Archives

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books, 2018 

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

9781406383164

Edward the giraffe does not like his long neck.  In fact, he’s embarrassed by it. 

It’s too long.

Too bendy.

Too narrow.

Too dopey.

Too patterned.

Too stretchy.

Too high.

Too lofty.

Too … necky.

He thinks everyone stares at it, and as he tries to disguise with ties and scarves and hide it behind trees and shrubs, he admires those with much smaller necks.  And then he meets Cyrus the turtle who is frustrated by his short neck and…  Together they learn that they can co-operate to solve problems and accept themselves as they are.

The creators of Penguin Problems  have combined forces again to bring young readers a new book, one that focuses on acknowledging and being grateful for those things we do have because what we see as a negative may well be a positive to others.  They may even envy it.  Someone’s long legs might be just what the shorter person desires; someone’s auburn hair might be the thing that makes them stand out in a crowd… Encouraging children to accept themselves as they are physically and to celebrate that which makes them unique is all part of their development and may help them to become more comfortable in their own skin, more self-assured and less likely to follow fads and trends or even risky behaviour as they get older. Given that body image issues are concerns of even some of the youngest readers, any story that helps with self-acceptance has to be worthwhile. To discuss this without getting personal, children could make charts of the pros and cons of features such as the elephant’s trunk, the zebras stripes, the lion’s mane or other distinctive characteristics of different species that they suggest. 

There is also a subtle sub-text about not being so self-focused.  While Edward is busy admiring the necks of the other animals, they feel he is staring at them and making them feel self-conscious so children can be encouraged to think of their actions from the perspective of others. Learning that there are “two sides to a story” is an important part of growing up.

Another addition to the mindfulness collection as we try to foster strong, positive mental health in our young readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Digby and the Duck

Digby and the Duck

Digby and the Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digby and the Duck

Max Landrak 

Lothian Children’s, 2018

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

9780734417770

Digby is sure someone is watching him. It is just a feeling, but no matter what time of day or where he goes, he is certain that there are eyes following his every move.  Determined to find out who or what, he searches for clues, finally stepping in some poo that appears to prove his theory, and that sends him on a research search to discover what sort of creature does such droppings. But is the creature that he finally decides is the culprit, actually the spy?

Many of us will have had that weird feeling that someone is looking at us, but it is usually just a passing thing and we seldom go to the lengths that Digby does to discover who or what it is. But once he thinks he has solved the mystery, his world is back in balance and so this story sends a strong message about facing your fears, staring them down and getting them into perspective. So many of our young people suffer from anxiety of  real or imagined situations -in fact, some are like Digby and feel out of kilter if there is nothing to worry about as the ending of the story shows – so helping them develop strategies to deal with this is a critical pathway forward to learning.  Whether it’s doing research as Digby does to get to the root of the fear or talking about it with others to discover the particular fear is common or other strategies, until the feeling is dealt with satisfactorily it can become crippling.  

Ensuring our children’s mental health is safe is as important as their physical health so this is another one to add to the mindfulness collection, to be shared and discussed as we continue to help our students develop resilience as they learn how to deal with fear and anxiety.

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Jerry

Adam Wallace

Giuseppe Poli

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335781

People don’t notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don’t say sorry. If he makes a joke, no one laughs. He never gets picked last for sports teams — but that’s because he never gets picked at all. It’s like he’s invisible. Even though, like most kids, he doesn’t want to be so different that he stands out, he hates being invisible.  He really would like to be part of the crowd, laughing, smiling and having fun but that’s hard if you’re quiet and  shy.

But then along comes Molly… and not only does she change Jerry’s life, she enables him to change the lives of others.

There is a fine line between being the centre of attention and perhaps putting a target on your back for bullies and being so introverted that you’re not even noticed. Most kids seem to work within a happy medium between the two but there are always the extremes – like the Bell curve of distribution.  Sharing this book with young readers can help make those in the middle more aware of those like Jerry who don’t have the confidence to step forward, or who are ignored when they try, while at the same time, give the introverts the opportunity to reach out to someone who is just like them and who is probably feeling as unhappy as they are. Whilst we don’t all have or want to be in the limelight, sometimes it’s necessary to cast a light into the shadows.

From the front cover of this book where the line between Jerry and his peers is drawn with the title dividing him from them, the placement of Jerry in the illustrations underscores his isolation and the gentle palette reinforces the light touch that Spark author, Adam Wallace has used to portray a common situation that can be dark and overwhelming.

Another wonderful story for your mindfulness collection. 

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Amba Brown

Finding Your Path Books, 2018

30pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780648233930

A new school years is just over the horizon and next year’s Kindergarten students are starting their transition visits to “big school”. So this book by Positive Psychology author Amba Brown is ideal for preparing them for what to expect when they begin this next phase of their young lives, particularly as anxiety about making this move is common and natural. 

Written in rhyme with bright bold pictures, it will capture their attention and help allay any fears they might have. Explaining some of the things they will learn and encouraging them to try hard, use their manners and smile will reassure the most concerned, making this transition full of the fun, excitement and anticipation that it should have. 

 

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

Dr Matt Beard & Kyla Slaven

Simon Greiner

ABC Books, 2018

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143792185

While helping students develop their information literacy skills is a critical part of enabling them to investigate the world around them, it is what to then do with what they learn that can be tricky.  As we teach them to be critical consumers of information we also need to help them be creative users of it, to interpret it in new situations, to view it from a different perspective, to ask “what if…” and to develop new knowledge and understandings.

Short & Curly is a podcast from the ABC aimed at 7-12 year-olds which asks short and curly questions about the world around them, focusing on ethics, the strand of philosophy that focuses on what is right and wrong and encourages thinking about “what should I do?”

In this print edition, using the Brains Trust – Arjun, Rabia, Koa, Sophia, and Mae – who are a team of young researchers who identify, observe and try to answer ethical dilemmas that face our students, the book puts forward a number of scenarios that demonstrate some of these issues like lying, being happy, learning, making choices, letting go, being fair, making promises, and so on. Each scenario is presented as a report rundown, a summary of the situation, which is accompanied by questions that focus thinking on the best way to handle the situation. Dr Matt responds with some ideas and poses some bigger questions that can be applied to a broader range of contexts, encouraging the reader to think about the situation from a variety of perspectives rather than just their own experience and then consider what they would do in that situation.

Philosophy and ethics seem like grown-up concepts on the surface, unlikely to have a place in the primary curriculum, but when they are expressed in the context of the everyday situations that children encounter such as whether it is OK to lie to protect someone’s feelings, it becomes much more practical and doable so this book is perfect for guiding the children’s development in this area, setting up discussions that allow a lot of perspectives and opinions to be aired in a calm, objective way, compromises to be made and solutions to be negotiated.  Not only does the classroom offer a forum for a wider variety of voices than the student’s family values, such discussions lay the foundations for calm, reasoned, evidence-based debates in the future as the students mature, are more able to cope with thinking on an abstract level and face bigger community-based issues as well as their own personal ones. 

While each scenario is a standalone within its pages, there are now many picture books that deal with the focus themes so using these in conjunction with each discussion would be value-adding in a significant way.  For those struggling with the Ethical Understandings strand of the Australian Curriculum, this is a solid base for your program, one that will reach far beyond both the classroom and a particular academic year.

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and My Fear

Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171539

In the beginning her constant companion Fear is small, just big enough to keep her from doing things that would be harmful or dangerous.  But when she moves to a new country where she doesn’t know the language, the neighbourhood, the school or those she meets there, Fear grows and grows until it all but cripples her.  She feels more and more lonely and isolated each day, her self-confidence disappears and she hides herself away, full of self-doubt and beginning to loathe this new place as she begins to believe that she is too different to be understood, accepted and liked .  But a little boy is watching… can he lead her back by helping to shrink Fear?  And what does she discover about all the children in her class, indeed, everywhere?

This could be the story of any one of the children in our care, even those who have not had to emigrate to a new country and a whole new way of life.  While this companion to The Journey shows that the plight of refugees is not necessarily resolved as soon as they reach a new country, anxiety about the unknown, even the known, plagues many of our students, some to the point that they cannot get themselves to school, and so this book which demonstrates the power of how reaching out, being friendly, having empathy and making connections (even if that is your own biggest fear) can lead a troubled child back to a more normal world, where Fear is natural but it is a normal size.

The soft, retro colour palette reinforces the gentle tone of the book, and even though Fear grows and grows, it is not a black, dark, formidable, force but more a white, soft, marshmallow-like character that is not physically threatening . It maintains its shape even as it grows suggesting that its core remains the same, rather than becoming an overwhelming fear of everything.

Recommended in many lists as one that can help children not only begin to understand and overcome their own fears, but also one which can help others make the first step of reaching out and embracing those who seem isolated, this story is one that has many roles to play within the curriculum.

Ruby’s Worry

Ruby's Worry

Ruby’s Worry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Worry

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2018 

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

9781408892152

Ruby is very happy being Ruby, happy to be by herself and content in her own company. But one day she discovers she has a companion, one that is invisible to all but her.  It is a worry.  And the more she thinks about it, the bigger it grows, the more persistent and pervasive it is.  No matter where she goes or what she does, it is there with her until she gets to be worrying so much about the worry that there is no room in her brain or life for anything else.

Then, in the park one day, she spies a young boy looking as sad and forlorn as she is.  Taking her courage in her hands she speaks to him, and together they discover something quite miraculous.

Anxiety in children is at an all-time high these days as they try to meet all the expectations put on them – academic, sporty, physical, creative – and as they try to please all those they hold in high esteem- parents, family, friends, teachers… It is no wonder that so many of them are like Ruby, carrying around worries that threaten to swallow them whole if they haven’t done so already. So this book which brings to life the old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved” is a critical part of any mindfulness program or anything that deals with children’s mental health.  Children take on board all sorts of things that adults don’t realise, bits of overheard conversations or things that they see start to play on their mind, growing bigger with imagination and become all-consuming because not only do they not have the ability to detach themselves from the here and now, but they also don’t have the strategies to deal with them.  Living in the bubble that is often the way of children’s lives these days, they believe that they are the only ones with the problem and that only they can solve it. Despite their apparent connections to others, they actually feel very isolated. 

Therefore to have an easily accessible picture book that starts the conversation is so important. Because Percival does not identify Ruby’s particular worry, the story has universal application- it could be the story of any child in our care. By using the story as the starter for a discussion that demonstrates the importance of reaching out to family and friends for support and that this is as important for children as it is for adults, we are offering them a beginning strategy that can be built on as they mature.  

An important addition to your mindfulness collection.

 

At the End of Holyrood Lane

At the End of Holyrood Lane

At the End of Holyrood Lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the End of Holyrood Lane

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335767

Flick lives at the end of Holyrood Lane in a little house beneath the beech woods, spending most of her days in the sunshine dancing with the butterflies and playing with her unicorn toy and long, rainbow ribbon.  But sometimes a storm hits – storms so violent and loud and scary that she has to hide because even her rainbow ribbon and her unicorn cannot give her comfort.  She is very good at hiding but the storms make her feel very small and they are so loud her ears hurt and her heart throbs.  

One day, the storm is so fearsome and lasts so long that there is nowhere for Flick to hide and so she flees.  But it follows her, almost swallowing her in its fury, until “sodden and shaken” she stops, gathers all her courage and asks for help.  She is gathered into the arms of someone with a large umbrella under which she shelters, and even though the storm continues to rumble and grumble for a while, finally it leaves.  Finally the sun comes out.  

Flick is still scared of storms and flinches if the rumbling starts, but while it might rain a bit the storms have gone for good.  

While a fear of thunderstorms is common for many children, and even telling them it’s just the clouds bashing together doesn’t soothe, in this case the thunderstorm is a clever metaphor for what is happening in the house under the beech trees.  Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnson, the couple behind the poignant story of The Fix-It Man, have teamed up again to bring us a book that uses the analogy of weather to explore the issue of domestic violence and its impact on the children in the family who are so often invisible as the storm’s fury strikes, often without warning. Sadly, this is an all-too common happening in the lives of those in our care but so rarely touched on in children’s literature, particularly picture books for the young.  While we often hear the phrase that school is a “safe haven” for many children, there is much that goes on beyond school hours that we are not privy to, and unless a situation directly impacts a child in the class such as being removed into foster care, we really do not know the extent of the problem or the damage it causes. 

Sharing At the End of Holyrood Lane as a class story may offer an opportunity to allow children to discuss those things they are scared of, their own personal “storms” and perhaps Flick’s courage in asking for help  might inspire another little one to disclose something that will bring them respite too.  Children need to know they are not alone and it’s OK to ask for help – that there is hope for the sun to shine again and there will be a chance to dance with the butterflies.  

With its soft, supportive illustrations that encapsulate and extend the sensitive, subtle text superbly, and endorsed by a number of agencies concerned about the children caught in the middle of domestic violence such as Act for Kids, RizeUp, Paradise Kids , and Think Equal, this is a conversation starter that may bring a lot of comfort,help and hope to the children in our care. 

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy Underwater

Adam Baron

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9780008267018

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old, is the third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint), second best at roller-skating. Even though he has only one parent while his friends have two or even four, he is  fit, healthy and totally normal in every way.  Yet, despite living in Lewisham in south-east London he has never been swimming.  His mum has never taken him near a pool, a lake, a river, the seaside – always brushing away his request with seemingly plausible excuses. 

So when his teacher says that the class will be starting swimming lessons the following Monday, Cymbeline is somewhat daunted.  He doesn’t even own a pair of swimmers!  But encouraged by his best friend Lance (named after the disgraced cyclist) and goaded by the class bully Billy, he agrees to a race against Billy in the pool.  Naturally, things end very badly for Cymbeline, not the least of which is losing the swimmers he found in his dad’s things in the attic, but it is the response of his mother who is called to the pool that is the most startling of all.  

As a result of this incident, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital taking Cymbeline’s beloved soft toy Mr Fluffy with her.  And Cymbeline is forced to stay with his rich Aunt Millie and Uncle Chris , to whom he is a burden, and cousins Juniper and Clayton who make it clear they want nothing to do with him. Totally alone, his mother hospitalised and not well enough to see him, and no cuddly toy to take to bed to comfort him, Cymbeline is bewildered and scared but determined to find out what is wrong with his mum to have had such an extreme reaction.  Surely the world seeing his willy isn’t enough to provoke such a response. And why has she taken Mr Fluffy?   Befriended by super-smart Veronique and even Billy, who has his own issues at home, Cymbeline is determined to get to the bottom of things.  And when he does, it becomes clear that adults really should paint the whole picture when they tell a child something big, not just the bits they think the child can handle.  Sometimes honesty can prevent a lot of heartache – the child isn’t left to fill the gaps with their own, often wild, imagination.

Written in the first-person in a voice that really echoes that of a 9-year-old boy, this is a story that will engage the independent reader with a storyline that has some meat to it and is totally credible. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty issues, this is done with a light hand, humour and empathy, providing an insight into the lives of some of the children in our care that we might not always see. Families falling apart for whatever reason is a common story, sadly, and it’s not always the teacher, in this case Mrs Phillips, who is the confidante.  Many children, like Cymbeline, are carrying  unseen burdens.   

For me, a quality novel is one that engages me to the end and I can hear myself either reading it aloud to students or book-talking it.  Boy Underwater is indeed, one of those.   

Spirit

Spirit

Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit

Cherri Ryan

Christina Booth

Black Dog Books, 2018

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

9781925381771

A small, woven basket, a couple of handkerchiefs , a stick, some buttons and thread and a scrap of fabric for a flag and Spirit is ready for her inaugural voyage sailing across the garden pond. 

A victory dance,  some attention to her mast and hull and she was ready for the next challenge – bobbing and dipping as she rides the currents of the creek. 

Another victory dance and some more tweaking – will she be ready for the greatest adventure yet?  All was well as she rode the calm waters of the river with her fishy attendants, her rudder true and her bow leading the way, but after the bridge jagged rocks churn and froth the water and Spirit faces the biggest dangers of all.  Will she survive or will she be broken?

On the surface, this is a charming story about a little girl building a boat and testing it, increasing the degree of difficulty of each challenge.  But just like the creek and the river, there are hidden depths as children navigate life and have to learn to be steadfast, resilient, imaginative and have faith in themselves and their abilities to survive the setbacks.  Much as we would like our children’s lives to be smooth sailing, character is built through adversity and they need to learn to pick themselves up, oil their hulls and smooth their masts, or let someone more experienced help them do that, and move on to the next challenge, persevering, learning about failure as well as success, commiseration and celebration.  They need to know they have an inner spirit, one that can’t be broken but like Spirit one which gets stronger and stronger particularly when they are knocked down, but sometimes they have to dig deep into the unknown to find it.

As busy classroom teachers, we often just see the surface of our students’ lives, only sometimes being privileged to catch a glimpse of the depths beneath -some of which are joyful; some of which are deep and dark with jagged rocks but all having as many twists and turns as the river. So this would be an ideal read-aloud sharing both the words and pictures that intertwine with each other perfectly, and talking about the underlying thoughts behind them. Discussing the name of the boat, the girl’s feelings, determination and courage, the invisible hands guiding her while letting her try that are not revealed until the penultimate page, the role of the fish as they support Spirit on its journeys,  and the connection of the girl’s story to their own lives may help those who are troubled and struggling realise they are not alone and deep down they too have the courage to take the next step forward, even if it is into the unknown.

A perfect addition to your mindfulness collection.