I ordered that print this week. Right after reading The Little World of Liz Climo. It's the best ever coffee table book; every single person who picks it up rolls about laughing, the pages are so hilarious and relatable. My print is going to be totally right for our kitchen wall! Book Depository has Liz's book for about $14 AUD including postage, but you could add a zero to that and you'd still be getting your money's worth -
Lovely for all ages, newborn to grown-up.
This morning, I woke up and had a drink of water, then a shower, then put on some washing, all without ever once contemplating the incredible privilege that it is to have water so readily available.
You probably did too, I guess.
And for children who have been lucky enough to grow up with water literally on tap, it's hard to imagine the level of work that some of the world’s people put in to have access to water. That’s a good thing, don’t you think? If only all the children of the world were in the same position.
Because not everyone can turn on a tap for clean water, and because water is something that is in limited supply, it’s great to think about water and water security every so often.
This book is a collection of photos from National Geographic that show people collecting and drinking water. Every photo is respectful of both the subjects and of water generally. There are no photos of water being wasted or even used recreationally. A few simple words on each page are helpful in giving a framework to the pictures – they make it easier to read the book with children. But adults will also enjoy the wonderful and thought provoking pictures.
While it’s important and good for children (well, everyone really) to know about and feel invested in water security*, this book is also a pretty great way to emphasise connections around the world. It reminds us of one of the fundamental needs that connect us all – it doesn’t matter where you live, how you live or what inspires you, everyone is equally in need of a cool drink of water. And because everyone knows the thirst quenching, life enhancing feeling of that cool drink, it's easy to empathise with and feel connected to the people in the pictures.
In the back of the book, there are thumbnails of each picture with a little blurb about where the picture was taken and what's going on in the picture.
It’s quite fun to spend time looking at each picture in the book and then guessing where it was taken. (Alright, by fun I mean interesting and the type of thing that, in our family at least, can get a bit competitive– so, you know, fun!)
Because the pics are so full of life, this book appeals to little ones as much as to adults – little ones very often find pictures of real people doing things they can relate to completely fascinating.
A COOL DRINK OF WATER is by Barbara Kerley
* The last pages of this book are about water conservation – did you know that the UN predicts that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will be dealing with water shortages! If you want some more information on water security this UN page is a good start.
Have a look at the water and gender page on the same site too – very interesting if a little infuriating.
Tucked in and around this story about a young woman in the Great Depression are a myriad of really valuable thoughts and lessons. The Gardener is Lydia Grace.
Ages: 4 - 8 YEARS
Lydia Grace is sent to live and work with her uncle in the city because her parents have no more work. She's worried of course, but also well aware of her own gifts and abilities. The story is told in a series of letters from Lydia to her uncle in the city and then home to her family.
In her first letter to her uncle, Lydia Grace writes: “I’m small but strong, and I’ll help you all I can.” Her willingness to try and her faith in herself shine through the rest of the story.
This is a coming of age story, beautifully told and illustrated. Lydia Grace leaves her family and enters a new world where she makes a life that includes the things she holds dearest and invites others to join in. She shares the knowledge she brings with her while learning from others. In one of her letters home, she writes that:
“When I first arrived, Emma told me she’d show me how to knead bread if I would teach her the Latin names of the flowers I know. Now, just a half a year later, I’m kneading bread and she’s speaking Latin!” Such a terrific example of sharing learning and knowledge within a community.
Lydia Grace manages to follow her passion for gardening, especially for growing flowers, while noticing the troubles her uncle is having. (The Gardener is sensitively written so that the effects of the Great Depression, or of poverty generally are not understated but are also not overwhelming.)
Best of all, Lydia Grace uses her passion to lighten her uncle’s load. Naturally, there's not much she can do about the effects of the Great Depression, but she can make life a little lighter and brighter. And she does. There’s an old saying about blooming where you are planted and another about lifting where you stand. Lydia Grace does exactly that. She takes on the life she has with enthusiasm, soberness, and joy. She's not the least bit silly or unrealistic, but she is happy and loving. Just the way we all wish to be, I think.
The pictures do a great job of taking us along with Lydia Grace as her world becomes lighter and more filled with colour. The page where she stands alone at the train station in the city is almost all dark, befitting her darkest moment.
But from then on, little patches of colour increase through the pages until they culminate in Lydia Grace’s gardening efforts on the roof of her home in the city. Which is a burst of cheerful colour.
This is a lovely story of family love, empathy, making do, working hard and growing flowers and people.
If you like the feel of this book, you may also like to read the post on Miss Rumphius - it's a teachers' pet and it too reminds us of how beautiful the world is and how valuable we all are.
Ivy (who will turn 2 in a few months) spent the day with me today and we read this book at stop lights – every time we came to a stop we read a page or two.
The only problem was, the distances between stop lights were a bit longer than Ivy’s patience.
BIG is a great book for figuring out relativity.
Using relative terms - such as big, bigger, biggest – is part of a content descriptor for the Australian National Curriculum for the foundation (or prep) year. (ACMMG006.) It’s one of those things that's usually learned in the process of everyday life, but is key to understanding concepts of measurement and geometry. And if it doesn’t quite gel in young minds, it makes further maths that much trickier.
BIG is great for alliteration.
There’s a weighty warthog, a beefy buffalo and a hefty hippo - the alliteration runs right through the book and makes for catchy reading.
And BIG is great for anticipation and guessing games (at least for the first few reads).
For example, the 'fast' page reads: “fast … hurrying hare …faster … outstretched ostrich…”. Then there’s a flap to unfold, which gives time to guess what might be “fastest”. (It’s a chasing cheetah.)
The very last page has a silhouette of each animal mentioned in the book and asks, “Can you remember who is who?” That’s fun for slightly older kids and also really good for shape recognition which is important for early literacy.
All of that aside, it’s a really enjoyable way to spend a few minutes with a young child – on the couch or in the car! The words and concept are terrific and the pictures are so appealing that when Ivy reads it she stops again and again to study the pages and say, “Oh Cute!” I absolutely agree.
Faith, Rose and Blossom have moved into a new house with their mum and dad. They decorate their bedroom and plant a garden and settle into a delightful routine of watching the sun rise every morning from the roof of their house. But.. “The sun never touched the house next door. Next door, everything bristled. Next door lived Mr Wintergarten.”
There's a lovely bit of metaphor happening there: the sunrise doesn't touch Mr Wintergarten's house, but not because Rose's house is too big. It's simply because Mr Wintergarten lives such a miserable and lonely life.
Mr Wintergarten is legendary in the neighbourhood and the children warn Rose that he eats children, has a salt water crocodile for a pet and a dog like a wolf!
And then, Rose’s ball is kicked into Mr Wintergarten’s yard. Rose’s mum – who has a funky, hippy vibe happening – is resolute. They will take some fairy cakes (cupcakes) and some flowers for Mr Wintergarten and go and get that ball.
At first, Mr Wintergarten is frightening and a bit nasty, refusing to give Rose her ball. But upon reflection, and in light of the fairy cakes, he kicks it back to her. In the process, his shoe lands on Rose’s side of the fence and she throws it back to him – and that’s the story of Rose and Mr Wintergarten, how they became friends and how Mr Wintergarten became part of his community again.
The words in the story end when Rose throws Mr Wintergarten’s shoe back to him:
“Catch, Mr Wintergarten!” Rose called.
And Mr Wintergarten caught it.
The last page has no words. It simply shows the fence that separated their houses being removed, children playing in Mr Wintergarten’s yard, and the sun shining on Mr Wintergarten’s house.
Mr Wintergarten’s house and life serve as a metaphor for all. They remind us to open ourselves to goodness and to new experiences and to enjoy the simple things in life like friendships and games and gardens, lest the sun stop shining for us too.
For children, Rose is aspirational – she quickly makes friends in her new home, she's brave (with mum’s help), she's friendly, she's kind and she's welcoming. All good and achievable ways of being.
This is a classic Australian children’s book about:
- Being brave
- Being kind
- The dangers of listening to gossip
- The dangers of pre-judging a person
- The value of persistence
- The value of friendship
It’s a book you’ll read again and again – partly because it has lots of great underlying messages, and partly because it’s a great story, with inviting and homey, friendly pictures.
It’s also an easy book to read aloud to a child: there's plenty of dialogue and a nice natural flow to the words. When mine were little, we read it a lot and every so often I'd change the tone of the dialogue. For example, sometimes I'd read mum’s words to Rose in a slightly distracted tone, sometimes authoritarian, sometimes worried, sometimes joking. It makes a big difference to the story and it’s interesting to see which way resonates with your child and which feels scary or worrisome.
Mr Wintergarten’s tone can be charged up too – try grumpy, or sad, or embarrassed or scared, or defeated, or sarcastic. I always kept Rose upbeat and strong because I wanted my children to feel strong and upbeat too – but you certainly could change her tone, especially if you want a way to talk about the way your child is feeling.
ROSE MEETS MR WINTERGARTEN is by Bob Graham, published by Walker Books.
If you like the look of Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten, you might also like our other Bob Graham posts: The Trouble With Dogs! (where Dad moves from thinking the trouble with dogs is that 'they take over your life' to 'their ears are so silky'!) and Oscar's Half Birthday (a book that slows down life and values little people).
I'm totally embracing the craze for new-look house plants; there are cactus, air-breathers and water plants all around my house. They're basically kill-proof and great decoration - Kim's son Max has his Medusa air-breathers dangling like a living mobile over his bed - so I've been rather compulsively searching out plant posts in blogs. The ones I liked best are here ...
ages: 2 - 8
Pretty much everyone likes ‘cute’ – and Marcel the Shell has cute in bucketfuls. He’s funny too - and has an interesting perspective on life. He’s happy with who is he but still has things he wants to do. All of which makes him relatable but hilarious for kids.
Marcel began life as the subject of a short ‘documentary’ – and now he has three short docos and two picture books (the three docos are on YouTube and have had a total of something like 37 million hits!). My tip is to read the picture book first -
In his article, “Protecting Students against the Effect of Poverty: Libraries”, Dr Stephen Krashen noted a 2010 study that showed that even after controlling for ‘parental education, fathers’ occupation, and social class’, 15-year-olds who came from homes with 500 books stayed in school longer than children who came from homes without books! Three years longer in fact! That makes the effect of books in the home...Read More
I have some children who are both mad keen readers and dyslexic. For those kids, even though they love to read*, the acquisition of grammar (and spelling skills) has simply not been a natural learning process. They needed to be taught the rules, and they continue to need to consciously practice the rules. (We had a funny conversation about the value of grammar once: driving past a billboard with grammar that messed up the meaning of the sign, I had a minor rant about -Read More
Which moments in life matter to you? A new Baby? Learning to ride a bike? An evening under a night sky sequined with stars? A restless night spent worrying? It’s during moments like these that The Flying Orchestra comes to town.
This is an especially tender and insightful book about moments in life that seem to carry their own music – happy, celebratory, sad, or worrisome. It provides a musical score to big and small life events. The flying orchestra comes when the angels seem to have been blown away -Read More
Ever had one of those days (or weeks) when it feels like you just can’t… ? Little Bug Blue is a bit like that. Ever had one of those days (or weeks) when it feels like everything is going great and you’re pretty sure you can become even better…? Little Bug Red is a bit like that. These two Little Bugs share the same leaf and they both try to persuade the other -Read More
After World War II – as indeed after every war – there was a period of terrible poverty in the directly affected areas. Dreadful stories of hunger and deprivation were common and there was a terrible lack of consumer goods. In this story, a young girl, Anna, is in need of a new coat - in post-war Europe!
In an economy where there is very little food and very little money, there are also no coats available for sale. Anna’s mother does have a few nice things left, so she decides to use those things to barter for the new coat. But, because there are none for sale, Anna and her mother must work through the process of actually producing the coat -Read More
A compilation from ‘Hope and Happy Endings’ in A Sense of Wonder.
In order to have peace we must be able to see connections.
In order to have peace we must use our imaginations….
We must devote ourselves to finding connections rather than causing or fearing divisions.
We have to give imagination a chance….
Our Easter this year (as every year) is choc-full of family feasts – we have three big feasting occasions over the four days - and all the busyness of making shopping lists and planning reminded me of this great mathematical story. It’s all about Mr & Mrs Comfort who decide to host a family dinner –Read More
It's a pretty great book that can make you laugh out loud and still leave you with some deeper thoughts to ponder on. I AM HENRY FINCH is just that sort of book. The finches are a noisy crowd, so much so that ‘you really could not hear yourself think’. And Henry Finch is just an ordinary finch – one of the crowd. Until he starts to think and, most importantly, to listen to his thoughts -Read More
Years and years ago, when my aunt and uncle had one very precocious 3 year old, the census rolled around and required that they stipulate the head of the household. Well obviously that was the three year old, so that’s what they wrote. Perhaps not what the census designers envisaged but certainly the truth. If you know a baby who is the head of the household – and aren’t they all in one way or another –Read More
It’s a rare child whose life remains untouched by grief. It can be heart wrenching grief like the death of a beloved grandparent, or something less traumatic but still real. Like the loss of a friend whose family moves away, or a pet dying, or even grief over something as simple as a lost toy. Books that offer positive mechanisms for coping with grief that aren’t overly sad or far too heavy thematically for young children are thin on the ground, but this is one -Read More
There are exactly four words in this book – good, bad, news and very! But they tell a super story - of a hopelessly optimistic rabbit and an equally hopelessly pessimistic mouse who are about to share a picnic. Through a series of misadventures, the rabbit stays upbeat and the mouse stays miserable. Until it all becomes too much for the rabbit -Read More
Congratulations Lindsay Jane and Jamie - and welcome to planet earth, Charlie!