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Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Kate Simpson

Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99  

9781760637019

It is 1914 and war has broken out in Europe and because of its ties to England, Australia is mobilising. On one of the ships leaving port is Sister Alice Ross-King who is not going for the adventure like so many of the men, but because her passion was nursing and her country needed her.

She thought she was ready but as the entry in her diary for April 29th, 2015, just four days after the Gallipoli debacle, shows, they were not… “I shall never forget the shock when we saw the men arrive covered in blood, most of them with half their uniform shot or torn away. They kept coming, seven at a time.  Soon all our beds were full and new ones were being brought in and put in every available corner…”

Written by Alice’s great-granddaughter and taken from the actual diaries of Australia’s most decorated woman, this remarkable book, a seamless weaving of text, diary entries and illustrations, offers an extraordinary insight into life during World War I for those at the front line. It begins as a love story but when her fiance is killed, Alice has to find a way to carry on despite her grief, to put her duty before her personal loss and feelings. 

As we are unable to commemorate Alice and all our other men and women in familiar ANZAC Day activities this year, sharing this story and others like it, is one way we can take ourselves back in time to remember just how it was we have arrived at where we are, and perhaps put any current hardships into perspective.  Perhaps older students could research the stories of one of their family members, trace their family tree and write the diary that that person might have written as their contribution to honoring those who have gone before in the absence of traditional tributes.

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

Jackie French

Angus $ Robertson, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460757727

 

Butter O’Bryan lives in a Very Small Castle with his father and three aunts – Aunt Elephant, Aunt Cake and Aunt Peculiar. These aren’t their real names, of course, just as Butter’s father isn’t really called ‘Pongo’.

And even though Butter is only twelve years old, and the grandson of one of Australia’s most successful Jam Kings, he is very aware of the hardship many people are experiencing.

Butter has been told there are ghosts at the nearby isolated Howlers Beach, but are there? And how can the children Butter plays cricket with on the beach simply vanish? Who are these children and why do they refuse his help?

The Ghost of Howlers Beach just sounds like one of those old-fashioned Secret Seven or Famous Five stories that generations have enjoyed for years, and in a way, it is. But this one has the unique Jackie French touch of magic, and rather than being a contemporary novel as those adventures were, this one takes the independent reader back to The Depression of the 1930s when the ramifications of World War I were still very evident and the realities of being unemployed, or worse, being a woman without a man but with a family, or even worse, being an indigenous person, are brought to light. With a light hand and intriguing characters, French brings to life life in the “susso camps” ; the great divide between the haves and the have-nots and the ever-present threat of diseases like polio before vaccines were available.

Read against the backdrop of today’s coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide economic collapse, it is very clear how far we have come in less than 100 years in both health, economic and social support and perhaps put things in perspective.

The subtitle to this novel is The Butter O’Bryan Mysteries, #1 and with the cast of characters now set hopefully more will follow quickly as we not only enjoy a good, meaty story but one that teaches us about a time not that long ago but eerily familiar all the same.

The timing of its release is remarkable (set long before the current virus was even heard of) and while there are comparisons that can be made between now and then, knowing that its setting and background are based on reality there is a sense of optimism that current times will pass and we will come out of the other side. Perhaps changed, but definitely intact.

Tabitha and the Raincloud

Tabitha and the Raincloud

Tabitha and the Raincloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabitha and the Raincloud

Devon Sillett

Melissa Johns

EK, 2020

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

9781925820133 

Nearly 50 years ago Judith Viorist wrote a book that has become a classic called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and that is exactly what Tabitha is having. From the moment she wakes up in the morning there is a dark raincloud hanging over her head and nothing goes smoothly.  Her scrambled eggs are soggy; her teacher thinks her picture of a giraffe is a dinosaur; and no one wants to sit with her at lunch. It really was a terrible, horrible, no good , very bad day! But then Tabitha remembers that every raincloud has a silver lining…

This is a story that will resonate with every reader for who hasn’t woken up with a raincloud hanging over them, at some stage.  Sadly though, whether we get out of bed on the wrong side or not, we have to get up and deal with what eventuates.  The redemption is though, how we choose to respond to those events and although it takes Tabitha a while, her resilience and natural optimism help see her through.  The most damaging and hurtful things we hear are those our inner voice tells us (particularly if they’re confirming what others tell us) but as we know from The Proudest Blue , we have to learn to“[Not] carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them.  They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” Instead we need to be like Tabitha and look for the silver lining and change the messages and our actions into something positive. We can’t always get rid of the problems, but we can learn strategies to help manage them so we become more resilient and better people for having to cope. The close relationship between the text and the graphics (a unique form of collage) meld in the final picture that sums up Tabitha’s new knowledge perfectly.

This is an important addition to your mindfulness collection and there are comprehensive teachers’ notes to tease out all the strands of the story.

 

 

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House on the Mountain

Ella Holcombe

David Cox

Allen & Unwin,2019

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

9781760636968

 

There is a fire coming, and we need to move quickly. Mum and Dad start packing bags, grabbing woollen blankets, the first-aid kit, torches, and then the photo albums. Dad puts Ruby on her lead and ties her up near the back door. My chest feels hollow, like a birdcage.

At first, it was just another hot day as  summer days can be in Victoria, with the heat lingering well into the night. But this hot day turns out to be like no other… For this is February 7, 2009 – a day that is forever etched in Australia’s history as Black Saturday. Over 400 fires took 173 lives and left thousands homeless.  

And sadly, it could have been any one of a number of deadly days of this past summer as fires again tore through the landscape, on a much larger scale devastating homes and lives in every state on an unprecedented scale.  In this particular story, the author draws on much of her personal experience of 10 years ago to tell of the fear, the anguish, the devastation, the unknown but she has changed the ending of one of family tragedy – she knows that story too well – to one of hope and continuity and renewal. 

But this could be the story of so many of our students this year – those who have witnessed the fires first-hand, those who have had to evacuate, those for whom there is no home to go back to; those for whom life is going to be topsy-turvy and very different for a long time to come.  But while it is a bleak story to begin with, one that will stir memories for many, it is that message of connection and continuity, that one day (that might seem too far away just yet) their children may play on land they once called home that can offer succour and strength to try one more day.  And it may be the catalyst for some to open up about their experiences and begin to share and process what they can.

Even if students have not been able to return to their own schools, nevertheless it is the routines of school that are the constants in students’ lives right now so anything we, as teachers, can read, understand and do to support them is so important. Used sensitively at this time, this could be an important part of the help we offer. 

 

Derek Dool Supercool 1: Bust a Move

Derek Dool Supercool

Derek Dool Supercool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derek Dool Supercool 1: Bust a Move

Adrian Beck

Scott Edgar

Puffin, 2020

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760892951

Think of the COOLEST, FUNNIEST, most HANDSOME kid in school, times it by a gazillion and you get DEREK DILBERT DOOL. At least he thinks so . . . Pity he’s the only one.

Life’s tough when your name’s Derek. You’re destined to be uncool. But Derek is determined to find something – anything – that will change that. He’s sick of being picked last in PE, of not being invited to parties, and of all the cool kids using his freckles as dot-to-dot challenges. Derek is going to find something that will make him SUPERCOOL and nothing is going to stop him.

There are many boys like Derek in our classrooms so his situation will resonate with them, and with its short chapters, punchy sentences and liberal illustrations this is a new series (Going Viral is due in August) that is going to have wide appeal with independent readers who don’t want to have to concentrate on convoluted storylines and complex characters yet.  The popularity of other series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid  has proven there is a strong market for these sorts of books amongst our newly independent male clientele so to have one that has an Australian flavour will have extra appeal.

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World

David Hill

Phoebe Morris

Picture Puffin, 2020

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99

9780143774518

In 2017 Jacinda Ardern was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand,  an event that history has shown doesn’t really rate headlines in Australia. But this Kiwi PM is now as well-known here as her Australian counterpart and even when she pops into a cheese shop on a private holiday in Queensland it makes news. 


Sadly, it has been a series of tragedies that have propelled her onto the world stage but nevertheless, through those catastrophes young people have seen what a real leader looks like and can inspire, encouraging them to become involved in the broader spectrum of their own lives. This illustrated story of her life from her high school days when she was compelled to help her classmates who were too poor to afford shoes, to her desire to be a clown and then a scientist, tells a story of a young woman driven by compassion and empathy and a need to make others’ lives better and the world a healthier place to live. 

Written to engage a primary school audience so they too can understand and believe that nobody is too young to start changing the world, this is the latest in a new series about inspirational New Zealanders that includes Hero of the Sea; Dinosaur Hunter; Sky High; First to the Top and Speed King. As well as introducing our younger readers to Ardern, a contemporary name they are probably familiar with and opening up conversations about the qualities of leaders, Taking the Lead also provides entry into biographies and their characteristics as a genre. Perhaps they could even consider someone who inspires them and write their biography. 

The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Proudest Blue

Ibtihak Muhammad

SK Ali

Hatem Aly

Andersen Press, 2020 

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

9781783449712

The first day of the new school year is fast approaching and so Mama takes Asiya to buy her first-day hijab for her first day in Year 7.  Asiya chooses the brightest blue one because if you squint your eyes there is no border between the water and the sky, just as thereshould be no borders between people.  Her little sister Faizah is so proud of her but sadly not everyone understands what hijab is or represents and so both girls are teased and tormented because they are different.  But guided by their Mama’s wise words that echo in their head, both manage to navigate the day proudly, determined to keep the ancient tradition of covering the hair from puberty. 

Written by one who has been Asiya, Ibtihak Muhammed is the Olympic fencer who became the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing for Team USA, this story is not only an insight into the wearing of hijab as a testament to the faith and love of Allah, it is also about being proud of who you are and what you believe in regardless of whether that is based on religion, culture, colour or any other dimension that can be perceived as setting us apart. (Try being a round redhead with glasses in a world that was in love with Twiggy!) There will be many Asiyas and Faizahs in our classrooms this year, Asiyas wearing hijab and navigating the taunts of the ill-informed, and Faizahs fielding questions while feeling enormously proud so this is a book to share across the year levels to help the acceptance and understanding. 

Regardless of the reason that someone may be isolated by their peers, perhaps the most memorable part of the story are the words of the girls’ mother… “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them.  They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” Wise words that we can all learn from.

An Internet search will bring up many resources for using this book in the curriculum.

Morphing Murphy

Morphing Murphy

Morphing Murphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morphing Murphy

Robert Favretto

Tull Suwannakit

Ford Street, 2020

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

9781925804324

Murphy the tadpole likes his life just the way it is – swimming in his weedy pond, slurping up algae and rotting water plants.  In fact he wouldn’t change a thing.  But then things do begin to change – two bumps appear next to his tail and no matter what he does he can’t get rid of them.  But as they develop into legs he finds his life is that much better and so he’s happy with the new Murphy.  Until things begin to change again… and again. And the twist in the ending is unexpected and delightful. 

With its soft palette and expressive illustrations,  this is a charming book for young readers that shows the development of a tadpole into a frog, while, at the same time, gently exploring how unexpected changes in life can become positives rather than negatives. While Murphy was at first fearful of the changes happening to him, with no control over them he has to accept them and get on with it. Perhaps some of our students are experiencing change through a new school or other life-changing event, especially given the fires and floods of this summer, and finding it confronting and need some guidance to search for and find the silver lining.  

More than just another book of many about the transformation of frogs. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree: A Gentle Story of Love and Loss

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820126

Loppy the LAC  loves the feeling of sanctuary and serenity that the old tree in the park gives him whenever he is feeling anxious.  But when it starts to lose its leaves long before it is supposed to, his friend Curly points out that Tree’s days are numbered.  This makes Loppy very unsettled – how will he calm himself if it dies and disappears? But death is an inevitable conclusion to living and Loppy has to learn and accept that ‘his’ tree will soon be gone.

This is the fifth book in the  ‘Lessons of a LAC’ series, this one created to help children accept loss and process grief. Given the summer holidays that many of our students have experienced where all that was familiar is now blackened and gone, this is an important book to add to your mindfulness collection and share with the children.  While building a seat with a special photo might not be the option for them, nevertheless there are ways we can commemorate things that are important to us so that peace and connection return.  Because it might be in a different way for each person, it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge that we each value different things and how and when we remember this is unique to the individual.  There is no right way or wrong way – just different.

The author is a clinical psychologist whose specialty is early intervention in the social and emotional development of children and the previous books in this series have demonstrated that her words are wise and her stories resonate with their audience. 

When Sadness Comes to Call

When Sadness Comes to Call

When Sadness Comes to Call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sadness Comes to Call

Eva Eland

Andersen Press, 2020

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

9781783447954

As our new school year begins after the most trying summer break for many because of the effects of the drought and the bushfires, the mental health of our students has to be foremost as they try to cope with what they have seen and done and what has happened to them over the past few weeks.  School may be their one constant and seen as their safe haven, particularly if they have lost their home or been traumatised in other ways.

So this new book which acknowledges sadness as real and natural encouraging the child to accept it and offering strategies to cope with it might be an important tool in each teacher’s shed right now. Depicted as a doleful, but soft greenish shape which threatens to envelop the child but once it is recognised for who it is there are ways to deal with it so the child is not overwhelmed. As the child listens to music with it, walks with it, and even drinks hot chocolate with it, gradually Sadness reduces in size until one morning it disappears as suddenly as it arrived, leaving the child to enjoy a brand new day.

This is a difficult time for us as adults, but moreso for those in our care who don’t have the big-picture perspective, so anything we can use to help them cope and get through another day is welcome. The overarching message has to be that sadness at this time is going to be normal, that is perfectly OK to feel it and talk about it, and that we can divert it as we add a few more layers to the onion that has despair at its core. 

A peek inside....

A peek inside….