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Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness is a Cloud

Robert Vescio

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2020

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

9781922265715

Out for a walk with his father and dog, Jasper, Harry sees a flying pig! Well. it’s actually a cloud shaped like a flying pig and suddenly the walk is made more interesting as the two spot all sorts of shapes in the clouds overhead.  Even when dark, ominous ones roll in with menacing shapes like a rhinoceros and a wolf that make Harry shiver,  his dad shows him how they are good for the earth and all that grows in it.

 Just as the clouds change shape and colour so does Harry’s mood, particularly when Jasper disappears, and Vescio has cleverly mirrored these changes so young readers can understand that while they may be sad and unhappy now, there will come a change to happier times, just as the sun will always return to peek through and fill us with joy and hope again.  We just need to be patient and resilient to wait for it. That is the silver lining of clouds.

As well as being an engaging way to help young children understand the cycle of moods and feelings, this is also a wonderful way to build imagination and vocabulary as there are few things more peaceful than lying down and watching the endless patterns of clouds. Harry even touches on the question of what clouds are and why they can’t be touched, so that opens up another avenue of investigation while Bevington’s illustrations of Harry, his father and Jasper superimposed onto real cloudscapes will attract the artistic mind.

Living in a rural landscape with no pollution, reading the clouds to predict the weather and just appreciating their diversity of shape, colour, density and speed is one of the joys of the simple life. This book will connect our kids to these oft-overlooked phenomena while also showing them that there is always hope on the horizon.

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mabel and the Mountain

Kim Hillyard

Ladybird, 2020

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

9780241407929

Mabel is a fly.  But despite being only as big as a fingernail, she has BIG plans which include climbing a mountain, hosting a dinner party and making friends with a shark!  Despite the lack of encouragement from her friends, Mabel is determined to achieve her dreams and starts by looking for a mountain to climb – one that will challenge her.  And challenge her it does, and even though at times she thinks about changing those plans, she believes in herself and perseveres.

With a now-familiar theme of believing in yourself, persevering and being resilient, this is another story to encourage our young children to dream big and have the courage to continue, perhaps even inspiring their friends to have their own dreams. By having Mabel choose climbing a mountain as her challenge, a familiar metaphorical concept in itself, Hillyard is able to demonstrate the hard work, the sustained effort and ignoring of detractors that goes into achieving goals – there will always be setbacks and obstacles to be negotiated and navigated but the effort is worth it if the dream is.

A good one for the start of the year, or now that the year has restarted, when we ask children what their goals are – perhaps they could map out a route and trace their journey as they go, giving a tangible record to help them stay on track.

 

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. 

 

 

Monkey’s Tail

Monkey's Tail

Monkey’s Tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey’s Tail

Alex Rance

Shane McG

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760524487

Howler Monkey loved to climb.  He learned as a baby from his father and he practised and practised until he got so good at it that animals from all over the world would watch him.  But one day he fell and damaged his tail so badly that he could not climb any more. He hid his injury because he was ashamed and scared that his family and friends would not like him because he couldn’t do the one thing that gave them pleasure.  He became so sad that he sought the advice of Oldest Monkey who asked some really pertinent questions that helped Howler Monkey understand that he still had family and friends who loved him, he could still be the role model he was – just in a different way – and that what he did did not define who he was.

Rance, the author, was an elite Australian Rules player for the Richmond Tigers and was a member of the team that won the premiership in 2017, a feat that they hadn’t achieved since 1980. But in 2019 he ruptured his ACL in the first game of the season, ending his playing days for the year, and most likely for ever. These life-changing events have been the inspiration for this series of stories including Tiger’s Roar and Rabbit’s Hop, to help young children deal with the highs and lows of life and understand that why they do things is much more important that what it is they do.  If they understand their motivation, then their actions (whether positive or negative) can be chosen, challenged and changed to suit the circumstances and it is the whole of who they are that defines them, not just one aspect.

Even without knowing the author’s personal story, young readers will appreciate this book and Howler Monkey’s predicament, particularly as they return to school and even to team sports where their lives may have changed considerably post-pandemic. The playing field might now be closer to level.

 

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures: Finding the Good When Things Seem Bad

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures: Finding the Good When Things Seem Bad

Josh Langley

Big Sky, 2020

100pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922265692

When we look back over a period in our lives, it seems that the memories that stand out are those of the times we failed, made a mistake, stuffed up… It seems to be human nature to remember the bad rather than the good; to dwell on those times when we don’t meet our own or others’ expectations; and sadly, we often let those times shape and define us, changing our purpose and pathway for ever.

The catchcry of “learn from your mistakes” is often easier said than done but in this book, Josh Langley, author of It’s OK to feel the way you do shares uplifting affirmations and simple strategies to help deal with those inevitable times when, in hindsight, we realise we could have done things differently or made better choices. Perhaps the most important of these is understanding that EVERYONE has times that they wish they could do again but that, at the time, we were doing the best we could with what we knew and had. No one gets it right all the time.

To prove this, Langley expresses his motivation for writing this book in this interview

I remember as a kid, I was constantly making mistakes and getting into trouble, so I wanted to show kids that it wasn’t the end of the world if you stuff up every now and then. We’re human and we’ll keep making mistakes and that’s how we can become better people. I was also hearing from a lot of teachers saying that kids were having difficulty recovering from when things went wrong and would awfulise over the smallest issue. I wanted to help in some way by sharing what I’ve learnt.

I also wanted to show kids that failing isn’t a bad thing and that many wonderful things can arise out of failure. I wouldn’t have become an award winning copywriter and children’s author if I hadn’t failed high school.

Using his signature illustration style set on solid block colour and text which speaks directly to the reader continually reaffirming that the world is a better place because they are in it, he encourages kids to look for the opportunities that might arise from their “failures”. In his case he discovered his love of writing and illustrating after constantly being the worst in the class at sport.

However, IMO, while self-affirmation, self-talk and positive action are critical in building resilience, we, as teachers and parents, also need to be very aware of how we respond to the child’s “mistakes” and look beyond the immediate behavioural expression to the underlying cause.  This graphic is just one of many available that encourage this.

No amount of self-talk will ever drown out the voices of those we love and respect and hold as role models, so we ourselves need to be mindful of the messages we are giving those who are just learning their way in the world.

Langley’s work is so positive and so constantly reaffirms for the reader that who they are is enough, echoing my own personal mantra of many years, that it is no wonder I am such a fan. And it is So good to have yet another resource to add to the Mindfulness and Mental Health collections, something that was scarcely heard of for kids just 10 years ago.

 

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Penny Harris & Winnie Zhou

Big Sky, 2020

256pp., 8 x 32pp pbk books., RRP $A197.00

9781922265814

As our little ones restart their school journeys and have to relearn how to mix and mingle with others beyond their family bubble, many may need some extra guidance in how to build those relationships with their peers again.  This collection of eight books, which offer QR access to videos and teacher resources, could be a valuable tool in this process.

Designed to help our very youngest readers develop ethical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social and emotional intelligence, each book focuses on a key concept such as selflessness, persistence, sharing, taking responsibility, fairness, inclusiveness, self-identity and learning to say sorry.  Featuring a recurring cast of characters including Pinney ‘Potamus, Ginnie Giraffe, Miranda Panda, Dodo Komodo, Lulu Kangaroo, Tao Tiger and Kevin, Kelly and Kylie Koala, all portrayed as stitched felt creatures, young readers will enjoy the different adventures as well as pondering what the best course of action would be to solve the problem. 

Something new to support the Personal and Social Capability strand so students are having the concepts consolidated with a new range of materials. 

You Are Positively Awesome: Good Vibes And Self-Care Prompts For All Life’s Ups And Downs

You Are Positively Awesome

You Are Positively Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Positively Awesome: Good Vibes And Self-Care Prompts For All Life’s Ups And Downs

Stacie Swift

Pavilion, 2020

144pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781911641995

One of the greatest concerns of this pandemic that has engulfed the globe is the mental health of those who have been in lockdown for some time.  Humans are sociable creatures, particularly our young folk who haven’t yet developed the wherewithal to be comfortable in their own company for long periods and who need the contact with their peers to validate and boost their sense of self-worth. Even though governments may have offered millions of dollars to help with the crisis, including for organisations like Kids Helpline , not all will reach out to such bodies and so books like this that talk directly to them and offer positive affirmations such as 

  • we are all in this together
  • we all need a bit of TLC 
  • we have all survived every bad day and overcome every obstacle we’ve faced

can be very valuable in the hands of those who can help. With chapters that include headings such as 

  • Hey, you’re awesome!
  • Why is this stuff important?
  • We all have times when life is a bit rainy
  • It’s okay
  • Self-love matters
  • You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say ‘NO’
  • Say yes to self-care

each page has an affirmation, information and often an activity that can offer a pathway forward.  For example, in chapter 7 which focuses on self-care, the advice goes much deeper than temporary fixes like bath bombs and candles and offers some strategies for a 5-minute self care as well as identifying those things  that matter to the individual so they can build their own circle of self-care and make sure they complete it each day.  

As well as being an essential tool in the teacher’s well-being box so that students consciously learn the strategies of mindfulness and taking care of their own mental health, this could also be a gift to a young one who might be adrift because of the loss of their immediate peer support at this time.  Even as students gradually return to school, that return is different from coming back from school holidays because families will have had to have faced a whole range of unprecedented experiences unique to them, some might feel shame or anxiety about the loss of income or whatever, and so working through the things in this book should form part of each child’s learning over the next weeks.  Help them to understand that while each has had a unique set of circumstances to deal with and these will continue to be endured for some time to come, we are in this together and  together we can survive and thrive. That said though, help them build the mindset and strategies that will build resilience and help them to help themselves when those difficulties arise. 

All About Friends

All About Friends

All About Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Friends

Felicity Brooks

Mar Ferrero

Usborne, 2020

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

9781474968386

It can be fun to spend time by yourself, You can play whatever you want and you don’t have to share your toys or your snacks…

But what every one of us has learned over the isolation of the last few months is that friends are critical and a crucial part of our mental well-being.  As schools gradually return to full-time face-to-face teaching, some little ones may have been at home for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to work and play with others and how to be a friend, so this beautifully designed book will be the perfect platform for getting things back on an even keel.  Each double page spread focuses on an issue such as what are friends, why we need them,  what makes a good friend, who can be friends and so on, offering lots of scope for sharing personal stories and contributing to discussions in a way they haven’t done for some time. There are also pages devoted to how friendships grow and change, how they can be destroyed and how they can be mended so that the children realise that there will be ups and downs and part of growing up is knowing what to do and doing it, developing tolerance, understanding, forgiveness and resilience.

The final pages include a “friendship puzzle” offering the reader a few scenarios for which they have to select the most appropriate behaviour, and two pages of information for new parents about their children’s friendships, skills and strategies to help them develop and some reassuring words about imaginary friends and dealing with conflict. – the most important being to give the child time to try to sort it out.  That perspective alone tells me that this author knows her stuff and her advice is sound.

Landing with Wings

Landing with Wings

Landing with Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landing with Wings

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2020

80pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781760296957

Mira and her mother are moving from their home near the sea to the goldfields of the Bendigo area, somewhere very foreign to Mira and she has no idea what to expect.  Her life is being turned upside down and she writes a farewell letter to her favourite tea-tree, beginning her recording of this new adventure which is scary but also a teeeeeny bit exciting. “Just a bit. It’s sort of like not knowing what’s on the next page and wanting to turn it to see what happens.”

Like Miri, Trace Balla loves to observe nature by sketching it and so, inspired by a story she saw about a refugee Syrian girl in an Australian detention centre whose future was equally uncertain, she has taken Miri on this journey of having her life upended and gradually discovering this new place, one that takes her back to her indigenous roots of the Dja Dja Wurrung people until she finally finds her home.

This is another intriguing graphic novel from the creator of Rivertime and  Rockhopping  that is just as extraordinary as those predecessors because of the levels and layers within the story. While  on the surface it seems like a personal recount of moving from one place to another, emphasised by the first-person narrative and hand-written font, there is also a bigger picture journey being told, that of anyone whose life is suddenly and permanently disrupted and having to find their place in a new landscape, whether that is physical, emotional or metaphorical. If they are lucky, they will land with wings and with the insight of someone like Trace Balla to guide them, they will learn to reflect on their experience and understand how it has shaped them just as much as the original catalyst.

A silver lining of this current situation of isolation is that we now have the time to read and appreciate this book in all its nuances, for we have each had our own journeys and this encourages us to revisit, review and reflect on them and their impact. It is just what we need at this time to get our lives back into perspective and see the whole rather than just the daily detail, yet, as Balla illustrates, it is the daily detail that builds up the whole. 

 

The Astronaut’s Cat

The Astronaut's Cat

The Astronaut’s Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astronaut’s Cat

Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760524944

The astronaut’s cat is an inside cat.
And she likes it like that.

But unlike other inside cats, the astronaut’s cat is on the moon, where it is so hot during the day a bowl of water would quickly boil, and so cold during the night it’s ten times colder than being in a fridge freezer!!  So each day Cat looks out the window at Astronaut working while she watches and snoozes and dreams of going outside to pounce and bounce lighter than a birthday balloon.  But when Earth rises on the inky black horizon she dreams of being back where there is colour and movement and shapes and forms and Mother Nature fills her with sights and sounds and scents…

When the masterful Mr Riddle created this book he would have had no idea that it was going to be released at a time when many of its readers were going to be cooped up inside, just like his cat. That being able to go outside and breathe fresh air and savour the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors would be as much a risk for them at this time as it is for Cat. That they would gaze through their windows and dream of earlier times… 

He probably thought that he was just creating a story about his cat Pom Pom who is just like the cat in the story – completely white, odd eyes and pink ears – and who, being an inside cat, spends her time gazing at the window outside.  While he has cleverly superimposed Pom Pom and Astronaut onto real backgrounds of the lunar landscape to help intensify the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, here on Earth it is a deadly disease keeping people indoors rather than a hostile environment.  But unlike Cat we can connect so perhaps sharing this story could be the catalyst to connect our kids with the Through My Window activity. Have each one look out their window as Cat did, and draw or photograph what they see, including the sounds and the smells they are missing (good or not-so) and write an explanation to share with their friends. Maybe they could pop a teddy or something in the scene and challenge others to find it. 

Here’s what is outside my window this morning…

But here’s what I am missing…

 

A great way to think about how Cat might be feeling and the things we take for granted. As Joni Mitchell sand in Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone…”