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Things My Pa Told Me

Things My Pa Told Me

Things My Pa Told Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things My Pa Told Me

Anthony Bertini

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare, 2018

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

9781760501426

Ask a young child their age and they will tell you, but invariably they will add, ” But I’m turning…” It seems that all we want to be when we are young is older!  In this beautifully illustrated book, a father passes on the wisdom that he heard from his own father to his son.

“Your shoes are too big. You will grow into your clothes.” 

“You will fail many times. But you will overcome disappointment.  Your scars will heal.”

“Assemble the maps. But set your own compass.”

But as he makes these promises he urges his son to revel in what he has now and enjoy it because it is a time that will pass too quickly.

“You will be big most of your life.  Enjoy this brief time, just you and me, Our days together are short.  Sometime soon,  you will just be you.”

Told in short sentences that are almost poetic in their choice of language and brevity, this is a conversation for a son that is so personal and private and yet so universal and public. Bentley’s illustration are sublime as they portray an earlier time in a small Italian village when the father’s father is talking to him and the truth of his words evolves. There is a sense that the child will absorb these messages to pass them on to his own child in turn.

A peek inside...

A peek inside...

We know that our children cannot conceive of us ever having a childhood, that we are old and know nothing of their world and that advice we offer is irrelevant, if not interfering.  But with father’s Day on the horizon, this is the perfect book to share and discuss and share experiences of not only the actual situations in the story – “You cry easily, smile just as fast. Your anger is soon gone” – but also the truth in the guidance being offered – “Your shoes will fit.” If discussing fathers and their roles is sensitive because so many children are not in that sort of relationship, perhaps the children could share what advice they would pass on to their child in the future.  What have they learned that they think every child should know?

Gentle, timely and an opportunity to reflect as we rush from day to day. 

 

 

The Garden of Hope

The Garden of Hope

The Garden of Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden of Hope

Isabel Otter

Katie Rewse

Little Tiger, 2018 

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

9781848577138

“Things had changed since Mum had been gone.  The house was untidy. Maya, Dad and Pip were a bit of a mess.  And the garden had become wild and overgrown. “

Each of them was sad and anxious, trying to help each other as best they could. One day, Dad tells Maya that whenever her mother was feeling anxious, she would plant some seeds because she knew that by the time they had grown, the worries would have faded. They were her “seeds of hope”.

So Maya decides to try her mother’s remedy, starting with planting sunflowers which were her mother’s favourite.  And gradually a transformation occurred – the garden started to flourish and Maya and her father started to heal. Despite the darkness and sadness, there was still beauty and hope in the world.

This is a charming story with illustrations as gentle as the text, that offer a wonderful strategy to help anyone, young or old, to deal with grief. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed by our emotions it is hard to see that time will pass – rather each minute seems to drag into an hour – so having something as simple as planting seeds, something  that could be done in almost any situation, and watching the progress of the flowers can not only offer distraction but also shows that there is movement in time, that some some peace of mind is possible and there can be unexpected rewards.  For Maya, the new garden brings not only beauty but bees and butterflies and other little creatures who find a home and sustenance because of her efforts.  And because gardening can be a solo or a shared activity that healing can help more than just the seed-sower. 

Children love to plant things and watch them grow, and many schools have established gardens, particularly kitchen gardens which supply the school canteen.  But how wonderful would it be to also have a flower bed, one where a troubled or grieving child can go to potter and seek tranquility and calm as they literally “smell the roses”.

This is a gentle, understated story that would be perfect to share with any little one suffering loss or heartache.

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Rina A. Foti

Dave Atze

Big Sky Publishing. 2018

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

9781925675344

When Cat spies mouse, he grabs him and tells him he is going to gobble her up.  But being a feisty mouse, she disagrees and asks, “Why would you do that?” And so begins a back-and-forth conversation about the fairness of bigger being allowed to eat smaller because “that’s the way it is”. Mouse, who must be terrified, nevertheless has courage and tries to convince Cat that it would be better to be friends, but Cat is not interested until along comes D-O-G!

Told entirely in conversation with different coloured text identifying each speaker, this is a charming story about assumed power invested by size – just because you’re bigger doesn’t make you in charge – and it will promote discussion about whether being little means giving in or having rights. Is Cat (or Dog) a bully? Mouse’s arguing against the status quo is very reminiscent of little ones who feel injustice keenly but who don’t quite know how to get something sorted, although they are determined to win and make their own world fairer. Having the courage to speak up for change is a big lesson in assertiveness, and while parents might end the conversation with “Because I said so!” it is nevertheless a sign that their little one is maturing and gaining independence. 

The illustrations are divine – set on a white background, all the emotions and feelings are contained in the animals’ body language and facial expressions that even without being able to read the words for themselves, very young readers will still be able to work out the story and participate in that crucial pre-reading behaviour.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity – this is a thought-provoking read that we can all take heed of, regardless of our age!

 

Girl on Wire

Girl on Wire

Girl on Wire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl on Wire

Lucy Estela

Elise Hurst

Puffin Books, 2018

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

9780143787167

High above the city buildings, a cold breeze biting her cheeks,  a young girl stands  alone for hours.  Stretched before her is a wire that she must cross to be able to move forward but fear holds her back.  But as dark thunder clouds gather and a storm threatens, she knows she must make a move. To stay where she is, is impossible and so  she takes that first tentative step. As she inches forward, her skirt swishing around her legs, the storm breaks and she realises how far she will fall if she fails.  Overcome, she falters, stoops and cries for help.  

A swooping eagle reassures her that all will be well but she has to “walk the wire by yourself”.  Will she find the courage to move forward?

All around us people, adults and children alike, are having to step out onto their own personal wires, and no matter how strong the support from those around us are, we still have to walk it by ourselves.  Sometimes it seems an impossible journey and we may have to start several times before we dig deep and find those inner reserves that allow us to tiptoe towards the other end.  While the personal route of the journey and its destination may be unique to each of us, nevertheless the fear of the unknown and of failure, the feelings of trepidation and nervousness are universal and in this beautifully and evocatively illustrated allegory, we learn that we are not alone.  Life cannot go forward if we don’t take that first step, wherever it is leading us. 

With the mental health of our young people finally acknowledged as a critical issue in their well-being, this, at first, seems a book for older students, but in the hands of a skilful adult even little ones will be able to tell of something they were afraid of that they have conquered and begin to reflect on their inner strength as well as acknowledging that some things are hard to get right first time but with courage and confidence and a belief in yourself it’s OK to try again and to seek help if it is just too much. Like the girl on the wire, we can curl our toes tighter, stand a bit taller, and raise out arms to embrace what is on the far edge.

From the author of Suri’s Wall, this is an important addition to your mindfulness collection. 

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2018 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763665968

Just before the family leaves on a holiday at the beach, they bury their beloved dog.  As Sascha grieves and dusk falls, she takes her bucket to the ocean’s edge to collect stones to take home to cover the bare mound that is her dog’s grave.  Among those she picks up is one that is particularly bright and shiny and as she looks up to the stars she begins to wonder and trace the stone’s journey to its resting place on the shore.  From a meteor that hurls itself to Earth in the time of the dinosaurs to being picked up by Sascha and eventually placed on her dog’s grave,  it has a long and fascinating history that reveals itself in a series of stunning illustrations in this wordless text, traveling through time and across lands. 

But, perhaps most important of all, although Sascha continues to miss her dog terribly, she begins to understand that nothing is truly lost – everything, even a stone and a dog, has a history and a legacy and is but one piece in the jigsaw that is both our own and the planet’s story.  We are more than what is happening to us in the moment – all that has gone before has shaped us and what we do now will change us for the future. 

Described by one reviewer as the “young person’s Shaun Tan”, this story has so many layers to explore and ponder with each visit – Becker’s decision to not add text means the reader has to impose their own making for a wonderful opportunity to reflect and consider and wonder. Against the background of the muted palette, the gold of the stone stands out like a thread weaving its way through a carpet, just as our own individual stories while being but one strand of a much larger tale, nevertheless stand out for us.

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

Michael Speechley

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143788973

Remember the fidget spinners of last year that were the essential, all-new, must-have for kids?  The beyblades? The shopkins? And a hundred other toys that clever advertising has made top-of-the-toy-parade but which fade as quickly as they appear?  Well, Harvey had them all – and then some! Boxes and buckets full of them! So when he heard about The All New Must Have Orange 430 then he had to have that too.

The only thing that was empty in Harvey’s room was his money box but after checking everything and everywhere he finally found enough coins to be able to buy his latest desire.  So intent was he on owning it that he didn’t notice the huge April Fools’ Sale sign or that this  All New Must Have Orange 430 sat on a shelf surrounded by items such as dead batteries, free fat, grey fluff and even a lead balloon! He was only focused on having The All New Must Have Orange 430!

When he got home he eagerly unwrapped it.  It had EVERYTHING _ a thingy that did nothing; a whatsit that did squat; a dooverlacky that was whacky; and a something that was silly.  But what did it do? No matter what he did, it did nothing and he finally realised it was “actually completely useless.”

So he decided to take it back – and then his life changed forever.

In a world that seems to be all about having the latest and greatest, keeping-up-with-the-Jones is paramount and we are bombarded by advertisements in every aspect of our lives (even in public toilets),  this book is a breath of fresh air.  As parents find it easier to give into pester power than suffer the sulks of a firm “no’ as their children mimic their own consumer-driven behaviour, the ideas of looking for value or even restraint and second thoughts seems to have disappeared in this age of instant gratification. So to have a well-written, superbly illustrated book that compels the reader to think before they buy is excellent and will serve as a brilliant teaching tool to introduce the power of advertising, peer pressure, impulse buying, the value of money and even saving for something that seems to be beyond the mindset of so many, including Miss 12! Maybe, for those who are a little older, there could be an examination of the psychology that drives the need to belong, to be one of the flock rather than individual.

Its sepia tones used for all but The All New Must Have Orange 430 add to its layers as they depict what appears to be a beige life with the only spot of colour being a new purchase. But once the brief thrill of the purchase is made, and everyone has what the other does, it too fades to beige in anticipation of the next best-thing.  

As nearly all of us seek more and more storage for more and more stuff, swearing that we will declutter someday soon, reading and taking heed of the important themes of this book may help our younger students refrain from being Harveys in the first place!  

Definitely one for Miss 12 and Miss 7 – perhaps even their parents!  And definitely one for any unit of work that focuses on consumerism and marketing. 

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along Came a Different

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408888926

The Reds loved being red- to them being red was the most important thing and it was The. Best. Thing. Ever.  But when, unexpectedly, their space was intruded upon by Yellow, things changed.  The Yellows (who thought being yellow was The. Best. Thing. Ever) didn’t like the reds  and the conflict began.  And when along came a Blue (who also believed that being blue was The. Best. Thing. Ever.) things deteriorated even further.  There seemed to be no common ground at all – none of them liked each other and demarcation lines were drawn as the insults and grievances grew.  Eventually a set of rules was constructed and things settled down, but then unexpectedly…

Is there any way at all that each group can learn to live with and get along with each other?

Using colour, shape and whimsical illustration, McLaughlin explores the concept of judging others based on their appearance and how flimsy the arguments for discrimination really are.  While each colour has its unique features, there is common ground and much to be said for the symbiosis that occurs when there is co-operation, collaboration and even harmony.

Discrimination based on perceived differences is an adult concept that most young children do not even notice unless an adult points it out.  This book is the perfect conversation starter so that when they do encounter prejudice they have this experience to draw on so they can see the stupidity of it and reject it.  Life should be about friendship, inclusivity and acceptance and McLaughlin demonstrates this perfectly.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Square

Square

Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Square

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406378658

Each day, Square goes deep into his secret cave and takes a block from the pile below the ground, pushes it up all the stairs and out of the cave and stacks it on the other squares he has already made into a pile on the top of the hill.  Circle, whom Square thinks is perfect, admires his work so much and uses words like “sculptor” and “genius” and demands that Square makes a sculpture of her. 

But it is very difficult to make a square into a perfect circle and while he tries very hard, all he ends up with is rubble.  As the rain tumbles down and day turns to night, he continues to chip away until he finally falls asleep.  Despairing that he will have let his friend Circle down,. Square dreads her visit but then…

We first met Square in the initial book in this series, Triangle, and once again Barnett and Klassen have crafted an intriguing tale with few words and evocative monochromatic pictures. Being able to convey emotions, expressions and  exchanges through the use of basic shapes and eyeballs is a gift and the reader is encouraged to look closely at the illustrations to absorb all that is going on in the interactions between Square and Circle, and the internal battle Square ends up having.

And, as with Triangle,   the story takes the reader beyond the maths concepts of shape recognition and into the realm of philosophy.  What is perfection?  Is it achievable? It is OK for things to be less than perfect if we have given it our best shot?  Those children in our classes who are afraid to to start something in case it is not perfect on the first attempt or giving up in tears, frustration and even anger might draw comfort from Square’s persistence and perseverance and also understand that “perfect” has a different meaning for everyone. There could also be discussions about whether Circle’s expectations were reasonable – just because we are good at one thing, does that make us good at another?

Lots to ponder as we await the third in the trilogy, no doubt focusing on the perfect Circle.

 

 

A Lion is A Lion

A Lion is A Lion

A Lion is A Lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lion is A Lion

Polly Dunbar

Walker, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406371536

Before you start to read this entertaining book with your littlies, brainstorm all the words they associate with the image of a lion. 

Most likely, the word “fierce” will be among those suggested.

BUT… is a lion still a lion if he wears a hat? Or carries an umbrella? Is he still fierce and angry and scary and any of those other words that were suggested?

Or does any of the other seemingly friendly things that this lion does when he comes to visit in this hilarious but cautionary tale?

Is there a reason we are warned to “never smile at a crocodile” or that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots”?

Rhythmic text and engaging illustrations carry this story at a rollicking pace, rather like an old-fashioned vaudeville act where you want to yell out and warn the children that there is a dastardly villain hiding in the wings and all is not what it seems!  Provoke discussions about why the lion is dressing up and being so nice; draw parallels with the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood; start a conversation about stranger dangerand investigate the message of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  But most importantly, enjoy a fun read!

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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

9781406375992

Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not.