Just-a-note, 3 August 2017 ... You might have noticed that, over the past few weeks, we haven't been posting quite as often as usual. It's because some family health issues have come up and they're taking a toll on our time and emotions. All are okay, they're getting resolved, but it's looking like we'll be out of action for most of August—and we wanted to let you know the reason for our absence. Thank you so much for visiting—we really appreciate the support!

xoxo the WTBA team



Andrew Keese

Web designer, web developer and online marketing consultant. Co-owner of Silver Vine, a web design agency located in Melbourne and specialising in Squarespace.

in overcoming fears we become free to reach dreams about who we want to be

Being in the dark can feel scary … but it’s also an amazing place. The dark is where we see the stars and galaxies of our universe.
— Chris Hadfield
 
 

THE DARKEST DARK
by Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion, illustrated by The Fan Brothers – Macmillan Children’s Books, 2016
ages 4 to 10 years / picture books + emotional resilience, powerful lives, s.t.e.m.

Chris Hadfield (astronaut, musician, author, celebrity crush for stem-loving women around the world) has said: "Every single thing that you learn really just gives you more comfort.”

He was talking about taking the opportunity to learn any skill, any idea, at any time—embracing the notion that knowledge is power and that with knowledge comes freedom. And one of the freedoms most everyone seeks for their children is freedom from fear, real or imagined. The Darkest Dark is about just that: overcoming fear. It's also a love story, a promise, an inspiration.

It's the story of a boy, his love for space, and how that love overcomes his deepest fear: fear of the dark.

It holds a promise that in overcoming fears, possibilities enlarge and dreams come true. And, being the slightly fictionalised account of Chris himself as a boy watching the moon landing and overcoming his fears, it’s an inspirational story that begs readers to see beauty in darkness, both literally and metaphorically.

Darkness takes many and varied forms in the lives of children, and sometimes it can simply be a naïve fear of not being able to see clearly—the monster under the bed type of fear that stems from lack of experience and a healthy imagination. That’s the fear of the boy Chris: 

Chris is desperately afraid of the ‘worst sort of aliens’ who seem to be attracted by the darkness of his bedroom.

But he has a greater fear; one that his parents tap into because of their own desperate need for a good night’s sleep! (We’ve all been there I think.) Chris’s overriding fear is of not being able to see the moon landing on the neighbour’s TV.

When his parents point out that without a good night’s sleep they may all be too tired to go next door to watch the landing, Chris summons all his strength and courage to make it through the night, alone in the dark.

But darkness can also be a complex and personal metaphor for the fear that holds back personal growth in any arena. The boy Chris confronts those types of fears too:

After noticing that ‘Outer Space was the darkest dark ever … Chris did a little experiment. He turned off all the lights in his room … It was still dark … Nothing had changed. But Chris had changed. … For the first time, Chris could see the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.’  

He’d seen that the darkness of the universe was so much bigger and deeper than the darkness in his room, but he was not afraid. He wanted to explore every corner of the night sky.
— The Darkest Dark

It’s right there that this story about a boy dreaming of life as an astronaut becomes, instead, a story about seeing goodness in uncertainty; stepping into the dark to follow a dream; and holding fast to hope for the future.

The power in this book:

This is a tale to validate big dreams. Of course not everyone dreams of becoming an astronaut, big dreams can be ‘about the kind of person you want to be … about the life you will live.’ Some dreams can feel just as unreachable as walking in space, and The Darkest Dark is about reaching for those, too.

It offers a pathway to overcoming a common childhood fear. For children who are afraid of the dark, this book confirms the reality of that fear. It acknowledges that other people have had that same fear too—and it won't be forever.

It introduces a real life hero—a good thing in the sea of superheroes don't you think? 'Chris Hadfield has orbited the earth thousands of times on three separate mission. Most recently, Chris was in Space for nearly five months, … when he served as the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station.'

A small reading hint:

After an initial reading or two, you might like to go slowly and look for the aliens hiding in the dark (on many pages). If you need it, the story could be a conversation starter for talking about fears, how they lurk in shadows and how they're not always what they seem. The book is a safe place to talk about being brave even in the face of fear. (It’s not until Chris begins to truly embrace the darkness that his fears disappear.)

The Darkest Dark is perfect for a child who loves all things Space, or a child who worries about the dark or anything else. It’s also perfect for adults or children who are in need of some life affirming, hopeful, dream chasing goodness.

P.S. Check out this video of Chris talking about the reality check of being on a space walk among the Aurora Australis. It’s on the front page of his website.

Also, heads up, Chris Hadfield is touring Australia in August—we're pretty excited!

Amazon  -  Book Depository



Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.

Names in this book – Chris, Albert

it's hard to choose from these 4 seriously gorgeous bookends!

it's hard to choose from these 4 seriously gorgeous bookends!

Mostly, bookshelves at our house are premium real estate and packed tightly from end to end. But every so often I try to lighten up the look a bit—and then I need something to hold everything upright. So I’ve taken to searching online for great bookends, just in case.

Here are four that I’m thinking about, plus one set that I’m really not contemplating. (But it's seriously beautiful!)

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5 books to tickle a toddler's senses

5 books to tickle a toddler's senses

ages newborn to 3 years
Angus is a sensory toddler. He loves to get his hands (or mouth, or any body part) into anything with an interesting texture—the sheer delight on his face as he plays with his mashed potatoes and the joy he emanates from trying to eat bubbles in the bath is wonderful to see.

It's also wonderful to see his love of all things sensory extending into his love for books—thanks to these five beauties: 

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the growth of a baby from conception to birth carefully explained; perfect for soon-to-be older siblings

the growth of a baby from conception to birth carefully explained; perfect for soon-to-be older siblings

ages 2 to 10 years
There’s quite a collection of pregnancy/new baby books on my shelves (favourites: this one  and this one) and I’m forever on the lookout for others with a fresh and interesting approach.

This one, 9 Months, is great:

Each month of a pregnancy—from conception to birth—is given a two-page spread that clearly sets out the stages of a baby’s growth.

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a terrific, fresh take on the harsh, fascinating world of Australia's convict era

a terrific, fresh take on the harsh, fascinating world of Australia's convict era

Whenever I take a trip to Sydney I try to visit a few historical sites—and the romance and horrors of it all mean that I then find myself hunting for solid early Australian historical fiction. Which is how I came to be reading The Monsarrat Series.

Monsarrat is a white-collar convict—he’s bright, literate and has had an earlier arrogance beaten out of him during his convict years. When book 1, The Soldier’s Curse, begins, he’s part way through his second term.

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a moving and eye-opening look at myriad lives—for older readers

a moving and eye-opening look at myriad lives—for older readers

ages 14 and up
The thing about kaleidoscopes is that they need to have two or more points of reflection. Without those points we see only a messy collection of colours and shapes. But, with those points, we see an extraordinary array of beautiful images that meld into each other to produce something inspiring. This book is a kaleidoscope of sorts.

Living on Hope Street is populated with multiple characters whose lives are difficult, heart wrenching and desperate in many different ways. But, as the novel unfolds, it presents that second point of reflection—and the messy collection of characters and circumstances come together to show lives of great beauty and complexity

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a book to scaffold language about emotions—for difficult times and for the good times that follow

a book to scaffold language about emotions—for difficult times and for the good times that follow

ages 2 to 8 years
It can happen that, in the midst of crisis, children need explicit words to help them give structure to fears and thoughts and hopes. The Whirlpool is a book for those times. I’ve seen the power of read-it-before-you-need-it books many times and, with that solid foundation, a book that gives words to feelings can be the next piece in the puzzle that is emotional resilience.

In The Whirlpool, we see ourselves in the everyday life of a sweet polar bear who is full of confidence 

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welcome to the world of microbes—encouragement for hand washing and teeth brushing!

welcome to the world of microbes—encouragement for hand washing and teeth brushing!

ages 2 to 8 years
Kids seem to swing dramatically one way or the other when it comes to germs. There’s the group who, having heard about germs, bacteria, microbes and the like, immediately begin to wash their hands. And never seem to stop! And then there are the kids who seem to make it their life’s mission to collect as many of the little suckers as they can—and pop them in their mouths! Mine mostly fell into the last group.

For kids like mine, Do not lick this book is brilliantly funny and informative. 

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a favourite book for encouraging peaceful responses to life's (many) minor problems

a favourite book for encouraging peaceful responses to life's (many) minor problems

The Giver is one of our family’s favourite books—it’s thought provoking and gripping and leaves you with a whole new way of looking at the world.

But it can also be a handy parenting tool. For instance, I found this on our family blog from 8 years ago, and thought I might share it with you:

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