I thank you for your support throughout 2021 and wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2022.
While Covid still pulled more strings on our lives than we had expected at the end of 2020, I hope that you have been able to achieve at least some of your goals and ambitions in 2021.
In August of this year, we celebrated readilearn’s 5th birthday. It’s an achievement of which I’m proud. Five years seemed such a long time in the future when I began. Now, looking back, it’s gone so fast. I have continued to post a weekly article on the blog, publish a newsletter each month, and upload new resources throughout the year so that the collection now numbers over 500. I hope you have had the opportunity to use many of them with your children.
In addition to the work for readilearn, I had twelve more stories added to the Library For All collection. You can read about them here.
I also wrote three phonic workbooks for Pascal Press which should be available for purchase early in the new year. Look out for the Targeting Phonics series.
And I continue to write manuscripts for picture books hoping that one day I will see a picture book with my name on the spine on the shelves of book stores and libraries. It’s been a goal since my childhood. One day …
Goals help us move forward. Without goals and without hope, life may stagnate and become dull. I hope it never does for you.
As we move into another new year, I share with you two quotes about hope that inspire me:
Last week I provided you with a list of picture books I had reviewed or whose authors and illustrators I had interviewed throughout the year. Of course, I read many more than that. It would be impossible to review all the books I read. However, in this post, I share just ten other picture books I have read and enjoyed this year, not all of which were published this year. I hope you find at least one that appeals to you or your young people. (Note: where I was able to source a video, I have included one.)
The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name
by Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira (a Bright Light book published by Hardie Grant, 2021)
The blurb states that ‘No-one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.’ I think we would all agree with that.
However, when Zimdalamashkermishkada starts school, he knows he will have to do something about his name. He is asked to spell it and repeat it before a friend shortens it to Zim. When he asks his mother if he can shorten Zimdalamashkermishkada to Zim, she explains the reasons for giving him his name and suggests he gives people a chance to learn it. Which is just what he does. He stretches his name out bit by bit to teach his new friend Ella who shares pride in his name and teaches others to use it correctly too.
I love the theme of this book and its message about recognising and accepting others. How many times do we have children in our classes with names that we at first find difficult to pronounce? How tempting is it to simply shorten them because it is easy? How much more important is it for us to acknowledge and learn their given names showing respect for them and their culture and modelling that respect for the children in our class as well as our colleagues. Shortening names may be easy, but it can be hurtful too. This book is a great reminder of that and of appreciating our differences and what it means to be unique.
(Note; while there is a reading of this book on YouTube, I haven’t shared it here as I was disappointed that the reader didn’t even pronounce the author’s name correctly. Sorry, Sandhya.)
Usha and the Big Digger
by Amitha Jagannath Knight and Sandhya Prabhat (a story telling Math book published by Charlesbridge, 2021)
This is another wonderful book that I received as a gift from the author, simply for leaving a comment on an interview with Kaitlyn Sanchez on her blog Math is Everywhere.
In my comment, before reading the book, I simply said, ‘This book sounds amazing. I love that the constellation is viewed from different perspectives. What a great introduction to perspective for children – both the maths, and the ideas/points of view. The cover is appealing with the gorgeous night-sky colours. Yes, I’d love to read this one and have added it to my Good Reads Want to Read list. Here in Australia, we have different ways of looking at the constellations too. While we see the images drawn by connecting the dots (stars), our Indigenous Peoples see the shapes in the dark. It’s quite fascinating.’
And for that I received a free book from Amitha. That’s amazing. And the book doesn’t disappoint either. The deep colours that Sandhya Prabhat has used to illustrate the dark of the night and the sky with its stars are just beautiful and add so much depth of the discussions and the themes.
In the story, three girls observe the constellation that I know as the Big Dipper or the saucepan. The older sister also refers to it as the Big Dipper or a big spoon. The younger sister Usha, who loves trucks, sees it as a big digger. Unable to agree, they call on their cousin. But Gloria sees neither a dipper nor a digger. She sees a kite. When they try to see the stars from the others’ perspective, they come to a whole new understanding.
I love the way this book deals with looking at things from different perspectives and coming to an understanding. I also like that it includes information about the constellation, including that it isn’t really a constellation, it’s an asterism, and how it is seen by different cultures around the world. In addition, it includes suggestions for exploring maths related to the story. I wasn’t previously aware that there was a publisher of STEM related books such as Storytelling Math. I’ll be looking for more of their titles as I think picture books are a great way to encourage a love of maths as well as reading. That’s definitely a win-win.
You can listen to Amitha talk about her book here.
Books and reading are two of my favourite things. Or should they be combined into just one favourite thing? If so, it’s a mammoth favourite thing.
I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember and turning others on to a love of books and reading gives me great joy. Finding that joy is one of the reasons I interview authors and illustrators and review their books. I hope my interviews and reviews have encouraged you to read some of the beautiful books I’ve brought to you this year.
Just in case you may have forgotten some of them and are thinking of last minute gifts for those young children in your lives, look no further. Books make great presents for persons of any age, and any of these books will give long-lasting pleasure.
I this post, I remind you of the books I’ve reviewed and authors and illustrators I’ve interviewed throughout the year. It’s been a bumper year. Just follow the link to find out more about a book you are interested in.
School friends – Kiana, Amin, Roshan, Casey, Ming, and Tyler all have one thing in common — they can’t go to school. The world changed very quickly and now they have to stay home to keep themselves and their families and friends safe. They discover that even apart, they can find new and fun ways to be together.
Worry Monster loves ‘helping’ Archie worry, especially on the night before he starts at a new school. Archie feels so anxious that his head hurts, his tummy flutters and his heart pounds. He soon realizes that the only way to feel better is to make Worry Monster go away. He does his belly breaths and challenges his inner fears by facing facts, and Worry Monster is forced to leave Archie alone! Go Away, Worry Monster! gives children useful strategies to cope with their anxieties and stress, showing them how to make their own Worry Monsters leave, even in highly stressful times.
When I thought of goats, children and stories, I thought of one of my least favourite children’s stories: The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids. I’ve written about it before, explained why I disliked it, and even wrote another flash fiction in response to one of Charli’s prompts about it.
There was nothing else for it. I had to attack it again in another way, hoping to put it in a more positive light. I hope you like it.
The Littlest Goat
“You’re too little.”
The all-too-familiar chorus stung but he determined to show them size didn’t matter; not the way they thought.
Before long, opportunity came knocking.
The others were too stupid to check before opening the door, too slow to escape the intruder and too big to hide. The littlest one watched from the grandfather clock as the wolf devoured them one by one.
When Mother returned from Christmas shopping, the littlest goat told all. Together, they found the greedy wolf and rescued his brothers.
The littlest goat showed that being clever, quick and brave beat size any day.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
This article was written for and first published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. Although it is now the 3rd of December, you will still be able to complete most of the activities, especially since many of you will be on holidays and entertaining your own children during December. Enjoy!
With the timing of this post on the last day of November, I have prepared a December Advent Activity Calendar for families (parents and children) to use in the lead-up to Christmas. There is one suggestion for each day until Christmas. In this article, I provide a brief outline of each activity. For those who want more, I have prepared a PDF with additional details for each activity which you can download freeby following this link.
Put up the Christmas Tree
It is traditional for Christmas trees to be put up and decorated at the beginning of December. In my family, we try to do it on, or as close to, the 1st of December. If you haven’t put your tree up yet, perhaps it’s time to think about it.
I have provided the outline of a Christmas tree which can be cut, coloured and hung on the real Christmas tree. Write the year on it. On the back, write something you wish for yourself, something you wish for others, and something you wish for the world. Hang it on the Christmas tree. If you do the same thing each year, you can reflect on changes in yourself and in the world.
Make Paper Chain Decorations
Paper chains are easy to make and add colour to the tree or can be hung around the room.
Due to our Covid-19 lockdowns and border restrictions, it’s a couple of years now since I took a flight anywhere. Even flights of the imagination have been few and far between as a variety of factors have colluded to suppress my creativity as well. However, I couldn’t resist a prompt about flight.
I’ve always thought how wonderful it would be to be a bird and fly above the earth and see it in all its beauty. Looking down on the patchwork quilt from a plane’s window gives me joy and a sense of wonder. How much greater it would be to fly like a bird. I guess other forms of flight would give an experience closer to that of a bird, but I haven’t tried any of those yet (and am unlikely to).
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is one of my favourite books. I have read it numerous times and love the description of flight and the exhilaration it brings to Jonathan.
I know I’m not the only one to be fascinated by flight. Many children wish they could fly like birds and their superheroes. That’s where I’ve gone with my response to Charli’s prompt this time. I hope you enjoy it.
Heron balanced on one leg on the bare tree branch above the water. He spread his wings and stretched his neck to face the breeze. He revelled in the freedom of flight even before his feet lifted from their base — the exultation of gliding through the thermals. Superhero Heron — like his namesake — was ready for take-off.
‘Heron! Heron! Get down. This instant.’
‘I am. I’m flying down.’
‘No. You are using the same ladder you used to get up.’
‘You called me Heron, so I can fly.’
‘You will not fly today. This flight is cancelled. You are grounded.’
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
Oh, and before you go, you might like to watch a fun video of a picture book by Mo Willems called Today I Will Fly. I love it. It’s so clever, especially the ending. Unfortunately, I can’t share it here but you can follow the link to watch.