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The Sea in Me

The Sea in Me

The Sea in Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sea in Me

Cody Simpson with Jess Black

Amandine Thomas

Puffin, 2024

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

9781761049965

A hot summer’s day and everyone seems to have had the same idea – to go to the beach. Rows of beach tents block the breeze, the jingle of the ice cream van is on repeat, the towels are so close they are touching and even the seagulls are grumpy as they squabble over spilled chips.  The sights and sounds are so overpowering and overwhelming that there is just one solution – to go for a swim , dive deep below the waves and relax…

The sounds from above are hazy and lost to me.
I can only hear my heartbeat, slow and steady.

Far below the hubbub above, there is peace and quiet and the sea creatures go about their lives as they have always done in a slow, repetitive rhythm that soothes jangled nerves and calms the soul in a magical way.

Sometimes, whether it is a physical experience like being at an overcrowded beach, or just embroiled in life itself, we will all feel that it is all too much and we just need to get away, to find solace in silence and stillness, to go to where the only sound is the inner voice in your head and listen to it.  And with today’s busy, frenetic lifestyle and all the outside noise imposing itself even on our youngest, this is a wonderful allegory to share to help them find that inner peace, whether that be under the waves or high in a tree or perched on a rock or snuggled under the blankets.  We all have a “sea” that is our sanctuary. 

Cody Simpson is a name that will be familiar to many – as a musician, aspiring Olympian and now writer he is well-qualified to write about the outside noise and pressures on his life.  Listening to an interview with Giaan Rooney immediately after just failing to make the Olympic team to go to Paris, this book could not have a more timely release.  He spoke of a time when he had to shut down all the distractions and listen to the voice of 12-year-old Cody telling him that he was a talented swimmer at that early age and had the potential to go far, and it was up to him to realise it.  The most powerful message though, comes from the ending – even though he didn’t achieve his ultimate goal, he gave it his all and he wasn’t going to go through life wondering “What if…” But it was that initial act of actively seeking that solitude and seclusion that allowed him to hear that voice that sparked the dream that was so critical.

So whether this book is just used as a peek at what is underneath the waves, or as part of a mindfulness program that encourages students to look deep within to find their “sea” and what it is telling them, it has a place for a wide audience and a message that goes far beyond the celebrity’s name on the cover.  Even if not as an Olympian or a musician, Simpson has offered himself as a role model of an entirely different sort. 

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine a Time

Penny Harrison

Jennifer Goldsmith

New Frontier, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922326966

Remember the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty about a princess who at her christening, was cursed by an evil fairy who hadn’t been invited? She would prick her finger when she was older and died, but this was mitigated by another fairy to sleeping for a hundred years before being awakened by a handsome prince.  And while she slept, so did everything around her except for Mother Nature and the land around the palace was once more returned to its natural beauty.

Its origins are unclear but there are elements of it in a number of European stories from medieval times, all with that theme of everything stopping and Mother Nature reclaiming what is hers.  Although this new release doesn’t have the elements of the princess being awakened by the handsome prince, it does invite the reader to imagine time stopping, all travel and transport halted and people slowing down to just breathe and be in the moment.  

Imagine a time when all the world stops,
when all of the clocks no longer tick-tock.
and all of the maps are starting to fade,
as the need to be somewhere drifts far away.

While no one falls asleep for 100 years, they do take the time to let go of all that drives them forward incessantly to the next thing as if the current time is not enough or of no consequence, and soak in what is available for free if only they had time to see and appreciate it.

With a gentle, rhythmic rhyming text that encourages a slowing of the mind and delicate watercolour images, this is one that should be shared regularly as we encourage our young children to listen to the sounds of night falling, or watch the clouds make magical shapes, or wonder at the beauty of the colours around them. or… 

Living where I do I am blessed to be surrounded by Mother Nature at her finest but what about the city kids who seemed to live a life of such hustle and bustle that there is no time to stop and dream and wonder?  It’s a theme that has been addressed before in stories like The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts, In My Garden by Kate Mayes, and The Concrete Garden by Bob Graham, among others, but it is clearly one that needs to be returned to often.  The clocks don’t have to stop for ever, not even for an hour, but what about taking five minutes outside right now just to fill the senses and daydream.  The feeling of calm will last a lot longer.

Everyone Starts Small

Everyone Starts Small

Everyone Starts Small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Starts Small

Liz Garton Scanlon

Dominique Ramsey

Candlewick Press, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536226157

Sun grows beams
and Grass grows blades
and Cloud cannot contain herself.

Spring rains change Water from a tumbling creek to a roaring river and bring Tree nutrients it needs to stretch toward the sky. As Sun’s rays intensify, the sprouts and fruits and insects of the forest grow and bloom and develop, all working together in harmony. Even Fire, whose work causes Tree to ache from the inside, brings opportunity for the next generation of flora and fauna. This poetic tribute to our planet’s resilience, accompanied by its striking illustrations is a resonant story of life, death, and regeneration and demonstrates to young readers the interdependence of the elements of Nature and how without one, or too much of one, our planet cannot survive, let alone thrive.

It echoes the old Aesop fable of The North Wind and the Sun although the theme of this is not competition but the symbiosis of the elements, despite Tree warning that “it is not a race”.  As well as building a greater awareness of the world around them, it introduces young readers to the concept of life cycles and possibly sparking investigations of the connections between creatures and their habitats and what they can do to help such as making a bee motel.

For those more mature readers, the personification could be a metaphor for their own lives, a reassurance that despite all they might experience as they grow and mature into independence, like Tree, they have the resilience and wherewithal to cope with whatever they encounter no matter how bleak the immediate future might seem.  Despite the devastation of Fire and the harshness of Winter, following the devastation, the Earth renews itself, and new lives arise again, rife with fabulous potential – just as they can. 

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin the Sheep

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781761048951

Shaun, Shauna, Sheryl and Shane are sheep – and are as predictable in their sheepish behaviour as the alliteration of their names.  Along with the rest of the flock, they are happy doing the same things over and over day after day in their fields of green grass and clover.

But Kevin is different.  To start with, he’s allergic to grass and would much prefer a bowl of soup (sprinkled with chives) and instead of subjecting himself to the regular shearing, he prefers to keep his locks long, and have painted purple hooves!  And if that’s not enough, he’s into drama and dance, is learning to knit (from a Ewe-Tube video), and is mastering kung fu, among other things. Sadly for Kevin, the other sheep don’t approve and ostracise him, make him feel like an outcast and he gets sadder and sadder.  Until one night…

There are many stories for young readers about being yourself, embracing the things that make you unique and standing up to those who would prefer you to be one of the flock, but few that I have read have been as LOL funny as this one, and as appealing.  Living as I do in sheep country, sheep behaviour is a common sight and both the author and the illustrator have captured that brilliantly. A paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep… So to have a Kevin to rock the flock is a masterpiece, particularly as his differences span all sorts of attributes from physical appearance to food allergies to sporting prowess to hobby choices… No matter how a little one in your realm stands out from the crowd, they will be able to relate to Kevin and draw strength from his determination to accept his differences (even though it takes some sleepless nights to understand that he has the inner strength to do so) so that they, too, can revel in who they are, what they look like and what they can do. 

Teachers’ notes include some pages to colour that could become the centrepiece of the reader’s own story or they might even like to use Kate Scott’s illustrations as a model to draw Kevin doing what they like to do most, then making up their own story to go with that. 

Definitely one for both the home and school library.

 

Elephants Can’t Jump

Elephants Can't Jump

Elephants Can’t Jump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephants Can’t Jump

Venita Dimos

Natasha Curtin

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760656140

All the animals have had fun at Mini the elephant’s birthday and now it is time to open the presents.  She deliberately saved opening her best friend Mila’s present until last because Milo always gave the best presents and this one, wrapped in her favourite shade of pink was very big and bulky.  

But she was SO disappointed when she opened it because it was a trampoline  and while all the others could have fun, Milo should have known the elephants can’t jump!  So what use was the present to her?  And she was so angry with Milo she stopped talking to him.  And she got angrier and angrier as Milo suggested other games like hopscotch and hide-and-seek that were no fun for elephants, and so she decided to have nothing to do with Milo, even running away from him.  The final straw came when she went to Milo’s place on Friday afternoon (because Milo always had the most scrumptious food) and all her other friends were having fun on a jumping castle. Will the two ever resolve their differences and be friends again? 

The tag on this book is “Big Skills for Mini People” and it is a series written for our youngest readers to not only help them manage their emotions but help them navigate their way through relationships as they venture into the world of friendships beyond family and have to learn about competitiveness, managing inner voices, learning to listen, and communicating effectively. Learning to negotiate, compromise and consider others as they emerge from that egocentric world of toddlerhood can be tricky and so books like these, read with sensitive adults who can ask questions like “What could Mini have done instead of getting angry?” can help develop skills and strategies that will provide well for the future.  

One for the mindfulness collection that will help young people learning about the issues associated with assuming things.

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Fog Rolls In

Pam Fong

Greenwillow, 2024

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

9780063136540

On a clear day, when the sea and the horizon stretch endlessly around, the flock of puffins takes flight from their rocky island home – except for one, who is a little tentative and anxious.  But, when he has the courage to follow his mates, the fog rolls in and things become murkier and murkier until it is so thick, he stumbles and can’t find his way forward.  Perhaps it would be safer to stay just where he is, but when a walrus looms in front of him, he realises that that can be dangerous.  And so, he summons his brave that let him leave his home in the first place, and goes forward learning that “the closer you get, the more you see. And the more you see, the clearer the path becomes.” And eventually, the fog lifts and the world and the horizons spread in front of you again.

On the surface this is a story about a little puffin separated from his flack, lost, afraid and bewildered until he finds them again, but it has been deliberately written as an allegory for helping young ones navigate uncertainty, open their minds and finding their way back to a place of safety and certainty. It helps them understand that, at times, we all face feeling lost and unsure, having to make decisions and having faith that what we decide will lead us to clarity.  

While there are lots of stories that celebrate being happy and positive, and others that deal with anger and sadness, there are few that confront confusion and uneasiness in such a way that makes it easy to start conversations and explore those emotions so that the child not only understands that there can be a pathway through without becoming too anxious, but others feel the same way at times.

An exceptional addition to your mindfulness collection for little ones, while useful for teaching older students about allegories and learning to read between and beyond the lines to what the author is really saying – an essential skill in being a critical reader.   

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nova’s Missing Masterpiece

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2024

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

9781922539373

Nova has created a special portrait of her dad to give to him at his birthday celebration this evening.  But now she can’t find it anywhere!  She searches and searches in every place she can think of but the missing masterpiece is nowhere to be found.  The more frustrated that Nova gets, the more frantic the search but despite this all the while her little dog Harley seems unperturbed. And gradually Nova starts to notice some of his behaviours – breathing in long and slow, having a drink – and gradually she calms down enough to keep searching as she tries the same things. But will she find the picture in time for the party?

We all know the anxiety and frustration of not being able to find something that we really need; the searching in the most unlikely places in case it may miraculously appear and as we get older we are more able to self-calm and think more clearly.  But for children of Nova’s age that is a skill yet to be learnt so this is a great story to help start teaching it.  Every child will have their own story to tell so a group discussion of strategies like breathing, like taking a few minutes, like doing something else can be the beginning of helping children learn to take a step back, relax and think.

But even without extracting this theme from the story, this is just a good read that will resonate with many. 

 

Beach Song

Beach Song

Beach Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Song

Ros Moriarty

Samantha Campbell

A&U Children’s, 2024

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

9781761180248

A day at the seashore can be full of surprise, wonder and excitement.

Leap through the waves like a dolphin.
Glide through the water like a fish.
Soar along the sand with the seagulls.
What will you do when you go to the beach?
So many students will be reflecting on their recent holidays, perhaps even writing about them, and for many that will include a stay at the beach.  So sharing this lyrical journey of the writer’s day at the beach, moving like the lizard moves, burrowing like the crab burrows, blowing like the whale blows… can serve as an inspiration both for their memories and their writing.  Often recounts of times gone by are little more than “and then” stories, but to see how both author and illustrator have used words and pictures to celebrate the joy of being at the beach can only stimulate their creativity as they think about what they really saw. MAybe even inspire them to look at the beach with fresh eyes next time as they take time to be in the moment.

 

Peggy and Molly

Peggy and Molly

Peggy and Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peggy and Molly

Juliette Wells

Ebury Australia, 2023

128pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781761344503

In September 2020 Molly the magpie fledgling was rescued by Peggy the Staffordshire terrier’s owners and nursed back to health, and the two creatures formed a bond that made them inseparable. There was a surprise when Molly eventually revealed that he was a male, but nevertheless, he was a family member and when Peggy had pups he formed just as close a bon with Ruby, the only female in the litter. 

This little book, full of photographs of the trio, celebrates their connections and is captioned to encourage the reader to be “kind, humble and happy”.

There is a little more about their story on their webpage, with regular updates for those who have access to Facebook, including a video of Molly barking just like her friends.

 

Just Because

Just Because

Just Because

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Because

Matthew McConaughey

Renée Kurilla

Puffin, 2023

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

9781761343582

Just because I’m in the race,
doesn’t mean I’m fully ready.
Just because I’m shaking,
doesn’t mean that I’m not steady.

Using a series of rhyming couplets accompanying compelling vignettes, this new book could be your mindfulness program for the term as it explores “the contradictions and complexities that exist in each of us” as we try to navigate what we believe and  what we confront, what we expect and what we experience. By focusing on each situation and unpacking it, young readers begin to understand that their world is not black and white, that there are those fifty shades of grey and there are layers to both their feelings and their relationships as they learn about finding common ground and compromise without betraying their own beliefs and needs. 

“Just because I forgive you, doesn’t mean that I still trust.

There’s what you do, there’s what I do, and yours is not my must.”

As our little ones mature, they are able to move beyond their hands-on, here-and-now view of the world and begin to think on a more abstract level where they can see things from the perspective or others, understand cause and effect, consider what-ifs and maybes, be more flexible and able to delve into underlying meanings. This book offers a wide range of readily recognisable situations that offer lots of opportunities to discuss what the words mean and what the child might do in a similar situation as well as beginning to understand metaphorical language. For example, Just because they threw the dart doesn’t mean it stuck not only lends itself to considering when we should take notice of criticism but also whether a dart was physically thrown.  

There are many books that are released with a celebrity’s name on the front cover automatically giving them publicity but then the hype doesn’t live up to the reality, but this one deserves all it gets.  Whether it’s in a family library or the teacher’s toolkit to pull out at opportune moments, it provides possibilities for all sorts of learning as we guide our little ones to be the sorts of adults we want them to be.