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Paws

Paws

Paws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2021

252pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99

9781760652685

As Year 6 moves along  Alex has one goal – to make a friend, preferably Jared and the other popular kids, who won’t be mean to him when he starts secondary school. Because this is not easy when you are autistic and have super sensory awareness when sights and sounds, particularly overwhelm your brain, he has developed a plan to achieve this.  It has three components – to be an expert at the computer game Orbs World; to run fast enough so his relay team, which includes Jared, can go to the district competition and for his beloved cockapoo Kevin to win a trophy at the upcoming dog show, Paws. However, when his expectations and plans start to go awry, he pins all his hopes on Kevin being successful… 

Based on her own son’s experience when the family adopted a spoodle, the author has created an engaging story that will engage the reader from start to finish.  Told by Alex himself so that we discover how he thinks, what he does to help himself and why, this is a rare insight into the world of the autistic child and the challenges they encounter just dealing with everyday situations we take for granted.  Unlike the neurotypical brain that comes with ‘templates” for responses to situations, autistic brains are wired differently and Alex’s story shows how they have to build these responses from scratch, learning through mirroring and masking experiencing hard emotional lessons and confusing rejection as they do. Human behaviour being what it is, even his mum and brother can’t always match his need for consistency, and the one constant in Alex’s life is the unconditional love and sensitivity of Kevin.  The bond between them is critical to his well-being.

While it is intended for independent readers, it would also make an excellent class read-aloud particularly for any class that has a child like Alex. If we are to develop empathetic, compassionate children then they need to understand the challenges that others endure, and this does that perfectly in a story that you can’t put down.

The Big Book of Festivals

The Big Book of Festivals

The Big Book of Festivals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Festivals

Marita Bullock & Joan-Maree Hargreaves

Liz Rowland

Lothian, 2021

56pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780734419972

One of the most effective ways to promote and support inclusivity in our schools is to acknowledge and celebrate the festivals that are important in the lives of our students.  Having various groups develop a display and gather a collection of books about their country and their beliefs to share with their peers really says to them that they are important and valued within the school community.

In this new publication as well as the usual celebrations like Christmas, Diwali Eid Ul-Fitr and the lunar New Year,  there are lesser known ones such as Anastenaria, Matarki the Whirling Dervishes festival of Turkey and the Bunya Dreaming festival of our indigenous people. There are also festivals associated with each of the seasons, so the library could be the most vibrant place all year round. 

Each celebration has its own double-page spread with easily accessible information and illustrations offering opportunities to become involved in crazy celebrations and holy holidays, from graveside picnics to epic dance-offs, tomato-throwing frenzies, crying-baby competitions and the biggest bathing ritual on the planet. 

This is an important book to add to the collection so that those who celebrate the various festivities can read about themselves while opening a world beyond the usual for others. 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326133

When Amira’s family arrive in their new home as refugees, it is clearly different from what Amira is used to and she is felling lost and alone.  But hiding in her suitcase is a tiny seedling struggling for life and it becomes her new best friend, thriving as she nurtures and nourishes it. Something warm starts to grow inside her  as she is reminded of happier times. 

As children do, Amira meets some of the other children in the camp who share their seeds with her and despite being surrounded by poverty, tin shacks, and not much else between them and the friendship that grows like their plants, they are able to bring a little beauty to the bleak environment and harsh life that is now their reality. And just as the seedlings climb and reach for the sun, so do the children build hopes and dreams.

This is a gentle text that tells an all-too common story of displacement but it is tempered by the friendships that are born and thrive like the seedling in Amira’s suitcase. It is a story of acceptance and hope as the children reach out to each other oblivious to race, colour, beliefs and backgrounds, seeing only someone to talk to, to play with and who understands the circumstances. Smiles appear on their faces again as families meet new families and a community begins to grow because a little girl felt lonely and found a seed.

There will be children in our care who will have their own stories to share about camps such as that Amira finds herself in, in a world very different to what they have now and that of the children who are their peers.  But just like Amira they will build new friendships and a new future buoyed by seeing themselves in a story book, learning that just like plants, friendships need to be nurtured to make them strong and healthy. 

 

 

Noisy Tom

Noisy Tom

Noisy Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noisy Tom

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761040078

No matter what he does, Tom is noisy.  There is not an activity that he does that is not accompanied by boisterous, enthusiastic sound effects. “When I’m playing, noise just spills out of me. “

But one day at the park when he sees two girls playing on the swings and not making any noise at all, he is puzzled. When he asks them whether they enjoyed the swings because they did not make a sound, they tell him that they enjoy the feel of the movement, the sensation of the cold air on their faces and although Tom also enjoys that, he is still confused.

Although he learns that there are lots of ways to express your feelings, loudly and quietly, and it is different for each person, for him loud wins.  

This is the third in this series that focuses on young children, enabling them to understand their feelings and responses and be a pre-emptive strike towards positive mental health. Our youngest readers will enjoy its exuberance and will see themselves either as Tom or one of the quieter characters.  Most importantly, they will begin to understand that being different is OK and being yourself is paramount.  

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Flower

Sonya Hartnett

Gabriel Evans

 Puffin, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760894450

Each morning when she wakes up, the little girl doesn’t want to go to school. There are so many reasons why.  She doesn’t make friends as easily as you’re supposed to; she can’t run and jump and climb as well as she is supposed too; she’s not chatty or fast of funny; not bossy or loud or wild.  And she anguishes about answering questions in case she is wrong.  She constantly compares herself to her peers and finds herself wanting, so the anxiety builds and builds.  

But she gathers her courage and goes each day, although it’s at her mother’s insistence.  Finally, her mother asks her why she doesn’t want to go to school and they have a conversation that turns her life around.  With her new-found perspective she ventures outside with her cat Piccolo and begins to see that being different is what everyone is and that it is to be celebrated rather than shunned or feared.  “Things being different is what makes the world wonderful.”

So many children suffer anxiety because they view the world through the lens of what they think they should be, rather than who they are. They watch others do things, listen to adults admire looks and skills and achievements , feel the impact of peer pressure as others boast… and all the while they don’t realise that others are admiring them for their unique attributes.  This story is one for the mindfulness collection as it now only has the power to spark discussion but to promote self-acceptance and a change of mindset.  Anxiety amongst children is on the rise at an alarming rate  and the sooner we can teach them that life is not a competition, that who they are at this time is enough; that it our uniqueness that makes the tapestry richer,  the better,  . Hartnett has done this beautifully. 

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2021

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

9780733340840

In every country around the world are grandpas short and tall,

Though they go by different names, we love them one and all

A Granny here, a Nanna there – or maybe she’s a Nan?

Turn the page, let’s meet a few of the finest in the land…

This is the companion to What Do You Call Your Grandpa? and like its predecessor, it introduces readers to all the words that our students use to refer to their grandparents, but this time it is grandmothers in the spotlight. But whether it’s Nonna, Nani, MeeMaw, Bibi, Amma or one of the other special names,  what is also in focus is that special relationship and bond that children have with their grandmothers and the precious memories that are made as they celebrate life together. 

As well as teaching little ones new names – I can envisage of wall display of photos of the children’s grandparents and the special names they call them, especially as the author invites the reader to share – this would also be a grand book for those who are learning English as a new language because they will delight in seeing their own culture represented in a way that connects us all.

Perfect combination for Harmony Day with so many opportunities to develop displays .

 

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biscuit Maker

Sue Lawson

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760650438

Every morning Benedict Stanley and his  cat Audrey Mae stand at their gate and greet their neighbours as they scurry off ready to start their day.  But sadly, the neighbours are too busy to reply – ears are full and mouths are closed.  And even though Benedict and Audrey Mae spend hours creating a beautiful garden to give those neighbours something beautiful to look at, still the neighbours just rush on by. 

Then one day Rory stops to admire Audrey Mae and with a gappy smile, tells Benedict that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting him tonight.  That give Benedict an idea and so he goes to the kitchen, reaches for his wife’s recipe book and begins to bake…

Soon, nearly every event that happens in Mavin Road is celebrated with a batch of special biscuits, made and delivered secretly by Benedict and Audrey Mae.  what a difference it makes until one day Benedict gets so ill he cannot bake.  Will the neighbours notice? Will they discover who their benefactor is?

This is a heart-warming story that demonstrates the human need for connection to others yet even on a busy street like Mavin Road, loneliness can be deep, especially for those who are older, retired, widowed or otherwise living alone. Rory’s connection to the cat changes more lives that can be imagined by one conversation and that special bond that little ones often have with the generation beyond their parents is celebrated. It also shows how sharing food is a universal way of bringing people together, opening the door for readers to share and cook their own special biscuit recipes for the class.

One of those “old-fashioned” stories that wraps its arms around you like a hug, it is a worthy CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

Turning Cartwheels

Turning Cartwheels

Turning Cartwheels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning Cartwheels

Amy Adeney

Amy Calautti

EK, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925820515

Emma is desperate to join queen bee Carly’s Cartwheel Club. Week after week Emma lines up for a try-out, only to be told that she hasn’t made the cut. When Emma is finally accepted, she finds that Carly’s rules and requirements take all the joy out of cartwheeling, and being part of the gang isn’t as awesome as she expected. And so she takes matters into her own hands…

This is a story that could have taken place in Any School, Anywhere and so it will resonate with a wide range of readers. At a certain stage the need to belong, to be part of the in-crowd becomes the driving force in a child’s life but so often, once in, things aren’t as rosy as expected.  Emma’s solution to her dilemma shows imagination and resilience and could be a suggestion for those who are struggling with the constantly changing friendship groups that dominate those middle primary years. It brings that subtle social bullying to the surface to be examined and exposed for what it is, putting those who practise it on notice, while alerting the Emmas about its existence and how it is manifested.

An excellent addition to your collection and lessons about what friendship and bullying is, taking the reader into the realm of how friendships change as children get older. Things are sometimes more than they seem. 

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Saida Arrived

Susana Gômez Redondo

Sonja Wimmer

Blue Dot, 2020

32pp., hbk. RRP$A27.99

9781733121255

The day Saida arrived at the school she seemed to have lost her words and instead of joy and laughter there were tears and sadness. Her new classmate hunted high and low for the words but could not find them so instead, she drew a heart in chalk and Saida drew a smile.  The first breakthrough!

When her dad explains that Saida probably hasn’t lost her words, it was just that her words wouldn’t work in this country, the little girl sets out to teach Saida the new words she needs as well as learning Saida’s words.  What follows is the beginning of a joyous, lifelong friendship that is so characteristic of our children when confronted with this sort of language problem. They work it out, find common ground, ignore boundaries and borders and learn together.  

Having worked so often  in schools where English is an additional language for so many, where students with no English at all come to get that first grounding before they go to their neighbourhood school, this story is a stunning portrayal of how kids get along regardless particularly when adults don’t intervene.  The playground is such a cosmopolitan learning space and whether the language is Arabic like Saida’s or Tagalog or whatever,  the children’s natural needs overcome barriers. Enriching friendships are formed and their words that every “shape, sound and size” just mingle naturally.

With illustrations that are as joyful as the concept and the text, this is the perfect story for this time of the year to help students understand that being in such an alien environment can be bewildering and confusing, that there will be times when they are in Saida’s shoes and their words won’t work, but there is always help and hope. Because the learning between the girls works both ways, the story values Saida’s Arabic as much as her new friend’s English so that Saida is an equal partner in the story, offering a subtle nudge for us to consider how equally we treat our NESB students. What accommodations can and do we make for those whose words don’t work in our libraries and classrooms?

Teachers’ notes are available and while these are written for the US, they are readily adaptable to the Australian situation.. 

Dino Love

Dino Love

Dino Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dino Love

Michelle Worthington

Veronica Montoya

Catch A Star, 2020

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922326119

It is time for Little Dinosaur to start preschool and even though she is apprehensive, she soon learns that there is fun and friendship and love to be had beyond that of her family if she just takes some deep breaths and is open to new experiences.  And that although love can be expressed in words, it is also shown in all sorts of actions, and between all sorts of characters regardless of their size, shape, or colour.  That it doesn’t matter if you are a  this-osaurus, a that-osaurus or an other-osaurus, you all just want to have fun on the merry-go-round and know your parents are proud of you.

Brightly illustrated, this is an eye-catching book that will appeal to our youngest readers as it taps into the universal fascination with dinosaurs, the natural concern about stepping out of the family and into the world, and the reassurance that there is someone to catch us if we fall. Perfect for this time of year when so many are taking that next step.

Share it and then talk about how each little person has experienced love from both a family member and a friend that day so they start to understand that love is as diverse as they are.