Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A Recent Change of Importance to Followers

Followers of this blog have always had the option of being notified by email each time I post something new. This function was delivered by email from the blog through a service called 'Feedburner'. You accessed this simply by adding your email to the 'Feedburner' widget on the side bar of my site. 

Google has decided to end this service in about a week. So in order to ensure my followers remain subscribed, I have added a free equivalent service and transferred all email notifications to this new trusted service. This means you will continue to receive email notifications when I upload a new post. This service is called 'follow.it' and is free. 

This change will ensure you receive an email notification each time I post something. If you don't currently receive a notification each time I post, you might like to subscribe as well, by using the link on the sidebar of my blog.

Thanks so much for following my blog

Trevor Cairney




Thursday, August 5, 2021

Children's Literature that Invites & Encourages Resilience - 6 Great Picture Books to Share

As I write this post in my home city of Sydney, we are locked down yet again due to our latest outbreak of Covid-19. Children are doing school at home disconnected from friends and their extended families. The world seems so different to them, and many wonder when things will return to normal. At such worrying times children's literature is a key resource to help them reflect and cope with life. Books can help children to see how courage and resilience give us strength to cope with many things. We talk much about resilience, but for children it is often hard for them to articulate why they feel sad, let alone know what they can do about it. Story is a wonderful way to shine a light on hidden fears, frustrations and deferred hopes. Bringing these to the surface can enable support to be given. Here are just six of the many books for children that address the broad theme of resilience.

1. 'Sad the Dog' by Sandy Fussell (Author), Tull Suwannakit (Illustrator)

This is the story of a clever little dog whose owners didn't even give him a name. Although they feed him and wash him, they don’t appreciate his many gifts, like his love of singing (“stop that yapping!”). When the people move, they simply leave him behind. He christens himself "Sad" and is heartbroken. But one day, a new family with a young boy arrives at Sad’s house in a big truck. Over time, it becomes clear that the boy is just the right person to make his life complete.


In its own way, this simple story offers an insight into how with support we can become stronger and more resilient even when our world is turned upside down.  

When his family leaves, Sad is heartbroken. But a new family with a young boy arrives at Sad’s house in a big truck, and it becomes clear that the boy is just the right person to make his life complete. Sandy Fussell's engaging story and Tull Suwannakit's illustrations combine to make this book memorable.

2. 'A Boy His Bear and a Bully' by Katie Flannigan & illustrated by P.J. Reece

For some kids, school is a place full of friends and fun. For others, though, it is a lonely place where bullies pick on them and it feels impossible to be brave. In this story we meet Scott, Buttons and Duncan, otherwise known as A Boy, His Bear and a Bully. All the ingredients needed for a special story.


The main character Scott, in his insecurity, takes Buttons to school every day to help him feel brave. But in spite of this Duncan the bully is still mean to him. He calls him "Scott no friends" tears up his painting, calls him names and steals his play lunch. But when Buttons goes missing he is devastated. Where does he look now to find his courage? But with inner strength, he surprises himself. On dress-up day he wears his dinosaur suit and somehow finds his 'brave' and no-one is more surprised than Duncan the bully.


Bullying is very real for many children which they often endure alone. But this sensitive book will allow parents and teachers to shine a light on challenges of this type. Scott's bravery inspires others to dig deep to find their inner strength.


Katie Flannigan is a full-time children's author. She worked once in the health industry as an Occupational Therapist. She was awarded a Maurice Saxby Mentorship award in 2016. Katie lives in Melbourne with her husband, three children and many dogs.


PJ Reece is an Australian illustrator. His delightful pen/pencil and wash illustrations help to bring this lovely story to life.

3. 'The Most Magnificent Thing' by Ashley Spires

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has written and illustrated a delightful book about a girl and her dog, that is her best friend. It's a story about a little girl with grand ideas. She decides one day that she wants to make something that is truly magnificent!


In her mind, she can see just what this grand thing will be like, so she sets off to make it with the help of her dog. While she can make lots of things, the "magnificent thing" she wants to make proves to be a challenge. While she can see it in her mind, it proves much harder to create it. Instead of it being "Easy-peasy" as she thought, it's hard, and her many attempts don't live up to the plans in her mind.


Eventually, the girl gets "really, really mad". She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But her dog is having none of this and convinces her to take him for a walk. When they come back she suddenly decides that she should try again, and not give up.


She decides that she will “make” her magnificent thing. She sets out to do so and "tinkers and hammers", measures, smooths, wrenches, fiddles, twists, tweaks and fastens. And while it never quite lives up to the image she had in her mind of the magnificent thing, she does complete her project and gains great satisfaction from the creation.   


This wonderful book is helpful not just for allowing teachers and parents to discuss with their children what it means to persevere, but also to reflect on what it means to demonstrate resilience. It will help teachers and parents to open up many discussions about the human need to set personal goals and challenges. In doing this, it will help to be prepare them for challenges, and to know how to work through them with other people. It is suitable for children ages 5-8 years.

 4. 'Little Frida' by Anthony Browne

This isn't a new book, but Anthony Browne's book about the life of Frida Kahlo was a worthy winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. He is a former Children's Laureate and twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. It is a story that will inspire young readers when faced with difficulties and challenges in life. The life of Freda Kahlo demonstrated that with resilience, hope and determination we can get through many difficult things.

Freda Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico in 1907. Her father Wilhelm (also called Guillermo), was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde.


Around the age of six, Kahlo contracted polio, which caused her to be bedridden for nine months. While she recovered from the illness, she limped when she walked because the disease had damaged her right leg and foot. But her father encouraged her to play soccer, go swimming, and even wrestle. This was highly unusual for a girl in the early 20th Century, but he saw it as a road to recovery. 


There have been many books written about this famous artist but Anthony Browne has created a special picture book, that will bring the remarkable story of Frida Kahlo to a new generation and inspire them to consider what resilience can look like even when life throws up big challenges.


As well, the book explores the themes of belonging and hope. The story of Frida's lonely life, and how she discovered the power of her own imagination to open up new worlds of possibility, is inspirational. It is a wonderful book for 5-8 year olds. It also has a brief biography of Frida Kahlo at the back that parents and teachers will want to share after they've read Browne's story.

5. 'Dandelion' by Galvin Scott Davis and illustrated by Anthony Ishinjerro (Random House Australia and digital media company Protein)

Galvin Scott Davis and illustrated by Anthony Ishinjerro (Random House Australia and digital media company Protein)

This a wonderful picture book that focuses on the theme of bullying. Galvin Scott Davis explains its genesis:

The story for Dandelion came about when my son experienced bullying at school. As a parent, you are supposed to have all the answers, right? But as we all know, that is not necessarily the case. What to do? I needed to put myself in my son's shoes, draw on my own past experiences and offer him a solution to help him feel comfortable at school again.

This is an exciting project, starting out first as a concept by a Dad whose son was bullied which was then funded by people who like him wanted to say something about bullying to encourage those experiencing it. First there was the idea, then an app before finally a hard-covered book. The illustrations and animation are beautiful. In both formats the unusual sepia tone illustrations of Anthony Ishinjerro capture the reader/viewer and the white, block-letter text stands out from the black pages to support text in the form of rhyming couplets.

Whatever form you experience it, (app or book) it is a story that will encourage parents, teachers and children to talk about bullying and look at whether some problems can be solved with a little imagination and resilience.

6. 'Sunday Chutney' by Aaron Blabey

It's also exciting to see Aaron Blabey back again. This remarkable new talent is shortlisted for the second year in a row. His first book 'Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley' won the Picture Book of the Year award in 2008. You can read more about Blabey in my Author Focus on him (here).

The new girl at school has a glamourous life. What more could she want? Sunday Chutney is not your ordinary every-day girl. Sunday has lived everywhere and been everywhere. The only problem is this means she is always the new girl at school and she never really has a place to call come. But Sunday doesn't mind, not really. After all, she doesn't care what people think, she loves her own company, she has heaps of imaginary friends, so many important interests that keep her very busy . . . and traveling is so glamorous. What more could Sunday Chutney want?

The trouble is that Sunday Chutney always feels different. And as the one who is always the "new kid" that has its challenges. But somehow, in spite of the challenges, she doesn't seem to care. Why? She has learnt to enjoy her own company. And the secret is her excellent imagination, many interests. While there are lots of things she doesn't like - her lazy eye, creamed corn, sand in her swimmers, the first lunchtime at each school, bullies and grumps - she likes lots of things too. Like her own company, her own imagination, crumpets, marine biology, worthy causes and her optometrist. It seems that while she wished she moved less, Sunday Chutney has worked out that while lonely at times, she isn't much she would prefer, except perhaps, keeping the same home.