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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. 

 

 

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

Terry Pratchett

Corgi Children’s, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780552578929

Rats! They’re everywhere –  in the breadbins, dancing across tabletops, stealing pies from under the cooks’ noses. So, what does every town need? A good piper to lure them away. That’s where Maurice comes in! A streetwise tomcat with the perfect money-making scam.

Everyone has heard the stories about the piper and the rats, and con-cat Maurice finds a stupid-looking kid with a pipe, and has his very own plague of rats – strangely educated rats who are highly intelligent, can speak and have a sense of morality. 

But in Bad Blintz, someone is playing a different tune and now Maurice and his rats must learn a new concept: evil….

While this edition is a tie-in to the movie that is about to be released, the original was the 28th novel in the bestselling Discworld series, a series set on a flat, circular world balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. Typically, the stories are inspired by classic literature, in this case Robert Browning’s, The Pied Piper of Hamelin.  While the series itself is primarily aimed at adults, this one is for children and Pratchett was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal for it. There are twists and turns that older readers are more likely to appreciate so this might be one best shared in conjunction with both Browning’s story and the movie.

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Sarah Banville

Quinton Winter

Wren & Rook, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A45.00

9781526363497

From Cyclops to the Beast of Exmoor, Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster, gold-digging ants to an underwater panther, every culture has its iconic monster – some real and others embedded in literature.  While they are as diverse as the people who have seen them, heard them and told their stories, they all share the ability to send shivers down the spine…

In this fascinating book for older readers, and perfect for sharing in those  fill-in-five, each monster is brought to life with its story told on one page and illustrated in full colour.  Each is thoroughly researched, most arise from the storytelling and superstitions of past generations searching to explain mysteries before science exposed the possibilities.  Nevertheless the stories and beliefs remain and even now there are documentaries and even television series focusing on those who believe and are willing to risk all to show the “truth”. Each is identified as to whether it is myth, folklore or a sighting and the taster inspires further investigation.

And while there are monsters from all over the world featured, neither of Australia’s most familiar – the yowie and the bunyip – is featured, setting up the perfect opportunity for students to create extra entries for those as well as any others that might not have been included, as well as investigating the role that such creatures played in people’s lives. For example, many fairy tales with ‘watered-down” monsters were didactic stories designed to improve children’s behaviour! And even as we approach the festive season, youngsters in some countries are threatened with only receiving lumps of coal, if anything, if they don’t behave.  

This book has lots of potential for all sorts of investigations into the world of myths, legends and folklore. 

 

Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile Back on Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780008555450

“In all the cosmos, this one place in our solar system is where all of the people have lived for the whole time we’ve been people. We have always thought that Earth is so big that it’s best to divide it into smaller bits/ It seems we humans have always fought each other over space.”

And so, taking the well-known quote from Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14 in February 1971, who said, ” From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that…” as inspiration, Oliver Jeffers has created  this intriguing book in which a father takes his two children on a thrilling out-of-this-world adventure into space and invites them to look back at Earth and the conflicts that have taken place since the beginning of time.  

Calculating time using the speed that most people drive at (37mph or 60kph),  he drives the children to the various planets and then takes them back a similar amount of time in Earth’s history to show the conflict that was occurring at the time. So driving to the Moon would take a year and then a left turn would be a 78 year drive to Venus which would take them back to the middle of the 20th century and World War II. Each destination is tied to something catastrophic happening on Earth. 

While this is an interesting way of looking at history, the ultimate futility of conflict and encouraging young readers to strive for peace in the future, the concept is quite abstract, almost esoteric and thus more suited to older readers who have the maturity and ability to look at things from beyond their realm of personal experience. Although the text appears simple, and Jeffers has added some wit to lighten the load, and a timeline on the endpapers encapsulates both the time and space aspects of the journey, this is one best shared in a situation where discussion and clarification can take place. 

 

Mia

Mia

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia

Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Dianne Wolfer

A & U Children’s, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760877026

It is 2019 and 13-year-old Mia lives on a bush block in the Pilbara, where she assists her mother’s work as a vet and equine therapist. Although she is used to the seasonal cyclones that threaten the West Australian coast, nothing can prepare her for the ferocity of Cyclone Veronica when she finds herself home alone and needing to protect their property and the animals she loves. She is used to cyclone build-ups, but the noise and energy of the wild rain squalls keep her awake half the night. What if the cyclone hits before Mum gets back? As wild winds batter the coast, Mia knows she must keep calm. The animals need her but when her friend Nick arrives, pleading for help, and her favourite horse is injured, will Mia be able to withstand the greatest challenge of her life? As the storm intensifies, can she save her beloved animals? 

This is the latest in this series that offers fictionalised accounts of world events that help our older, independent readers not only understand what happened but allows them to process it.  By giving each story a central character such as Lyla who endured the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the story becomes one of courage, resilience and hope rather than an historical recount with meaningless facts and figures. It offers the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  

Like its predecessors, Mia  is a well-written, well-researched blend of imagination and information that above all, tells a story of one girl’s experience and shows that it is OK to be scared and fearful, but that natural human resilience can prevail.  But because it will resonate with many in one way or another , if you have a system that places trigger warnings in your books, this may be one to consider.  There could also be an argument that in this time of such extensive flooding and loss, this is not the time for such a book but it might be the vehicle that offers the light at the end of the tunnel for those enduring such hardship to strive for. 

While we would all like to protect our kids from the disasters of modern times, natural or otherwise, that can be an impossible task as the world now comes to them in the palm of their hands, but stories like this can offer insight, understanding and a feeling that they too, can come through the other side – often shaped by it but also more resilient and courageous because of it. 

E-Boy (series)

E-Boy (series)

E-Boy (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E-Boy (series)

Anh Do

Chris Wahl, Tim McEwen

Allen & Unwin, 2020-2022

200+ pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

 

Ethan is supposed to be doing regular teenage things – like playing sports and hanging out with friends.
He is not supposed to be in hospital getting a brain tumour removed by Gemini, a high-tech android doctor. But just as the operation begins, the medical facility is hit by an unusual bolt of lightning …

When Ethan wakes up he discovers that things are different. He’s always been good with computers, but now his skills are next-level. Ethan almost feels like he’s … part of the machine because now he has powers to hack into any electronic device.. And what about the android Gemini? If Ethan is now part robot, does that make the robot part human?  It seems so,  and the government wants him to themselves to try to catch Ethan because they fear what these powers might mean for their security. And so Gemini is now in pursuit of Ethan but what is his purpose if he catches him?

Ethan will need all his new skills just to stay alive… but just because he can hack into computers, should he actually do so?  Anh Do sets up an ethical dilemma that the reader has to grapple with. 

This is an interesting series because while its hero is a teenager, its format is more like that for those who are newly independent readers, including plenty of illustrations, so it is perfect for those older boys who are looking for something age-appropriate but still needing that support.  It also means they can be seen reading a book by one of the most popular authors at the moment, so that is also important for their self-esteem. Added to that, within this story are references to some of Do’s other series including Skydragon, and Rise of the Mythix  so it might just open up other reading horizons for them.  

So far, there are four in the series and they are best read in order so there is continuity of both plot and characters, but the early episodes are still readily available if this is not yet in your collection. 

No Boundaries

No Boundaries

No Boundaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Boundaries

Clare Fiseler

Gabby Salazar

National Geographic Kids 2022

160pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781426371769

As we bid farewell to National Science Week and say hello to Children’s Book Week with its theme of “Dreaming with Eyes Open”, this collection of the stories of 25 female National Geographic explorers and scientists revealing their greatest successes, most epic failures, and astonishing adventures seems particularly appropriate to review on the cusp of these two celebrations in our schools.

This anthology celebrates lesser-known changemakers and outstanding women of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, and fields of study who are just beginning to make a name for themselves. Each profile is based on first-person interviews and comes paired with useful tips and relatable advice for budding explorers and scientists.  Each has a text box called Inspiration Station in which the scientist offers advice for those who already have the dream, while inspiring those who may be doubtful to chase their own dreams. Stunning photography and fascinating general interest information about the animals, places, and practices add drama and context.

Readers can track a volcanologist as she braves the elements atop an active volcano; travel alongside a mountaineer as she battles stereotypes and frostbite to conquer the famed Seven Summits;  join a conservationist on her passionate fight to save lions and dig with a paleontologist to uncover massive dinosaur fossils, bit by breathtaking bit, as well as a host of other women forging new paths in careers possibly unheard of. These heartfelt stories give readers an insider’s look at the amazing work female explorers at National Geographic and beyond are doing in the field to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

No Boundaries sends a positive message to every girl who has ever dreamed or dared to go a little further. And although these explorers’ endeavours are quite adventurous, the lessons they share can inspire all girls, as well as boys, whatever their goals, skills, and interests, to dream with their eyes open.

 

Against All Odds

Against All Odds

Against All Odds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Against All Odds

Craig Challen & Richard Harris

Ellis Henican

Puffin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143778202

In June 2018, for seventeen days, the world watched and held its breath as the Wild Boars soccer team were trapped deep in a cave in Thailand. Marooned beyond flooded cave passages after unexpected rains, they were finally rescued, one-by-one, against almost impossible odds, by an international cave-diving team that included Australians Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris and Dr Craig Challen.

In this young readers’ edition, specially edited and condensed for a younger audience and including new maps and diagrams explaining the rescue, as well as photographs, a timeline and glossary, the story of the remarkable rescue is recounted by those two doctors. 

And while it is a fascinating tale with their first-hand accounts filling in the gaps that could not be shown on the nightly news, and which will give added understanding to the new movie Thirteen Lives coming to Netflix, for me the key messages for our students lie in the personal introductions from both doctors…

In a year when the CBCA Book week theme is Dreaming With Eyes Open, Dr Craig says, “This is the worst thing you can do, putting limits on yourself before you have even tried for no reason other than the fear of the unknown …  slowly I built knowledge and expertise until one day I realised that the limits I had previously believed in were not really there at all, I was able to do so much more and go much further than I knew… And every challenge pursued, whether successful or not, builds our capability and strength as adventurers.”

While Dr Harry declares, after being described as a unicorn because of the “rare and improbable combination of skills I brought to the rescue” that, “I came to realise that every one of us is a unicorn. Every one of us has a unique combination of skills and characteristics, and hopefully there is a custom-made place in life for all of us.” 

They both believe that the boys coped in the cave because “they were country kids, They grew up in a tough environment, Several of them knew what it meant to be stateless, When you grow up doing hard things, you are ready for the challenges of life when they come.” This was a message echoed in Dr Harry’s accepted speech when he and Dr Craig were awarded joint Australians of the Year in 2019. 

“I do fear for kids today who, living in a risk-averse society, will not learn to challenge themselves and to earn the grazed knee and stubbed toes that really are necessary to build resilience and confidence, …Kids do need to be kids and they need to be allowed to find their own boundaries and to test their own limits… Parents [need] to let them have a little rope to do that.”

While so many of us waited for news during those 17 days as what began as a two line news filler about a soccer team trapped in a cave in remote Thailand became a global focus and then our lives moved on; and while for those involved there were debriefs and examinations for the lessons to be learned for the future, the enduring message is that of the doctors and young readers should be inspired.  A legacy indeed. 

Pirate Queens

Pirate Queens

Pirate Queens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Queens

Leigh Lewis

Sara Gomez Woolley

NatGeo Kids, 2022

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

9781426371950

In 1995, September 19 each year was proclaimed International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Created as a bit of fun by two friends in the US, in Australia, at least, it has become a major fundraiser for Childhood Cancer Support with schools getting involved in a range of ways to support students and friends.  According to the Cancer Council, it is estimated that, on average, about 750 children aged 0-14 are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia with leukaemia accounting for about 33% of cases, and brain cancers, 25% so it is likely that a school will be supporting a student through this –  if not yours, then nearby.

Thus, what might have been a frivolous suggestion more than 25 years ago, can now have a significant impact on those we know and this new book from NatGeo Kids can provide an opportunity to investigate the lives of some of the women who were just as fearsome as the more well-known males such as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Captain Hook or even Jack Sparrow.  As is often the case with history, the past is viewed through a male lens because men were viewed as the gender capable of writing and reading, they became the scholars, and thus wrote the history books which were mostly written to please kings , generals or male politicians and so only portrayed the male perspective.  

Thus, even though there have been female pirates since the dawn of piracy, including Ching Shih (aka Zheng Yi Sao)  who tormented the South China Sea with her fleet of 70,000 raiders in the early 19th century, our children have grown up with male-dominated images and stereotypes.

Easy to read with lots of detailed illustrations, the author has trolled the few resources that do still exist and this collection of six stories of powerful female pirates who forged their own path is but a small part of the stories of other women whose stories have been lost or forgotten. Spanning the Caribbean, the Irish and North Seas, the Mediterranean and even the Pacific, this is a fascinating look into the lives of these women that had me more intrigued that I imagined and immediately I could see its place in a serious study of these seafarers who not only captivate young readers in folklore and fiction but who also were real and shaped history so that International Talk Like a Pirate Day could have a legitimate place in the curriculum and thus, its associated fund-raising boosted.

Older students might investigate the qualities of leaders and leadership and whether rule by fear is the most successful way, while perhaps the next pirate a younger child draws might even be female!

 

Where?

Where?

Where?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Jordan Collins

Phil Lesnie

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526382

‘Where are you from?’ they say.
What they mean is,
‘Why is your skin that colour?’
‘Why does your hair look like that?’

I am from the mountains,
The seas and the sky.
I am from children of millions of years,
A timeline of humanity.
I am from this planet
And all others.

Being  African-American-Greek-Australian with  dark skin and curly hair, the author wrote this poem in response to a lifetime of being asked questions like, ‘where are you from?’ in an attempt to show, that, ultimately, we are all from the same place … “the primate who decided to walk upon two legs for the first time” and all those who have followed through time and generations. 

Powerfully illustrated by another who has also experienced that constant questioning, this is a book to challenge the reader’s thinking to look beyond the immediate physical appearance that makes us unique and consider all that has gone before to make us the same.  It is an opportunity for more mature readers to step beyond the multitude of stories that focus on who they are as individuals and the importance of being true to oneself, and look at a bigger philosophical picture of humanity as a whole with a shared heritage and history.