It’s a big day for Koko for not only does he have to leave the shell that has been his home since he was born because he now has a tough shell of his own, but he must also crack a coconut by himself if he is to feed himself and survive. But to reach the coconut there is an enormous palm tree to climb, and then, once he has the coconut on the ground there is the task of opening it. Even though all his friends are cheering him on, it does seem like an insurmountable task so will he succeed?
Based on the life stories of Birgus latro, the large terrestrial crabs of her native Tahiti, Turia Pitt has crafted a story of determination, perseverance and resilience – all those qualities that adults associate with her own story of survival. But for young readers, it is also an inspirational story as they tackle big challenges in their own lives, such as starting school. Like Koko, it is the next must-do part of their growing up, and like Koko, all their family and friends are encouraging them on the way, expecting them to succeed even if there are setbacks. But most importantly, like Koko, they have to believe in themselves, know that they will succeed and be willing and courageous enough to take the next step, just as Koko climbed the palm tree continually telling himself he could do it.
Koko is the story’s narrator which immediately puts the reader in Koko’s “shoes”, while the stunning illustrations with their clever use of perspective echo the enormity of the task ahead so they are invested in the story from the get-go.
At this time of the year our young ones are hearing all sorts of stories about starting school and overcoming their fears, so this is one to add to that collection because of its parallels with that experience and its positive message. As a story it is a stand-alone but astute adults will help the young listener dig deeper, helping them to understand that stories can have lots of layers of meaning. The message of believing in yourself is powerful and one our children need to hear so often.
Sukie is starting a new school and shares the concerns of every child in the same situation – will she make friends. But she soon learns that making friends can happen in all sorts of ways, big and small, even unexpected. However, it is not enough to make friends – you have to work on maintaining the friendships by respecting others’ differences as well as the things you have in common.
So many children who have been restricted by stay-at-home orders in parts of Australia are separated from their friends right now – even though they have visual contact through online sources or audio through the phones, it is the physical, spontaneous face-to-face contact they are missing and which is impacting on their mental well-being. Even Miss 10, the family social butterfly, is worried that she will be forgotten and won’t have any friends when school eventually returns.
If nothing else, this time at home has demonstrated the critical role schools play well beyond the formal academic teaching and this book would be a worthwhile addition to any teacher’s toolkit as they help their students navigate making friends and being friends again after such a long social isolation. It has a wider reach than just supporting those who will be starting a new school as a new year approaches. Readers are invited to agree, disagree and add to the situations in which Sukie finds herself – should be embarrassed and uncomfortable that Mikkel refuses her help with his jigsaw puzzle or is it OK to say no sometimes? And cleverly, illustrator Colleen Larmour has included a picture of someone sharing kindness on almost every page, opening up not only an opportunity to look closely but also the concept of doing a random act of kindness every day.
Our children are negotiating a tricky time at the moment, different but just as confronting as children in past generations, and the strategies and coping mechanisms we help them to develop now will play a large role in how they will survive and thrive. This book has a role to play in that.
It’s time to go to big school but what will it be like? How will the day be filled? What are the expectations?
Using a double-page spread for topics such as getting ready, how to get there, what will happen and even why we go to school, this book follows six children as they begin this new adventure in their lives. The text speaks directly to the child and there are plenty of illustrations to help them imagine this new adventure they are about to embrace.
Even though it is an English production, both the anxiety that children feel and the activities of the new entrants’ classroom are universal and so this translates to the Australian situation well, including a page for the children to talk about the concerns they have..
With big school getting larger on the horizon for our little ones but visits to those early childhood classes limited in some states, this is an opportunity for parents to start preparing their child for what can be expected and if there are online orientations, for classroom teacher to use it as a way to guide their viewers through the first days. They might not be able to show their own classes in action but this is a suitable substitute.
It’s an exciting day for Frankie – it’s his day for kindergarten. But Frankie isn’t a timid, shy child about to take his first step on a new adventure – he’s a dog who goes with his owner, the Kindy teacher, to join in all the fun of meeting up with friends, playing inside and out, visiting the pets. listening to stories, having lunch and quiet time and learning all sorts of new things. His mate George the cat would like to go too but he is deemed too little, so he hops in a box…
Written by two experienced kindergarten teachers based on their own kindy – Frankie belongs to Miss Peta – this is a joyful introduction to the kindy/preschool day that will be a new adventure for many of our littlest readers very soon. Many of them will experience trepidation rather than anticipation so this story with its bright, bold illustrations will be excellent for helping to prepare them and pave the way. Even though there might not be a Frankie (or a cheeky George) to join them, nevertheless all the activities will be there awaiting them as will the welcoming teachers and lots of new friends to play with.
With lockdown and restrictions, preventing many of the face-to-face orientations that usually start about this time, so this would be the ideal story to share as alternative preparation.
Hugo the monkey doesn’t like Upside-Down Fridays. To be able to fit in sport, lunch time and morning tea time have been swapped on Fridays and Hugo’s routine is the wrong way round. So school has become a scary place full of uncertainty and despite his mother’s explanation and reassurance, Hugo is full of anxiety about what the day will bring. However, with just a small gesture of friendship and understanding from Maddie the giraffe, Hugo begins to feel braver.
Many children depend on the familiar routine of the school day to be able to manage the busy-ness, noise and movement of an environment so much bigger than their home, which is why many teachers now display each day’s timetable clearly so that those dependent on routine can adapt and adjust if they have to. For those who can adapt easily to change, it is often difficult to understand the anxiety of those who can’t so as well as supporting the routine-dependent by acknowledging their problem, this gentle story helps the others understand.
Using a common device of depicting Hugo as a monkey and his classmates as familiar jungle animals, the story remains one step removed from any particular child in the classroom enabling anonymity so further anxiety is not caused. It also offers the opportunity to discuss how normal and natural it is to be concerned about big changes such as going to school or hospital for everyone – we all feel anxious at times – and how to develop strategies to help ourselves and others to build confidence. How did Maddie know that giving Hugo a balloon would distract him?
Comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the early years of the Australian Curriculum are available to make the most of this delightful story and its perfect illustrations.
It is time for Little Dinosaur to start preschool and even though she is apprehensive, she soon learns that there is fun and friendship and love to be had beyond that of her family if she just takes some deep breaths and is open to new experiences. And that although love can be expressed in words, it is also shown in all sorts of actions, and between all sorts of characters regardless of their size, shape, or colour. That it doesn’t matter if you are a this-osaurus, a that-osaurus or an other-osaurus, you all just want to have fun on the merry-go-round and know your parents are proud of you.
Brightly illustrated, this is an eye-catching book that will appeal to our youngest readers as it taps into the universal fascination with dinosaurs, the natural concern about stepping out of the family and into the world, and the reassurance that there is someone to catch us if we fall. Perfect for this time of year when so many are taking that next step.
Share it and then talk about how each little person has experienced love from both a family member and a friend that day so they start to understand that love is as diverse as they are.
It is time for Little Roo to leave her mother’s pouch and be a little more independent. But Little Roo is afraid and no matter how much her mummy tempts her, she really just wants to stay put in the comfort and safety of what she knows. Deep down, she really wanted to taste the fresh green grass and play with the other babies but her fear made her want to stay hidden even more.
But then Mummy Roo spots another little joey also tucked down in the pouch and Little Roo starts to think about just what she is scared of, and soon…
Apart from the fact that this has Renée Treml’s name on it and she has created so many stunning stories for little readers, this is the perfect one for this time of the year when so many of them are facing new worlds of kindy, prep, reception, whatever or even preschool and childcare. Because, despite the anticipation and excitement in the lead-up, there are always those inner voices than can cast doubts that cause shadows. Mummy Roo is very wise and knows that this is a step Little Roo needs to take, and while she acknowledges Little Roo’s fear , she is determined to show her that it is natural and can be overcome, with any anxiety she may have being well hidden.
With her characteristic, evocative line drawings that bring the characters to life, once again Treml has given our youngest readers a gift – not just of her talent but her understanding so they too can be like Little Roo and Little Wallaby, put their brave on and discover new worlds. Instead of stepping in, she is teaching them to step up!
It is Edward’s first day at knight school and to protect from the battles he expects to face, he puts on his full suit of armour. Sitting in the back of the Great Hall surrounded by unfriendly creatures , he is mortified when the king asks him to tell the others about himself. Even though at home he likes to fight giants and ogres, here at knight school he seems to be surrounded by them and he is not so brave. And when one sits beside him on the bench as he starts to eat his lunch, things are r-e-a-l-l-y scary…
It is that time of the year again when the prospect of Big School is looming closer and closer and some of our little ones are getting really apprehensive, particularly this year where, in some places, the opportunity for orientation visits and becoming familiar with people and places has not been allowed. So stories like these that not only show that fears are shared but they can be overcome are welcome as they offer such reassurance. Cleverly illustrated showing the ogres and dragons as ordinary boys and girls and the concept of the physical armour holding him back in the same way that mental armour does, Edward comes to some new understandings and discovers this school-thing isn’t as frightening after all.
However you are connecting with your preschoolers this year, include this story in your repertoire for an added dose of confidence.
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…
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.
Hattie is a street-smart country girl in her first year of school. She lives just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all. Although she has a dog called Tacka and two outdoor cats, Havana and Stick, as well as ducks and chooks, she lives in a place so remote that she is lonely. Luckily she’s starting school and that brings new adventures.
There would be many Australian children who could relate to the isolation of Hattie and who long to go to school for the social contact that is so critical, and while her adventures at school are set in the Scandinavian world they are not so different from situations our children might find themselves in. However, this book is probably better as a read-aloud rather than a read-alone because its format is not as supportive for those reading about six-year-olds as other books are. Perhaps that reflects the Scandinavian school experience where kindy kids can read independently with regular fonts and few illustrations. That aside, it is an engaging story that introduces young readers to a world that is very different from theirs yet remarkably similar.