Tag Archives: Love

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home – Joanna Nell

Standard

Hachette

Trade Paperback: OCT 27, 2020 | 9780733642869 | RRP $32.99

While the wind howls wildly and the rain is falling constantly this is the perfect read to take a break from the busyness of Christmas preparations and just relax. Light-hearted and witty the antics of this group of senior citizens will entertain you and demonstrate that old age does not equal abandonment of living life to it’s fullest.

Retired nature writer, Hattie Bloom, has lived her entire life in the home she and her parents shared with her wild garden full of birds for the only company she wanted. A nasty fall puts her into the Woodlands Nursing Home and as she has no family to care for her it is there she must stay – very reluctantly. She is determined to ‘escape’ the confines of this annoyingly noisy and peopled place as she chafes against the loss of her solitary independence.

She’s not the only one to be determined to resume her own self-sufficient existence. Walter Clements, widower and retired driving instructor, who fancies himself as not only an excellent comedian but also a ‘ladies’ man’ is set on returning to his home and life once he has been assessed as capable and fit to manage his brand-new mobility scooter. These two not only clash in temperament but in the physical sense when Walter barrels his scooter into Hattie badly injuring her and further delaying her rehabilitation process.

At the clandestine meeting of The Night Owls, a very unofficial group run by the innovative and unconventional Sister Bronwyn, the pair have their official meeting but remain at odds. That is, until the late-night hijinks are uncovered and Sister Bronwyn is dismissed summarily with a very dodgy replacement installed. Hattie and Walter join forces to rescue both Sister Bronwyn and the Night Owls along with the only joys and pleasures their group of fellow oldies have.

This is hilarious, poignant and often surprising but there are also some serious undertones that give pause for thought around how our older citizens are treated in some facilities as well as some inspiration on how things could be changed for the better in such places.

While essentially a light and hugely enjoyable read of the laugh-out-loud kind the reader cannot help but reflect on aging, love, community and friendship but it is thoroughly heartening and it would be a hard to please reader who could not find it a worthwhile read.

Highly recommended for your holiday pleasure!

Big Hug Little Mouse – Lisa Kerr

Standard

1568589398936

Walker Books Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781760651107
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $26.99

It is certainly not an ideal time to launch new books but it is the perfect time to share a book about hugs especially for little people who are missing out on those special cuddles from grandparents, other family and friends.

Millie loves all the things that most little people do like jumping mud puddles, chasing butterflies and eating Grandma’s cookies but most of all she loves hugs. So when she wakes up one day feeling rather flat and sad (and how many of our kiddos would be feeling likewise right now?) she thinks she must have lost her hug.  So with her friend Harry she goes off to find it and of course, has many of her special friends are more than happy to share their love.

Lisa Kerr has done a spectacular job of creating such a simple but very touching story about the beauty of connection and in these parlous times this is such an important message to convey. So many kinds of hugs to share – whether for hello or goodbye, with one arm or when you are sleepy – all of these will delight the little people who have the pleasure of reading this.

What is your favourite type of hug? Naturally mine are the special ones from my girl – who even though she’s the too-cool teen still has that loving aspect to her nature.

HIghly recommended for little readers from around 3 years upwards.

 

Love From the Crayons – Drew Daywalt/Oliver Jeffers

Standard

y648 (6)

Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9780008384920

ISBN 10: 0008384924

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love the crayons books!

Now you can give the gift of love AND crayons to someone special whether that’s a big or a small person.

What colour do you think love is? For me it’s a sort of sunset orangey/red 😊.  For you it might be white “because sometimes love is hard to see” or perhaps it’s grey “because love can be small and soft, or big and strong” or even purple “because love has its own imagination”. Each variation is accompanied by the colourful crayon drawings we’ve come to relish in these popular titles.

You may choose to give this to a little one to show your love for them or even add it to a special Valentine’s Day gift – my copy is going to be one of the ‘revolving’ titles in the reflection space in my library – just to remind all who pick it up that love comes in many colours but is always present.

Highly recommended for readers from babies upwards.

 

 

The Tiny Star – Mem Fox/Freya Blackwood

Standard

9780670078127

Penguin

1st October 2019

ISBN: 9780670078127

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

Mem Fox has triumphed again with this simply beautiful new picture book inspired by the most personal of motivations – the bond between loving grandparent and grandchild.

In their first collaboration Mem and Freya have produced a gentle and warming exploration of life and death that will resonate with many readers, both young and old.

When a tiny star falls to earth it turns into a baby to be cherished, nurtured and loved by its family, growing and thriving in that security of warmth and tenderness.  All the time, growing taller and getting older and eventually creating its own family where the circle of love continues.  After many full and happy years the star that was begins to become frailer and to shrink until once again becomes tiny, so tiny that it disappears it seems. But no, once again the tiny star sparkles in the night sky reminding all that the love we feel never ends.

Some readers will know that I am raising my beautiful granddaughter so I can completely relate to this expression of love and the accompanying realisation that one day we will not be here for our grandchildren.  In the meantime, how privileged are we to share so deeply in their lives and forge these bonds that will last forever.

Thank you Mem and Freya for this outstanding and tender testament to that love which, I have no doubt, will be not only welcomed but lauded with praise.

Highly recommended for both your professional and personal shelves to share with young readers from toddlers upwards – why not pre-order yours now!

Stay posted for a forthcoming Q&A with the inimitable Mem soon!

 

My Name is Not Peaseblossom – Jackie French

Standard

peaseblossom

Harper Collins

June 2019

ISBN: 9781460754788

ISBN 10: 1460754786

List Price: 16.99 AUD

 

 

So as I chuckled my way through this (and truthfully at times snort-laughed) I thought to myself ‘I reckon Shakespeare would entirely approve of this retell’. After all, he did write to entertain or move people but he also wrote to subtly convey his opinions about topics and issues relevant to his age. And in what some would dismiss a mere comedy he cleverly illustrated the excesses of power and the selfishness of individuals determined only to further their own desires and goals.

Peaseblossom, who would rather be known as Pete, is not one of the most significant characters in the original play but takes front and centre in this version. He does have a pretty responsible job in the Fairy Court being a Potions Fairy and the apprentice of Puck. He is destined to marry on Midsummer’s Eve and be promoted to first assistant in the potions game but he is far from satisfied with life in the fairy realm. His real passions are his love of great pizza and the beautiful Gaela, a smart selkie, posing as a pizza chef many years into the future.

Pete is pretty fed up with Oberon and Titania giving orders and creating chaos willy nilly amongst both fairies and humans, and is just as displeased when he finds a bunch of vampires behaving in pretty much the same way in Gaela’s life. Being rather savvy and far worldlier wise than some of his fairy comrades Pete has the right antidote to both these dilemmas.

This is an elegant and timely reminder to us all that, despite the somewhat parlous times in which we live, we all have the power of free will and can make choices that will be positive for ourselves, our race and our earth. The layers underlying the light heartedness will be a springboard to much rich discussion on ethics and self-determination.

Check out the teaching notes here.

Animal Crackers

Standard

 

 

Now that the pile of review novels is finally getting to a stage that could be described as semi-tamed, it’s time to get stuck into plethora picture books. So here are some animal-focused ones to get into – because we all know that our little readers just love a great animal story and we love them because so often they send such positive messages.

flatcat

Flat Cat – Hiawyn Oram/Gwen Millard

Walker Books Australia

January 2019

ISBN: 9781406371543
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

“If you love something, set it free” – that was my first thought on reading this book. My second thought was the memory of buying my beloved Burmese cat, Possum, many years ago. I was determined that he would be an ‘inside’ cat but after two weeks of completely shredded flyscreens, I realised that was not in his nature and so he became an inside/outside cat and was my best friend for the eight years of his life.

Sophie loves Jimi-My-Jim and gives him everything you might think a cat could desire – toys, special food, sparkly collars, beds and even clothes. The one thing that Jimi-My-Jim is missing is freedom. He is never allowed outside and gradually he becomes ‘Flat Cat’ because he so morose at seeing the outside world only through a window. When one day by accident, Flat Cat manages to get hold of the front door keys, he is off and away and discovers a world full of other cats, life, excitement, joy and another very special cat – Blanche.  While at first the consequences prove to be difficult for both Flat Cat and Sophie, they are overcome and Flat Cat is able to pursue his new life – with the joy of the freedom plus the joy of being Sophie’s special friend.

This offers a serious point of discussion about when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reject the rules in place and certainly gives ‘helicopter’ parents an opportunity to examine their practices.

I certainly recommend it for young readers from around six years upwards – but would suggest that it could also be a valuable addition to parent information nights!

goodrosie

Good Rosie! – Kate de Camillo. Pictures by Harry Bliss

Walker Books Australia

October 2018

ISBN: 9781406383577
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

 

I really meant to get to this one sooner rather than later because I truly adore Kate di Camillo’s work. This is such a departure from her novels but is truly enchanting and endearing.

We all need friends and Rosie is no exception. She has a good life with her human, George, but is lonely without doggy companions. Sometimes it seems that she and George don’t have much in common, for example, an intense interest in squirrels. When George takes Rosie to the dog park for the first time, she is somewhat overwhelmed. She has never seen so many dogs before and she feels confronted and scared. She is even more so when Maurice, a very large St Bernard approaches shaking his toy bunny with such vigour it’s a wonder the toy’s extremities still exist. But then the tiny Fifi with her sparkly collar doesn’t seem a kindred spirit either.

It takes an unfortunate incident between Maurice and Fifi to help Rosie realise that sometimes friends come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t all ‘click’ at first sight.

Formatted in a graphic novel style, this is a lovely reminder about unlikely friendships but moreover about overcoming prejudices and feeling anxious.

A fabulous book for sharing with young readers to kick-start conversations about acceptance and building relationships.

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley – Devon Sillett/Nicky Johnston

barkley

EK Books

978-1-925335-96-5

$24.99

Losing our furbabies is difficult. For children who have grown up with a special pet it is arguably even moreso. Super Olivia and her trusty sidekick, Barkley, have always been a team. As Olivia carries out her amazing super-hero deeds, Barkley is always right by her giving his all. When Barkley is no longer there, Olivia feels her zest for super-sleuthing and action-heroism has also gone. But after her grieving she realises that Barkley would not want her to give up her passion in life, nor forget his extraordinary assistance. Olivia knows what she must do as a true super-hero for whom rescues are a daily event. She must rescue a new sidekick.

Spud is white, fluffy and adorable – and absolutely useless at fighting crime and uncovering dastardly plots but Olivia loves her anyway.

This is not a story about replacing one pet for another but a beautiful way of describing that eventually we can heal from our losses and find joy in other ways, events and companions.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.

 

 

His Name was Walter – Emily Rodda

Standard

x293 (1)

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460756188

ISBN 10: 1460756185

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 23/07/2018

List Price: 22.99 AUD

Oh my gosh!

 

Yes, of course there will be more to say but really this book was so incredible it really did almost leave me speechless. Just when I think Emily Rodda cannot get any better (I mean, I just loved The Shop at Hooper’s Bend!) she comes up with something so extraordinary that it is hard to imagine how any person can be so very talented.

After their excursion bus breaks down on a lonely country road a history teacher and four children are forced to seek shelter in a strange old, once grand, house until they are rescued. The overwhelming atmosphere of the shabby half-ruined place is one of melancholy and malevolence.  When they accidentally discover a very beautiful hand-written and illustrated book in a secret drawer the mystery deepens. The allegorical fairytale written to tell the story of Walter and Sparrow drives Colin and Tara especially, as the most sensitive of the group, to seek the truth behind the story .  While they are all intrigued by the strangely vivid almost lifelike painted illustrations it is the story itself that envelops them and compels them to keep reading throughout the night.

Emily’s book within a book explores the themes of justice, loyalty, compassion and true love all cloaked in a tale filled with magic and murder, prophecies and promises and long-hidden secrets.

As the haunting tale of Walter and Sparrow unravels the children and their teacher are drawn into a poignant and forgotten history until they finally solve the puzzle and at last, though decades later, justice can be served.

What a treat this book is! I read the first three chapters to Year 5 last Friday and you could have heard a pin drop with all of them clamouring for more – fortunately they will get that!

If you haven’t yet added this to your shelves be sure to do so. I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.

 

The Poesy Ring: a love story – Bob Graham

Standard

poesyring

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406378276
Imprint: Walker
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99\

 

This one had slipped through the cracks but certainly not by intention! I love Bob Graham’s books and this one is no exception.

It is the story of the travels of one Irish poesy ring from the time it left the hand of its teary owner as she rode across the downs in 1830 flinging it away until it fetches up in a New York pawnbroker’s shop in 1967.

Demonstrating yet again that he has the ability to create a seemingly simple picture book which actually takes the reader across time and space to deliver a beautiful and poignant message, Bob has created yet another to-be-classic.

Aside from the ring’s own journey what a beautiful way to explore the passing of time, the changing of landscapes and the shifting of circumstances to young children. And how many readers will be thrilled to think about the possibility of hidden forgotten treasures not to mention wondering if the ring – with its inscription of “love never dies” will fulfil its destiny of belonging to someone much loved.

In a broader sense this could well explore the idea that we all wind up where we are meant to be – no matter how long it takes.

Empathy and Books for Children

Standard

fb_adorasvitak-r333

At present our Junior School is focusing on developing empathy with our children and particularly the value of books/shared reading in this process (yay!) so it seems apt to collate some of my current review picture books that fit this agenda.

 

The Day War Came –   Nicola Davies/illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

warcame

Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781406376326
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $24.99

Nicola Davies’ #3000 Chairs campaign came about as a result of her poem published in The Guardian which highlighted the UK Government’s 2016 refusal to allow the entry of 3 000 unaccompanied child refugees as well as her notice of a refugee child being refused admittance to a school because ‘there was no chair for her to sit on’.

Since the poem was published the campaign has been taken up by hundreds of citizens in an unprecedented show of solidarity for the children whose lives have been torn apart by war, famine and persecution.

Now in this beautiful book form readers are invited to see for themselves the tragedy of other children for whom life has taken an almost hopeless turn. With the help of those who truly care and organisations such as Help Refugees and the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Network we can all, each of us, make a difference.

Without being graphic or violent enough to distress young readers, this book gently shows the way in which an innocent child’s life can be completely and utterly turned upside down in a minute.

Highly recommended for young readers from around Year 1 upwards.

 

 

Waves – Donna Rawlins/Heather Potter/Mark Jackson

waves

Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781925381641
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

In a similar vein and for older readers is this beautiful narrative nonfiction book which traces the often perilous journeys of child immigrants to our country from the arrival of First Australian Anak 50 000 years ago to Abdul, his mother and brother seeking asylum in the present time.

For each and every one the vast distance travelled, for some leaving behind not only home but family has been a tremendous and often fraught undertaking. The early European explorers and later settlers, including convicts, the child immigrants from the UK during World War II, the post-war Jewish families, Italians and Dutch assisted passage, the throngs of Vietnamese refugees and the continuing stream of those escaping deadly circumstances are all included. Though the characters are fictional their journeys are realistically described.

As well as each child’s short narrative the book includes factual information at the end making this a superb book for teaching units on Refugees and Immigration.  The glorious illustrations by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson are filled with rich and informative details. Teaching notes are available here.

This is a must have for any primary library and a worthy addition to the classroom curriculum

Ruby in the Ruins – Shirley Hughes

ruby

Walker Books Australia

April 2018

ISBN: 9781406375893

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

Shirley Hughes brings her long expertise to this beautifully evocative picture book which focuses on a little girl’s experience in the aftermath of the London Blitz and the long separation from her daddy. Not surprisingly for so many children during the long years of the war, fathers were often a rather blurry mystery and the reality when they returned home would be quite confronting for little ones.  It would be very difficult for many of our students to even imagine this though there would be some in similar positions now if they have parents serving overseas.

Ruby feels shy with her father, she’s surprised how ‘large’ he is, she doesn’t like sleeping up in the shabby attic instead of with her mother and all in all perhaps is a little disenchanted.

But when she goes adventuring with her playmates amidst the rubble of bombsites and hurts herself it is Dad who rescues her, bandages her knee and doesn’t even rouse on her. For the first time Ruby realises what having a dad around can mean.

Filled with warmth and love this is destined to be another of Hughes’ classic picture books.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 2 upwards.

 

 

Cloud Conductor – Kellie Byrnes/Ann-Marie Finn

cloudconductorsmall

Wombat Books

May 2018

ISBN: 978-1925563344

Price: $24.99 Hardback

 

Frankie is adventurous and busy and blessed with the gift of a wonderful imagination. This is an immense positive as she deals with her ongoing illness and not only can she imagine herself away from her bed and hospital room but realises she can also inspire the other children to create their own fantastical adventures.

Being a cloud conductor means you can create symphonies of animals running across the sky or listening to the music whispering on the air.

Healthy and hardy children can often find it hard to comprehend what it might mean to be chronically ill and may not always feel the level of empathy we might hope for from them.

This is a gentle and lyrical way to explore this idea and perhaps consider how we can also inspire our friends when things are not going so well.

Recommended for readers from around Year 1 upwards.

 

 

Visiting You : a  Journey of Love – Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Andrea Edmonds

visiting

Exisle Publishing

9781925335668

RRP $24.99

As a little child and his mother take their trip to visit their own loved one the child is curious about fellow travellers and asks them ‘Who are you going to visit?’.

Such a simple question which reveals to the reader one infallible truth – that love is everywhere. No matter how different people might look – large, young, old, tattooed – we are all connected in a universal human experience. And under a mother’s supervision, the child’s ingenuous conversations reveal this as a father explains how he loves to play with his little girl or an old man visits his much-loved wife in the cemetery or a mother goes to see her injured son at the hospital.

Such a story encourages readers to look past the differences and seek out what makes us similar and how we are part of a community wherever we live.

A beautiful exploration of acceptance and the power of love.

https://youtu.be/UclU7ouo6Ak

 

 

Along Came a Different – Tom McLaughlin

different

Bloomsbury

May 2018

RRP $21.99

ISBN: 9781408888926
Imprint: Bloomsbury

Children’s Books

 

Following on that theme of accepting differences this is a very lively and rather amusing take on this topic.

Reds love being red. Yellows love being yellow. And Blues love being blue. The problem is that they just don’t like each other.

Soon the sparring colours are establishing rules to keep everyone and everything separate so they don’t have to put up with each other and it’s all a bit silly really. But that all comes crashing down when yet another colour comes along who actually likes everyone  – no matter what they are!

And then before too long another and another and finally a whole rainbow of colours when everyone realises, just a little embarrassed, how ridiculous the whole separate thing was.

This is a really fun and light way to have children start a discussion about acceptance others no matter what their outward appearance or differences.

Highly recommended for Preps upwards.

Paper Cranes Don’t Fly – Peter Vu

Standard

cranes

Ford St

August 2017

ISBN 9781925272765

RRP $19.95

Exquisitely poignant and so beautifully written this is a young adult book which will touch the hearts of every reader. There have been other books that look at the lives of young people with life-threatening or terminal illnesses but this is the first I’ve read that really offers the reader true insight from the point of view of the patient.

Three young adults have grown up together as the closest of friends. From their first meeting in Prep they have been inseparable.  Adam, Ambrose (AJ) and Tess are the trio who form the centre of this novel. Their love for each other is deep and without reservation.  They are more bonded than some siblings and even in high school when they are at different locations they still are as close as ever. Except for the all times that Adam is in hospital but even then AJ and Tess are by his side as often as they can be either in person or via technology.

Adam has grown up with a small benign brain tumour but over the years the tumour has started to become more troublesome often causing extensive hospital visits. He is quite the favourite there as he has developed close relationships with staff. Just as these young people are about to step over the threshold into their adult lives, Adam’s tumour becomes even more aggressive and ultimately serves him a life sentence.

In the final long months of his life, Adam has started to write down his story from the first beginnings of friendship with his two closest companions to his daily life in the hospital. It is this which we read giving us an intimate and warming insight into the care of patients for whom hospital is a second home.  This is not only another ‘young cancer victim’ narrative but a deeply personal look at how unconditional love, support, patience and compassion can transform the unspeakable into something beautiful.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As we seek to model to our students the transformational effects of love and empathy, this is exactly the sort of book which can demonstrate this without preaching.

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 upwards.