Elsie

Elsie
Nadine Robert and Maja Kastelic
Abrams Books for Young Readers

On fine sunny Sundays the seven Filpot rabbit children go fishing. Six are enthusiastic; divergent thinking, Elsie (with her head in a book), is not.

However she does go along following her own creekside path and when it comes to bait, despite her siblings’ advice, Elsie insists she’s going to put a buttercup on her hook.

Why not, after all, surely thinking for oneself and having innovative ideas is the right way to go: and so it is here, for Elsie’s is the rod that twitches and she’s the one with a successful haul.

Now is the time for her six siblings to listen to her point of view.

The combination of Maja Kastelic’s retro feel, vibrantly hued, detailed illustrations rendered in tempera and watercolour, and Nadine Roberts’ lively text mostly in the form of dialogue (with some judicious use of capital letters), result in a book that is thought-provoking, and hints at the notion of neurodiversity

All in all, a sweet story with important messages about being true to yourself and showing respect to those with different ways of relating to the world.

Hooray for Independent Thinkers: Little Monkey & Larry Lemming

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Little Monkey
Marta Altés
Macmillan Children’s Books
Size, or rather lack of it, is a big issue for one particular little Monkey, so much so that one day, she comes to a decision – a BIG decision. She won’t be left out any longer; “I will climb to the top of the tallest tree,” she announces and off she goes through the jungle to prove herself.

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What she’s blissfully unaware of as she navigates the deep dangerous river and the tricky path is that although she notices lots of little things doing lots of amazing things …

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she’s not the only one undertaking this journey …
Eventually Monkey reaches her destination: that tallest tree in the jungle and up she goes, higher and higher, until finally she can see the world stretching out below her. By now you’ll have your audience wriggling on their bums crying out to the gallant little creature and even more so, as she stands atop that palm viewing all that’s before her.

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Without being a total story-spoiler I won’t reveal what happens thereafter, but suffice it to say a certain small Monkey feels very proud of herself, after all, ‘ … the smaller you are, the larger your adventures can be.’
It’s definitely a case of showing, not telling being the essence of this deliciously funny tale. Altés comic choreography means that every turn of the page brings something new to giggle over; and the synergy between words and illustrations is terrific.

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Leaping Lemmings!
John Briggs and Nicola Slater
Sterling Children’s Books
Can you tell these lemmings apart?’ Readers are drawn in from the start by Briggs’ opening question to this story. He continues, ‘No? That’s because all lemmings look alike, sound alike, and act alike.’ Not one hundred per cent accurate: meet the wonderfully divergent Larry. Larry is a thinker: he knows he doesn’t fit in with the lemmings crowd …

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and he certainly has no intention of following his fellow lemmings off the edge of a cliff.
Can he avert disaster though, when after abortive attempts to live with the seals, the puffins and the polar bears, he returns home to find the lemmings about to make that fateful leap? Fortunately yes, and as for becoming independent thinkers … job done!

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Wonderfully whimsical and with important themes of thinking for yourself and daring to be different, this book deserves to be shared widely; it certainly offers teachers a great opportunity for discussion, as well as food for thought, not only among the children.
Nicola Slater’s deliciously witty, minimalist artwork is a terrific complement to Briggs’ gently humorous text. As a divergent thinker myself, I whole-heartedly applaud the independently-minded Larry, and of course, his creators.