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!)

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Wide Big World by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Isobel Knowles

Difference is everywhere, just look and see. This whole – wide-big -world is wondrous unique.

 

The sing song nature of this picture book along with the big bright illustrations tantalises all of the senses and brings about great discussions about the diversity of the world.

We look at the differences between people and the differences in nature, we see differences in the weather and differences in how we see the world.

Wide Big world highlights the differences in all of us – but shows that these differences make the world a wonderful place to live in.

As we travel through the story we see that it is a wonderfully wide big world that we live in and we need to see the joy in everything that makes it wonderful.

Children will see that it doesn’t matter what we look like or where we live-they will see that kindness and happiness rule above all and the appreciation that every day is a gift.

Wide big world is a wonderful celebration of the world we live in and a great book to start many discussions about how we can all be better people in the community we live in.

Freedom machines by Kirli Saunders

She was small when she heard about them…the incredible freedom machines.

 

The incredible freedom machines is a beautifully written picture book that takes us on a journey of exploration, creativity and adventure into the unknown.

The machines this young girl seeks out are hard to come by but with perseverance and patience she finds one that is just right for her.

Once found she can escape the reality of the dreary life she lives behind fences and boundaries and seek places that smell delicious, taste like happiness and feel like home.

The incredible Freedom machines focuses in on the importance of imagination and the ability to find places to escape to when reality isn’t what we want it to be.

When I read this to the classes at school we found that the issues of children in refugee camps was something that came through in the illustrations by Matt Ottley — knowing that many of them would have to use their imagination every day so that life inside these camps would not get them down.

We loved the richness of the illustrations as the main character escapes her home and explores the big wide world.

The incredible freedom machines is a book to be read over and over, enjoying not only the flow of the story but also the deeper meanings within.

Wisp by Zana Fraillon

One day, a Wisp flew in on the evening wind. Dust rose up in swarms around it, feet trampled it into the dirt, nobody noticed it.

Nobody, except Idris.

Zana Fraillon , author of the Bone Sparrow and The ones that disappeared –  has again touched upon such an important topic that needs more action – the people who have to live in refugee camps for long periods of time.

So many people flee their home countries every day in our world and most of these people end up in Refugee camps because they have left  everything they own behind them.

However, The story of wisp focuses on hope- hope that one day there will be more to life than just wire fences, tents and desolation.

A small boy by the name of Idris sits alone one day only to notice a small wisp floating around the camp, resting on those it passes by.

With each touch, the Wisp brings magic. With each touch, the wisp brings memories.

Memories get passed around on the wisp as adults and older children remember the wonderful things that had happened to them – before they became refugees and  lived in the camp.

But when Idris, the main character of the story holds the wisp close, nothing happens, as all he knows is life in the camp.

But Idris sees past this and  realises that the wisp for him can be a promise – a promise of life beyond the fence, a life full of excitement, adventure and love.

Wisp allows the reader to see that there is hope and with continued pressure on the government to help there people, someday they will all be able to make wonderful memories again.

So what else can you do? 

Join my facebook group where we talk about ways we can inform children and the wider community about the big issues facing us today:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sociallyconsciouschildren/about/

Teacher notes: https://www.hachette.com.au/content/resources/9780734418043-teachers-resources.pdf

Visit: http://refugeecampauburn.com.au and book a time to visit what a refugee camp looks like.

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Act: Join groups that send books and packages to children in dentention: https://befriendachildindetention.wordpress.com

Even something as small as a letter can bring hope to a child in detention. 

Ask:

  • How can we give children in detention hope?
  • Explore other books about refugees – do these all give hope?
  • Draw your own wisp and draw what would be inside of it if you had to live in a refugee camp.

The Garden of Hope by Isabel Otter and Katie Rewse

A young girl, a father and a dog – together yet alone since her mother passed away.

The house was a mess, the little girl Maya felt lonely and often sad and anxious.

But on one particularly sad day, her father tells her about the garden and how much it meant to her mother – especially when she was worried about something.

So grabbing gloves and boots Maya takes on the garden overgrown with weeds.

Maya tidies the garden and freshens the soil and we see by her face that she is relaxed and happier, doing something she knew her mother loved too.

Seeds are sown and hope is planted – then finally they grow.

Maya cared for the garden as much as she could, spending more time out there when she felt angry or upset and helping her father to spend time out there too.

Together they made the garden beautiful again and together they found hope – that despite all the darkness that they were feeling there was beauty in the world and because of the hope they had sowed – it had become even more beautiful!

The Garden of Hope is a story to read with anyone who has lost someone as it  provides hope.

Together you can see that life can be beautiful despite all the darkness and that if we continue to do things that make us feel joy, place more beauty back in the world and support each other, life can be the joyous place that it is meant to be.

Death can be a difficult topic to talk about and books are a great way to start this conversation. You may not talk about much more than the story but it may ignite that small flame inside the young children to know that life can go on.

Keep this book to share with someone you know needs some hope in their lives.

Cloud conductor by Kellie Byrnes

Frankie loves sitting by her window and looking at the clouds. She loves to listen to the melodies they create, compose tunes and conduct ideas.

But being able to see the shapes the clouds make in the sky is a gift she loves to share with others.

As we progress through the story we start to see that Frankie is unwell and needs to spend many days in hospital.  But with her imagination, these days become much more amazing than they really are. Frankie sees a courageous cowgirl, children playing at the beach and a young girl riding a bicycle – all symbols of hope that one day she won’t need to be inside getting better, but outside amongst the joy of life.

The cloud conductor not only allows readers to see what life can be like for children who are in hospital for long lengths of time but also the importance of imagination and how imagination can brighten the darkest of dark days.

Positive thinking and hope shine through in this story and the important gifts we can give to others when they are feeling down – hope, joyful thoughts and imagination.

You will love reading this story to all young children and it might inspire some time to lie out in the sun and stare up at those clouds!

So what else can you do with this book?

Link to how you can help

  • Learn about children’s hospitals that exist near you. Is there anyway you can help brighten the lives of the children who have to spend a lot of time in here?
  • The picture book – The Silver Sea – was written in conjunction with children who were staying at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Imagination

  • What can you see in the clouds? Lie down for at least 5 minutes and talk about all of the different things you can see.
  • What can you hear when you see clouds?
  • Imagine the different types of music clouds would play – draw the different types of clouds and describe the types of music you hear when you see them.
  • Find some music that makes you think of breezy days, stormy days and still days.

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

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

cloudconductor

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

Interview with Karen Tyrell, author of Song Bird Two: The Battle of Bug World.

Welcome Karen, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that these questions will give my readers some more insight into how you have developed the characters in Song Bird , how music inspires and how we can all take better care of the world we live in.

 Song Bird 2 The Battle of Bug World

What inspired you to write the Song Bird series?

Two life changing events.

Fan girls of my Super Space Kids series requested I write a new series with a girl superhero as the main character, especially written for adventurous girls.

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Songbird Superhero, AKA Rosella Ava Bird character is based on my experiences as a 11-year-old geeky, bullied girl. Each night, I dreamt I could fly, to escape my bullies. Later, I joined the choir and learnt how singing boosted my self-esteem and self-confidence. The following year, I started high school where I discovered my love of science and maths. I wanted Songbird to represent the powerful and free spirit I aspired to be.

Music is so important to all of us and can give us strength. How does music play a role in your life and why did you think your superhero needed music to help her?

Music plays a key role in empowering me in tough times. As a bullied 11-year-old girl, I joined the choir and learnt to sing. My voice was something no bully could defeat.

When I was a bullied teacher, music comforted me when I developed PTSD and anxiety. My student and his parents bullied me to breaking point. Music gave me joy and certainty, a place where I drew confidence and peace.

Like me, Rosella Ava Bird joined the school choir discovered her superpowers lived within herself.

Rosie is such a strong and confident character, even when she doubts herself. Is your character Rosie based on anyone you know?

Rosie is a mix of me and the girl I dreamt to be. I would love to sing and to fly… And use my superpowers for good, to save and protect others.

I really love that you have included children with disabilities in The Battle of Bug World and portrayed them as strong, clever, brave and very able – what inspired you to do this when most books do not?

Two important reasons.

I have a mental illness that’s invisible. Many people label my illness as a disability. I don’t. My illness is part of me. I’ve found writing lets me express my struggles and successes in ways that empower myself, and help others. I want to encourage kids to connect with their inner superhero and live strong.

I once taught a boy-genius who was smart and brave, and an incredible maths science whizz. He also happened to move about in a wheelchair. In Songbird, I wanted to shatter the disabilitry stereotype. Like the boy I knew, Amy Hillcrest, is quite the hero.

How do you think teachers and parents can inspire young children to step up and think for themselves when it comes to looking after our planet?

Children should read and learn about their environment. Realise, they are a part of it and can make a difference to it.

My message: We can all lend a hand to care for our environment. Many hands make light work.

Did you research to learn more about how bees and insects function in our world?

YES. I studied how insects and bees behave, especially the bee’s waggle dance. I spoke to beekeepers of honey bees and Australian stingless bees. I spoke to the director of Bee Aware at the Logan LEAF eco festival.

How do you look after bees in your life? Do you have any tips for our young readers as to what they can do?

I do simple things like plant brightly coloured flowers and fresh herbs in my garden. I grow purple agapanthus and native grevilleas to attract bees. I put out clean dishes of water for the bees to drink. I’m careful not to spray pesticides on the grass or the garden. That would poison the bees. Instead, I pull out weeds.

How do you think children can make a difference in our world in relation to the degradation of the environment without having to always rely on adults?

Kids can plant and nurture their own garden, pick up litter especially in parks and waterways, pack their own lunches without plastic, turn off lights and taps, sort out family rubbish into glass, paper and cans ready for recycling bins.

 

What is in store for us in Book 3?

Song Bird returns to save the lost rainforest, revealing an ancient mystery.

Thank you Karen for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Such honest responses and really drawn on your own life experiences and those who you have come across that show their own super powers. I am really looking forward to reading more of your inspiring and adventure filled stories.

Make sure you get your copy of Songbird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World here:

Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World available on Amazon

Karen Tyrrell Bug World

 

Drawn onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer

A creative palindromic picture book has arrived in the form of Drawn Onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer.


Within this story the reader explore the glass half empty attitude: ‘People who think they are important and precious are wrong” to the glass half full attitude of “Important and precious people who think they are just a tiny speck tossed this way and that can’t hope to do anything at all“.

As the reader engages with each page they see how hopelessness which causes self destruction, darkness and loss can be turned into hopefulness, light and energy. These images have been delicately drawn by Andrew Frazer to give extra meaning to the short sayings written by Meg McKinley

Drawn onward is a powerful picture book written for older readers and a great book to explore slowly with discussion and reflection. The book can be read in it’s entirety but then should be looked back upon so links can be made between how the character recovers from the dark heavy feelings of life.

Many young children are effected by bullying and low self esteem so reading books like this can help the discussion of these issues become easier. As parents and teachers we need to support our children so that they do not feel weighed down by life. The sooner we can raise awareness in our children that there is always hope, they better.

Meg McKinley has cleverly played on words to create this story of hopelessness and hope and it is one that should be shared in all classrooms. Not only does it focus on self concepts it also looks at how if we just play around with words things can sound so much better – and this all relates to how we talk to ourselves.

Drawn onward by Meg McKinley and Andrew Frazer is a great collaboration between author and artist and one that helps us to learn how a simple shift of focus can change our whole perspective.

So what can you do at home or in the classroom?

Literacy

  • Explore Palindromes in words and Phrases – write these down and then draw these to show how simple swaps make a huge difference.
  • Explore synonyms and antonyms for words such as hope, love, light, truth, good, important and precious.

Mental Health

  • Explore times when you have felt like the dark character – how did you remove the heavy rock and reach towards the light? Allow students to explore this individually through picture or word.
  • Explore meditation with children and how helpful just three minutes a day to help ourselves get into the right mindset.

Teacher Notes

Check out these great teacher notes by Fremantle Press

There is hope

The news of bombings fills me with dread of what those people must have felt, what those families who have lost must be feeling and even what the parents and friends of the bomber must be going through.

It fills me with fear about the world that my children are growing up in and concern about how they might feel if they one day hear about or experience these things.

There is hope.

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As parents and teachers we can prepare our children for the world by displaying how to be more empathetic towards others through our actions. Think about how you talk about other people, news events and the world. 

As parents and teachers we can allow our children to experience what life might be like for other people so that they can be more empathetic. We can do this through conversations and picture books.

If we help our children to understand how the world is different then perhaps we have a brighter future where everyone gets along as best as they can, treats everyone with respect and helps anyone in need. 

Try these books that link to refugees.

One less fish

One less fish is a colourful, informative and pertinent story about the Great Barrier Reef and the amazing sea creatures within.

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I’m sure many of you are aware of the coral bleaching that has been occurring in the GBR over the past year. The coral reef is such an important part of our natural world and more importance needs to be placed upon this destruction.

I have been lucky enough to visit the reef, see the vibrant coral and swim amongst the different sea creatures that live there. Many people will miss out on this opportunity if we don’t start to take action.

The picture book One Less Fish  by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather allows children to see the fish that swim amongst the coral. The beautiful illustrations show the diversity that swims in the Great Barrier Reef and highlights the beauty of the coral that the fish live between.

One Less Fish was written to show readers what may have happened if it had not been inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981.  Each page gives tips on how we can start to make changes so that less destruction takes place towards to Reef, the ocean and the sea creatures.

Although this book seems sad and without hope as fish diminish one by one it ends on a high with all of the fish returning.

One Less Fish is a great teaching resource through the tips on each page and the glossary on the last two pages. It also allows children to see what sorts of fish live in the Great Barrier Reef and allows them to hear what can happen through small less thoughtful actions.  It also is a great starting point to discuss with them what we can do today, to ensure there is less harm done.

TEACHING TIPS

When I read this story to my children they loved counting the fish, talking about the different colours in each image and finding out the names of the creatures.

So what can you do?

SCIENCE

  •  Allow time to research a fish or another sea creature that lives in the Great Barrier Reef. Find out as much as possible about that creature. Ask the question – how will they be effected by coral bleaching?
  • Find up to date information about the Great Barrier Reef: How it is used, who uses it and the governments approach to it.
  • Create a Venn diagram that compares two animals of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Find out the life cycles of the different types of GBR fish. You will be amazed at how different they are!
  • Forming small groups look at the different tips that are offered on each page – research these issues to gain more understanding of them. Are they still issues? Are there more issues since this book was written in 1997?
  • Watch this Ted talk to see how scientists are working on saving the reef.  https://www.ted.com/talks/kristen_marhaver_how_we_re_growing_baby_corals_to_rebuild_reefs?language=en

MATHEMATICS

  •  Count the fish as you go. Show addition and take away sums as you read through the story.
  • How many fish are there in the whole story?
  • How many years has the reef been listed on the World Heritage List?
  • Look at temperature charts of the sea water over the last ten years. Discuss how this effects the coral.
  • Older children may love to look at the mathematics of coral! https://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_wertheim_crochets_the_coral_reef?language=en

THINKING, TALKING & SHARING

  • Do people think differently now than in 1997? Have we continued to protect the reef?
  • What can we do if we live far away from the reef?

 

One less fish won a CBCA award in 1998

MATHEMATICS

STAGE One
Represent and solve simple addition and subtraction problems using a range of strategies including counting on, partitioning and rearranging parts (ACMNA015)

SCIENCE

Stage One

People use science in their daily lives, including when caring for their environment and living things (ACSHE022)

Stage two

Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (ACSHE051)

Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)

Stage three

The growth and survival of living things are affected by physical conditions of their environment (ACSSU094)

 Scientific knowledge is used to solve problems and inform personal and community decisions (ACSHE083)