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Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Alice Pung

Sher Rill Ng

Working Title Press, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922033932

All through the day, no matter where he is or what he is doing, Xiao Xin’s family is warning him to be careful.  Even the most common things that children do like climbing on the monkey net come with warnings and commands not to do it. If ever an example of helicopter parenting were needed, this is it. 

But rather than feeling loved and protected, Xiao Xin feels stifled. 

They don’t understand what I can do!

They don’t understand what I can be!

For he dreams with his eyes wide open and sees himself as a Red Fire Warrior capable of doing “infinite things”. But more than that, he also sees how this constant care and concern is limiting him and his little sister.

So, when one day Xiao Xin leaves the house to prove he can be independent and safe,  and doesn’t tell anyone, panic sets in, until…

Children are often the most-longed for gift, and certainly the most precious, and so it is understandable that parents want to protect them, but this deeply-layered story with its stunning illustrations which add another dimension in themselves, demonstrates that just as our children grow up, so must we and we must be willing to let them become the confident, competent, independent adults they need to be. 

Written in both English and Mandarin (itself another layer of complexity), it is one that straddles all age groups as the child who hears it may well relate to Xiao Xin’s situation and the parent who reads it might also reflect on how their protectiveness and expectations might be stunting the child’s growth.  I was reminded of a vignette in a recent episode of Old People’s Home for Teenagers in which a young girl who, because of parental expectations, worked hard to excel academically stumbled when presented with a problem that could not be solved by the technology in her hand.  Reading a print street directory was too much of a challenge, but more concerning was her response to not being able to do so.  There is a fine line and Xiao Xin not only pushes it but has the courage to cross it!

Watch for this one in awards season! 

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing with Memories

Sally Yule, Maggie Beer & Prof. Ralph Martins 

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342578

I am Lucy and I dance with memories.
Sometimes I remember.
Sometimes I forget.
Sometimes I remember that I forget.
Sometimes I forget that I remember…
My doctor says I have dementia.
I wish I didn’t but I do.
‘Your brain has changed’, she says, ‘but you are still Lucy.’
She knows that I have a brain AND a heart.

Sometimes Lucy remembers that she forgets, and sometimes she forgets that she remembers. But even if her memory plays tricks, she still has all the love in her heart for the people and activities she has always enjoyed.  On this particularly important day, the day of her granddaughter’s wedding, she is determined to get to the wedding on her own even though her daughter has left her a note telling Lucy she will pick her up.  But things go a little astray and she ends up lost….

As grandparents and great-grandparents live longer, more and more of our students are coming into contact with those with dementia and so this is an important book to have on hand to help them understand and cope with the condition. The author, Sally Yule, has been working with people with dementia, including her own parents, for over 30 years and as she says, her main purpose was to help children “learn the role they can play supporting people living with dementia in their family or community.”  Lucy’s story and the lively illustrations which accompany it demonstrate that there is still plenty of love and joy in a patient’s  life even if the memory is muddled, and that the person deserves the same respect and dignity as well as being able to continue to do the things they can for themselves, regardless.  

As well as the story itself, Professor Ralph Martins, Foundation Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University WA, and Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University NSW has contributed a Q & A that helps anyone understand the disease. In my opinion, the core message of this story is summed up in this one paragraph…

Q. Is someone with dementia still the same person on the inside, even though they act differently on the outside?

A. Yes, they are definitely the same person inside.  They can feel so much, even if they cannot tell you about it…

While there is not yet a cure for dementia, scientists are working towards discovering its cause, and, as with many diseases, a healthy diet is always a good start so Maggie Beer’s recipes for healthy lunchboxes that could be shared between child and patient add another dimension and there are some simple teachers’ notes that can offer suggestions for supporting those we know who are living with the illness. 

There is more and more evidence that intergenerational relationships offer so much to all involved, and this is yet another essential addition to the collection to not only promote this but encourage them. 

 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733341632

Miimi Marraal, she created us,
you and me …

Using a palette as soft and gentle as the accompanying text,  Gumbaynggir storyteller, artist and designer Melissa Greenwood, has created an ode between mother and newborn that tells the baby of the deep connections of First Nations Peoples have to Miimi Marraal (Mother Earth) from the moment of conception. While it is a story that echoes the feeling between any mother and newborn. it is expressed in a way that shows the long, strong threads of family that reach far into the past of First Nations families and, indeed, Greenwood says it was “channelled through my beautiful Nanny” and “inspired by my late great grandmother… and my own beautiful mother”, thus spanning five generations into “this life we will weave”. And, as well as that strong female thread, there is another equally strong one that ties them to the land on which they live and the need for its protection, thus from birth the baby is learning about their cultural heritage and tradition that is so important to our First Nations peoples..

Children learn their mother ;language, whatever it is, through listening to it.  They learn its meaning, its rhythm, its expression, its nuances from the first words that they hear. So while the baby may not yet understand the words that its mother is sharing, there is much that they are absorbing during these personal, precious moments. Therefore, these sort of lullabies have a unique place in language learning and should not only be among the gifts given to any new mother but also be the first in the baby’s library. 

 

A Blue Kind of Day

A Blue Kind of Day

A Blue Kind of Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blue Kind of Day

Rachel Tomlinson

Tori-Jay Morley

Puffin, 2022

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

 9781761046384

Coen is having a blue day.  Not one where all he wants is his blue clothes, blue food and blue toys.  But s slumping, sniffling, sighing, sobbing kind of day. A day where the only safe place to be is curled up in a blanket cocoon and so that’s what he does.

His family thinks they know how to cheer him up. His dad wants to go outside and play,  his mum tells her funniest joke, and his little sister shares her favourite teddy. Nothing helps. But one by one, they quieten and begin to listen. After some time, space, and reassurance, Coen is able to show them what he needs. And being aware, smart parents they give it to him…

Childhood depression is more and more on the radar and particularly following the enforced isolation of the last two years, so this is a timely book that helps parents understand that this is something more than just feeling sad and disappointed that can be shaken off with distraction. Tomlinson, a registered psychologist, follows the story with notes about how to alert parents to the condition, that  it has physiological symptoms and how they can support their child through an episode. In her dedication, Tomlinson says, “To all the children finding their way through big feelings: I see you. You’ve got this.”  And often, just that acknowledgement for the child’s feelings is enough and that like Coen, they begin to believe that they will come through to the other side and tomorrow will be brighter. To know that you know and you have faith in their ability to cope and continue is a huge step in the healing process.

 Sometimes we suggest parents casually leave a particular book lying around in the hope that their child will read it – this is one that the child might like to leave out for the parent.  

 

Boss of Your Own Body

Boss of Your Own Body

Boss of Your Own Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boss of Your Own Body

Byll & Beth Stephen

Simon Howe

ABC Books, 2021

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733341724

You’re not the boss of many things
because you’re little and still learning.
You’re not the boss of anyone else,
you’ve got to let them be themselves.

But you ARE the boss of one thing …

How often have you heard a little one say, “You’re not the boss of me” as they try to exert some power over a situation?  From birth it is instinctive that we feel in control but as a young child, there are few circumstances  that we do have the  power  to make the decisions.  In this book, based on a song from Teeny Tiny Stevies, sisters who “make content for children filled with cheerful folk-pop tunes covering topics that explore important social messages in a fun and relatable manner.” young children are encouraged to understand that while they are not in charge of many everyday situations, they are in charge of their own bodies.  They decide how fast they can run, whether they do a handstand, join a game  or hold a grown-up’s hand.

As a teacher of 50+ years, I’ve attended many staff meetings and other PL but I always remember one particular meeting in 1989 when we were presented with the appalling statistics relating to child abuse including that based on these, there had to be kids within our school, indeed our classes, who were suffering and school had to be both their sanctuary and their saviour.  It came as mandatory reporting laws  became some of the first introduced after the ACT was granted self-government and for many, eyes were opened as we learned the facts and figures and what we could and must do about any instances we became aware of.  In many ways it was a turning point for the teaching profession as suddenly our role legally embraced the pastoral care of our students as well as their academic development.  Programs like Protective Behaviours were introduced (who remembers Try Again, Little Red Riding Hood?)  and we tried to negotiate both teaching the children how to protect themselves and the minefield that was the legal obligations we now had, particularly as children now had both a pathway and a voice so they felt it was safe and worthwhile to disclose.

And while organisations like A Mighty Girl have produced booklists that focus on abuse and violence , only a handful are for primary-aged students  and even fewer for preschool.  So this book fills a gap in what is available to our young readers, sadly having to teach them something they shouldn’t really have to learn.  Even though its words only touch lightly on the possibility of intimate abuse – “You see, you can give your uncle a kiss and you can decide to snuggle like this” – it is that repeated message that the child can choose that is the critical and powerful one. Unlike the animated version which features cartoon creatures, Simon Howe has chosen to interpret this with illustrations of children from diverse backgrounds so even the youngest child can relate to the words and the message.  This is something written just for them.

Ugly, sad and necessary though it may be that we have to teach our littlies this message which will eventually build into the No Means No campaign is a vital one so to have such a sensitive but appealing text to add to the armoury is very welcome.

 

&

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.

 

Let’s Get Ready for School

Let’s Get Ready for School

Let’s Get Ready for School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Get Ready for School

Jane Porter

Carolina Rabei

Walker, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781529502343

It’s time to go to big school but what will it be like?  How will the day be filled?  What are the expectations?

Using a double-page spread for topics such as getting ready, how to get there, what will happen and even why we go to school, this book follows six children as they begin this new adventure in their lives. The text speaks directly to the child and there are plenty of illustrations to help them imagine this new adventure they are about to embrace.

Even though it is an English production, both the anxiety that children feel and the activities of the new entrants’ classroom are universal and so this translates to the Australian situation well, including a page for the children to talk about the concerns they have..  

With big school getting larger on the horizon for our little ones but visits to those early childhood classes limited in some states, this is an opportunity for parents to start preparing their child for what can be expected and if there are online orientations, for classroom teacher to use it as a way to guide their viewers through the first days.  They might not be able to show their own classes in action but this is a suitable substitute. 

Frankie Goes to Kindergarten

Frankie Goes to Kindergarten

Frankie Goes to Kindergarten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie Goes to Kindergarten

Peta Baxter & Connie Hemmens

Marjorie Gardner

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804683

It’s an exciting day for Frankie – it’s his day for kindergarten.  But Frankie isn’t a timid, shy child about to take his first step on a new adventure – he’s a dog who goes with his owner, the Kindy teacher, to join in all the fun of meeting up with friends, playing inside and out, visiting the pets. listening to stories, having lunch and quiet time and learning all sorts of new things.  His mate George the cat would like to go too but he is deemed too little, so he hops in a box…

Written by two experienced kindergarten teachers based on their own kindy – Frankie belongs to Miss Peta – this is a joyful introduction to the kindy/preschool day that will be a new adventure for many of our littlest readers very soon. Many of them will experience trepidation rather than anticipation so this story with its bright, bold illustrations will be excellent for helping to prepare them and pave the way.  Even though there might not be a Frankie (or a cheeky George) to join them, nevertheless all the activities will be there awaiting them as will the welcoming teachers and lots of new friends to play with.  

With lockdown and restrictions, preventing many of the face-to-face orientations that usually start about this time, so this would be the ideal story to share as alternative preparation.  

Let’s Go, Little Roo

Let's Go, Little Roo

Let’s Go, Little Roo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go, Little Roo

Renée Treml

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760896751

It is time for Little Roo to leave her mother’s pouch and be a little more independent. But Little Roo is afraid and no matter how much her mummy tempts her, she really just wants to stay put in the comfort and safety of what she knows. Deep down, she really wanted to taste the fresh green grass and play with the other babies but her fear made her want to stay hidden even more. 

But then Mummy Roo spots another little joey also tucked down in the pouch and Little Roo starts to think about just what she is scared of, and soon…

Apart from the fact that this has Renée Treml’s name on it and she has created so many stunning stories for little readers, this is the perfect one for this time of the year when so many of them are facing new worlds of kindy, prep, reception, whatever or even preschool and childcare.  Because, despite the anticipation and excitement in the lead-up, there are always those inner voices than can cast doubts that cause shadows.  Mummy Roo is very wise and knows that this is a step Little Roo needs to take, and while she acknowledges Little Roo’s fear , she is determined to show her that it is natural and can be overcome, with any anxiety she may have being well hidden.

With her characteristic, evocative line drawings that bring the characters to life, once again Treml has given our youngest readers a gift – not just of her talent but her understanding so they too can be like Little Roo and Little Wallaby, put their brave on and discover new worlds. Instead of stepping in, she is teaching them to step up!

It’s OK to Cry

It's OK to Cry

It’s OK to Cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s OK to Cry

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99

9781472942425

Not so long ago, when boys got to about six or seven, they started hearing the familiar mantra of “big boys don’t cry”, encouraging them to “be tough” and suppress their emotions.  While such a philosophy is still acceptable in many parts of society, for the most part it has been phased out but there are still many other less explicit messages that we pass on to our boys which have the same effect.  Our words and our actions and reactions to particular circumstances all combine to pass on a subliminal message that somehow it’s not OK for boys to be in touch with and express their emotions.  To do so is “girly” and sadly, that is somehow is showing weakness.

This book has been written to demonstrate to boys, particularly, that it is OK, in fact beneficial, to know and understand and express their emotions. Starting with a collage of some of those ways we parents make statements that suggest that to cry when you’re hurt is not tough and followed by another that has all sorts of similar subliminal media messages, it is clear that it is no wonder our boys can be confused.  The pages that follow offer insights into a range of feelings, positive and negative, situations in which they might arise and words to describe them so when they occur they can be shared.   There is a strong message that experiencing a variety of feelings over the day is completely natural – in fact it is what makes us human. It demonstrates that we won’t all have the same response to the same situation and that at any one time, there can be all sorts of emotions happening within a group of people.

It acknowledges that sometimes our feelings can make us uncomfortable and offers strategies to deal with these and there are also notes to enlighten parents about helping their children acknowledge, own and deal with their emotions in a healthy way rather than just suppressing them.

Even though this book has particular application at this time when life is not normal and adults are struggling with their mental health in an unprecedented way, it has application far beyond that as we pay more attention to the mental health of our students and address them. It could form the basis for a term’s work exploring much more deeply than the more traditional “I feel happy when…; I feel sad when…” offering students insight that could be the foundation for lifelong learning that takes us all to a calmer, more empathetic place.