Lights Out, Leonard: an all too relatable bedtime routine

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Some people are blessed with kids that love to sleep – unfortunately I’m not one of them. Bedtime is often crazy, long, and a battle. Ivy has just entered the ‘afraid of the dark’ stage, which has added a whole new dimension to bedtime.

We are all finding Lights Out, Leonard by Josh Pyke a little too relatable at the moment. It’s the story of a little boy (Leonard) who is NOT afraid of the dark.

Leonard was not afraid of the dark. That would be silly.

No, Leonard was afraid of the things that hid in the dark.

When it was time to go to sleep, Leonard’s mum kissed him goodnight. ‘Lights out, Leonard,’ she said. But Leonard cried ‘NO!’

Every time Leonard’s mum or dad come in to turn off the light Leonard cries ‘NO!’ and tells them all about the horrible monsters he can see in the room.

And then the page that any parent, anywhere, can relate to:

His mum and dad both sighed. They were tired.

So that night the lights in Leonard’s room stayed on.

This goes on for a long time, with Leonard becoming more and more frightened. Eventually Leonard’s parents have a stroke of genius and help Leonard overcome his fear of the monsters who live in the dark.

Lights Out, Leonard is a wonderful a conversation starter around ideas like:

-       We all have things we are afraid of

-       Allowing children/everyone time to process their concerns/worries

-       Ways to voice our fears or concerns

-       Our perception vs. reality (of course it was shadows that fuelled Leonards imagination)

-       Finding solutions outside the box

 Lights Out, Leonard is a beautifully funny story that is perfect for helping children and grown ups face their fears and find ways to help each other.

Lights Out, Leonard
by Josh Pyke illustrated by Chris Nixon – Puffin Books, 2019
ages 2 to 8 years / imagination + heartwarmers

Vision of Beauty: a mighty story of dignity and freedom

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).

Beginning in the late 1870’s, each short chapter spans a number of years in Sarah’s life and we follow her from being a very young child who works with her family sharecropping, through to just prior to her death at the age of just 51. 

There are insights into the life of poverty and struggle that was the seemingly inevitable lot of colored people immediately following emancipation. (The author Kathryn Lasky explains that she uses the term ‘colored’ to be consistent with the time that Madame Walker lived.) But Sarah manages to rise above her circumstances.

In desperation, having lost almost all of her family and her husband and with her hair falling out, Sarah prays and then starts searching for a homemade cure. 

It's this homemade cure that is the starting point for Sarah’s empire.

This isn’t a religious book – there is just one mention of prayer – but it is certainly inspiring. Best of all, Sarah’s ongoing desire to lift others comes through loud and clear.

There are lots of jumping off points in this story too – mentions of aspects of history that could be more fully investigated such as the emancipation of slaves in the US; the Ku Klux Klan; the rampant effect of Yellow Fever and Cholera; voting rights for women; segregation, discrimination and so on.

With the story of Madame Walker tucked away in memory, we all may choose to work a little harder, forgive and move on a little quicker, care a little more for others, and remember our own self worth a little more easily. Such a wonderful book. 

by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Nneka Bennett - Turtleback Books, 2012
ages 4 to 12 years / diversity, powerful lives, s.o.s.e.

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Names in this book: Owen, Minerva, Alex, Louvenia, Sarah, Leiia, Margaret

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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Bruno: a brilliant book for embracing differences in people and in life

Bruno: a brilliant book for embracing differences in people and in life

ages 2 to 8 years
Most everyone has had almost-perfect days, stupid days, rainy days, peculiar days and uninteresting days. It’s the mix that makes life interesting. Bruno is a cat who tells the story of six very different days in his life.

They’re the sort of days we’ve all had—with surprising, quirky twists. Among those days, there are totally relatable moments, like this one:

That day, the power went out on my street, At night, so as not to be in the dark, I lit candles. It was very pretty. Since they don’t happen very often, I really like days when the power goes out.

And totally fantastic days, like when Bruno and his friend Ringo, a horse, find that they can breathe underwater and end up in a backwards swimming race with their new friend Bup, a fish. Bruno muses:

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mistakes (oops!) = opportunities to make something beautiful

mistakes (oops!) = opportunities to make something beautiful

ages 3 to 10 years
Do your kids ever get frustrated or angry when they make a mistake? Mine do all the time. It’s the end of the world when they're trying and trying to do something but just can’t manage it. And, if I’m going to be completely honest, it’s the same for me more often than not. The need to get things ‘right’ all the time can be difficult and stressful, leading to a multitude of negative feelings.

Beautiful Oops! has been a wonderful comfort

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