Brothers Forever: a sweet look at navigating transitions

 
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Starting school is tough. It’s exhausting, emotional and a little bit scary. It’s also hard on the sibling that gets left behind. The person they have always had isn’t there anymore and the daily dynamics change; Angus still tells me every day Ivy is at school that he misses her. The older sibling will also change with new growth and experience.

They have chosen Brothers Forever as a bedtime book a few times; I think it offers both something relatable and comforting.  

Brothers Forever is a sweet story about how life changes for two brothers as the older goes to school, told from the perspective of the younger brother.

‘Some days you think you have it all. Barney is my big brother and my best friend. We bake cakes. We plant trees. We play hide-and-see. We dance. We draw together. I’m sure it will be this way forever.’

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When Barney starts school the day is hard. With no one to play with

‘I never knew a day could be so long.’

Even when Barney comes home it’s different, Barney is different. Although the brothers start to go in different directions, they eventually find their feet again and realise that

‘Things are changing all the time but brothers are forever.’

It’s a wonderful read it before you need it book and is great for:

  • Talking about transitions to prepare kids for the emotional journey of change

  • Starting conversation about change/transitions

  • Helping find new ways to connect after change

  • Comforting and reassuring kids that change can be good and that some things will remain constant

Brothers Forever
by Claudia Boldt – Penguin Random House UK, 2018
ages 2 to 8 years / emotional resilience + heartwarmer

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Names in this book – Barney, Barnaby

Tiny The Invisible World of Microbes: a s.t.e.m. story full of gasping moments

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This is a book full of gasping moments, the sort that deliver a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the grandeur of the natural world. And perhaps best of all, it’s lyrical to read aloud and beautiful to look at.

Puzzling through big numbers and tricky concepts - like something can be so small that we can’t see it - are among the great joys of life. It’s a real delight to think and to learn. But it's still difficult to conjure up an image of something as tiny and as numerous as microbesTiny does a terrific job of making these extremes understandable.

The pictures are welcoming – it feels like we’re being invited into a world that is all around us and yet separate from us. 

The words do the job of imparting scientific knowledge in a poetic way, making this an ideal bedtime or anytime book. For example: 

'A single drop of sea water can hold twenty million microbes. That's more than twice as many as the number of people in New York City.'

Granted, many younger children won’t know how many people live in New York City and many will have never seen that sort of population density. But they will be able to imagine the biggest city they have ever known and work from there. It’s the imagining of large numbers that’s so beneficial here – it’s not about pinpoint accuracy in the child’s imagination.

Sometimes, when I’ve read a fair chunk of fiction, I get a yearning for something that asks me to think, process and apply knowledge in an academic rather than a personal way. I think children get that same yearning – a desire to expand the mind, add to the storehouse of knowledge and build on existing knowledge. 

Tiny is perfect for those times because it's packed with information but is still a beautifully told story with pictures that are artistic and inviting. 

All of which means that Tiny is ideal for the child who is driven by science and facts – it reminds them of the sheer beauty and scale of those facts. Plus, it’s ideal for the child who is absorbed in a world of fantasy and delight – it lets them peek into the real, natural world, which is every bit as fantastic as any imaginary world.

I’ve read this book a couple of dozen times since it came into our house and every time I am left with a feeling of wonder and excitement – feelings that are perfect to share with a child.

TINY The Invisible World of Microbes 
by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton - Walker Books, 2014
ages 3 to 12 years / s.t.e.m.

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I Am Small: being small can be hard work

A person’s a person, no matter how small.
— Dr. Seuss
 
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When I saw I Am Small on the shelf at the library I knew we needed this book for Angus. He too is small. Most of the time it doesn’t bother him, but every now and then someone has the audacity to suggest his size might limit his ability and he gets upset, angry, or both. It must be tough.

Mimi, the protagonist of I Am Small certainly thinks so. She is the smallest in her family, her class, even their pet dog is bigger than her! It makes life hard.

'I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody noticed me.

Being small really bugs me.

When will I grow big enough to take up as much space in the world as everyone else?’

She points out things that taller people, especially adults, take for granted that make life difficult for a small person.

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‘My feet barley reach the edge of the seat on the bus. I bounce all over the place on the way to school.’

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‘At Olivia’s bakery, I can’t even see all the pretty desserts in the display case. Just imagine the trouble I have picking the nicest cake!’

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‘And in class, I can only reach the bottom of the blackboard. It’s annoying, especially when I have a lot I want to write.’

No one quite understands; everyone else thinks being small is great. She always gets to be in the front row for school photos, has lot’s of small secret places to hide in and always wins at hide-and-seek.

Mimi eventually comes to see the benefits of her current size and learns to be patient and find joy in growing up (the birth of a baby brother lets her see how much she has grown).

It’s a sweet story that has some really wonderful messages. I Am Small is a great book for

- A small child who is struggling with being understood

- Discussing perspective - something that we see as a benefit might be a challenge for someone else

- Recognising and understanding restrictions that might limit others

- Being patient, sometimes growth comes slowly

The water colour illustrations are endearing and expressive, providing a wonderful visual tale. I Am Small is a beautiful tale of growth, understanding and acceptance and would make a wonderful gift.

I Am Small By Qin Leng – Kids Can Press, 2018
ages 2 to 8 years / heartwarmers + emotional resilience

Names in this book – Mimi, Nicholas, Marie, Gus

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge: a loving look at memory loss and friendship

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge: a loving look at memory loss and friendship

That’s a major gap in a child’s life and one we tried to fill with elderly friends from church and other grandparents and great-grandparents of friends. 

I think that one of the reasons we realised this was so important was that we had both read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge dozens and dozens of times.  

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The New Small Person: welcoming a new baby can be a tricky business!

The New Small Person: welcoming a new baby can be a tricky business!

Three-year-old Ivy is excitedly awaiting the arrival of a baby brother in a couple of months. She’s looking for things that will be the same and different for them. 

He’ll be little and she’ll be big. But, after a bath: ‘he’ll have a naked bottom just like me’.  Both true. 

Ivy is pretty keen for this baby to arrive. (So am I, truth be told.) Still, there’s bound to be some adjusting to do. 

The New Small Person is all about the adjustment – and the process.

Ages 2 to 8

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What's Your Favorite Bug?: inspiring a love of art and reading

What's Your Favorite Bug?: inspiring a love of art and reading

When I think of picture books my thoughts always go to the story, which is funny considering we call them ‘picture’ books. But the artwork has a huge impact on our emotions and impressions when reading a picture book, adding depth and feeling. Talking about the artwork is so useful for developing emotional intelligence

ages 2 to 10

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Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

This is a wonderfully circular book. Amelia smiles, her smile is contagious and spreads all around the world and finally finds its way back to her - and she smiles again!

I love a book that shows (but doesn’t preach about) the interconnectedness of people around the world – this book manages exactly that.

And I think the key is the joyfulness of the illustrations. There’s a fuzziness* to them that invites the reader into the edges of the world each character inhabits. 

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