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Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820126

Loppy the LAC  loves the feeling of sanctuary and serenity that the old tree in the park gives him whenever he is feeling anxious.  But when it starts to lose its leaves long before it is supposed to, his friend Curly points out that Tree’s days are numbered.  This makes Loppy very unsettled – how will he calm himself if it dies and disappears? But death is an inevitable conclusion to living and Loppy has to learn and accept that ‘his’ tree will soon be gone.

This is the fifth book in the  ‘Lessons of a LAC’ series, this one created to help children accept loss and process grief. Given the summer holidays that many of our students have experienced where all that was familiar is now blackened and gone, this is an important book to add to your mindfulness collection and share with the children.  While building a seat with a special photo might not be the option for them, nevertheless there are ways we can commemorate things that are important to us so that peace and connection return.  Because it might be in a different way for each person, it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge that we each value different things and how and when we remember this is unique to the individual.  There is no right way or wrong way – just different.

The author is a clinical psychologist whose specialty is early intervention in the social and emotional development of children and the previous books in this series have demonstrated that her words are wise and her stories resonate with their audience. 

When Sadness Comes to Call

When Sadness Comes to Call

When Sadness Comes to Call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sadness Comes to Call

Eva Eland

Andersen Press, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781783447954

As our new school year begins after the most trying summer break for many because of the effects of the drought and the bushfires, the mental health of our students has to be foremost as they try to cope with what they have seen and done and what has happened to them over the past few weeks.  School may be their one constant and seen as their safe haven, particularly if they have lost their home or been traumatised in other ways.

So this new book which acknowledges sadness as real and natural encouraging the child to accept it and offering strategies to cope with it might be an important tool in each teacher’s shed right now. Depicted as a doleful, but soft greenish shape which threatens to envelop the child but once it is recognised for who it is there are ways to deal with it so the child is not overwhelmed. As the child listens to music with it, walks with it, and even drinks hot chocolate with it, gradually Sadness reduces in size until one morning it disappears as suddenly as it arrived, leaving the child to enjoy a brand new day.

This is a difficult time for us as adults, but moreso for those in our care who don’t have the big-picture perspective, so anything we can use to help them cope and get through another day is welcome. The overarching message has to be that sadness at this time is going to be normal, that is perfectly OK to feel it and talk about it, and that we can divert it as we add a few more layers to the onion that has despair at its core. 

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Together Things

Together Things

Together Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together Things

Michelle Vasiliu

Gwynneth Jones

EK Books, 2020

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

 9781925820294

The little girl loved to do things with her dad – special things like taming wild animals, flying high in the sky and climbing rocky mountains.  But now that’s all changed because her dad is sick with an illness that no one except a special doctor can see. And he might even have to go to hospital to get better.  However, her mother is wise and she knows and explains how there are different things that the girl and her dad can do together while he gets better, maybe not as exciting as sailing stormy seas or drinking tea with the Queen, but just as important so their love stays strong.

This is a story that will resonate with many of our students as one in five adults experiences depression in their lifetime, so many will understand and empathise. Together Things helps young children to understand that, while it is okay for them to feel mad or sad about this, sometimes they must do different things together while their parent focuses on their mental health and getting better. 

Just as we are now paying attention to the mental health of our students, so too must we help them understand that they are not alone if there is such illness in their family and that they are not responsible for it.  Sharing this story and talking about how common the issue is will help those kids seeing it firsthand realise that they are not alone and that there are many ways to show and share love.  

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

Charlotte Barkla

Erica Salcedo

Little Hare, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760503932

I love hands!
Hands that are white and hands that are brown,
Freckles mean sunshine has sent kisses down.
Short fingers, long fingers, bendy or straight,
Hands to clap, or high-five your mate.

Even though the human body comprises the same elements, each is unique. No two are the same unless you are an identical twin.  In this superbly illustrated book, each body part such as hands, hair, eyes and even tummies is featured while those characteristics which make them unique are celebrated.  It doesn’t matter if your nose is long and thin or short and flat or even turned up like a pussycat, we each have one and each does its special job.

With its bouncy rhyme and positive message about accepting the diversity and differences which make each of us special, it actively promotes the acceptance of the body regardless of shape, colour, or size so that we appreciate our individuality and are inclusive in our choices. When even our youngest readers are aware of their physical appearance these days and start to develop their relationship with their body, this is a critical message that encourages the positive mental health mindset so essential to developing resilience and empathy and offering lots of scope to collect and interpret data as the children compare and contrast their differences. 

 

Sulwe

Sulwe

Sulwe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sulwe

Lupita Nyong’o

Vashti Harrison

Puffin, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241394328

Sulwe was born the colour of midnight – not the colour of dawn like her mother; the colour of dusk like her father or even the colour of high noon like her sister Mich. No one in her school was as dark as Sulwe and while Mich was called “Sunshine’ and “Ray ” and “beauty”, Sulwe was called “Blackie’ and “Darky” and “Night”, names that hurt her so she hid and wished with all her might that she could be lighter like her sister.  But not even wishing, using an eraser on her skin, Mama’s makeup, eating only light-coloured foods or even praying made the slightest difference.

Desperately unhappy, she finally told her mother how she was feeling and her mother gave her some great advice but it is not until she has a magical nighttime adventure and hears the story of Day and Night that she finally gets some self-belief.

In some ways mirroring the experiences of the author, actress Lupita Nyong’o , this is a story deliberately written to inspire those who look different to look inside themselves for their beauty. While “what is on the outside is only one part of being beautiful…[and] it’s important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror …what is more important is working on being beautiful inside.” With body image still playing such a key role in our mental health, any story like this that helps our young readers begin to feel positive about themselves as early as possible before the ignorant taunts of others do their damage, has to be shared and discussed.  Highlighting how Sulwe felt when she was called names, asking what if Sulwe was in this class, listing the mean names directed at students that are heard in the classroom and playground and their impact on their peers might be what is needed to confront the bullies with the impact and power of their words, calling the behaviour for what it is could be the tough love that some of our students need.Starting with the fiction but transferring it to reality, having the students be in the shoes of Sulwe, can be the most powerful teaching tool.  This is a story that is not just about empowering the individual, it’s about awakening the collective. 

Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Ocean

Lian Tanner

Jonathan Bentley

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760633691

Ella lived in the red-dirt country
where the earth was as dry as old bones
and it hadn’t rained 
for years
and years
and years.

One night, Ella dreamt of the ocean… and the image mesmerises her and she wants to know more. So she asks her dad,  her mum and Ben the farmhand, and while each has a distant memory to share it is viewed through the lens of the cracked red earth, the dust of the dry, dry, plains and the hungry hungry cows.  Her Gran hasn’t seen the ocean but dreamt about it once – ‘it picked me up and carried me from one side of sleep to the other and I have never forgotten it’- and so she sets about making Ella’s dream come true.

This is an uplifting story that will resonate with so many children from the front cover of the red-roofed house surrounded by vast dry, red, rain-starved land and gaunt gum trees to the family melancholy of hard work and no relief to the power of just a small break in routine to restore faith and hope.  You do not have to venture too far from the city to see the impact that this interminable drought is having on the land, and just as it sucks the life out of the land, so it has the people. Like Ella’s family, that impact is not as visible but is in their body language, their words and their perspective and while we city folk might pay some attention to their plight it is not long before we go back to our own lives, having put a few dollars in a tin or bought a more expensive bottle of milk.  Stories like Ella’s  and images like Bentley’s bring the reality home and depending where you live, will either help the children understand that they are not alone in this plight or perhaps inspire them to do something that might be ‘the trip to the ocean’ that turns a family around for a little while longer.  Or perhaps look a little closer to home. maybe the local nursing home, and think about what they can do to disrupt the routine of same-same boredom to put a light into someone’s life.

So often any unit of work about weather and its causes focuses on the scientific rather than the human, and Ella and the Ocean works to redress this, as readers are almost compelled to think about the what-if. and the what-can-I-do.  Another one of those great picture books that can work across all age groups.

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Vikki Conley

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335255

When Mrs Gooseberry was in her front yard she always seemed grumpy, slamming her door and making the children afraid to ask for their ball when they accidentally kick it into her yard.  But when Ella, who lived next door, saw Mrs Gooseberry in her backyard, it was a different story.  She had a lovely vegetable garden  and chickens that she talked to and she seemed happy.  Confused, Ella asks her mum how a person could be grumpy in their front yard yet happy in the back and she learns that Mrs Gooseberry has “lost her love.” That confuses her even more because she didn’t know that you could lose love and whether it might be found again.

She asks the important adults in her life what love is and gets a different answer from each one, and gradually realises that love can be many things. When she sees her cat’s kittens snuggling into their mother’s warm tummy, she has an idea…

This is a charming story that will help young readers understand that love can take many forms and it doesn’t always have to be encased in the words, “I love you.”  It can be expressed in the things we do (or don’t do); the way we look at and treat others; the care we take; the extra gestures or actions we make… It is an ideal way for them to start thinking about how those who are important to them show their love and how they reciprocate those feelings.  It cries out for an activity where children inscribe one side of a heart with “My —— loves me because —–” and the other side with “I love —– because —-” where the blanks are filled with the little personal things that show love without being words.  Apart from raising awareness of how they are loved, it might also inspire them to think of new ways to express their love such as cleaning their room or doing the dishes so the adults have one less thing to do. And perhaps it might show those who think they have lost their love, that they haven’t – it’s just in a different shape now.

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Ways to Make the World Better

Lisa M. Gerry

National Geographic Kids. 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781426329975  

From something as manageable as forgiving someone or leaving a complimentary note in their locker to more complex ideas such as taking a First Aid class or letting your trash be someone else’s treasures, this is a small book full of big ideas about how to make the world a better place both physically and emotionally. 

With philosophy such as being the kind of friend you’d like to have and being inclusive, it covers personal issues that can help the individual be more calm, more mindful and more responsive to their world while also taking actions that can help shape the world into what they want it to be.   Ideas are presented as simple concepts with engaging graphics and photographs, and many are followed by detailed supporting information, including advice from Nat Geo explorers, interviews with experts and weird but true facts. readers can get a sense of their own power to make a difference and an understanding of what actions contribute to positive outcomes and how they can change things by themselves.

While journalling and personal challenges are becoming a popular way to have students focus on the positives and support their mental health, sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming so this could be used to guide that journey by having students set themselves the 100 tasks over the school year, and help them structure their progress that way as they work their way through them. They might also have spaces for another 20 ways they discover that are not mentioned in the book and these could be added to a class wall chart to inspire others to look more widely. 

While these sorts of books always inspire when you first pick them up, without accountability life can go back to routine quickly so offering ways to keep the ideas in focus and support the reader over time will not only help them, but also the adult offering that support. We can all make our world better. 

 

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visitor

Antje Damm

Gecko Press, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781776571895

Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a charming story, cleverly constructed with its dark and bright palettes, that shows how a child can unwittingly bring life and light back to where there seems only darkness. Using a unique process of drawing Elise and Emil and then placing their cutout figures in a small, tidy home with furnishings crafted of paper and board, photographing them and then adding colour washes or not as the story’s mood dictates, Damm demonstrates how much we really do need others in our lives if we are to experience its true joy. The final page demonstrates this perfectly.

Whenever there is a news story about children visiting an aged care facility, the residents always talk about how alive they start to feel, something that my own mother-in-law experienced herself.  Unable to recognise her own son and daughter towards the end, nevertheless she was able to recall the words to the songs that our school choir sang and join in with them.  But not only did she talk about it to us for many visits afterwards, the children themselves also talked about the people they had met, the grandparents they didn’t have and the friendships that were beginning to blossom as the visits became a regular fortnightly activity. There was a purpose to their learning new lyrics and practising their singing and my m-i-l always knew when there was a visit imminent.

Lots of scope to develop vocabulary about feelings but more powerfully, never underestimate the power of a child in someone’s life and think about how you and yours could brighten someone else’s.

 

 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2019

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760892517

“Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has been chronicling his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals . . . and counting. But it’s finally time for readers to hear directly from Rowley in a journal of his own. In Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Rowley writes about his experiences and agrees to play the role of biographer for Greg along the way. (After all, one day Greg will be rich and famous, and everyone will want to know his life’s story.) But Rowley is a poor choice for the job, and his “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess.”

There would be few primary school readers (and even those a little older) who do not know the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , one of the pivotal series to get boys reading that I’ve encountered throughout my teaching career. So this new addition to the collection, in which Greg’s life is viewed through the lens of his best friend, is a welcome new chapter with a twist.

But as well as just being a fun read, one that so many can relate to, it’s also a chance to explore the concept of perspective.  Do others see us as we see ourselves? It reminds me of an advertisement on television where a fellow is called to a meeting and is giving himself negative self-talk  – this one…

But the reality is significantly different. So this book could be an opening into examining how others perceive us and perhaps tapping into someone’s mental health by having friends write about their friends. A skilled teacher who knows the students really well might have them write about themselves first and if necessary have conversations with the school counsellor.  Food for thought that might get someone who is struggling to open up.

But for those who just adore Greg and Rowley and their adventures, they can find out more about their creation here.