Title: Jacaranda Magic
Author: Dannika Patterson
Illustrator: Megan Forward
Publisher: Ford St Publishing
Five friends are feeling bored on a hot sticky day. Just when they think they’ll never find anything fun to play, A simple gust of wind changes everything …
Things I love: reading, picture books, children engaging in imaginative play, and the magnificent blooms of Jacaranda trees.
Ford St Publishing’s author, Dannika Patterson, has captured my heart’s delight. Jacaranda Magic is magic by title, and magic by words, with Dannika’s wordsmithing weaving a tale of rhyme and rhythm that will have you diving into the pages of imagination, making you long for the days of fresh purple snow.
Illustrator, Megan Forward, has gifted the words with illustrations that bring the children’s imaginations to life, filling the pages with potions of purple, with action bouncing off each of the pages, except when the children are bored—and everyone knows what bored looks like.
I highly recommend Jacaranda Magic. It is filled with rhyme that is blissfully satisfying to read aloud, with a rhythm and meter that allows the reader to fall into a dream state as the story weaves and uplifts, painting happy, sunshiny days of adventure under magical Jacaranda trees. This story is certain to delight girls and boys as it is read again and again, inspiring them to appreciate nature, live in the moment, and imagine their own adventures, as well as acting out the ones in the book. And when you thought you couldn’t love the book anymore, there is the theme of friendship – children enjoying life together, creating precious childhood memories to be cherished forever.
I know what I’m reading under the Jacaranda tree when it blooms every year, with a wishy-wishy-wish. Do you?
Julieann is a published author and illustrator who is continually inspired by the gift of imagination and the power of words. When she is not disappearing into her imaginary worlds as Julieann Wallace – children’s author, or as Amelia Grace – fiction novelist, she is working as a book designer, editor and book magician for other authors. Julieann is a self-confessed tea ninja and Cadbury Chocoholic, has a passion for music and art, and tries not to scare off her cat, Claude Monet, with her terrible cello playing.
When I was a teacher, there was a question I used with kids. Frequently.
‘Are you okay?’
And then it was my job to listen without judgement, and to take it from there. Sometimes it was even before a child stepped foot into the classroom in the morning.
There’s an issue that seems to be escalating in society. Bullying.
Here’s the thing about bullying … It’s a worldwide problem.
Here’s the thing about bullies … Once, they were not a bully. They weren’t born with that trait. They’re vulnerable people, like everyone else. There is an underlying hurt that all bullies carry, and they are trying to mend it, to feel better. There’s something in their lives that they have no control over, so they lash out with the belief that it will make them feel better. Except it doesn’t, and they get caught in a cycle that damages themselves as well as their target. Their behaviour is a reflection of someone who is bullying them, or of something about themselves that they hate. Their aggressive behaviour is covering up their low self-esteem, in an attempt to feel better about themselves. When they are not surrounded by their ‘friends’, they tend not to bully.
Here’s the thing about people. Including bullies … We all need to belong. We all need to feel that we are accepted. We all need to feel that we are loved.
Here’s the thing about being human … We’re not all the same. We never will be. Our differences are what makes our world interesting, and alive, and colourful. And that’s the way it is meant to be. It’s something to be celebrated.
Here’s the bottom line … We live in an imperfect world. There will always be bullies – verbal bullies, physical bullies, social bullies, the bullying of exclusion, cyber bullies, etc. Schools seem to cop the barrage of blame. But bullies aren’t just at school, they’re at work, at home, at parties, at sport, at art class, dance class … everywhere.
What to do … Let’s get off the blame-game merry-go-round. There are too many bruised and broken souls and a trail of irreparable destruction from bullying. And death.
It’s time to make a change, for the bullied, and the bully. To date, we have tried to focus on the bully exclusively, with limited success. We have tried to give the bullied strategies to stop the bullying, with limited success. It’s time to look around. What do you see? Bystanders. They have the power to change everything. Everything.
There’s a saying for when something bad happens –
“Look for the helpers, there’s always helpers!”
Let’s apply it to bullying situations –
“Look for the bystanders, there’s always bystanders!”
Here’s the thing about bystanders – you have already seen them in action … they are the heroes …
Have you ever watched a sportsperson pull a team member away from a fight? That’s a bystander. Have you ever watched a sportsperson touch an angry team mate’s shoulder and told them to let it go, and remove them from the situation? That’s a bystander. Have you ever watched a team gather around one of their own players and remove them from the volatility of the situation? That’s a bystander. That’s what bystanders do. And it’s about distraction, diffusing a volatile situation, dispelling the destructive energy aimed at another person.
A bystander can be anyone. They can be the bully’s friend. They can be the bullied’s friend. They’re standing by. Observing.
It’s time to take action.
But here’s another less well-known fact about bystanders … If there’s a group of people, less of them will step in to help. Why? It’s called the ‘bystander effect’. And it’s a social phenomenon. People don’t like to step out of their comfort zone, in front of others. People think that someone will do something first, and they wait for others to take that step.
Here’s the thing about schools … Education empowers. Schools and teachers work with dedication to help our children. Always. We have the ‘High Five’ strategy to deal with bullies. Children know what bully behaviour looks and feels like. But now we need to educate our kids about the “bystander effect”. We need to tell them not to wait for another person to do something – because that person is waiting for someone else, which leads to nobody helping.
We need to encourage others to step boldly. STEP. BOLDLY. Be courageous.
I was helping at a party once. It was full of teenagers. There was a magnificent creation of birthday cupcakes and the happy birthday song was sung. But then, no one came forward to take a cupcake to eat. How strange …
I’m an observer, an analyser, a problem solver. I knew there was nothing wrong with the cupcakes. The problem wasn’t the cupcakes, it was a social entity. I watched as one brave soul stepped forward and took a cupcake, and guess what, so did the others.
It takes just one person to step out of their comfort zone. Step boldly.
Here’s the thing about the responsibility of being part of the human race … It’s about looking out for your mates. It’s about knowing what is right and wrong and taking a stand. Bullying is always wrong. Everyone knows that.
Here’s the thing about accountability …
We all have a choice. What will you choose? I encourage you to step boldly, if you are a bystander, if it is safe for you to do so. If not, call for help. Don’t expect someone else to do it.
To the bully and the bullied … helpers are everywhere … reach out.
Title: Mo, The Daring Dingo
by: Diane Evans
illustrated by: Ian Faulkner
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Mo is a daring little dingo with an adventurous spirit that is always getting him into trouble.
Author, Diane Evans, has written a story about Mo, a dingo pup who has bitten off more than he can chew. His mother recognises his excessive energy and fearlessness and tries as she might, to calm him down and keep him safe. However, the dingo pup is determined to explore the world and dreams of great adventures. He has set a stunning waterfall in his sights for a quest, and along the journey he meets other animals who stop him and ask him where he is going. They all give him a warning about a crocodile at the waterfall. But Mo thinks he is faster, smarter and stronger than the crocodile. Until he meets the crocodile…
Illustrator, Ian Faulkner, has created colourful images to depict the story. There are even a couple of fairies who make a regular appearance on the pages, which may lead to discussion about what they represent in the story.
Mo, The Daring Dingo is a fun book about a dingo pup with excess energy who thinks he is invincible. It’s a book about experience, which is the best teacher.
Title: Digby and the Yodelayhee … Who?
by: Renee Price
illustrated by: Anil Tortop
Publisher: Create It Kids
Yodelayhee! What could it be?… Digby Fixit is perplexed. What or who is making that super-duper sound? Join Digby and his very-bestest friends, as they help solve the mystery of the noisy noise, with some toe-tapping fun along the way.
After reading Digby and the Yodelayhee … Who? by talented author and musician, Renee Price, you will find yourself in a yodelay-ing hip mood. Renee has cleverly incorporated musical instruments, onomatopoeia, repetition of words and a mystery into her tale – all ingredients that will make this book a favourite on anyone’s bookshelf. And as the icing on the cake, Renee has recorded her own catchy song to accompany the book. Listen to Digby’s Jam here:https://soundcloud.com/renee-price/digbys-jam
The ever-incredible illustrator, Anil Tortop, has created colourful pictures throughout the book, ensuring children’s eyes are glued to the tale as it unwinds. She has also added a curious cat who is up to mischief on most of the page spreads, that is sure to delight. Watch Anil drawing in action:https://vimeo.com/190977962
I highly recommend Digby and the Yodelayhee … Who?
It is a feel good book with multi-dimensions that can be used in many ways.
For educational settings, students will love joining in with the actions of the music, as well as creating their own musical instruments to go with the story. An essential activity to accompany this book would be to have students retell the story from the cat’s point of view. This is an essential book to have at home, school or the library.
Title: Meet … Sidney Nolan
by: Yvonne Mes
illustrated by: Sandra Eterovic
Publisher: Random House Australia
Sidney Nolan is one of Australia’s most admired and recognised visual artists. This is the story of how he developed his iconic Ned Kelly series of paintings, brought modernist art to Australia and took Australian art to an admiring international audience.
Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly. There’s a connection between the two that may be unknown to some Australians. Fortunately, author Yvonne Mes, has highlighted their association and brought Sir Sidney Robert Nolan, OM. AC. (1917-1992) to life in her book, Meet … Sidney Nolan.
At first glance, the cover of the picture book is striking, calling you closer, inviting you to open the pages and look inside. When you do, you won’t be disappointed. Yvonne Mes retells the life of Sidney Nolan with gentle attention at first, reminding me of being called to sit in a group and wait in anticipation for important information. And it is important. It is the story of Sidney Nolan – one of Australia’s leading artists of the 20th century, his work being among the most diverse and prolific in all of modern art. As the story continues, Yvonne uses her words to paint the story of Sidney’s life in your mind, and it is action packed, urging you to turn the pages to find out more. It soon becomes apparent that Sidney Nolan’s life had many twists and turns. He was daring, brave, and a “rebel on the run”.
Yvonne’s story is also a story about persistence. Sidney was turned down with his paintings numerous times, but he never gave up. He “poured his feelings about war and violence onto the hardboard. He poured the adventures of his youth. He poured his modernist ideas. And he poured his secrets that would forever remain hidden behind the Ned Kelly’s mask”.
Illustrator, Sandra Eterovic, has created vibrant, stunning illustrations, and you can’t help but notice the style is somewhat similar to Sidney Nolan’s painting style which is rich in colour, and striking in composition. I applaud Sandra’s work. She honoured Sidney Nolan with her illustrations.
I highly recommend Meet … Sidney Nolan as a valuable resource for informing, educating and celebrating the life and wondrous achievements of one of Australia’s significant modern artists, Sidney Nolan, as well as introducing students to the concept of modernism in art.
Yvonne Mes referred to Sidney Nolan in the her story as, “he painted many magnificent stories”. I believe Yvonne wrote a magnificent story about Sidney Nolan. This is one of my books to treasure.
Title: The Whirlpool
by: Emily Larkin
illustrated by: Helene Magisson
Publisher: Wombat Books
Life is full of brightness for one polar bear cub. But then shadows fall … and his world changes. The little cub must learn to hope again.
The Whirlpool is a beautiful story about feeling sad and happy, lonely and loved, small and big. This gentle, emotive tale will help children navigate their way through the ups and downs of life. There is a whirlpool in all of us.
One moment the world is your oyster, and in the next moment, the world swallows you whole. Author, Emily Larkin has created a poignant, simple story describing the emotional journey and turmoil that can follow children and adults alike in our walk in life. A polar bear cub is the main character in The Whirlpool. We follow his journey, feeling his joy and happiness at the world and people around him. Even the stars shine for him. He can’t put a foot wrong…
But then comes the whirlpool … closing in and pulling him down into the depths of sadness and loneliness, hiding the brightest stars. As time passes, a new star finally peeks out from the ocean sky. The polar bear cub smiles. It’s a new day.
Emily Larkin has approached the subject of ‘swirling’ emotions that a child may experience on their quest in life with a gentle, non-judgmental acceptance. Children will relate to the emotions of the polar bear cub in a non-threatening way, and may even think, ‘Hey – that’s me.’
A crucial part of this story is when the polar bear cub comes through the cycle of sad days, and inhales the colours around him again. The importance of this ending is significant, and can be healing, calming and overflowing with hope for children who feel that their sad days will never end.
Emily Larkin’s message to her readers is simple, but highly effective in the recognition and acknowledgement of life’s emotive journey. Children need to know that life is not always happy and fun. It can be full of blue days and sad times too, but these will pass.
Illustrator, Helene Magisson, has captured the changes of emotion in the story with her effective use of colour and changes in facial expressions on the polar bear cub. These elements reach out to the reader and touch the heart, creating a bond and empathy.
In a world of darkness and light, inside and outside of ourselves, The Whirlpool is a welcome story that may help children feel they are not so alone after all, and on the inside, we all feel the same way at different times in our lives. The Whirlpool’s value in open discussions about our inner emotions is considerable, and may lift the weight of life’s journey from some children, and help them to see the stars and breathe the colours around them again.
Title: Harrison’s Song
Written by: Harrison Craig
Illustrated by: Ann-Marie Finn
Published by: Wombat Books
Harrison is a bit different to the other kids. Each time he tries to speak, he stutters. No matter how hard he tries, his tongue feels tied up in knots. That is, until one day when Harrison discovers his talent … Harrison’s Song tells the story of how Harrison overcame adversity because he just wanted to share the love and words inside him.
Harrison’s Song is a book of triumph. It’s a true story about a boy with a speech impediment who became a target for teasing and isolation at school. But through the difficult days, Harrison found something unique to himself. Something that would lift him higher than he ever thought he could go. Something that made him shine through and above his stuttering.
Harrison Craig on ‘The Voice – Australia’
Harrison Craig has not only gifted his voice to the world through singing, he has now gifted children his words through his story, Harrison’s Song, encouraging children to believe that good things will come, and that when times are tough, it takes courage to step outside your comfort zone.
This picture book is not just for children, however. It is for parents as well. Watching a child lose their bounce and happiness due to bullying at school is heart wrenching and beyond devastating, and parents always battle to find something that will return confidence and happiness to their child to restore balance to their world again. Harrison Craig’s book, Harrison’s Song, oozes with hope for parents and children alike.
Children love illustrations in picture books. They grab the attention of the reader way before the words are read. And illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn, has done this from the outset with the front cover, where she has portrayed Harrison Craig singing on ‘The Voice, Australia’, which he won in 2013. Ann-Marie has captured the essence of Harrison Craig with her colourful illustrations throughout the story. The depiction of his feelings in the facial expressions draws the reader to make an emotional connection with Harrison, experiencing his sadness, his worry and his self-doubt, then finally his immense happiness while he is singing, leaving the reader with a positive vibe of satisfaction and achievement.
Children are often surprised to hear the back-story of famous people and their journey of difficulties, and Harrison’s story is no exception. This book will open up discussion in homes and educational settings about people around them, and help to focus on strength and ability, instead of perceived weakness and disability. Everyone has a light within them, ready to shine to make the world a better place.
The Three Legged Kangaroo From Uluru
By Michelle Worthington
Illustrated by Dave Atze
Published by Big Sky Publishing
The three legged kangaroo from Uluru is different. But when a man with a tan in a funny red van stumbles into the outback, this little kangaroo sets off on an amazing journey from the red rock to the blue waves. He discovers that belonging to a family is about celebrating what makes us unique.
The magnificent Uluru, sun, surf, beach and a Kombi van, plus Australian animals—it’s all in TheThree Legged Kangaroo From Uluru, written by multi-published, international award winning author Michelle Worthington, and wonderfully illustrated by Dave Atze.
A young kangaroo is laughed at by others, as his kinked tail makes him look like he has three legs instead of two. When a red rickety, ticket Kombi van comes looking for the beach but accidentally rocks up in the middle of Australia at Uluru, the three legged kangaroo greets the tourists with kindness, and hears about ‘waves’ in W.A. The three legged kangaroo joins his new friends and goes in search of the famous waves. With a new found love of surfing, the kangaroo masters riding the waves with an incredibly perfect balance, and discovers a new tribe of people who celebrate his success and uniqueness, and accept him as he is.
Illustrator, Dave Atze, has created an adorable kangaroo with varying facial expressions that give the character an instant likeable status. The colours throughout the book are vibrant, inviting and fun, and you will find yourself smiling due to the huge dose of cuteness that oozes from the kangaroo on every page.
Children will enjoy this feel good story. They will join in with the chanting of the kangaroo’s name as the new friends celebrate the new member of their beach family. The Three Legged Kangaroo From Uluru is a wonderful tale highly recommended for discussion about choosing to look at ability, instead of focusing on disability.
title: The Three Legged Kangaroo From Uluru
author: Michelle Worthington
illustrator: Dave Atze
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
ISBN: 9781925520392 (PB)
ISBN: 9781925520415 (HB)