The box cars by Robert Vescio and Cara King

Do you remember when you had more fun playing with a box than the toy that can inside it?

Have you ever watched young children play with an abandoned box for days on end?

The Box Cars by Robert Vescio and Cara King is a delightful picture book that shows young readers the fun they can have with boxes!

We meet two best friends – Liam and Kai who are experts in making different types of box cars and racing them around the local park. It isn’t until one day that they notice someone watching them that they realise how special friends and imagination are.

Soon enough – with a bit of problem solving – their duo becomes a trio and even more box filled fun takes place!

Simple yet brightly lit illustrations by Cara King fill each page and clearly show the emotions of the children as they play. They give a sense of freedom with imagination and nature at the heart of every page.

The story delves into the wonders of imaginative play and friendship and the problems that arise when we need to consider the needs of every one around us.

The Box Cars will open up the opportunity to get children outside with their imaginations instead of inside in front of a screen. It will encourage discussions about friendships and help children to see wonder in the simple things!

So what else can you do with this book?

Literacy

Grammar – Look at the different types of verbs used to describe how the characters do different things throughout the story. Replace these verbs with different or more plain verbs and see how the story changes.

Visual literacy – Every page is a whole page illustration except for one double page spread when Eve is not in a box car. Why is this the only page that does this?

STEM

Design and Make – Build something of your own out of a box that could serve a purpose in the school playground. Create plans before it is made and outline the clear purpose.

History

Toys in the past – explore how children made toys of their own in the past. What materials did they use and how did they make them?

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Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush written by Robyn Osborn and illustrated by John Phillips

Way off the beaten track, somewhere between Bandywallop and Bullamakanka, lived Bruno Bright, a big, boisterous, blue dog, and his best buddy Bob, a barefoot bushie. 

Pull up a bucket, boil up your billy and bunch up your buddies because Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush written by Robyn Osborn and illustrated by John Phillips is a book to share with any Australian bushwacker.

Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush is a story with a lovely message and a fun read full of words that start with ‘B’, Australian lingo and places.

Children will love the use of B on each page, and although some of the words will need explaining, it is a great way to introduce the outback vernacular!

Bruno and his mate Bob are from the bush. They loved the great outdoors and the simplicity of life. This all changes when Bob wins a large amount of money at the races and they decide that country life isn’t for them.

Together they travel Australia, (this is a double page spread that we loved! We really enjoyed looking at where they went and then looking up what these places look like in the ‘real world.’ )

But when they come back home they think that they can buy a better life – in a fancy house in the city.  As many stories tell us, life with money isn’t always a good life, and this is what Bruno and Bob realise after nearly losing each other.

Buy Now from Fishpond.

Bruno: The Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush

Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush is a fun book with a great message. It’s a great book for teachers to reinforce Alliteration and to explore different words used in the English language.

The cartoon-style illustrations add to the fun and simplicity of the message behind the story. The illustrations also help the reader to understand the  new words used on each page – mostly starting with ‘B’

A fun book that makes you wonder about all the little towns that are beyond the cities of Australia and who lived in them. Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush also shows readers that friends and happiness are much more important than money – a great message for children these days when they see so much importance placed on this.

Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush written by Robyn Osborn and illustrated by John Phillips – check it out here https://robynosborne.com/books/bruno-the-boisterous-blue-dog-from-the-bush-picture-book/

and also on the other blogs who are part of this tour!

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Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler

You have his mark Mia, between your shoulder blades. The dirrarn (black cockatoo) is your totem. Your jarriny (conception totem) totem

I adored this book so much so that I read it twice.

Mia, a young indigenous girl lives on the coast of Western Australia in a remote town surrounded by bush land, water holes and hot red dirt.

She lives with her family, which includes her grandparents, but feels lost between the culture and traditions of her past and the present world she lives in.

But Mia feels the past so much more than her brother does. She feels the pain of the he injured animals and smells danger and freedom on the wind.

The story revolves around Mia rescuing a black cockatoo who has been injured by her thoughtless brother.

We learn about the beauty of persistence, following your beliefs and believing in the power of positive actions.

We also learn the importance of listening to the past, embracing culture and tradition yet looking towards the future.

Black Cockatoo will not only entertain readers from ages 9-13, it will also teach them about owning their beliefs and standing up for what they know is best.

Black Cockatoo would be a great book if o study as a class group as the Jaru language is scattered throughout the story-in context-so readers can learn how to speak this indigenous language from The Kimberley.

As Australians we need to eEmbrace more of our indigenous languages and teach not only those with indigenous heritage but also those who don’t.

Black cockatoo by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler is a beautiful story and I hope that it can be shared with many more children!

We are together by Britta Teckentrup

We’re off to climb mountains, all the way to the top…Our friends keep us going – they won’t let us stop. 

We are together by Britta Tenckentrup is a celebration of love and friendship.  Through colourful illustrations and fun peek a boo holes, children of all ages will see the power of friends as the story travels along.

This book is a wonderful story to share with children as it highlights many things about self love and love of others.

It starts with the importance of our own self – our special gifts, dreams and hopes but it then shows that with one other and perhaps more than one other – we can achieve so much more.

Friends help us to see the bright side of life, they help us believe more in our selves and follow those dreams.

Young children will love the new person that appears on every page and the people shaped holes that are made with each page turn.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

We are together by Britta Tenckentrup is a book to share with all young children, one to pour over the illustrations together and discuss about how we feel about ourselves and the people who surround us.

Self belief and positive peer groups are such an influential catalysts in the development of our young children. Talking openly with children about their gifts and how working with others who respect us is important – and through We are together by Britta Tenckentrup, this discussion can be brought up so much easier.

So what else can you do with this book?

Personal Development 

Link this book with any Personal Development units of work in the classroom – talk about the gifts each child has. Discuss the important people in their lives who support them and make them feel respected and listened to.

Explore the people we are friends with – how their strengths and their weaknesses help us to become better people.

Visual Art

Look at the technique Britta has used to introduce new characters on each page.

Literacy

Explore the use of rhyme throughout the story and create a new stanza that could be added somewhere in the book to add more information about the importance of self belief and friendship.

Digby and Claude by Emma Allen and Hannah Sommerville

“One autumn, change came to Main Street …”

 

Digby lives on a street that is going through a lot of change. He watches from his window an old crumbling building slowly being moved out of and taken apart, ready for new apartments to be built.

Digby is a child who live in the 1930’s and using his imagination, he decides to find a place to think about what he could build once inspired by the action in front of him. An old bathtub does the trick and he spends many hours lying there admiring the clouds and hatching up great ideas.

However, the next day another boy comes along – Claude – and together they start to build a cubby that they both can play, eat snacks and swap stories in.

The cubby gets bigger as the new developments start to rise up. They spend hours every day adding extra rooms and hideouts to their space – until Claude isn’t allowed to come anymore.

Digby continues to play in the cubby alone until one day some new children arrive – children that have just moved into the new apartments.  Together the magic of the cubby lights up again – showing the children that just a little bit of imagination can go a long way.

 

Ideas for the classroom and at home

How is an idea for a  book made?

Emma Allen talks about her book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkhPV8KgwKE

Community & change

How can you make new members of your community feel welcome?

Why is there change happening in this story? Is there any change happening where you live?

How does change to the buildings affect people? How does it affect the environment?

Who are Digby and Claude?

These children were able to play and there are not many adults in sight – why was this? Are you allowed to play alone? Why do you think this is?

Imagination

What is important about playing outside and using your imagination?

The Natural world

Many children live in apartments now – how can we encourage these children and their parents to play outside and use imagination more? How can buildings be designed so children are safe in common outdoor areas?

Design a cubby house that you would make from natural materials and old things. Label your drawing and outline what would happen in your cubby house.

Something for Fleur by Catherine Pelosi and Caitlin Murray

Have you ever waited and waited for your birthday?

Have you been left to wonder and guess what gifts you might receive from your friends?

Something for Fleur by Catherine Pelosi and Caitlin Murray is a sweet story about Fleur the flamingo and a special plan her best friend has for her birthday.

We had a wonderful time reading this story. The illustrations are full of life and the story is so sweet.

Younger readers revelled in thinking about the clues offered in each letter Fleur the Flamingo received. They loved looking through the illustrations to see what the different characters were up to each day.

This book is a great way to introduce the use of adjectives and the skill of writing a letter to someone.

This is what we got up to in the classroom:

We wrote letters to someone we thought needed cheering up or someone we had never met – a child in detention or a child in hospital. It was really lovely to see what students wrote in these letters.

I also invited students to choose to write clues – which was aimed at the more competent learners as writing clues can be quite difficult.

What have you done with this story?

Snap review: His name was Walter by Emily Rodda

I’ve just finished reading this new book – His name was Walter by Emily Rodda. 💫 📖

Mystery and magic surround this book along with a haunted house, friendship and of course a book- that is so much more important than any of the children in this story ever realised when they started reading the first page.

Loved this book – one that could not be put down.

Children will love this as they will not only be guessing about what might happen next, they will also fall in love with all of the characters (and perhaps dislike a few quite a lot!)

Song Bird: Rainforest Rescue

Teach, Restore, Encourage, Establish, Support

These wise words come not only from our superhero – Songbird, but her friends and teachers who learn that looking after the world – especially rainforests, is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the future is much brighter.

ktyrrell-songbird-rainforest-cover-ebook-catalogue

SongBird: Rainforest rescue is the third book in the Song Bird series, written by Karen Tyrell (with guest posts by Steve Tyrell in chapters 2 and 10).

Song bird has had some great adventures so far and even though we thought that Destructo was gone, we discover in the early chapters that he is back, and ready to destroy a rainforest.

This time Songbird and her friends are on a camp in the Gondwana Rainforest and it is a race against time if they are to save this world heritage listed rainforest from Destructo.

With magic interwoven within the rainforest and it’s amazing Beech trees, Song Bird travels back in time to ancient Australia where dinosaurs roamed and mythical snakes slither.  They are chased by Bunyips and Yowie’s and haunted by Destructo’s evil plans. They travel through different eras helping animals and meeting indigenous Australians – who teach them about the importance of nature and living in harmony with the natural world.

Friendship, belief in oneself and a love for the natural world are all strong themes throughout this story – some of the best themes for young children to read about.

Friendship helps us to do things we might otherwise never do.

Believing in ourselves is what keeps us going, is what helps us to rise up when life challenges us and spurs us on to do what we think is right.

Song Bird is a great role model to look up to, and even though she has superpowers, the strength to take on those who are doing wrong is something that we all can do – especially with like minded support around us.

We loved reading the third installment of Song Bird and loved learning more about the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia – perhaps inspiring a visit to a few more of them in the next holiday!

Barry Watson & Karen Tyrrell

So what else can you do?

Explore:

Find out where the Gondwana rainforests of Australia are.

Are there any threats to these rainforests?

What is the meaning of friendship?

What was Australia like during the era of the dinosaurs? What was Australia like when the Indigenous people were free to live on the land before the British colonists came?

Think:

What do the words Teach, Restore, Encourage, Establish, Support mean to you? How can you do all of these things in your life and your community?

Act:

What is something you can save or change in your community? Can you stop the use of balloons? straws? plastic waste at school? Remember, you have the qualities of Song Bird and her friends – you can do it!

Music:

Find out more about the different songs Song Bird sings throughout the novel – what do you think of all of these and do they have anything in common?

Peg and Cat by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Eid al-Adha is something unfamiliar to my children so this book was a perfect way to introduce them to this very special time of year.

With mathematics, singing and celebrating, this picture book opens up minds to learning and fun!

We learnt that meat needs to be divided into three equal parts, we need to share with those less fortunate and eat delicious food with our family and friends.

If you love maths but are also looking for another way to learn about the world you live in – this book is fantastic!

And – come over and join my facebook group where we discuss how we can help our students and children understand and take action on these big issues!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/362368594250457/

Ori’s clean up by Anne Helen Donnelly

Octopus are very intelligent creatures and with eight legs and a bunch of friends they are also very good at cleaning up – even if the mess isn’t theirs!

Anne Helen Donnelly has created another fun book with a much loved character – Ori the octopus and this time he has a little message for all of us!

Meet Ori – a friendly Octopus who loves his underwater home, just not the rubbish that seems to be hanging around. Together with his friends they pile up the rubbish that is hanging around their watery houses but alas as the week goes by, the rubbish falls from the piles and scatters across the ocean again – encouraging them to problem solve a little bit more and work out where rubbish should go.

Children will love the bright illustrations, the use of alliteration and repetition and the simple message of cleaning up after ourselves.

Ori teaches us all that rubbish can not only go in the bin but also be recycled, reused, repurposed, composted or even better – refused!

Ori also shows us that teamwork is one of the best ways we can make the world we live in a better place.

So what else can you do with this picture book?

Free activities from Anne’s website: http://www.annehelendonnelly.com/activities/

And some ideas from me:

 – Explore alliteration of the animals names. What other names could these animals have? Can you think of names for other ocean animals?

 – Explore repetition throughout the book. What other actions do Ori and his friends do that could use this type of language?

Link all the different types of rubbish and where they go when we need to get rid of them.

Explore your own bin: What is inside your bin after one week of being at home?

Think: How can you create less rubbish in your bin? Try these activities in your home via my dropbox: (Please note this is in very very draft form!)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/xnstqsthasuz2tu/How%20much%20plastic%20is%20in%20our%20pantry.docx?dl=0

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Love this review? Join my facebook group where we delve deeper into these issues facing children, parents and teachers. 

JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHERE WE EXPLORE BIG ISSUES AND HOW TO BEST TALK ABOUT THEM WITH KIDS.

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Poppy and the Blooms by Fiona Woodcock.

Sometimes it’s the little people that make the biggest difference in our world.

In this colourful picture book we meet Poppy and her friends – Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup.

They love playing outside but one day they realise that there is a park nearby that has lost it’s love, lost its colour and lost it’s joy.

And even though they are small and the park is big, they know that with a lot of teamwork and determination they can make a huge difference to the world they live in.

The pages are bursting with colour and the feeling of life, love and friendship all throughout the story. The story is filled with determination and one which will encourage any young listener to believe that they can make a difference.

Do you have a little changemaker?

Do you encourage your little changemaker to make a difference in the world they live in?

Children are willing to care for the world they live in and with a little bit of help in the right direction they will make a difference.

Take the time to make some positive changes in your world and do it alongside the smaller people in your life so that they grow up knowing that they can act and make a difference.

  • Let them pack their own lunchbox – plastic free!
  • Learn about where electricity comes from so they can turn off the lights.
  • Read the labels of soap bottles and wonder if we really should be putting it down the drain.
  • Look at the food you buy and where it comes from, what it is packaged in and the additives. Think about alternatives together.
  • Go to a local park and pick up rubbish, plant a tree or scatter some seeds.
  • Write to local politicians – show children that they have a voice too.  

Girl on Wire by Lucy Estela and Elise Hurst

A girl stands before a wire, anxious about walking across the tightrope that is so far above the ground.

The wind whips her cheeks and the thunder clouds growl – but she knows she needs to walk it.

Courage, confidence and self belief are strong themes throughout this picture book – but they all come with something else – support from those around you.

We can all have confidence, courage and belief in ourselves but none of this will continue to reign if others around us do not support us.

The young girl in this story is experiencing something that many young children will go through at any time of their life – anxiety, self doubt and loss of confidence. The wire represents the hard times, times when we have to try something new or events that make us uncomfortable. But, with the support of those we love, out toes can curl around the wire a little bit tighter, we can stand a little bit taller and we can walk a little bit more confidently.

Girl on a Wire is a simple yet inspiring story.

Accompanied by the painted illustrations of Elise Hurst, with colours that represent the girls thoughts, we can not only read how the girl is feeling, we can also see how she is feeling.

Girl on a Wire is a an excellent story to start conversations about self confidence and the power of believing in yourself . It is also a story to encourage the awareness that we can allow those who you trust to help support you too – we don’t need to do it all alone.

So what else can you do with this book?

 – Explore with your child people who they trust to help them when they need support.

– Explore times we they have asked for support – did it help?

– Explore times when they didn’t ask for support – what happened, could you still do this big task? Could support have helped you?

ACTIVITY: Draw a wire between two buildings and at one end write something that you really want to be able to do. Along the wire write down the people who need to be there to support you and the things you need to do in order to achieve this goal.

– What do you think the feathers represent? What is a symbol for you to help you get through the tough times?

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Jane Doe and The Cradle of all Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan

Wow – Every time I picked up this book I knew that my heart would be racing, I’d be skipping words and I’d be turning the page before I had even finished reading it.

It’s just one of those books that you shouldn’t read before bed if you need to relax!

Jane Doe and The Cradle of all Worlds is a cross between some of my favourite stories: Narnia, Indiana Jones, Nevermoor and Pan’s labyrinth.

It’s fast paced and action packed but the characters are so enchanting that it is not only the adventure you will want to read about, you’ll also want to get to know these character’s so much better.

The protagonist – Jane Doe is a young teenager who hates the town she lives in as the people have blamed her for anything bad that has happened for as long as she can remember.

Jane’s luck changes (well she might not see it that way!) when the largest earthquake to hit the town starts and her father, who has been bed bound and speechless since she was little opens the door to the mysterious manor and leaves without saying a word.

The manor is filled with rooms that change, rooms filled with traps and rooms that may haunt you forever. But all Jane knows is that she needs to save her father and bring him home – the only problem is that the doorway to home has been sealed and it is only through the help of an interesting character name Hickory and a mysterious girl that she may someday find her father and make it out of the manor – alive (and sane)

Jane is a character that all young readers will love, she speaks their language, thinks what they would be thinking but also shows courage and determination is the most difficult times. She will give those readers who aren’t into the bigger and longer fiction stories a reason to keep turning the pages with her sarcastic remarks and interesting thought bubbles.

Jane Doe and the Cradle of all worlds is only the first book in this series and it is one that readers will be waiting for!

BUY NOW FROM FISHPOND

The Cradle of All Worlds: The Jane Doe Chronicles

GO ON AN ADVENTURE – ECO STYLE!

 

Ash dresses her friends by Fu Wenzheng

Have you ever made something  from scratch?

And then been able to give that object to someone else?

Ash dresses her friends by Fu Wenzheng is a wonderful story about friendship, sharing, kindness and the beauty of being able to make things yourself.

Ash is a shy little bird and she doesn’t have many friends until she starts to use her wonderful gift – her ability to create clothing and objects from a beautiful piece of red material.

Ash creates many things including a shirt, arm chair cover, a dress and a scarf! She spreads her ability and love all over the neighbourhood and brings joy to so many through the simple act of kindness.

Ash could have kept the red material all to herself and made so many wonderful things from it but she chose to share and make other animals lives happier.

Ash dresses her friends is a wonderful story about how we can be kind to others, how we can share our gifts to make others happy and how we can make things on our own.

Many of us resort to the shops to buy things for friends – perhaps this book will inspire you to make something of your own next time a friend needs a present, a pick me up or just a reminder of how important they are in your life.

The illustrations really highlight the friendships being developed, the happiness each gift brings and the vibrancy of the material Ash uses in each creation.

I loved the red material Ash used and hopefully one day I might just find something made out of it!

So what else can you do at home?

SELF ESTEEM

  • Explore the gifts your child has. Talk to them about what they can do to make others happy and to show them how special they both are.
  • Look at how Ash felt shy and sad and explore times your child has felt like this.
  • How do friends make us feel good?

SUSTAINABILITY

  •  Ash made things herself out of one piece of material. Where do your clothes come from and who made them? Can you make the effort to buy more clothes from locally and ethically made sources?
  • Explore the Fashion revolution to see how you can be more aware of how your clothes were made, what they are made of and where they go once you have finished with them.

ART

  • Explore the techniques used by Fu (contrast between red and black/grey) and how this impacted the story. Create your own artwork using two contrasting colours.
  • Create your own print like the red material.

COMMUNITY

  • How can you play a bigger role in your community? Explore different groups or community days and how you can be a part of them so you know more people around you.

BUY FROM FISHPOND NOW – CLICK BELOW

Ash Dresses Her Friends

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Finn’s Feather by Rachel Noble and illustrated by Zoey Abbott

Finn discovers an amazing white feather right on his doorstep. Could it be from his brother Hamish who is now an angel? 

After the tragic accident of her young son Rachel Noble wrote to help cope with her loss and through this she felt inspired to write a picture book that would help others, especially children who are going through this process of dealing with grief. Finn’s feather is a beautiful and sad yet empowering picture book.

Every body deals with traumatic events differently and this book is one which will inspire hope into both adults and children who have had to deal with death and grief.

Young children deal with death very differently to how adults do and this book looks at grief through the eyes of the older brother who finds a feather on his doorstep and believes it has been sent by his brother Hamish who is now an angel.

Young Finn doesn’t dwell on the sadness of the feather but rather the joy this beautiful white feather can bring. He takes it to school and alongside a friend they climb trees, make a castle, play hide and seek and of course tickle each other.

The feather is a beautiful metaphor for the loss of his brother and shows that when we have lost someone we always hope that they are nearby somehow.

But although Finn feels joy with his feather he also wishes his brother was still with him.

As the day wears on the feather becomes dirty and stuck up in a tree but with some help he is able to get it back down and after this his  friends tell him to “Hold it tight”  – such a beautiful line to come from friends who are observing someone who is dealing with grief.

We can hold onto our memories of loss or trauma but we also need to see the joy in life.

The note written by Finn on the final page leaves a heart-wrenching yet positive feeling and shows the importance of talking about how we feel, supporting each other and allowing ourselves to feel how we do about events like these.

Finn’s feather did make me cry but it also made me realise how important it is to talk and connect through those hard times, let ourselves cry, let ourselves be sad but also to let ourselves continue to see joy in life.

Finn’s feather is a story to share with anyone who has or has not lost someone in their life. It is a celebration of life and a celebration of memories. It reminds us that just because someone isn’t here on Earth with us anymore, it doesn’t mean your relationship with them is over.

If you have a child who is dealing with grief I highly recommend buying or borrowing this book. 

Buy now from Fishpond

 Finn's Feather

What’s at the end of this piece of rope? by Tania Cox and Jedda Robaard.

What’s at the end of this piece of rope? 

Do you leave it? Pull it? Or ask some friends to help you investigate? 

All this is explored through a simple and fun text written by Tania Cox and Illustrated by Jedda Robaard.

With a repeated refrain : What’s at the end of this piece of rope? , a small girl enlists the help of many friends to help her to work out where this tightly held rope is anchored to.

Working together is a key concept in this story and with engaging and fun illustrations, young children will see how important and fun team work can be.

The young reader will love chanting the refrain and also wondering which animal friend will help next. You can ask questions to your young reader as you skip along through the pages helping them to develop their inquiry based thinking.

Enjoy reading this book aloud or encourage your early reader to read to you. Not only is this book a great early reader it is also a great book to spend time perusing through the images of the animals who fill up this book with warmth.

Buy Now – click here: What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What else can you do with this book?

  • Question – what else can be at the end of a piece of rope?
  • Question – should we always pull ropes by ourselves?
  • Question -Why do we need other people to help us sometimes?
  • Which animals are in this story, write down their names and the countries that they come from.
  • Look at the sounds they make as they pull the rope. Can you think of some other sounds that you might make when something is heavy?
  • Why are there not many words in this picture book? Explore the importance of pictures.
  • Please and thank you are used quite a bit in this story – why are these words important?

You hold me up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel.

The four words : You hold me up ring throughout this picture book, highlighting the importance of family, trust, friendship and love.

Written by two Canadian authors, this story highlights the damage done by the government to indigenous children in the past and at times, now.

A pertinent issue for many countries around the world, and as an Australian, something we need to do more about.  

Children being taken from their families, never to see them again was something that happened all too often and the stories that are emerging from this are atrocious.

Many of these children and families are on a long path to healing and can only do this with the support of the community around them.

This story reminds us that we are all human and that we all need love, respect and dignity.

Monique Gray Smith has written this with the littlest people in mind and hopes to encourage dialogue among children, their families and educators.

Danielle Daniel’s illustrations are vibrant and full of warmth and love. Each picture oozes the strength of each relationship and the bond held between the people involved.

Read this story with those around you and as you do, you will realise how important it is to hold everyone in our community up.

So what else can you do with this book?

  • Think about how you can support those in your family when they are sad, have experienced something difficult or are just having a bad day.
  • Investigate the Indigenous people of your country. How have they been treated in the past and how are they treated now?
  • How do books like this inspire change? Can books inspire change?
  • Look at the technique used by Danielle Daniels: bright colours, focus on faces and how we can draw emotion into people. Experiment with your own way of exploring happiness, love and support in art.

Interview with Zanni Louise about creating Tiggy and the magic paintbrush.

This week I was lucky enough to interview Zanni Louise, author of 2018 CBCA shortlisted book Archie and the Bear, Too busy sleeping and now a wonderful new series called Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush.

Zanni Louise_ credit Kate Nutt Photography

Zanni explains what inspired her to write this new series, the importance of friendship and how a magic paintbrush can lead to the development of self belief in those tough times.

Thank you Zanni!

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  1. What inspired you to write a series of books about a young girl with a magical paintbrush?

The stories evolved over a number of years. They began as stories about a girl called Wynn and a 3D printing machine, which Wynn used to print things to solve her problems. The idea initially came from a fun conversation with my daughter. Working with editors, though, I ended up ‘refreshing’ the name, and decided that it would be more practical to have a magical device she could take with her, and preferably keep secret.

  1. Why a magical paintbrush?

When brainstorming devices, my daughter rushed past me, hurriedly painting imaginary things in the air with her invisible paintbrush. A paintbrush is handy, portable, and small enough to hide. It also gives Tiggy scope for creativity, which is something I really like.

  1. Tiggy has two special friends at school, and in one of your picture books, Archie and the bear, friendship is focussed on too. How important is it that we have friends in our lives – at all ages?

Friendship is a big theme in my life, and inadvertently a big theme in all my stories. Everyone has a different version of friendship, and I guess I’m interested in exploring all these different forms.

  1. How do you see this book helping young children as they start early schooling or even when they change classes or schools?

The first book A School Day Smile was written because my daughter was at the cusp of starting school, and I was curious about about her emotional responses, and her strategies for coping with this big change. Tiggy is clearly nervous about her first day, but is trying to be brave. I think this is a common experience, and for kids reading this, they feel validated that these are normal experiences. Tiggy also attempts to use magic to make her feelings go away, going as far as changing who she is, so people will like her. But in the end, she has to come back to being comfortable with her Tiggy-ness. I think this is important for all of us.

  1. Tiggy’s paintbrush is a tool she can use but she also learns that she can cope without it. I think this is a really important aspect of the story – why did you feel the need to ensure when children read this that they knew how important it is to realise how wonderful they are and that they can get by without these magical tools?

That aspect to the stories emerged quite unintentionally. It becomes a nice metaphor for reality though, that we don’t need to rely on our ‘crutches’ – we have all the resources we need within us. My editor at Five Mile, Melissa Keil, really helped draw out the ambiguity between Tiggy’s magic and her imagined world. I love too that Gillian’s illustrations bring this to life, by contrasting Tiggy’s ‘real’ black and white world, with her colourful imagined, magical world.

  1. You have written two wonderful picture books and now a junior fiction book. How was the process of writing Tiggy and the Magical paintbrush different to your other stories?

It took me a long time to get my head around writing for this age group. Unlike picture books, junior fiction and independent readers are being read by kids themselves, so the language needs to be very simple, without compromising the stories. The process of writing these stories, particularly as a series, has helped me really flesh out the narrative arc in all my stories. I have always gotten away with writing very intuitively with picture books. But independent readers push me in new directions.

  1. Inspiration can come from many places – how do you find yours and develop these ideas into stories?

I like to keep inspiration and creativity at my finger tips. To be honest, I have half a mind on potential ideas almost all the time! Mostly, I’ll try and write ideas down. When I get a chance, or feel particularly inspired, I’ll start nutting out a story. I’m fairly patient with stories. Some take days to develop. But some take years! Often a partly formed idea will sit on my computer for months before it becomes anything more.

  1. What else will we see Tiggy get up to in future books?

In the next two books, Tiggy tries her hand at performing, and prepares for a birthday party. And next? Well, yet to be seen!

Buy Tiggy and the Magic paintbrush here: 

A School Day Smile (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

A Pet Called Nibbles (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

Booktopia

Third Witch by Jackie French

Following on from OPHELIA, QUEEN OF DENMARK and I AM JULIET, this is the third title in the series for young people that focuses on the reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s classic and enduring plays.

 

Third Witch is a cleverly told tale of the Shakespeare play, Macbeth told from the perspective of Annie Grasseyes, a young girl who is the mistress for Lady Macbeth.

Annie is not a witch but when her lady asks her to help her husband rise to become king she weaves magic through words alongside her mother and friend, Agnes.

Third witch shows us the power of words, perspective on what happiness is and how simple actions can mean so much to another.

Macbeth is a well loved play but the language used by Shakespeare has been lost on many due to it’s complexity and use of old English. I do love Macbeth but I have never been truly in love with the language used – this story opened up my eyes to the story and also another perspective of the so called evil and superstition woven into the original play.

Young readers will love this story and I think it is one to read alongside Shakespeare. Not only will it give readers another view on the story it will also allow them to learn why Shakespeare wrote the play as he has.

Themes of friendship, true love and family run strong through this novel as does the power of a single action.

Dreams, power and beauty shine out their true value.

Third Witch by Jackie French is mesmerising and one for any literary bookshelf.

You will have to read this book to find out why it is so important that we think about what we say before we say it, as we never truly know the effect it will have on someone else.

Jessica’s box by Peter Carnavas

Know someone starting school this year? Or starting a new school?

Jessica’s box by Peter Carnavas might be one to share with them before they start on their way.

This story was written in 2008, has won many awards and has had many teacher notes and activities written about it, so I won’t add to it all but I really just wanted to highlight how great this story is for young children.

This book shows the young reader how important it is to be true to ourselves and that true friends will see who we really are and will love us for who we are – not what we have.

We can teach our youngsters about popularity and how it is fleeting (despite the messages the media throw at us). Peter Carnavas shows children through this store the importance of  knowing who we are and how by knowing, we will find those who will support us through good and bad times.

We have loved reading Jessica’s box and it is one we will continue to visit in times to celebrate friendship or times when we need to re assess the difficult journey friendship can take.

So what else can you do with this book?

– Play a major role in your child’s education so you are aware of how they are feeling. Talk to them about school, read with them after school and be involved when you can.

– Talk about things you are good at and ask your child what they think they are good at. Tell each other what you are both good at. Do this as often as you can.

– For older readers – find times in the media when people have become popular because of one thing but then faded because that thing was gone or no longer popular?

– How is social media like Jessica’s box? How can we become popular on Facebook or instagram? Does this popularity really count?

How will you play a role in order to help your child thrive?

Hark it’s me, Ruby Lee! by Lisa Shanahan and Binny.

Ruby Lee is a little girl with a very BIG imagination

Ruby Lee is a young girl who loves school and loves helping but never seems to get chosen for the jobs she really wants to do. Until one day, when the chosen helpers are away, Ruby Lee and her friend George Papadopoulos finally gets the opportunity to take a message to the office.

However, Ruby Lee’s amazing imagination takes them a little off the track and no where near the office where the measure needs to be! Where they end up will surprise you and the colourful illustrations by Binny will allow you to extend your imagination even more!

Back in the classroom, Ruby Lee, despite her best efforts to deliver the message, is disappointed….. until a pigeon flies into the classroom, and that is when she really discovers what she can do best.

Lisa Shanahan integrates the ideas of creativity, friendship and finding your gifts into this story – showing the young reader that it is really important to be aware of your gifts and not focus on what others do best, but what you do best.

A great read for those starting or continuing pre-school or primary school as it really highlights the importance of friends and the importance of believing in what you can do best.

So what else can you do with this book?

 – Look at the end papers – why are there small birds used?

– What do you think George Papadopoulos’ background is?

– Where did Ruby Lee and George travel do on their message adventure? Create your own story about somewhere you might go in-between your classroom and the office.

– What are your gifts? Write down 5 things you are really good at and proud of. If you have trouble ask a friend.

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

If you had one wish what would it be?

Esme Silver lost her mother 7 years ago and has just witnessed her father remarry a women she doesn’t like at all. She is not only upset at her father for remarrying but also upset that he wants to move on when she can’t. Her mother went missing 7 years ago for no apparent reason and it is this unknowing that draws Esme to a small cottage she has been told to avoid for the last 7 years after her father and his new wife depart on their honeymoon.

Not only does Esme discover more about her mother, she also discovered another world – and this world has many more links to her mother than she would like to think.

When Esme steps into this other world, she makes many true and good friends in the city of Esperance who help her to find out what has happened to her mother. She shows determination, clever thinking and a strong will as she journeys through a city which constantly surprises her with it’s twists and turns around every corner.

Esme’s wish is a marvellous story and a definite page turner. It is full of magic and wonder,imagination and marvel, creativity and friendship. Not only does Esme travel Esperance to find her mother, she travels through it to also save the city from certain destruction.

Esme’s wish by Elizabeth Foster is a book for readers aged 11 and up and perhaps one that may have a sequel….who knows? Perhaps I will have to ask Elizabeth Foster herself…..

So what else can you do with this book?

– Draw a map of Esperance and surrounding islands after you have read the book

– Make a list of the different gifts people can have. How do people have gifts in our world? Are they as revered as they are in this story? Are all gifts equal in this world and our own?

– What is a pearl made out of? Why are they precious? Can you find any stories throughout history related to pearls?

– As you read list the metaphors and similes and other types of figurative language. This book is rich in this type of language and a great way to study how you can add more to your writing.

There are so many more wonderful activities to do with this book – it’s a great book to share or read as a group!

Archie and the Bear by Zanni Louise

Have you ever felt like no one really understands you?

Have you ever wondered what life might be like if you just set off and found someone who did? 


Archie and the Bear by Zanni Louise is a wonderful tale about friendship, being yourself and acceptance.

I really love this book. I have read it to classes during library time and to my own children many many times.

There is so much to gather from this story, as mentioned above, but overall it is just a really lovely story.

Archie is a bear (but he is really a boy) who goes wondering out into the forest with his homemade honey sandwiches. He meets a friendly boy (who is really a bear) and together they nibble on honey sandwiches and teach each other different things.

As the night grows dark they try to keep each other warm but end up returning to Archie’s house where they sleep warmly by the fire under a warm quilt.

The friendship between the bear and the boy is enviable, they take care of each other, are gentle to each other despite both knowing that they are clearly not what they say they are and they love hanging out together.

Friendship, acceptance and kindness are traits that we want to encourage in our children and this book really shows this in a subtle way.

We need to learn to accept people for who they are, accept people for what they believe in and accept them into our lives even if they are different.

David Mackintosh’s illustrations are bold and simple. They show enough of the story but don’t overload the page. The use of watercolors in the background help the reader to focus more on the main characters and the actions they are taking.

Not only does this book have a calming effect as we watch the friendship blossom, it also shows us how simple life and friendship can be.

Archie and the Bear is a beautiful read, definitely one for your bookshelf!

Little mouse’s Sweet Treat by Shana Hollowell

What lengths do your children go to to grab themselves a sugary treat?

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The little mouse in this book travels all over his neighbourhood to find a delicious sweet snack meeting different animals and their taste buds along the way.

A sweet, simple, fun and engaging story, Little Mouse’s Sweet treat will not only engaged your child it will also expose them to rhyme.

Rhyming is one important aspect of learning to read so having these types of books read out loud to your child is setting them up for an easier path when learning how to read.

The watercolour illustrations are beautiful and my three year old loved looking at what the different animals were doing as the mouse spoke to them.

My one year old niece asked for the story to be read over and over again, enjoying the pictures, the sing song of the rhyme and the curiosity to see what the mouse ended up eating!

Little Mouse’s sweet treat is a lovely read for younger children and one which early readers will also like to read out loud.

You can buy your copy here: Amazon