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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Tell me a story Rory by Jeanne Willis and Holly Clifton Brown

We love our teddy bears and have spent many hours over the years searching for bears that have hidden themselves in trees, under lounges and inside cars. But as the children grow older they are starting to need them less and less and it’s good it doesn’t bother them but it does make me sad that they are growing up.

Tell me a story Rory by Jeanne Willis and Holly Clifton Brown is a simple yet powerful story about the love between those beloved cuddly toys and children.

Rory the lion used to listen to his little girl tell a story every night but now she has moved to a new bed and doesn’t come and see him anymore.
Rory misses her and instead of lamenting his loss he starts to create his own stories.
His stories lead his little girl back and together they adventure far and wide through magical night time stories.

Tell me a story Rory highlights the importance of storytelling and the relationships we can build through spoken word.

So what can you do at home? 

Tell stories! Tell a story every night when your child goes to bed. It is not only fun but it ignites imagination. See my post on storytelling.

Don’t discourage soft toys, they are a reassurance for young children and they will eventually let go of them.

Tell stories to your child. We have so much fun every night telling stories! Perhaps a good picture book will come out of it one day!!

Playing card games

What does your bed time routine look like?

Is it calm? Full of stories? Games? Laughter?

Or is it rushed, scheduled and stressful?


Some parent’s tell me that their children are too restless to sleep at night after a day at school and even stories won’t relax them.

Have you ever tried a card game?


We have found that a couple of rounds of UNO or Rummy for kids relaxes our Miss 6 and gives her the quiet space she needs before bed.

This time is also really special as it is often spent in her room with just one parent (mostly her dad) so not only is she playing a quiet and fun game she is also getting to spend some one on one time with an adult. There is no need for conversation but it is that 15-20 minutes of attention that helps her to wind down from the day.

So pull out those dusty cards and teach yourself then your child a simple game that you can both enjoy before bed.

 

Free Diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston

Do you know much about the history of Australia’s pearling industry? In the late nineteenth century, many of Western Australia’s Indigenous were forced to dive for pearl shell under terrible conditions. This story is a tribute to these men and women who risked their lives for the pearl lugger owners.


Free diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston is a lyrical narrative that takes the reader on a journey out to sea and on board a pearl lugger. A pearl lugger was the name given to the large vessels that were used to go out to sea to collect pearl shell. This industry, which has brought a lot of money to Australia is still a part of the economy today – visit Broome to see the many pearl shops up there – but under much better circumstances for the divers.

Older readers will be entranced by the colour of the land and the sea. They will feel scared and worried as the main character dives beneath the waves and yearns for his home. The prose entices the reader to ask questions about where they are, why they are diving with just a rope and why is pearl so precious?

This story really allows the reader to see the past injustices of society and how many people were treated so terribly just for the sake of money.

Brown Houston’s illustrations add more emotion to the story. We feel the gentleness of the ocean breeze, the warmth of the sunshine, the quietness of the moon. But we also see the fear the young man feels, we see the worry he holds within but also the freedom he feels when under the water.

Although I have read a little bit about the history of the Pearling industry from my visit to Broome this book gave me more insight into the dark side of it and how something so beautiful can hold a sad story.

Read this book with your children – it is a beautiful tale. The song at the end may inspire you to pull out your guitar and have a sing along too.

So what can you do after you have read this book?  

  • Explore the pearling industry. Compare the past and the present. Indigenous people had their own methods of finding pearl shell long before the Europeans came along.
  • Are there currently any injustices in the jewellery industry? Explore the concepts of fair-trade and worker’s rights.
  • Sing the song together – it is a beautiful tribute and there is no better way to learn about a story than through song.
  • Explore the art of Bronwyn Houston and the techniques used in this story.
  • Stand up for human rights. Keep an eye out for those around you and make sure that everyone is being treated equally. Be more mindful of what you buy to ensure that people aren’t being mistreated just for a final product.

Escape to everywhere

Have you ever read a book and wished that you could escape to that magical land? Perhaps you wished that your cupboard opened up to a secret land where you could meet animals that could talk, eat sweet biscuits with new friends and watch magic spells come to life with the flick on a wrist.

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Have you ever met a character in a book that you wanted to spend more time with so you could find out more about them, hang out with them and go on some of their adventures or perhaps learn some new skills from them?

Maybe your way of escaping is to learn new knowledge, perhaps you escape by becoming engrossed in new facts, pondering about hypothesis and exploring a new scientific or mathematical concept?

Reading allows us to escape. Reading slows our bodies down and gives us time to absorb what is going on inside us. Studies show that when we sit down and read we breath more deeply, our heart rate slows and our body has time to heal and absorb more nutrients from our day (must be why that hot cup of tea and healthy treat is a must when reading)

If we have the skills to escape through a story or through knowledge we can move away from the fast pace life of social media, fast paced computer  games and action packed news.

So not only during book week should we take the time to escape, we should take the time to escape everyday. We should be teaching our children the art of escaping through books.

Which book will you be reading tonight so you can escape?

Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows, a ferry and me written by Joanne Karcz and illustrated by Jacqui Selby.

Can you imagine living in a place where there are no cars, a cave with hidden secrets and wheelbarrows waiting to be used by weary home comers?

Perhaps a visit to Dangar Island is on the cards for you! And if you can’t get there you need to read this delightful picture book – Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows, a ferry and me. (and perhaps after reading you will be inspired to visit the island!)

Joanne Karcz adores her home – Dangar Island – and has written a whimsical story about the life the children of Dangar Island lead from catching the ferry to school, pushing wheelbarrows home full of groceries and getting muddy on the beach searching for crabs.

Joanne has cleverly used rhyme and rhythm throughout the story which really helps to ignite imagination in readers. The illustrations by Jacqui Selby have been done in watercolour and gently complement the story. The colours and lightness of the illustrations give the story a light and happy feel as we move through the day of a Dangar Island child.

The life Joanne describes seems idyllic for any young child. Imagine being able to explore an island, free of cars and full of nature? Imagine walking out towards the edge of the island and seeing the occasional turtle, dolphin or jellyfish float by?

Perhaps these children find fishing a little boring but as they have so much freedom they must have an abundance of energy, creativity and imagination.

Dangar Island, Birds, Barrows, a ferry and me is a must read for any sydney sider and I hope that it will inspire not only a day trip to this magical island but also encouragement of more outdoor play time for your young reader.

So what can you do at home? 

Playing outside with sticks, caves, dirt and rocks is so important to all children. Get outside more often with your child. Whether it be at the park, oval, beach, river or bushland. We all need to get outside more and play!

Take a trip to Dangar Island – encourage your child to plan the day. How will you get there? Drive to the ferry stop or catch a train to Brooklyn? This is a great opportunity to teach children about timetables.

Look at the map in the picture book and compare to maps online of Dangar Island. Plan your day on the island and see what you can do!

Encourage some geography skills – How far is Dangar Island from Sydney? How large is Dangar Island. What is the river called and where does it flow to and from?

Encourage some history skills – Did Indigenous Australians live on Dangar Island? When did white men inhabit the island?

Check out the Dangar Island website: http://www.dangarislandleague.net

Python by Christopher Cheng and Mark Jackson

It’s morning in the bush.
Python stirs and slithers out from her shelter.
She warms her head and smells the air
with her forked tongue.
Python is a beautiful snake,
but also dangerous
– and she is looking for a meal

Python by Christopher Cheng and Mark Jackson is a captivating picture book that takes you along for a ride as snake looks for her next meal.

Illustrator Mark Jackson brings the danger of the snake to life through his descriptive illustrations of snake sneaking up on her next meal, camouflaging amongst rocks and basking in the warm sun with her brood.

Christopher Cheng not only writes an enchanting story of the snake and her meal seeking adventure, he also adds in some great facts along the way that even the youngest reader can engage with.

Python teaches the reader about Pythons, their habitat and behaviour. Many of us are petrified of snakes and perhaps would rather throw a rock at it than let it run away. When we read stories like this to our children we are building their awareness of creatures like snakes, who are dangerous, and allowing them to know more about them to realise that the snakes are probably a lot more scared of us!

Did you know that pythons might only eat once every four weeks? And that they can unhinge their jaws?

The world of pythons is dangerous yet intriguing and this CBCA shortlisted picture book is a book for all to enjoy.

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Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai

How do you talk to your children about poverty? Have you ever wandered through the city and seen a homeless person sleeping on the street? What have you said to your child? Or more importantly – what have they asked you?


Poverty is a huge issue in our society and one which often gets unnoticed as a lot of the media coverage it driven by consumerism and money. We see so many images of people who have so much, we see advertisements telling us we need to have things to make us happy but how often do we see the people who have lost their homes, loved ones and money? Not so much.

To tell you the truth I was a little bit hesitant about reading Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai to my six year old. But she wanted to read it. She told me she wanted to know more about poor people, why they are poor and how we can help them.

Perhaps the numerous stories we have read and conversations we have had are paying off.

Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is wordy but is written in language that children can identify with. I didn’t feel that I needed to paraphrase any of the story or leave anything too confronting out. I didn’t even need to come up with a reflection of what we can do as the final pages give ideas to the reader.

This book gently looks at poverty and hunger – and leaves the reader empowered to do something, not fearful of the world we live in.

We need to read these books to our children as this is the world we live in but we need to do it in a way – as done in this book that educates them so they know why these things can happen. Different reasons are given for poverty and hunger and also different ways volunteers and governments try to help out to alleviate these issues.

Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is a must have for anyone wanting to explore these issues with their children and students.

BUY NOW

 Poverty and Hunger (Children in Our World)

Loving all types of literacy

Linking literacy to books is a passion of mine (as you may have guessed) but so is learning to read.

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The early years of any child’s life and then formal education are vital for building a love of literacy. If we miss those years children struggle through many areas of their lives as reading is such a big part of it!

Here are some simple ways you can start to build phonemic awareness in a fun way which involves books. No worksheets. No writing. No repetition. Just books and conversations!

  • When you look at the front cover read it out loud. Read the authors name, illustrators name and perhaps even the blurb. Ask your child if they can think of another name that starts with the same sound as the authors first name. Start with the initial letter but if you child can do it, blend the first two letters and find names with that sound.

 

  • As you read look for pictures that might look like letters – this can be lots of fun and can be done as you drive in the car or go for a play outside!
  • If your child is a keen writer – write down their favourite words or sounds from the book. Stick these words on the wall and they can copy them or even make them out of blocks or shapes when the time suits them.

 

  • Make up your own story together – write it down if you like and illustrate.

 

  • Don’t just focus on home readers – make sure your children are reading books they choose for pleasure.

 

  • You don’t always need to read books – try comics or magazines, non-fiction and audio books! . Exposure to different forms of literacy opens their mind and encourages passion from an early age.

 

  • Let me know your thoughts!

Out of the Blue by Alison Jay

Out of the Blue by Alison Jay is a stunning wordless picture book which draws you into each image, searching for stories within stories.

A young boy lives in a lighthouse and spends his days beach combing – where he meets a young girl and together they play until a storm rolls in.

The boy retreats to his lighthouse home, to only find once awakening, that a giant octopus has emerged from the storm and is stranded on the beach – alive but tangled in old netting.

The boy and girl rescue the octopus along with other caring beach goers and release it back into the sea to all of the other sea creatures.

No words are needed for this story to make you feel warm with hope, blue with sadness and energised with joy. The illustrations allow your mind to wonder throughout the story and long after it has been read.

Take your time to read this story again and again – and draw fact from the back pages to learn more about the creatures of the ocean and how we can take better care of them.

So where to from here?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • The Ocean Clean up is an amazing company who are working on creating an eco friendly way to clean up the ocean by removing plastic bags that lie around in the ocean, harming wildlife and their habitat.
  • Investigate organisations which act to look after the ocean.
  • Should plastic bags be banned? Debate this – look at the pros and cons and work out why large companies are reluctant to ban them.
  • Visit the beach or a local waterway and see how much plastic you can find while you are there. Categorise the plastic – what is turning up the most? What state is the plastic in? How might these pieces of plastic be harming wildlife (links to numeracy: graphs and creating categories)

SCIENCE

  • Investigate ocean animals that live in the deeper parts of the ocean. What do they look like? How are their survival techniques different from animals who live on the upper levels of the ocean?
  • Have there been occasions where a deep sea creature really has appeared on the beach out of the blue?

LITERACY

  • Rewrite this story from the octopuses point of view or even the little girls point of view.

Bee and Me by Alison Jay

 ~ A story about friendship ~

Have you ever read a book without words? Some people may find this difficult as it opens up many possibilities, different interpretations and imagination. But it is something we need to introduce ourselves and our children to – as just because the words are not on the page does not mean they are not there.

I have always loved books without words as you can decide what happens on each page and look more closely at the illustrations which can tell us so much more.


Bee and Me  by Alison Jay is set in a bustling city of cars, trucks, people, shops and high rise buildings but no flowers.

A little girl is frightened by a bee who lands on her windowsill but luckily rather than swat it with the fly swatter she looks after the exhausted insect and sends it on it’s way.

The bee returns in need of more care and the two form a beautiful friendship.

The double page of play between the girl and the bee is wonderful to sit and stare at with your child. Talk about what they are doing together and the emotions they are feeling as they spend wonderful moments together.

The bee soon realises that although he has the girl – he longs for flowers. So together they embark on a magical journey to find flowers, seeds and more green to the dull city.

Bee and Me warmed my heart – the friendship between the two is infectious and the message about the importance of bees is also taught – which is vital as so many cities are lacking bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects due to lack of flowers, plants and green!

So what can you do at home or at school with this book?

Sustainability

  • Have a look around your home and see what would entice any type of insect to your area? all insects are beneficial and attracting them to something they can live off or eat is important. It’s better they live off the plants than things in your house!
  • PROJECT: How can we provide the best home for attracting bees? Investigate what the bees (local to your area) need. Draw up a plan of what the hive would look like, where it should be placed, what conditions it needs to attract bees and to survive. (This project includes outcome links to mathematics, literacy, science and geography)
  • Alison Jay has left a parting note at the back of her book about the beneficial flowers you can plant in your garden. Herbs are an easy plant to start with as they can be grown in small planter boxes on windowsills – give rosemary, thyme or mint a go.
  • It is important that you find out about the beneficial flowers that help bees in your area too. Australian stingless bees love:

 

Abelia x grandiflora Abelia
Buddleja * Butterfly Bush
Callistemon  Bottlebrush
Eucalyptus  Gum Blossom
Grevillea Spider Flower
Lavandula Lavender
Leptospermum Tea Tree
Melaleuca Honey Myrtle
Westringia Rosemary
Many Varieties Daisies

 

Literacy

  • Visual Literacy – Books without pictures open a myriad of possibilities. One activity to try is to tell the story from the bee’s perspective and then the girls. Compare the two stories – compare the emotions, the goals and the thoughts of the two characters.
  • Find some more books that have bees in them – you’ll bee surprised! Do these stories all have a similar message to tell?
  • Compare scientific literature to children books that are on the topic of bees. Why do we need both types of literature out there to understand the need for bees in our world? Create your own bee themed picture book based on some scientific literature.
  • Create your own story about your adventure with a bee. Which flowers would you like to visit? Divide a page into four sections and draw a series of pictures that show what you would like to do with a bee to make sure there are enough flowers, fruits and vegetables in the world.

SCIENCE

How is honey used in our lives apart from to eat? Investigate the different properties of honey and how it is used in a myriad of products!

GEOGRAPHY

Where are bees located? What type of environment do they need to thrive? Create a honey bee and a stingless bee map of Australia.

NUMERACY

Why are honey bee hives made out of hexagonal shapes?

Why do stingless bee hives spiral shaped?

Investigate the different shapes of bee hives across the globe and why they are this shape. Could they be another shape? Investigate if there is a better way to keep honey in a hive.

Thirst By Lizzie Wilcock

Thirst by Lizzie Wilcock was on the shortlist in the Wilderness Society’s  Environment award for children’s literature.

thirstI loved reading this book from start to finish. Perhaps I am a little biased as I do love the Australian outback and the flippant nature of it. I love the sense of freedom and would love to learn more about bush foods and bush survival. The two main characters in this story had their troubles but were so strong in their ability to survive under dire circumstances.

This is a great book for older readers and I think all students will love it. Thirst  follows two young children on a journey through the Australian desert. The imagery in the story is amazing and you can really feel that you are a part of the outback.

Kuranda and Solomon come across many difficulties both physical and mental as they search for freedom and somewhere to call home. There are lots of layers in this story but they’re not complex to unravel. I loved that it showed the kids’ deepening love for the outback environment while never trivialising the harshness of it. It might even inspire your family to take a trip into the desert to learn about the wonders that abound in it.

Follow up activities

  •  Grab a map of Australia and work out where Kuranda and Solomon may have been.
  • Explore the six seasons of Kakadu. 
  • What is bush food – could you survive in the desert for days or weeks?
  • Explore foster care – discuss the pros and cons of the system that is currently in place. Look at the emotional effects foster care can have on children – both positive and negative.
  • Plan a family camping trip. Work out what you would need to take for at least 3 days of camping where there are little amenities.

 

 

The Magnificent Tree by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King

The Magnificent Tree is a beautiful collaboration by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King. It was published in 2012 by scholastic but is ties in well with National Tree Day this weekend.

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The book’s main characters display a loving and respectful relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather. The young girl loves doing things simply and the grandfather loves ideas that are ‘big, brave and brilliant’ but together they can work together to come up with wonderful ideas!

One day Bonny and Pop decide they need something so they can see the birds better. Pop thinks BIG and starts to draw his ideas whilst Bonny thinks simply and plants a seed with care.

We can draw many different teaching points from this book whilst enjoying the fun illustrations.

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Trees are magnificent! Are there many trees, shrubs or flowers around you that you think are magnificent? Why are they each magnificent?
  • Can man made objects be part of our landscape? How can we improve our man made landscape to make nature a part of it? Look into new ways cities are becoming greener with rooftop gardens and green spaces!
  • Create a tree diary. How many different tress are in your school? Home area? playground or local bush land?Some great ideas on this blog for looking at the amazing Banksia!
  • What can you grow in your backyard or own your balcony?
  • Can you make a simple toy to play with? Find some bits and pieces around the house that are no longer needed. This is a fantastically fun activity and it allows children to use their imagination and be creative! Create a toy that can be used outside. It will be amazing what it created if not given too many boundaries. You might like to encourage some planning and you may like to challenge them by limiting the amount of objects they can use. Try it!

THINKING – DISCUSSION POINTS

  • What are ideas? How many different ideas did Bonny and Poppy come up with?
  • What is a simple idea? What is a complex idea? Create a list of ideas and place them into categories.
  • Draw up your own inventions – one that is simple and one that is complex. Both need to fulfill a similar purpose.

SCIENCE

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This is a heart warming story which shows a loving and respectful relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. A great one to read on grandparents day!

It also shows that simple ideas can be wonderful so encourage those simple ideas from your children and students as from little things big things grow!!