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Born to Run

Born to Run

Born to Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born to Run

Cathy Freeman

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761043802

There would be few who were able to witness the lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 who will have forgotten the image of Cathy Freeman standing with the torch.

 

Now, in this picture book version of her autobiography, we can learn of all that it took to get there. and then to the finish line of the 400m in the gold medal position just a few days later. We learn about her older sister Anne-Marie who, crippled by cerebral palsy, inspired her to keep training; how even when she won it was the second-place getters who were awarded the medals because they were white; of having to leave her beloved family and go to boarding school where she was the only Aboriginal girl…

This is an inspirational story of someone who is a household name in Australian sport, one of the best of the best who overcame so much, not the least of which was the colour of her skin.  But more than that it demonstrates that champions and heroes start life as ordinary people, just like the book’s readers, that they face all the setbacks, doubts and other obstacles as “regular people” but they dig deep because their passion to achieve is so strong. It demonstrates the power of self-belief, and particularly the support of family, and shows that there are many others standing on the dais even if they’re not seen by the public. 

Written openly and honestly, the picture book format is perfect for its intended audience because they are at the age when dreams start to take shape, the passion starts to build and the foundations for becoming a champion are being put in place. Perhaps it will help consolidate their own dreams. 

Biographies and autobiographies in a format and language accessible to younger readers are an important part of the development of the age group for a lot more reasons than just a lot of facts about someone famous.  And for this to be about someone so familiar yet so ordinary in many ways, may just be the catalyst a future star might need. If she could, I can… She persisted.

 

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Cricket, I Just Love It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Alister Nicholson

Tom Jellett

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760526801

The ICC T20 World Cup is being played; the Women’s Big Bash League is well underway; and community cricket is back! Summer’s on its way and backyard cricket is not far behind. The timing of the release of this book could not be better.

Cricket, I just love it! It really is the best.
Batting, bowling, fielding, Twenty20 or a test.
I watch it or I listen and of course I always play.
Cricket is my favourite part of every single day.

Cricket is Australia’s national sport with its national captain’s name known more widely than that of any politician and so many childhood memories are bound up games played on the beach, in the backyard or even in the street with the nearest garbage bin commandeered as the wickets and :over the fence is out” a universal rule. So this rollicking ode to cricket in all its forms with all it perks and quirks is just the greatest fun . Written in rhyme by  one of the most well-known voices on ABC Sport’s AFL and cricket coverage, Alister Nicholson has the expertise and experience  to explain the game that baffles many and for the uninitiated there are not only clues of the terms in the text and illustrations, but also the endpapers. Because the main theme of this book, apart from the joy of the game, is that it is a game for everyone from the top professional tournaments to the Saturday kids’ games and all stops in between, male or female, a fact emphasised by Jellett’s illustrations with their iconic style and bold colour.

Beyond the story there is the opportunity to scan a QR code to hear it read by the author, and watch it in Auslan so all abilities are catered for. It will inspire the next Elyse Perry, Meg Lanning or Tim Payne. The perfect gift for the cricket lover, or the person who wants to understand what all this fuss is about!

 

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Charles Fuge

Walker Books, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653538

Little Wombat is so very excited because he’s found a fun new friend to play with – one with a strange name Pla-ty-pus and with an even stranger walk, a funny face and who can swim like a fish. But when Little Wombat tries to mimic Platypus’s walk and finds himself in the water and having to be rescued by his new friend, he realises water is not for him.  Nevertheless, he is determined to learn to swim and while tries teaching Little Wombat  Rabbit and Koala begin to wonder if wombats should, after all, stick to dry land!

Swimming lessons are such an integral and necessary part of our littlies’ lives that when the NSW “roadmap to freedom” was released it was quickly changed to bring forward the opening of indoor pools because of the outcry of parents demanding access to swimming lessons for their young children.  Indeed, in my teacher ed days in New Zealand we could not graduate until we each had our swimming teacher quals as swimming lessons were a compulsory part of the phys ed curriculum for both term 4 and Term 1 with most schools, even in the coldest parts of the country, having their own learner pools installed as a matter of course. 

So this is a timely tale about the importance of learning to swim and the fun it can be, as Little Wombat learns to kick his legs and float using a log, to paddle like a dog and dive like a frog.  After all, if a wombat can learn to swim and become a wom-bat-y-pus, then so can any little child! So sharing this message with a lovable little character with the most endearing expressions with them will give them confidence to try and the expectation that if they work hard as Little Wombat does, they will succeed.  Swimming is just what Australian kids do. 

Green

Green

Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green

Louise Greig

Hannah Peck

Farshore, 2021

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

9781405299398

When winter snow turns the green grass of the hills to white, Ed revels in his favourite season.  Because that’s when he can get his sleek sled out of the shed and race the other children down the slope.  But instead of the fast sled of yesteryear his now seems old and dull and slow as new, shiny, purple, orange , yellow and red ones flash past. 

Discouraged and disappointed at no longer being the best, Ed takes his sled back to the shed where he spends days and days trying to perfect it.  The voice in his head tells him that it is fine but he ignores it and keeps on tinkering.  But something strange has happened while he has been tucked away all that time. There is blue peeping out of the snow and the blackbird is singing… and with a heavy spring shower the white is turned to green!  

Even though few Australian children will spend their winters sliding down the slopes, this is a timely story that introduces young readers to the emotion of envy, exploring how we can be so consumed by being bigger, better, and faster that we miss out on more important things like fun and friendship. Rather than valuing what now, we get carried away with the anticipation of what next.  It is another in a series in which little people can confront big emotions through story and learn about and from them. 

Told in rhyming text, as well as being a story about emotions, there is also an element of science that can be explored as Ed draws elaborate plans for his new sled to make it magnificent. But what does he sacrifice in exchange for the fancy-dancy add-ons? What are the essential elements a sled needs to glide swiftly over the snow?  And for those in warmer climes than mine, what is snow and why doesn’t it fall everywhere? Why doesn’t it fall all the time?  Why do the seasons change?

I adore books that become springboards for young readers to explore well beyond the pages, that help them make more sense of the world around them and broaden their horizons.  This is one of those. 

Love Monster and the Extremely Big Wave

Love Monster and the Extremely Big Wave

Love Monster and the Extremely Big Wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Monster and the Extremely Big Wave

Rachel Bright

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008408329

Love Monster is going on an exciting adventure with his friends… to the beach! He can’t wait to be THE BEST SURFER IN THE WORLD! But as Love Monster gets closer to the extremely big waves, the less sure he is. Will he even have the courage to dip a toe in the ocean? Of course he does – after a bit of trepidation and consideration.  But that first wave dumps him so does he have the courage to try again?  

This is a story featuring a character who now has his own series on CBeebies, thus making him familiar to many young readers and encouraging them to read. It has a familiar theme of being afraid to try something new but having the courage to eventually have a go, perhaps inspiring those same young people to tackle something that has seemed like a mountain to them so they too, can feel the thrill and empowerment of achievement.

 

Goal!!!

Goal!!!

Goal!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal!!!

Lydia Williams

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760526146

When we first met Lydia Williams in Saved!!!, she was trying to master all sorts of sports with only the native animals to help her.  Now her family have moved to the city which is big and intimidating and without her old friends, she couldn’t practise her goalkeeping skills. Feeling lonely and alone, she goes to the city zoo to cheer herself up but even the animals don’t want to know her, until the fleetingly fast gibbon steals her ball…

Using the metaphor of the zoo animals with their superior skills to show how listening to and learning from others is the best path to self-improvement, Lydia shows how she worked on her game so that she is now the Australian Matildas first-choice goalkeeper making her debut at just 17, and plays for Arsenal in the UK.  With the Tokyo Olympics on the near horizon and hopefully the Matildas making the nightly news regularly, they have become the role models for so many of our young girls and their matches around the world are eagerly followed.  Thus, this and Saved!!! are both perfectly timed for sharing with them to inspire their aspirations.

How did those NSW and Queensland representative rugby league players rise to shine above the rest? 

Even for those whose dreams may be as far from being a champion soccer player as you can get, the message of listening, learning, friendship and teamwork permeates everything so it is one for everyone. 

 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

Tayla Harris and Jennifer Castles

A & U Children’s, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760525804

Sunday, March 17, 2019 and Tayla Harris goes to work as normal, just as she has every other day. But this was to be no ordinary day – not only was it the last round of the AFLW home-and-away matches to determine which team would be in the finals, but it was the day Tayla was propelled into the media in a way she never sought nor wanted.

During the match, she kicked a goal and photographer Michael Wilson snapped the action as it happened.  Ordinarily, it would be no big deal but when it was published online to showcase her amazing athletic ability, suddenly the faceless trolls who hide behind their keyboards decided she was fair game and the photo went viral, along with a plethora of nasty comments that turned it into something it was not. Rather than being a photo of an athlete at work, it became a war of words – a war that hit the headlines here and overseas. And because 7AFL chose to remove the photo rather than hold the trolls accountable, it attracted even more attention. 

The photo...

The photo….

In this frank and very personal memoir of that time, Harris speaks directly to the reader about the impact that it had on her as an individual and as a footy player and her concerns for herself, her family and the families of those who felt it was OK to write what was essentially sexual abuse. She notes that she was “lucky” because she had a manager, a family and a community who rallied around her to support her through the furore, but she is very concerned for those who suffer similar bullying and do so, alone and often in secret. 

Whether readers are footy fans or not, know who Tayla Harris is or not, this is a powerful story that shows the power of social media and the consequences of those faceless remarks that so many seem to think they have the right to make.  For our girls wanting to aspire to the highest level of sport, it is inspirational; for those who are suffering at the hands of these anonymous cowards it offers hope and guidance; for those who write such trash, it is an eye-opener into what their words can do.  For Tayla, it resulted in a statue in Federation Square and a boost to women’s football that was unprecedented, but sadly, for some like Dolly Everett it is a burden too tough to bear.  That’s why, despite not usually reviewing books for the age group that this is written for, I’m sharing Tayla’s story because this is a story that needs to be heard over and over and over – until the haters and trolls are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The statue... (Daily Mail, UK))

The statue… (Daily Mail, UK))

 

 

Monkey’s Tail

Monkey's Tail

Monkey’s Tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey’s Tail

Alex Rance

Shane McG

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760524487

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.

 

Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Sporty Girls

Puffin Books, 2020

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

9781760896058

The publication date of this book was timed to capture the inspiration for sport that would be generated by the 2020 Olympics, but, as we know, even bigger world events have overtaken that one and they have been postponed.  Nevertheless, the timing is still appropriate as we emerge from the more rigid parameters of lockdown and people are itching to get back outside, connect with others and  get moving.

Using the format of a young girl wanting to get involved in something but not sure what and musing on what she likes to do and how that could marry with a sport, the reader is introduced to 18 of Australia’s young, contemporary sportswomen who are at the top of their game and providing inspiration for young girls. Apart from the household names like Ash Barty and Sam Kerr, there are others who are not so well known yet, including Paralympians. individuals and team-players.

The world after Covid-19 is predicted to be very different, perhaps one where the value of movement, exercise and fresh air will not be taken for granted and we will find our young girls with a thirst for activity, adventure, friendships, and developing new skills that could take them down new paths well beyond their dreams. 

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky and Louie

Phil Walleystack & Raewyn Caisley

Dub Leffler

Puffin, 2020

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

 9780143786528

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.