This is a debut novel of true exceptional talent IMO. I love a good romance and when it’s interwoven with self-discovery, diversity, cultural differences, regular teen relationships and issues, and music – all the better! Also, this is definitely the first YA (or indeed any book) I have read that features Sri Lankan culture/family life.
Ellie knows she is weird. Her taste for old movies, classic rock (think Beatles and the Stones) are just the tip of the iceberg. She always feels slightly left out but thank goodness for her best friend, although there are times when Ellie feels her mum takes more notice of, and spends more time with Jessica, than with her own daughter. Their family has been out of kilter since they lost Ellie’s little brother, Amis, and both parents as well as Ellie are still often raw and hurting from his death. At school, Ellie is on the periphery always but her great joy – and secret- is Drama class. Her parents would flip out if they knew that despite their objections, she has taken the subject for her GCSEs – not only do they think it a frivolous waste of time but believe that Ellie has zero talent.
All that is about to change with the arrival of a new Drama teacher who, as it happens, is also brown. At the same time, twins, Ash and Elina, start at the new school and Ellie ends up with a real dilemma. Her growing interest in Ash, is going to drive the biggest wedge ever in the history of friendship between herself and Jess.
This has got it all – humour, romance, serious reflection on topics such as grief, sexuality, cultural differences, neglect and family relationships and, along the way, Ellie inserts her own playlist into the narrative which readers can access via QR codes. The whole is cleverly and deftly done. For once, I am not rolling my eyes at another cliche ridden YA novel full of angst and moaning. Even the serious issues are gently handled in a way that would make hugely relatable to teen readers.
Highly recommended for your readers from Year 7 upwards.
This is such a completely fresh take on both family stories and ghost stories. It is charming, poignant and thoroughly engaging for readers from around mid-primary to lower secondary.
Gus is tired of moving house and never belonging anywhere. It’s the reason she refuses to make friends. When her mother packs her, her older sister and younger brother, up yet again and they basically escape the ugly situation with Mum’s boyfriend, things don’t look like getting any better. They wind up in a little hick town, where they start living in an abandoned and reputedly haunted drive-in movie theatre in exchange for getting it up and running. Much to the surprise of the nasty employer (but not quite owner) and to Gus, her family actually begins to turn this enterprise into somewhat of a success. That doesn’t mean though, that she’s going to make friends. She’s choosing not to like her new teacher or the project she’s doing with her strange science partner, with whom she most certainly is not going to be friends. She really doesn’t want to love being the projectionist at the Starlight and she definitely does not want to hang out with the strange boy she sees around the drive-in.
There are all kinds of ghosts in life – the ones that are those who have passed on but also the ones who are very much alive but choose to pursue from the past. Gus learns to deal with both kinds as well as discovering new skills and depths to herself, of which she had no idea prior to coming to this quiet little town. As well, her family grows and slowly flourishes, like blooms in a freshly-dug garden bed, as they all find true acceptance in their new home.
This will definitely find an audience with your readers particularly around year 5-7, both boys and girls, as its appeal is wide.
It was such a joy to become connected with the uber-talented Josh Langley online earlier this year and to discover his own magical brand of positivity, particularly as it applies to children. It’s taken a while but this week I received the four books in his amazingly successful series and have fallen in love with them all. After a rather fraught couple of months with the Kid who was struggling with some serious anxiety and other mental health issues, and the frightening stats coming out about the escalating numbers of children and young people presenting with such problems, I can only say that this series could not be more timely. While I know my personal philosophy has always been to encourage self-confidence and self-awareness in children and, in particular, this young woman it is my privilege to be raising, how much more effective is the sharing of such vibrant and entertaining ‘lessons’ via books that make a child laugh as well as think and reflect. Even said Kid laughed when I showed her some of the spreads – and commented ‘Point taken, Gran!’.
Starting early with these vital lessons in being confident, courageous and compassionate, resilience, self-regulation and growth mindset can only prove beneficial for our kiddos. Whether you hold these in your collection (which I plan to do) or share them with your guidance counsellors (which I also plan to do) or if you simply acquire them for use with the small people in your life, Josh’s simple but quirky text in each book accompanied by his joyous cartoon-style illustrations will engage your young readers from the start. And as we all know that hook from the start is the most important part of any learning experience. In fact, seeing these books in person for the first time, I immediately busted out a grin and thought ‘Wow, our very own Todd Parr!’.
The latest in the series was launched a few weeks back and takes as its focus what might just prove to be the most important quality of the decade going forward. The world is in dire need of more kindness. With so much suffering, worry and despair, taking some time to be kind to each other and the Earth itself is vital – for our own mental well-being as much as anything else.
I no longer teach the littlies but even with my older kiddos, I am planning a ‘Being Wildly Kind’ challenge for this term *grin*. My strings of little ‘bee’ lights are ready to go up as are my challenges for them and I believe I will have many of my ‘too cool’ teens rise to the occasion when I ask them the question ‘What kind of person do you want to bee?’.
Josh does not confine himself to his popular books (for children and adults). He also has an online presence with videos and online chats, one of which I joined during the past week to my utter delight. This is a man who not only talks the talk but has walked the walk, his sensitivity and commitment to young people’s mental health being inspired by his own struggles as a child.
I truly cannot recommend these highly enough for your kids – either the ones in your classes or the ones in your family.
Be sure to check out Josh’s website for more resources and inspiration or for information around his school visits and more.
Oh yes!! it’s arrived!! the scrumpdiddlyumptious new The Witches on the screen and in the book!!! Thank you so much to Penguin Australia for not only the opportunity to have the brand new edition of the original book with a whizzbanging new movie tie-in cover but the double pass to see the movie! The Kid might be a cool teen but she was still hugely excited when she first saw the trailer for the new movie and it was no disappointment.
Roald Dahl’s subversive dark humour is an enduring hit with children from mid-primary upwards and is a regular ‘go to’ even for older kids. The Witches is one book that totally encapsulates that and has long been a favourite with kiddos of all reading ages and abilities.
We both loved the movie when we rocked up to see it yesterday. Yes, it’s very different to the earlier version (which to be honest was always a disappointment both to fans and to Dahl himself, with perhaps the exception of Mai Zetterling – did you know she lived in Australia for a time? I didn’t!). The new version, directed by Robert Zemecki, has transported the setting to Alabama with main characters of colour – the immensely talented Octavia Spencer and young ‘Hero Boy’ Jahzir Bruno (narrated as the older version by Chris Rock) and the addition of a brilliant Grand High Witch courtesy of Anne Hathaway – perfection! – and always hilarious, hotel manager Stanley Tucci. I loved that the witches and action were edgier and far more attuned (I think) to Dahl’s original intention of this warning to children that evil is real but that those who dare can defeat it.
The new edition of the book may have a new dress on but it is still the book we know and love with all the quirkiness of weird fonts for emphasis and the inimitable Quentin Blake illustrations. Without doubt it remains one of my top Dahl reads. I just love so much that the ‘weak’ can overcome the powerful with enough faith and ingenuity – what a powerful message to share with our readers that is! As Dahl himself said ‘Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.’
This was a package to inspire huge smiles all round – my only dilemma will be whether to add this new edition to my existing Dahl collection or to offer it up as highly sought after prize to my kiddos at school.
You know you will, so I likely don’t need to recommend and please please remember that ‘“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”’ – The Witches
Thankfully mental health has become not only de-stigmatised but supported and managed in ways that previously we had never experienced. It’s fair to say that 2020 has taken almost all of us to emotional places we had never expected to be in and the toll that stress, anxiety and uncertainty has taken is, to employ that ubiqitous word, unprecedented.
The Mindshift Foundation has taken up the mission of supporting Australians, young and old, to become aware of the importance of maintaining positive mental health through developing self-worth, better coping skills and greater resilience.
This book is a primer of useful information and and resources which can become a source of strength for those who are seeking to create for themselves better self-worth, positive well-being and above all, the strongest mental health possible.
Either as an addition to your collection or as a resource for teacher/counsellors this is an excellent resource.
There is certainly a boom in books targeting young people to empower them to be their best selves and take action for the greater good. As it happens I have quite a pile of them here so have decided to compile them into this one post. All are very worthy additions either to a personal or library collection.
Perfectly Unique: Love Yourself Completely, Just as You Are – Annie F. Downs
Harper Collins Australia
ISBN 10: 0310768624
Imprint: HarperCollins Religious – US
As it would happen I had seen this book while browsing for other titles for our collection and added it some time ago. In particular for either Christian families or schools, you will find this a charming and heartfelt message for our young girls.
Each section takes a look at various parts of the body and the ways in which each has the potential for a girl to grow in her faith whilst understanding the often confusing and contradictory moods of her changing body.
Annie is a well-known podcaster and author based in Tennessee who strives to impart via her writing the presence of a loving and present God. For young girls the turbulent teens, the powerful influences via social media and peer pressure can be overwhelming and Annie’s mission is to provide these girls with the tools, skills and strength to withstand these and stand strong in faith.
Dare to be You: Defy Self-Doubt, Fearlessly Follow Your Own Path and Be Confidently You! – Matthew Syed. Illustrated by Toby Triumph
September 2020 | 9781526362377 | RRP $19.99
Following the runaway success of You are Awesome Matthew Syed continues to empower young people, providing them with the tools to employ their own positive thinking.
Combining his humour and personal insights with the stylistic illustrations, Matthew introduces real-life role models such as Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai as an aide to encouraging diverse thinking.
Matthew wants children and young people to stop doubting themselves, accept that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ and embrace their own wonderful selves with confidence to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.
Looking after your Health – Caroline Young
Harper Collins Australia
ISBN 10: 1474982751
Imprint: Usborne – GB
List Price: 14.99 AUD
It’s not just about mental health of course and this super little book is perfect for kiddos from around eight years upwards to teens, to encourage them to take care of their physical well-being as well as their mental health.
It takes a quirky, often humorous, approach to sharing useful information none of which is either too radical or ‘out there’ but more like a common sense approach to looking after themselves whether its diet, exercise, sleep, managing stress, maintaining and regulating friendships or relationships (so tricky at times!).
This not an onerous read and certainly not ‘preachy’ but quite fun to read with some solid advice for young people. This one is going to feature in the Kid’s home schooling this term part of which is focusing on the human body and health.
Helping our Planet – Jane Bingham
Harper Collins Australia
ISBN 10: 147498276X
Imprint: Usborne – GB
List Price: 14.99 AUD
I think this and the following book are perfect companions to those above because we know that many young people are increasingly anxious about the state of the world’s environment and also, that by becoming actively involved with relevant causes, they will of course also be aiding their own mental and physical health.
Offering some really simple to implement strategies any one, young or old, could benefit from these suggestions. For example:
Five Moves to beat ‘Hidden Plastic’
Stop buying wet ones, glitter and glittery things
Don’t buy chewing gum
Buy plastic-free teabags or go for loose tea
Try to avoid drink cans, take away coffee cups and cartons
Buy clothes made from natural fibres, such as bamboo or wool
Easy peasy! and there are loads more ideas as well as of course the facts behind important issues such as water conservation, planet-friendly shopping and waste management.
Hope: 50 Ways to Help Our Planet Every day
Did you know your food travels an average of 4000 kilometres to get to you? Have you ever wondered where exactly ‘away’ is when you throw something away? Or what happens to the 3 billion drink cans Australians go through in a year?
There will be many families as well as classes who are inspired and impassioned by the War on Waste series hosted by Craig Reucassel not to mention the thousands who are, quite rightly, extremely concerned about climate change and this is the perfect jumping-off point for readers from as young as eight years old but upwards to early secondary. In fact, I will be offering both these books to our Year 8 team for their unit on Waste (or as we call it at school the Rubbish unit – haha!).
Case studies (from kids), inspirational quotes from leading world figures, practical advice and simple activities will engage and involve classrooms, families and communities.
Most of all the premise of this little book is as the title says to offer ‘hope’ that it’s not too late to make the changes our world needs so badly.
Overall I highly recommend all of these for either your family or your collection.
ISBN: 9781760651510 Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $25.99 New Zealand RRP: $28.99
Encouraging our little readers to be not just accepting of differences but to embrace them is arguably one of the greatest gifts we can offer. And to be able to do this through the enjoyment of a wonderful and vibrant story is a real bonus.
Bear is different. He’s not like the other little bears who are noisy and play lots of games. Bear prefers the quiet, learning about space and planning his trip in his own rocket ship. The other bears laugh at his dream of space travel and though Bear feels lonely, he is undeterred. He takes off and begin his exploration and finds not only the amazing vastness of his dream but a most amazing surprise – a like-minded friend! Together Bear and Panda conquer space and upon their return find that the acceptance from their peers opens up even more richness.
This is just a beautiful and thoughtful story which will enchant children and adults alike spring-boarding many deep discussions around our perceptions of others. Children will also love the interspersed space facts – this being truly a fascinating topic for them in my experience.
The perfect combination of text and illustrations is just superb and clearly the two creators are completely in sync.
Celebrating differences, acceptance, self-belief and friendship this is a must-have for your collection.
Highly recommended for little readers from around five years upwards.
Matt Stanton’s Max has become one of the most popular characters in Australian kids’ lit in recent years – with the first debuting at #1 Australian kids’ book in 2017. The Funny Kid continues to garner enthusiastic fans not only in Australia but now around the world.
The antics of this boy, along with his family and friends, and not forgetting Duck, are like the most hilarious comic strip ever in novel format and while the illustrations are highly amusing too, it is the wit and humour of the text that provide the biggest belly laughs.
Poor Max finds himself caught up in a dare predicament with his friends after somewhat snarky Abby calls him out on being afraid of heights. Suddenly there’s pressure to ride the Tower of Dying Deathly Doom, the scariest ride at Adventure Park to be witnessed by all the gang. Max’ plan to go to Adventure Park solo – well, with Duck of course – and just pretend he’s ridden the ride backfires badly and when his parents (typically) mis-read his actions as running away due to their preoccupation, the whole dare escalates to new heights (so to speak). A hellish road trip with all his friends, Duck gone missing and an encounter with Bad Skulls, the dancing motorcycle gang combine to provide the reader with another side-splitting episode in the life of Max the Funny Kid.
There will be plenty of snort-laughs in this one and any copy on your shelves is guaranteed to be on high-rotation with your readers. In fact, probably best to have back-up copies in my opinion to avoid scrimmages as they are coming back through returns.
Highly recommended for your kids who like a good laugh-out-loud read – don’t they all? – suitable for all from around 8 years upwards.
This is most definitely a very timely and en pointe book for those who have been finding themselves anxious, lonely and unsure in these troubled times. Gloriously colourful and eminently practical filled with reminders, advice, affirmations and enjoyable exercises in positive thinking and self-care this will make a super gift for a young person in your life – or for yourself because you deserve it as well.
We already know that it’s okay not to be okay or that we do need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others or even just that we are lovable but there is no doubt that we often get so caught up with events and circumstances that we forget these important points.
Hey, you’re awesome!
Why is this stuff important?
We all have times when life is a bit rainy
You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say ‘NO’
Just scanning these it’s easy to see how this could be a truly vital resource for some of the teens we know – or indeed adults.
You deserve good things.
You deserve to be happy.
You are capable and competent.
Don’t doubt your sparkle.
I will certainly be recommending this highly to my students but this particular copy will go to The Kid who, despite her huge leaps and bounds forward, still finds herself frustrated and at times despondent about her ‘differences’ to her peers. I will make sure it’s part of her current ‘at home’ reading program.
You can follow Stacie on her socials or via her newsletter for more positive vibes. Why not create your own rainbow of self-belief and see where it will take you?
Andrew’s books are always such a joy and this one is no exception. For everyone who has felt as though they didn’t ‘quite fit’ in with everyone else here is the entree to embracing that difference.
Stumpy is not like the other Quigs. While they are all adept at jumping, Stumpy just can’t manage it – no matter how hard he tries. He is particularly afraid of the wide open spaces. Naturally his peers take great delight in pointing out his perceived shortcomings and continually mock him for those.
But Stumpy’s determination to succeed is his saving because his attempts to jump lead him to a marvellous discovery about himself. Having raised a child who is ‘different’ and my own personal joy and pride in her struggle to capitalise on her strengths whilst overcoming her difficulties, this book resonates with me largely. And for many of us in a teaching situation we will have children like these in our care who are likewise – and this provides them with a validation that their individual differences are more than just okay – they are to be embraced.
If you have little readers with the usual differences in abilities this is a perfect book to share and from which many rich and valuable discussions will evolve. Both text and illustrations are superb – as one has come to expect from this talented creator.
Highly recommended for readers from around Prep upwards.
You will find the teaching notes particularly useful.