Scruffle Bear, Ellie, Cyril Squirrel and Love

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There’s Only One Scruffle
Robert Dunn
QED
Almost all children have a favourite soft toy and so it is with Ellie: she and her bear Scruffle are inseparable. Her parents cannot understand this Scruffle obsession – after all he’s patched, has an eye missing and is more than a little stinky! That reminds me of  ‘Bobby’ a bear I’ve kept ever since I was a very young child in Pakistan many, many years ago.
He must be replaced decides Ellie’s mum and presents her with this … Now you don’t need me to tell you how Ellie feels about this, nor will you be surprised at what she does next …

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Mum remains upbeat, trying to cajole Ellie and persuade her to give the newcomer a try. Ellie decides a walk might help her think and off she goes with new bear on her mind. He’s also on her mind as she assists Grandad with the gardening …

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and while she paints Scruffle a picture. By now, new bear is looking a little less like new and smelling well – disgusting! Not fit to be played with Ellie declares handing Scruffle to Mum who’s still wondering what her daughter sees in him. Could it perhaps be that two smelly bears could be accommodated in Ellie’s household? What do you think? I think a wash is definitely the order of the day …
Young children will immediately empathise with Ellie, giggle over her treatment of new bear and have plenty to say about the ending. The story’s a good one to prompt discussion about favourite toys, as well as coping with change and showing love.

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Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cyril is a lively creature and also very inquisitive; the thing he spends most time pondering on is love: What is it? “Can I find it and keep it? Do I need it?” he wonders. He decides to write a list of questions on the subject to ask his friends Carrie Crow, Dan Deer, Ramon Rat and Dafiya Dormouse, but none can supply answers. Instead, Dafiya suggests Cyril goes to look for love and having left an explanatory note and taken a few supplies, off he goes next day.
On his journey he encounters a bird that is amused to hear what Cyril is searching for and offers a demonstration of its version of love – ‘being held by a warm wing’.

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Other creatures provide different love suggestions: rabbit demonstrates with a warm smile, and with a “Buzzzzzzzzzz,” bee provides a ‘soft, soothing sound’. All these expand Cyril’s understanding of love and on his notepad he writes ‘Some of us have different maps to find love.’
Other animals he comes across further add to his list of ideas – that of Poppa Hedgehog demonstrating how sometimes love can be a bit puzzling …

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until eventually Cyril heads home where his friends are waiting, eager to find out about his quest. It’s in their reception of him that Cyril finally comes to know a crucial fact about that all-important word: that seemingly small acts of love can have a huge impact;

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and not only for those on the receiving end, I suggest.
There are many beautiful picture books on the market with love as an inherent theme. This one, with its cartoon-style illustrations and in-built questions is likely to promote lots of discussion among youngsters and will, I hope help to enlarge their understanding of such a vital concept. To that end there are some suggested activities and a guide for adults on the last two pages. Written by an expert on trauma, parenting and related topics, this is definitely one for the early years shelf in nurseries and for children’s centres.

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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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