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Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Your Body

Taryn Brumfitt

Sinead Hanley

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760895983

There is something scary in the statistic that 70% of primary school children have a concern about their body image, and when this is coupled with the greatest desire of post-restriction Australia is for beauty salons and gyms to re-open, it is easy to see why and that without intervention, this obsession with how we look is not going to change. From long before the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe to waif-like Twiggy to the more-rounded Kardashians, our obsession with how our bodies look rather than how they perform has dominated so many lives, and this is as true for our males as it is for females.  How many young lads see themselves in the image of a Hemsworth?

In 2016 Taryn Brumfitt wrote and directed a documentary Embrace which encouraged us to love who we are as we are, but that doco received a MA15+ classification and so did not reach down to the roots of where the obsession starts.

So now she is addressing this with the establishment of a number of initiatives that speak directly to our children including another documentary , a song and, based on that song, this book. Based on the mantra that “your body is not an ornament:it is the vehicle to your dreams!”. children of every size, shape, colour and ability are engaged in all sorts of activities  showing the extraordinary things our bodies can do proving that nobody has a body that is the same as anyone else’s and that it is capable of so much more than conforming to some arbitrary stereotyped look.

This book has an important role in the conversations and investigations we have with our youngest students and not just in the health and mindfulness programs we offer. Because we are all individuals it opens up the world of science and maths as we investigate why and how that is, delving into genetics and measurement and a host of other areas that give a deep understanding to the message of the book, including the language we use to describe others. ‘Smart’, ‘clever’, ‘athletic’ are so much better than the pejorative terms of ‘pretty’, ‘handsome’ and ‘strong’.  For if, from an early age, we can grasp that we, as individuals, are a combination of the unique circumstances of both our nature and nurture, then our understanding of and appreciation for who we are is a big step towards valuing the inside regardless of the outside in both ourselves and others. 

It is sad that there is still a need for this sort of book in 2020, just as there was in 1920 and 1960, but if you make and use just one purchase this year, this could be the one that changes lives for the better. 

 

 

Sticking Out

Sticking Out

Sticking Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticking Out

Terri Owbridge

Emma Stuart

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922358356

Simon was shy at the best if times, and luckily for him, being a stick insect meant he could change colours to match his surroundings and hide from those around him.  That was until the day he stayed the glowing pink of the rose he had been resting on!  He was certain that all the other bugs who were gathering for the Spring Fest would laugh at him and the thought terrified him, so when a friendly beetle told him that there would be a magic gypsy moth who would help him, Simon set off in search of this saviour.  But as well as eventually finding her, he also discovered something much more important…

Told in rhyme, this theme of who you are as you are is enough is a common one in literature for young children but it is one that they need to hear again and again in all sorts of situations so they learn that it is okay to be pink or purple, or straight or bent, or spotty or striped or whatever… That no one really looks twice at your differences because they’re too busy involved in whatever else is going on, and if someone does make a nasty comment, then they are not worth your time.  For some, this is not something easily accepted and body image can become a major issue in the future so perhaps they can have fun imagining what it would be like to be able to change colour like Simon and how that would change who they are inside.  

As little ones face the challenges of new places, new schools, new people at this time of the year, this is one to help them overcome any anxieties they might have. 

 

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Is The Thing

Johanna Bell

Erica Wagner

A&U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761180026

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
These opening lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope is the thing with feathers   are the inspiration for this stunning picture book  begun after the devastation caused by the bushfires which ravaged so  much of south-east Australia in 2019-2020. 
A young girl who is a bird lover and watcher, as are the book’s creators, focuses on the birds around her as they return to their burnt-out habitats to resume the lives and lifestyles that are natural to them clearly with the hope, indeed expectation, that it will continue as always regardless.  The kookaburra sings, the baby emus learn to run, the parrot nests in the hollow tree, the seagull is still eyeing off the hot chips…
The last years have been tough for many, and there will be those facing new challenges as the new year rolls over, so this is a perfect book to share to show that hope for better things is what drives us forward regardless of how dire the current situation might be. While hope might be seen as unreachable as the eagle able to soar above and be free, it can also be as mundane as the ibis returning to raid the rubbish bins in anticipation of food.   If the bowerbird still seeks the blue among the black ruins of the landscape, we, too, can look for the diamonds amongst the stones. 
Erica Wagner’s extraordinary mixed media illustrations interpret the author’s lyrical words perfectly, the final illustrations showing that with hope, we too can fly…
Perfect for sharing with students at the beginning of the year as they think about their hopes and dreams for the year and start formalising goals they want to achieve.
Erin Hanson Poetry

Erin Hanson Poetry

Tomorrow

Tomorrow

Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow

Mark Macleod

Kirrily Schell

ABC Books, 2008

40pp., hbk $16.95

9780733320743

Did you watch the six o’clock news last week? There were stories and pictures of people ravaged by a cyclone in Burma and rescued from an earthquake in China.  There was a policeman shot, a motorcyclist killed and a young lady who did not know CFCs were banned 20 years ago, crowned as the Australian entrant for the Miss Universe pageant. For most of us, the news will remain just what it was – a regular bulletin of the events of the world in the last 24 hours.  Few, unless they are personally involved, will give many of the items a second thought and we will move on to tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

But what of our children who saw the same news?  To them, the images can be very confronting and powerful and they don’t yet have the experience and maturity to let them go, or to see them in their historical or geographical context.  They linger on, forming fears, causing nightmares and starting what-ifs. There are many stories of children afraid to go to their own school because they have seen images of a school massacre on the news, or who won’t fly in a plane after seeing the footage of an aircraft crash.

Mark Macleod wrote Tomorrow to counteract the world of gloom and doom that our children can see every evening.  He wanted them to know that the world will keep spinning, the sun will keep rising, the birds will keep singing and the plants will keep growing despite all these horrific events.

And so we have what appears to be a simple story with simple line drawings about a child going to sleep at night after sharing a bedtime story, and waking in the morning and getting all the way through the next day with none of those terrible fears eventuating.  But it is not just a story for the next day, it is a story for life – of hope and affirmation and inspiration that each of us will be strong enough to survive whatever might befall us.  “Tomorrow” becomes “today” and even “yesterday” without our scarcely realising it.

This is a book that deserves a place on library shelves.  Parents can share it with their little ones in the comfort and security of the bedtime story, and the astute teacher can use it to begin a conversation about fears and how we can confront them  – “Turn, look them in the eye and say you’re off to find tomorrow.”

Original review Sat 17/05/2008

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Holly Bathie

Usborne, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474999267

Like it or not, use it or not, social media is an integral of today’s life and despite it being illegal for those under 13 to have accounts because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which prevents collection and storage of personal information from children under 13 years of age which originated in the US but which is pretty much universal, many of our young students still access sites and apps daily. 

For many parents, the world of social media and instant connectivity is not one in which they grew up – it’s all happened in the last 20 years –  and so helping their children navigate where they never went when they were children can be tricky.  Perhaps the recent hacking of Optus and Medicare and the exposure of personal date gathered legitimately can have a silver lining if it alerts parents to the spread of their digital footprint and propels them to start considering what they are sharing, and thus, their children. 

For even though way back in 1996 my school had a huge focus on safe surfing of the web and the kids, most of whom did not have access to computers and the internet at home, had the basics drummed into them from the get-go, the issues caused by the use of these instant, anonymous platforms continue to rise as our young people seek attention, fame, and in some cases, notoriety. Who can forget the death of 14 year old Dolly Everett who took her own life because of online bullying.?

Thus this book which enables our young readers, even those under the required 13 years) to manage their life, relationships and mental health on social media platforms and empowers them to stay safe online is an important read for all.  With the usual engaging layout we associate with Usborne, but in monochrome rather than colour, it offers in-depth coverage of a range of important a difficult issues young people face including body image, appearance-enhancing filters, influencers, sexual content and mental health. It uses recognisable themes rather than platform specifics, making the content relevant long-term, and tips on how to set up accounts safely and best manage privacy and messaging settings. It also addresses the user’s online persona, online reputation, and relationships; helps them understand  fake news and information and how to handle online bullying, as well as avoiding trolls.

While social media can have a really positive side – many would have been very isolated without during COVID lockdowns – and it would be wonderful if we could instil such a sense of confidence and well-being in the younger generation that they never feel the need for anonymous, meaningless affirmation, nevertheless there is a dark side and users must be aware of the potential for harm as well as good.  Once it’s out there, it’s out of your control. 

As well as being an important guide for the kids, it is also really useful for parents themselves as they learn what it is their child needs to know and do, understand and value as what was once just “peer pressure” from your immediate social circle is now a universal phenomenon right there in their hand. It goes hand-in hand with the excellent site and work of the E-Safety Commissioner established by the Australian government which has information for everyone from parents to teachers to kids to women to seniors and even a host of diverse groups who may be targeted or marginalised. 

Despite the care we take, every keystroke or finger tap can unknowingly add to our digital footprint, and so the better informed we are the safer we will be. Thus this is one to recommend to parents, to teachers and for yourself if you have responsibility for students or your own children online. 

 

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Julia Hopp

Michael Lee

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922678720

Wonderful news – Mrs Turtle is becoming a Grandma! But Mrs Turtle is worried she may not be a good enough Grandma for the new baby. After all, with her love of socialising, travelling and exercising she was not like most other turtles )or grandmothers) that she knew and she was concerned that she would not match expectations.

Beginning with the illustration on the front cover with a very glamorous turtle with flowing golden locks and red high heels, this is a great story for introducing young readers to the concept of stereotypes as well as building and meeting expectations.  

Currently, there is a series of advertisements on television for an insurance company that invites the viewer to make assumptions about various people based on their external appearance and the assumptions made could not be further from the truth of the reality, and this story is in a similar vein.  What assumptions do we already make about turtles and/or grandmothers? What do we expect them to look like or behave? Why do we have those expectations? Are they valid? How do we feel when their looks and actions don’t meet our expectations?  Important questions for children to discuss but equally so are those relating to the expectations we put on ourselves and the consequences if we feel we do not meet what we expect of ourselves, or what we think others expect of us. Do we hide away,  berate ourselves and have all sorts of negative thoughts that we eventually turn into truths, or are we able to learn from the situation and move on? Can we learn and accept that everyone’s definition of “perfect” is different and who we are as we are is enough?

Grandma Turtle learns a really valuable lesson in this story and young readers can start to have conversations about the issues raised too. There is a saying about being “comfortable in your own skin” which eventually happens when you understand that the only opinions that matter are your own and those of those who are important to you, and so by starting the conversations early with stories such as this, our young people might be able to avoid some of the pitfalls of peer pressure that are ahead of them.

A little story but with huge potential, well beyond the protection of turtles that the author includes in the final pages. . 

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peg Leg Pedicure

Eliza Ault-Connell

Aimee Chan

Angela Perrini

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922358424

Eva is so used to her mum having artificial legs because she had lost her real ones after a childhood illness, that she is quite taken aback when a school friend calls her mum “weird” because of them.  Eva sees her mum as strong and brave and busy just like all the other mums, one who makes light of her metal legs by pretending to be a pirate and who lets Eva give her old, more traditional peg-legs pedicures and paint the toes like rainbows.  

But rather than be cross with Rishab for upsetting Eva, her mum has the perfect solution – and so she shows the kids how being different in one way or another is what makes them extraordinary.

While stories about children being different are quite common for little ones, it is not often there is one about the parent, particularly one based on a true situation because co-author Eliza Ault-Connell, an Australian wheelchair track athlete who has competed at the Olympics, Paralympics and World Championships after losing her legs and most of her fingers but surviving meningococcal disease is Eva’s “mum”. 

Thus, by celebrating her “disability” – something that opened more doors for her than she could probably have imagined as an able-bodied person – young children can be inspired to make the most of what they have.  That that which sets them apart is what makes them unique and extraordinary. I can always remember my mum telling me as a young child in the 50s that with red hair, glasses and freckles I probably wouldn’t win a beauty contest but I had brains that would outstrip anyone and so that is what I used as I grew up and they lasted much longer than any pretty face might have.

This is an uplifting story that encourages our young readers to focus on what they perceive to be their weaknesses and then work out how they can use them to be brave and bold and smart, no matter what.   

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun and the Mayfly

Tang Tang

Zhang Xiao

Little Steps, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922678041

As Little Mayfly is born in the depths of the lake, moving upwards through the water she greets the sun who is rising over a new day. 

“Hello”, she says, ” you are amazing. You light up this world as soon as you wake up. Who are you?” 

Sun tells her but when it learns that Little Mayfly only lives for one day and when it’s journey is over so will be her life, it has no words because it knows just how brief a day is.  But to Little  Mayfly, a day is a lifetime and there is so much to see and do, and even though she learns that she is going to miss out on things like the tadpole turning to a frog and the flowers booming., she remains cheerful and optimistic, determined to make the most of the time she does have.

Tagged as “an uplifting story about the power of positivity and making the most of every day” this is an enchanting story from a leading Chinese author that not only introduces young readers to the passage of time and encourages them to make the most of their time, it also helps them start to see the world through a different lens – an abstract concept that is tricky for little ones.  It is like that saying that not stepping on the ant makes a huge difference to the ant, if not the walker.  If we only have one day, do we spend it in despair or delight?

Even though the reader longs for a happier miraculous ending as the sun gradually sinks in the west, the inevitable happens and so this is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of life cycles  the tadpole’s is illustrated in the story but in a joyful way – and so the focus becomes not the inescapable but what can be done in the time we have.  Definitely one for the mindfulness collection and to inspire positive  mental health. 

You are Loved

You are Loved

You are Loved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are Loved

Liv Downing

Mel Matthews

Albert Street, 2022

36pp., board book., RRP $A24.99

9781760878146

You are loved when you win the race.
You are loved when you don’t.
You are loved when you brush your teeth.
You are loved when you won’t.

You are loved all the days and nights,
in sunshine and in rain.
And if you forget, put your hand on your heart
and feel the love again.

This board book with clever, colourful cutouts affirms and reassures young children that they are loved, no matter what. In  conversations with the grown-ups in their lives they can learn that even though their behaviour is sometimes frustrating, nevertheless the person they are is still loved and treasured. 

If children grow up thinking themselves unworthy of love, then the seeds of poor mental health are sown from the get-go and because so many little ones blame themselves for parental discord this is a message that sadly, many need to hear and adults need to remind themselves of.  The connections we make with those who are embedded in our lives are critical for physical and emotional health and the more we can offer our little ones this reassurance, the better.