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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. 

 

 

Nice and Slow

Nice and Slow

Nice and Slow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice and Slow

Sarah Ayoub

Mimi Purnell

HarperCollins, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

 9781460761137

Let’s take today nice and slow,
have a break from the go-go-go.

We can lounge about and rediscover
what we love about each other.

The madness of Christmas and New Year is over and the holidays stretch before us – but for some, instead of being a time to rest and recuperate, it seems to be an opportunity to pack in as much activity as possible.  In fact, some even feel guilty if they have a day without something particular planned.  So this is a gentle book that reminds readers that to take the time to relax and reconnect with those around us is okay – even necessary.  Reading a book, learning something new, or returning to old favourites like building a cubby from sheets and chairs are all that is needed to reset, especially if we turn off the screens!

With words that soothe like a lullaby and a palette of soft colours, this book is as gentle as lying on the grass and watching the clouds make pictures – something many young readers need to learn as their lives seem to have become a competition as to who can do the most or have the most or be the most. Definitely one for the mindfulness collection as we encourage them to share what they would do if they had a whole day of choice that cost nothing. 

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

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. . 

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.  

Busy Betty

Busy Betty

Busy Betty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Betty

Reese Witherspoon

Xindi Yan

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761047480

Busy Betty has always been busy . . . even when she was just a baby!

When Betty gives Frank  the dog a big hug, she realizes he needs a bath, PRONTO! Her best friend, Mae, is coming over, and Betty can’t have the smelliest dog in the whole world! But giving Frank a bath is harder than she thought and just when everything seems impossible, with Mae’s help, Betty learns she can accomplish anything with perseverance, teamwork, and one great idea.

As a reviewer for children’s reading, I’m always wary of stories by those whose names are well-known for things other than writing stories for children – so often it is the name selling the book, rather than the quality of the story.  So it was a pleasant surprise to read a story that stands by itself and which will appeal to those who tend to get distracted easily.  Betty’s mind is always busy, with one thought leading to another and her actions following so that nothing ever gets done, or if it does, it isn’t done well.  In a time of instant gratification with the expectation that everything will be available in the flick of a click; when children’s lives seem to be so organised and busy and to sit and daydream or wonder or imagine is seen as time-wasting, this is a timely reminder that we need to learn to slow down and literally smell the roses.  To focus on one thing and enjoy the process as well as the product.  To focus to finish and enjoy the doing as much as the done.  To make and take the time to enjoy this story that moves along at break-neck speed and think about what it (and Betty) are telling us.  

Time to put the mindfulness techniques into play, breathe and enjoy. 

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Missing Piece

Jordan Stephens

Beth Suzanna

Bloomsbury, 2022

92pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526618139

Sunny loves jigsaw puzzles – the bigger the better. When she completes one, she gets a warm, happy honeybee buzz and it’s a feeling she chases time after time, constantly looking for another puzzle to complete, like a drug addict seeking another fix.  One day, her Gran gives her a ONE-THOUSAND-PIECE puzzle. Piece after piece, all by herself, she puts together the picture, until … DISASTER! The final piece is missing. Sunny may be small, but she is very determined –and when Gran says that the puzzle had been lent to the family next door,  Sunny she sets off to find the missing piece but finds so much more in the meantime. 

Many educators predicted that children returning to school after COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation would face a range of well-being issues from missing the critical socialisation aspects that are the core of the school experience, and principals and teachers around the world are indeed, reporting anxiety, depression and changed behaviours.  Experts, such as those of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have examined the phenomenon and, in conjunction with state education authorities , have identified and put in place a range of strategies to help children relearn the skills and attitudes necessary to cope with getting along with other children in groups that are more than just family members. 

So while this may seem like just another story about a child learning that they are more than they imagined, that their self-worth is not dependent on their being able to excel at one thing, and their self-esteem being shattered if they “fail”,  at this time it could have a vital role to play as we each and all try to support those who have not come through the past three years as resiliently as we would have liked.  Although Sunny’s isolation from her neighbourhood friends is unexplained, it is immaterial – it is her courage to knock on doors to find that vital piece, a goal larger than anything that may have prevented her from reaching out before, that drives her and she is able to rediscover much she had lost.   

While sharing stories such as this is just one part of the healing process, nevertheless it can be helpful particularly if followed by a discussion about why her Gran did what she did, why Sunny might not have seen her friends or been willing to play with them and so on – all addressing individual’s concerns but at arm’s length so no one feels exposed but they can feel comforted and perhaps more confident. 

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarni’s Chance

Paul Collins

Jules Ober

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922696052

When Tarni’s mum says goodbye, all the colour and joy of life seem to go with her. Tarni retreats into her bubble. Her world became smaller and the air seemed thinner. But then Chance steps in . . .

As much as the text in this narrative of family breakdown, self-doubt and anxiety echoes the feelings of loss and loneliness that so many readers will have felt, it is the illustrations that make it so special.  Beginning in deep shades of grey as her parents argue, with the only colour being Tarni and her guitar, her bubble of music, a monochromatic scheme that continues as Tarni comes to grip with her loss, finding solace only in solo activities like drawing and reading, gradually being consumed by the grey of her grief.  Using handmade miniatures set against black and white photography, the reader is drawn deeper into Tarni’s world, but then Tarni spots a stray, ragged dog, seemingly as lost as she is, and there is a ray of hope.  Brief though it is, it shows both the reader and Tarni that there is still a glimmer of colour in the world, and when the dog returns the grey gradually disappears. 

While this is not the first book to use colour to depict mood and emotion in this way, and the use of miniatures and photography was a feature of the 2020 CBCA shortlisted The Good Son, nevertheless it is a powerful representation that those who have passed through the grey of grief will relate to, and those who are still in it will be buoyed by the prospect that colour still exists and step by step they will find it.