It’s 7.00pm and it’s time for bed. No more screentime or playtime and regardless of the protests, it’s time. But it takes perseverance and patience to work through all the diversions and distractions – getting into PJs, teeth brushing,, toilet time, stories and questions, one last drink and the inevitable monsters that need despatching…
Parents and younger readers will really resonate with this story and the beautifully illustrated scenes with lots of detail will be so familiar, but they will also love the twists in the tale that make it stand out from other stories on the topic.
Because it is such a familiar routine, there are lots of opportunities for discussion as young listeners compare, predict, and make connections with their own experiences and those of the characters. However, there are also strong teaching aspects such as time, day and night, moon phases, the need for sleep and so on that offer lots of opportunities for this to be more than a bedtime story with comprehensive teachers’ notes and activities available to assist this.
As our youngest littlies’ lives start to return to normal and regular routines are reinstated, this has great potential to help them re-establish those as they create sequencing charts that they can follow and tick off each time they are completed. Parents will love it.
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.
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.
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.
It could be said that never before in the lives of our young students, has science been at the forefront as it is at the moment. Every night on the news and in other programs they have access to, science is featured along with the obligatory white-coated scientist as there are reports of progress in the race to a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, the disease keeping them trapped inside. The importance of research, testing, trials and all the other vocabulary associated with the discipline is becoming a natural part of their vocabulary and there would be more than one little one who now has aspirations of finding that one thing that will save mankind.
So this new series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and so if immunology and epidemiology don’t appeal, then there are endless other facets that might. The first three in the series introduce us to a physicist, a marine biologist and an anthropologist, all of whom changed the world’s thinking with their discoveries .
Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to each including not just their discoveries but also their early life that influenced the paths they took. With at least three more in the series planned (Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Stephen Hawking) this is a series that will be a most useful addition to the library’s collection because of its modern presentation and timely release as children return to the classroom with big dreams of adding their names to the list of world-changers.
In the warm waters of a shallow bay, a dugong calf is born…and as she learns to swim and eat and pull up the seagrasses of her diet, she learns the stories of long ago, the legends of mermaids. She learns the dangers of reef predators and what to do when they are near, but nothing can teach her about the dangers posed by the humans who treat her home as their personal playground…
With illustrations and a colour palette as soft and gentle as the underwater world. this is a wonderful introduction to one of our least-known creatures that is so mysterious and in need of protection. As well as the fact page at the end, it has a strong environmental message, offering a new topic on which to kickstart an investigation into our impact on the environment with comprehensive teachers’ notes available to assist with this. With winter knocking on the door, this might not be the time we are thinking about the ocean and its creatures, but that just means there is more time to think and act before next summer. Maybe the dugongs will be able to tell their young of the stories and legends, because of the consideration of our young, and maybe dugongs won’t be just part of the stories and legends we tell.
The astronaut’s cat is an inside cat. And she likes it like that.
But unlike other inside cats, the astronaut’s cat is on the moon, where it is so hot during the day a bowl of water would quickly boil, and so cold during the night it’s ten times colder than being in a fridge freezer!! So each day Cat looks out the window at Astronaut working while she watches and snoozes and dreams of going outside to pounce and bounce lighter than a birthday balloon. But when Earth rises on the inky black horizon she dreams of being back where there is colour and movement and shapes and forms and Mother Nature fills her with sights and sounds and scents…
When the masterful Mr Riddle created this book he would have had no idea that it was going to be released at a time when many of its readers were going to be cooped up inside, just like his cat. That being able to go outside and breathe fresh air and savour the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors would be as much a risk for them at this time as it is for Cat. That they would gaze through their windows and dream of earlier times…
He probably thought that he was just creating a story about his cat Pom Pom who is just like the cat in the story – completely white, odd eyes and pink ears – and who, being an inside cat, spends her time gazing at the window outside. While he has cleverly superimposed Pom Pom and Astronaut onto real backgrounds of the lunar landscape to help intensify the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, here on Earth it is a deadly disease keeping people indoors rather than a hostile environment. But unlike Cat we can connect so perhaps sharing this story could be the catalyst to connect our kids with the Through My Window activity. Have each one look out their window as Cat did, and draw or photograph what they see, including the sounds and the smells they are missing (good or not-so) and write an explanation to share with their friends. Maybe they could pop a teddy or something in the scene and challenge others to find it.
Here’s what is outside my window this morning…
But here’s what I am missing…
A great way to think about how Cat might be feeling and the things we take for granted. As Joni Mitchell sand in Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone…”
Illustrator Daniel Howarth has taken the words of our littlest ones about why they love this planet and transformed them into charming, fun illustrations that will appeal and inspire.
Starting with Teacher Bunny showing her class a globe and giving her class a classic teaching strategy of completing a sentence, she says, “I love the Earth because…”
Then all her students respond with a range of reasons in a series of double-page spreads that bring together aspects of the planet, familiar and not-so.
This would be a wonderful book to share with both parents and children at this time because it is just made for getting our youngest readers to respond with text and illustration, especially when we are trying to strike a balance with screen time. Some might even like to investigate some of the phenomena that are mentioned such as how old the Earth is or why it has so many colours.
It’s a great way to differentiate the curriculum as each follows something that fascinates them or has piqued their curiosity.
Another picture book that transcends its target age group and opens up worlds of possibilities.
Dear reader, please take time to note
Two ways to read this book I wrote.
The first way is for everyone,
Just read the book, enjoy the fun.
The second way will challenge those
Who like to look beyond the prose.
Who’d like to ACT just like a ‘cat’
(And that’s an anagram, in fact).
Even though my littlies are now almost biggies (9 and 13) respectively and I’ve had to take a long hard look at the shelves bending under the weight of picture books for them in their special bedroom, two titles that will never be moved on in my lifetime are Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu. Albeit a little tired from being shared with every class I ever taught, they are classics for me and they will soon be joined by this new title from their author, Sheena Knowles. It is delightful, funny and SO clever and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations give it an extra layer of magic.
The opening rhyme says it all and from there on it is just a romp of fun and hilarity – why should you worry if a camel eats curry? – and the recurring image of Bear struggling to get dressed just ties it all together. And then to weave the tapestry even more tightly is the use of anagrams, a fun word device that might set readers off an entirely new tangent as they discover another aspect of our language. Maybe students could write and illustrate their own couplet that contains an anagram and give their classmates a lift during this at-home time.
Like thousands and thousands of others, Molly and her father have emigrated to Australia to try their luck as gold prospectors in Ballarat, Victoria. Life on the diggings is hard and Molly misses her mother, who died before they left England.
A Chinese teenager, Chen, shows Molly and her Papa how to pan for gold and helps them when their food and money run out. Not everyone on the goldfields is friendly, however. Chen and other Chinese diggers are often bullied and the police lock up miners who haven’t paid the exorbitant gold licence fee. Before long, Molly, Papa and Chen are caught up in a protest that will become known as the Eureka Rebellion – a legendary battle that will profoundly affect them all.
Based on a true story, this intricately illustrated story gives an insight into what life was like on the Victorian goldfields particularly from the perspectives of a young girl and that of being Chinese. For the Chinese were not welcome, were not trusted and racism regularly raised its ugly head.
IMO historical fiction like this is a critical element of helping our students understand the nuances of life at the time, I wonder what a book of the future will depict about this time we are living through. Because this is based on a true story it could also lead to investigating the sorts of documents that people kept, like family Bibles, photographs, diaries and journals, and the role they play in helping us reconstruct the stories of the past. Perhaps students could document “A Day in the Life Of…” as a way of memorialising this time because what will happen to all the emails and photos and so forth that are only stored online, without a physical copy for posterity.
For those for whom a study of the goldfields is on the curriculum, this is an excellent example of how history can be accessed through a narrative and enable young readers to get a more human insight into the time that bare facts and figures do not offer. This is what Mark Wilson does best and in this, he is at his best.