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 +
'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.
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
The Glint of Gold is there everyday if you look for it. You can see it in the white plum blossoms, the sparkles Jack Frost leaves and the colours of a sunset. You can hear it when you sing or listen to the song of a magpie, smell it when you walk in the bush after the rain, feel it when you dance in bare feet on the grass or snuggle close to someone. Each glint of gold is like a piece of treasure to be thankful for and remembered at the end of the day, knowing there will be more for us to find tomorrow. This is a beautiful, comforting story about taking pleasure in the every day. Kate's lilting text encourages us to slow down and look around at the small things that fill our hearts and bring a smile to our faces when we least expect it. Patricia's illustrations are full of colour and vibrance and with every page turn the reader discovers a new 'glint of gold'. A wonderful story of gratitude and mindfulness, The Glint of Gold is a celebration of the senses and the heart.
Wellbeing, mindfulness, families and the colours and animals of the Australian bush could all be linked as teaching ideas to this gentle story. With thanks to Books On Tour PR & Marketing and Little Pink Dog Books for access to the digital copy.
Find out more about Kate McGann here.
Find out more about Trish here.
Published 2021 by Little Pink Dog Books.
ISBN 9780648964032 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 7