Tag Archives: Families

How to Grow a Family Tree – Eliza Henry Jones

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y648

Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460754955
  • ISBN 10: 1460754956
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 22.99 AUD

Seventeen year old Stella knows exactly how to help people – after all, she’s read self-help books all her life. Her friends and family often are the beneficiaries of the wealth of her accumulated wisdom.  Best friends Clem, Zin and Lara regularly think she’s a little weird with her psycho-babble but affectionately embrace it. Her family – Dad, Mum and sister Taylor – are a little less enthusiastic and at times exasperated.

Stella has always known she’s adopted and that has never been a problem for her until, that is, a letter arrives from her birth mother and she discovers that over the past ten years there were others, carefully put away by her mum until she might be ready for them.  The timing could not be worse. Dad’s gambling problem has driven down the family finances to such an extent that they must give up their house and move to Fairyland caravan park – literally the worst address in town, infamous for meth labs exploding and  filled, it appears, with the most dubious of characters.

Rather than the vice-filled wasteland redolent with crime and the dregs of society that she has imagined, Stella slowly begins to discover that Fairyland is, in reality, a community and, more importantly, that not everyone needs her help – at least, not in the way she’s always pushed it onto people.  The complicated chaos of her family life combined with keeping the secret of their new address from her friends and then the unravelling secrets about her origins as she attempts to get to know her ‘other’ family ensure a great  narrative which explores the nuances of relationships and the shades of right or wrong that exist in any human situation.  Stella realises that it is she who needs helping as much as anyone else and it is her Fairyland experience that provides it.

There is much humour in this novel along with the pathos and over-arching themes of compassion, respect and truth all of which make for compelling reading.  Readers will find much upon which to reflect – addiction, domestic abuse, the definition of family, relationships, perceptions and stereotyping among others and while it is complex it is also highly engaging and very readable.

It’s a fantastic read which I ate up over two nights and one I will enjoy sharing with my students.

I highly recommend it for astute readers from around 13/14 years upwards.

Click to access How-to-Grow-a-Family-Tree-Teachers-Notes.pdf

Roly Poly – Mem Fox/Jane Dyer

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9781760896348

Penguin Random House

November 2019

  • ISBN: 9781760896348
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • RRP: $19.99

This is just adorable! Of course Mem’s story about the arrival of a little usurper in the family is just delightful and  will resonate with so many small children but aside from that. those glorious illustrations! They remind me so much of Jeannie Baker’s Polar of many years ago (does anyone else remember that one?).  This little fuzzy bear family with all the accoutrements for a little home with tiny props is just the most wonderful thing I’ve seen for ages.

Roly Poly is a very happy young bear with his own room and his own bed, his own walrus tooth with which to play and his own fish to eat after he’s been fishing through the ice hole. You can well imagine his complete and utter disbelief when he wakes up to find a tiny brother in the bed with him. His resistance to having a younger sibling is palpable as he continually rejects little Monty time after time – until ,that is, there is an almost catastrophe when the little brother is castaway on a ice floe. Luckily Roly Poly does not take his resentment of his sibling quite that far and after a brave rescue the two finally achieve a bond.

Some children cope very easily with the arrival of a new sibling and others do struggle with it. Whichever is the case little readers will immediately connect with this and I can assure will absolutely adore those illustrations.

HIghly recommended for small humans from early childhood upwards.

The ANZAC Billy – Claire Saxby/Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

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Walker Books

anzacbilly

ISBN: 9781925126815
Imprint: Black Dog Books

Release Date: April 1, 2019

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

As thousands of Australians and New Zealanders pay homage to those who have given to our countries in service, often with the ultimate sacrifice, this is not only a timely release for this time of year but for all time. If we as educators are to help our students to comprehend the devastation of war and to embrace a more peaceful way forward, there is no better way than to provide them with a glimpse of a child’s experience during such circumstances.

Children in the First World War were encouraged to send welcome Christmas packages to those serving in the war zones, as indeed they still are today. For one little boy, the filling of his father’s Christmas billy is an important mission and he along with his mother and grandmother make sure that every item packed lovingly into the vessel is chosen with real care.  But there are hundreds, indeed, thousands of such billies packed and sent. How will this particular one reach his Daddy? Well, perhaps it won’t – but it will reach a digger who will appreciate the true love that it contains and it this significant aspect that is arguably the most telling. Yes, this little boy misses his father and prays he is safe but if he can make one soldier’s Christmas brighter, it is the same he hopes for his own Dad.

We live in perilous times and our daily news is filled with horrendous acts of hate and violence. If we are to have any hope for a peaceful future we must – MUST – guide our children towards compassion and love for all.

The text is simple but powerful and the illustrations completely capture the sense of the period in history, particularly the colour palette echoes the pervading feel of both the times and the critical situation that was The Great War.

This is my choice for our Friday story telling session tomorrow in the library – with accompanying ANZAC biscuits of course.

Thank you to the creators for giving us another wonderful entrée for our young readers into an important understanding and potential for personal growth.

Highly recommended for sharing from Prep upwards.

 

Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth

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Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth

9780857984739

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857984739

Published: 01/08/2014

Imprint: Woolshed Press

Extent: 288 pages

RRP $18.99

In the past few months I have been slightly disappointed in the Australian YA fiction which I have encountered, as compared to the international ditto.

This book knocked that opinion for six. Darren Groth has written a sensitive, funny and insightful novel that explores themes and issues common to many families in dilemmas of family relationships, confusion and identity.  Justine and Perry are twins. Justine is bright, capable, caring and logical. Perry is also bright, capable, caring and logical but with one major difference.

“Perry has a brain condition that can cause him to feel anxious or upset in different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people – mixing with them and communicating with them – and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviours. I appreciate your understanding and patience.”

This is almost Justine’s mantra. When she and Perry were around four, their mother ‘took off’ and their father subsequently raised the twins with loving support and insightful belief. Sadly, shortly before their 18th birthdays, Dan (Dad) dies due to an unpleasant and lingering cancer condition. Since the time their mother left, Justine and Dan had cared for Perry – Justine, as his twin, with enormous empathy even at the age of four. However, unbeknownst to either Dan or Perry, Justine has begun some contact with her mother and following their father’s demise, she decides it is time for Perry to also be introduced to his mother (who now wants to be part of their lives). This is especially important as the pair has made a decision, based on their father’s thinking that Perry will move into sheltered independent (semi-independent) care and Justine can pursue her own life.  Before this event, Justine makes the decision for the two siblings to go to America and not only pursue Perry’s quirky interests (seismology, mythical beasts) but also to meet their mother.

This is a road trip with a difference.  There are numerous complications, scares and surprises along the way but eventually a resolution that is neither cloying nor predictable.

My opinion is that this is a marvellous novel for exploring what constitutes the ‘caring, competent, logical’ persona, family relationships, mother/father and siblings and ‘letting go’ of preconceived ideas, values and beliefs.

I would highly recommend this novel for students, both boys and girls, from around 14 up. There is nothing untoward that would justify a ‘senior’ label but does require some maturity of thought to grasp the concepts.

Find Teacher Notes here.