In the Tiwi Islands north of Darwin, it is time to get dressed for Aunty’s wedding. But in this hot, humid climate it is not a time for long white dresses, high-heeled shoes and other fancy finery – although Uncle, the groom, does dress “like a penguin”. No, this is a time for a light, pretty hat, a wurrijinga in the hair or on the shirt, and a japalingini and pamijini for the bride… But what is a wedding and why do we have them?
Beautifully illustrated with the meaning of the unfamiliar words made very clear, this is a story that not only celebrates Aunty’s wedding but also makes us think about the rites and rituals of other weddings the reader might have attended or seen. Is Aunty any less married because her wedding ceremony is different or is Maningawu’s explanation of it being about love and two people publicly promising to care for each other forever at the core of all marriages and the rest of it just added extras? What a stunning way to introduce an exploration into the ceremonies of the different cultures represented in the school. A worthy addition to the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection now available through the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature.
Bear is different. While all his friends were noisy and busy and never seemed to stop, Bear preferred his own company and the quietness and solitude of his books – particularly his books about space. Because even though the other bears sometimes laughed at him and called him names, Bear was absorbing all he could learn about the mysterious place beyond the planet because he had plans…
This is a charming story for early readers that has so many layers. Firstly, it is a tribute to those children who are more introverted, who are happy and complete in their own space and who single-mindedly pursue their dreams, prompting discussions about how there are all sorts of people in the world who may have different values and dreams to us. But it also shows how those dreams can be enriched and enhanced when they are shared with like-minded souls and friends, changing perceptions of relationships and how the world works. It also has lots of facts about space embedded into it so as well as sharing Bear’s adventures, the reader also learns a little on the journey.
This is one of those perfect pictures books where the text and illustrations are seamless and one would be so much less if the other weren’t there. Even though both themes of being a loner and having dreams of space travel have been visited in children’s stories before, this is a stand-out because of the story’s layers and that integration of words and pictures that entertain and educate at the same time. A marriage of imagination and information.
Milly loves her little town – in fact it is so nice, they named it twice. But sadly, others don’t find it as attractive and fulfilling and families keep moving to the city. Within just a short time her basketball team comprising the four Chloes and Milly shrinks as both Chloe P and Chloe B leave – they might even have to let the boys play!
But then Milly learns about the refugees who have had to leave their own countries and who have nothing – and she has an idea. Can one letter and a video made by Granny Mac save the town?
This is a unique, charming story about the resourcefulness and resilience of a young girl who sees an opportunity and acts on it. Echoing the plight of many little towns in this vast country as the appeal and perceived opportunities of the cities beckon, Gong Gong could almost be renamed Anytown, Australia and its scenery, so artfully depicted by Tony Flowers will be recognisable everywhere. But not every town has a Milly who really just wants more players for the basketball team but starts a change that will turn empty houses into homes once more and vacant shopfronts into hubs of employment and breathe new life into a community looking for a focus.
With the story echoing those of many places such as Nhill in Victoria, but making a child the protagonist, Phillip Gwynne has put a national issue into the realm of children’s understanding perhaps sparking the imagination of some other child looking to bolster their sports team.
Compelling reading that may start something, particularly as we emerge from lockdown and look for alternatives to crowded city life.
When Pink hatched from the egg, the only one left after a great storm washed away all the others, her parents were somewhat surprised because she was pink! She certainly stood out from all the other green and grey and brown dinosaurs and at first, Pink was okay with being different. But when it meant that she was always found first during her favourite game of hide-and-seek with the other dinosaurs, she soon grew despondent and wished she wasn’t so recognisable.
Being pretty and sweet wasn’t enough for Pink – she wanted to be brave and smart but wasn’t sure how she could be. The answer comes one afternoon during a wild and boisterous game of hide-and-seek when she discovers that there can be distinct advantages to being different.
Combining young readers’ fascination with dinosaurs with the theme of accepting and being yourself, Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell have crafted a charming story that will appeal across the ages. As well as opening up discussions about celebrating our differences and how we can be brave and smart, this is also a great opportunity to explore the differences between fiction and non fiction texts. The teaching notes are excellent – I wrote them! LOL!
Each year the baby elephants present themselves to Elephant Mighty who demands they perform unique feats that will suggest their new name. And so he watches elephants on stilts, on their heads, standing on one leg, swinging on vines … Nina pulls out a tree by its roots with her trunk so becomes Elephant Strong, while Norcus bellows so loud that even the vultures take flight so he is dubbed Elephant Noisy.
But when Num Num has no special skills or tricks, Elephant Mighty calls him Elephant Nothing-At-All, humiliating Num Num so much he feels compelled to leave the herd and find another waterhole. But there he makes friends with a lot of other creatures and learns that not only does he have a special talent but he also has the courage to return to confront Elephant Mighty – with surprising results.
Using his signature rhyming style and accompanied by the most glorious illustrations, this is a story that reaffirms for youngsters that who they are is enough, that it is not about what you can do or what you have or what you look like. Particularly pertinent at a time when its target audience is negotiating the wider world of school and navigating social boundaries within that, Num Num shows that you do not have to conform to a particular stereotype to fit in but that it can take a lot of strength and support to be yourself, a message that needs to be reinforced over and over, even with adults as Elephant Mighty learns.
Excitement is in the air as Elizabella – poet, fixer of fairytales and the biggest prankster in the history of her school – heads off to camp with the rest of her class. But when Larry the Lizard learns she’s headed to Lizard Lake he stows away in her suitcase, dreaming of discovering the other sentient lizards rumoured to be living there. Soon, Elizabella begins having strange dreams and wonders if Lizard Lake is haunted. Meanwhile back at Bilby Creek, Martin madly searches for Larry, eventually stumbling on another lizard who looks exactly like him. After discovering who is really haunting Lizard Lake, Larry and Elizabella return home to solve another mystery. Who is the imposter hanging out with Martin?
This is the third in this series for young independent readers – Elizabella Meets Her Match and Elizabella and The Great Tuckshop Takeoverhave already been published and Elizabella Breaks a Leg will be available in September. Described as a ” messy mix of Matilda, Pippi Longstocking and Horrid Henry”, this is a lively series for girls who like a light-hearted read but with a bit of substance as they see themselves in the situations that Elizabella manages to get mixed up in. Told from the perspectives of Elizabella, her father, her pet lizard and her principal Mr Gobblefrump, the adventures of Bilby Creek Primary School’s camp at Lizard Lake will entertain as the camp’s motto is “Don’t Worry, Be Happpy” (distorted for copyright reasons) and everything has a positive spin on it. While Elizabella and her friend Minnie really want to devise the greatest prank of all time, they are confronted by real-life issues that provide a serious side that makes for a story that offers more than the blurb would suggest.
This is a series worth promoting to your students in that Year 3-4 range who are ready for the next step on their reading adventure.
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.
As our little ones restart their school journeys and have to relearn how to mix and mingle with others beyond their family bubble, many may need some extra guidance in how to build those relationships with their peers again. This collection of eight books, which offer QR access to videos and teacher resources, could be a valuable tool in this process.
Designed to help our very youngest readers develop ethical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social and emotional intelligence, each book focuses on a key concept such as selflessness, persistence, sharing, taking responsibility, fairness, inclusiveness, self-identity and learning to say sorry. Featuring a recurring cast of characters including Pinney ‘Potamus, Ginnie Giraffe, Miranda Panda, Dodo Komodo, Lulu Kangaroo, Tao Tiger and Kevin, Kelly and Kylie Koala, all portrayed as stitched felt creatures, young readers will enjoy the different adventures as well as pondering what the best course of action would be to solve the problem.
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.
Jimmy Watson and Johnno Hogan were the best of friends – swimming-in-waterholes, camping-under-the-stars, sharing-water-bottles kind of friends. Throughout their lives they did everything together and even when their paths diverged because there were different rules and expectations for “white” and indigenous children then, they still came back together as close as they had ever been. And then one day they went into town for supplies, heeded the call for men to fight in a war far away and enlisted…
This could be the story of any number of friendships of the early 20th century when ‘white’ and indigenous kids on farms formed friendships that were blind to colour, cultural differences or any other racial prejudices and its strong focus on that friendship is its positive. While the treatment of indigenous soldiers during the conflicts that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War in 1899 could have been its focus, its power lies in that spotlight on the friendship, the shared adventures and stories, the fears and hopes that are common regardless of skin colour. Teaching notes are available.
As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe. And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here.