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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.  

 

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peg Leg Pedicure

Eliza Ault-Connell

Aimee Chan

Angela Perrini

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922358424

Eva is so used to her mum having artificial legs because she had lost her real ones after a childhood illness, that she is quite taken aback when a school friend calls her mum “weird” because of them.  Eva sees her mum as strong and brave and busy just like all the other mums, one who makes light of her metal legs by pretending to be a pirate and who lets Eva give her old, more traditional peg-legs pedicures and paint the toes like rainbows.  

But rather than be cross with Rishab for upsetting Eva, her mum has the perfect solution – and so she shows the kids how being different in one way or another is what makes them extraordinary.

While stories about children being different are quite common for little ones, it is not often there is one about the parent, particularly one based on a true situation because co-author Eliza Ault-Connell, an Australian wheelchair track athlete who has competed at the Olympics, Paralympics and World Championships after losing her legs and most of her fingers but surviving meningococcal disease is Eva’s “mum”. 

Thus, by celebrating her “disability” – something that opened more doors for her than she could probably have imagined as an able-bodied person – young children can be inspired to make the most of what they have.  That that which sets them apart is what makes them unique and extraordinary. I can always remember my mum telling me as a young child in the 50s that with red hair, glasses and freckles I probably wouldn’t win a beauty contest but I had brains that would outstrip anyone and so that is what I used as I grew up and they lasted much longer than any pretty face might have.

This is an uplifting story that encourages our young readers to focus on what they perceive to be their weaknesses and then work out how they can use them to be brave and bold and smart, no matter what.   

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun and the Mayfly

Tang Tang

Zhang Xiao

Little Steps, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922678041

As Little Mayfly is born in the depths of the lake, moving upwards through the water she greets the sun who is rising over a new day. 

“Hello”, she says, ” you are amazing. You light up this world as soon as you wake up. Who are you?” 

Sun tells her but when it learns that Little Mayfly only lives for one day and when it’s journey is over so will be her life, it has no words because it knows just how brief a day is.  But to Little  Mayfly, a day is a lifetime and there is so much to see and do, and even though she learns that she is going to miss out on things like the tadpole turning to a frog and the flowers booming., she remains cheerful and optimistic, determined to make the most of the time she does have.

Tagged as “an uplifting story about the power of positivity and making the most of every day” this is an enchanting story from a leading Chinese author that not only introduces young readers to the passage of time and encourages them to make the most of their time, it also helps them start to see the world through a different lens – an abstract concept that is tricky for little ones.  It is like that saying that not stepping on the ant makes a huge difference to the ant, if not the walker.  If we only have one day, do we spend it in despair or delight?

Even though the reader longs for a happier miraculous ending as the sun gradually sinks in the west, the inevitable happens and so this is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of life cycles  the tadpole’s is illustrated in the story but in a joyful way – and so the focus becomes not the inescapable but what can be done in the time we have.  Definitely one for the mindfulness collection and to inspire positive  mental health. 

Mia

Mia

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia

Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Dianne Wolfer

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760877026

It is 2019 and 13-year-old Mia lives on a bush block in the Pilbara, where she assists her mother’s work as a vet and equine therapist. Although she is used to the seasonal cyclones that threaten the West Australian coast, nothing can prepare her for the ferocity of Cyclone Veronica when she finds herself home alone and needing to protect their property and the animals she loves. She is used to cyclone build-ups, but the noise and energy of the wild rain squalls keep her awake half the night. What if the cyclone hits before Mum gets back? As wild winds batter the coast, Mia knows she must keep calm. The animals need her but when her friend Nick arrives, pleading for help, and her favourite horse is injured, will Mia be able to withstand the greatest challenge of her life? As the storm intensifies, can she save her beloved animals? 

This is the latest in this series that offers fictionalised accounts of world events that help our older, independent readers not only understand what happened but allows them to process it.  By giving each story a central character such as Lyla who endured the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the story becomes one of courage, resilience and hope rather than an historical recount with meaningless facts and figures. It offers the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  

Like its predecessors, Mia  is a well-written, well-researched blend of imagination and information that above all, tells a story of one girl’s experience and shows that it is OK to be scared and fearful, but that natural human resilience can prevail.  But because it will resonate with many in one way or another , if you have a system that places trigger warnings in your books, this may be one to consider.  There could also be an argument that in this time of such extensive flooding and loss, this is not the time for such a book but it might be the vehicle that offers the light at the end of the tunnel for those enduring such hardship to strive for. 

While we would all like to protect our kids from the disasters of modern times, natural or otherwise, that can be an impossible task as the world now comes to them in the palm of their hands, but stories like this can offer insight, understanding and a feeling that they too, can come through the other side – often shaped by it but also more resilient and courageous because of it. 

Frank’s Red Hat

Frank's Red Hat

Frank’s Red Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank’s Red Hat

Sean E. Avery

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760654283

Frank is a penguin with ideas. Some are better than others but often they are  not so good.. So when he  he shows the other penguins his strange new creation, they are very nervous. It’s something they’d never seen or expected to see in their cold and colourless Antarctic world — a red hat. and when Neville puts it on and is immediately taken by a killer whale, they definitely don’t want anything to do with it –  or the lime, copper, apricot, cobalt, lilac versions Frank offered.  In fact, they didn’t care for any of his colour variations – it was the hat itself that was evil.

Despite his perseverance, Frank had to admit defeat and declared he would not make any more hats until…

Sometimes it just takes someone with a belief in their ideas, in what they do and can offer to bring colour into a monochrome world thus changing that world forever, and Frank’s determination and resilience to be and make the changes is a lesson to all those who have a talent or an idea. Encouraging those with the big ideas to not give up, to persevere while being willing to listen to their audience and even modify their prototypes to address concerns and meet new needs, this is a story that offers the boost to continue that might be needed.

On the other hand, it opens up opportunities for discussions from the penguins’ perspective about how we are naturally resistant to change that takes us beyond our comfort zone, this is a great story to share with those about to embark on new adventures such as moving house or graduating to high school.  While there will be anxiety about leaving what is known, there is also the chance for new, exciting doors to open, such as the new friends Frank meets and the potential to expand both ideas and learning.  

While the publisher recommends this as a story for 4-7 year olds, it has the potential to have a much wider audience in the hands of a skilled teacher. 

 

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.

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. 

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. 

 

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! 

A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita's Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clue for Clara 

9781760877699

Rita’s Revenge

9781761066009

Allen & Unwin, 2020-2022

320+ pages, pbk., RRP $A16.99

 

GREETINGS. AM LOOKING FOR A MAJOR CRIME TO SOLVE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY RECENT MURDERS, KIDNAPPINGS OR JEWEL HEISTS IN THIS AREA.’

A scruffy chook, literally henpecked by the other hens, Clara has become addicted to the detective shows she sees on the humans’ television and now she wants to be a famous detective like her hero Amelia X with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore, but  being small and scruffy chook no one takes her seriously. But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal. 

And having solved the crime and prevented the theft of some sheep, but in the process having made the ducks look less than the courageous creatures they perceive themselves to be, the ducks are ticked off and are seeking revenge.  They decide they are going to make Clara’s life a misery but brave as they profess to be, none is willing to lead the charge.  Until Rita, in disgrace for offering poetry at the recent Talent Night, volunteers in an effort to seek redemption.  But But Rita finds more than revenge on her mission. She uncovers a dastardly plan to chook-nap the clever chicken that will take them both a long way from home.  But her unlikely friendship with a small human and the help of some street-smart birds just might save the day and inspire an epic poem!

This is a LOL duo for the newly independent reader who likes something completely wacky and entertaining, written in an easy-to-read unique diary format with plenty of other textual supports while being thick enough to impress peers!  Both see the human world through a different lens offering interesting insights as well as hilarious observations and misinterpretations, but more than that, they validate the importance of being yourself regardless if that is a little different to the norm and the expectation of others.  Young readers who see themselves as being a little outside whatever is currently accepted amongst their peers will delight in seeing both Clara and Rita rise above the pack (flock?) to triumph.