Archives

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820393

It is the night before Archie is due to start at a new school and the Worry Monster has crept into his bedroom spruiking all the usual worries about getting lost, not making friends, doing maths all day and no sport that such monsters do.

Normally, Archie would call on his mum and dad to scare it away because it is scared of them, but this time he tries to have a go himself.  He thinks back to the things his mum taught him the last time, and summoning all his courage he applies them.  He takes a deep breath so his lungs make his belly grow bigger like a balloon; he thinks of the facts and tells them to the Worry Monster; he tells the Worrmy Monster to go away; and then he reads a book to ignore it and distract him.  But do his strategies work…

Worry Monsters have been out and about all this year, not just before big events like starting school and any stories that help our littlies develop strategies to send them on their way are welcome.  This one is beautifully written and illustrated and any child could put themselves in Archie’s pyjamas and feel empowered.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Encouraging littlies to dig deep to find the courage and determination to send the Worry Monster scampering is an ongoing process because they’re not necessarily ready to do it at the same time as their siblings or peers.  So to have another book in the arsenal is valuable – sharing Archie’s story might just be the one that reaches a particular child.

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meesha Makes Friends

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2020

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

9781526612953

Meesha was skilled at craft work and  loved using her imagination to make all sorts of things. But the one thing she could not make were friends.  No matter how she tried, she never knew what to say, when to say it or what to do.  So she stayed alone and lonely, until one day she took out her craft tools and made a whole lot of little friends.  These were friends she could take with her everywhere, and even though they couldn’t play football or tennis or catch, she was comfortable with them.

One day her mother took her to a party and it wasn’t long before Meesha was alone again, so she started making her own kind of friends.  And then she noticed someone watching her… Maybe she wasn’t as alone as she thought. 

This is the fourth in this series for younger readers which includes Perfectly Norman, Ruby’s Worry, and Ravi’s Roareach designed to help them navigate social situations that can feel overwhelming by sparking conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Reading stories and talking to children about what they might encounter in certain situations before they arise is a sound way to provide them with a range of strategies they can draw on if they feel they are sinking under the weight of anxiety.  

If we ask a child, or an adult for that matter, what is the most worrying thing they will be confronted with in a new situation, the most likely answer is that they will know no one or will not have any friends.  So this book, particularly, deserves a place in that collection that addresses friendship, making friends and overcoming anxiety.

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Before Rainbows

Smriti Halls

David Litchfield

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406382358

Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun…

With pictures as stunning as its title and as gentle as its message, this is a beautiful book that encourages children to hang in there, that whatever they are facing right now will pass and there will be a brighter time coming. The text is quite simple on the surface as the girl and her friendly fox climb mountains, face dragons and endure dark days as they strive towards their dreams.  Along the way they discover that there are friends to help, alternative paths to follow and ropes to hold on to as they seek the treasure of a new day.  While younger readers can follow along seeing the journey in a literal way,  it is the metaphorical message that will resonate with the older reader who is able to operate at a more abstract level.

This is a story about trust, resilience, optimism and hope that will empower young readers to have the courage to keep moving forward, to follow their dreams, to see obstacles as opportunities and to be willing to be open to new things and be proactive.  That, for all the storm might be noisy and scary, there is nevertheless beauty in it and  the calm on the other side is savoured even more deeply because of the contrast.

These themes of courage, resilience and hope are featuring in many recent books for our young readers but given the calamity that has been 2020, it could be argued that the more we have access to the better, because at least one of them has to resonate and reach out to a child in need.  And if it does, then the work of the author, illustrator and the adult who placed it in their world, is done. 

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.

I Believe I Can

I Believe I Can

I Believe I Can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Believe I Can

Grace Byers

Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer & Bray, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780062667137

One of the downsides of this new instantly-connected world with its emphasis on social media is that there is a generation growing up who are becoming dependent on external validation for everything they do, who view their self-worth through the lens of the number of likes and friends they have, and whose self-belief and self-confidence as a person is very low.  In this look-at-me world, resilience seems to be in low reserves and what came naturally as previous generations dealt with what we encountered, is now explicitly taught.

In this companion to I Am Enough, young children of all shapes, colours and sizes are encouraged to be their best selves and to reach their potential by believing that they can without needing approval from outside sources. They let the power of their imaginations project them into the future and know that because they are just who they are, they can achieve those dreams.  They can be as fierce as the lion’s roar and as powerful as the dragon’s flames, and even though they might falter and make mistakes or not succeed at what they try, they learn from those experiences to build on what they tried and take another step forward.

It is aimed at our younger readers in the hope that they can build their sense of identity and worthiness before they are old enough to officially be on social media platforms (COPPA  restricts membership to 13+) and promote positive mental health, an area that is of increasing concern amongst our youngest.

While the dark side of social media is now being recognised and explored and talked about in mainstream media, this video shows what can be achieved through the power of self-belief.  Molly suffered horrendous epileptic seizures from the age of 2 and in an effort to save her life, had a third of her brain removed at 16.  Look at her go!!!

 

,

A must-have and a must-promote in any mindfulness collection and program.

Kensy and Max 6: Full Speed

Kensy and Max 6: Full Speed

Kensy and Max 6: Full Speed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max 6: Full Speed

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2020

384pp., pbk., RRP  $A14.99

9781760890025

Twins Kensy and Max are off on another mission for Pharos, this time set in the skifields of Switzerland. On this mission they are to infiltrate the mysterious but suspicious Van Leer family. Strange as the Van Leers are, proof of their misdeeds is scarce. Filled with the sort of action that only snowy mountain country can offer, these apprentice spies are determined to uncover the truth.   But when a surprising figure appears in the ski town, it seems there is more than one mystery to solve. 

Kensy and Max epitomise the sorts of kids we would all like ours to be – clever, resourceful, resilient and respectful – who lead the sort of lives that their readers can only dream of, particularly in these times. But for all that, they remain grounded and real, offering that magical mix of realism and escapism that has been the hallmark of successful stories for the upper primary age group for decades/

Whenever I ask Miss 14 what she is currently reading, a reread of the previous stories in this series is always on the list, as, having started it when it first appeared in 2018 she is keen to see what happens next to these heroes. In fact she often asks me when the next one is coming so after a long Canberra winter spent in trying circumstances, this will be most welcome in her letter box. Miss 9 has just begun the first in the series,  so this is going to be one of those wonderful reading experiences they will be able to share and talk about together.

 

Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Freeze

Oliver Phommavanh

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760897147

Oliver Phommavanh is one of the masters of the modern short story, particularly for those who are either independent readers looking for something meaty but quick, or for teachers who are looking to share quality literature with students while being squeezed by timetables.

Using characters who are familiar to the reader and his quirky sense of humour,  he creates quirky stories that are perfect as read-alouds or read-alones. In this new collection he ventures into new territory with some of the stories featuring fantasy and animals, but in the main the 12 stories are about kids being brave -something our students have had to do in so many ways themselves, this year.  From a dog who accidentally becomes the first animal on Mars, a hopeless chess player dealing with his sports-mad dad, a girl whose dreams are getting too big for her bed, to a boy who has had 1000 names – so far. and a  strange boy who never seems to get brain freeze until…, this is a collection that will bring a smile to those who loved Thai-riffic, (Lengy makes a special appearance in one of the stories);  Con-nerd  and The Other Christy

Drawing on his own experience as being Thai-Australian, he introduces characters from backgrounds that so many will relate to and enjoy reading about as they see their own story in his. If your students haven’t met this remarkable young author yet, now is the time.

 

The Great Realisation

The Great Realisation

The Great Realisation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Realisation

Tomos Roberts

Nomoco

HarperCollins, 2020

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

9781460759806

London is in lockdown and poet and performer Tomos Roberts finds himself home-schooling his much younger brother and sister.  One evening, as he tucks his brother into bed, Cai asks him to tell him the poem “about the virus” again and Roberts obliges.

And so begins a reflection of what the world was like before 2020 when Greed was King and the pursuit of the Almighty Dollar was paramount regardless of the pollution it caused, the damage done to the environment and the consequences to the planet’s health. People’s relationships and connections were lost as we raced lemming-like to some elusive, invisible but seemingly better future.

But then came coronavirus and with it, orders to stay at home and inside.  And because of human nature, we reverted to the simpler pleasures of earlier times rebuilding a more sustainable lifestyle that was not dependent on external gratification and validation.  And that, in turn, had an effect on our cities and countries as the landscape was allowed to breathe again, if not heal. There was a realisation that there was a different, even better way to live and perhaps this experience and its rewards would be embraced even after the virus was managed. “We all preferred the world we found, to the one we’d left behind.”

Roberts finishes by telling his brother to “lie down and dream of tomorrow, and all the things you can do.  And who knows, if you dream hard enough, maybe some of them will come true.”

Roberts first shared this as a video clip and it has been viewed over 60 million times, suggesting that it has a universal message that humanity really wants to hear at this time but it’s production as a picture book with the extraordinary illustrations by Japanese artist Nomoco not only bring the words to life but make it accessible to so many more.  Because the spoken word is so fleeting it’s meaning is not always grasped within the moment, but having a print version that can be read and re-read enables the full intent of the words to be appreciated, valued and perhaps acted upon.

 

While younger readers will recognise some of the events in the story and will be able to talk about what they did when they couldn’t go outside, the full beauty of the words, the pictures and the message is one that more mature readers will appreciate more.  This is reflected in the activities in the teaching ideas which I wrote as I found myself going back and forth many times and finding more each time (and am continuing to do so as I write the review!)

This is a unique book – it is factual yet both a reflection and a dream at the same time and one that will become a point of reference for whenever in the future we look back on this year and consider the time the world was changed in a such a profound way that it would never be the same again.