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The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Saida Arrived

Susana Gômez Redondo

Sonja Wimmer

Blue Dot, 2020

32pp., hbk. RRP$A27.99

9781733121255

The day Saida arrived at the school she seemed to have lost her words and instead of joy and laughter there were tears and sadness. Her new classmate hunted high and low for the words but could not find them so instead, she drew a heart in chalk and Saida drew a smile.  The first breakthrough!

When her dad explains that Saida probably hasn’t lost her words, it was just that her words wouldn’t work in this country, the little girl sets out to teach Saida the new words she needs as well as learning Saida’s words.  What follows is the beginning of a joyous, lifelong friendship that is so characteristic of our children when confronted with this sort of language problem. They work it out, find common ground, ignore boundaries and borders and learn together.  

Having worked so often  in schools where English is an additional language for so many, where students with no English at all come to get that first grounding before they go to their neighbourhood school, this story is a stunning portrayal of how kids get along regardless particularly when adults don’t intervene.  The playground is such a cosmopolitan learning space and whether the language is Arabic like Saida’s or Tagalog or whatever,  the children’s natural needs overcome barriers. Enriching friendships are formed and their words that every “shape, sound and size” just mingle naturally.

With illustrations that are as joyful as the concept and the text, this is the perfect story for this time of the year to help students understand that being in such an alien environment can be bewildering and confusing, that there will be times when they are in Saida’s shoes and their words won’t work, but there is always help and hope. Because the learning between the girls works both ways, the story values Saida’s Arabic as much as her new friend’s English so that Saida is an equal partner in the story, offering a subtle nudge for us to consider how equally we treat our NESB students. What accommodations can and do we make for those whose words don’t work in our libraries and classrooms?

Teachers’ notes are available and while these are written for the US, they are readily adaptable to the Australian situation.. 

The Odds

The Odds

The Odds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Odds

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

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

9780733340635

Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

Matt Stanton is rapidly becoming one of the decade’s most sought after authors by young, newly independent readers who like his humour that is always tempered with a good, solid storyline focusing on activities and issues  that resonate with his audience.  While not all will have dragon-hunting rabbits in their lives, nevertheless they will have those familiar feelings of fitting in, self-doubt and discovering just who they are as they become more and more independent and start to have their own opinions and ideas that shape their identities.

Using his cartooning skills, Stanton has produced a graphic novel that is going to appeal to a wide range of readers, each of whom will see themselves in one of the characters such as the little elephant who really just wants to hide under the covers all day.  Using a graphic novel format means the reader has to engage with the story in an active way taking in all that is going on so the continuity is maintained and in such a visually-dominated world, this is a critical skill.

The first in the series, this is a book that has depth as well as diversity and carries a message that will reach out to even the most reluctant reader.

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340604

I have a confession to make.  Sometimes when I’m in the children’s book section I earwig on conversations, particularly those about what book to choose.  Truly, it’s because I want to hear what kids are choosing for themselves but sometimes I find myself joining in and making recommendations, particularly if it is a perplexed parent or grandparent. Last Saturday was one such occasion when a mum wanted something for her newly independent reader who was just stepping out into novels and liked “funny stuff.”  So I reached for Matt Stanton and said that she wouldn’t go wrong because everything he writes is funny. Whether it’s a picture book or a novel, Stanton’s philosophy is  “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and so he deliberately sets out to engage the reader in something they can relate to and enjoy.

This is #8 in this series about Max, his friends and family and his duck. Despite having 250+ pages, it is one for newly independent readers who are ready to tackle something a bit meatier but still with the support of short chapters and plenty of graphics, which showcase Stanton’s talent as a cartoonist as well as a writer. This time max and his mate Abby, who seldom agree, are determined that the upcoming swimming carnival has to be cancelled – Max because he doesn’t want to appear half-naked in front of an audience; Abby because she would rather train for the online maths Olympiad.  So when these two, who are usually at each other’s throats, team up, there can only be one outcome – fun and laughter.

Our students may be disappointed to see the school year end as they head for summer holidays and missing their mates but at least with authors like Matt Stanton on our team we can keep them reading and looking forward to the new year which will come quickly enough.  I’m sure the person who was getting the book I recommended will be on the look out for the others in the series. 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820393

It is the night before Archie is due to start at a new school and the Worry Monster has crept into his bedroom spruiking all the usual worries about getting lost, not making friends, doing maths all day and no sport that such monsters do.

Normally, Archie would call on his mum and dad to scare it away because it is scared of them, but this time he tries to have a go himself.  He thinks back to the things his mum taught him the last time, and summoning all his courage he applies them.  He takes a deep breath so his lungs make his belly grow bigger like a balloon; he thinks of the facts and tells them to the Worry Monster; he tells the Worrmy Monster to go away; and then he reads a book to ignore it and distract him.  But do his strategies work…

Worry Monsters have been out and about all this year, not just before big events like starting school and any stories that help our littlies develop strategies to send them on their way are welcome.  This one is beautifully written and illustrated and any child could put themselves in Archie’s pyjamas and feel empowered.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Encouraging littlies to dig deep to find the courage and determination to send the Worry Monster scampering is an ongoing process because they’re not necessarily ready to do it at the same time as their siblings or peers.  So to have another book in the arsenal is valuable – sharing Archie’s story might just be the one that reaches a particular child.

 

It’s OK to Cry

It's OK to Cry

It’s OK to Cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s OK to Cry

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99

9781472942425

Not so long ago, when boys got to about six or seven, they started hearing the familiar mantra of “big boys don’t cry”, encouraging them to “be tough” and suppress their emotions.  While such a philosophy is still acceptable in many parts of society, for the most part it has been phased out but there are still many other less explicit messages that we pass on to our boys which have the same effect.  Our words and our actions and reactions to particular circumstances all combine to pass on a subliminal message that somehow it’s not OK for boys to be in touch with and express their emotions.  To do so is “girly” and sadly, that is somehow is showing weakness.

This book has been written to demonstrate to boys, particularly, that it is OK, in fact beneficial, to know and understand and express their emotions. Starting with a collage of some of those ways we parents make statements that suggest that to cry when you’re hurt is not tough and followed by another that has all sorts of similar subliminal media messages, it is clear that it is no wonder our boys can be confused.  The pages that follow offer insights into a range of feelings, positive and negative, situations in which they might arise and words to describe them so when they occur they can be shared.   There is a strong message that experiencing a variety of feelings over the day is completely natural – in fact it is what makes us human. It demonstrates that we won’t all have the same response to the same situation and that at any one time, there can be all sorts of emotions happening within a group of people.

It acknowledges that sometimes our feelings can make us uncomfortable and offers strategies to deal with these and there are also notes to enlighten parents about helping their children acknowledge, own and deal with their emotions in a healthy way rather than just suppressing them.

Even though this book has particular application at this time when life is not normal and adults are struggling with their mental health in an unprecedented way, it has application far beyond that as we pay more attention to the mental health of our students and address them. It could form the basis for a term’s work exploring much more deeply than the more traditional “I feel happy when…; I feel sad when…” offering students insight that could be the foundation for lifelong learning that takes us all to a calmer, more empathetic place.

I Believe I Can

I Believe I Can

I Believe I Can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Believe I Can

Grace Byers

Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer & Bray, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780062667137

One of the downsides of this new instantly-connected world with its emphasis on social media is that there is a generation growing up who are becoming dependent on external validation for everything they do, who view their self-worth through the lens of the number of likes and friends they have, and whose self-belief and self-confidence as a person is very low.  In this look-at-me world, resilience seems to be in low reserves and what came naturally as previous generations dealt with what we encountered, is now explicitly taught.

In this companion to I Am Enough, young children of all shapes, colours and sizes are encouraged to be their best selves and to reach their potential by believing that they can without needing approval from outside sources. They let the power of their imaginations project them into the future and know that because they are just who they are, they can achieve those dreams.  They can be as fierce as the lion’s roar and as powerful as the dragon’s flames, and even though they might falter and make mistakes or not succeed at what they try, they learn from those experiences to build on what they tried and take another step forward.

It is aimed at our younger readers in the hope that they can build their sense of identity and worthiness before they are old enough to officially be on social media platforms (COPPA  restricts membership to 13+) and promote positive mental health, an area that is of increasing concern amongst our youngest.

While the dark side of social media is now being recognised and explored and talked about in mainstream media, this video shows what can be achieved through the power of self-belief.  Molly suffered horrendous epileptic seizures from the age of 2 and in an effort to save her life, had a third of her brain removed at 16.  Look at her go!!!

 

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A must-have and a must-promote in any mindfulness collection and program.

Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Freeze

Oliver Phommavanh

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760897147

Oliver Phommavanh is one of the masters of the modern short story, particularly for those who are either independent readers looking for something meaty but quick, or for teachers who are looking to share quality literature with students while being squeezed by timetables.

Using characters who are familiar to the reader and his quirky sense of humour,  he creates quirky stories that are perfect as read-alouds or read-alones. In this new collection he ventures into new territory with some of the stories featuring fantasy and animals, but in the main the 12 stories are about kids being brave -something our students have had to do in so many ways themselves, this year.  From a dog who accidentally becomes the first animal on Mars, a hopeless chess player dealing with his sports-mad dad, a girl whose dreams are getting too big for her bed, to a boy who has had 1000 names – so far. and a  strange boy who never seems to get brain freeze until…, this is a collection that will bring a smile to those who loved Thai-riffic, (Lengy makes a special appearance in one of the stories);  Con-nerd  and The Other Christy

Drawing on his own experience as being Thai-Australian, he introduces characters from backgrounds that so many will relate to and enjoy reading about as they see their own story in his. If your students haven’t met this remarkable young author yet, now is the time.

 

Bear in Space

Bear in Space

Bear in Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear in Space

Deborah Abela

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760651510

Bear is different. While all his friends were noisy and busy and never seemed to stop, Bear preferred his own company and the quietness and solitude of his books – particularly his books about space.  Because even though the other bears sometimes laughed at him and called him names, Bear was absorbing all he could learn about the mysterious place beyond the planet because he had plans…

This is a charming story for early readers that has so many layers.  Firstly, it is a tribute to those children who are more introverted, who are happy and complete in their own space and who single-mindedly pursue their dreams, prompting discussions about how there are all sorts of people in the world who may have different values and dreams to us. But it also shows how those dreams can be enriched and enhanced when they are shared with like-minded souls and friends, changing perceptions of relationships and how the world works.  It also has lots of facts about space embedded into it so as well as sharing Bear’s adventures, the reader also learns a little on the journey.

This is one of those perfect pictures books where the text and illustrations are seamless and one would be so much less if the other weren’t there.  Even though both themes of being a loner and having dreams of space travel have been visited in children’s stories before, this is a stand-out because of the story’s layers and that integration of words and pictures that entertain and educate at the same time. A marriage of imagination and information.

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

Maggie Hutchings

Evie Barrow

Affirm, 2020

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

9781925972825

Often, as adults rushing to be where we aren’t yet, we miss the little things on the way, but no so kids. They see and they notice because they are so much more in the moment so when the little boy sees the homeless man begging on the footpath he does not hurry on like the adults who are either not seeing or choosing not to.  Instead he stops and is rewarded with a chat and a beautiful yellow bird drawn in chalk on the path.  And that chat leads to his mum seeing Pete and others in the community who had not seen him before…

But one day Pete gets sick and disappears. No one has seen him and all the little boy wants is a sign that he is OK….

This is a charming story, at times confronting, that really resonated with me because earlier this year a little person at a school that I have been associated with was just like the boy in the story.  She saw, she thought and she acted, initiating a schoolwide fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase some sleepwear for those who were about to endure the coldest of winters on the streets of the national capital. 

Homelessness is a significant issue in this country and sadly our students are likely to know someone not much older than them who will not sleep in their own bed tonight. While its causes and solutions are as diverse as each individual, nevertheless stories like this (dedicated to the author’s great-great  grandmother who was homeless) can start to build social awareness in the same way we are actively promoting environmental awareness.  While the issue itself is hard and spiky, this is a gentle story of caring, unselfishness and hope accompanied by equally engaging illustrations  that might encourage all of us to look and really see, not to avert our eyes if we don’t like the scenery and have the courage of both the little boy and my little girl to act. 

Pink!

Pink!

Pink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink!

Margaret Wild

Judith Rossell

Working Title Press, 2020

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

9781460757499

When Pink hatched from the egg, the only one left after a great storm washed away all the others, her parents were somewhat surprised because she was pink!  She certainly stood out from all the other green and grey and brown dinosaurs and at first, Pink was okay with being different.  But when it meant that she was always found first during her favourite game of hide-and-seek with the other dinosaurs, she soon grew despondent and wished she wasn’t so recognisable. 

Being pretty and sweet wasn’t enough for Pink – she wanted to be brave and smart but wasn’t sure how she could be.  The answer comes one afternoon during a wild and boisterous game of hide-and-seek when she discovers that there can be distinct advantages to being different.

Combining young readers’ fascination with dinosaurs with the theme of accepting and being yourself, Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell have crafted a charming story that will appeal across the ages.  As well as opening up discussions about celebrating our differences and how we can be brave and smart, this is also a great opportunity to explore the differences between fiction and non fiction texts.  The teaching notes are excellent – I wrote them! LOL!