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Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Nicola Connelly

Annie White

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594102

What makes you special?

Is it the way you look or something that you can do?

Is it the way you giggle or the way you wiggle?

This is a new take on a perennial topic that will encourage little people to think about what it is that makes them special.  With the entire text being in question format as though the author is speaking directly to the reader, it provokes thought about those things that are unique to us that make us stand out, going beyond the obvious of the colour of the skin, eyes and hair and starting to look at the inner person-their personality, their expertise  and their mannerisms.  Even those with low self-esteem will be able to contribute something and perhaps get a little lift that there is something special about them.  

Annie White’s charming illustrations in watercolour and pencil show that even within one family of four kids from the same parents and exposed to the same sorts of things, there is huge diversity amongst them which is accepted, appreciated and celebrated within the family. 

Extensive teachers’ notes offer new ideas about using this book with early childhood children but as a parent-child read-along, it’s a great opportunity for a chat about how the child and other family members are special and even what makes the family itself unique.

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

Mark Lee

Chris Jevons

Carolrhoda Books, 2018 

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781512426014

“If you ask me, a best friend is the best thing in the world .  Best friends enjoy the same things. They play together all the time. and they always get along with each other.”

So it was never going to end well when one wanted to be the captain of the spaceship and the other, the captain of the pirate ship.  Harsh words are said, a friendship is split and a new best friend has to be found.  But dogs, cats, hamsters and even goldfish have their drawbacks as best friends and so…

This seamless combination of text and illustrations challenges the concept that many little people have that best friends are like peas in a pod, liking and doing the same things at the same time and never being different.  Is it possible to have different ideas and do different things and still be best friends? If someone disagrees with us, does that mean the friendship is doomed or does it offer an opportunity to explore and respect the differences, perhaps even learn something new?  Can we have more than one friend at a time? How is a best friend different from a regular friend? While in this book the friends look similar, is this a pre-requisite to being friends?  How do shared values and beliefs affect friendships? Is it OK to be angry with or disappointed in or surprised by your best friend?

“What is a friend?” is a perennial topic in early childhood education and this book can take the conversation a step further by having the children consider those sorts of questions. Having friends is about being a friend and there are many facets to that.

 

The Bad Seed

The Bad  Seed

The Bad Seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad Seed

Jory John

Pete Oswald

HarperCollins, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780062467768

Born as one of hundreds of seeds of a sunflower, this little guy wasn’t always bad. He was close to his family and had fun, and, like them, ended up being harvested and put into a packet of sunflower seeds . But just as he thinks his days are numbered, he is spat out and lands in the rubbish of the bleachers.  And his life is changed,  Now he is BAD. In fact, he is baaaaaaaaaad! He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens – although he does hear others’ comments about his behaviour which reinforce his belief that he is bad and unworthy. So he stopped smiling, kept to himself, drifted along, seemingly uncaring until one day he makes a big decision…

The illustrations take this book from being a bit morbid into a realm of mindfulness, self-reflection and at times, humour.  It’s message that how we are perceived by others is not only shaped by our behaviour but continues to shape it is an important one to learn as is that of being able to change but that change can take time.  So while we are, to a large degree, in charge of our own destiny, we need to work out what we want to be like, take the steps necessary to achieve that but above all, be patient with ourselves and others.

Something different to spark thought and conversations.

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

Michael Speechley

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143788973

Remember the fidget spinners of last year that were the essential, all-new, must-have for kids?  The beyblades? The shopkins? And a hundred other toys that clever advertising has made top-of-the-toy-parade but which fade as quickly as they appear?  Well, Harvey had them all – and then some! Boxes and buckets full of them! So when he heard about The All New Must Have Orange 430 then he had to have that too.

The only thing that was empty in Harvey’s room was his money box but after checking everything and everywhere he finally found enough coins to be able to buy his latest desire.  So intent was he on owning it that he didn’t notice the huge April Fools’ Sale sign or that this  All New Must Have Orange 430 sat on a shelf surrounded by items such as dead batteries, free fat, grey fluff and even a lead balloon! He was only focused on having The All New Must Have Orange 430!

When he got home he eagerly unwrapped it.  It had EVERYTHING _ a thingy that did nothing; a whatsit that did squat; a dooverlacky that was whacky; and a something that was silly.  But what did it do? No matter what he did, it did nothing and he finally realised it was “actually completely useless.”

So he decided to take it back – and then his life changed forever.

In a world that seems to be all about having the latest and greatest, keeping-up-with-the-Jones is paramount and we are bombarded by advertisements in every aspect of our lives (even in public toilets),  this book is a breath of fresh air.  As parents find it easier to give into pester power than suffer the sulks of a firm “no’ as their children mimic their own consumer-driven behaviour, the ideas of looking for value or even restraint and second thoughts seems to have disappeared in this age of instant gratification. So to have a well-written, superbly illustrated book that compels the reader to think before they buy is excellent and will serve as a brilliant teaching tool to introduce the power of advertising, peer pressure, impulse buying, the value of money and even saving for something that seems to be beyond the mindset of so many, including Miss 12! Maybe, for those who are a little older, there could be an examination of the psychology that drives the need to belong, to be one of the flock rather than individual.

Its sepia tones used for all but The All New Must Have Orange 430 add to its layers as they depict what appears to be a beige life with the only spot of colour being a new purchase. But once the brief thrill of the purchase is made, and everyone has what the other does, it too fades to beige in anticipation of the next best-thing.  

As nearly all of us seek more and more storage for more and more stuff, swearing that we will declutter someday soon, reading and taking heed of the important themes of this book may help our younger students refrain from being Harveys in the first place!  

Definitely one for Miss 12 and Miss 7 – perhaps even their parents!  And definitely one for any unit of work that focuses on consumerism and marketing. 

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along Came a Different

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408888926

The Reds loved being red- to them being red was the most important thing and it was The. Best. Thing. Ever.  But when, unexpectedly, their space was intruded upon by Yellow, things changed.  The Yellows (who thought being yellow was The. Best. Thing. Ever) didn’t like the reds  and the conflict began.  And when along came a Blue (who also believed that being blue was The. Best. Thing. Ever.) things deteriorated even further.  There seemed to be no common ground at all – none of them liked each other and demarcation lines were drawn as the insults and grievances grew.  Eventually a set of rules was constructed and things settled down, but then unexpectedly…

Is there any way at all that each group can learn to live with and get along with each other?

Using colour, shape and whimsical illustration, McLaughlin explores the concept of judging others based on their appearance and how flimsy the arguments for discrimination really are.  While each colour has its unique features, there is common ground and much to be said for the symbiosis that occurs when there is co-operation, collaboration and even harmony.

Discrimination based on perceived differences is an adult concept that most young children do not even notice unless an adult points it out.  This book is the perfect conversation starter so that when they do encounter prejudice they have this experience to draw on so they can see the stupidity of it and reject it.  Life should be about friendship, inclusivity and acceptance and McLaughlin demonstrates this perfectly.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

I Am Enough

I am Enough

I am Enough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Enough

Grace Byers

Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer + Bray, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062667120

Like the sun, I’m here to shine…

Like time, I’m here to be, and be everything I can.

In a time where there seems to be an expectation that we will each be smarter, richer, thinner, bigger, better than anyone else, it seems to be impossible to just be – and let who you are be enough. But in this stunning new release, the little girl does not feel the need to compete with anyone.  She not only accepts who she is and is proud of that but also respects the individuality of others…

I know that we don’t look the same: our skin, our eyes, our hair, our frame.

But that does not dictate our worth; we both have places here on earth.

Apart from the powerful message that all children, indeed everyone, needs to take away from this book, it’s other strength is its diversity – each child is different in ethnicity, religion, and even physical ability although their gender is the same and that perhaps is its one negative.  Perhaps in a world where gender equality is still an issue. showing girls and boys together could have added just a little more.

Nevertheless, this is an important book to share and discuss as we try to promote positive mental health from an early age and that needs to start with the acceptance of ourselves as we are with no compulsion to compete to match someone else’s expectations. 

 

 

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

Deborah Abela

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143786689

In Yungabilla, Australia, Toronto, Canada and Wormwood, England three young people are receiving invitations to an event that could change their lives forever.  Having proved their ability as champion spellers, each has been invited to compete in the Most Marvellous International Spelling Bee in London. But, like all children, each is unique and faces their own difficulties in getting to London.

India Wimple who won Australia’s  The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee is so shy that she cannot compete without her family by her side but the organisers will only pay for the contestant and one chaperone; Canada’s champion Holly Trifle’s family is reminiscent of the Wormwoods in Dahl’s Matilda and see her competing only as a way to promote their weight-loss business; while bullied, lonely Peter Ericksson hopes that maybe his absent dad will see his face on television, recognise him  and come home because it’s been 2922 days since he walked out and left a dad-sized hole in Peter’s life.

With incredible insight into the lives of children, Deborah Abela has crafted an engaging, unputadownable story that weaves the  lives of India, Holly and Peter together as well as the familiar faces of Rajish and Summer as they compete while trying to get to the bottom of some mysterious mishaps.  

Independent readers will relate to all three characters – if they are not mirrors then they will know someone like them – and will become engrossed as they follow their struggles to overcome their personal obstacles as much as their competitive ones.  Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the characters is the most important way to ensure the page is turned to see what happens to them and Abela has the ability to do this in spades.  Miss 11 is going to LOVE this sequel.

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Can I Touch Your Hair?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Vandenberg sets her 5th grade class a poetry project and then says, “Pick a partner.”  Within seconds the only one left for Irene is you-never-know-what-he-is-going-to-say Charles and for Charles it’s hardly-says-anything Irene.  But that’s not the main difference they see – Charles is black and Irene is white.  Nevertheless, an assignment is an assignment and with no boundaries they select everyday topics like buying shoes, their hair, going to church and the beach to write about, each using blank verse to describe their experiences.  For Irene who is painfully shy and likes her “stringy, dishwater, blonde” hair because it’s a curtain she can hide behind, her first poems focus on how she would like to be like the popular girls in class.  “I’d rather be sun-burned than sugar-sand white.” For Charles, for whom words fly off the page and out of his mouth, they’re about how he too, would like to fit in better but is shunned because of the colour of his skin and the confusion that that sets up inside him.

But as they write and share their poems, the topics getting more personal and revealing, gradually a greater understanding grows and they realise they have many more similarities than differences, seeing each other as individuals, and that they are both so much more than black and white. However, the poems don’t just explore their growing connections – they also explore their personal conundrums.  Charles watches the news and sees people walking by as black people are being “choked, pummelled, shot, killed by police officers” and yet he has a special friendship with local (white) Officer Brassard; Irene is shunned by Shonda in the playground but when Shonda presents her family tree draped in chains, Irene feels the need to say, “Sorry”.  

Subtitled, Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship,  this book grew from a friendship that began as an email but evolved from all that had gone before in the authors; and illustrators’  lives to shape them into their current personalities.  Imagining what it would be like if they had met in a modern-day 5th grade class, rather than a book of unrelated poems this one tells the story of an evolving friendship between two people with seemingly distinct lives, diverse experiences and different perceptions using the format of the poem to be the voice of each, and each shedding light on innermost thoughts that illuminate a path that few get to tread.

Unlike other books with “we’re-all-the-same-on-the-inside” messages, this one tackles the issue of race head on so that conversations can be started and differences can be explored rather than ignored.  Because even though we may be the same on the inside, all that has gone before us even before we are born has gone into the making of who we are now, and while that makes us unique individuals regardless of skin colour, it is that skin colour that can be the greatest division as first impressions are so deeply shaped by existing attitudes, perceptions and preconceptions.  Charles was picked first for the basketball team simply because of his skin colour and lanky legs, but things changed when he muffed an easy shot.

This is a complex book with so many layers that it risks being left unopened on the shelf if it is not shared with the child by an astute adult, either parent or teacher, who can begin and sensitively guide the conversations.  Cultural differences – racial, religious, sexual, lingual, socio-economic – are a big issue in our schoolyards as the focus on bullying demonstrates, so something new that approaches the issues in a radical way can be a catalyst for change.  What is we were all Mrs Vandenbergs and set our students a similar challenge, instead of the one-size-fits-all novel study, and insisted that students work with someone they have never worked with before?  

Extraordinary.

If you are in an Australian school and would like my review copy of this book to use with your students, be the first to contact me and ask for it.  Please include your name and postal address.

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

Lessons of a LAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons of a LAC

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335828

In one village on one side of the mountains live the LACs – Little Anxious Children who constantly look for danger and who only have negative self-talk; in another village on the other side of the mountains live their enemies the Calmsters who can take life as it comes because of their positive self-talk.  The two sides are constantly battling because when one wins, the other shrinks.

One day Loppy the LAC decides to climb the mountain and spy on the Calmsters but his anxiety goes through the roof when he spies a Calmster looking back.  And not only looking back, but coming to meet him! Who will win the impending battle? Does there have to be a winner and a loser?

Anxiety amongst children in on the increase.  According to a recent national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents, approximately 278,000 Australian children aged between 4 and 17 struggle with clinical symptoms of Anxiety. (For a summary see kidsfirst children’s services) Therefore books which shine a light on this condition which affects 1 in 7 of those between 4 and 17 and which can be used as a starting point to help the child manage the symptoms are both important and welcome, particularly as mindfulness and mental health are gaining traction in school curricula. While there are almost as many causes of anxiety as there are children affected by it,  such as not being perfect, helping children turn their self-talk around, as Curly did for Loppy, is a critical starting point and many classrooms are now displaying images such as these…

 

Not only do such explicit statements give the anxious child prompts for the new words, but they also acknowledge that anxiety is real and that there are others who are anxious too.  While climbing that internal mountain as Loppy did can be hard, knowing that there are others who also battle can be reassuring. While teachers are not clinical psychologists like the author, having tools like the Loppy books in the mindfulness collection and using them not only to help the Loppies move forward but also to help the Calmsters learn that some of their friends may be like Loppy so deserve  and need understanding rather than ridicule can be a starting point in achieving harmony in the classroom.

Teachers’ notes which extend the story into practical applications are available.

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Juana Martinez-Neal

Candlewick Press, 2018

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

9780763693558

Sometimes parents give their babies names that are bigger than they are- even when the baby grows up! And so it is with Alma Sofia, Esperanza Jose Pura Candela.  So she turns to her Daddy to explain why she has six names and as he tells her, she learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; the spiritual Pura and her activist grandmother Candela.  As she hears the story of her name and her history, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell.

Parents choose our names for so many reasons – my own was changed to be the initials of the harbour board of which my grandfather was the chief engineer, initials which were on the risers of the steps leading to his important office so I was convinced they were my personal stairway to heaven – and to discover those reasons can be a fascinating insight into what life was like for our parents at the time, just as it was for Alma. But despite, or because of, our names we all remain unique individuals who will, in time, have our own stories to tell – just as Alma does.

There are so many cross-curriculum activities that can be done just by playing with and exploring our names – my students loved to see how much their names were worth if each letter had the dollar value of a Scrabble tile – that to have such a clever, poignant but fascinating story such as this to kickstart the investigations is just perfect.  (If you’re looking for suggestions scramble through your Teacher Resource section and see if you have a copy of Maths  About Me, written in 1991 under my other name of Hosie.)

Maths About Me

Maths About Me