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Koko and the Coconut

Koko and the Coconut

Koko and the Coconut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koko and the Coconut

Turia Pitt

Celestine Vaite

Emilie Tavaerli

Puffin, 2023

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

9781760892944

It’s a big day for Koko for not only does he have to leave the shell that has been his home since he was born because he now has a tough shell of his own, but he must also crack a coconut by himself if he is to feed himself and survive. But to reach the coconut there is an enormous palm tree to climb, and then, once he has the coconut on the ground there is the task of opening it. Even though all his friends are cheering him on, it does seem like an insurmountable task so will he succeed?

Based on the life stories of Birgus latro, the large terrestrial crabs of her native Tahiti, Turia Pitt has crafted a story of determination, perseverance and resilience – all those qualities that adults associate with her own story of survival. But for young readers, it is also an inspirational story as they tackle big challenges in their own lives, such as starting school. Like Koko, it is the next must-do part of their growing up, and like Koko, all their family and friends are encouraging them on the way, expecting them to succeed even if there are setbacks.  But most importantly, like Koko, they have to believe in themselves, know that they will succeed and be willing and courageous enough to take the next step, just as Koko climbed the palm tree continually telling himself he could do it.

Koko is the story’s narrator which immediately puts the reader in Koko’s “shoes”, while the stunning illustrations with their clever use of perspective echo the enormity of the task ahead so they are invested in the story from the get-go.

At this time of the year our young ones are hearing all sorts of stories about starting school and overcoming their fears, so this is one to add to that collection because of its parallels with that experience and its positive message.  As a story it is a stand-alone but astute adults will help the young listener dig deeper, helping them to understand that stories can have lots of layers of meaning. The message of believing in yourself is powerful and one our children need to hear so often.  

Tjitji Lullaby

Tjitji Lullaby

Tjitji Lullaby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tjitji Lullaby

Michael Ross

Zaachariaha Fielding

Lisa Kennedy

ABC Books, 2022

20pp., board book., RRP $A9.99

9781460715703

Tjitji – sleep is a present from a day that was gorgeous.

In the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara languages, tjitji  means child and the beautiful, lyrical words in this book make it the perfect finale for the bedtime read as the curtains are drawn on the day.  The stunning artwork features Mother Kangaroo and other animal mothers  settling their little ones as dusk creeps over the landscape, singing them to sleep as they prepare for the night with images of calm, peace, tranquility and safety painted in both the words and pictures.

As the anticipation towards a certain day in December grows, this is one that will  be ideal to soothe and quieten the excitement so that the child can have a restful night – just as all the animals in the bush are doing.

Little people can watch the Tjitji lullaby just after 7.25pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays on ABC Kids, or anytime on the  ABC Kids app or ABC iview, but to have it in book format so they can have it every night when it is the perfect time for them is such a bonus. Parents can learn more, including how to pronounce the words, here

 

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Bat Up All Day

Brian Lies

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780358269854

Little Bat has never stayed up all day before! He always goes to sleep at the end of the night and so he is very curious about how the world looks when he’s normally asleep. He’s excited to see how everything looks in the sun and so he decides to stay up all day.

It turns out the world is a much different place – it’s hot, bright, and noisy and full of new things. . Luckily, Rusty the Squirrel is willing to show Little Bat around, even though Little Bat struggles to stay awake.  But when these new, fast friends separate at the end of the day, how will they stay in touch when one is usually awake while the other is asleep?

With a distinctive illustrative style that has won him a Caldecott Honor award among others for The Rough Patch,  this is a charming story to share with young readers who always want to stretch their bedtime because they think that something magical happens to the world after dark.  And it does – for all sorts of creatures who have slept during the day emerge when the sun disappears and the shadows take over.  So it’s no wonder Little Bat is curious about what happens in the world while he is asleep. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as shining a light, so to speak, on the activities we diurnal creatures tend to take for granted, this is also an opportunity for young readers to learn about nocturnal creatures and consider why that is the best time for them to be awake. Why does Little Bat sleep during the day?  It can lead to investigations about why we have day and night, the phases of the moon, and even why all creatures need to sleep at some time.

More than just a bedtime story.  

 

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. 

 

The Crayons Trick or Treat

The Crayons Trick or Treat

The Crayons Trick or Treat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crayons Trick or Treat

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780593621028 

The hilarious crayons from  The Day The Crayons Quit are ready to celebrate Halloween! They want to go trick-or-treating, but they’re not sure what to say!

So Purple Crayon tries to teach the rest of the box the magic words to say when they ring their neighbours’ doorbells. (Hint: It’s NOT “Boo!”)

This is a story for young children who are noticing the preparations happening in stores for this not-so-traditional celebration in Australia but who are fascinated by it, its trappings and the concept of trick-or-treat.  While it is growing in popularity here, there are still many who mutter about it being an American thing but in fact, it is much older than that, dating back to  pagan times and the festival of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season  then gradually morphing into All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day as Christianity spread throughout Britain, and its familiar celebrations were taken by the Irish to the USA.

Written as a conversation between the crayons themselves, the font used means that this is one for adults to share with littlies, which opens up opportunities to talk about the origins of trick-or-treat as well as the importance of using manners. 

 

What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

Davina Bell

Hilary Jean Tapper

Lothian Children’s, 2022

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

9780734421142

Sometimes we are confronted with situations that are so incomprehensible that we don’t know what to say – and that is our response. “I don’t know what to say.”

So imagine what it is like for our children when they find themselves in the same position, with not only no previous experiences to draw on but also no words to express the feelings that are overwhelming them.  Whether it’s surprise, anger, frustration, fear, or any of the other big emotions that swamp them from time to time, the words just aren’t there.  And while, for adults, it’s big life-changing things like a death, a diagnosis, a flood or fire or other devastating loss, for little ones it can be everyday occurrences such as leaving the family home, being excluded from a group activity or not being brave enough for a sleepover.

This is an excellent and important book  that should be in every parent’s library or teacher’s toolbox to help prepare little ones for these sorts of events, help them build the strategies and vocabulary to express their feelings and develop empathy as they negotiate big things in their lives such as starting a new school, joining a new group, or the loss of a pet.  Each page features an everyday situation that they are likely to encounter, either as the “victim” or the one reaching out, and each is captioned with a single sentence that encapsulates an empathetic and kind response as a way of dealing with it.  It acknowledges that events can evoke feelings of fear, guilt, loss, pain, uncertainty, embarrassment, being different, brave, shy, or uncomfortable, or needing to ask for help or negotiate a solution  but each of these can be overcome.

It is a dip-and-delve book in which the adult might show the child the picture, perhaps one that relates to an upcoming situation, discuss what is happening and then help the child develop strategies to deal with it or the words of comfort that might help someone else deal with it. For example, when the bullies destroy a friend’s carefully constructed sandcastles, acknowledging their feelings by saying, “That shouldn’t have happened to you. It was unfair,” can go a long way to soothing the situation that might otherwise escalate into something larger. Teachers’ notes can guide these sessions.

Although  the cover of the book depicts the idyllic freedom of childhood that we all imagine for our children, the front endpage is more realistic.  But then, the back endpage shows that a simple act of kindness can go a long way to making things right again.  

At a time when many of our little people haven’t been able to have the normal beyond-family contacts that usually help them develop their social skills, building empathy and resilience can be tricky so this is a timely release to help. 

 

 

Quickly Slowly Day

Quickly Slowly Day

Quickly Slowly Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quickly Slowly Day

Martin Baynton

Rob Foote

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922678515

Slowly up the steep steps, quickly down the slide

Slowly count to twenty, quickly try to hide.

The passage of time is one of the most abstract and difficult concepts for little children to understand, particularly when some things seem to pass quickly while others drag on and on. So this rhyming story featuring Baby Bear and his Mama introduces them to the vocabulary of ‘quickly’ and ‘slowly’ by sharing a day and showing the difference between the two terms.  Not only will young children relate to the activities, but they could also have fun classifying which of their own activities would be in the ‘quickly’ column and which in the ‘slowly’. This could be extended to embrace means of transport or animal movement, all the while consolidating and extending vocabulary in an interactive way.

This is another story evolving from The Book Hungry Bears television show in which the main characters share picture books, hungry to learn all they can from those they settle down to share together. With so much screen-based interaction for our littlies, taking the time to share a story and discuss it with them, is critical so they learn about the constancy of print and the potential that the stories offer, and particularly that they can return to them time and time again and even build their own stories.  

Slowly choose a book, slowly read the pages,

Slowly share the words, Let’s make this last for ages.

 

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! 

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur Hide and Seek

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur Hide and Seek

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur Hide and Seek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur Hide and Seek

Janeen Brian

Ann James

Puffin, 2022 

10pp., board book, RRP $A16.99

9780143777427

The dirty dinosaur is back and this time he’s looking for his friends – Bird, feathery and flittery, tweety and twittery; Bee, busy and buzzy, stripy and fuzzy – and all the others.  But it seems like they’re hiding from him and the young reader is going to have to think about where they might be in the landscape and lift the flaps to discover them!

Rhyme, rhythm, repetition, dinosaurs and interactivity – the perfect combination to engage young readers in endless hours of fun as they tell themselves the story over and over again, and delight in their success as they uncover the hiding places!!!  Who can be hoppy, water ploppy like Frog? Or slippery, silver tail flippery like Fish?

Once again, links to research and memes about the importance of reading with the very young are doing the social media rounds, and it’s books like this one that are going to be the hook,  And, to me, even more powerful than reading a story (1825 if one a day in the first five years; 5475 if you share a familiar, a first-read and a favourite) is offering one that they can then read themselves! 

This one is a winner!!!

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.