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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….

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA, 2020

132pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279521

December 1914, times are tough, war has broken out in Europe and 15 year old Will Hutchinson joins his father, two mates and six camels on and expedition to the South Australian desert outback to search for gold. But water rather than gold becomes their main concern as the harsh conditions become real, and in desperation the men leave Will to babysit the pack camels while they search for water.

But Will is not content to just sit and wait and so he too, goes off to find water. But he finds so much more – the opal fields of Coober Pedy owe their discovery to his courage, cool head and self-belief.

This is the fifth in the Heritage Heroes series that tells  the “true stories from Australia’s past featuring ordinary children and young people who have achieved amazing things against the odds”. As well as the narrative itself, Will’s story is interspersed with double-page spreads about the topics in each chapter such as riding the Ghan, the Afghans, the camels and surviving in the desert, all of which draw on the full resources from the National Library of Australia  to bring them to life and give them authenticity. There are also pages about the future of Will and the three men (Will came to a tragic end at 21), maps and details about the stories behind the story so readers can explore further.  Thus as well as an entertaining read for independent readers about a real person they can relate to, there is also a glimpse into a past that few know about. There is a reason that the main street of Coober Pedy is called Hutchison Street and the memorials that stand beside the Stuart Highway in South Australia and at Glengyle Station in Queensland.    Teachers’ notes will be available .

This is a series well worth highlighting in your collection so our young students not only learn the intriguing stories of this country’s past but can also be inspired by ordinary kids doing extraordinary things so perhaps they too can become a hero of the future. 

Me and My Boots

Me and My Boots

Me and My Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and My Boots

Penny Harrison

Evie Barrow

Little Hare, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760502331

Bronte loves her boots and she wears them all the time.  But they seem to take a role of their own depending on who she is with.

Mum calls them my brave-girl boots.
My bold-as-brass, adventure boots
I’m off to snare the dragon boots.
I’ll drag him home for tea.

My teacher calls them bustling boots.
My buckle-down-to-business boots.
I’m the best at jobs boots.
I’m busy as a bee.

Bouncing along with a rhythm that is as engaging as Bronte, with clever language and joyful illustrations, Bronte learns that who she is when she is wearing them is shaped by the relationships and circumstances at the time. But most importantly, she knows that all of these personalities make her who she is, even if she does have more layers than a triple-chocolate cake. 

This is the first in a new series about this thoroughly modern young girl who is confident and assertive and very comfortable in her own skin. The endpages and illustrations show she is not restricted by gender stereotyping or other artificial boundaries, complementing the text perfectly as she rejects the notion that her boots make her bossy or stubborn.

Looking forward to many more in the series.

 

 

Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Days of Kindness

Cori Brooke

Fiona Burrows

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594751

Nabila is the new girl in school and like many new kids, she’s finding it hard to fit in with the established crew, particularly when she looks different to them and eats her strange lunches alone. But Holly comes to her rescue as their common love for soccer takes over.  But when both Holly and Nabila are picked for the school team, there is still disunity and the two girls realise if they are to come together to play well, they need a plan…

A search for “Twelve Days of Kindness” on the Internet brings up a number of projects and resources, mostly connected to Christmas but this is something that could be developed by a group or an individual at anytime to promote kindness, compassion, empathy and build something harmonious. Some schools like to take students on camp in the early days of Term 1 to build bonds for a successful year, but if this is not viable, organising something like Twelve Days of Kindness could be an alternative.  Having students directly involved by having them articulate those things they don’t like and identifying how such behaviour can be changed and the environment they would like to be in gives ownership and helps them understand the power to change is in their hands.  Promoting empathy activities  rather than always focusing on the ‘don’ts’ of bullying can be a new approach that has an impact by making it personal.  Again, the solution is theirs to decide and implement.

Author of the CBCA shortlisted All I Want for Christmas is Rain, (as appropriate now as it was in 2016) Brooke has again delivered a story that promotes thought and inspires action.

 

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Caveman Next Door

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594850

Penny’s street and home were just like any others until a caveman moved into an empty lot next door.  A caveman who cooked his meals outside, didn’t have a TV, didn’t wear socks and whose furniture (what there was of it) was made of sticks and stones. And he didn’t speak English – all he could do was grunt.

One day after school, Penny decided to show him around the neighbourhood – the library, the bus, the park, a restaurant… But wherever they went, and no matter how hard he tried, Ogg didn’t know what to do or how to act and they were shown the door of every place. Until Penny took him to her school…

It’s hard enough fitting into a new neighbourhood when you speak the language and have mastered the social niceties, but to do so without either of these like Ogg, must be overwhelming and daunting.  And yet, with our multicultural and global perspective that welcomes people from all over the world, this must be a common experience for many.  While the children are able to go to school, make friends, learn the language and the expectations, parents, particularly mums, are left at home isolated, mixing only with others who share their lifestyle and so a vicious cycle of exclusion and racism begins.  While Ogg’s attempts to do the right thing are funny, there is an underlying pathos at his awkwardness and also a sadness at the actions of those who object to his actions.  Only at school does he find compassion.  

Using a caveman analogy to bring awareness to the issues of being different is clever because not only does it highlight just how hard it can be, no one can criticise the author for being insensitive towards one group or another.  It certainly opens up the opportunities for discussions about how we respond to newcomers and identifying those things peculiar to us that they might have difficulty adjusting to as well as putting the students in Ogg’s shoes.  With space travel on the horizon, what if they went to Mars to live and found there were indeed Martians…?

While the theme of being different, fitting in and accepting others is common in children’s picture book, even though it might be expressed in a unique way each time, the more often we expose our students to these sorts of stories and talk about them, provoke their thinking and even develop strategies to embrace all, then the better and stronger the communities we build will be.  Strong, united communities are the key to a peaceful, harmonious future if we are to move beyond the current, nationalistic “our best interests” philosophy and look at what is good for humanity as a whole.

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Robert Vescio

Amanda Edmonds

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925820034

Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many. 

War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.

But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion  for their peers who have lived the nightmare.  But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean

Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma  of leaving  all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.

Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Look for this one in the 2020 awards lists.

 

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2019

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760524715

“Bold: typically describes one who is willing to take risks; who is brave in heart as well as deed.”

In this new collection of rewritten, remastered fairy tales featuring  Jack and the BeanstalkHansel and GretelThe Emperor’s New Clothes and Prince Leo and the Sleeping Princess, Susannah McFarlane  editor of Stuff Happens one of my favourite series for boys,  shows that there is more to brave than brawn and bravado slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress. It’s about doing what’s right, being clever and honest, that how you do something is as important as what you do.

Illustrated by Simon Howe, Matt Huynh, Louie Joyce and Brenton McKenna, four of our leading illustrators, in a style that takes the book beyond the realm of the cutsey, Disneyfied fairytale, it is the perfect companion to Fairytales for Feisty Girls which turns  Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina around to meet the demands of the modern young lady. 

Designed for independent readers in novel format with chapters within each story, it is ideal for re-engaging young students with the traditional tales of childhood literature and start discussions about how things change over time to meet the needs of the audience – these are indeed a long way from the didactic tales of Grimm et al whose purpose was to scare little ones into doing the right thing because of the dire consequences that awaited if they didn’t. 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594768

As winter leaves tumble and twirl a wisp of memory wraps itself about me and whispers me back to long ago…

As a child, her Nanny Clementine took her to the park where she played on the swings and the see-saw and rode the carousel horses for as long as time.  And one day, she sees a squirrel, one that the others squirrels growl at and chase away because he has a stumpy tail, not a magnificent curled one like theirs. And so begins a brief friendship between them – the little squirrel who is a bit different and the little girl who is also a bit different – and there is a strong sense of empathy that builds up, until the snow falls and the park is closed. What is it that the little girl learned from that squirrel in those few short days that has stayed with her all her life?

Sensitive, with beautifully descriptive passages that are sublimely illustrated in a palette and manner as soft and gentle as the story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings for we all know the child who is shunned because of their “stumpy tail” and the silent pain and rejection they feel.  One to share and talk about what it would be like to be the one that is on the outside, rather than being part of the Bully-Bunch, and perhaps change a few perceptions.