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We think children are powerful, and we review books that are beautiful and smart, books that help young minds to stretch, grow the power and be joyful.
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Review: The Bush Book Club
A book full of delight, this is the story of Bilby. Who really isn't interested in books.
All his friends are part of a book club and they love to read, but Bilby is a fidgeter and he just isn’t interested in reading. But then, through a conspiracy of circumstances, Bilby ends up reading just one book – The Terrifying Adventures of Big Brave Bilby – and he is hooked. He can hardly wait to read More Terrifying Adventures of Big Brave Bilby!
And isn’t that just how the reading bug so often bites – one book in a series, then another and another, until reading almost anything becomes a passion ...... read more
This was our Easter present to two of our grandchildren this year - we give just a book at Easter, but it would also be nice with a plush Bilby toy.
Review: My Two Blankets
With all the kerfuffle about refugees, boat people, and ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ immigrants that we wrestle with – I think we can at least agree that every child should have a safe, happy childhood and feel loved – even if we can’t agree on the best way for that to happen.
My Two Blankets is a charming story about a young girl who ‘came to this country to be safe’ and the way she was able to reclaim a safe, happy and loved childhood.
From the beginning, the story invites us to consider the ways our own country could be strange and cold and sad to someone else. The young girl telling the story tells us that she wrapped herself ‘in a blanket of my own words and sounds.’ ......
It's a great book for the obvious: refugees, immigration and change. But it's also great for metaphor, noticing others' needs, thinking about colour and very much about the power of words. read the full post here
Review: Sophie's Masterpiece
Sophie is a spider with a heart full of compassion and a soul full of courage. She also has an amazing talent for weaving webs – her mother is proud. When Sophie sets out to find her place in the world she finds a boarding house, moves in and sets to work weaving wondrous webs: webs to act as curtains, webs to act as a suit of clothes, webs to act as slippers.
But each time she begins work she is shooed away, until finally she settles in a room with a young woman who is awaiting the arrival of a baby. Here she begins her masterpiece – a truly beautiful blanket for the baby. Sophie is a most appealing spider......
This lovely book is great conversation starter for a number of topics, it's good for instilling gratitude and a desire to help others, building abilities, plus much more. click here to read the full post
Mr Nick has a passion – he loves knitting.
He knits every morning on the train ride to work, and his friend Mrs Jolley does too. When sickness strikes Mrs Jolley, Mr Nick puts his passion to work to serve and lift and love Mrs Jolley.
And I think that’s the key to this very lovely and easy to read story. Mr Nick sees a need, and uses the thing that brings him joy and satisfaction to respond perfectly to that need.
There are some particularly poignant moments in this story – pages that should be read in gentle tones to soften the blow – such as the page where Mr Nick drops stitches and can’t find them because Mrs Jolley isn’t there, or the page where Mrs Jolley is shown in her white, white hospital room giving Mr Nick the news that she will be there for a long, long time.
But there are also joyful, boisterous pages that bounce along as they are read, such as the page that shows Mr Nick knitting everywhere – even in the bathtub! This is a wonderful story - its interesting and enjoyable to read - and I've dot pointed six of it's many impacts on a child's life. click here for the full post
‘Tight times’ is the reason the serious little fellow telling this story can’t get a dog.
And that’s not the only problem with tight times. No roast beef on Sunday, no trips to the lake and big box cereal are all the result of tight times.
Then Dad loses something: his job. And times get tighter and tougher. While Mum and Dad talk, the little storyteller is sent to sit on the stoop of his building and while he is there he hears a stray kitten which a generous passer by says he can keep. Mum and Dad agree to keeping the cat and it is named “Dog” – it turns out to be a great cat!
This book is good on so many levels. In spite of the obvious difficulties, it's not sad book, instead it’s affirming, reassuring, and peaceful, with a dose of humour thrown in for good measure – as it always should be. click here to read the full post
Miss Rumphius - it's plant-a-flower day!
March 12 is National Plant a Flower Day (and also, in the US, National Girl Scout Day and National Baked Scallop Day!). I can’t find where this idea originated and from what I’ve read neither can anyone else – but it’s a nice idea.
Obviously designed to coincide with a northern hemisphere spring, it still works in Australia – this is the perfect time to plant my all-time favourite flower, the Sweet Pea.
Miss Rumphius is a charming story about a woman who commits as a child to do three things 1) go to faraway places, 2) live beside the sea; and 3) do something to make the world more beautiful.
Not a bad list of things to do in life . . click to read on!
you might also like these:
With the friendliest looking boa constrictor ever greedily gobbling children on a nature walk with their teacher (it’s pink and green instead of the usual yellow and green or brown) – this is a joyful and funny book. It’s especially funny if you could possibly be one of the people the book is inscribed to: ‘all absent-minded parents and enthusiastic teachers’.
Which I imagine covers most adults at one time or another.
It's the story of a school nature walk gone horribly wrong, then most satisfyingly redeemed.
A school class led by Miss Jellaby (who looks young, enthusiastic and determined) goes for a walk in the jungle and looks for ‘something exciting’. In spite of the plethora of exotic jungle animals on every page, Miss Jellaby focuses on ants, spiders and the like. But one the boys sees that they are being followed by a boa constrictor, which picks off his classmates one by one until they are all lumps in the boa’s very long tummy! Miss Jellaby rises to the occasion ........ click here to read on!!!
As you can imagine, there's lots of fun here with counting! And great memory games. It's also a gentle prod for parents and teachers - would make a fun gift for a graduating teacher.
One Hen 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 ... click here to read on
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.
Hungry Planet is a good companion book.
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 post
We’re re-featuring and talking briefly about these two (brilliant) books because they came up in conversation a couple of days ago (early March 2014):
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 here to read on!
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 . . click here to read on
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) . . click here to read on
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 ... click here to read on!
"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."
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
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.
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.
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