Mabel is a fly. But despite being only as big as a fingernail, she has BIG plans which include climbing a mountain, hosting a dinner party and making friends with a shark! Despite the lack of encouragement from her friends, Mabel is determined to achieve her dreams and starts by looking for a mountain to climb – one that will challenge her. And challenge her it does, and even though at times she thinks about changing those plans, she believes in herself and perseveres.
With a now-familiar theme of believing in yourself, persevering and being resilient, this is another story to encourage our young children to dream big and have the courage to continue, perhaps even inspiring their friends to have their own dreams. By having Mabel choose climbing a mountain as her challenge, a familiar metaphorical concept in itself, Hillyard is able to demonstrate the hard work, the sustained effort and ignoring of detractors that goes into achieving goals – there will always be setbacks and obstacles to be negotiated and navigated but the effort is worth it if the dream is.
A good one for the start of the year, or now that the year has restarted, when we ask children what their goals are – perhaps they could map out a route and trace their journey as they go, giving a tangible record to help them stay on track.
There is something scary in the statistic that 70% of primary school children have a concern about their body image, and when this is coupled with the greatest desire of post-restriction Australia is for beauty salons and gyms to re-open, it is easy to see why and that without intervention, this obsession with how we look is not going to change. From long before the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe to waif-like Twiggy to the more-rounded Kardashians, our obsession with how our bodies look rather than how they perform has dominated so many lives, and this is as true for our males as it is for females. How many young lads see themselves in the image of a Hemsworth?
In 2016 Taryn Brumfitt wrote and directed a documentary Embrace which encouraged us to love who we are as we are, but that doco received a MA15+ classification and so did not reach down to the roots of where the obsession starts.
So now she is addressing this with the establishment of a number of initiatives that speak directly to our children including another documentary , a song and, based on that song, this book. Based on the mantra that “your body is not an ornament:it is the vehicle to your dreams!”. children of every size, shape, colour and ability are engaged in all sorts of activities showing the extraordinary things our bodies can do proving that nobody has a body that is the same as anyone else’s and that it is capable of so much more than conforming to some arbitrary stereotyped look.
This book has an important role in the conversations and investigations we have with our youngest students and not just in the health and mindfulness programs we offer. Because we are all individuals it opens up the world of science and maths as we investigate why and how that is, delving into genetics and measurement and a host of other areas that give a deep understanding to the message of the book, including the language we use to describe others. ‘Smart’, ‘clever’, ‘athletic’ are so much better than the pejorative terms of ‘pretty’, ‘handsome’ and ‘strong’. For if, from an early age, we can grasp that we, as individuals, are a combination of the unique circumstances of both our nature and nurture, then our understanding of and appreciation for who we are is a big step towards valuing the inside regardless of the outside in both ourselves and others.
It is sad that there is still a need for this sort of book in 2020, just as there was in 1920 and 1960, but if you make and use just one purchase this year, this could be the one that changes lives for the better.
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.
Howler Monkey loved to climb. He learned as a baby from his father and he practised and practised until he got so good at it that animals from all over the world would watch him. But one day he fell and damaged his tail so badly that he could not climb any more. He hid his injury because he was ashamed and scared that his family and friends would not like him because he couldn’t do the one thing that gave them pleasure. He became so sad that he sought the advice of Oldest Monkey who asked some really pertinent questions that helped Howler Monkey understand that he still had family and friends who loved him, he could still be the role model he was – just in a different way – and that what he did did not define who he was.
Rance, the author, was an elite Australian Rules player for the Richmond Tigers and was a member of the team that won the premiership in 2017, a feat that they hadn’t achieved since 1980. But in 2019 he ruptured his ACL in the first game of the season, ending his playing days for the year, and most likely for ever. These life-changing events have been the inspiration for this series of stories including Tiger’s Roar and Rabbit’s Hop, to help young children deal with the highs and lows of life and understand that why they do things is much more important that what it is they do. If they understand their motivation, then their actions (whether positive or negative) can be chosen, challenged and changed to suit the circumstances and it is the whole of who they are that defines them, not just one aspect.
Even without knowing the author’s personal story, young readers will appreciate this book and Howler Monkey’s predicament, particularly as they return to school and even to team sports where their lives may have changed considerably post-pandemic. The playing field might now be closer to level.
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.
One of the greatest concerns of this pandemic that has engulfed the globe is the mental health of those who have been in lockdown for some time. Humans are sociable creatures, particularly our young folk who haven’t yet developed the wherewithal to be comfortable in their own company for long periods and who need the contact with their peers to validate and boost their sense of self-worth. Even though governments may have offered millions of dollars to help with the crisis, including for organisations like Kids Helpline , not all will reach out to such bodies and so books like this that talk directly to them and offer positive affirmations such as
we are all in this together
we all need a bit of TLC
we have all survived every bad day and overcome every obstacle we’ve faced
can be very valuable in the hands of those who can help. With chapters that include headings such as
Hey, you’re awesome!
Why is this stuff important?
We all have times when life is a bit rainy
You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say ‘NO’
Say yes to self-care
each page has an affirmation, information and often an activity that can offer a pathway forward. For example, in chapter 7 which focuses on self-care, the advice goes much deeper than temporary fixes like bath bombs and candles and offers some strategies for a 5-minute self care as well as identifying those things that matter to the individual so they can build their own circle of self-care and make sure they complete it each day.
As well as being an essential tool in the teacher’s well-being box so that students consciously learn the strategies of mindfulness and taking care of their own mental health, this could also be a gift to a young one who might be adrift because of the loss of their immediate peer support at this time. Even as students gradually return to school, that return is different from coming back from school holidays because families will have had to have faced a whole range of unprecedented experiences unique to them, some might feel shame or anxiety about the loss of income or whatever, and so working through the things in this book should form part of each child’s learning over the next weeks. Help them to understand that while each has had a unique set of circumstances to deal with and these will continue to be endured for some time to come, we are in this together and together we can survive and thrive. That said though, help them build the mindset and strategies that will build resilience and help them to help themselves when those difficulties arise.
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.
Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway. She has a range of talents -each different in each story – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old. In each episode of the series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it.
Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.
Included in this compendium are the first four books in the series – Movie Star, Ballerina, Pop Singer and Fashion Designer – offering young girls who are becoming independent readers some great reading while supporting their new skills with large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations. They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes.
Collections like these are always good value and during this stay-at-home time, four stories for the price of one will be welcome.