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Marmalade – the Orange Panda

Marmalade - the Orange Panda

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

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

 9780008305758

One morning, deep in the forest, a beautiful baby panda was born. The panda was different to all the others, as he had dazzling orange fur.

“I will call you Marmalade,” his mummy whispered. . .

But when the other pandas see him they are not impressed – rather this embarrassment of pandas is embarrassed.  And so, Marmalade sets out on a perilous adventure through the jungle to find out  just where he belongs….

Setting aside the fact that pandas are solitary animals and that the creatures Marmalade meets would not be found anywhere near his natural home, this is a story about family love, being yourself and finding your place in the world – a message our youngest readers need to hear often as they begin to develop their own identity and be comfortable with it.  And while they would have or will hear the theme in many stories, it is the ending that makes this one different.  For it doesn’t come to a cosy conclusion with Marmalade snuggling in close to his Mama again – they get up to some hilarious mischief that lightens the message and leaves the reader with a smile.  

Using a series of framed illustrations, Walliams and Stower have packed a lot into this story as Marmalade discovers that he is not the only orange creature in the jungle and that not everyone is as friendly as they look, making it seem much longer than the traditional 32-page read. The humour, vocabulary and layout carry it along at a fast pace with much to discover on every page and every read. 

 

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263484

When Jackdaw Crow is found underneath an apple tree, orphaned as a tiny baby by a lightning strike, he is taken to Direleafe Hall, where its principal Mrs Beekman, raises him as her own son.  But for all that he is loved and cherished, Jackdaw, as the only boy in that school for girls,  never feels quite content as he feels there is something missing in his life, comfortable though it is.  

Then he overhears a conversation between two of the kitchen girls, one saying that he was responsible for the death of his parents for if he hadn’t been such a crier, they would never have taken him outside to see the storm that killed them; but it is the words of Angharad that ‘clung to his soul’ – “How can a baby, brand new and pure, be blamed for anything? A baby ain’t done nothing yet. A baby has no dreams or calling…” 

And so he sets out to find his calling, the reason he was spared when his parents weren’t.  But when he befriends Angeline, a wildling girl who knows her destiny lies with the circus, he ignores the wisdom of the ghosts of Nell, Florence and Lucy and tries to save her from the brutal Mrs Bristleroad, even though Angeline is determined to save herself – that is her calling- he goes too far and loses sight of what’s most important.

This is the third  in this intriguing trilogy which includes The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn and The Ballad of Melodie Rose both of which also incorporate the themes of lost, lonely souls seeking friendships, struggling with who they are and their reason for being but learning to remain true to themselves regardless, (familiar themes for the readers who face the same issues), but whether it is the beginning or the end of the sequence depends on how you interpret the powerful epilogue which draws the circle together. 

As with its companions, Gordon’s evocative language and phrasing draws the reader in to this other-worldly experience, even those like me who are not particular fans of this genre, and there is much wisdom and food for thought between and beyond the lines, as well as along them.  I loved Wonder Quinn so much that I kept it and now I have all three to pass on to both Miss Almost 16 and Miss Just 11 because I think that each of them, despite being different in both age and taste, will thoroughly enjoy them.  Just as it is a timeless piece of writing, so it is a timeless read.  

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Kristen Schroder

Hilary Jean Tapper

EK Books, 2022

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

9781922539090 

Jonah’s favourite toy is Freddy, but Freddy is not a teddy – he might have been a funky duck, a peculiar platypus or even a punk rock penguin – and that causes a problem when there is to be a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at school.  Does Jonah take Freddy who means so much to him, or a teddy that he finds hiding, forgotten, under his bed?

This is a heart-warming story that will appeal to all our young readers who have a favourite stuffed toy that is not a teddy, especially if they have had to make a decision about whether it “fits the brief” for an occasion like a Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  Jonah’s solutions to both his own problem and that of Cassie will inspire them to be brave enough to be themselves despite peer pressure. 

 

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Big Softie

Kaye Baillie

Shane McG

New Frontier, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781922326485

Elliot is a GREAT BIG SOFTIE. But to fit in with the other monsters he decides to perform some MONSTROUS deeds. After scaring a little girl on her bike, he must decide whether to continue being MONSTROUS or follow his heart.

This is a charming story for young readers that focuses on being true to who you are on the inside and having the courage to be that person, rather than what others expect of you.  It can be hard to resist the pull of peers but Elliot shows it can be done.  

But it could also be used with older children to explore the concept of stereotypes and how people assume what others are like just based on their physical appearance. Start by getting them to draw a monster and note the similarities in the results.  And perhaps, from there, investigate how advertisers perpetuate those stereotypes such as always making librarians middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, sensible-shoes-and cardy-wearing, saying “shoosh” or putting a white coat on someone to portray a “scientific truth”.  Or perhaps delve into the origins of racism…Or discrimination in general… And how it feels when you’re the one who is discriminated against.  

Sometimes it is the books that seem to have the most simple, almost superficial storylines that can become the best for exploring tricky concepts. 

 

 

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophia the Show Pony

Kate Waterhouse

Sally Spratt

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761042492

Sophia is literally a show pony.  Not for her smelly, draughty stables and a manky horse blanket.  “She lived uptown in fancy Flats, the ritziest place on earth” and was “known for her stylish array of hats, paired with coats and designer gowns.”  But Sophia has a secret dream to actually  win the race that she and her friends dress up for.  Her friends discourage her saying that her destiny is being a fashionista and so Sophie settles for that until…’

Waterhouse has combined her fashion and racing backgrounds with her desire to write a book for her daughters which embraces ” all the lessons I want to impart ” about ” following your passion no matter what anyone says and finding your place in the world, and also embracing your individuality.” This message is a common one in children’s stories, but one which needs to be heard often so whatever story it is embedded in is worthwhile.  Choosing to tell it in rhyme can be tricky with both vocabulary and rhythm having to be manipulated but Waterhouse has done this creating a story that gallops along accompanied by illustrations which have all the characteristics that appeal to its target audience.  With its gold borders and pink roses, the book itself wouldn’t look out of place in the member’s area of the racecourse. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

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

9781761044366

Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.” 

 

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to be Different;  Inspirational Words from People Who Changed the World 

Ben Brooks

Quinton Winter

Hachette, 2022

208pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781529416244

The words in Dare to be Different have great power, just as the phrase itself does as it challenges the individual to stand apart from the crowd, to be proud of whatever it is that makes them unique and celebrate it.  Not always easy, and particularly not when you’re at the age when the natural desire is to fit in, to be one of the in-group, to conform and be anonymous but at the same time to have and follow heroes who do have the courage to shine.

In this compendium, Ben Brooks has brought together 100 people who have all in some way or another used words to do wonderful things, rather than sporting prowess or heroic deeds.  Some may have changed a single life, while others have changed the course of history for almost everyone on earth. But whether their effects were big or small, these individuals’ speeches, letters, poems, songs, stories, and advice prove one thing: words can make the world a better place. It includes personal letters that were written for just one reader to help guide them through life’s journey; and others that were intended for millions of people to hear about grand declarations of war, peace or new discoveries.

From Plautus’ plays about the power of laughter to Selena Gomez’s speech about bullying; and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters of encouragement to his daughter, Scottie, to Bambi, the mysterious graffiti artist who sprays words of truth on walls, there is something to be learned from every quote in this inspiring and illuminating book.  It contains the words of wisdom that children will love to hear, about kindness, bullying, or whether it’s OK to sometimes eat chocolate for breakfast, and allow them to feel more secure about themselves and accept that who they are is enough. Not everyone has to be a headline.

Each double-page spread gives a background narrative pitched at the reader’s level and includes a significant quote that offers a life message that might be just what the child needs to hear at the time.  For example, Selena Gomez says, “You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a like, by a comment…”; founder of the charity Sight Learning at just 14, Yash Gupta says, ” Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It’s just a matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that”; while Yoda reminds them that “Size matters not. Look at me, Judge me by size, do you?”

While many of those included do have an international profile like Desmond Tutu and Dolly Parton, most do not, just being acclaimed for having made a significant difference in someone’s life, somewhere, reinforcing that it is ordinary people from ordinary places who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that allow them to make that difference. So, as well as the positive affirmations from those that have, it offers a belief that we all can.   It also shows that you don’t have to set out to make a difference, or to receive recognition, acknowledgement or acclaim. and that sometimes your impact can be invisible and unknown. Many years ago I taught a quiet, shy young lad, one whom, honestly, I had all but forgotten until he told my BFF, his prospective employer, that it was my words about believing in himself and being able to do whatever he dreamed that had led him safely through university to a career that he loves!   Sometimes just being who you are and following your passion can be all the different you need to be.

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Joanna Ho

Dung Ho

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780063057753

The little boy is just like any other little boy in a bedroom that could be anyone’s  with a train tack on the floor of his bedroom and s solar system above his bed. But when his friend Kurt draws a pictures of his friends. and drew the little boy with two straight lines for eyes, he is devastated.  It had never occurred to him that he was any different to his class mates.  When he tells his Baba, his Baba is very wise and tells him, “Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars.  The comets and constellations show you their secrets, and your eyes can foresee the future,  Just like mine.”

And for the first time the little boy realises that his eyes are not only like his baba’s but also his old and wise agong’s and his baby brother Di-Di’s.  And he begins to understand…  as he discovers that his eyes are a mirror of those of the those whom he so adores and admires, both past and present, he realises that his eyes are powerful and visionary too. “My eyes shine like sunlit rays that break through dark and doubt, They lift their sights on paths of flight that soar above the clouds.  My eyes gaze into space and glimpse trails of light inviting my into impossibilities.”  His eyes are so much more than their shape, and a depiction in a picture. 

Like its predecessor, Eyes that Kiss in the Corners, this is a story of awareness, acknowledgement and empowerment written in the most poetic language that we are coming to associate with this  author’s writing, and accompanied by glorious pictures that are so full of colour and detail and upward movement that the reader is as uplifted as the little boy . 

Rather than just being a parallel to Eyes the Kiss, this book builds on that and together would make the most powerful foundation for this year’s Harmony Day celebrations. 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

Sue Lawson & Sue Hindle

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036144

With pandemic restrictions easing and life returning to a “COVID-19 normal” one of the most concerning things emerging from the lockdowns and limitations is the amount of global research focusing on the impact the time has had on children’s mental health.  And, with RATs and masks in schools bringing the disease to them directly, the anxiety and discomfort is likely to have  even greater consequences.  But while that might be the black cloud of the last two years, the silver lining is the focus that has been placed on the mental and emotional health of our young people – no longer is it just an illness of older people.

According to the experts, one of the greatest tools we can provide youngsters with is resilience -“the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” – and this book, which talks directly to the reader, offers the tools to build this. Beginning with the affirmation that no one else in the world is like you, if offers practical ways to explore emotions and build a toolkit to help with the days when they “feel worried, worn out or just not quite right.” From learning to breathe deeply, tune into their emotions, and creating a place – physical or mental – that is safe and peaceful, the young person is offered ideas that are simple, doable and achievable.  They’re explicitly stated rather than being embedded in a what-would/could-you-do story that needs to be unpacked and have step-by-step instructions from learning to finger-breathe to writing anxieties , fears and feelings on paper and physically ripping them up. 

Mental health is a curriculum focus, even moreso now, and mindfulness part of everyday activities so as well as helping individuals directly, the suggestions could also be a toolkit for teachers to work through with students whenever there is a moment or a need. Sharing stories such as The World Awaits is an essential part of showing children that their feelings are real, shared and validated and this book is the perfect follow-up, empowering them to not only manage their emotions now but building strategies for the future.