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An Artist’s Eyes

An Artist's Eyes

An Artist’s Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Artist’s Eyes

Frances Tosdevin

Clémence Monnet

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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

9780711264830

When Mo looks at the sea, she sees “dazzling duck-egg blue, a swirl of peacocks and the inky indigo of evening” but all Jo sees is blue.  

When Mo looks at the forest, she sees “shiny apple-green, the lime of gooseberries and the springy zinginess of moss” and shadows that make the green go darker.  But all Jo sees is green, making him more and more frustrated because he can’t see what Mo does.  But Mo is patient and gradually Jo begins to use his imagination although instead of seeing the shades and hues that Mo does,  he starts to see something different…

This is a powerful yet gentle story that reminds the reader that two people can look at exactly the same thing and see it differently- that each of us has artist’s eyes that are shaped by our imagination, experience and perceptions and it can take us a while to align them.  Monnet’s watercolour interpretation of Tosdevin’s lyrical text is enchanting and with their shapes, lines and colour choices the reader will view them through Mo’s eyes or Jo’s eyes or their own eyes…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the age where our children are exploring a new independence and making a wider friendship group, they look at those around them and think that being like them is the key to “success:” and they try to change who they are to be like those they admire.  So this familiar message of being comfortable in your own skin, being the unique individual you are, perhaps even being the ‘you’ that others admire and seek to emulate is important and cannot be shared too often.  So this iteration of that truth is not only important but being a completely different interpretation gives it added reach and recognition.  Whether our eyes kiss in the corners or speak to the stars, sees shapes or colours or sparkles, what we see is unique to us and is as valid as what our neighbour sees. 

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

Jarvis

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

 9781406392517

David has flowers in his hair and that’s just fine with all the other kids in the class, particularly his best friend. But when the bright, pretty petals start to fall off and David just has spiky twigs, things changed.  David was quiet, he didn’t want to play and he started to wear a hat. He never wore hats.  And when he took it off and reveled that he was twiggy, spiky and brittle, the other kids didn’t want to play with him either.  Until his best friend had an idea…

This is a touching story about what being a best friend really means – being there when your mate is at their most vulnerable, whether that be through illness or any other hardship that might strike.  The clichéed “thick and thin” that few are fortunate to experience, but when they do it means a lifelong bond that is remembered forever. Even though having flowers growing out of your head might be noticeable in the adult world, it is totally accepted as natural by the children who haven’t yet learned about adult perceptions or prejudices. But whether it’s because they’ve heard parental whispers or it just takes them a while to adjust to David’s new look, their attitudes and behaviour changes when he does, leaving him even more vulnerable than he would have been just dealing with its cause. Thank goodness for his best friend who supports him regardless.

While the story itself deals with David’s hair, which, while being the thing we often notice first about a person yet which is really the easiest thing to change, it could apply to any situation where the child feels isolated or marginalised and so, in the hands of a sensitive adult, it can help little ones share their own stories – perhaps illness, divorce, financial hardship, whatever – while helping to build compassion and empathy amongst their mates as they understand that their friend is still the same inside,  

Sensitively written and illustrated, this is one for the mindfulness collection that deserves to be shared and discussed and valued for its bravery/rarity in touching on a delicate subject in such a tactful way. I could use the other cliché, “Ask me how I know” but all I will say is that I have been David, and hopefully I’ve also been his best friend. 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

Sue Lawson & Sue Hindle

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036144

With pandemic restrictions easing and life returning to a “COVID-19 normal” one of the most concerning things emerging from the lockdowns and limitations is the amount of global research focusing on the impact the time has had on children’s mental health.  And, with RATs and masks in schools bringing the disease to them directly, the anxiety and discomfort is likely to have  even greater consequences.  But while that might be the black cloud of the last two years, the silver lining is the focus that has been placed on the mental and emotional health of our young people – no longer is it just an illness of older people.

According to the experts, one of the greatest tools we can provide youngsters with is resilience -“the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” – and this book, which talks directly to the reader, offers the tools to build this. Beginning with the affirmation that no one else in the world is like you, if offers practical ways to explore emotions and build a toolkit to help with the days when they “feel worried, worn out or just not quite right.” From learning to breathe deeply, tune into their emotions, and creating a place – physical or mental – that is safe and peaceful, the young person is offered ideas that are simple, doable and achievable.  They’re explicitly stated rather than being embedded in a what-would/could-you-do story that needs to be unpacked and have step-by-step instructions from learning to finger-breathe to writing anxieties , fears and feelings on paper and physically ripping them up. 

Mental health is a curriculum focus, even moreso now, and mindfulness part of everyday activities so as well as helping individuals directly, the suggestions could also be a toolkit for teachers to work through with students whenever there is a moment or a need. Sharing stories such as The World Awaits is an essential part of showing children that their feelings are real, shared and validated and this book is the perfect follow-up, empowering them to not only manage their emotions now but building strategies for the future.  

 

Don’t Forget

Don't Forget

Don’t Forget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761040955

Sometimes being a kid can be overwhelming – there are so many things to remember to do, to say, to be… Particularly with all the busyness and chaos in the lives of our children, these days.  

Don’t forget to make your bed, and wear socks that fit your feet.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth, and don’t forget your homework!

In this charming book for young readers, acknowledged in the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notables , little ones are reminded that as well as all that actual stuff, in the whirlwind of the day it is easy to forget the other things that are just as important…

Don’t forget to wonder, to be brave, to share.

Don’t forget to imagine, and to feel the touch of each season

For while we have to do that ordinary, everyday stuff, it is the long-term, intangible things that create memories, build dreams and shape us as we grow.  While celebrating the joy of childhood, Godwin has carefully chosen events that will resonate widely but all the while it is the connections with nature, the  being with and  caring for others that are the most enduring – the things that cause us to wonder, to imagine, to share and to reflect that are both the building blocks and the stepping stones.

Alongside Godwin’s superficially simple text are Anna Walker’s exquisite illustrations which bring both them and the child’s life to life.  The reader becomes part of the neighbourhood, rather than an observer, again reinforcing that connectedness on which families and communities are built. As we move out of such a long period of enforced isolation, books like this which celebrate the simple, that literally remind us to smell the roses, that ground us in the here-and-now rather than the what’s-next and the what-might-be that will help us realise that which really matters.  It’s not about the extravaganza birthday party that was missed but the community street party that was shared by all. 

And for those who want to explore the concepts further, there is a unit of work available through PETAA but for members only.

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Awaits

Tomos Roberts

Nomoco

Farshore, 2021

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

9780008502058

As one little boy lies in bed one morning, not wanting to face the day, it’s up to his older brother to show him the extraordinary potential within him and how even the smallest of his actions will make the world a better place . . .

In the child’s world of the here and now, where it seems that their world has been dominated by restrictions and limits for ever, and even just the regular routine of going to school is a list of must-dos and dont’s, where even they, as littlies, are subjected to an uncomfortable nose-swab test every other day, it is easy to see why the prospect of staying in bed and hiding under the doona is an attractive option.  Without the adult’s ability to see the big picture and know that each day they get up and face is a day closer to the end of this situation, even the child’s natural resilience can be tested and their robust (or not-so) mental health can be chipped away.

But how do you explain to the child who mostly lives in Piaget’s world of the concrete operational stage where they are becoming more aware of the world around them but are straddling the phases of things needing to be real and that of being able to think and act in the abstract, that they have something called potential and that they can make a difference? Cleverly, in this poem, which is a conversation between adult and child,  Roberts breaks this concept down into things the child does understand – the concepts of adding and subtracting to a larger element known as the ‘common good’ and identifying simple everyday things, like ringing a grandparent, that they can do that contribute rather than withdraw.

“In our core is a plus and minus, and they’re eternally at play.

They give us the power to add goodness to the world or to take some good away.” 

As with The Great Realisation, Roberts shows his ability to take himself to the child’s level, to talk to them in language they understand, yet at the same time provide layers of meaning that more mature readers can delve into. So while he talks to the child of making its bed or helping a struggling beetle back on its feet, there are also more oblique references to the global situation –

A little look at human history tells us all we need to know

It’s no surprise the toughest times were when that number got too low.  

As with that first book, throughout this one are the threads of hope, of better times and of the child having the power to make the decisions and take the actions that will improve things for all, not just themselves.

Roberts’ poems have been described as “a manifesto for our time” and with his ability to connect with kids of all ages, he is certainly one whose works need attention and further explanation.  Perhaps exploring this poem with a child in your realm, and offering them a way forward, is your addition to the bucket of common good for today. one that will have a long-term benefit that, as a teacher, you may never see or know.  As important as it is invisible. 

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781529506136

What could a pampered house cat possibly have to complain about?

Just like most cats, this cat lives an extremely comfortable life. But he has his problems, too… The sun spot he’s trying to bathe in just won’t stop moving. The nosy neighbour squirrel just can’t seem to mind its own business. And don’t even get him started on the monster that is the vacuum cleaner! It’s an absolute menace! Will this cat ever find the silver lining? 

The creators of both Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems  have teamed up again with this new story that not only entertains but, like the others, has a subtle sub-text that is just right for these times.  Because while it has been an inside-cat for eight years and longs for a change of scenery, the squirrel has a different perspective on the outdoors and tells the cat so. Instead of being hand-fed in a warm cosy, exclusive setting, it has to share its tree, be out in all weathers and continually forage for its food. So while we might be tired of this pandemic and all its restrictions, there are those in other places who have it much tougher.  The grass is not necessarily greener… And while life, particularly misery and grief, is not a competition it is useful to view things through a different lens at times so we can be grateful for what we have. Even if we can’t get our favourite takeaway chicken right now because of supply chain issues, what would it be like to not even know if and when you are going to have another meal at all?

This a particularly relatable story for our young readers, not only because they have experienced the cat’s frustration of being confined, but because many of them will have their own cats and will have seen the behaviours that John and Smith so clearly articulate in words and pictures. But it might also give pause for thought – even though the preferred option is for cat-owners to keep their pets indoors these days, is that fair on a cat whose origins are wild and whose instincts are to be outdoors?

As with Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems, the reader is once again encouraged to view particular situations through the perspective of others, a skill that helps develop both empathy and compassion while making them more aware of the impact of their own actions on others.  A powerful trilogy in the mindfulness collection. 

 

Scaredy Bath

Scaredy Bath

Scaredy Bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaredy Bath

Zoë Foster-Blake

Daniel Gray-Barnett

Puffin, 2021

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

 9781761043475

For most of the day, Bath spends it times worrying about the coming evening when it hears the sound of feet thumping up the stairs it knows that time of the day is approaching and there is going to be piping hot water, gooey much, toys and then children covered in spaghetti and dirt and smells.  They would  yank the plug, whack the tap, thrash and slide and even wee in the water!!! 

And if that wasn’t enough, then the dog would jump in. But when Bath decided enough was enough and tried to leave, it discovered it was anchored to the floor and couldn’t.  As Sink observed, bath time was here to stay and so Bath might as well try to enjoy it while Toilet pointed put things could be worse… And then, when there is no bath time for a few days, Bath discovers something strange…

As well as being an action-packed story with hilarious illustrations that bring usually taken-for-granted inanimate objects to life,  it is also a story about some things being as they are and unable to be changed so we just have to learn to make the most of them. We can choose to let them overshadow our entire day so we miss being in the moment or we can take a different perspective. Our young students have faced some tricky challenges this year, as have we all, so sharing this story could be an opportunity to take some time out to reflect on what being stuck at home allowed us to achieve, rather than bemoaning what we missed or may still be missing.  While we will have missed some important occasions what do we have to look forward to?  Helping our younger ones understand that some things are what they are and to try to view them from a different perspective helps build resilience and like Bath, they can learn to cope with, if not appreciate, what they have.  After all, does anyone really want to be Toilet?  

 

 

What if … ?

What if … ?

What if … ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if … ?

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820973

Issy’s mind was always very busy. She was always wondering “What if…” and then imagining all sorts of situations that scared her.  She worried about monsters in her cupboard, aliens taking her in the middle of the night, her bedroom floor turning to quicksand and sucking up both her bed and her.

But her wise mother recognises the anxiety her imagination causes and the power of those two little words, and as she tucks Issy into bed she takes her turn at the “What if…”” But instead of scary things, she takes Issy and her imagination on an amazing and humorous trip of people walking on their hands and wearing their undies on their head; of clouds of different colours that smell of fairy floss and popcorn… Then she invites Issy to try and when she takes her mind in a new direction, her anxiety vanishes.

This is another beautiful offering from the pairing that gave us stories like Tree, and the Little Anxious Creatures series as the author draws on her expertise and experience as a clinical psychologist to acknowledge children’s big feelings and then articulates them in a way that both resonated with the child and helps them develop strategies that empower them to deal with them for themselves.  Changing thinking from what if a storm brews, a tree crashes through my window and a vampire bat flies into my bedroom to what if there were hot air balloons that could take me anywhere I wanted to go following a path made by the stars is as powerful as those two words themselves. As Jenkins says, “we are the bosses of our brains” and thus we can choose what we want to think. Lonergan’s illustrations in soft pastel colours are as gentle as the story itself,  and would be the ideal model for little ones to think of their own what if and then illustrate it, thinking of the way colour can portray mood as much as any other element.  A physical reminder to look at whenever their mind starts to wander down dark paths…

There has been much talk about the impact that the last 18-20 months has had on the mental health of our children and so this book, and the others by this couple, are more critical to know about and share than ever.

As well as teachers’ notes, Jenkins shares the story herself.

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526612991

Tilda’s world is just the way she likes it.  She has her toys, books and friends.  But then something happens that turns everything upside down and nothing is the way it was.  Nothing seems to be right and gradually Tilda retreats into herself, into a dark place where she doesn’t want to do or try anything.  What’s the point?  

Toys, books and friends are abandoned and she is swallowed by the darkness.  Until one day she sees a ladybird on its back, struggling to get back on her feet again…

This is another in this series  which includes Perfectly NormanRuby’s Worry,   Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends , that examines the big feelings that are a natural part of a child’s life, feelings that they might not yet be able to articulate and don’t have the strategies to deal with.  It gives the reader some guidance into coping with tricky situations that threaten to overwhelm,  to help them build resilience and embrace a ‘can do’ approach to life. It offers affirmation that everyone has to confront those times when nothing works out quite as they wished, usually because there are factors beyond our control, and that we have to deal with the altered circumstances rather than what we dreamt of.  That even though the clouds may surround us in gloom, they move on to show the sun is still shining and the birds still singing, if we put our brave on and stare them down. 

This is a series that is going to be particularly important in the weeks ahead as children return from weeks of isolation and all the negative feelings and events that that has entailed and emerge to be with friends again, navigating and negotiating the new boundaries -emotional, mental, social and physical – that separation has altered and shaped who we now are. By starting with a story and inviting others to share theirs, little ones can start to understand that their big feelings are normal and can be managed.