A picture book set in … a war zone

littlemissw:

Picture books can be as relevant to older children and young adults as they are to younger children. One Red Shoe is a case in point, allowing parents and teachers to engender empathy and compassion in their children. Boys, in particular, are very visual (as are men apparently). If you’re looking to encourage your son to read more then a picture book or graphic novel could very well be a good place to start. More specifically, if your looking for a way to start an age appropriate conversation with your children about conflicts overseas, One Red Shoe, by Karin Gruss and Tobias Kreijschi and published by Wilkins Farago, sounds like a good place to start.

Originally posted on Wilkins Farago's Blog:

One of Tobias Krejschi's award-winning illustrations for 'One Red Shoe'

One of Tobias Krejschi’s award-winning illustrations for ‘One Red Shoe’

How do you even start to explain to a child what’s happening in the Middle East?

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen some dreadful reports from Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Do we turn off the TV and radio and hide the newspaper? I’ve been sorely tempted.

We’re lucky in Australia that violence on such a scale is largely alien to us. It would be forgivable for kids here to think that such problems are ‘overseas problems’ with little relevance to their lives.

But, of course, we know that such ‘overseas problems’ have a history of finding their way to us sooner or later, often in ways we don’t expect—in the past century, Australia has not been immune to terrorism, refugees or war.

Earlier this year, we bought the rights to Karin Gruss and Tobias Kreijschi’s One Red Shoe, a picture book…

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Broaching the Tough Stuff

On Friday night I was watching the News and, like so many in world, finding it difficult to understand how a commercial aircraft could be the target of a missile attack. Not to mention the why. Why that plane? Why those lives? Why then? Why…at all? These are difficult, perhaps unanswerable, questions for an adult so imagine how much more difficult it is for a child to understand. A child like my four year old son who had got out of bed and come to find me.

He honed in on the TV. The vivid graphics of twisted metal. And he was curious. What show was this and what were they doing and why were they doing it? I explained that some not-very-nice people had shot at a plane and it had crashed.

He explained to me that, that was dangerous. People could get a scratch.

And I said yes, lots of people on the plane had been very badly scratched and it was a terrible thing for anyone to do. And then I changed the channel.

The thing is, I had been completely unprepared to explain these things to my pre-schooler. The best I could do was simplify and follow his lead. Because I don’t want to lie to my children, I think that does them a disservice, but I don’t want to traumatise them either or rob them of the innocent way in which they perceive the world.

Confronting difficult issues with your children can be so daunting. From a family pet dying to something terrible they see on the TV, these things come up for us all. I’m still not sure I handled it as well as I could have and I’m curious, how do you broach the tough stuff with your little people?

Guest Blog: Five Fascinating Facts about A. A. Milne

littlemissw:

Some very interesting facts about the author of a true classic of children’s literature, Winnie – the – Pooh.

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

In this special guest post, Simon Thomas from Shiny New Books looks into the interesting life and work of Alan Alexander Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh…

1. A.A. Milne had a famous schoolteacher. A.A. Milne’s father John ran a small boys’ school, Henley House, and one of the teachers he employed was a young H.G. Wells. Wells was a few years away from publishing his first novel, The Time Machine, when he had a post at Henley House 1889-90 and taught Milne mathematics. It obviously rubbed off, as that was the subject Milne read at Cambridge.

2. He wrote a very prescient play about Christopher Robin. Almost. Before the success of Winnie the Pooh et al, and indeed before Christopher Robin was born, Milne was a very successful playwright. One of his early plays was The Great Broxopp, about the resentment a child felt against the father who had used…

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Epic Fail

Falling short or failing (for want of a better word) sucks. That’s it, that’s the truth. But it’s something we all must contend with in life.

As young children (egocentric little buggers that they are) we tend to measure our success by how well our latest attempt at something measures up to our most recent attempt. But as we get older we begin to judge our success by how we measure up to others. When we don’t do as well as expected or hoped then we class that as fail. We fail tests, fail classes, fail races. Some of us even fail relationships (which seems harsh). And though there is an argument that ‘you only fail if you don’t try’, I think that’s a bit of a cheeky argument.

It’s always worth trying, in my opinion. If you don’t try you may save yourself the pain of failing but you also rob yourself of the joy of succeeding. That said, if you try and don’t succeed then that is a fail. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, you certainly shouldn’t fear failure, but if (and when) you try something and fail then it’s ok to say, ‘I failed and it sucks. I feel bad about falling short. And now I’m going to dust myself off and keep trying.”

Or as my mum put it, “Cry it out and then get on with it.”

This week I had two failures. I entered pieces of writing in two separate competitions and wasn’t short listed in either of them. On the plus side, I can now post my stories here for people to read and perhaps share with their little loved ones. On the down side I really, really, wanted to win ;)

When the time comes that my own children try and fail, I hope that the lesson that my husband and I instil in them is that: we all fail sometimes and failing isn’t an awesome feeling, but once we’ve dealt with the disappointment we need to get up and give it another go.

If you’re interested in reading my two stories have a read here and here and feel free to let me know what you think.

And in the meantime, what are your thoughts on failing? When have you and how do you deal with that? And how do you encourage your children to deal with it?

Quack

One brand new day, a brand new hen arrived on the farm and the whole hen house was in a flap.

Chicks giggled, hens squawked, Dot blushed from her toes to the tip-top of her comb.

“What’s going on in here?” asked the short sighted rooster.

“Quack!” said Dot.

“Oh dear, oh dear!” squawked Rooster, “No ducks in the hen house please. Go back to the pond with the other ducks.”

“But…”

Rooster bundled her out of the door.

“I guess I could be a duck,” thought Dot.

The ducks were heading off for their morning swim.

Waddle-waddle, slip, slide, splash.

Dot followed them.

Wiggle-waggle, slip, slide, splash, glug.

“You can’t swim,” said the ducks as they pushed Dot onto the bank, “you can’t be a duck. Crows can’t swim. Go to the paddock with the other crows.”

“I might be a crow,” thought Dot.

The crows were just beginning their choir practise.

Caw-caw, caw-caw-caw, caaaw-caaaw, ca-aw.

Dot cleared her throat.

Caaw-arg-arg-erk-awk-ark-yurk-erg.

“You can’t sing,” said the crows, “you can’t be a crow. You look a bit like a pigeon. You should head over to the farmhouse.”

“That must be it,” thought Dot.

The pigeons were practising their plies.

Up, down, up, down, up, down, up.

Dot stretched her legs.

Up, down, up, stumble, trip, oomph.

“You lack grace dear,” said the pigeons, helping her up, “you can’t be a pigeon.”

“Then what am I?” Dot said, fluffing her feathers.

But night was coming and the pigeons had all flown off to their nests.

Dot trudged back to the hen house.

“What am I?” wondered Dot. A tear dripped off the end of her beak.

Her stomach growled…

Gurgled…

Groaned…

Grumbled!

Dot flew to her feet, “I forgot!”

She dashed into the hen house, leapt into her nest, crossed her eyes, held her breath and…

Laid one perfect brown egg.

“Woohoo! I quack like a duck but I lay eggs like a chicken,” crowd Dot.

“What are you then?” asked the chicks.

Dot looked out of the hen house door. The moon was rising high into the sky, big and bright and nothing like the stars around it.

She snuggled into her nest, “I’m just me.”

Bunyip’s Night

Bunyip in his watery bed tossed and turned, groaned and grunted, wriggled and wiggled, fidgeted and flicked his tail.
He yawned and yawned again.
But still Bunyip couldn’t sleep.
“Who’s making so much noise?” he said.

Bunyip checked his fish were sleeping tight and then splished and splashed out of his dam.

He saw Platypus floating on top of the water.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Platypus, splashing out of sight.

Bunyip stomped between the pale Eucalypt trees and saw Possum over head.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Possum, leaping away through the leaves.

Bunyip stomped towards the edge of the forest, whipping his tail behind him, and saw Wombat snuffling in the leaf litter.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Wombat, backing away into the shadows.

The noise was louder now. It bopped and it zinged, it flew and it crashed, it thudded and it sang.
Bunyip stepped out into the clearing. His enormous mouth dropped open.

There were Bunyips everywhere.

Big ones and small ones, ones with feathers and ones with fur, ones with shimmery scales and ones with twisting tales. Bunyips of every colour and hue. All of them prancing and spinning, dancing and grinning. All of them having a wonderful time.

And Bunyip’s feet started tapping, his hands started clapping, his hips started swaying and his head started bobbing.
“Wow, you look great!” said a Bunyip passing by, “Come dance with us.”

And Bunyip did. He twisted and he twirled, he grinned and he guffawed, he waved and he winked, he fandangoed and he flounced. He was having such wonderful time that he didn’t notice the other Bunyips were drifting away until he heard a low roar and then another and then another!

There were bright lights that made Bunyip blink and thuds and growls that made Bunyip jump. The other bunyips were taking off their tails and their ears and getting into growling boxes.

Monsters! Monsters everywhere!

With a shudder and a shriek Bunyip ran back into the forest, through the Eucalypt trees, and splashed back into his dam. He sank to the bottom and his fish snuggled in around him.
To think! He’d been dancing with monsters and he never even knew it.

It had been a lot of fun though.

He yawned. He didn’t toss or turn, grunt or groan, wriggle or wiggle, fidget or flick his tail. He just snored, snored, snored.

10 Great Terry Pratchett Quotations on His Birthday

littlemissw:

You can do a lot worse than beginning your child’s love of reading by sharing the wonderful humour of Terry Pratchett with them.

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

Since today is the birthday of Sir Terence David John Pratchett, better known to the world as Discworld author Terry Pratchett (Happy Birthday, Sir Terry!), we’ve compiled a list of our favourite one-liners and wise remarks from the master of comic fantasy.

‘Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.’

- Foreword to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1998) by David Pringle

‘A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.’

The Fifth Elephant

‘When I was a child I read books far too old for me and sometimes far too young for me. Every reading child is different. Introduce them to the love of reading, show them the way to the library and let them get on with it. The space between the young reader’s eyeballs and the printed page is a holy place and officialdom…

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Cinderella

Today my sons and I watched the Disney classic, ‘Cinderella’. Cinderella was a favourite mine as a little girl – I was definitely a Disney girl – and it’s lovely to share these movies with my own children.

 

Obviously the Disney version of the story is different to the original, recorded by the brother’s Grimm. In the original story the stepmother and her two daughters are forced to dance to their death in iron shoes…yikes! Revenge isn’t something I would encourage my children to embrace. But today, watching the far more sugary Disney version, I was also forced to wonder whether the ideas and values playing out on the screen were ones I wanted my children to subscribe to.

Now, maybe I’m over thinking. People have accused me of that before. And I certainly wouldn’t scratch Cinderella or her ilk from my watch list. But, as a mother and a writer, I’m aware that children’s books and movies all have a message within them – intentionally or not. They have to, because their audience is highly impressionable.

Cinderella claimed that all you needed was belief in your dream and, eventually, that dream would come true. She didn’t pack up her bags and creep out of the house in the dead of night. She didn’t go to the ball dressed in her tattered clothes and take the risk that the prince might fall in love with her regardless. She didn’t start-up her own cleaning business, make her fortune, and buy the chalet next door (ok, I know they didn’t have cleaning businesses back then). She did as she was told, she hoped and dreamed and relied on fate and luck to change her life.

I’m all for dreams and hope and faith. These are some of the most precious of all human emotions and they are certainly ones I would want my children to experience. But, in my experience, dreams also require hard work and perseverance and commitment to come true.

I still love Cinderella. I love her for the way she shows us that dreams do come true, that love is for everyone and that magic is worth believing in. All these things are true and worthwhile…

I’ll just be backing it up by showing my kids that they have to bring other things to the table too.

 

What do you think? Am I over thinking things?

Unfettered Submission Finished!

This beautiful artwork was the very special inspiration for my submission.

This beautiful artwork was the very special inspiration for my submission.

 

Thank goodness!

I have finally finished my submission for the Unfettered writing competition and sent it off on Sunday. Months of writing, rewriting, editing, deleting and writing again…and it’s finished!

So good luck my little creation. I’m very proud of you. ‘wink’

Something True.

When I saw this Tweet from Random House I was immediately struck by how true it was. For children and adults alike, books allow us to experience things and take on challenges that we might never experience in real life. I think the measure of  a good book, a really good book, is how much you feel as the characters go through things.

Often we want to shield our children from any negative feelings, I know I want to protect my kids from pain, sadness and anger, but the truth is these emotions are all an important part of being human and through reading we get to experience and understand them in a safe way.

I will always be grateful to my mum for reading challenging books to me from a young age. While she sat on the floor getting a ‘numb bum’, reading Lord of the Rings to my brother and I, I looked down from the top bunk with tears rolling down my face. Those memories aren’t only of the characters and books but also the feelings they inspired and those moments with my mum.

So, what about you? Can you relate to the quote? And what books do you read with your children that carries them away in the experience and make it seem as though it belongs to them?