Archives

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Holly Bathie

Usborne, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474999267

Like it or not, use it or not, social media is an integral of today’s life and despite it being illegal for those under 13 to have accounts because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which prevents collection and storage of personal information from children under 13 years of age which originated in the US but which is pretty much universal, many of our young students still access sites and apps daily. 

For many parents, the world of social media and instant connectivity is not one in which they grew up – it’s all happened in the last 20 years –  and so helping their children navigate where they never went when they were children can be tricky.  Perhaps the recent hacking of Optus and Medicare and the exposure of personal date gathered legitimately can have a silver lining if it alerts parents to the spread of their digital footprint and propels them to start considering what they are sharing, and thus, their children. 

For even though way back in 1996 my school had a huge focus on safe surfing of the web and the kids, most of whom did not have access to computers and the internet at home, had the basics drummed into them from the get-go, the issues caused by the use of these instant, anonymous platforms continue to rise as our young people seek attention, fame, and in some cases, notoriety. Who can forget the death of 14 year old Dolly Everett who took her own life because of online bullying.?

Thus this book which enables our young readers, even those under the required 13 years) to manage their life, relationships and mental health on social media platforms and empowers them to stay safe online is an important read for all.  With the usual engaging layout we associate with Usborne, but in monochrome rather than colour, it offers in-depth coverage of a range of important a difficult issues young people face including body image, appearance-enhancing filters, influencers, sexual content and mental health. It uses recognisable themes rather than platform specifics, making the content relevant long-term, and tips on how to set up accounts safely and best manage privacy and messaging settings. It also addresses the user’s online persona, online reputation, and relationships; helps them understand  fake news and information and how to handle online bullying, as well as avoiding trolls.

While social media can have a really positive side – many would have been very isolated without during COVID lockdowns – and it would be wonderful if we could instil such a sense of confidence and well-being in the younger generation that they never feel the need for anonymous, meaningless affirmation, nevertheless there is a dark side and users must be aware of the potential for harm as well as good.  Once it’s out there, it’s out of your control. 

As well as being an important guide for the kids, it is also really useful for parents themselves as they learn what it is their child needs to know and do, understand and value as what was once just “peer pressure” from your immediate social circle is now a universal phenomenon right there in their hand. It goes hand-in hand with the excellent site and work of the E-Safety Commissioner established by the Australian government which has information for everyone from parents to teachers to kids to women to seniors and even a host of diverse groups who may be targeted or marginalised. 

Despite the care we take, every keystroke or finger tap can unknowingly add to our digital footprint, and so the better informed we are the safer we will be. Thus this is one to recommend to parents, to teachers and for yourself if you have responsibility for students or your own children online. 

 

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

A&U Children’s, 2022

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

9781761065088

Mum is taking David and Lucy on a road trip to visit her family and they are as excited as they are curious for this is their first time back on Country and there are so many special places to see, things to do, stories to hear and words to learn. This is their time to reconnect with their Aboriginality, and learn about their land and culture and how they fit within it from their Elders. As the children find out, it can be very emotional and spiritual as they learn of the generations who have gone before and how those ancestors continue to influence and impact their modern lives.

The third in this series, which includes Somebody’s Land and  Ceremony, young readers continue to learn about what is behind the Acknowledgement of Country that has become an integral part of the day in so many schools now.  As with the others, this is a story from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. with  stunning illustrations and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages).  As well as the introductory background notes on the verso, there is a QR code that leads to a reading of the story as well as teachers’ notes  available to download. 

In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country they do so with knowledge of and respect for all that is contained in the words.  

 

Digging Up Dad And Other Hopeful (And Funny) Stories

Digging Up Dad

Digging Up Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging Up Dad

And Other Hopeful (And Funny) Stories

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2022

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

9781760890940

Over 30 years ago, Morris Gleitzman was so overtaken by an idea for a story that he says came from nowhere that by the time the afternoon was up he had the outline completed and the journey of Two Weeks with the Queen had begun. Not only was it life-changing for Morris, but it had a profound effect on children’s literature at the time for while there were many authors writing wonderful stories for young readers, this one was contemporary, featured characters and situations that resonated with its audience, and his way with words appealed to boys who were on the cusp of being able to read but turning away from it as a leisure time activity.  

As well as a host of other novels, his iconic Once  and Toad series, Boy Overboard and Girl Underground, and his collaborations with Paul Jennings, Gleitzman has also written anthologies of short stories including Snot Chocolate , Pizza Cake , Give Peas a Chance, and Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories Digging up Dad is the latest addition to that collection and once again, readers are treated to short stories that are contemporary, realistic, real-life incidents that focus on children helping adults to be their best selves.  The title story is particularly poignant as Rose battles the problem of having to leave their rented house – the only home she has ever known – and leave her dad behind because his ashes are scattered in the garden. 

Gleitzman says he enjoys writing short stories. “You get to play with enjoyable and interesting and sometimes silly ideas that are not quite big enough for a longer work. Perhaps ‘not quite big enough’ isn’t the right way of saying it. Perhaps ‘not quite sensible and believable enough’ is closer. Some short stories grow out of very big ideas, but when you’re only asking readers to hang in for a few pages you can present those ideas in a slightly more exaggerated and comedic way. In a way that, if stretched over a couple of hundred pages, might well have readers thinking, hang on, that’s not very believable and not even that funny any more.”

And so are they perfect for readers who need a break from intense novels, often analysed until there is no enjoyment left, or who just want a short interlude from life while they re-gather their thoughts.  Teachers also love them because they’re perfect for filling in those final few minutes and with Gleitzman’s work, you know you are presenting quality literature that is likely to build a taste for his other works.  

There is a reason that books by Morris Gleitzman did not stay on the shelves and there was always a long reserves list;  why he won the Young Australian Readers’ Award in 2002 for Boy Overboard among many other awards over time; and why, 20 years on, he is still writing for kids and entertaining and delighting them.  If your students haven’t met him yet, then now is the time to ensure they do. 

 

 

11 Words for Love

11 Words for Love

11 Words for Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Words for Love

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Maxine Benebe Clarke

Lothian Children’s, 2022

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

9780734421203

 

There are eleven words for love, and my family knows them all.

A family flees their homeland to find safety in another country, carrying little more than a suitcase full of love.

As their journey unfolds, the oldest child narrates 11 meanings for love in Arabic as her family show, and are shown, all different kinds of love in their new home, and they also remember the love they have for their homeland and for those left behind or lost along the way.

This is a heartwarming book takes you on a journey through 11 of these Arabic expressions for love, at the same time telling the story of the family’s journey in the distinctive illustrations making the Arabic script immediately obvious even without the lyrical English translation.

While there might be over 50 words describing the degrees of love in the Arabic language, each pertaining to a different relationship, and there is seemingly only one in English for the same emotion, nevertheless there are many ways that we can show love without needing words.  

In 1970, the film Love Story (based on the book of the same name by Erich Segal) swept the world, inspiring a series of cartoons from New Zealand artist Kim Casali, the most famous being  “Love Is…being able to say you are sorry”, itself inspired by a line from the film “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” 

Use this book to inspire our students to think about the many ways they show and share love and how it is shown and shared with them, illustrating their statements for a display.  Apart from having them consider the meaning of the phrase “actions speak louder than words”, it will also help them understand that sometimes putting our feelings into words can be hard, particularly if we don’t have the words yet, but nevertheless we are loved.  Another step towards helping positive mental health.  

 

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be . . . The New Person

Anna Branford

Walker Books, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760655839

Hazel Morrison has a secret habit – pretending to make videos about everyday things. Eight important tips for successfully buttering toast! Putting your hair in a ponytail: a step-by-step guide! But when her family move to the outer suburbs, Hazel has to cope with starting at a new school where she doesn’t exactly feel welcomed. However, she does meet a new friend – her elderly neighbour Veronica,  But then Veronica has to move too.

So when a school project inspires her to create a real video, she knows just what her focus will be – a how-to guide for being “the new person” . . . because everyone, sometime, will meet one, or be one!

Having laughed and cried through Old People’s Home for Teenagers and having seen the impact of the isolation of lockdown on all ages, it would seem to me that loneliness is at the root of the mental health issues of today’s generations.  While older people finding themselves alone after the death of a partner has always been a trigger point, and one to be aware of regardless of their “I’m OK” protestations because they “don’t want to be a burden”, the anti-social nature of social media is a new phenomenon.  Although it allows for easier connectivity, that connectivity can be done alone and in private without having to have face-to-face contact, without having to develop the skills of interaction or relationship-building, and without regard for the impact of the words on the recipient.  No wonder the teens in the television show, most of whom admitted that they spent hours upon hours in their bedrooms, lacked the confidence to mingle with others.

Thus, as we approach the end of another school year and children are facing having to start a new school, whether that’s in a new location or just moving on to high school, anxiety will be starting to build already as they contemplate being “the new kid” and all that that entails.  This book, written for young independent readers, deserves to be shared with our students to open up conversations that allow them to share their anxieties, to learn that they are all feeling the same way, and to develop strategies so they can believe in Veronica’s observation that “Wherever there are lots of people, there is always at least one nice person. You don’t always find them right away but sooner or later you usually do.  And after that, things get easier.”

IMO, instead of focusing on academics and grades and stuff in the last few weeks of the year, the greatest thing we can do for our students is to guide them along the pathway ahead, to show them that there are many walking beside, behind and in front of them, that the apprehension they are feeling is universal and that they can and will find that “one nice person.”  It starts with being one yourself.   

 

If someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

Bored: Frog's Mystery Twin

Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

780733342042

“I can get myself in all sorts of trouble when I’m bored … My name is Frog and this may have been a very bad idea. I’ve started at this new school and when you’re trying to fit in the best thing you can do is just try something totally crazy! Right?

Well, it seemed like a good plan. Only now Luisa has decided I’m her favourite person to make fun of, Evie thinks I’m completely nuts, Milo’s grumpy about something or other and I’m about to tell everyone the whole story about my secret twin brother with the same name. True story! I swear.”

We first met Frog in the first of this series from the author of Funny Kids and The Odds in which Stanton again demonstrates his ability to turn everyday situations and authentic characters that readers will recognise into stories that engage even the most reluctant readers. Now it’s his turn to be in the spotlight as he navigates being the new kid on the block and in the school, a situation that will be familiar to many readers.

As these wet holidays drag along, this could be the perfect antidote particularly with the promise of the third in the series coming soon, and readers being encouraged to send their reviews direct to Matt Stanton himself. 

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Missing Piece

Jordan Stephens

Beth Suzanna

Bloomsbury, 2022

92pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526618139

Sunny loves jigsaw puzzles – the bigger the better. When she completes one, she gets a warm, happy honeybee buzz and it’s a feeling she chases time after time, constantly looking for another puzzle to complete, like a drug addict seeking another fix.  One day, her Gran gives her a ONE-THOUSAND-PIECE puzzle. Piece after piece, all by herself, she puts together the picture, until … DISASTER! The final piece is missing. Sunny may be small, but she is very determined –and when Gran says that the puzzle had been lent to the family next door,  Sunny she sets off to find the missing piece but finds so much more in the meantime. 

Many educators predicted that children returning to school after COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation would face a range of well-being issues from missing the critical socialisation aspects that are the core of the school experience, and principals and teachers around the world are indeed, reporting anxiety, depression and changed behaviours.  Experts, such as those of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have examined the phenomenon and, in conjunction with state education authorities , have identified and put in place a range of strategies to help children relearn the skills and attitudes necessary to cope with getting along with other children in groups that are more than just family members. 

So while this may seem like just another story about a child learning that they are more than they imagined, that their self-worth is not dependent on their being able to excel at one thing, and their self-esteem being shattered if they “fail”,  at this time it could have a vital role to play as we each and all try to support those who have not come through the past three years as resiliently as we would have liked.  Although Sunny’s isolation from her neighbourhood friends is unexplained, it is immaterial – it is her courage to knock on doors to find that vital piece, a goal larger than anything that may have prevented her from reaching out before, that drives her and she is able to rediscover much she had lost.   

While sharing stories such as this is just one part of the healing process, nevertheless it can be helpful particularly if followed by a discussion about why her Gran did what she did, why Sunny might not have seen her friends or been willing to play with them and so on – all addressing individual’s concerns but at arm’s length so no one feels exposed but they can feel comforted and perhaps more confident. 

Dirt by Sea

Dirt by Sea

Dirt by Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirt by Sea

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2022

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

9781760894061

When Daisy’s family join in a rendition of the national anthem while watching television, little do they know the impact it is about to have.  Because Daisy hears the lyrics as “dirt by sea” rather than “girt by sea” and even though her grandparents and father explain that “girt by sea” means being surrounded by ocean, when she looks out the window all she sees is “girt by dirt.”

It is then her dad realises that he has never taken her to the beach, let alone the ocean, and the trip he and Daisy’s mum made in their old Kombi van are fading into distant memory.  So on Christmas Day, Daisy’s gift is that old Kombi, and on Boxing Day, she and her Dad set off…

Drawing on their own experiences of childhood and adulthood road trips with families, this is a round-Australia adventure for those with the skills to be able to read and follow its graphic novel format. It starts with Daisy’s blank map of Australia on the front endpage and finishes with a completely filled in, colourful one at the back detailing their trip from south-western Queensland to Airlie Beach and beyond around the country’s coastline.

But this is more than just being a travelogue or tourist brochure. Carried along in the conversations between the two, it becomes a personal journey of development for Daisy, her relationship with her dad as he relives his life with Daisy’s mum whose absence is both noticeable and unexplained, and also Daisy’s realisation that she misses her family, and for all it might by “girt by dirt” there is still no place like home with the people and things you love and how they have helped you become who you are. By the time they make it home, neither Dad nor Daisy are the same people who left, and there is a bond between them that the reader knows will endure long into their futures. 

As the blurb says, they discover so much more than the sights and sounds of the wild and wonderful Aussie coast. 

 

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarni’s Chance

Paul Collins

Jules Ober

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922696052

When Tarni’s mum says goodbye, all the colour and joy of life seem to go with her. Tarni retreats into her bubble. Her world became smaller and the air seemed thinner. But then Chance steps in . . .

As much as the text in this narrative of family breakdown, self-doubt and anxiety echoes the feelings of loss and loneliness that so many readers will have felt, it is the illustrations that make it so special.  Beginning in deep shades of grey as her parents argue, with the only colour being Tarni and her guitar, her bubble of music, a monochromatic scheme that continues as Tarni comes to grip with her loss, finding solace only in solo activities like drawing and reading, gradually being consumed by the grey of her grief.  Using handmade miniatures set against black and white photography, the reader is drawn deeper into Tarni’s world, but then Tarni spots a stray, ragged dog, seemingly as lost as she is, and there is a ray of hope.  Brief though it is, it shows both the reader and Tarni that there is still a glimmer of colour in the world, and when the dog returns the grey gradually disappears. 

While this is not the first book to use colour to depict mood and emotion in this way, and the use of miniatures and photography was a feature of the 2020 CBCA shortlisted The Good Son, nevertheless it is a powerful representation that those who have passed through the grey of grief will relate to, and those who are still in it will be buoyed by the prospect that colour still exists and step by step they will find it.