Like so many little people, this little boy decides he needs a pet. Not just any pet – he needs a parrot in particular. But while he feels ne needs a parrot, and is prepared to take care of it, what does the parrot need?
Apart from the enduring argument about whether birds of any kind should be kept in cages, the story opens up discussions about wants versus needs and whether the two concepts are interchangeable.
McKimmie has a unique artistic style that makes his illustrations very childlike in appearance and this really speaks to his audience underlining the message in his text. Not only does he use the first person to talk to his audience but the words are backed up with images that look like they have been drawn by the narrator offering a double-whammy to pay attention. Starting the book with the image of a cage and ending it with a big blue sky is a powerful mechanism that will remain imprinted in the child’s mind, another technique that reinforces the message. There are many layers to this book that, on the surface, seems quite simple – a case of how less can indeed be more.
Since the days of the Vikings, the Tindims have lived on Rubbish Island, recycling debris salvaged from sunken pirate ships and galleons. They have always lived in secret, caring for the creatures of the sea and helping messages in bottles to find the right tides. But now as plastic threatens to overwhelm their island home, the Tindims make contact with children for the first time ever to show them how to turn rubbish into treasure…
Join Skittle, her furry pet Pinch, her parents, Admiral Bonnet, Mug, Jug, Brew, Captain Spoons, Granny Gull and Barnacle Bow on Rubbish Island where they seem to find a use for every piece of rubbish that the ‘Long Legs’ throw into the water. For years they have lived by their motto: ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’. Wander through its warren of underwater rooms, including a toothbrush library and a hospital for sick fish, climb its terraces overlooking the sea and scale Rubbish Mountain. Set sail with them on their first ocean adventure as they show keen young human ecologists how to help protect our planet for the future.
There was recently a discussion on an education forum about teachers having younger readers who are newly independent and who have outgrown the levelled basal readers that are usually offered the age group. The consensus was that these readers should not have their opportunities stifled by stories with controlled vocabulary and contrived sentence structure just because of their age and a convenient label, and that while they still needed some support with shorter chapters, larger fonts and illustrations which not only broke up the text but also helped clarify it, there were plenty of these sorts of books that offered such a platform, built on a solid, quality storyline. This series, is one of those.
It is modern in appearance and focuses on a theme that is close to the heart and minds of its target audience, that of making this world a better place by thinking globally and acting locally. There are not a lot of things that our youngest readers have the power to improve or change, but being environmentally conscious is one of them so this book which inspires them to be more aware is certainly within their realm. Reminiscent of the classic series The Borrowers by Mary Norton, it may even inspire them to expand their horizons and read that collection.
The first in this series, it is one that should appeal to those who are ready to test the next stepping stones of their reading journey.
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.
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.
Often, as adults rushing to be where we aren’t yet, we miss the little things on the way, but no so kids. They see and they notice because they are so much more in the moment so when the little boy sees the homeless man begging on the footpath he does not hurry on like the adults who are either not seeing or choosing not to. Instead he stops and is rewarded with a chat and a beautiful yellow bird drawn in chalk on the path. And that chat leads to his mum seeing Pete and others in the community who had not seen him before…
But one day Pete gets sick and disappears. No one has seen him and all the little boy wants is a sign that he is OK….
This is a charming story, at times confronting, that really resonated with me because earlier this year a little person at a school that I have been associated with was just like the boy in the story. She saw, she thought and she acted, initiating a schoolwide fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase some sleepwear for those who were about to endure the coldest of winters on the streets of the national capital.
Homelessness is a significant issue in this country and sadly our students are likely to know someone not much older than them who will not sleep in their own bed tonight. While its causes and solutions are as diverse as each individual, nevertheless stories like this (dedicated to the author’s great-great grandmother who was homeless) can start to build social awareness in the same way we are actively promoting environmental awareness. While the issue itself is hard and spiky, this is a gentle story of caring, unselfishness and hope accompanied by equally engaging illustrations that might encourage all of us to look and really see, not to avert our eyes if we don’t like the scenery and have the courage of both the little boy and my little girl to act.
The turn of the 20th century, a new nation and perhaps a new start for Hannah’s family as her father has been appointed schoolmaster of the one-teacher school at Port Harris, a town founded, owned and ruled by one man who built the local sugar cane industry, itself built on the slave labour of the Pacific Islanders “contracted” to work and live in conditions that would rival the worst of what we know about the southern states of the USA.
It is not an auspicious start with the Cecily McPhee foundering as she was caught in a storm of Pirate Bay, and the shipwrecked travellers having to fight their way to shore. While the men decide they will try to find a way to the port, the women shelter and are rescued by a young lad and taken to his family farm. But that young lad is coloured and the product of a mixed marriage between his white mother and his Kiribatian father and immediately the first ugly seeds of racism start to grow. While Hannah and her mother have no qualms, the other women immediately adopt the holier-than-thou attitude of European settlers of the time and demonstrate why Jamie and his mum have been ostracised.
Add into the mix Mrs Gilbert’s liberal views, her passion for women’s suffrage and universal education that includes girls and non-whites, so much so that she starts a secret school for Hannah and Jamie, and you have another powerful historical novel that is as much fact as it is fiction. Once again, Jackie French exposes the reader to times past that have been hidden because men wrote the history books and directed the classroom curriculum by bringing her own family history to light and to life. As the nation moved through the early months of Federation, the first tentative steps towards women’s suffrage and the introduction of the White Australia Policy that prohibited all non-European immigration and was not abolished until 1973 when it at last became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, Hannah and her mother unpeel those carefully constructed layers subtly and softly through staying true to their beliefs without fanfare or fuss and certainly not offence. Hannah’s mother is very well aware of the impact of scandal and how it would affect the progress of change. Now, 120 years on, we are starting to see and appreciate the determination and strength of those shoulders on which we stand as we become and celebrate a nation of many cultures, enjoy universal education whose value is even clearer in current circumstances, and even our personal lives as we choose to marry or not, divorce or not, have children or not.
Definitely a read for older, independent readers, this is a story that has both the deepest of depths and the widest of implications as we really consider where we have come from as both individuals and a nation, and where we want to go. For this is a unique time in which the world has paused and we can choose the future, personally and collectively.
When we look back over a period in our lives, it seems that the memories that stand out are those of the times we failed, made a mistake, stuffed up… It seems to be human nature to remember the bad rather than the good; to dwell on those times when we don’t meet our own or others’ expectations; and sadly, we often let those times shape and define us, changing our purpose and pathway for ever.
The catchcry of “learn from your mistakes” is often easier said than done but in this book, Josh Langley, author of It’s OK to feel the way you do shares uplifting affirmations and simple strategies to help deal with those inevitable times when, in hindsight, we realise we could have done things differently or made better choices. Perhaps the most important of these is understanding that EVERYONE has times that they wish they could do again but that, at the time, we were doing the best we could with what we knew and had. No one gets it right all the time.
To prove this, Langley expresses his motivation for writing this book in this interview…
I remember as a kid, I was constantly making mistakes and getting into trouble, so I wanted to show kids that it wasn’t the end of the world if you stuff up every now and then. We’re human and we’ll keep making mistakes and that’s how we can become better people. I was also hearing from a lot of teachers saying that kids were having difficulty recovering from when things went wrong and would awfulise over the smallest issue. I wanted to help in some way by sharing what I’ve learnt.
I also wanted to show kids that failing isn’t a bad thing and that many wonderful things can arise out of failure. I wouldn’t have become an award winning copywriter and children’s author if I hadn’t failed high school.
Using his signature illustration style set on solid block colour and text which speaks directly to the reader continually reaffirming that the world is a better place because they are in it, he encourages kids to look for the opportunities that might arise from their “failures”. In his case he discovered his love of writing and illustrating after constantly being the worst in the class at sport.
However, IMO, while self-affirmation, self-talk and positive action are critical in building resilience, we, as teachers and parents, also need to be very aware of how we respond to the child’s “mistakes” and look beyond the immediate behavioural expression to the underlying cause. This graphic is just one of many available that encourage this.
No amount of self-talk will ever drown out the voices of those we love and respect and hold as role models, so we ourselves need to be mindful of the messages we are giving those who are just learning their way in the world.
Langley’s work is so positive and so constantly reaffirms for the reader that who they are is enough, echoing my own personal mantra of many years, that it is no wonder I am such a fan. And it is So good to have yet another resource to add to the Mindfulness and Mental Health collections, something that was scarcely heard of for kids just 10 years ago.
As our little ones restart their school journeys and have to relearn how to mix and mingle with others beyond their family bubble, many may need some extra guidance in how to build those relationships with their peers again. This collection of eight books, which offer QR access to videos and teacher resources, could be a valuable tool in this process.
Designed to help our very youngest readers develop ethical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social and emotional intelligence, each book focuses on a key concept such as selflessness, persistence, sharing, taking responsibility, fairness, inclusiveness, self-identity and learning to say sorry. Featuring a recurring cast of characters including Pinney ‘Potamus, Ginnie Giraffe, Miranda Panda, Dodo Komodo, Lulu Kangaroo, Tao Tiger and Kevin, Kelly and Kylie Koala, all portrayed as stitched felt creatures, young readers will enjoy the different adventures as well as pondering what the best course of action would be to solve the problem.
Rocky is a star Aussie Rules player and his little brother Louie adores him. Rocky has taught Louie all sorts of footballing skills but more than that, he has taught him about their country and how to engage with it to both use it and protect it. After they made a proper hunting boomerang together, Rocky taught him how to respect the animals and even though they might kill them for food, how to think about where that food comes from. Rocky taught and Louie learned the legends and lessons of the land, forging a strong bond that would ensure that they would endure.
But Rocky has a dream to become more than just a local football star and to do that he must leave. Louie is devastated but Rocky knows that he must go, just as Louie must stay. What could Louie offer him to make sure that Rocky doesn’t forget him or his roots despite the pull and the attractions of the city.
While this is a powerful story about the love and bonds shared between brothers, it has an even stronger message about being connected to our heritage whatever that may be. In this case it is that of Australia’s indigenous people and the lessons Rocky teaches Louie will help the reader understand that deep connection to country that our Aboriginal peoples have, helping them appreciate why they felt so bereft when so many were uprooted ruthlessly from families, events commemorated on National Sorry Day on May 26. The theme of responsibility and respect for what has gone before that has shaped us into who we are now is very strong, but it also opens up the prospect of having to deal with change, with having to be unselfish and let others follow their destiny regardless of the impact on our comfort zone, and accepting and acknowledging that we are who we are because of those around us and we must be the best we can be to honour that and them.
Co-written with Noongar man and emerging elder, Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley (who has already given us the hauntingly beautiful Hello from Nowhere and Something Wonderful ) views this as her legacy with “the power to change our nation”. For so many reasons, she could well be right.
It can be fun to spend time by yourself, You can play whatever you want and you don’t have to share your toys or your snacks…
But what every one of us has learned over the isolation of the last few months is that friends are critical and a crucial part of our mental well-being. As schools gradually return to full-time face-to-face teaching, some little ones may have been at home for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to work and play with others and how to be a friend, so this beautifully designed book will be the perfect platform for getting things back on an even keel. Each double page spread focuses on an issue such as what are friends, why we need them, what makes a good friend, who can be friends and so on, offering lots of scope for sharing personal stories and contributing to discussions in a way they haven’t done for some time. There are also pages devoted to how friendships grow and change, how they can be destroyed and how they can be mended so that the children realise that there will be ups and downs and part of growing up is knowing what to do and doing it, developing tolerance, understanding, forgiveness and resilience.
The final pages include a “friendship puzzle” offering the reader a few scenarios for which they have to select the most appropriate behaviour, and two pages of information for new parents about their children’s friendships, skills and strategies to help them develop and some reassuring words about imaginary friends and dealing with conflict. – the most important being to give the child time to try to sort it out. That perspective alone tells me that this author knows her stuff and her advice is sound.