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 Miracle of Hanukkah

The Miracle of Hanukkah
Malachy Doyle and Christopher Corr
Bloomsbury Education

The Jewish ‘festival of lights’, Hanukkah is celebrated over eight days and in 2019 begins of the night of December 22nd continuing until the 30th of the month.

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means ‘dedication’ and in this picture book Malachy Doyle retells the story of the reclamation and rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees and their followers succeeded in driving the Greek army of King Antiochus back to their homeland.
Unable to find the golden menorah in the temple, Judah Maccabee and his men created a simple oil burner and managed to find only sufficient oil to last a single night.

Amazingly though, when they lit the burner it stayed alight for eight days and nights.

The story of the ‘Miracle of the Oil’ has since been passed down from one generation to the next and this is the festival that is commemorated at Hanukkah.

In Jewish homes a special menorah called a Hanukkiyah is brought out. The menorah holds nine candles, one of which is the Shamash (servant), which is used to light the other eight candles. On the first night, just one candle is lit. On the second night, an additional flame is lit and so on until by the eighth night all eight lights and the Shamash are burning.

Christopher Corr shows all this in his characteristic vibrant illustrations as well as the traditional sharing of fried latkes, and sufganiyot (sweet, jam-filled doughnuts), and the dreidel game that children play.

This is an ideal picture book to share with primary age children to introduce them to the Hanukkah story and associated traditions, either in RE or for an assembly.

Cavegirl / It’s Too Scary / Manju’s Magic Wishes

Cavegirl
Abie Longstaff and Shane Crampton
It’s Too Scary!
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Sharon Davey
Manju’s Magic Wishes
Chitra Soundar and Verónica Montoya
Bloomsbury Education

These are three recent additions to Bloomsbury Education’s Young Readers series, which aims to help children take that important step into independent reading.

Each book has been written by a popular author, has short chapters providing suitable stopping points and full colour illustrations that make each book look inviting.

Cavegirl Aggie is an independent, creative little girl with a warm heart and a mission: to get a very special birthday present for her mum. She learns that one of the villagers, Gron, has found a piece of amber that glows like the sun and is certain it’s the right gift. She sets about her task, making several trades and finally she has something she thinks Gron will trade for the amber. Gron agrees but then on the way home disaster strikes in the shape of a boar and the amber disappears before her eyes. But Abbie isn’t one to give up and the satisfying story ends happily.

It’s Too Scary! is the story of a visit to the fair. Mum takes Jun and his sister Lin but while she’s eager to try all the rides, Jun who’s first visit to a fair this is, is fearful and wants to avoid anything scary. Can Lin, help her little brother overcome his fear of those ‘big rides’ so that he too can enjoy all the fun of the fair and make his experience one he’ll want to repeat?

Chitra’s Manju’s Magic Wishes is slightly longer in terms of words and like Cavegirl, has a little girl who is eager to give her mum a wonderful birthday gift. The story has plenty of action and excitement and of course magic – there’s a magic lamp, a genie and seven wishes, and an enormously tasty finale. Manju and her cat, Cumin discuss mum’s birthday present and Cumin suddenly becomes excited, rushing into Grandma’s room. It’s there that they accidentally discover Grandma’s magic lamp and by recalling Gran’s instructions Manju is able to call up a genie. He grants them seven wishes – more than Manju is expecting. Those will surely be sufficient to conjure up something very special. However the task isn’t quite as simple as they anticipate; indeed Manju almost runs out of wishes before that ‘just right’ gift is ready and waiting.

For adults sharing them with children, the inside covers of all three books have helpful tips, discussion points and creative ideas to extend the stories.

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.

Bloomsbury Young Readers

A Tiger for Breakfast
Narinder Dhami, illustrated by Christopher Corr
The Ugly Little Swan
James Riordan, illustrated by Brendan Kearney
Jack and the Jungle
Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly
Happy Birthday, Sausage!
Michaela Morgan, illustrated by Felicity Sheldon
Bloomsbury Education

These are four newly illustrated stories published in Bloomsbury Young Readers series for children who, as well as reading picture books, want to extend their range. These stories still have colour illustrations breaking up the text on every page but have short chapters.
Those who are familiar with my background will probably be aware that I am no fan of reading schemes, controlled vocabularies or book bands and these stories are ‘levelled’. They are however, the work of established children’s book authors and illustrators and I’d happily include them in a classroom collection as books worth reading in their own right.

A Tiger for Breakfast has a folk tale feel to it and tells how farmer Ram’s wife, Reeta, tricks the hungry tiger intent on making a meal of the entire family. Christopher Corr’s richly coloured folk art style illustrations are an ideal complement to Narinder’s punchy text.

Turning the Hans Andersen classic tail up is James Riordan’s The Ugly Little Swan wherein one of a Mother swan’s hatchlings is ostracised by the others for being different. Herein, illustrator Brendan Kearney’s blend of humour and pathos speaks volumes.

Jack and the Jungle, tells what happens when young Jack kicks his ball over the wall of his new garden into Abbie’s next door. Could there really be snakes, a wolf and tigers living among all that vegetation, as she would have him believe?Young readers will enjoy the extended joke delivered through Malachy Doyle’s text and Paddy Donnelly’s equally lively pictures.

Happy Birthday, Sausage!, Michaela Morgan’s story extends over 48 rather than 32 pages. Herein poor dachshund, Sausage eagerly anticipates the ‘birthday’ party Elly, Jack and their gran are planning for him unaware that arrogant cats that share his home are intent on sabotaging it. Will their plot be discovered in time? This fun tale of subterfuge and assumptions will please readers, as will Felicity Sheldon’s scenes with their amusing details; her portrayal of the plotting felines and canine characters in particular is splendidly expressive.

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.

Rama and Sita

Rama and Sita
Malachy Doyle and Christopher Corr
Bloomsbury Education

Every autumn term countless teachers in primary schools share the story of Diwali with their classes. This retelling with Christopher Corr’s vibrant folk art style illustrations and Malachy Doyle’s straightforward narrative is an ideal introduction that really brings to life the ancient Hindu tale of the victory of light over dark.

It recounts how living in exile Rama and his wife Sita are tricked by the demon king Ravanna who wants Sita for himself. He sends a deer into the forest and Rama follows it at his wife’s request leaving Sita alone.

In his absence, Ravanna kidnaps Sita and takes her away to his island kingdom.

When Rama realises he’s been duped, he resolves to rescue his beloved wife and as luck would have it Hanuman the monkey king comes to his assistance.

With the help of Hanuman and his monkey army, who build a bridge across from the mainland, Rama rescues Sita from the island whereon Ravanna is holding her prisoner. First though, a terrible battle is fought on that island between the monkey army and the wicked demon army until finally an arrow from Rama’s bow pierces the chest of the ten-headed demon Ravanna who falls down dead.

With Sita safe once more, the fighting is called to a halt and the reunited couple return to a huge welcome in their homeland

where divas are lit everywhere in honour of their homecoming.

During my time as a teacher I’ve collected several beautiful picture book tellings of the Diwali story that are now sadly out of print, so it’s great to see this new one.