Archives

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books, 2018 

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

9781406383164

Edward the giraffe does not like his long neck.  In fact, he’s embarrassed by it. 

It’s too long.

Too bendy.

Too narrow.

Too dopey.

Too patterned.

Too stretchy.

Too high.

Too lofty.

Too … necky.

He thinks everyone stares at it, and as he tries to disguise with ties and scarves and hide it behind trees and shrubs, he admires those with much smaller necks.  And then he meets Cyrus the turtle who is frustrated by his short neck and…  Together they learn that they can co-operate to solve problems and accept themselves as they are.

The creators of Penguin Problems  have combined forces again to bring young readers a new book, one that focuses on acknowledging and being grateful for those things we do have because what we see as a negative may well be a positive to others.  They may even envy it.  Someone’s long legs might be just what the shorter person desires; someone’s auburn hair might be the thing that makes them stand out in a crowd… Encouraging children to accept themselves as they are physically and to celebrate that which makes them unique is all part of their development and may help them to become more comfortable in their own skin, more self-assured and less likely to follow fads and trends or even risky behaviour as they get older. Given that body image issues are concerns of even some of the youngest readers, any story that helps with self-acceptance has to be worthwhile. To discuss this without getting personal, children could make charts of the pros and cons of features such as the elephant’s trunk, the zebras stripes, the lion’s mane or other distinctive characteristics of different species that they suggest. 

There is also a subtle sub-text about not being so self-focused.  While Edward is busy admiring the necks of the other animals, they feel he is staring at them and making them feel self-conscious so children can be encouraged to think of their actions from the perspective of others. Learning that there are “two sides to a story” is an important part of growing up.

Another addition to the mindfulness collection as we try to foster strong, positive mental health in our young readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2018 

240pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143786368

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

But one day, kindly Mr Sabatini brings home a stray Dalmatian to live with them and Catvinkle’s life is not only interrupted but is irrevocably changed.  Even though cats and dogs are not supposed to like each other, Ula’s politeness and meekness impress Catvinkle and gradually they become friends.  But when they present their friendship to others of their species, they find that what they have is not necessarily acceptable to all.

Written in response to what the author describes “as a ‘surge in, and tolerance for, racism and bullying’ in public discourse” this is a gentle story that addresses  that racism and bullying and promotes social inclusion while remaining on the surface, a story about an unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. If they can accept a llama who plays backgammon, why can’t others?

Perlman has been short-listed twice for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and his skill with putting words onto paper is very evident – this story, while intended for young independent readers, engages adults so it makes a perfect bedtime read-aloud to younger children too.

Something different for those who like something different. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Jeff Kinney

Puffin Books, 2018 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309352

Lots of kids live on Greg Hoffley’s street, but because it is partly on the flat and partly on the hill, loyalties are fiercely divided and any peace is an uneasy truce. Those on the flat think they own the street, refusing to let those from higher up play there, but then the tables are turned when it snows and those from down below want to come uphill to enjoy sledding.  “if you live on Surrey Street, you’re either a HILL kid or a NON-hill kid and there’s no switching sides.”

After a miserable week of bitterly cold days which have been a trial for Greg as he had to face walking to school while other friends’ parents drive past; indoor recesses where people sneeze their germs over him; worrying about frostbite because he is so skinny; navigating perilous footpaths and a host of other dangers that made his life more than difficult, his life is made more miserable because he’s in trouble for not digging the driveway clear, even though he did have it done but because he tried to renege on the deal he had made with some neighbourhood kids, they piled all the snow back again! So when the weekend comes and he’s looking forward to a lie-in and playing a few video games, he’s dismayed to discover that his mother decides he needs to spend the day outside being active, and even locks the door so he can’t come back inside.

And that’s when the conflict starts… but the end result is a great lesson in dealing with differences, problem solving,  strategising, co-operating, knowing when to compromise, all life skills that are so important.

Greg Hoffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 10 years ago  and this 13th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those books that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong.

 

 

 

We Are Together

We Are Together

We Are Together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

Britta Teckentrup

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848576582

On our own we’re special, And we can chase our dream.
But when we join up, hand in hand, Together we’re a team. 

This is the message of this story  – the power of one, but the even greater power of many.  Starting with being content with one’s own company flying a kite, it grows to embrace others in our lives, known or not-yet, so whether it’s being caught in a storm or being passionate about a cause, the support and strength found in the love and friendship of others alongside us is cause for joy and celebration.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

The cover is intriguing with cutouts peeking through to just two of the children on the stunning endpapers showing children of all nationalities and ethnicities, and as each page is turned the cutouts increase revealing an ever-widening circle of children capturing the innate way they have of making friends regardless of any external differences. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It provides an opportunity to talk about not only receiving a helping hand but also extending one, valuing and sharing the things we do well personally while respecting and trying the things others can do. It emphasises that while we are individuals, humans are also dependent on others – no man is an island – and that co-operation, collaboration and company are essential elements of our well-being. 

 

 

 

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Jerry

Adam Wallace

Giuseppe Poli

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335781

People don’t notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don’t say sorry. If he makes a joke, no one laughs. He never gets picked last for sports teams — but that’s because he never gets picked at all. It’s like he’s invisible. Even though, like most kids, he doesn’t want to be so different that he stands out, he hates being invisible.  He really would like to be part of the crowd, laughing, smiling and having fun but that’s hard if you’re quiet and  shy.

But then along comes Molly… and not only does she change Jerry’s life, she enables him to change the lives of others.

There is a fine line between being the centre of attention and perhaps putting a target on your back for bullies and being so introverted that you’re not even noticed. Most kids seem to work within a happy medium between the two but there are always the extremes – like the Bell curve of distribution.  Sharing this book with young readers can help make those in the middle more aware of those like Jerry who don’t have the confidence to step forward, or who are ignored when they try, while at the same time, give the introverts the opportunity to reach out to someone who is just like them and who is probably feeling as unhappy as they are. Whilst we don’t all have or want to be in the limelight, sometimes it’s necessary to cast a light into the shadows.

From the front cover of this book where the line between Jerry and his peers is drawn with the title dividing him from them, the placement of Jerry in the illustrations underscores his isolation and the gentle palette reinforces the light touch that Spark author, Adam Wallace has used to portray a common situation that can be dark and overwhelming.

Another wonderful story for your mindfulness collection. 

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Amba Brown

Finding Your Path Books, 2018

30pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780648233930

A new school years is just over the horizon and next year’s Kindergarten students are starting their transition visits to “big school”. So this book by Positive Psychology author Amba Brown is ideal for preparing them for what to expect when they begin this next phase of their young lives, particularly as anxiety about making this move is common and natural. 

Written in rhyme with bright bold pictures, it will capture their attention and help allay any fears they might have. Explaining some of the things they will learn and encouraging them to try hard, use their manners and smile will reassure the most concerned, making this transition full of the fun, excitement and anticipation that it should have. 

 

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Short & Curly Guide to Life

Dr Matt Beard & Kyla Slaven

Simon Greiner

ABC Books, 2018

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143792185

While helping students develop their information literacy skills is a critical part of enabling them to investigate the world around them, it is what to then do with what they learn that can be tricky.  As we teach them to be critical consumers of information we also need to help them be creative users of it, to interpret it in new situations, to view it from a different perspective, to ask “what if…” and to develop new knowledge and understandings.

Short & Curly is a podcast from the ABC aimed at 7-12 year-olds which asks short and curly questions about the world around them, focusing on ethics, the strand of philosophy that focuses on what is right and wrong and encourages thinking about “what should I do?”

In this print edition, using the Brains Trust – Arjun, Rabia, Koa, Sophia, and Mae – who are a team of young researchers who identify, observe and try to answer ethical dilemmas that face our students, the book puts forward a number of scenarios that demonstrate some of these issues like lying, being happy, learning, making choices, letting go, being fair, making promises, and so on. Each scenario is presented as a report rundown, a summary of the situation, which is accompanied by questions that focus thinking on the best way to handle the situation. Dr Matt responds with some ideas and poses some bigger questions that can be applied to a broader range of contexts, encouraging the reader to think about the situation from a variety of perspectives rather than just their own experience and then consider what they would do in that situation.

Philosophy and ethics seem like grown-up concepts on the surface, unlikely to have a place in the primary curriculum, but when they are expressed in the context of the everyday situations that children encounter such as whether it is OK to lie to protect someone’s feelings, it becomes much more practical and doable so this book is perfect for guiding the children’s development in this area, setting up discussions that allow a lot of perspectives and opinions to be aired in a calm, objective way, compromises to be made and solutions to be negotiated.  Not only does the classroom offer a forum for a wider variety of voices than the student’s family values, such discussions lay the foundations for calm, reasoned, evidence-based debates in the future as the students mature, are more able to cope with thinking on an abstract level and face bigger community-based issues as well as their own personal ones. 

While each scenario is a standalone within its pages, there are now many picture books that deal with the focus themes so using these in conjunction with each discussion would be value-adding in a significant way.  For those struggling with the Ethical Understandings strand of the Australian Curriculum, this is a solid base for your program, one that will reach far beyond both the classroom and a particular academic year.

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and My Fear

Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171539

In the beginning her constant companion Fear is small, just big enough to keep her from doing things that would be harmful or dangerous.  But when she moves to a new country where she doesn’t know the language, the neighbourhood, the school or those she meets there, Fear grows and grows until it all but cripples her.  She feels more and more lonely and isolated each day, her self-confidence disappears and she hides herself away, full of self-doubt and beginning to loathe this new place as she begins to believe that she is too different to be understood, accepted and liked .  But a little boy is watching… can he lead her back by helping to shrink Fear?  And what does she discover about all the children in her class, indeed, everywhere?

This could be the story of any one of the children in our care, even those who have not had to emigrate to a new country and a whole new way of life.  While this companion to The Journey shows that the plight of refugees is not necessarily resolved as soon as they reach a new country, anxiety about the unknown, even the known, plagues many of our students, some to the point that they cannot get themselves to school, and so this book which demonstrates the power of how reaching out, being friendly, having empathy and making connections (even if that is your own biggest fear) can lead a troubled child back to a more normal world, where Fear is natural but it is a normal size.

The soft, retro colour palette reinforces the gentle tone of the book, and even though Fear grows and grows, it is not a black, dark, formidable, force but more a white, soft, marshmallow-like character that is not physically threatening . It maintains its shape even as it grows suggesting that its core remains the same, rather than becoming an overwhelming fear of everything.

Recommended in many lists as one that can help children not only begin to understand and overcome their own fears, but also one which can help others make the first step of reaching out and embracing those who seem isolated, this story is one that has many roles to play within the curriculum.

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760523541

Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Swashbuckle

Hollie Hughes

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408862810

Recently there was a national furore because a 9-year-old girl considered the words of our national anthem, concluded they were disrespectful to the indigenous community and refused to stand for the song in a school assembly.  Adults were outraged, claimed that this had to be the parents’ doing and recommended family counselling, suspension from school, and even a “kick up the pants” – bullying in a way that in the next breath they condemn. And yet we as teachers are striving to have students form opinions, express and justify them and the book reviewers I most admire – Megan Daley, Sue Warren, Margot Lindgren and Tania McCartney to name just a few – identify, celebrate and recommend those books we discover that have feisty, independent, thinking female characters that our readers can relate to.

So what then, would these conservative self-styled social commentators and political leaders make of Princess Swashbuckle? For this froggy princess (designed perhaps as a sideswipe at the saying about having to kiss lots of frogs to find a prince) has dreams to “one day rule the waves as a froggy pirate queen”, much to her parents’ dismay as they see her married to a handsome prince and leading a more conventional, traditional life. Disgusted by this thought, Princess Swashbuckle understands that she is so much more than her parents’ ideas, so she packs her bags and stows away on a pirate ship. Assuming leadership of the Stinky Fish abandoned by its captain, she tells the crew that they are “going on a mission to find NICE things to do.” News of her good deeds spreads far and wide but even swashbuckling princesses can get homesick…

Told in rollicking rhyme and rhythm and beautifully illustrated, this is a story to inspire young girls and boys to know themselves and follow their dreams to find their own version of happy.  If that means bucking the conservative, conventional norm, then so be it. Being the change you want to see can be difficult.   In the wake of the publicity given to Harper Nielsen’s protest, including a dedicated Twitter tag #sitwithharper, social media was flooded with alternative, more inclusive versions of the anthem including this one from Judith Durham.

Just as Harper started a conversation that might change thinking and Princess Swashbuckle changed Frogland forever, we need more of both of them – if only to inspire our girls and to show the right-wing,status-quo, stick-in-the-mud thinkers that young people do have thoughts and opinions and as future leaders, they need to be encouraged to express them, act on them and be acknowledged for their courage to do so.