The Jackie Morris Book of Classic Nursery Rhymes

The Jackie Morris Book of Classic Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books

This is a wonderful new edition of Jackie Morris’ selection of forty nursery rhymes. In her introduction Jackie talks of their crucial importance and vitality in our modern digital world.

Of those included here, some will likely be familiar: there’s Ride a Cock-Horse, Hickory, Dickory Dock, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep and Sing a Song of Sixpence, for example;

whereas others – The Hart and the Hare, To the Bat and All the Pretty Little Horses, for example might be new discoveries.

The entire book has a dream-like, timeless quality to it thanks to the exquisite watercolour paintings that grace every spread. It’s virtually impossible to choose a favourite but on this day of writing and sweltering heat, I was drawn to the absolute tranquillity of Baby’s Bed’s a Silver Moon.

There’s humour, the beauty of the natural world, surprises and more; in fact pretty much everything you could wish for in a book that’s an absolute treasure, not just for the very youngest, but for anyone who loves art and language.

Sadly many young children nowadays don’t have that bedrock of nursery rhymes that we nursery and reception class teachers tended to take for granted when little ones began school decades back; but giving a new parent a copy of this stunningly beautiful book might just start a child off on a journey of becoming a lover of words, stories and reading.

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
Liz Lee Heinecke
Quarry Books (Quarto Knows)

Just right for the summer break especially, but for any time you can get outside, is this resource book of 52 ‘family-friendly’ experiments you can do with children in the garden or yard, the playground and the park.

The dozen units (each with 3-5 ‘labs’) are wide ranging and include exciting-sounding activities such as making ‘driveway frescoes’ on cornstarch (cornflour in the UK) and water using food colourings and tiny paint brushes or toothpicks to create the designs; that’s in the Picnic Table Chemistry unit. There’s a list of materials needed, ideas for extending the activity and an explanation of the science involved, as there is for each of the other ‘labs’.

I’m sure children will relish the prospect of engaging in some ‘Garden Hose Science’, trying such fun things as the ‘siphon roller coaster’ that starts with a water balloon fight.

Author and mother Liz Lee Heinecke covers ecology, earth science, botany, physics and zoology in her inspiring book. One hopes that doing some of the activities will show children that real hands-on science is fun and well worth spending their time on, just like those in the photographs included for each of the projects. (As she hails from the US, some of the names the author used will be unfamiliar to UK readers, for instance in the ‘Invertebrate Inspection’ unit,‘ pill bugs’ and ‘sow bugs’ are what we commonly call ‘woodlice’, though I think only the former can curl themselves up into a ball).

Art Workshop for Children / Play Make Create

Ideal for the long summer break as well as for Foundation Stage / KS1 staff during term time are these two terrific titles from Quarry Books that encourage and develop creativity in children:

Art Workshop for Children
Barbara Rucci and Betsy McKenna

Process, not product is what matters most in this bumper book of creative art projects for young children written by an author who runs art workshops for youngsters.

Nobody who has taught or worked in other capacities with foundation stage learners and those even younger could possibly disagree with the closing paragraph in Barbara Rucci’s introduction: “Let’s raise creative thinkers who explore their world, express their dreams, embrace differences, and never lose touch with their inner artist.’

Her premise is that art should be open-ended and child-led, ‘open-ended creativity … empowers our children to mess about, take risks and discover that they have good, original ideas.’
The first chapter is about setting up an art space after which come a series of workshops that are set out following a similar basic structure: Gather your materials – a bullet point list of what’s needed; a paragraph on how to Prepare your space;
then comes The process – again with bullet points; Observations; and finally Variations for next time – additional ideas for repeating the experience with some different materials or adding a degree of complexity for those with more experience.

Each of the 25 workshops has photographs of materials and children using them; and interspersed between workshops there are essays by Reggio Emilia-inspired educator, Betsy McKenna that will help those working with young children to reflect on what they are doing and saying if they want them to develop as confident, creative, problem-solving learners.

The materials required don’t need a great outlay – most projects can be done with paints, crayons, paper and card, plus the basic tools you’d find in a nursery setting and nothing is difficult to get hold of – maybe just a little effort as in the collaborative Branch Painting

that I particularly liked on account of its social nature.

What a boon for parents/carers of young children this will prove during long holidays especially.

The same is true of

Play – Make – Create
Meri Cherry

Subtitled ‘A Process-Art Handbook’ this one is based on a similar philosophical approach and has 40 ‘invitations’ to be creative and have fun in so doing.

The opening chapter sets the scene for good practice discussing the way to talk with children and how to store and present materials and then come the sequence of creative ‘Art Invitations’.

Whether it’s taking up an Invitation to Explore, such as experimenting with cotton swab oil painting; making and discovering the joys of ‘oobleck’ (cornstarch and water)

– it’s brilliant fun and one of the ten ‘Sensory-Based’ activities; or introducing the delights of the hammer as a creative tool used in the process of making a ‘Crazy Contraption’

included in the ‘On-going process-art activities Big Projects’ chapter, each project will surely spark the imagination. There are also collaborative activities that can be done with friends or family members.

Throughout the emphasis is on encouraging children to experiment and discover the potential of the materials, to make their own choices, employ critical thinking and problem solving to what they’re doing, thus helping to build self-confidence in their own creative potential; and of course, to enjoy what they’re doing.

Strongly recommended for parents, carers, teachers (the author has 20+ years of teaching experience) and anyone else who wants to provide enriching process art for children. (There’s a fair bit of science learning potential in there too though it’s never spelt out.) What are you waiting for? …

It’s OK to Cry / The Happy Book

It’s OK to Cry
Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings
Featherstone (Bloomsbury Education)

Molly Potter’s latest book that offers both parents and teachers a starting point for developing emotional intelligence/ emotional literacy with youngsters is written particularly with boys in mind.

How many times in my teaching career have I heard a parent say to his/her young boy words such as “Stop all the fuss, boys don’t cry like that.”? Way too many; and if children are subjected to such comments from a very young age they soon internalise what they’ve been told and become afraid to show their feelings. Instead, from the outset we all need to encourage children to feel safe to talk about and show how they feel.

The author starts by presenting some commonplace scenarios to explore why it is that boys have a tendency to keep their emotions under wraps.

She then goes on to look at where some of the messages about ‘acting tough’ might come from, and to explore the importance of being able to articulate how you really feel.

This is followed by a look at a variety of different feelings, some positive, others negative. In each case the text is straightforward and easy to grasp, and offers starting points for opening up discussion, and is accompanied by Sarah Jennings bright, friendly illustrations.

There’s also a ‘park full of feelings’ that is a great discussion jumping off point, as well as some suggestions to help cope with ‘uncomfortable feelings’.

The final pages are directly aimed at parents and carers again with the emphasis on boys.  Included is the stark reminder that ‘poor male emotional literacy is reflected in the fact that in the UK suicide is the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45.’

With a down to earth approach such as the one Molly Potter offers herein, let’s hope all children will develop coping strategies to deal with feelings and emotions.

The Happy Book
Alex Allan and Anne Wilson
Welbeck Publishing

Developed in collaboration with child, psychotherapist Sarah Davis, this accessible book explores with a young audience in mind, five emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear and worry.

The author’s tone is warm as she encourages readers to consider carefully so they can identify their feelings and possible causes, as well as the reactions they might cause.

Occasional questions add to the interactive nature of the text and for each emotion, there is a paragraph (or several) explaining the science of what happens in both the brain and the body: ‘When you are happy, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine that helps you to learn, remember and helps you sleep well.’

There are also ‘top tips’ as well as a host of other suggestions to encourage positive feelings.

Anne Wilson varies her colour palette according to each emotion so for example red reflects an angry mood

and blue-black, sadness in her amusing illustrations. I particularly like the green vegetable characters and I’m sure they will appeal to youngsters.

This book provides an ideal starting point for parents and educators wanting to develop emotional intelligence in young children.

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism
Debby Elley & Tori Houghton, illustrated by J.C. Perry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Everyone is an individual be they neuro-typical or neuro-diverse, so there are as many ways of experiencing autism as there are people on the autism spectrum. However there are three things that all those with autism have in common, albeit in different degrees – difficulties with speech and language, difficulties with social skills and rigidity of thought.

Here’s a handy little book to help youngsters, understand the complexities of the condition.

Its authors (both with a wealth of experience relating to neurodiversity) use the ice-cream sundae simile and its ingredients to explain autism in a non-threatening, non-judgemental way to young people, both those with autism and neuro-typicals.

They first did so as editors of AuKids magazine when they published an article called The Autism Sundae Dessert with an aim to show autism, not as a disability but a difference – a dynamically evolving condition.

Such was the response that their article evolved into posters, demonstrations and now, this book, The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism with its three different flavoured scoops (chocolate ice-cream for speech and language, vanilla for social skills, and strawberry for rigidity of thought; plus extras – chocolate sauce (sensory processing disorder) and a wafer (self-regulation).

Parents, teachers, and others working with youngsters can use the book with its clear, unambiguous illustrations and puzzles

to solve, either with an individual, or a class or group, depending on their personal circumstances. It might act as a starting point for a practical ice-cream sundae making session, or as something to refer to over and over, to help build understanding of the advantages and challenges of autism.

Urban Forest School

Urban Forest School
Naomi Walmsley and Dan Westall
GMC Publications

Wow! What an absolute treasure trove of ideas this is for anyone who wants to include forest school and all that this has to offer into an urban school or nursery setting. That, one hopes (unless it’s already embedded into their curriculum) includes all early years and primary teachers and other staff.

Equally during this time when many parents are faced with home schooling their children, this book by a husband and wife team totally dedicated to outdoor learning, offers a wealth of activities across the whole curriculum and most could be used with a very wide age range.

After an introduction explaining what urban forest school actually is and where to look for urban nature, why it’s important to do so, and giving instructions on how to tie some useful knots, the main body of the book is divided into four sections.

We start with In the park or garden (a quiet street or a porch would suffice) where one of my favourite activities is shadow painting. Strangely enough as I was walking with my partner the other day past a patch of stinging nettles I remarked that their shadows looked much more striking than the actual plants. Then two days later I found this idea in the book. I’ve had children draw around their own or a friend’s shadow many times but never thought of using plants – love it!

Moving further afield Around the city or town has a nature focus and includes such things as cloud spotting and I really like the idea of the city sit spot – an opportunity for mindfulness of whatever your surroundings might be. From that sit spot or walking around, children can begin to get to know about the trees and the flora and fauna close by.

The third section – Home crafts – offers a wealth of creative activities: the leaf watercolour printing can be fun in its own right but also the starting point for other arty projects. I can’t wait to try the leaf bunting activity with children – I have to admit to having a go myself with some leaves and hole punches.

Recipes comprise the final section and there you’ll finding such diverse ideas as stinging nettle smoothie – this one might be an acquired taste, and spiced blackberry sorbet – more up my street I think, but the blackberry plants are still at the flowering stage just now.

Packed with enticing illustrations and photos, and covering so many areas of the curriculum, this bumper book includes something for all ages from the very young upwards, and is a fantastic encouragement to get children outdoors learning about and through nature.

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide
Siena Castellon, illustrated by Rebecca Burgess
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Sienna Castellon, the seventeen-year-old author is an award winning anti-bullying campaigner and autism advocate; she is on the autism spectrum, and is also dyspraxic and dyslexic, and has ADHD. She is also gifted in physics and maths.

As we learn, her journey thus far has been anything but easy, so who better to write this book subtitled ‘How to grow up Awesome and Autistic’ than she, especially, as she writes in the first chapter, ‘I view my autism as a strength and as an advantage, a modern day superpower.”

Essentially Siena has compiled a comprehensive and detailed manual for readers of twelve plus about living the best life a young female with autism possibly can in a predominantly neurotypical world.

She covers such diverse topics as embracing who you are then deciding with whom to share your autism and how, to clothes and fashion ,

dating, sex and sexuality.

Other sections focus on bullying: face to face

and cyberbullying are covered in separate chapters and strategies for coping with both are discussed.

Self-esteem is key throughout: people with autism do not need pitying, they need understanding is another key message. The neurotypical brain is wired to socialise; in contrast most autistic brains need a fair amount of time alone for the mind to settle and the senses to be soothed.

On the topic of senses, Siena devotes a whole chapter to ‘Managing your sensory sensitivities and sensory overload.’  Siena mentions the relatively simple steps that some supermarkets, cinemas, airports and the like have taken to create a more inclusive environment for people with autism.

Throughout the authorial voice remains both earnest and compassionate; and in between her narrative are some comic style pages drawn by Rebecca Burgess that encapsulate what has been said in a particular section.

Yes, this book has a specific target audience in mind; however the insights it offers need to be shared with everyone. I’m a primary/foundation stage teacher and over the years have taught dozens of children with autism (mainly boys) and have some degree of understanding of neurodiversity. Nonetheless I welcomed the insights I gained from this guide and thoroughly recommend that all educators, parents, indeed anyone who hopes to ensure that all females on the autism spectrum have the very best possible chance to flourish, should read it and carefully consider this enormously wise young woman’s words. Surely that is every one of us, isn’t it?

It’s a Great Big Colourful World

It’s a Great Big Colourful World
Tom Schamp
Prestel

Otto the cat wakes one morning wondering why everything is so grey. His chameleon friend, Leon is on hand to show him the delights of the various shades of grey and the multitude of beautiful grey things around.

Thereafter Leon takes him on a journey through the wonderful world of colour starting with grey’s components, the complementary black and white.

Moving on from those it’s a veritable riot of colours each represented by a plethora of characters and objects large and small. Yellow includes a yellow submarine, a big yellow taxi, a variety of cheeses, a butterfly and banana peel.

One orange spread is dominated by a magnificent tiger that’s found its way to Orange County and as yet, hasn’t consumed the tomato soup, clementines or orange juice on the previous spread.

There’s a wealth of transport on the red pages that also include Red Square and tulips – no not from Amsterdam but Turkey.
Flamingos strut their way across the pink spreads maintaining their colour courtesy of the pink algae and shrimps they dine upon.

Rather more restful on the eye the blues have a whale that swims through all four pages at once and the greens with dinosaurs, crocodiles, plants aplenty and the occasional caterpillar,

not forgetting Greenland.

Beer, cupcakes, tanned sunbathers, brownstone houses, a toffee even, are part of the brown spreads; and both the colour tourists Otto and Leon are hiding in plain sight on every spread, each  cleverly adapted to their surroundings. In the final pages the friends are thrilled by the coming together of all the colours for a glorious final journey through the four seasons.

However many times you look at this ingenious, intricately detailed offering from Tom Schamp, you’ll always find something new.

In addition to being a feast for the eyes, with his playful linguistic imagination and references, Schamp guarantees that this book will have a wide age appeal. No matter what you bring to it, you’ll emerge richer and wanting to dive straight back in, hungry for more.

 

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy
Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Browne, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Lauren Child
Walker Books

Now in paperback, here’s a truly special gem of an anthology subtitled ‘Let your imagination soar with top tips from ten Children’s Laureates’. It brings together the ten awesome authors and illustrators who have held the title (given in celebration of their outstanding achievements) and first awarded to Quentin Blake in 1999.

To open, Michael Morpurgo explains how the original idea of the role (each person holds it for two years), was first thought up by himself and Ted Hughes, the then Poet Laureate.

You might be especially interested in poetry, rhyme and wordplay, if so head first to the sections from Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson. Michael in Poetry Belongs to Everyone talks about playing around with a word to create a poem. Julia Donaldson’s Plays to Read and to Write discusses one of her own plays that she based on the Aesop’s fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, offering a fun, lively 6-parter

If you’d rather be playful in the visual sense then Anthony Browne’s The Shape Game could be your starting point: having talked about how to play it, he showcases some examples from 3 other famous illustrators to whom he gave the same shape to play as the one of his own shown in the book. The potential with this one is endless. Probably that is the case with most of the chapters however.

In The Only Way to Travel, Quentin Blake writes with reference to  Dahl’s stories, about how when illustrating someone else’s texts it’s important to ‘put yourself inside their story’ and capture the atmosphere before diving in and drawing those fabulous illustrations of his.

More about how other fabulous illustrators approach their drawing and what provides their inspiration comes from Chris Riddell –

make sure you check out his brilliant cartoons of all ten Children’s Laureates in the final section – and Lauren Child.

How fantastic and moving is Michael Morpurgo’s Find Your Own Voice that tells children how to do so in ‘I Believe in Unicorns’.
I thoroughly enjoyed too, Malorie Blackman’s Taking a Word for a Walk using SEA as her example,

before she moves on to discussing from whose viewpoint a story is being told when one writes.

If you want to inspire children to let their imaginations soar, then you really, really must have a copy of this cracker of a book in your home or classroom; not only will it do just that, but it will also ignite or add fuel to a passion for reading, writing and illustrating. (BookTrust, which manages the Children’s Laureate gets 50p from every sale.)

Time to Eat, Time to Tidy Up, Time to Share, Time to make Friends

Time to Eat, Time to Tidy Up, Time to Share, Time to make Friends
Penny Tassoni and Mel Four
Bloomsbury Education

Written by education consultant Penny Tassoni whose roots are in early years teaching, is the Time to series of which these are the first titles.

Aimed at pre-schoolers, the language is simple and engaging, encouraging little ones to interact by for example in Time to Eat, focussing on the different shapes and sizes of the fruit and vegetables shown …

This book also looks at colours of foods and their textures; and talks about why we need food. It also introduces the idea of likes and dislikes.
There’s a wordless spread of different foods that should encourage plenty of food-related talk and a final spread of notes for parents and carers. These include guidance on what to observe, how to assess what is seen and ideas for supporting a child’s next steps. (all good early years practice)

Time to Tidy Up explains why tidying up is important, looks at storage places and to encourage little ones to get involved, suggests ways of making it fun by singing, dancing, or taking on a particular role – even superheroes tidy up!

We all need to share and it’s never too soon to learn how is beautifully demonstrated by the small children using the dough in this spread of Time to Share

Sharing is caring, a means to make friends, and makes things more fun. That might be in the playground, at the swimming pool, or at nursery where you might need to share sand, toys and other resources. There too you’ll need to take turns – a form of sharing but some negotiation might be needed.
As important as sharing is, there are certain things that are not for sharing: this too is covered.

Of course, sharing is very much part and parcel of making friends the theme of Time to Make Friends which looks at the ups and downs of friendship and introduces the concept of kindness as well as togetherness.

Mel Four’s bold, bright illustrations of the young children are appealing and work really well with the text making for a handy and helpful resource for early years practitioners, parents and carers.

The Sleepy Pebble and other stories

The Sleepy Pebble and other stories
Doctor Alice Gregory, Christy Kirkpatrick and Eleanor Hardiman
Flying Eye Books

Alice Gregory, sleep researcher and writer Christy Kirkpatrick have collaborated on this book of stories to share at bedtime.

Adults, parents in particular, know how hard it can be to get little ones off to sleep and this collection of calming tales, together with the activities suggested, is specially designed to help children wind down and relax, allowing them to drift off into the land of nod.

There are five stories, each one soothing and an ideal length for bedtime. They feature in turn the sleepy pebble; a willow tree that wants to stay up late;

a giraffe that enjoys a long bath to relax her at night, a kind and careful snail and finally, a pig that loves to cook.

The same muscle relaxation routine is used during each one except that the child is asked to imagine holding and squeezing in the first, Pebble, in the second some soil, in the third big heavy clouds, in the fourth the listener becomes the snail curling into its shell and soft warm dough is the final item to squeeze.

The guided visualisation intended to engage all the senses uses imagery appropriate to each story and the mindfulness – the focus on body awareness – is repeated for concluding every story session.

Eleanor Hardiman’s exquisitely detailed illustrations executed in calming colours (different hues for each story) add to the book’s dreamy quality.
Also included are an explanatory introduction, tips for ‘relaxing bedtime and better sleep’ plus ten questions and answers.

Wearing my yoga teacher’s hat I fully endorse the techniques included in this beautifully produced storybook. It should prove invaluable to parents who struggle with getting their children to nod off and to sleep through so they wake next morning restored and full of energy.

Can I Tell You About Nystagmus?

Can I Tell You About Nystagmus?
Nadine Neckles, illustrated by Vikas Upadhyay
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I’ve only ever taught one child who had Nystagamus (due to his albinism). Now having read this excellent little book – the latest in the ‘Can I Tell You About series’, I feel ashamed about how little I really understood of the condition.

Herein a girl named Amber talks in a user-friendly manner about nystagamus -her ‘dancing eyes’, what this means for her in particular and about how she and other children with the condition will experience it differently, although they may share certain similarities such as taking longer to learn things. (This doesn’t mean they are any less clever than others however.)

We hear about Amber’s diagnosis (her eyes jiggle from side-to-side);

how she has to have regular eye check-ups; how she has to carefully adjust the way she sits to watch TV, preferably sitting right close to the screen; the need for her to wear glasses to prevent her ‘seeing double’ as she also has a mild squint.

Starting school presented a challenge for Amber especially the frenetic-seeming playtimes. Amber’s school has made accommodations for her condition such as adding yellow tape to the stair edges, doorframes and potential places of danger; and her mum explained nystagmus to Amber’s classmates.

When in the classroom she has a special place to sit, is never asked to share a book or computer screen and has work printed on coloured paper.

Reading itself brings its own set of challenges but again there are aids to make things less tricky for her. Depth perception is a particular challenge, so ball games, (and other things requiring rapid hand-eye co-ordination), gymnastics and running are ‘tricky’.

Of course frustrations occur but Amber’s friends are understanding and Amber herself is bold, intelligent and resilient, refusing to let nystagamus define her.

The book concludes with some information for adults, an outline of associated conditions, an important checklist for professionals, a glossary and a list of recommended resources.

Easy to understand, this book, (written by a special needs life coach and mother of a child like Amber, with nystagmus and Chromosome 18q) encompasses all the important aspects of nystagmus making it an ideal introduction for anyone wanting to learn more about the condition be they children, parents, carers, teachers, and other professionals. Line drawings by Vikas Upadhyay show Amber as the sparky individual the author presented.

Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism Using Minecraft®


Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism Using Minecraft®
Raelene Dundon, illustrated by Chloe-Amber Scott
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I know from my teaching experience that children on the autism spectrum often become obsessively passionate about and often developing an enormous competence in a particular thing such as  Lego building, drumming, a certain cartoon series or drawing specific items.

The strength of the motivation towards their chosen passion tends to result in a lack of social skills: participating in Minecraft® (which is frequently called digital Lego) offers a wonderful setting to enable neurodiverse children to develop both social and communication skills. Clearly the author of this large format book, Raelene Dundon appreciates this and to that end, has created a superb resource.

Having outlined in the opening chapters the importance of social skills and how these are impaired in children with ASD, she puts the case for using group programmes, in particular Minecraft® to develop those crucial social skills.

The second part of the book comprises information on how to set up a social Minecraft® group; how to use the game for supporting such skills as holding a conversation, being interested in other people and understanding the viewpoint of another person.
Each skill, for instance problem solving,

‘being creative’ or co-operation

is succinctly presented and related to what has just happened during the specific session – this is a great tool for developing awareness in the learner.

In all there are thirty sessions (around 150 pages of photocopiable material) with smashing illustrations by Chloe-Amber Scott, making this an absolutely invaluable and comprehensive resource – a veritable goldmine – for any professional working with primary children or older students, who have ASD.

All About Feelings

All About Feelings
Felicity Brooks, Frankie Allen and Mar Ferrero
Usborne

Emotional literacy is now part and parcel of the school curriculum right from the early years, yet seldom does a week go by when we don’t read or hear of the increased concern about children’s mental health and well-being, something we in education have been highlighting for many years. So, it’s good to see a book aimed at young children to help them become aware of, and thus better able to cope with their feelings and emotions.

It’s very visual and full of bright illustrations by Mar Ferrero that make it immediately alluring to its audience be that an individual, a nursery group or early years class.

Each colourful spread is given over to a different aspect and the language used is spot on for young children.

Sections include identifying how you feel (with reference to colours of the rainbow);

why do you feel a particular way; how would you feel if? (with helpful word clouds)…

how feelings can change during a day; ‘jumbled up feelings’ and discussing your feelings.

There are suggestions for things to do that help you remain in control;

ideas to alleviate worries; ways to express feelings and emotions; ‘being kind to yourself’ and ways in which an individual can help others of all ages feel good.

The final page is for adults – notes on how best to help youngsters; things to try at home (could equally apply at school or nursery) and some on-line resources.

Young children most definitely can learn to become more mindful of how they feel and thus be better in control of their feelings. The authors of this book have done an excellent job of facilitating this and I’d strongly recommend a copy for family bookshelves and all settings where young children are learning.

One thing that struck me about both it and The Unworry Book was that little is said about the benefits of being outdoors. I highlight this after returning from a walk around Ruskin Mill in Nailsworth, near to where I live. This is in part, an establishment for neurodiverse young adults that does amazing work educating its students, with a focus on the outdoors. And, I know from experience that being outside is of enormous benefit to people of all ages from the very youngest children.

Migrations Open Hearts Open Borders

Migrations Open Hearts Open Borders
Introduction by Shaun Tan
Otter-Barry Books

llustrators from all over the world responded to the request by The International Centre for the Picture Book in Society (based at the University of Worcester) to create an original postcard for the 2017 Migrations exhibition to be displayed at Bibiana, Bratislava. The exhibition’s creators felt that the installation should reach a wider audience and this wonderful book is the outcome, although the fifty or so images representing 32 countries reproduced in their actual size herein, are only a selection of the hundreds of postcards they received.

Each of the postcards in its unique way focuses on the positive impact of the migration of peoples the world over, showing how the flow of ideas and cultures transcends borders, barriers and even bans.

The book is divided into four themes: Departures, Long Journeys, Arrivals and Hope for the Future.

I would love to show every single one of the awesome, enormously moving postcards but can only make a very small selection for this review, so have included representatives for each of the themes, which spoke to me on my very first reading.

Departures: In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take./ It begins with a single step …                 Rhian Wyn Harrison – UK.

Long Journeys: The skies have no borders.      Christopher Corr – UK

Arrivals: New friends coming from afar / bring us different tales!                        Marcelo Pimentel – Brazil

Hope for the Future: Share the world in peace and freedom. / The Earth and its people have no owners.           Isol – Argentina

On another day I may well have picked completely different ones, such is the power of each contribution, some of which use quotes from writers including John Clare, WB Yeats, Anita Desai and Robert Macfarlane.

If ever there was a time in our increasingly fractured world when we need this treasure of a book, it’s now. Let’s hope that those of us with open hearts who want open borders continue working to make a difference for, as Shaun Tan writes at the start of this book ‘All migration is an act of imagination, a flight of imagination. A hope that frequently exercises a previously unknown human potential. … What can be done? … That’s for us, the living, the thinking and feeling: descendants through millennia of successful migration – whose ancestors dreamed of something better … It’s left for us to imagine what to do, to pass on the dividends of hope that have been invested in us.’

Re-reading his message in its entirety in a week when our UK politicians continue wrangling about how – the universe forbid it happens – we should leave the European Union, brought tears to my eyes. Everyone needs a copy of Migrations; it reaches out to us all, offering another beacon on the uphill climb towards the creation of a better world for everyone, young, old and in-between.
(All royalties are donated to Amnesty International and IBBY)

Yoga for Children and Young People with Autism

Yoga for Children and Young People with Autism
Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Highly experienced yoga teacher, Michael Chissick has created another absolutely smashing book, for those who teach yoga to youngsters, specifically those with autism, although much of what is included here would work well with neurotypical children too.

At the outset Michael states his case explaining that perfection is not on the agenda, so an adult-style class approach is inappropriate as is chanting.

A plan is vital; intuitive teaching won’t work with children on the autism spectrum: I know from experience they need a structure and that is what the book provides, whether the teaching is done in a mainstream school that includes children with autism or a special school where everyone being taught is on the autism spectrum. If the latter is the case, Chissick suggests three groups(his are named after trees) which can be fluid but are based on the degree of challenge both students and the teacher of the class face.

He then goes on to offer four different lesson plans – one being suitable for all students (universal) and three others – and each of the latter is progressive.

Much of the remainder of the book contains the differentiated tried and tested games, thirteen in all, some of which require additional resources that are flagged up at the outset. There are also sequences such as the Sun Salutation and some sequence games, followed by the postures themselves including ‘good sitting’

(illustrated by Sarah Peacock whose work will be familiar to those who know Michael’s other books such as Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation and Sitting on a Chicken .)

And of course, there are ideas for the vital ‘calming stage’ and final relaxation.

There’s a chapter on teaching yoga to children who have ASD in a mainstream classroom, followed by some case studies and extremely useful visual resources.

A wealth of experience has gone into this book: it’s a veritable treasure trove for anyone who teaches yoga to children, whatever the setting, but especially children with ASD.

Your Mind is Like the Sky / The Go Yogi! Card Set

 

Your Mind is Like the Sky
Bronwen Ballard and Laura Carling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Psychologist and mindfulness teacher, Bronwen Ballard has written a book to introduce children to mindfulness. She uses similes and metaphorical language to show that our difficult thoughts and feelings are an integral part of everyone’s life and demonstrating that we all have the power to deal with them.
Sometimes she says, the mind can be like a clear blue sky but at other times it might be ‘fizzy, stormy, black and crackly’; or perhaps a ‘bit grey’.
Thoughts come and go constantly; they’re likened to the clouds – sometimes positive, pleasant white ones but at other times they become dark and negative.

For example ‘raincloud’ thoughts may well make one feel sad, cross, irritated, confused perhaps.

However there are ways to deal with them, even those that seem at first to be overwhelming and this is what the second part of the narrative discusses. The important thing to do is to acknowledge the thought but realise it’s only one of many, many in the entire sky of your mind and that way you can let that dark thought slip gently away.

The more one practices being mindful, the easier it becomes to take control and choose which thoughts to attend to.

The main narrative ends on an upbeat note reminding the young reader that, like the sky, his/her mind is bursting with amazing thoughts each one different in shape, colour and size.

There are two final spreads aimed at adults explaining concisely what mindfulness is and offering some basic ideas to try together at home.

Award-wining illustrator Laura Carlin’s soft focus, smudgy, mixed media illustrations are the ideal complement to Bronwen’s gentle narrative. Together they offer parents and carers a really helpful book to help youngsters overcome their worries.

The Go Yogi! Card Set
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon

Using little humans rather than animals this time, the author, very experienced yoga teacher, Emma Hughes and illustrator, John Smisson, of the Go Yogi! book have created a set of 50 cards of popular yoga poses; and Emma has written an accompanying explanatory booklet.

The latter briefly gives the benefits of yoga for children, sets some ground rules to use and talks about how to work with a group, the names of the poses, some words on pranayama and suggests ways the cards might be used in a session – in games or for storytelling being two ideas.

It’s concise and especially useful for those who aren’t practiced in teaching yoga to children. One proviso though, I was taught that young children (under 7) should not attempt headstands as the skull may not be fully hardened.

The ‘flash cards’ themselves have a child showing a yoga asana (pose), (or in the case of paired poses, two children) set against a brightly coloured background on one side, while the reverse side shows how to get into the pose. Each card has a coloured border that suggests a possible emotional or physical benefit doing the pose might bring. Orange signifies energising; green is for calming; red for strengthening and yellow for balancing.

All in all, and I speak from experience as a specialist early years teacher and teacher of yoga to children (and adults), this little box is a real treasure for those wanting to introduce yoga to young children. I thoroughly recommend it.

Forest School and Autism

Forest School and Autism
Michael James
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Let me say from the outset, wearing my early years teacher’s hat, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of Forest School for all children be they neuro-typical or with an autistic spectrum condition, so I was excited to receive this book, the first of its kind on Forest School and Autism.

The author, Michael James has a wealth of experience of Forest School and now runs his own Forest School in Somerset; his enthusiasm shines through in everything he says.

Having provided background chapters on both Forest School, its principles and practice, and autism (wherein he asserts crucially, ‘In order to offer autism-inclusive practice, you must view each autistic person as an individual.’), Michael goes on to discuss with the help of case studies, the positive impact of Forest School on health; its sensory benefits and the opportunities it can offer for the learning of new skills. Fun however, so the author asserts, is a primary objective.

Sensitivity and positive relationships lie at the heart of the whole of Forest School practice and the importance of empathy is paramount.

So too is observation, which is the biggest responsibility of all practitioners; how otherwise can effective communication between learners and practitioners (who need to be clear, sensitive and frequently literal) take place (each can learn from the other) and true developmental learning take place?

Crucial to the success of an inclusive practice is preparation – preparation at the outset of a course of sessions – coupled with on-going reflection and further preparation. A chapter is allocated to this and a summary of its key points, such as the importance of individual learning programmes, is given at the end. Indeed a useful summary of key points concludes the other chapters too.

This most definitely is a book to be recommended for all Forest School practitioners rather than only those who work with learners who have ASC. After all, our connection with nature enhances our humanity and focussing on a child’s strengths, abilities, sensory preferences and likes is beneficial to every learner.

Mindful Little Yogis

Mindful Little Yogis
Nicola Harvey, illustrated by John Smisson
Singing Dragon

The author of Mindful Little Yogis is an education writer and children’s mindfulness practitioner and the book is based on her experiences as a teacher working with children in both primary and secondary schools with a range of learning abilities and needs. Several years ago around 20% of children were identified as having special educational needs and the number is rising, making additional demands on classroom teachers in both mainstream and special schools. Nicola stresses the importance of these children receiving consistent positive messages from all adults be they parents, carers, teachers, teaching assistants, therapists.

She advocates using mindfulness techniques to help build self-assurance and describes the STAR model: ‘STOP. Take a breath. And. Relax.’ that provides a framework, a four part developmental tool.

Then follows a section on mindful breathing, giving guidance on a range of sensory breathing techniques that I know from experience work very well with young children and those with additional needs.
The same is true of Animal Breathing (children I know especially love lion’s breath, bee breath and snake breath); Shape Breathing techniques and the use of sound, and body flow are explored next.

Part two ‘AND …’ comprises a range of self-regulation activities, grounding and sensory yoga games. There are also sections on emotional intelligence, using music as therapy and much more. I especially like the emphasis Nicola puts on positivity throughout.

With illustrations by John Smisson, this is a smashing book for all children of all abilities in all places for all times. With our increasingly pressurised education system all schools would do well to include some of these techniques and activities in their daily schedule.

Thera-Build with LEGO® / Art Therapy Cards for Children

Thera-Build with LEGO®
Alyson Thomsen
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Alyson Thomsen was a senior teacher and since creating and developing the Thera-Build methodology, runs a business consultancy for schools, families and others interested in using LEGO® bricks with children therapeutically.

Purposeful play with these bricks aims to develop social competence, reduce stress, boost self-esteem and confidence.

As a teacher I have used LEGO® bricks across the curriculum, but never as a therapeutic tool. However I was pleased to discover that I share with Alyson some basic underlying educational principles, most notably vital the importance of play in children’s development be that social, emotional or academic; and the crucial role of adult as facilitator – flexible and enthusiastic – in the learning process.

Drawing on her wealth of experience, Alyson provides in this book a veritable treasure trove of ideas for using LEGO®, a resource loved by so many children, in a therapeutic way, as well as giving readers an introduction to the brain science behind her methods, a wealth of advice that includes both the strategies for, and practicalities of, using the materials. and much more.

Not only will this inspiring book be a great resource for those working in schools and for parents, even more importantly, it has the potential to result in extremely positive outcomes for children.

Art Therapy Cards for Children
Elitsa Velikova
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This resource comprises a box containing 22 stimulus cards (105x 150cm) and an accompanying explanatory book, and could be used for anyone (art therapists, social workers, psychologists, teachers and counsellors) who works with children and perhaps parents. The author, Elitsa Velikova, is an art therapist and psychologist with extensive experience, and is also Director of the Arts and Therapy Institute in Sofia (Bulgaria)

The cards offer creative art therapy opportunities for primary school age children and encompass four themes: feelings and emotions, relationships with family and friends, the body and imagination.
There are opportunities for exploring in both two and three dimensions and all the materials required are listed in the booklet.

Each card provides a different prompt, for instance, ‘Draw a person in the rain using pastels or pencils’ (feelings); ‘Create a nest and a bird with clay’ (relationships); or ‘draw or create a happiness machine (imagination). All are illustrated in bright collage style.
The booklet explains each prompt and its aim(s), the materials needed and how a child might benefit from experiencing the activity.

A useful resource but it could I think, have been even more so, especially for teachers and other non-specialists in art therapy, to have at least the materials needed listed on the reverse of each card.

All About Ben / The Giant from Nowhere

All About Ben
Dorothy Markham & Aileen O’Donnell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Here’s a little book for children from around five to the age of Ben, the narrator who is eight, particularly those who have attachment issues, but equally for children who have a Ben character in their lives either as a friend, member of their peer group or relation. It aims to help children like Ben understand their feelings and emotions and how these cause them to behave in certain ways; and to develop the confidence to open up to an adult who can help them manage all their different parts.

Ben introduces himself, part by part: his action parts and nine feeling parts.

He goes on to talk about and give examples of, how different situations cause him to feel different parts – when playing with friends he feels his happy part whereas falling out with a friend brings his hurt part into play;

when he helps others he feels his caring part; and it’s the combination of all these different parts that makes him who he is.

Readers are then asked about their own feeling parts to add to Ben’s lists and we learn how feeling parts affect action parts (cause and effect) – which is important for children’s self understanding.

The final pages are devoted to the crucial roles of talking and listening (including the role of a trusted adult) in the development of a secure, integrated, happy and confident person able to understand and manage his/her emotions.

Reassuring and helpful, this is a useful book to have in primary school classrooms.

The Giant from Nowhere
Frances Dickens and Peter Hughes
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

When the Giant from Nowhere sets out to find a place with some company, little does he know that his sheer size is going to cause him problems. So it is in the little village of Somewhere. Its residents are terrified when he appears in their midst, and tell him in no uncertain terms to go away. His angry response causes damage to their homes and the Giant departs.

The villagers then decide to hunt him down and put him on trial. After a newspaper report and a police search, the Giant is found and eventually a little boy succeeds in getting him to answer some questions.

A trial follows and the defendant pleads guilty. The boy speaks up for him and the judge decides on a community sentence.

To reveal what happens thereafter would spoil the ending but suffice it to say all ends happily for everybody.

This is an insiders and outsiders story that should encourage plenty of discussion on such themes as empathy, mutual understanding and inclusivity.

A class of primary children could have fun acting it out in addition to participating in some of the activities included at the back of the book.

Can I Tell You About … Auditory Processing Disorder / Forgiveness?

Can I Tell You About … Auditory Processing Disorder?
Alyson Mountjoy, illustrated by Kelly Davies
Can I Tell You About … Forgiveness?
Liz Gulliford, illustrated by Rosy Salaman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

These are two recent additions to the excellent Can I Tell You About series aimed at primary school audiences, their families, teachers and others who work with them.

Each illustrated book has a child narrator, and in the Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) book it’s Amy who herself has the disorder. After an explanatory introduction for adults, she talks about how the condition affects her; how she got her diagnosis and how she is supported both in school and at home.

We also learn that APD isn’t the same for all those affected: one of her friends, Tom has the condition too but has different challenges to cope with. Amy’s dad also has APD but received his diagnosis after his daughter.

One of the most important things for teachers to know is the emotional strain that children like Amy are under and in addition to this being a helpful book for young readers, it’s one teachers should read too.

Amy herself ends on an upbeat note: having described both her own and Tom’s particular strengths she says, “Work hard, believe in yourself, and you can make your dreams come true too.” How adults can help a child make this so are listed in the final pages.

Forgiveness, as author Liz Gulliford states in her introduction, is a complex, frequently misunderstood concept. It’s one that she has researched for many years. Liz feels it’s important for children not to be made to apologise automatically after a dispute between classmates for instance, something that can happen in schools or between siblings at home

Here she uses Joseph as her narrator and together with his family offers a story designed to stimulate discussion on forgiveness at home and school.
Joseph talks about different scenarios – his best friend telling others something Joseph confided in him, thus breaking his trust in Billy.

He then goes on to talk of an instance when he took his sister’s ball without asking and lost it, which required not only Joelle’s forgiveness, but also self-forgiveness on his own part.

There’s also the important consideration of another of Joseph’s school friends, George who is being bullied. Perhaps forgiveness in this instance is not appropriate in case the perpetrator then goes on to bully another child. Could a degree of compassionate concern, at least from Joseph be better?

These are some of the ideas explored in this book that will certainly be a valuable resource in starting explorations of forgiveness in PSHE lessons at KS2. To this end the final pages are devoted to notes and key learning points.

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy / Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
Susan Verde and Peter H.Reynolds
Abrams Books

The team who gave us I am Yoga and I am Peace now explore what it means to be human.

Humans have a playful side and find joy in relationships, we hear; but on the negative side sadness brings a heavy heart. This though, is countered by a reminder that part of being human is the ability to make choices.
Positive actions – such as compassion and helping others, being fair and treating all people equally, bring a feeling of connectedness with fellow humans.

In keeping with the child narrator’s mood, Reynolds changes his colour palette from bright to a dull bluish grey as the actions switch from positive to negative.

Yes, we’re all flawed human beings who make mistakes but Susan Verde and Peter Reynold’s little book of empathy is perfect for starting a discussion with young children about making good choices. To this end, there’s also a loving-kindness meditation to share.

Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Featherstone (Bloomsbury)

Most young children will bring up the subject of death either at home or in school, or both, and many adults are unsure of how to engage in a discussion about it. This book, written in child-friendly language by a teacher, will for those adults especially, prove extremely helpful.

Each double spread – there are a thirteen in all – takes a different aspect and almost all start with a question such as ‘Are there different words for death?’; ‘What might you feel when someone dies?’ …

‘What do people believe happens after death?’ and, the only one that isn’t prefaced by a question, “To remember a person who has died, you could …’.
There’s a brief ‘It’s important to know’ paragraph at the end of most sections and Sarah Jennings has provided bright, appealing illustrations (often including speech bubbles).

The tone of the entire book – both verbal and visual – is spot on for the primary audience and is suitable for those of all faiths or none.

Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years

Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years
Mary Medlicott
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

That Mary Medicott, herself a professional storyteller and trainer, is passionate about the power of story is evident in this her latest book.
Like myself she believes that story time is for young children THE most important learning experience we offer them and should be part and parcel of their everyday experience. For one little girl I saw last Sunday it certainly was. I sat listening to a dad sharing a picture book (Percy the Park Keeper -The Treasure Hunt) with his young daughter outside a cafe. The experience was magical, not only for the two of them but also for the early years teacher part of me as I watched her slip from his lap saying “I’m going to ask that big rabbit if he knows where my bead is.” She walked over to talk to a huge decorated hare statue at the doorway, whispered something and went back to her dad who then continued with the story.

Drawing on her thirty plus years of experience she offers advice and support for anyone who wants to help youngsters from 2 to 5 further their imaginative development, enhance their language growth, listening skills, emergent literacy and reading achievement, and encourage them to create mental pictures, all of which are furthered by the sharing of stories either from a book or through a telling.

Having stated her case for the importance of story, she discusses the vast variety of stories available including personal stories, both children’s and adults’, picture book stories, nursery rhymes and chants, and traditional tales from a wide range of cultures.

For those who are less confident about themselves as storytellers, Mary talks in detail about various aspects of preparation for a story session, all of which help to make the whole experience enjoyable for both audience and story sharer whether they choose to tell the story or read a picture book. The importance of treating children as collaborators or even co-creators in the story process is discussed: ‘Children like being asked to think,’ says the author – yes they most certainly do.

There is a chapter on ‘props’ and their use; these can help enhance audience involvement both during the story and after in discussion.

Teamwork and involving all staff to their mutual benefit is another aspect covered, as is what staff members other than the storyteller are doing during the story sharing session; all adults should be involved and sitting among the children.

Children’s responses is the subject of another chapter be that through discussion, artistic interpretation and/ or their own scribed words.

Some of my favourite writers on young children and story, including Eileen Colwell, Betty Rosen, Vivian Gussin Paley and Tricia Lee, are referenced and key elements of their practice discussed, the latter two in the final ‘Consolidating’ chapter.

There are also two appendices, the first providing versions of stories, rhymes and action chants referred to in the main narrative; these can be used directly or in the case of the stories, adapted by the particular teller. The second offers a selection of tried and tested picture books and traditional tales – a good starting point for those new to the whole business of story sharing.

I’d strongly recommend this book (love Rosamund Bird’s cover images) for all early years educators and those who train them; in fact anyone who wants to draw all young children into those magical worlds of ‘Once upon a time’, worlds that offer as yet unimagined experiences that have the power to enthral, transport and inspire.

Stewart’s Tree

Stewart’s Tree
Cathy Campbell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Subtitled ‘A book for Brothers and Sisters When a Baby Dies Shortly after Birth’, this little picture book is intended to help explain sibling loss to young children.

Ellen has been waiting for a new baby – ‘something special’ but her new brother Stewart is very weak and never makes it back home. He’s been ‘lost’ is how her Granny puts it.

Ellen searches all over the house for Stewart even in the washing machine,

wondering perhaps, if he’s gone to the moon in his spaceship.

Her parents then help her to understand the new baby has died and isn’t going to come back.

Together they plant a cherry tree for Stewart, so they will always have a special place to remember him.

The book concludes with a guide to bereavement aimed at adults, written by qualified clinicians; this includes some suggested activities.

Sensitively told and illustrated, with gentle touches of humour, this is a book that one hopes few people will have need of, but it could prove invaluable to those families unfortunate enough to suffer such a bereavement. Schools, nurseries and children’s centres should certainly keep a copy on their shelves.

Sitting on a Chicken

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Sitting on a Chicken
Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Singing Dragon
What a wonderful title! What a wonderful book, but one would expect no less from yoga teacher and writer Michael Chissick. Its subtitle ‘the best ever 52 yoga games to teach in schools’ pretty much sums up the whole thing and right from the introduction (don’t skip that) you know you’re in the hands of a highly experienced expert. Many of the games included will be familiar to those who work with children and probably to children themselves but Chissick has cleverly transformed them by adding a yogic element.
The book is divided into three sections: the first, an introduction, explains how to structure a lesson and showcases Chissick’s visual timetable which he considers key to the whole thing.

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Most teachers, though perhaps not yoga teachers will be familiar with visual timetables, particularly if they’ve worked with children on the autism spectrum.
Next comes the core of the book, essentially the games – the ‘What’ – matching your learning objectives with a game; the ‘When’ – putting games into the relevant stage of a lesson. (From Key Stage 1 and beyond a lesson has seven stages, for nursery and reception children, a lesson is divided into four parts, for at least the first couple of terms); and ‘How‘ – the actual teaching of the games. This in particular is a veritable treasure trove of ideas.
It’s broken down into sections: beginning games, sequences – essentially adaptations of the sun salutation or surya namaskar sequence, development games and finally calming games leading into relaxation; the one used here is the ladybird relaxation.
There’s a short sub-section for working with nursery and reception groups.
This is a must have for the primary teachers’ bookshelf and for anyone who works to bring children and yoga together.

Striker, Slow Down!

How often do we ask children to ‘calm down’ or ‘slow down’? Fairly frequently I suggest. Now here’s a little book to help subtitled “A calming book for children who are always on the go‘:

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Striker, Slow Down!
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon
Striker the kitten, like many young children, leads a frenetic life, dashing from one activity to the next, never stopping or slowing down, despite frequent pleas from his mum and dad.

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Seemingly the only times he stays put are mealtimes and when he’s fast asleep. Now if you’re the parent of a whirlwind-type youngster, this will surely resonate.
One day though, the inevitable happens: Striker’s rushing results in a bumped head. Only then is he ready to sit down quietly with his mum, and start to relax.

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Those of us who work with young children know it’s not as simple as that. I do know however, that regular short sessions, be they of yoga, breathing, listening to a meditative story or whatever, do lead to calmer youngsters who can spend short spells being relaxed and peaceful in mind and body.
This little book is written in rhyme (creaking slightly once or twice) and Emma Hughes, the author, is herself a yoga teacher so obviously knows things don’t happen overnight as the book might suggest. However, if it does nothing more than set adults and young children off on the calming path, then it will have served its purpose.
For a start, take time to sit quietly together, share the book and enjoy the bright, bold, appropriately uncluttered illustrations.

They All Saw a Cat / Picture This

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Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books
A cat is a cat, is a cat, no matter what. Right? Perhaps not. The world looks different depending on the lenses through which we view it, surely? I certainly think so. It’s a wonderfully philosophical consideration brilliantly demonstrated by author/illustrator Brendan Wenzel in this creative, thought-provoking mixed media exploration of observation, imagination and perspectives, which begins thus:
‘The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears and paws …’. The child sees the cat, the dog sees the cat – sleek and slinky, the fox sees the cat – chunky and stubby, the fish sees the cat thus …

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and the mouse – well the mouse sees an alarmingly jaggedy, predatory monster, and the bee sees a pointillist image. On walks the cat and is seen by the bird, the flea, the snake, the worm and the bat …

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A dozen sightings, every one through different lenses, lenses which create shifts between texture, colour and tone, underlined after all twelve sightings by ‘YES, THEY ALL SAW A CAT!’

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We’re then told ‘The cat knew them all, and they knew the cat.’ –a lengthy discussion might ensue from this statement alone. But wait, we’re not quite done yet; the cat walks on and comes to the water: imagine what it saw …
Wenzel uses a range of painterly styles borrowed from impressionism, pointillism and others to make readers think about how perception, art and emotion are intricately linked. But that’s not all: the use of italics and capitals and the patterned structure of the narrative all contribute to the impact of the whole.
This is a book that can be used right across the age range from early years to adult students of art and philosophy: what a wonderful way to help the young to begin to understand and give credence to other people’s viewpoints.

The manner in which emotions are engaged and affected by the visual composition of images is explored in the revised and extended edition of a fascinating and insightful book first published 25 years ago:

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Picture This
Molly Bang
Chronicle Books
In the first hundred or so pages, Molly Bang takes the story of Little Red Riding Hood and shows how different placement of cut paper shapes and colours on the page work together to help create and build up emotionally charged scenes, our perceptions of which are bound by the context of our own experience. Why does a triangle placed on a flat base give us a feeling of stability whereas diagonal shapes make us feel tense?

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How come we feel more scared looking at pointed shapes, and more secure or comforted looking at rounded shapes or curves? These questions are explored as are others of colour choice and combination.
In the second, much shorter (new to the revised edition) section of the book, the author takes her story When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry, and using four pictures from it, looks at how she created four distinct feelings – one per illustration – of Fury, Sadness, Expectancy and Contentment/contemplation and uses them to explore the principles she’s looked at in the first part. And the final pages invite readers to create and analyse a picture of their own. Perhaps but first I’m off to take another look at some picture books starting with Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red.

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Secret, Secret & Mouse’s Best Day Ever

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Secret, Secret
Daisy Law
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
In this rhyming contemplation of secrets of all kinds, the child narrator takes readers and listeners through many different kinds of situations and secrets that children may experience. Having worked in various roles in education for over thirty years (and had children disclose to me) I know and appreciate just how difficult it may be for some children, in certain situations to have the confidence to open up and talk about certain things that are troubling them.
Subtle in its approach, this little book explores – with child and floppy bunny creature friends –

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a variety of secrets be they sad, happy, crazy, new, old …

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quiet, loud, the really scary, make your insides stone-cold kind, or these …

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To keep or tell, that is the question when it comes to secrets.
All children need to develop emotional intelligence: this book is a very helpful tool to use to this end; it deserves a place in primary classrooms, children’s centres, in fact anywhere that children are cared for and their well-being of vital importance.
One splendid way to help a stressed child is through reflexology and here is a picture book that embodies some basic techniques in the pursuit of well-being:

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Mouse’s Best Day Ever
Susan Quayle and Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
The book features half a dozen characters: main protagonist Mouse (representing the solar plexus reflex point),

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together with Hare, (representing lungs and chest reflexes), Otter (representing the lymphatic system), Squirrel (head, sinus, teeth, eyes and ear reflexes), Mole (reflexes of the digestive system) and Snake who represents the nervous system, back and spine reflexes. Told through a gentle rhyming text, and pen and ink illustrations,

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the story is designed to accompany a sequence of reflexology moves aimed at calming a child’s peevish mind and thus helping to improve general health. At the same time it facilitates the cementing of a bond between child and adult, soothing a youngster at bedtime, when stressed or unwell. Additionally it might be used to re-inforce names of parts of the feet and legs; and to help children begin to understand the interconnectedness of various parts of their bodies. (The latter is something mentioned in the foreword by Spiros Dimitrakoulas, Chair of Reflexology in Europe Network.)
Instructions are given on how to use the book at the beginning, and instructions for each reflexology move is given at the top of each verso page throughout the story.

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Not Today, Celeste!

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Not Today, Celeste!
Liza Stevens
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This story, told through a dog narrator, Celeste, explores in a very accessible manner, the subject of depression and its effects on the depressed person and others. Herein it’s Celeste’s owner Rupert who is suddenly overcome by depression. Here’s how Rupert and Celeste used to be …

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One day however, when out walking together, Celeste notices a change in her owner: is it Celeste’s imagination or has Rupert really undergone a change? It looks like the latter …

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Despite the fact that Rupert tries to convince himself, and Celeste, that everything is fine, they both know it isn’t. A worried Celeste does her level best to cheer up Rupert but to no avail and soon, she becomes very sad and scared. Fortunately, neighbours Lily and Henry notice the change in Celeste and the narrator tries to tell all. After that Lily helps both Celeste and Rupert to come to terms with ‘His poorly feelings’: Celeste spends some time playing next door while Lily talks to Rupert and then Lily gives some helpful coping advice to Celeste.
Eventually, Rupert does start to feel better; and safe in the knowledge that it’s not her fault, Celeste is prepared for moving on with his funny and ‘very, very brave’ human.

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In itself this is a moving story; but it also presents the tricky topic of depression and how it affects others in a way (with dog as storyteller) that allows children to think about the subject matter through a narrative distancing device. The final spread is ‘A Guide for Parents, Carers and Professionals’ written by a specialist in child and adolescent mental health and emotional wellbeing outlining the important issues when talking to children who may be dealing with depression in someone they know: essentially these are that talking about it is fine; that the child or children are still loved unconditionally and not to blame; that it is OK to seek help; that there is nothing to be afraid of; that it can and will get better with treatment. All in all, a thoroughly useful book, delightfully illustrated and subtly conveyed in both words and pictures. (Don’t suffer in silence: ask for help…)

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Connor the Conker & Little Meerkat

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Connor the Conker and the Breezy Day
Rachel Lloyd
Singing Dragon
Connor is a conker residing with his family – mum, dad and two siblings – in Horse Chestnut Town. It’s a particularly breezy day when we meet him and he’s eager to demonstrate his balancing on one leg, (without any wibble wobbles, is the aim). The wind is very playful though and that makes Connor get the sneezes unbalancing him; but that’s no problem because Connor knows how to roll and land safely without spilling himself: in fact it’s rather fun so he does a whole lot more rolling …

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right into a friend and on through the town and oops! Straight in the river so it’s fortunate that he also knows how to swim, though he’s always up for a bit more learning, so he tries backstroke too as the fish suggests.
While on his back, Connor decides it’s time he went home so off he goes; but first he has a last lovely stretch – in all directions …

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I’m a yoga teacher rather than a teacher of pilates about which I know comparatively little. I do know however, that story is a fantastic medium for working with young children and that the author Rachel Lloyd has a dance background and is a Pilates Master Trainer who is clearly passionate about its practice. Her positivity and what she says in the helpful notes at the back resonate with me completely. There are also photographic sequences and instructions for teaching each of Connor’s Pilates activities – equally helpful and empowering: and unsurprisingly, very similar to yoga asanas and sequences.

In similar format, and also recommended for early years and KS1 classes, as well as home use, is:

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Little Meerkat’s Big Panic
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This one’s subtitled ‘A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm’ and don’t we all need those right now.
When we meet Little Meerkat he’s faced with the prospect of ‘a very important job’ and today’s the day: his vital role is to act as ‘Lookout Meerkat’ and keep watch over the whole Meerkat gang. Simple eh?

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Well, not really because it means he has to stay wide awake and alert so that in the event of unwelcome potential harm in the form of snakes, large birds and other predators, he can sound the “Danger, danger, danger!’ alert. So how do you think he feels about that? It’s a question asked of listeners to the story.
Now most of us are familiar with that wobbly legs, heart thumping, hyper breathing that kicks in all too easily on such occasions, making it hard to focus on the task in hand and that is exactly how Little Meerkat feels on this important, right of passage day.
Off go his fellow Meerkats for some fun and games safe in the knowledge that there’s a watchful Meerkat at the ready just in case …

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Soon though our little watcher begins to feel drowsy on account of the heat and he dozes off – just for a very short while – but he awakes to discover all the other Meerkats have vanished. Little Meerkat’s in such a panic he can’t get his words out properly and Small Elephant gets a very convoluted message when the two come face to face. Fortunately the elephant has a good imagination and is able to understand and empathise with how his friend might feel right then; and soon both are frantically searching high and low – to no avail.
Along swings Mini Monkey and providentially he has some breathing techniques to pass on: Just what the others need to make them feel nice and calm.

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(And yes, they definitely work – I know from experience.)
And do the friends manage to discover the whereabouts of the missing Meerkats? Certainly they do; but first Little Meerkat has to tell the story from his viewpoint: then a plan is suggested, put into action and …

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There are his fellow Meerkats safe and sound in the ‘safe place’ just where they should be, if only the one on lookout had been able to stay calm and remember …
The final pages of this enjoyable, but very vital book explain simply some ways of keeping calm, as well as discussing the triune brain (not using this word however, other than in the adults’ information section.) And, I’m pleased to say, the author points out that everyone is different: what one brain likes may not suit another person (or meerkat) when it comes to relaxation techniques.

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Once Upon a Touch …

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Once Upon a Touch …
Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper
Singing Dragon
A number of years ago while working as an early years teacher in  outer London, I participated in an excellent massage course given by Mia Elmsater (and several follow up courses). From this first, I think, UK course of its kind, developed the Massage in Schools Programme (MISP). I then introduced peer massage into my school and one I moved on to. So, my own experience tells me that the narrative method documented herein – ‘Story Massage for Children’ yields enormous benefits and is a tool well worth every primary teacher acquiring. To this end, two experienced MISP trainers have put together this book.
It comprises a short introduction followed by three brief sections that outline the benefits of story massage for children and offer guidelines on how to use same. Here the importance of respect is stressed as well as taking into account the needs of individuals.
We are then introduced to the ten massage strokes that are the bedrock of the whole programme; and clear, illustrated details of how to do each stroke (and some variations) is given.

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The main part of the book ‘Story Massage in Action’ contains over 30 story/rhyme massages that draw on these basic strokes, and this is divided into six sections. The first contains well know tales and nursery rhymes with the visual symbols for each massage stroke to be used.

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The second section has six seasonal offerings; the third ‘In Your Imagination’ has a musical interlude, a pirate encounter, a visit to the fair, a balloon ride, an aeroplane flight and a circus trip. The remaining two are topic related and wide ranging.
Having read and absorbed this excellent little book, adults should be in a strong position to try the approach perhaps with their own children in the first instance knowing they have the tools to be confident and sensitive in providing, calming relaxing massage sessions for the young.
Once they become confident in using ideas from the book, readers can begin to choose stories and rhymes for themselves to add to their repertoire of story massages; many well-known picture books, traditional tales and nursery rhymes work well.

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