Hello and welcome! It's great that you're visiting! We review books for ages newborn to teen and we think children are powerful. Every single book we choose to review has a special capacity to extend that power, in the funnest and most interesting kind of way. They're all wonderful, wonderful books . . read more here
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
This is the story of “how one small loan made a big difference.” It’s a micro financing story.
Years ago, when Max was eight, we had a conversation that went something like this:
Max: So Mum what is the solution to the people in Africa who only have one bag of grain a month to eat.
Kim (bamboozled actually): Well it's very complex. One of the problems is that there are bad governments in some parts of Africa who won't let food get to the people, and another problem is that many parts of Africa don't get rain to grow crops. ……
K (noticing Max wiping his eyes): are you ok?
And the conversation continued ... read the full post here
This is a great book to start addressing world poverty, the importance of contributing, and to introduce the idea of micro financing. But it's also helpful in teaching the value of work, the importance of families, the benefits of community and to give some perspective on owning ‘stuff’. So it’s good to read when those issues are arising, but it’s also good to read when children are feeling powerless which may evidence as angriness, bullying, uncooperativeness, lack of care for personal possessions and so on.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Big Red Barn
Kim - In our house at least, Big Red Barn is a bedtime book. It’s the softly told story of farm animals bedding down for the night .... there's rhyme and rhythm in the words, it’s easy to read aloud .... the easy rhymes make it a good early literacy book .... one of the skills that supports literacy is the ability to anticipate and this is a great book for that.
This was our son Alec’s favourite story (he’s an animal boy still), so it was his Christmas Eve present the year he was waiting for his first little girl to arrive – it was also the book they packed in their hospital bag to read to Ivy while she was still in the hospital! click here to read the full post
Thursday, 27 Feb 2014
We’re re-featuring and talking briefly about these two (brilliant) books because they came up in conversation a couple of days ago:
Let the Celebrations B E G I N !
The conversation here was about feeling security when confronted with scary moments in life (such as, in this case, a yelling teacher at kindy).
That’s where Let the Celebrations Begin comes in. It’s a story of quiet power and of overcoming. It acknowledges that bad things can happen (without ever stating what is actually going on).
It's the way the women respond that makes this such an empowering book. Everyone needs to be feel capable of dealing with dreadful situations – even when our dreadful isn’t on the same scale as others.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the parents of the child with the yelling teacher are talking to the teacher and the kindy and that they're looking into whether the child should even stay there.
But by reading Let the Celebrations Begin (and other books that do the same job), they’re also providing a narrative pattern of doing what you can when a bad situation presents itself. . click to read the original post
Not A Box
There’s a super bright little boy in our family who has somehow got it into his head that he has to wait till school to learn to read (he’s 3 now). So he needs a quick and easy confidence boost – Not a Box is great for that stage of reading.
Here’s why. Almost every second page has the phrase ‘not a box’ repeated. There’s a word or two of variation to keep it interesting but the last word on every second page is ‘box’. ‘Box’ is a great word because it looks different to the few other words on the page making it easy to identify.
So the reader simply points to the word ‘box’ and then after a few readings the conversation goes something like: ‘It’s not a …..’. At which point the child will almost certainly respond with ‘box’.
From there, it’s a quick leap to: ‘Can you find the word that says box?’ (don’t let them fail here of course.) Then repeat throughout the book – and by the end you can confidently and loudly proclaim that the child can read!
Later the same idea can be used for ‘not’ and so on.
Monday, 17 Feb 2014
Vision of Beauty tells the story of Madame CJ Walker. And a fascinating story it is. Madame Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the youngest child in her family and the first person in her family to be born free. Her family were slaves in Louisiana until emancipation in 1865. Sarah was born in 1867 and lived an extraordinary life.
During her at once difficult and blessed life, Sarah married twice, had a daughter, and built a cosmetics empire.
The story is carefully pieced together so that the historically verifiable parts of Sarah’s life are blended with the broader history of her communities and with just enough artistic license to make it easy to read. There’s quite a bit of text on each page for what is also a picture book (and the pictures are wonderful – sometimes troubling, sometimes joyful, sometimes full of despair, sometimes full of hope). read more here
Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014
This is a lovely four-minute video, it's not new and doesn't need to be - "Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent." click for more
8 Feb, 2014
The Terrible Wild Grey Hairy Thing is an adapted Danish folktale and the fabulous illustrations reflect that.
It’s the story of Goodie, a plump and obviously happy woman, who is making sausages to store up for her family – she makes hundreds of them and has to hang them from every nook and cranny. Inevitably one of them slips behind a heavy tool chest and lies there forgotten until it starts to pong.
The family embarks on a hunt throughout the house to find the source of the great pong.
When they finally discover the sausage, it's covered in dust and mould and looks alive! The terrified family call for back-up and the whole town turns out ...
"I especially love the way the community comes together to help a slightly silly family conquer a slightly silly fear - there's a lovely lesson here about taking others seriously and helping even if it seems absurd."
Kal Barteski is a long-time favourite artist, we have one of her fonts (that she generously gave away on her blog for a limited time, several years ago). Here she talks about Blurb self-publish books - they're offering 15% off with first purchases till 28 February, so Kal's video is good timing - and she also showcases her own fabulous work.
Self-publish books are easy, beautiful (even without talent like Kal's), and very special gifts. We're on to them and will be doing many more. click here to read on
8 Feb, 2014
As a Father, reader, and English teacher, I take great interest in my children’s reading. I want them to both read and learn from great books not simply as escapism, but also as tools for emotional learning. I hope as my kids read, they will be able to see not only the good in the characters they read about, but also the good that they can achieve as human beings.
I’m also a huge comics fan. I absolutely love the stories that come out of Marvel and DC, and find the artwork refreshing and immersive. And if it so be that my kids enjoy comics, fantastic (I am, in fact, suspicious that my three-month old son is kinda’ getting into Justice League).
Although it’s often tempting to think so, those two modes of thought are not at odds with each other. Reading narratives is all about learning certain life lessons (irrespective of whether the author meant to put them there or not- there’s a whole scholarly school of thought about it), and that happens regardless of whether a child is reading Shakespeare or Superman, whether it’s Austin or the Avengers, whether it’s Tolstoy or Transformers.... click here to read on
Tuesday 4 February 2014
Every so often, when our local charity calls to ask for help - or when the kids seem a bit ratty – the primary school my children attended cooks food for the homeless. They cook the most delicious array of curries, rice, chutneys, cakes and so on.
As you can imagine, most children have very little personal experience with homelessness – would that that were true for all children! So it can be hard, especially for younger children, to understand the reality of homelessness. And of course we, as their parents and teachers, want just the right dose of reality – not so much that it becomes crippling to little souls.
Space Travellers does just that. It’s the story of Zac and his mother Mandy who live in a rocket...click here to read on
This book falls under so many categories, it's hard to summarise it's sweetness and sympathy - but I think the front cover illustration will give you some idea.
John Paul Lederach is a practitioner and educator for peace. His book The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace positively glitters. He writes that to overcome violence (and that includes everything from war-like violence to the most benign and subtle domestic or social violence) four capacities are necessary. .... Stories provide a platform for all of these things. click here for more
I'm pretty sure the reason I read this book so many times had nothing to do with the funny story, the cute illustrations or the healthy body image messages. And I’m pretty sure my kids just found it hilarious that I kept reading the word ‘bum’ out loud – it was a forbidden word usually. But even when they were giggling, I hope they caught some of the message – people come in different shapes and sizes and that’s just fine.
And then there’s the other message which comes through at the very end – sometimes we just need to look at a problem in a new way. read more here
This is one of my favourite Australian books – but the ideas and messages are universal and you certainly don’t need to be Australian to appreciate them.
First published in 1988 to coincide with the bicentennial of the landing of the first fleet in Australia, the book tells the history of Australia through the stories of children and their lives. Beginning in 1988 and going back in ten year increments to 1788, each page tells the story of a child who lives on the same plot of land. ... read more here
Child, Pre-teen, Teen, Grownup
Some stories have a profound message – one that everyone needs to hear more than once – one that is just as relevant to a toddler as it is to the toddler’s grandpa. This is You and Me, Murrawee.
The story is told as the musings of a young girl – maybe 10 or 12 years old – who has a gift for seeing what is no longer present. The girl is on a family camping trip in the Australian bush and as she plays and paddles and watches her family, she senses the life of an indigenous girl, 200 years ago, doing many of the same things she is doing.
She calls the girl Murrawee which is the Ngarrindjeri people’s word for elder sister ... read more here
Toddler, Child, Pre-teen, Teen, Grownup
Public libraries stand as a symbol of a society that values thoughts and ideas – a society that appreciates art and believes it should be available to all – a literate society. And (especially in free countries where libraries abound and good books can be had for free and taken for granted) homes need to have bookshelves in bedrooms, or rooms or walls dedicated to books .... more
Mentioned in the article are the beautiful Stellaluna, Let The Celebrations Begin, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and Bridge to Terebethia - it speaks of situations where the books and the closeness provide comfort, security and much more.