Under the Christmas Tree Part 3 – Self-help for kids

Self-help titles are normally in high demand following the glut of Christmas overindulgence we adults tend to experience at this time of year. Children, thankfully do not time their greed or any other dilemmas for that matter so predictably. Therefore, it’s comforting to know there is an ever-available selection of fantastic kids’ books allowing little ones to explore their emotions, temper their fears, and make themselves feel a whole lot better about themselves and the world they live in. Here a few in picture book form.

Pickle & Bree Guide to Good Deeds by Alison Reynolds and Mikki Butterley

This is a divine picture book series featuring two unlikely companions, Pickle and Bree that centres around sound values and the importance of friendship. Romi Sharp discusses thethe-decortating-disaster various nuances and inspirations behind these demonstrative tales with author, Alison Reynolds, here. Visually exuberant, each title is crammed with subtle etiquette, positive attitude and enough storyline to keep kids tuned in and listening to the messages behind Bree and Pickle’s occasional the-big-snow-adventuredisagreements. How this delicious sounding pair work their way through The Decorating Disaster and decorating The Birthday Party Cake are the first two in the series and reviewed, here. The Playground Meanies and The Big Snow Adventure follow early next year. Supportive, fun learning for 5 – 8-year-olds.

The Five Mile Press October 2015

dingo-in-the-darkDingo in the Dark by Sally Morgan and Tania Erzinger

I adore Erzinger’s playful organically hued illustrations in Morgan’s timeless tale of overcoming your fears, in this case, of the dark. It’s impossible for Dingo to sleep because of his aversion to nigdingo-in-the-dark-illos-dingoht. In desperation, he believes that if he can catch the Sun who watches over him by day and keep it with him by night, he will be safe. His nocturnal bushland friends are quick to come to his aid, gently helping him discover another guardian angel, one who watches over him each night. The value of listening to your friends in times of trouble and doubt are gingerly brought home in this simple and enjoyable tale. Great for frightened pre-schoolers.

Omnibus Books November 2016

agatha-in-the-darkAgatha and the dark by Anna Pignataro

Agatha is one little lassie who also finds it hard to face her dread of the dark. When her fellow pre-schoolers tease and taunt her about it, her imagination threatens to spill into her real world until she realises with a little bit of help from the adults around her, that everyone has doubts and fears about something and that it is all right to admit this. Once Agatha allows her fear of monsters a bit of free reign, she discovers they are something she actually enjoys spending time with, sharing tea parties and sprinkle biscuits with them. Pignataro’s delicate narrative and soft, welcoming illustrations invite calm and help alleviate those pesky fears that follow us about. Highly recommended for shared pre-school reading.

The Five Mile Press 2016

the-fabulous-friend-machineThe Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Move over Cranky Bear, there’s a new gal in town and her name is Popcorn. Popcorn is ‘quite simply, the friendliest chicken at Fiddlesticks Farm’. She’s your consummate over-sharer, adjective exploiter, and spreader of good cheer tonic, whose heart of gold is bigger than the henhouse. Every circle of friends has a Popcorn.

One day, Popcorn happens upon a fabulous friend machine, known in human circles as the cursed smart mobile phone. Popcorn is so enamoured by its captive glow and entreating way of connecting to others, that she becomes  obsessed with messaging and soon completely forgets about all her old friends. It turns out her new cyber friends are chicken lovers too but for reasons more sinister than friendship. Will Popcorn’s true friends stand by her and save the day? Or is Popcorn’s goose cooked?

This is my pick of the bunch cautionary tale. Bland deals with cyber-safety and social media mindfulness in a comical yet completely relatable way that is sure to make little kids squirt with laughter and understanding. Highly recommended as an engaging read for 4-year-olds and above and primary schoolers who may be toting their own fabulous friend machines about.

Scholastic Press October 2016

Find more fab reads for your kids this Christmas, here.

kids-reading-guide-2016-2017

 

 

 

5 Naughty and Nice Christmas Gift Ideas

With Christmas fast approaching, here are 5 great naughty and nice Christmas gift ideas for those you love or those you had to put up with this year:Crap Colouring In

  1. A colouring book
    Let’s face it, the colouring book craze isn’t going away any time soon, and for those ready to admit it, colouring books for adults can be a lot of fun. The Adult Colouring Kaleidoscope by Beverley Lawson is a good one, as is The Magical City and The Magical Christmas, both by the talented Lizzie Mary Cullen.
    But for the relative you don’t get along with, try Crap Colouring-In – Mindless Art Therapy for Modern Life by Joe Sumner. It’s bound to get your point across.
  2. A self-help book for the jerk of the family
    If you have a classic jerk in the family, who thinks he always knows best then you need to buy him a copy of I Know You Think You Know it All book by Chris Black. A self-help book full of advice and observations on how to stand apart from others and become an influencer, this could change someone’s life.
  3. A naughty bookThe Elf Off The Shelf
    If you’ve heard of the Christmas toy Elf on the Shelf, then you’ll know he/she brings a lot of joy to children and parents around Christmas time.  The Elf Off The Shelf by Horace the Elf is a parody of the ever popular The Elf on the Shelf and is definitely for parent’s eyes only. If you’d like to give a naughty or inappropriate gift to someone this year, then this is it.
  4. A book to give you peace
    If you’re tired of hearing the same old stories from Great Aunt Beryl or sick of listening to your brother-in-law talk about how important his job is, then you need a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir on stand by. One of the best books out at the moment, (and a favourite of mine) it’s bound to keep them occupied so you can get on with having a good time. (Or you could just read it and escape to Mars in the pages).
  5. Sticker bookThe Ultimate Dinosaur Glow In The Dark Sticker Book
    If you’re visiting nieces and nephews and want to give them a fun gift, then you can’t go wrong with a sticker book. Added advantage is that you can help them put the stickers into the book, or on the fridge, bathroom mirror etc. Check these out: The Cat In The Hat Sticker Book, Star Wars Classic Ultimate Sticker Book, Ultimate Disney Sticker Book and my favourite, the Ultimate Dinosaur Glow In The Dark Sticker Book.
    I wish you all a fabulous Christmas filled with books and laughter.

 

Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Michelle Worthington

Welcome 2013! No bangs and whistles to launch the New Year this time. No arm-long lists of resolutions (fitted most of them on the back of my hand). Time to just buckle in, knuckle down and devote more hours to all those things we should actually be devoting more time to. One of them being more posts!

And so I embark on what I affectionately term Doodles and Drafts: snap-shot peeks at some of our most notable and most inspiring authors and illustrators. Some you will know intimately already, some are not so well-known but are creating impressive upward spirals; because all great writing starts with that first scrawled idea and all wonderful art begins as a mystic scribble… We kick off with a Drafter.

My first encounters with children’s author Michelle Worthington were at the usual haunts; children’s writing festivals and conferences. I was struck by her vivacious zeal and enthusiasm when asked anything about the craft of creating children’s stories. I’m delighted to feature this young, vibrant writer in my first author interview. Enjoy.Promo Photos 001

Who is Michelle Worthington? Describe your writerly-self for us.

My name is Michelle Worthington and I am a published Australian author. The stories I write are like the stories I used to read when I was little and they have what may now be seen as an old fashioned feel, but they have a timeless message. My goal is to be a successful Australian author known for uniquely Australian, classically elegant and compassionate stories for young children.

You’re a published author of several titles. What are they?

Picture book, The Bedtime Band, illustrated by QLD wildlife artist Sandra Temple was released by Wombat Books in November 2011.

Adult nonfiction book Practically Single was released by Mostly for Mothers Publishers in June 2012.

Picture Book, The Pink Pirate, published by Little Steps Publishing in July 2012, illustrated by New Zealand artist Karen Mounsey-Smith.

Yellow Dress DayPicture Book, Yellow Dress Day published by New Frontier Publishing in September 2012 which is illustrated by emerging NSW artist Sophie Norsa.

Why do you enjoy creating picture books? What other genres in children’s writing interest you?

As a mother of two rapidly growing boys, I am often asked why I write picture books for young children, especially young girls. The answer is simple; believe it or not, mothers were once little girls. More than that, I am a mother who wants my sons to grow up and marry strong, independent women. I write stories that empower little girls to believe they can be anything they want to be, as long as they believe in themselves. We live in a world where children are often asked at quite a young age to decide who they want to be. I want the children who read my books to decide to just be themselves. I would like to write a chapter book for boys one day.

 We know you love high heels but what’s your favourite colour, why and how has it influenced your writing?

My favourite colour is pink, of course. I love pink shoes.

Your recent release of the picture book “The Pink Pirate” was written for you niece. What message did you want to convey to her and your readers with this book?

The Pink Pirate was written for my niece, Georgia. I wanted her to know that she could be anything she wanted to be, regardless of her gender or the opinions of others. Books teach us so much about ourselves, the world we live in and the world that exists in our imagination. Every time you read a good book, you should get just a little bit smarter. It is very important not to underestimate the intelligence of the next generation, but at the same time, it is even more important that we pass on the right messages and lessons to them, in a way they will accept and understand.pink pirate

What does the term, ‘Power of Pink’ mean to you and why is it important for you to relay this belief to young readers?

There are not enough picture books that allow girls to be the hero of their own fairytale. Our children are growing up in a different world and they need to learn how to save themselves, instead of waiting to be saved. Writing my adult non-fiction fiction book about my divorce taught me that.

What inspires you to write? People, places, occasions…

I love writing stories for my family and friends, because I get my ideas from them. Words are like music to me. The right combination can sing in your brain as you read aloud. I write my books with that in mind. Books are best shared and if the reader enjoys telling it, it gives so much more pleasure to the listener. It is very important for me to feel like I am fostering a love of words and appreciation of good writing in my readers.

Where is your favourite place to create stories?

Practically SingleI write stories in my head all the time. They tumble around in my head until they are ready, then I write them down on anything I can find; bus tickets, napkins, back of my hand. Being a busy mum, it is hard to find an exact time to spend writing, so I let the ideas flow when and where they will.

Is illustrating your own picture book stories something you’d ever contemplate?

I can’t even draw stick people, so no. But I love working on books with talented illustrators, it makes the experience doubly delicious.

What is the one thing that motivates you to keep on writing (for children)?

I believe in the power of words, the power of sharing and the power of hope. Picture books encompass all these things and they are the perfect medium for teaching children about different people, places and challenges that they wouldn’t normally experience in their day to day life. I am not a doctor, scientist or any other professional that could help make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities. I am a writer. I can only use the gifts I have been given to help others to the best of my ability. If we all focus on what we are good at, we can all help each other in our own special way.

What is on the horizon for Michelle?

I am working on my first book app called Captain Cody, another picture book about the ocean, a fairy book with magic sparkles and a book about blended families, all to be released in the next 18 months. Watch this space; you never know what I will get up to next.

About Michelle

Best described as an Australian author with a penchant for high heels, Michelle is passionate about her kids and what she writes for them and kids like them. She’s won several poetry awards and is a regular presenter at schools and early learning centres.

Mini review of The Pink Pirate– Miss 6

Did you like the book? “Yes!”

What was the best bit?  “The girl saved the ship.”

What message do you think there was? “That girls can’t be pirates, but they can! When they grow up they can be whatever they want.”

Would you change anything in the book? “That the girl didn’t have to fight Blackboots, because she could have been hurt.”

Anything else you want to say about the book? “The two mice and the cat were doing swords as well.” (so clearly mice and cats can be anything they want to be too)

 

 

Reading your way to a better life

I’ve been surprised to find that I prefer to read self-improvement, business and text books in printed rather than ebook form.

I like to be able to flick through, browsing here and scanning there, as opposed to the very linear way in which I read fiction or narrative non-fiction such as memoir or biography, which is ideally suited to digital reading on the go or late at night in a dark room.

I know this because my library of business and text ebooks is gathering e-dust, while the printed equivalents find themselves dipped into regularly when I’m at my desk or plotting my future on the sofa, and shared with colleagues and friends.

The printed fiction and memoir library is feeling neglected, while its digital equivalent requires regular updating with new purchases as past buys are voraciously consumed.

What do you think? Do you find yourself reading some types of books digitally and others in print?

Speaking of books that help us to live better, I used to think self-help books were for losers. Truly, I did.

That was back when I was young and thin, with shiny hair, bright eyes, a tidy flat in a smart suburb, a healthy bank balance and zero commitments.

It’s much easier to be a career success when you can work endlessly long hours without worrying about who’ll do the childcare pick-up or whether your husband will be hurt that you won’t get a chance to eat the dinner he’s cooked specially.

It’s much easier to be thin and glamorous when you can go to the gym every night without worrying about who’ll put your child to bed, and can afford to buy several new outfits a year because your income is entirely your own.

It’s super-simple to have a neat and tidy house when you live alone in a one-bedroom place and can afford a cleaner.

It’s much easier, too, to have your finances in order when you have total control over what comes in and what goes out.

So, one day in my 30s I realised I might need some help.

I had a job that simply did not fit in with parenthood. Shift work, early mornings, late nights, unexpected breaking stories right when the baby needed feeding/settling/entertaining/dropping off/picking up … something had to give.

Start my own business, I thought. Work from home, be my own boss, that’ll work. But first, read books by mothers (and others) who have tried it, to find out whether it will, and whether I’ll enjoy it, and what I should do, and how. Hello, self-improvement/businesss section of the bookstore. Farewell, judgemental attitude to same.

It wasn’t flicking through books like Hayley Lewis’s Dream Believe Create: A woman’s guide to small business that made me realise that the time wasn’t quite right to go it alone, though. It was my bank balance. Frankly, I’ve needed guidance here for a while, but managed to get by through good luck and reasonable career and investment success. The time has come, though, for me to take some serious steps to get my paperwork and budget in order. To do that, I need some more bookish help.

To that end, I’ve just reread an old second hand book I picked up in 1989. Predictably, it’s somewhat out of date now: The Australian Women’s Money Book: A practical guide to financial planning by Deborah Brewster. It cost me $2.95 the year I finished school. Two somewhat dated but amusing chapters include, “The white knight (or Mr Right to the rescue)” and “Shopping your way to love”.

I may have to invest in a more up to date volume on personal finance. Maybe Work Less, Play More by Ron Bennetts and Andrew Foster will help. Do you have a favourite you’d recommend? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Meanwhile, on my pile of to-read or browse through this month are Paper Flow: Make paperwork easy by MaryAnne Bennie and Brigitte Hinneberg, Home Sorted! By Nina Rosace, 52 Ways to Get More Time in Your Life by Glenda May, Spousonomics: Or how to maximise the returns on the biggest investment of your life, How To Retire In 12 Months: Turning passion into profit by Serena Star-Leonard and The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich by Timothy Ferriss.

So impressed am I with Paper Flow’s promises, I’ve actually read the first couple of chapters and decided to take the authors’ 28-day challenge. But that’s another story. I’ll let you know how it goes.