Matty has everything going for him - a loving family, great friends, great skills on the soccer field and pretty good grades at school - which should add up to a great life right? Well they did, until recently. When soccer season started this year Matty found he couldn't get himself onto the pitch without sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat and a mind that kept telling him he wasn't good enough. And he couldn't figure out why. Things got worse when he began dodging his friends calls and texts, missing birthday parties, not doing homework and avoiding school. He felt guilty, scared, angry and sad with himself, and all he really wanted to do was sleep the world away. But one morning his dad convinced him to go for a walk in the local national park where they came across an abandoned dog. Matty felt an instant connection to this small, frightened creature. After coaxing him into their car, taking him to the vet and eventually being allowed to adopt him and bring him home, 'Cliff' and Matty become inseparable. Cliff has 'good days and bad days', and as the dog begins to heal, Matty realises that he needs help to heal too. He summons up all his courage to eventually tell his dad that he thinks he might be depressed, to which his dad replies 'You've no idea how brave you're being by telling me that.' This is one of my favourite moments of the book. Kate Foster writes with such clarity, compassion and understanding about Matty's struggles. There is a beautiful empathy and strength that shines through in this story, and the relief Matty feels after he finally tells his closest friends about his depression is palpable. As is the surprise when he discovers that someone else his own age, whom he would never have suspected, is suffering from severe anxiety. This is my other favourite moment in the book as it is Matty's realisation that he is not alone.
Animals, especially dogs (sorry but I'm totally biased about this!) are the perfect listeners and companions for when we're not feeling great. They know when we need a snuggle and will goof around with us when we're happy. They are like mirrors into our souls, emotional soothsayers, and seem to have an innate understanding of exactly what we need at any given time. Cliff was Matty's ideal companion.
Kate's own experience with depression has no doubt given her an invaluable, first hand insight into this illness. Her writing is filled with emotion, and the story is meaningful and transparent without being patronising or reductive. This is an important, must have, highly recommended novel for upper primary and middle school.
Matty is not alone as a young man suffering with depression as, according to the Beyond Blue organisation, one in seven young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year. If you are suffering from mental health issues you can contact Headspace, Kids Helpine or Reachout.
Themes for teaching could include mental health, depression, anxiety, friendship, courage, self awareness, dogs, pets as therapy, families and father-son relationships.
Find out more about Kate Foster.
Release date May 4, 2022. Published by Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781760654719 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 9 +
School's out for the summer and eleven year old Alberta Bracken (or Birdy for short) is looking forward to sun, surf and hanging with her friends at the beach. But something's not right. Her best friend Sylvie is 'ghosting' her and not returning any calls or texts, her mum and dad are acting weird and her little sister, Clementine, is even more annoying than usual. Then she gets pushed off her bike by Seth Cromby and brakes her arm and has to have it in plaster for six weeks! There go her summer holiday plans. Things get even worse when her mum (bestselling author of Tammy Bracken's Guide To Modern Manners) and dad separate because he has been having a 'thing' with someone in town. Now she knows why everyone has been acting strange. How will she get through the holidays with no friends, a broken arm and a family that is falling apart? Enter Mikki Watanabe. He's from Birdy's school but they don't really know each other - yet. Mikki has just returned from Japan and invites Birdy to hang out at his place. He's is a budding film maker and really loves trees. He tells Birdy about 'forest bathing' and how trees communicate with each other, and the more Mikki tells her, the more curious Birdy becomes. They begin making YouTube nature shorts about a pine grove they discover hidden deep in the local forest, only to be shocked to learn it will be cut down soon! They HAVE to save these beautiful, ancient trees, but how?
This new story from Marion Roberts focuses on friendship, forests, and family. Her main characters introduce us to the science science of tree communication and their interconnectedness, and the importance of trees to our planet and our own wellbeing. She tackles the difficult issues of separation and kleptomania in a language that is easily accessible and relatable for tween readers, and at the heart of the story is the underlying theme of forgiveness. For young activists the story also provides concrete ideas on how to become involved in and promote a cause they are passionate about, without being didactic or out of reach for that age group. A quirky, warm hearted novel that will strike the right chord with its readers.
Themes for the classroom include families, friendship, social media, activism, forest bathing, the environment, risk taking, resilience, bullying and forgiveness. Access teacher notes here
Find out more about Marion Roberts
Published 2022 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760526795 (PB)
Recommended for ages 9 to 13
In this latest book from Sharon Giltrow we find a young girl and her mother getting ready for school. Except this is no ordinary morning routine. In this warm and funny story we see the roles reversed, with the young child urging her mama to get out of bed, get dressed (and help her put the clothes on the right way), eat breakfast, get her shoes on and finally get out the door and be on the way to school. When they arrive at school mama wants one more hug, one more kiss and a pinkie promise that they will see each other later. Parents will relate to the morning rush and the extrication of limbs and goodbyes at the school gate before the children happily run off to find their friends and start the school day. Children will recognise the hilarity of the role reversal and see themselves in the many tasks that mama has to finish before the school morning can begin.
Sharon's humorous and engaging text is complimented by Arielle's bright and playful illustrations that expertly capture the essence of the story. Get Ready, Mama! is a wonderful addition to any library collection for young children.
Themes to be explored in the classroom could include morning routines, families, mother-daughter relationships, getting ready for school, responsibility and self awareness.
Find out more about Sharon Giltrow
Find out more about Arielle Li
Published by EK Books for Kids. Release date April 6, 2022.
ISBN 9781922539083 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 to 6.
Fierce Girls is a uniquely Australian book celebrating five women who have inspired recent generations, both young and old, to follow their dreams, strive for excellence and continue breaking down barriers. The women included in the book come from different backgrounds and are involved in different fields of endeavour, but the one thing they all have in common is their determination to achieve despite the challenges they faced. From politics to surfing, tennis to stage performance, and writing, each has achieved many highlights in their careers, with more still to come. Samantha Turnbull's text is very accessible and engaging with some really interesting, and perhaps not so well known anecdotes, about the early lives and careers of the five. Kim Siew's artwork is bold and bright, almost like a graphic novel, with speech bubbles and images that represent the essence of each story - the perfect way to represent these bold and bright women. And 'fierce' is such an apt description of these women who believed in themselves and never accepted 'no' as an option! There are other books out there describing female pioneers like the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls series, but none that are dedicated solely to our gutsy and spirited Australian female ground breakers. Originally an ABC podcast series, I'm hoping Fierce Girls is just the first in a series of similar books about Australian women. This is a must have for all school library Biography sections.
Use this book for Upper Primary and Secondary students when looking at biographies and discussing famous people, famous women, famous Australians. Themes to be explored could include resilience, risk taking, politics, sport, acting, indigenous Australians and literature.
Find out more about Samantha Turnbull
Find out more about Kim Siew
Published 2022 by Five Mile.
ISBN 9781922677051 (HB)
Recommended for ages 8 - 14
'Breathe deeply and take your time. The making of a bird is not a thing to be hurried.' '. . . feel your slowly beating heart fill with a kind of sadness, a kind of happiness. For this is when you will know that you have really made a bird.' These are my favourite lines form this beautifully delicate and evocative story. Yes there is a bird that is made, but it is so much more than just a bird. From the delicate bones gathered by the child, to figuring out how to put them together, and then the thoughtful imagining of what is needed for the bird to truly fly, are ideas expertly brought to life in Meg's soulful, meditative text. There is a sense of wonder at every page turn as we follow the journey of the child and the bird in its making. I love Matt's blueprint that forms part of the front cover illustration as this creates the simple deception that there is a blueprint to follow, when in fact there really isn't. His palette of soft, paler hues and tones throughout the majority of the story adds to the ethereal nature of the text. The exquisite, brighter colours of the feathers are a marvellous contrast and help focus the readers' attention on the possibilities of what the bird might do and become.
How To Make A Bird is a story of self belief, individuality, resilience, belonging and limitless imagination, and is a picture book for all ages - not just younger readers. There are so many layers to both the text and the illustrations that you will discover something new every time you read this stunning 2021 CBCA Picture Book Award winner.
Use this story in both primary and secondary classrooms for poetry studies, storytelling, art studies and for maker space ideas. Themes to be explored could include resilience, belonging, imagination, self-awareness, compassion and inventiveness.
Find out more about Meg McKinlay.
Find out more about Matt Ottley.
Published 2020 by Walker Books Australia.
ISBN 9781925381894 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 6 - 12
I would also recommend this book for middle and high school students.
Can you ride a bicycle? Do you remember how exhilarating it felt pumping the pedals and taking off down the street? In this new book by the 2021 Crystal Kite winner Valerie Bolling, we follow a young girl as she attempts to ride her bicycle for the very first time. With help and encouragement from her Dad, she is off and riding until. . . uh-oh, look out! There's a slip, a wobble and a fall. That hurt! After a healing hug from Dad, the young girl has to decide whether to get back on the bike and try again - or not. Knowing that Dad is right there beside her helps make the decision easy, and soon she is back up and soaring! With sparse, rhyming text, every word counts in this heartfelt and empowering story. Coretta Scott King honoree Kaylani Jaunita's illustrations are vibrant and fun, and highlight perfectly the angst and exuberance of trying something for the first time. Together We Ride is a wonderful celebration of family, courage, trust, and that amazing feeling of freedom when you spread your wings and fly for the first time!
Use this in the classroom to explore themes of trust, family, resilience, risk taking and transport.
Find out more about Valerie Bolling
Find out more about Kaylani Juanita
Click here for the author interview on Blog Bites
Release date April 26, 2022. Published by Chronicle Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 5
This new rhyming tale from award winning author Graeme Base has something for everyone - vampires, robots, computers, bravery, adventure and a fearless heroine. The story opens with the death of a robot whose battery has been drained in the dead of the night by the evil vampire laptop Voltoid. The robotic townsfolk are consumed with fear and panic as all have heard of the dreaded Curse of Voltoid! PC Web calls for a volunteer to confront Voltoid and erase all files from his hard drive. The only one courageous enough to take on the challenge is Gertie Gif, a lowly cleaning droid. Gertie sets off with determination and resolve up the Hill of Dread towards Voltoid's Gothic style castle. Along the way she manages to delete the terrifying ware-wolf's system and befriends a baby software-wolf. Once in the castle, Gertie finds Voltoid in sleep mode and can see he's in dire need of a system clean and software update. She's almost finished when she realises she has forgotten her software bag! The young software-wolf leaps forward declaring 'I've got the latest updates!' He sinks his teeth into Voltoid's core, and loads him up with V-DOS 10.4. As the vampire's screen changes from sickly green to desktop blue, he reverts back to his normal friendly self. Over time, Gertie and the young software-wolf's success is written into the history of the town, eventually becoming a meme with a total data stream!
I absolutely love Graeme's play on tech terminology and there are lots of humorous character names (PC Web, MacSpam, Gertie Gif) and lines like 'I'm told the thing to do is drive a sharpened vector through his undead CPU', 'A cleaning out is what you need - now open up those ports.' And teachers will totally relate to the line 'No wonder I feel better - you've deleted Comic Sans!' This has to be one of the most overused fonts in education! Graeme's black and white illustrations are a delight and there is something new to discover every time the reader revisits a page. The aerial image of Gertie as she and the young software-wolf enter Voltoids' lair would be a wonderful study in perspective for young artists. A masterful interweaving of old and new that is a must have for school library and home collections.
Use this story in classrooms for poetry studies, storytelling, myths and legends, art studies (perspective, use of black and white for impact, how to bring character to inanimate objects) and of course as a comparison study to the story of Dracula! Themes to be explored could include bravery, adventure and friendship.
Find out more about Graeme Base
Published 2021 by HarperCollinsPublishers Australia
ISBN 9781460754696 (HB)
Recommended by the publisher for ages 5 + but I would suggest 8 + due to style and complexity of language.
The Curiosities centers around a young boy named Miro, who begins to see the world in a way that is different to others. When the Curiosities first appear they seem to blend in, but gradually they show Miro the 'oddments and snippets', 'wonders and possibles' in the places where no-one else looks. Sometimes the curiosities would show Miro how to tickle songs from the earth, whisper up waves and dance with him deep into the night. The pull of the curiosities gradually became stronger and stronger and soon others in his village begin to notice them too. They became so loud that people began to stare, and no matter what he did, Miro could not tame them. They were almost unbearable, and he felt as though he was vanishing deep inside the earth. Then he heard the whisper of a village elder who helped Miro brush away the darkness of the curiosities. They were still there, but he found the more he connected with people, the easier it was to control them. And he noticed that many others had their own the curiosities too which helped him feel not so alone.
There are many who deal with neurodiversities and disabilities, and this book is a wonderful celebration of who we are and how we see ourselves, and encourages us to not to worry too much how others choose to see us. Zana Fraillon is one of my favourite YA authors and she has managed the cross over to picture books flawlessly. Her text is poignant and uplifting, but also challenging, asking us to know ourselves first before we look at how we perceive others. Phil's whimsical and playful images draw us into Miro's world to see what life looks like through his eyes. His clever depictions of the curiosities as recognisable but wisp-like creatures, make us aware but not afraid of them, and inspires us to embrace the curiosities in all of us.
Diversity, autism, neurodiversity, acceptance, empathy, perspective, community, culture and mental health are all topics that can be introduced and discussed when using this beautiful and highly recommended book in the classroom.
Find out more about Zana Fraillon
Find out more about Phil Lesnie
Published in 2021 by Hachette Australia
ISBN 9780734417848 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
Isabel and her family couldn't afford a lot of things like heating, going to the cinema, scooters or brand new clothes, but she always noticed the beautiful things around her, like the ice patterns on her window and the snow flakes falling outside. And really she had everything they needed - her books and her family. But when their wasn't enough money to pay rent or bills, they had to move to the other side of the city and for the first time Isabel couldn't find anything beautiful. It seemed people on this side of the city didn't even know she was there. She felt herself becoming more and more invisible as people drove or walked straight past her. Eventually, Isabel faded away altogether. That's when she started to notice the other invisible people around her and decided to help. Soon others joined in and '. . . the more people came together . . . the more they could all be seen.'
This is an important story. It is one that needs to be read to children all over the world. It is a story of belonging, of hope and community, and truly seeing what and who is around you.
There are few picture books that tackle the issue of poverty as well as this one. Tom Percival has written a book that draws from personal experience, and is poignant and beautifully simple, yet conveys such a powerful message of making a difference in the lives of others by just acknowledging they exist.
Kindness, community, poverty, family, relationships and empathy are all topics that can be explored as teaching ideas through this warm, wonderful, and highly recommended picture book.
Find out more about Tom Percival
Published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster UK
ISBN 9781471191305 (PB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
I can't tell you how excited I was to find this in my local bookstore the other day! After being totally enthralled and captivated by the first two books - Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning - I couldn't wait to read the final instalment in this thrilling Sci Fi series.
Squad 312 are working together to fight against the destruction of the universe by the Ra'haam - an evil and insidious hive mind organism that not only consumes the bodies but also the minds of those it encounters. This instalment opens with Zila, Finian and Scarlett trying to come to grips with being alive after the Eshvaren Weapon blew itself apart and obliterated anything and everyone in its wake - including them. As the subtitle says 'It's About Time', and they eventually figure out they have been transported back in time but are stuck in a time loop that will soon end, and they have to work out a way to convince their new nemisis, Nari Kim, that they are on the same side.
Meanwhile, Tyler is fighting two of his own battles in two different times - one with Saedii the Syldrathian Templar to take him back to the Aurora Academy and stop its destruction, and the other with Auri (the Eshvaren Trigger) and Kal (Saedii's brother) who have joined forces with Kal's heartless father Caesarn (who also happens to be a Trigger) to keep the last vestiges of life in the universe alive and out of reach of the Ra'haam.
Aurora's End is an intricately woven, fast paced story of space, time, end of the universe, and ultimately love, friendship and family. These two fantastic Aussie authors have delivered yet again with another mind bending, galactic adventure.
Find out more about Amie Kaufmann
Find out more about Jay Kristoff
Published in 2021 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760295752 (PB)
Recommended for ages YA