Archives

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. 

 

Girl on Wire

Girl on Wire

Girl on Wire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl on Wire

Lucy Estela

Elise Hurst

Puffin Books, 2018

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

9780143787167

High above the city buildings, a cold breeze biting her cheeks,  a young girl stands  alone for hours.  Stretched before her is a wire that she must cross to be able to move forward but fear holds her back.  But as dark thunder clouds gather and a storm threatens, she knows she must make a move. To stay where she is, is impossible and so  she takes that first tentative step. As she inches forward, her skirt swishing around her legs, the storm breaks and she realises how far she will fall if she fails.  Overcome, she falters, stoops and cries for help.  

A swooping eagle reassures her that all will be well but she has to “walk the wire by yourself”.  Will she find the courage to move forward?

All around us people, adults and children alike, are having to step out onto their own personal wires, and no matter how strong the support from those around us are, we still have to walk it by ourselves.  Sometimes it seems an impossible journey and we may have to start several times before we dig deep and find those inner reserves that allow us to tiptoe towards the other end.  While the personal route of the journey and its destination may be unique to each of us, nevertheless the fear of the unknown and of failure, the feelings of trepidation and nervousness are universal and in this beautifully and evocatively illustrated allegory, we learn that we are not alone.  Life cannot go forward if we don’t take that first step, wherever it is leading us. 

With the mental health of our young people finally acknowledged as a critical issue in their well-being, this, at first, seems a book for older students, but in the hands of a skilful adult even little ones will be able to tell of something they were afraid of that they have conquered and begin to reflect on their inner strength as well as acknowledging that some things are hard to get right first time but with courage and confidence and a belief in yourself it’s OK to try again and to seek help if it is just too much. Like the girl on the wire, we can curl our toes tighter, stand a bit taller, and raise out arms to embrace what is on the far edge.

From the author of Suri’s Wall, this is an important addition to your mindfulness collection. 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love

Walker, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406380637

Going home on the subway with his grandmother, Julian spots three glamorous women dressed as mermaids and is immediately transported to his imaginary world living under the sea as a mermaid, at one with the creatures there.  He is pulled from his reverie as the train reaches his stop but the memory lingers and once he is home and his grandmother goes to have a bath, he uses the things in her apartment to transform himself – plant fronds for flowing, hair, lacy curtains for a splendid tail, and some lipstick. But then his grandmother comes out – will she scold him for becoming something so feminine or will she embrace his imagination and diversity?

In what is almost a wordless picture book, the reader has to immerse themselves in the pictures to really engage with this story that challenges the stereotype of being a mermaid being a girl’s dream and celebrates diversity, being true to yourself and accepted for that. 

One can imagine the eyebrows that would be raised on an Australian metro train should three glamorous women dressed as mermaids get on, each confident in themselves and their dress (reminiscent of the costumes of Priscilla, Queen of the desert)- but this is New York and instead of derision they encourage a young child to dream and then make that dream a reality. 

His grandmother, somewhat overweight but nevertheless flamboyant in her own style, is clearly very comfortable in her own skin, not driven by the expectations of others and definitely not the stereotype grey-hair-and-knitting that is so commonly portrayed in stories, and so it is not surprising that she embraces Julian’s desires and takes him to a place where he can truly belong. 

Because so much of the story is told in the illustrations, they have to be superb and they are. From the stunning undersea creature presenting the mermaid Julian with a coral necklace to the characters that Julian and his grandmother pass in the street, indeed even the women in the pool in the endpages, each with is imbued with personality and confidence and pride in who they are. 

This is a book that demands close reading and reflection so its riches are revealed; it is one that will raise questions and demand explanations; but to those who are like Julian and dream of things that are beyond the traditional stereotype bounded by gender, it will bring comfort and maybe confidence so they too can be themselves. 

The Bad Seed

The Bad  Seed

The Bad Seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad Seed

Jory John

Pete Oswald

HarperCollins, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780062467768

Born as one of hundreds of seeds of a sunflower, this little guy wasn’t always bad. He was close to his family and had fun, and, like them, ended up being harvested and put into a packet of sunflower seeds . But just as he thinks his days are numbered, he is spat out and lands in the rubbish of the bleachers.  And his life is changed,  Now he is BAD. In fact, he is baaaaaaaaaad! He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens – although he does hear others’ comments about his behaviour which reinforce his belief that he is bad and unworthy. So he stopped smiling, kept to himself, drifted along, seemingly uncaring until one day he makes a big decision…

The illustrations take this book from being a bit morbid into a realm of mindfulness, self-reflection and at times, humour.  It’s message that how we are perceived by others is not only shaped by our behaviour but continues to shape it is an important one to learn as is that of being able to change but that change can take time.  So while we are, to a large degree, in charge of our own destiny, we need to work out what we want to be like, take the steps necessary to achieve that but above all, be patient with ourselves and others.

Something different to spark thought and conversations.

 

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wemberly Worried

Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books, 2010

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780061857768

Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night.

“Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.”

And like many children,  Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realises that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!

Wemberly Mouse’s anxiety is on an extreme scale though and regardless of her family’s reassurances she cannot relax.  She clutches Petal her doll and strokes her ears when the levels rise, but then worries if she strokes them too much they will fall off.  She is so good at thinking “What if” that she may have a career as a writer when she grows up! 

As the year ticks by and many of our younger children are going to start the transition from daycare and preschool to big school, there will be those who are starting to get a little anxious already with all the usual concerns that making such a big step encounters.  And those worries can become so enormous that they become fears and the anticipation and excitement of this new adventure that is somewhat of a rite of passage are overwhelmed. 

Often it is not enough to just say, “Don’t worry”, (as Wemberly’s family does) to children with a high level of anxiety – they need to have their fears listened to and, where appropriate, helped to develop coping strategies should the worst happen.  There are many resources available now to help parents help their child but sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth and have been their confidante and security blanket in stressful times.  And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally.  Wemberly would have been unable to cope without Petal just as Jewel would have been lost without Nibblet.  The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security, and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!  

This book has been in continuous publication since its release in 2000 – that, in itself, says so much about how it resonates with little children and needs to be part of that transition process.  There will be  both a Wemberly and a Jewel in each new cohort.

 

I Am Enough

I am Enough

I am Enough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Enough

Grace Byers

Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer + Bray, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062667120

Like the sun, I’m here to shine…

Like time, I’m here to be, and be everything I can.

In a time where there seems to be an expectation that we will each be smarter, richer, thinner, bigger, better than anyone else, it seems to be impossible to just be – and let who you are be enough. But in this stunning new release, the little girl does not feel the need to compete with anyone.  She not only accepts who she is and is proud of that but also respects the individuality of others…

I know that we don’t look the same: our skin, our eyes, our hair, our frame.

But that does not dictate our worth; we both have places here on earth.

Apart from the powerful message that all children, indeed everyone, needs to take away from this book, it’s other strength is its diversity – each child is different in ethnicity, religion, and even physical ability although their gender is the same and that perhaps is its one negative.  Perhaps in a world where gender equality is still an issue. showing girls and boys together could have added just a little more.

Nevertheless, this is an important book to share and discuss as we try to promote positive mental health from an early age and that needs to start with the acceptance of ourselves as we are with no compulsion to compete to match someone else’s expectations. 

 

 

My Grandfather’s War

My Grandfather’s War

My Grandfather’s War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Grandfather’s War

Glynn Harper

Jenny Cooper

EK Books, 2018

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

9781775592990

On this most solemn of days on the Australian and New Zealand calendars, and as the centennial commemoration of World War I come to a close, My Grandfather’s War tells us of a more recent conflict, the Vietnam War, a war where those who served are now the grandparents of its target audience, our primary school students.

At a time when the world had almost emerged into a new era following World War II, the USA and the USSR were the new superpowers and the common catch-cry promoted by prime ministers and politicians was “All the way with LBJ”, Australian and New Zealand joined forces with the USA in this new conflict to stop the “Yellow Peril” of China moving south and overtaking nations just as Japan had tried to do between 1941 and 1945. Among the 65 000 troops of both nations committed between 1963 and 1975 was Robert,  Sarah’s grandfather who now lives with her family and who is “sometimes very sad.” 

Possibly a natio, drafted because a marble with his birthdate on it dropped into a bucket, old enough to die for his country but too young to vote for those who sent him, Robert, like so many others of his age whose fathers and grandfathers had served, thought that this was his turn and his duty and that the war “would be exciting”.  But this was a war unlike those fought by the conservative, traditional decision-makers – this was one fought in jungles and villages where the enemy could be anywhere and anyone; one where chemicals were used almost as much as bullets; one where the soldiers were not welcomed as liberators but as invaders; and one which the soldiers themselves knew they could not win. It was also the first war that was taken directly into the lounge rooms of those at home as television became more widespread, affordable and accessible. 

And the reality of the images shown clashed with the ideality of those watching them, a “make-love-not-war” generation who, naive to the ways of politics and its big-picture perspective of power and prestige, were more concerned for the individual civilians whose lives were being destroyed and demanded that the troops be withdrawn. Huge marches were held throughout the USA, New Zealand and Australia and politicians, recognising that the protesters were old enough to vote and held their futures in their hands, began the withdrawal.

But this was not the triumphant homecoming like those of the servicemen before them.  Robert came home to a hostile nation who held him and his fellow soldiers personally responsible for the atrocities they had seen on their screens.  There were no welcome home marches, no public thanks, no acknowledgement of heroes and heroism, and Robert, like so many of those he fought with, slipped back into society almost as though  he was in disgrace.  While the official statistics record 578 killed and 3187 wounded across the two countries, the stats for those who continued to suffer from their physical and mental wounds and those who died because of them, often at their own hands, are much more difficult to discover.  Like most returned servicemen, Robert did not talk about his experiences, not wanting to inflict the horror on his family and friends and believing that unless you were there you wouldn’t understand; and without the acknowledgement and support of the nation he was supposedly saving  and seeing his mates continue to battle the impact of both the conflict and the chemicals, he sank into that deep depression that Sarah sees as his sadness but which is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Disturbed by his sadness but told never to talk to her grandfather about the war, Sarah is curious and turns to the library for help.  But with her questions unanswered there, she finally plucks up the courage to ask him and then she learns Grandad’s story – a story that could be told to our students by any number of grandfathers, and one that will raise so many memories as the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh approaches, and perhaps prompt other Sarahs to talk to their grandfathers.

Few picture books about the Vietnam War have been written for young readers, and yet it is a period of our history that is perhaps having the greatest impact on our nation and its families in current times.   Apart from the personal impact on families as grandfathers, particularly, continue to struggle with their demons,  it opened the gates to Asian immigration in an unprecedented way, changing and shaping our nation permanently. 

Together, Harper and Cooper have created a sensitive, personal and accessible story that needs to be shared, its origins explored and understanding generated.  

Lest We Forget.

 

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons of a LAC

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335828

In one village on one side of the mountains live the LACs – Little Anxious Children who constantly look for danger and who only have negative self-talk; in another village on the other side of the mountains live their enemies the Calmsters who can take life as it comes because of their positive self-talk.  The two sides are constantly battling because when one wins, the other shrinks.

One day Loppy the LAC decides to climb the mountain and spy on the Calmsters but his anxiety goes through the roof when he spies a Calmster looking back.  And not only looking back, but coming to meet him! Who will win the impending battle? Does there have to be a winner and a loser?

Anxiety amongst children in on the increase.  According to a recent national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents, approximately 278,000 Australian children aged between 4 and 17 struggle with clinical symptoms of Anxiety. (For a summary see kidsfirst children’s services) Therefore books which shine a light on this condition which affects 1 in 7 of those between 4 and 17 and which can be used as a starting point to help the child manage the symptoms are both important and welcome, particularly as mindfulness and mental health are gaining traction in school curricula. While there are almost as many causes of anxiety as there are children affected by it,  such as not being perfect, helping children turn their self-talk around, as Curly did for Loppy, is a critical starting point and many classrooms are now displaying images such as these…

 

Not only do such explicit statements give the anxious child prompts for the new words, but they also acknowledge that anxiety is real and that there are others who are anxious too.  While climbing that internal mountain as Loppy did can be hard, knowing that there are others who also battle can be reassuring. While teachers are not clinical psychologists like the author, having tools like the Loppy books in the mindfulness collection and using them not only to help the Loppies move forward but also to help the Calmsters learn that some of their friends may be like Loppy so deserve  and need understanding rather than ridicule can be a starting point in achieving harmony in the classroom.

Teachers’ notes which extend the story into practical applications are available.

 

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Mindful Me

Christiane Engel

Quarto US, 2018

36pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781633225107

“Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment” and in this book the creator takes a journey through the alphabet stopping at each letter to link it to an activity or concept that will enable younger readers to be more in touch with the here and now and where they are.  

From Awareness to Zen children are encouraged to learn about being physically, mentally and emotionally healthy as they learn how to limit and manage stress and anxiety through rhyming text and bold pictures which feature a diversity of children.  There are also instructions to make some of the suggestions like a thankfulness tree and a mandala.

With mindfulness such a part of the curriculum these days, this could  almost be the basis of a semester’s program as each child creates their own book showing what the concept for each letter means for them.

Oma’s Buttons

Oma's Buttons

Oma’s Buttons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oma’s Buttons

Tania Ingram

Jennifer Harrison

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143786573

Ruthie loved going to visit her Oma and doing all the wonderful things that grandmothers and their grandchildren do together – baking, singing, playing … One day she discovers a small tin under Oma’s bed – a small tin which holds BIG memories!  For in it were lots of buttons, each one representing a special person in Oma’s life.

And so Ruthie learns about the people who had passed through Oma’s life, each one special and significant like the red button that was from her mother’s apron because she loved to bake; the little wooden button from her father who taught her how to be brave; the blue button from the suit Opa was wearing on the day he proposed…   Even Ruthie is in there through the green button off her first dress. 

Fascinated she listens to all the stories , until she finds a beautiful button at the bottom of the tin – from Oma’s favourite coat and so Ruthie asks if she can have it to remind her of Oma.  That button goes with her everywhere that day, even to the park where it slips through a hole in the pocket in her jacket and is lost forever.  Ruthie is devastated but then Oma shows her the best memory button in the world…

This is a most beautiful book dedicated to the author’s mother-in-law who  was born in a displaced persons camp in Kematen, after her family had to flee the occupation in WWII and whose early experience as a refugee gave her an appreciation of family traditions and holding onto the memories of those we love.  Her button tin inspired the story and the love between her mother-in-law and her daughter shines through on every page as the story and memories of each button is shared and celebrated, clearly based on real events.   

Jennifer Harrison’s stunning illustrations are so photograph-like that each person comes to life so the reader not only feels they know them better but is also transported back to memories of their own special people – a grandmother who made porridge and served it with brown sugar as the familiar fanfare heralded the 8.00am news and taught me to make the traditional Kiwi favourites like pavlova; a grandfather who walked miles with us over the beaches and rocks of one of the southernmost towns in the world and who taught me to love the eternal, restless sea; a father returned from being a POW in World War II determined his kids would be brought up in peace and who taught me to look for the silver lining in everyone; a mother who insisted on keeping her hard-fought for career and who taught me to follow my dreams

Sadly, all are gone now as is my Nanna’s button tin, lost in international moves and the passing decades – but the memories are rich and alive. 

Tania Ingram and Jennifer Harrison have written an important book that will encourage reminiscing, perhaps even an investigation into why families are who they are for we all belong to someone, somewhere and we are all loved.  One to be treasured as much as the buttons.