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 +
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
In this book by Peter Carnavas, we meet Mary, a quiet girl living in a noisy family. Mary thinks quiet thoughts, steps quiet steps and whispers quiet words. She is so quiet that no-one in her family hears her. She decides to be even quieter still, and eventually it is like she has disappeared completely. When her family stops being noisy for a moment and discovers they cannot find her, they begin calling her name and searching the neighbourhood. Finally, when they stop calling and stand still and listen, they hear Mary's tiny, quiet voice singing to the birds under the tree at the end of their street, where she had been all along. The family realised it wasn't until they were quiet that they could really hear her. The simple, elegant text is supported by Carnavas's illustrations in soft, gentle colours and the use of black and white to highlight Mary as she fades is beautiful.
This book is a celebration of those who are quieter than the rest of us, and who like to take their time and stop, wonder and listen to what is all around them.
Published in 2019 by University of Queensland Press
Recommended for ages 4 - 7