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Bluey: Baby Race

Bluey: Baby Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Baby Race

Bluey

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761044908

It’s important to Bluey that she be better at things than Bingo and Judo, but when Mum says she should run her own race, Bluey doesn’t understand what she means.  And so Mum tells her of the race she thought she was in when Bluey was learning to crawl and walk and Judo was  don’t them first.  Mum learned lots of important lessons during that time about letting Bluey, and later, Bingo, do things in their own way at their own time, because despite her self-doubt, it was neither a race nor a competition.  

Based on the episode of the ABC series of the same name, this is another is this very popular collection of stories in print format that allows young readers to return to the story time and again, cementing in their minds the value of print as a medium as well as learning some of life’s necessary lessons. 

Little ones always compare themselves to others, seemingly having a need to be better or the best, perhaps a trait learned from their proud parents even in those early months, and so learning to “run your own race” and accept yourself for who you are and what you can do at the time is a difficult concept to grasp.  But it is a critical one because if our children are going to be mentally and emotionally healthy, they need to know that who they are right now is enough. If they are doing all they can, and the best they can with what they know and have available to them, as Mum was, then that is all that can be expected.  While it is natural and healthy to have aspirations and goals to strive for, they need to learn the meaning of “walk before you run” so they are building a solid foundation on which to move forward.

So while this is an abstract philosophical concept for minds still working at the here-and-now level, stories like this can help parents teach them in a way they can understand.  “Remember the story about Bluey and…” is a common refrain heard in early childhood circles and this is another example of that. 

Seal Child

Seal Child

Seal Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seal Child

Robert Vescio

Anna Pignataro

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326294

Life was both predictable and peaceful on the island and the little girl played happily, safely on the sand as all around her life went on.  But then, the storm hit. And there was nothing and nobody left – except for an abandoned boat and a lost baby seal.  Together they huddled in the boat sailing over the ocean with its perils lurking, giving and seeking comfort and confidence from each other as they sought sanctuary.  But when the pup’s mother eventually finds it, the little girl is left alone once more… will her story have a happy ending too?

Superbly illustrated by Anna Pignataro who captures the many moods of the ocean in an amazing mix of watercolour hues, moods which reflect those of the little girl as she moves through fear, comfort, hope, resignation, loneliness, anticipation and a host of other emotions as the days drift by, there is nevertheless an underlying sense that there will be that happy ending as the  image of the polka dot cloth from the beach illustration appears as a blanket, a scarf and a sail like a symbol of hope and a connection between then and the future.   She describes the processes involved in her illustrations here.

Nearly all the reviews I discovered for this book just offered the publisher’s blurb, accepting the recommendation for “3-6 years” at face value, but anyone who is familiar with Vescio’s writing knows that this is more than a story about a little girl and a seal pup finding solace in each other while lost at sea – the storm in the child’s life could be a real wind-and-rain, lightning-and-thunder storm, but it could also be any number of events that disrupt the routine of what our children expect – fire, floods, pandemic, death, divorce; the seal could be a favourite toy, a pet, an imaginary friend… And while there is an underlying message for the child to ride the waves to a safe haven, and that fear and uncertainty are a natural part of the voyage,  and it’s OK to seek comfort wherever we may find it, there is also a message to parents to be patient while the child navigates the trip and to have faith that they will emerge into their arms safely again.

So, as usual, much to think about and consider, and definitely for a broader audience than our youngest readers.

 

A Blue Kind of Day

A Blue Kind of Day

A Blue Kind of Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blue Kind of Day

Rachel Tomlinson

Tori-Jay Morley

Puffin, 2022

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

 9781761046384

Coen is having a blue day.  Not one where all he wants is his blue clothes, blue food and blue toys.  But s slumping, sniffling, sighing, sobbing kind of day. A day where the only safe place to be is curled up in a blanket cocoon and so that’s what he does.

His family thinks they know how to cheer him up. His dad wants to go outside and play,  his mum tells her funniest joke, and his little sister shares her favourite teddy. Nothing helps. But one by one, they quieten and begin to listen. After some time, space, and reassurance, Coen is able to show them what he needs. And being aware, smart parents they give it to him…

Childhood depression is more and more on the radar and particularly following the enforced isolation of the last two years, so this is a timely book that helps parents understand that this is something more than just feeling sad and disappointed that can be shaken off with distraction. Tomlinson, a registered psychologist, follows the story with notes about how to alert parents to the condition, that  it has physiological symptoms and how they can support their child through an episode. In her dedication, Tomlinson says, “To all the children finding their way through big feelings: I see you. You’ve got this.”  And often, just that acknowledgement for the child’s feelings is enough and that like Coen, they begin to believe that they will come through to the other side and tomorrow will be brighter. To know that you know and you have faith in their ability to cope and continue is a huge step in the healing process.

 Sometimes we suggest parents casually leave a particular book lying around in the hope that their child will read it – this is one that the child might like to leave out for the parent.  

 

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…

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the Butterfly

Helen Cooper

Gill Smith

Walker, 2022

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

9781406397208

Older sister and younger brother have fled their homeland, the only two to survive the perilous boat trip to safer waters, where helping hands gave them sanctuary. And even though they had nothing from before, except each other, older sister said they were lucky because they could have lost so much more. 

But while younger brother didn’t think about that for long and began to make new friends and learn new things, older sister dwelt in the past – she felt she shouldn’t forget and gradually a shadow fell over her mind, as dark and gloomy as their meagre surrounds.  Until one day, younger brother captures a butterfly and brings it home. “Set it free!” cries the older sister, but in its panic it bashes into the walls… Eventually it tires and settles on her hand and doesn’t leave, as though it senses her pain.  Older sister knows what she must do but does she have the courage…

This is a poignant story, sadly a repeat of so many times when people have had to flee their homes, and even today, it is happening again… It reminds us that there is so much more to starting again than the relief of reaching a safe harbour.  Matching the lyrical text are stunning illustrations whose palette mirrors the mood perfectly, contrasting the darkness of older sister’s thoughts and feelings with the hope offered by the bright butterfly.

With so many of our students having found themselves in the predicament of both older sister and younger brother, this is an insight into that long period of adjustment, the grief and fear that must be worked through, and the changes that must be made so we can be more sensitive to the needs of these children.  It is so much more than just a story about refugees. 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

Sue Lawson & Sue Hindle

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036144

With pandemic restrictions easing and life returning to a “COVID-19 normal” one of the most concerning things emerging from the lockdowns and limitations is the amount of global research focusing on the impact the time has had on children’s mental health.  And, with RATs and masks in schools bringing the disease to them directly, the anxiety and discomfort is likely to have  even greater consequences.  But while that might be the black cloud of the last two years, the silver lining is the focus that has been placed on the mental and emotional health of our young people – no longer is it just an illness of older people.

According to the experts, one of the greatest tools we can provide youngsters with is resilience -“the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” – and this book, which talks directly to the reader, offers the tools to build this. Beginning with the affirmation that no one else in the world is like you, if offers practical ways to explore emotions and build a toolkit to help with the days when they “feel worried, worn out or just not quite right.” From learning to breathe deeply, tune into their emotions, and creating a place – physical or mental – that is safe and peaceful, the young person is offered ideas that are simple, doable and achievable.  They’re explicitly stated rather than being embedded in a what-would/could-you-do story that needs to be unpacked and have step-by-step instructions from learning to finger-breathe to writing anxieties , fears and feelings on paper and physically ripping them up. 

Mental health is a curriculum focus, even moreso now, and mindfulness part of everyday activities so as well as helping individuals directly, the suggestions could also be a toolkit for teachers to work through with students whenever there is a moment or a need. Sharing stories such as The World Awaits is an essential part of showing children that their feelings are real, shared and validated and this book is the perfect follow-up, empowering them to not only manage their emotions now but building strategies for the future.  

 

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen

Tony Ross

Walker, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

 9781529502404

Imagine being so sick that you can’t get out of bed, not even to go to the loo.  So sick that it takes three people to even sit you up and that in itself is so exhausting that you beg to be allowed to lie down again, and, when you do, you lie there almost paralysed from the effort it took.  That as much as you want to just lie there, those around you persist because they have faith that you can do this, and s-l-o-w-l-y. s-l-o-w-l-y you begin to share that belief. And even though it takes every bit of strength you have,  and it’s painful and oh-so tiring, your determination overwhelms the desire to just sleep forever, and you begin to move forward.  Literally just baby steps to begin with, but each one a little longer than the last until at last, you are really kicking goals. Your best friend is a walking frame, then a wheelchair, then a walking stick and your greatest achievement could be going to the toilet all by yourself with no helpers – when to be able to do something as natural and necessary as a wee without spectators becomes a red-letter day!   

This is the story of children’s author Michael Rosen, he who gave our children We’re Going on a Bear Hunt amongst so many others, superbly illustrated by Tony Ross who has taken the edge off the seriousness of Rosen’s situation with his perfect artwork, as Rosen recovered from COVID 19 in 2020.  

But it is my story too for in 2021 I found myself following exactly in Rosen’s footsteps (but for a different reason, struck down by the rarest of rare allergies) and sadly, it is also the story of so many of our children who, for many reasons, find themselves on that uphill climb where each metre gained is worthy of celebration. 

However, while I understand Rosen’s journey so well (I’m still kicking goals twelve months on as I recover, so although I can now toilet and shower myself, I still have challenges to face like having the strength to squeeze the nozzle of the petrol pump to fill my car), and I acknowledge that what we have been through has been traumatic both physically and mentally (because staring down death has that effect), what shone through this story for me was his hope, his perseverance, his determination, his courage, his resilience and his faith that he would triumph, once he was able to accept that the doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists were all on his side and that family and friends were cheering for him, literally every step of the way. That for all we like to think we are self-sufficient, perhaps an island, it is the love, connections and support of and with others that infuse us with the wherewithal to keep pushing. 

And for that alone, we should be sharing this story with our students, many of whom are facing seemingly insurmountable battles and helping them understand that it can be an hour at a time, a day at a time, a step at a time and while that step might be a backward one, we believe that they will go forward again.  Yes, we each have an inner strength, stronger than we ever realise until we have to draw on it, but it is that encouragement and belief of those we love that is the driving force to keep trying.  It may not be a physical illness such as Rosen and I had, but for the child it is just as serious and devastating, and thus the need for our support is as vital as Sticky McStickstick in their recovery. And to go a little further, once recovery eventually occurs, to realise that there will be unexpected long-term impacts to deal with so that while Sticky Mcstickstick might spend most of his days in a basket just in case, he still needs to be there both as a support for when we fall and as a reminder of all that we did and learned as we recovered. 

And for me, as well as my own Sticky McStickstick I now have this book  – a story of a journey undertaken and conquered by so many more than me and Rosen. 

Don’t Forget

Don't Forget

Don’t Forget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761040955

Sometimes being a kid can be overwhelming – there are so many things to remember to do, to say, to be… Particularly with all the busyness and chaos in the lives of our children, these days.  

Don’t forget to make your bed, and wear socks that fit your feet.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth, and don’t forget your homework!

In this charming book for young readers, acknowledged in the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notables , little ones are reminded that as well as all that actual stuff, in the whirlwind of the day it is easy to forget the other things that are just as important…

Don’t forget to wonder, to be brave, to share.

Don’t forget to imagine, and to feel the touch of each season

For while we have to do that ordinary, everyday stuff, it is the long-term, intangible things that create memories, build dreams and shape us as we grow.  While celebrating the joy of childhood, Godwin has carefully chosen events that will resonate widely but all the while it is the connections with nature, the  being with and  caring for others that are the most enduring – the things that cause us to wonder, to imagine, to share and to reflect that are both the building blocks and the stepping stones.

Alongside Godwin’s superficially simple text are Anna Walker’s exquisite illustrations which bring both them and the child’s life to life.  The reader becomes part of the neighbourhood, rather than an observer, again reinforcing that connectedness on which families and communities are built. As we move out of such a long period of enforced isolation, books like this which celebrate the simple, that literally remind us to smell the roses, that ground us in the here-and-now rather than the what’s-next and the what-might-be that will help us realise that which really matters.  It’s not about the extravaganza birthday party that was missed but the community street party that was shared by all. 

And for those who want to explore the concepts further, there is a unit of work available through PETAA but for members only.

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Awaits

Tomos Roberts

Nomoco

Farshore, 2021

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

9780008502058

As one little boy lies in bed one morning, not wanting to face the day, it’s up to his older brother to show him the extraordinary potential within him and how even the smallest of his actions will make the world a better place . . .

In the child’s world of the here and now, where it seems that their world has been dominated by restrictions and limits for ever, and even just the regular routine of going to school is a list of must-dos and dont’s, where even they, as littlies, are subjected to an uncomfortable nose-swab test every other day, it is easy to see why the prospect of staying in bed and hiding under the doona is an attractive option.  Without the adult’s ability to see the big picture and know that each day they get up and face is a day closer to the end of this situation, even the child’s natural resilience can be tested and their robust (or not-so) mental health can be chipped away.

But how do you explain to the child who mostly lives in Piaget’s world of the concrete operational stage where they are becoming more aware of the world around them but are straddling the phases of things needing to be real and that of being able to think and act in the abstract, that they have something called potential and that they can make a difference? Cleverly, in this poem, which is a conversation between adult and child,  Roberts breaks this concept down into things the child does understand – the concepts of adding and subtracting to a larger element known as the ‘common good’ and identifying simple everyday things, like ringing a grandparent, that they can do that contribute rather than withdraw.

“In our core is a plus and minus, and they’re eternally at play.

They give us the power to add goodness to the world or to take some good away.” 

As with The Great Realisation, Roberts shows his ability to take himself to the child’s level, to talk to them in language they understand, yet at the same time provide layers of meaning that more mature readers can delve into. So while he talks to the child of making its bed or helping a struggling beetle back on its feet, there are also more oblique references to the global situation –

A little look at human history tells us all we need to know

It’s no surprise the toughest times were when that number got too low.  

As with that first book, throughout this one are the threads of hope, of better times and of the child having the power to make the decisions and take the actions that will improve things for all, not just themselves.

Roberts’ poems have been described as “a manifesto for our time” and with his ability to connect with kids of all ages, he is certainly one whose works need attention and further explanation.  Perhaps exploring this poem with a child in your realm, and offering them a way forward, is your addition to the bucket of common good for today. one that will have a long-term benefit that, as a teacher, you may never see or know.  As important as it is invisible. 

While We Can’t Hug

While We Can't Hug

While We Can’t Hug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While We Can’t Hug

Eoin McLaughlin

Polly Dunbar

Faber, 2020

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

9780571365586

Hedgehog and Tortoise are the best of friends. They met when each was trying to find someone to give them a hug but now this nasty disease has hit the world, they are not allowed to hug each other any more. And that makes them sad.  But then Wise Owl shows them that there are many ways to show your love even if you can’t actually touch each other,

This is the sequel to The Hug, and is equally as heart-warming. Even though it was published a year or so ago it is a timely then as it was then with similar social distancing still being in place, although the pandemic is not mentioned because there are many reasons why friends might be separated and unable to hug each other.  And while Hedgehog and Tortoise offer a number of suggestions for connections, no doubt the children can offer more and can have fun doing so, putting them into practice so they can catch up with many different unseen people.  Remember when people put teddies in their windows so little ones could see them on their daily walk?  If not then, why not now? It all goes to telling each other we are seen and loved and thus, protecting and promoting our mental health.