysterious Science teacher Doctor Doktur.

When Larker is sent to the school, she quickly realises something very odd is going on… something involving Doctor Doktur, a pair of strange spectacles, and a ‘Monsterfication Machine’. And ultimately she finds herself face to face with a real life Megamonster.

There seems to be no escape – but for Larker, nothing is impossible…

Walliams has previously said that his current writing for children is done to put a smile on the face of his readers, and while this book appears somewhat dark from its synopsis. nevertheless it is a prime example of Walliams knowing his audience and what they want to read.  Using predominantly dialogue and a range of graphic techniques,  it is easily accessible to the newly independent reader and my informal research shows that Walliams is the go-to author at this time, particularly for boys.  

  One to suggest to your students in lockdown – it’s readily available online – or one to save to welcome them back. 

 

Frankie and the Fossil

Frankie and the Fossil

Frankie and the Fossil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie and the Fossil

Jess McGeachin

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760898847

Frankie knows all there is to know about dinosaurs because not only is she fascinated by them but she has memorised all the labels at the Natural History Museum, a place she loves to visit.  

But one day she notices a new sign, one that says “Don’t feed the fossil”. Thinking that was unfair, she pulled a cheese sandwich from her pocket and sneakily gave it to the dinosaur. 

That single action leads to a whole new ‘career’ for Frankie as her knowledge about dinosaurs deepens to understanding…

In an earlier time, the significance of this book may well have passed me by but with so many schools currently in lockdown and students isolated at home. no plan to get them back to school because school staff have still not been identified as front-line workers (and where they have, vaccinations are stretched too thinly), and many surveys examining the effect of the lack of contact with others on children, particularly their mental health, this underlying message of this story  was crystal clear.  Both people and dinosaurs are herd creatures and lack of contact with others can and does have a long-term impact.  (My friend and I still laugh that going for our flu shots in 2020 (on her birthday) was the best outing we had in weeks! So now we make the most of our days as we can.)

So in these days of enforced confinement, how can we as teachers, promote our students connecting with each other?  Can we design collaborative projects? Can we develop a team game or challenge? Can we plan an online celebration like a dress-up for Book Week or an unbirthday party? Can the walk around the neighbourhood looking for teddies in windows be expanded to something more? What are the students’ suggestions? How can they connect with a family member, a neighbour, someone else they know so they can make that person’s life easier?  Classmates are the equivalent of the dinosaur’s herd and the teacher is the leader of that herd, so apart from setting lessons, what else can we do to promote connectivity and well-being so when our kids do return to school their resilience and enthusiasm for life is intact?  

When Jess McGeachin first started planning this story, she would have had no idea of what was to come and how timely its release would be.  But what a windfall that we can share the story (Penguin Random House, the parent publisher are permitting online readings) and then use it to help our students and help them help others.

Here are some ideas contributed by our peers that might kick-start your thinking…

Clare Bell suggests

  • Write a letter to a neighbour or a relative
  • Decorate a pebble for a school garden
  • Create a picture to be hung on the school fence as an art gallery

Elise Ellerman  suggests

  • An online book club (For ideas allowing readers to respond to any book see here. )
  • Celebrate birthdays … We prepare some party food and a bake a birthday cake. We then create birthday boxes with this food. Deliver the boxes (contactless) and then have a Zoom party with some games. Everyone shares in a piece of cake together (over Zoom).

This is a link to the power and healing of reading during this COVID=19 crisis.

The Adventures of Mittens

The Adventures of Mittens

The Adventures of Mittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventures of Mittens

Silvio Bruinsma

Phoebe Morris

Puffin, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

 9780143775850

Mittens is the most famous cat ever to parade the streets of Wellington, New Zealand with his noble nose and fabulously fluffy tail in the air. Mittens is on a mission to leave no corner of the CBD unexplored, no passerby unsmooched, no business, school or residence uninspected. He naps in shop windows, hails cars, crosses busy roads on the green light and, like any self-respecting cat, he lives for attention – but only when he’s in the mood for it.

The Turkish Angora caught the the attention of the world when, just by being his inquisitive and charming self, his antics cheered up Wellingtonians during the 2020 lockdown. Wellington’s mayor awarded Mittens a Key to the City and HRF (His Royal Floofiness) was even nominated for New Zealander of the Year!

With thousands of followers on a Facebook page, a hit song, and an exhibition of fan art called Floofy and Famous, this book of how he touched the heart of so many building social bridges during his wanderings brings to life has been written by one of his guardians, a family of four, using a days-of-the-week format and rhyming text .Even those who have not met Mittens, and don’t know Wellington but do know cats will resonate with that arrogant, I’m-doing-you-a-favour attitude that emanates from Mittens. For those who detest the idea of cats roaming freely, there are tips for how to keep them at home and the fact that Mittens has raised a lot of money for both animal welfare and mental health charities through his profile, may mitigate that. 

Mittens came to fame because of the lockdown in Wellington during 2020, providing a daily connection to people in isolation and thus his story could be the springboard to getting children to talk about their pets, their lockdown connections and how they coped and are coping, perhaps even considering how they can reach out to those in their community even more isolated than they are.  Perhaps when restrictions are lifted it can be a time to forge new friendships with all ages…

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes

Gordon C. James

Egmont, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP  $A14.99

 9780755502707

I am a non-stop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference-maker. A leader.

“Step inside the mind of the confident narrator of this book! He is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and will see them through. He’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny. A good friend. A superhero. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s often misunderstood. So, slow down, look and listen as he shows you who he really is …”

Oprah Magazine says this book is “one of its essential books for discussing racism with kids” and other quotes from reviews all refer to the main character’s above all else.  Yet, when I read it I didn’t even notice his colour, although the illustrations are so lifelike and full of energy, because I saw it through the lens of the performances at the Olympic Games – and not just those by Australians.  So often, as I watched (as an alternative to the ad infinitum of COVID 19 and lockdown), the back story of the athlete was shared and so often it was a story of triumph over tragedy, of hard work, perseverance, resilience, overcoming hurdles and obstacles, staring the impossible in the face… and that is what I took from this book.  

So many of our students would have seen performances that have inspired them – the silver lining of lockdown being the access to real-time coverage rather than a news snippet – and dreams will have been dreamt, particularly with some of the sports being so accessible, like skateboarding, and the age of the competitors so close to their own..  And within this book is the sort of motivational, inspirational language that will fan the flames of the spark of those dreams. 

So while this book may have been intended to help young black children to rise above the racism and be the person they are, and sadly, will resonate on that level with some of our students,  it can be used in lots of ways to affirm and reaffirm, to challenge and to change, to build not just dreams but hope and expectation.

There are so many clichés about it being the inner person that counts, and while that is true, we all know it’s not that simple.  So help students see their potential by having them identify the highest wall facing them right now, whether that’s understanding a science formula or improving their lap time, and then help them put in place a plan to climb over it.  Dreams. beliefs and goals can be the driving force but sometimes we need some strategies to make them happen. Have them add a page to the book that celebrates them.

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

Paul Russell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820881

Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s mind doesn’t work like that of most children – it’s almost as big as his name!  When he is asked about the colour of the ocean, his is not the first hand up to answer because he is thinking –  he knows that the top can be green or blue depending on the sky, that the waves crash white but in the depths where no sunlight reaches it is black as the darkest night; he’s heard of the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the Yellow river; he knows that algae can turn oceans green, brown, red or blue – but by the time he has decided on his answer the teacher has picked someone else.  

The most ordinary, everyday things spark deep questions to ponder on and consider but while he is doing that, his teachers, his friends, his family have all moved on.  Except his mother – she seems to have the patience to appreciate the moment, be in the here and now and understand her son’s need to wonder and takes the time to let him have the time. 

This is a unique story that follows Bowen as he grows up, always the outsider because of his propensity to look at all the angles, to see the world through a different lens. And it is not until he is grown up that his thought processes come into their own, and are at last appreciated. Bowen finds his place in the world.

There are many children like Bowen who don’t “fit the mould”. who take a different path to their peers and who often fall by the wayside, succumbing to all sorts of mental health issues as they struggle to be what other people expect rather than themselves, doubt their self-worth and underestimate their potential. The teachers’ notes  offer great insight into the story behind this story and suggest how we can put ourselves into Bowen’s shoes by putting ourselves into one of the situations he finds himself him and using a variety of thinking tools such as De Bono’s Six Hats to gain a new perspective.  Instead of paying lip-service to diversity we can experience it and develop greater understanding and empathy. 

Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s incredibly busy mind shows the need for us to open ours and even enables us to do so.