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Maxine

Maxine

Maxine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxine

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406387636

There are lots of babies being born in the neighbourhood, but now it is Max who is going to have a little brother or sister. And even before the ultrasound can tell if it is a boy or a girl, the traditional family mask is in place!

When she was born there was a hand-knitted Super cape from Grandma and soft leather boots from Grandpa and she grew up to be just like her mother Madam Thunderbolt, her dad Captain Lightning and of course, Max.  She was so clever that she started school early, but there things began to change, because she just didn’t seem to fit in with the other children.  First to go, much to the family’s chagrin, was the cape – jeans were so much more practical – but Maxine kept her mask.  

But will she ever going to be able to break free of her family’s expectations and be herself?

To quote the publisher, this is a book about “a coming-of-age superhero story about growing up and discovering your identity, with the support of a loving family” and while that might be a popular theme in literature for young child, this one has the magic of Bob Graham’s craftmanship.  And even though it is 20 years since we first met Max himself, this one is likely to be just as timeless and relevant in 2041. 

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526612991

Tilda’s world is just the way she likes it.  She has her toys, books and friends.  But then something happens that turns everything upside down and nothing is the way it was.  Nothing seems to be right and gradually Tilda retreats into herself, into a dark place where she doesn’t want to do or try anything.  What’s the point?  

Toys, books and friends are abandoned and she is swallowed by the darkness.  Until one day she sees a ladybird on its back, struggling to get back on her feet again…

This is another in this series  which includes Perfectly NormanRuby’s Worry,   Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends , that examines the big feelings that are a natural part of a child’s life, feelings that they might not yet be able to articulate and don’t have the strategies to deal with.  It gives the reader some guidance into coping with tricky situations that threaten to overwhelm,  to help them build resilience and embrace a ‘can do’ approach to life. It offers affirmation that everyone has to confront those times when nothing works out quite as they wished, usually because there are factors beyond our control, and that we have to deal with the altered circumstances rather than what we dreamt of.  That even though the clouds may surround us in gloom, they move on to show the sun is still shining and the birds still singing, if we put our brave on and stare them down. 

This is a series that is going to be particularly important in the weeks ahead as children return from weeks of isolation and all the negative feelings and events that that has entailed and emerge to be with friends again, navigating and negotiating the new boundaries -emotional, mental, social and physical – that separation has altered and shaped who we now are. By starting with a story and inviting others to share theirs, little ones can start to understand that their big feelings are normal and can be managed. 

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Monsters

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008305741

Howler is a little werewolf with a big problem.  Whenever he tries to howl at the moon, his voice is really squeaky and not at all scary.  Because all the other werewolves laugh at him, his parents send him to Monster School so he can learn to be frightening.  

But Howler finds the school itself frightening- he’s not sure if the teachers or the students are the scariest, particularly when he can’t meet their standards for scary smiles, spooking, or growling.  The others laugh at him, his teacher mocks him and he is so woeful he gets expelled!

But on his way home back to the forest in shame, Howler meets some kids out on their annual Hallowe’en trick or treat fun, and he suddenly discovers that it is not only okay to be different but it is also quite useful. 

David Walliams has a knack of reaching out to those children who feel they don’t quite fit in and being able to encapsulate their anxiety and then alleviate it in stories that resonate and appeal.  Even though they might not aspire to be scary like Howler, nevertheless there is always something we’d like to achieve but not quite reach the peak we set. So this story that shows that the best we can do is good enough and that it can have its own rewards is very reaffirming. This is particularly so at this time when our students are heading back to school after a long absence and may be worried that they haven’t achieved all their peers might have because they haven’t had the same opportunities.  While it will have appeal as a story for those who celebrate Hallowe’en, it is one for a broader spectrum because of its life lessons.  

But even without going into that sort of depth, it is just a great story with illustrations that epitomise all that we imagine vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, ogres and werewolves to be! 

 

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Leigh Hobbs

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760878221

Horrible Harriet lives in a nest in the roof of the school. All the other children are scared of her. But she has decided it is time for a change – she is going to be the Good Girl that everyone likes. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t convince her classmates that she has changed.  

Harriet is convinced it is because up in her room , locked in a cage is a Terrible Tantrum.  Even though she treats it like a pampered  pet, Harriet refuses to let it out because she knows it won’t behave as it becomes more and more demanding and frightening. And the morning she discovers it has escaped and taken her seat in class, she just knows that this was going to be a challenging day…

Leigh Hobbs was the Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017, acknowledged for all the splendid characters he has brought into children’s lives over the years including Old Tom,  The Freaks in 4F and Mr Chicken. He first introduced us to Horrible Harriet in 2002 and this new episode celebrates her 20th anniversary. He has a knack for creating characters that really appeal to his readers and Harriet is no exception.  Everyone will see a part of themselves in her which means, that despite her behaviour, she resonates and when she tries to be good there is a certain sympathy for her well-intentioned but mis-directed efforts. 

A great opportunity to introduce students to this character. follow her adventures and talk about how we can manage ourselves in all sorts of situations, recognise the triggers that will release the Temper Tantrum and  what can be done to keep it contained. By making the Temper Tantrum a separate physical entity Hobbs cleverly separates it so it can be examined and managed dispassionately, enabling the child to also look at their behaviour at arm’s length.

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

Sofie Lsguna

Marc McBride

Allen & Unwin, 2021

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760878573

Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.

But one day, while reading in the park, Matthew befriends a crow with a broken wing and that night  Lewis Carmichael taps on Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything… A hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic and now Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.

Parents looking for quality stories to slip into their child’s Christmas stocking this year are spoiled for choice – and this new one from Sofie Laguna is no exception.  Matthew is that quiet child, withdrawn, unable to make friends who prefers to read and make friends with the characters in his books because he feels like he doesn’t belong that so many parents and teachers will recognise. But, to my knowledge, none of those I know have befriended a crow, particularly one that can talk, and get taken on such an extraordinary adventure… Yet, this is so well-written and so delicately illustrated (the Aurora Borealis spread is exquisite) that it is utterly believable and the reader is swept up in the adventure. And while he is away, this child of helicopter parents has to learn to be resilient, independent, decisive, courageous and confident – all those things that we want for our children but are sometimes too afraid to let them develop. 

Presented entirely in a blue monochromatic scheme, including the text, this is one that is either a read-alone for independent readers, a read-together between parent and child as the perfect bedtime story or a read-aloud with a class and the opportunity to explore a mysterious land with Matthew. 

 

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Amanda McCardie

Colleen Larmour

Walker, 2021

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

9781406394542

Sukie is starting a new school and shares the concerns of every child in the same situation – will she make friends.  But she soon learns that making friends can happen in all sorts of ways, big and small, even unexpected.  However, it is not enough to make friends – you have to work on maintaining the friendships by respecting others’ differences as well as the things you have in common.

So many children who have been restricted by stay-at-home orders in parts of Australia are separated from their friends right now – even though they have visual contact through online sources or audio through the phones, it is the physical, spontaneous face-to-face contact they are missing and which is impacting on their mental well-being.  Even Miss 10, the family social butterfly, is  worried that she will be forgotten and won’t have any friends when school eventually returns.  

If nothing else, this time at home has demonstrated the critical role schools play well beyond the formal academic teaching and this book would be a worthwhile addition to any teacher’s toolkit as they help their students navigate making friends and being friends again after such a long social isolation. It has a wider reach than just supporting those who will be starting a new school as a new year approaches.  Readers are invited to agree, disagree and add to the situations in which Sukie finds herself – should be embarrassed and uncomfortable that Mikkel refuses her help with his jigsaw puzzle or is it OK to say no sometimes? And cleverly, illustrator Colleen Larmour has included a picture of someone sharing kindness on almost every page, opening up not only an opportunity to look closely but also the concept of doing a random act of kindness every day.  

Our children are negotiating a tricky time at the moment, different but just as confronting as children in past generations, and the strategies and coping mechanisms we help them to develop now will play a large role in how they will survive and thrive. This book has a role to play in that. 

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes

Gordon C. James

Egmont, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP  $A14.99

 9780755502707

I am a non-stop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference-maker. A leader.

“Step inside the mind of the confident narrator of this book! He is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and will see them through. He’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny. A good friend. A superhero. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s often misunderstood. So, slow down, look and listen as he shows you who he really is …”

Oprah Magazine says this book is “one of its essential books for discussing racism with kids” and other quotes from reviews all refer to the main character’s above all else.  Yet, when I read it I didn’t even notice his colour, although the illustrations are so lifelike and full of energy, because I saw it through the lens of the performances at the Olympic Games – and not just those by Australians.  So often, as I watched (as an alternative to the ad infinitum of COVID 19 and lockdown), the back story of the athlete was shared and so often it was a story of triumph over tragedy, of hard work, perseverance, resilience, overcoming hurdles and obstacles, staring the impossible in the face… and that is what I took from this book.  

So many of our students would have seen performances that have inspired them – the silver lining of lockdown being the access to real-time coverage rather than a news snippet – and dreams will have been dreamt, particularly with some of the sports being so accessible, like skateboarding, and the age of the competitors so close to their own..  And within this book is the sort of motivational, inspirational language that will fan the flames of the spark of those dreams. 

So while this book may have been intended to help young black children to rise above the racism and be the person they are, and sadly, will resonate on that level with some of our students,  it can be used in lots of ways to affirm and reaffirm, to challenge and to change, to build not just dreams but hope and expectation.

There are so many clichés about it being the inner person that counts, and while that is true, we all know it’s not that simple.  So help students see their potential by having them identify the highest wall facing them right now, whether that’s understanding a science formula or improving their lap time, and then help them put in place a plan to climb over it.  Dreams. beliefs and goals can be the driving force but sometimes we need some strategies to make them happen. Have them add a page to the book that celebrates them.

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

Paul Russell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820881

Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s mind doesn’t work like that of most children – it’s almost as big as his name!  When he is asked about the colour of the ocean, his is not the first hand up to answer because he is thinking –  he knows that the top can be green or blue depending on the sky, that the waves crash white but in the depths where no sunlight reaches it is black as the darkest night; he’s heard of the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the Yellow river; he knows that algae can turn oceans green, brown, red or blue – but by the time he has decided on his answer the teacher has picked someone else.  

The most ordinary, everyday things spark deep questions to ponder on and consider but while he is doing that, his teachers, his friends, his family have all moved on.  Except his mother – she seems to have the patience to appreciate the moment, be in the here and now and understand her son’s need to wonder and takes the time to let him have the time. 

This is a unique story that follows Bowen as he grows up, always the outsider because of his propensity to look at all the angles, to see the world through a different lens. And it is not until he is grown up that his thought processes come into their own, and are at last appreciated. Bowen finds his place in the world.

There are many children like Bowen who don’t “fit the mould”. who take a different path to their peers and who often fall by the wayside, succumbing to all sorts of mental health issues as they struggle to be what other people expect rather than themselves, doubt their self-worth and underestimate their potential. The teachers’ notes  offer great insight into the story behind this story and suggest how we can put ourselves into Bowen’s shoes by putting ourselves into one of the situations he finds himself him and using a variety of thinking tools such as De Bono’s Six Hats to gain a new perspective.  Instead of paying lip-service to diversity we can experience it and develop greater understanding and empathy. 

Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s incredibly busy mind shows the need for us to open ours and even enables us to do so. 

The Inside Day

The Inside Day

The Inside Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inside Day

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2021 

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

9781761040085

It’s one of those day when the classroom windows rattle and shake as rain drums on the glass and rather than being able to go outside to play, it’s going to be one of those no-good, long, boring, inside days. Milly and her friends feel as gloomy as the weather but Miss Fish has all sorts of ideas that will make them feel sunny inside even though they are stuck inside. And soon, even Milly has joined her classmates in focusing on the things that make them feel good and has forgotten about the sandpit and all the attractions that the outdoors offers.

This is a timely release as so many children are stuck inside, not just because it’s winter but also the current public health orders.   So it’s the perfect time for teachers to become Miss Fish, adapt her ideas and help children see the possibilities and potential of this enforced stay-at-home time. As well as encouraging students to be in the moment, she also wants them to say how they are feeling so there are lots of similes and vocabulary to explore and illustrate.  If something makes you feel like “colours are bursting out of your mouth” what would that look like if it actually happened?

The final two pages of the book are devoted to directing the reader to focus on their own feelings and there is an activity pack available as well. The icing on the cake is that Penguin Random House is one of the publishers who have agreed to extending the exemptions of the 2020 Storytime Agreement to this period of lockdown so the book can be read online to a class behind a password-protected platform. 

 

All About Diversity

All About Diversity

All About Diversity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Diversity

Felicity Brooks

Mar Ferrero

Usborne, 2021

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

9781474986649

“Being different from each other is called DIVERSITY”  and this entertaining book explores a range of ways people can be different such as what they look like, where they live, the sorts of families they live in, the foods they eat and the way they spend their time.  Using a two-page spread , lots of illustrations accessible text and speech bubbles, its design encourages the young reader to explore each vignette and learn something new each time. There is also a glossary to explain some of the trickier words as well as notes for the grown-ups that explain why promoting diversity and inclusion is critical for the healthy well-being of our children.

 

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Although this is a topic that early childhood teachers focus on each year this books gives a real focus and explanation to those aspects that their students are most aware of, making it an excellent foundation for an ongoing unit of work.  Inspired by the stimuli provided, children could create their own class pages featuring themselves and their lives making it a powerful resource for both social and language development.