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Marmalade – the Orange Panda

Marmalade - the Orange Panda

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

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

 9780008305758

One morning, deep in the forest, a beautiful baby panda was born. The panda was different to all the others, as he had dazzling orange fur.

“I will call you Marmalade,” his mummy whispered. . .

But when the other pandas see him they are not impressed – rather this embarrassment of pandas is embarrassed.  And so, Marmalade sets out on a perilous adventure through the jungle to find out  just where he belongs….

Setting aside the fact that pandas are solitary animals and that the creatures Marmalade meets would not be found anywhere near his natural home, this is a story about family love, being yourself and finding your place in the world – a message our youngest readers need to hear often as they begin to develop their own identity and be comfortable with it.  And while they would have or will hear the theme in many stories, it is the ending that makes this one different.  For it doesn’t come to a cosy conclusion with Marmalade snuggling in close to his Mama again – they get up to some hilarious mischief that lightens the message and leaves the reader with a smile.  

Using a series of framed illustrations, Walliams and Stower have packed a lot into this story as Marmalade discovers that he is not the only orange creature in the jungle and that not everyone is as friendly as they look, making it seem much longer than the traditional 32-page read. The humour, vocabulary and layout carry it along at a fast pace with much to discover on every page and every read. 

 

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Kristen Schroder

Hilary Jean Tapper

EK Books, 2022

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

9781922539090 

Jonah’s favourite toy is Freddy, but Freddy is not a teddy – he might have been a funky duck, a peculiar platypus or even a punk rock penguin – and that causes a problem when there is to be a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at school.  Does Jonah take Freddy who means so much to him, or a teddy that he finds hiding, forgotten, under his bed?

This is a heart-warming story that will appeal to all our young readers who have a favourite stuffed toy that is not a teddy, especially if they have had to make a decision about whether it “fits the brief” for an occasion like a Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  Jonah’s solutions to both his own problem and that of Cassie will inspire them to be brave enough to be themselves despite peer pressure. 

 

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Big Softie

Kaye Baillie

Shane McG

New Frontier, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781922326485

Elliot is a GREAT BIG SOFTIE. But to fit in with the other monsters he decides to perform some MONSTROUS deeds. After scaring a little girl on her bike, he must decide whether to continue being MONSTROUS or follow his heart.

This is a charming story for young readers that focuses on being true to who you are on the inside and having the courage to be that person, rather than what others expect of you.  It can be hard to resist the pull of peers but Elliot shows it can be done.  

But it could also be used with older children to explore the concept of stereotypes and how people assume what others are like just based on their physical appearance. Start by getting them to draw a monster and note the similarities in the results.  And perhaps, from there, investigate how advertisers perpetuate those stereotypes such as always making librarians middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, sensible-shoes-and cardy-wearing, saying “shoosh” or putting a white coat on someone to portray a “scientific truth”.  Or perhaps delve into the origins of racism…Or discrimination in general… And how it feels when you’re the one who is discriminated against.  

Sometimes it is the books that seem to have the most simple, almost superficial storylines that can become the best for exploring tricky concepts. 

 

 

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

Jen Carney

Puffin, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780241455494

Billie Upton Green (aka .B.U.G.) is 10 years old, in Class Five at school and is weaving her way through life at that age keeping a diary about her life and those people and events that are important in it. 

In the first in the series the reader learns that BUG has two mums and that she is adopted, but the main focus of the story is that there is a new girl in their class who seems to take up more of BUG’s best friend Layla’s attention that BUG would like, which has the effect of totally normalising BUG’s family structure so that those who are also in a different configuration to what is considered “normal” not only relate but appreciate that who they live with is no big deal in the bigger picture.

Of course, there are always those who will raise their eyebrows and so Patrick North personifies those conservative views with his comments but they tend to be water off a duck’s back by this third book, where BUG’s circumstances and adoption are widely known and accepted and it focuses on BUG preparing to have a baby sister, also adopted, but who seems to be taking forever to arrive because of all the rules and regulations, even though BUG desperately wants to hold her up for show and share. Luckily, the school musical is in full swing, giving BUG the perfect distraction. She just needs to watch out for Painy Janey, who has her eyes on the main part and doesn’t care what gets in her way…

Told in an easy-to-read conversational style by BUG herself, and interspersed with her doodles and other comments, this is a quick, enjoyable read for those who don’t want to put too much effort into following complex characters and plots. Yet, in saying that, there are thought-provoking incidents that offer “what-would-I-do?” moments so those who are facing familiar issues (or will do) can consider their own reactions and responses, perhaps even plan a strategy they hadn’t thought of.  

Miss 11 pounced on this in my review pile and stuck her name on it, begging me to “process it, Grandma” before she went home so she could take it with her.  That seems like a sure-fire winner to me. 

 

 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to be Different;  Inspirational Words from People Who Changed the World 

Ben Brooks

Quinton Winter

Hachette, 2022

208pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781529416244

The words in Dare to be Different have great power, just as the phrase itself does as it challenges the individual to stand apart from the crowd, to be proud of whatever it is that makes them unique and celebrate it.  Not always easy, and particularly not when you’re at the age when the natural desire is to fit in, to be one of the in-group, to conform and be anonymous but at the same time to have and follow heroes who do have the courage to shine.

In this compendium, Ben Brooks has brought together 100 people who have all in some way or another used words to do wonderful things, rather than sporting prowess or heroic deeds.  Some may have changed a single life, while others have changed the course of history for almost everyone on earth. But whether their effects were big or small, these individuals’ speeches, letters, poems, songs, stories, and advice prove one thing: words can make the world a better place. It includes personal letters that were written for just one reader to help guide them through life’s journey; and others that were intended for millions of people to hear about grand declarations of war, peace or new discoveries.

From Plautus’ plays about the power of laughter to Selena Gomez’s speech about bullying; and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters of encouragement to his daughter, Scottie, to Bambi, the mysterious graffiti artist who sprays words of truth on walls, there is something to be learned from every quote in this inspiring and illuminating book.  It contains the words of wisdom that children will love to hear, about kindness, bullying, or whether it’s OK to sometimes eat chocolate for breakfast, and allow them to feel more secure about themselves and accept that who they are is enough. Not everyone has to be a headline.

Each double-page spread gives a background narrative pitched at the reader’s level and includes a significant quote that offers a life message that might be just what the child needs to hear at the time.  For example, Selena Gomez says, “You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a like, by a comment…”; founder of the charity Sight Learning at just 14, Yash Gupta says, ” Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It’s just a matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that”; while Yoda reminds them that “Size matters not. Look at me, Judge me by size, do you?”

While many of those included do have an international profile like Desmond Tutu and Dolly Parton, most do not, just being acclaimed for having made a significant difference in someone’s life, somewhere, reinforcing that it is ordinary people from ordinary places who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that allow them to make that difference. So, as well as the positive affirmations from those that have, it offers a belief that we all can.   It also shows that you don’t have to set out to make a difference, or to receive recognition, acknowledgement or acclaim. and that sometimes your impact can be invisible and unknown. Many years ago I taught a quiet, shy young lad, one whom, honestly, I had all but forgotten until he told my BFF, his prospective employer, that it was my words about believing in himself and being able to do whatever he dreamed that had led him safely through university to a career that he loves!   Sometimes just being who you are and following your passion can be all the different you need to be.

 

 

 

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is My Dad

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2022

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

9781922539076

Leo’s teacher announces that the class’s next focus for Show and Tell will be their fathers and while this excites the other children, Leo’s tummy belly-flopped.  And did another one when Harper asks if their dads can come and share the experience.  Because that can be all well and good for some kids, but what if you don’t have a dad?  And have never known one? “How can I celebrate someone I’ve never met?”

So while his children’s author mother hunts dragons and arrests aliens and rescues her characters from all sorts of predicaments, Leo hunts through the family photos for something he’s not going to find.  And then he has an idea…

Back in the day, teachers would celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with card and gift-making and all sorts of other activities almost without thought – it’s just what was done.  We didn’t really give a lot of consideration to the Leos because two-parent families were the norm – it was rare to have students without that traditional family structure,  But that was back in the day, and now we recognise that families are as individual as the people in them and we cannot take anything for granted.  Clearly Miss Reilly didn’t get the memo and so this is a timely, important look into the anxiety that an announcement such as hers can make, how carefully we have to tread and how we need to change our focus so that our students are not marginalised or become anxious when what to them is “normal”, becomes apparently not-so.  

This is a book to share with a class whenever one of those traditional celebrations rolls around, or the curriculum demands a focus on families.  Apart from resonating with many of the children themselves, it could be a time to examine Leo’s feelings when Miss Reilly made her announcement. Why did his tummy do a belly-flop? They could also look at the strategies that Leo employed to try to solve his problems. Why couldn’t he just tell Miss Reilly he doesn’t have a dad? Is he ashamed, angry, embarrassed? But even better, an astute teacher could involve the students in finding a big-picture question that embraces everyone’s circumstances.  Perhaps something that looks at the ties that bind a group of people into a family unit, rather than its physical structure; perhaps celebrating the influential adults in the child’s life without reference to gender or relationship; or perhaps even comparing human family structures to those of animal families. More able students might like to consider whether a wedding ring makes a family, and delve into the traditions and purposes of marriages, including cultural aspects, 

While the structure of a family becomes more and more diverse and accepted, and the kids themselves don’t look sideways at two mums, two dads, no mum, no dad and every variation in between which also reaches into the extended families,  Leo’s story is a reminder that, nevertheless, we need to tread carefully and between Powell’s writing and Johnston’s illustrations, we not only have a great heads-up for teachers but also a book which appears to be for littlies but which can enable older students to examine their own perspectives at arm’s length, perhaps even reflect on their own situations and how that has shaped them. 

Teachers’ notes are available

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing At The Border

Joanna Ho

Teresa Martinez

HarperCollins US, 2022

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

9780062994547

“Feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another, Yo-Yo Ma played a solo accompanied by an orchestra of wind and water.” 

On April 13.2019, on the  US banks of the Rio Grande he played a piece of music hundreds of years old to an audience on the opposite banks in Mexico to show that building bridges is so much better than building walls.  

But this is more than just a story of one man playing a cello alone to be heard by a few – this is the story of a renowned cellist, himself a blend of cultures as he was born to Chinese parents in France and raised in the US. Because his fingers were too small for a double bass, as a little child he chose the cello – and its particular blend of international origins is woven into both the story and the music.  And from its strings comes the music dancing ‘over rocks and rivers and walls into the sky”, born in Germany 300 years before, lost,  then found in Spain, and renewed in the US to unite those who had once been one but who were now separated…

Connecting cultures and countries through music was Yo-Yo Ma’s ambition when he began the Bach Project in 2018, reviving the rare cello solos which “create the sound of harmonising melodies on one instrument” there was as much symbolism as there was entertainment on that day in 2019 when the people of two nations momentarily joined together again, in defiance of the rhetoric and actions of the then POTUS. And in Johanna Ho‘s text, which is as lyrical as the music itself, we discover that there were many more than just two nations involved in making it happen. 

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.