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.
This is just a wonderful heart-warming book on many levels and has introduced me to not only a new author but new information.
Libby Malone is 12 years old and passionate about science so much so that she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. Her favourite scientist is the over-looked Cecilia Payne – first woman Astronomy Chair at Harvard and the first person to postulate the theories on what stars are made of – work which was discounted but then appropriated by men in the field.
Libby also has Turner Syndrome – a condition of birth that has affected her physical development in many ways – but about which she is pretty pragmatic although she does sometimes wish she had a friend other than the school library.
Her older sister Nonny, whom she adores, is now married and living away from the family but returns when her husband has to go away to work and she is pregnant and needs to have a safe haven. Libby worries over Nonny’s baby and the fact that Nonny and Thomas are struggling financially. Her mind races with ‘what ifs’ and so she inspired to take up a challenge that could change their lives and help them secure a home of their own. She determines to enter a new Women in STEM competition initiated by the Smithsonian and of course she has the perfect subject in her much revered Cecilia.
At the same time new girl Talia arrives at the school and like Libby she also stands out from the crowd mostly because she is Samoan. The pair forms a tentative but increasingly stronger friendship which sees them both encourage and support each other through crises and challenges, and ultimately rejoice together.
This has much of the same deep ‘feels’ as books such as Wonder and will appeal to upper primary/early secondary students in just the same way. Libby encounters and triumphs over the petty meanness of both the ubiquitous school bully boy and an even more odious adult, editor of her school history textbook. She and Talia both pursue their goals with determination and singular focus and both have the measure of success they both need to affirm their chosen paths. And of course, the arrival of baby Cecilia, though not without its dramas, is the magical icing on Libby’s cake.
The warmth and love of family and special friendship, self-pride and identity are all well teased out concepts in this novel and the reader feels immense connection with the characters.
I would recommend it highly for readers from around 10 years upwards and certainly if you have kiddos who have loved Wonder then this would be a natural to add to their ‘If you liked…’ list.
More for the Peppa Pig fans coming your way! The Pig family and their happy adventures are the stuff little people’s dreams are made of really so it’s just as well the books just keep on coming to complement the television show.
George and the Dinosaur
If you put together the Pig family and dinosaurs you’re bound to be on a winner! George Pig and his little friends are all fossil mad so it’s a really exciting outing when Peppa, George and Mummy Pig plus George’s friends all get to go on a beach exploration with Miss Rabbit the Fossil Hunter.
Miss Rabbit (think Mary Anning!) really knows her stuff when it comes to fossils of all kinds, not to mention dinosaurs and she’s pretty impressed with George’s friend Edmond and his knowledge as well.
While Peppa gets a bit discouraged not finding anything and turns to building a sandcastle, George finds a huge rock with mysterious promise.
Imagine the wild delight when the rock is taken to the museum, split open to reveal a complete dinosaur skeleton!
Peppa Pig: Super Peppa!
Dinosaurs on one cover and a glittery sparkly rainbow on another – way to get those little ones grabbing a book off the shelf!
Peppa and her classmates are most excited to be doing some school work solely focused on them but when Miss Gazelle asks them to come in costume as their dream occupation of the future, Peppa is at a loss to think what she could be. After all, she’s not really super at anything is she?
But when she gets down to things asking her adult friends and her parents, she takes Mummy Pig’s advice about believing in herself to heart and discovers that she’s super at all kinds of things.
And when George starts playing with his Super Tato toy (yes I have one too!) Peppa is struck with inspiration for her costume.
Peppa Pig: [the] Easter Bunny
Format: Board Book
And not forgetting the littlest fans of all here’s a new board book to add to their collection.
Peppa and George decide they want to have a surprise Easter Egg Hunt for their friends and ask Daddy Pig for help. As always, Daddy is great at putting together costumes and soon the dress-up box has provided the wherewithal to transform Peppa into an Easter Bunny and George into an Easter Chick.
When the little friends come over the egg hunt they are mightily surprised when the Easter Bunny and Chick pop out of the garden!
Another really cute little book to share with the tiniest of your lap-sitters.
All three are bound to sure-fire hits with your young readers.
ISBN: 9781760651251 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Australian RRP: $26.99 New Zealand RRP: $28.99
I’d like to introduce you to Tedward who has been my constant companion for 62 years and 2 months. He was given to me for my first Christmas when I was two months old. He no longer has much left of his German mohair fur, his tummy growl has not worked for many many years but his glass eyes still twinkle with the light of love.
In many respects Tedward is very like Nop in their shabbiness and rather unkempt appearance but poor Nop is not loved nor does he have a true friend.
Nop has lived in the Dumporeum for a long time, ignored and passed over by the crafters around him and those who select other refurbished toys to take home, despite the new bowtie he has given himself. But Nop is not going to let this determine his fate. Using all his ingenuity and courage he creates his own wonderful hot air balloon and takes off into a new life, one in which he discovers a special friend.
Caroline’s newest book is another gentle and beautifully illustrated offering in which the values of self-belief and acceptance are strongly but subtly underlined. Nop may have been unwanted and ignored in the Dumporeum but as the special bear-friend of a wise orang-utan becomes highly regarded and well loved.
Another sumptuous treasure of a book from this talented writer/illustrator!
Highly recommended for readers of all ages from littlies upwards.
Thank you Caroline for allowing me to use this delightful rough from Nop’s illustrative process! Stay posted for a Q&A with this amazing artist coming up in the New Year!