“Some Stuff” by Elizabeth Ring is the story of Lenore, a girl with lots of toys but no one to play with. She meets a new boy, Jerome, from next door and in her excitement overwhelms him. She thrusts toys at him until he is literally buried beneath them. The budding new friendship is almost lost but, just in the nick of time, Lenore remembers to ask her new friend for his opinion on what would be fun and suggests that they just go outside and play in the sun.
This is essentially a short social story about how to share, not only toys, but ideas. It also addresses the need to make space for another person. The book is a monologue, in Lenore’s voice, and the syncopated rhyming structure makes for a comic and pacy read.
The two characters in the book are Caucasian, primary school aged children, and the setting is a middle-class leafy neighbourhood and suburban house. The illustrations by Anne Canevari Green are richly detailed coloured pencil drawings, with a cartoon like quality to the figures. There is a focus on facial expressions such as worry, boredom, anger, happiness and sadness. These could be great talking points for parents and their children as they follow the progress of the friendship in the book.
Inkless Tales is a fun reading/writing/information site for ages two to middle primary school. It has stories, poems, music, games, printables, writing prompts and more. Children can submit their own stories and questions to the creator, Elisabeth Williams Bushey. The site pages contain a lot of information and children may need assistance to navigate each one depending upon their own literacy and computer literacy levels. This youtube video gives a brief introduction. While the stories seemed to be pitched to younger readers, the science, craft and writing activities may be enjoyed by older primary aged children as well.
Justine Adams (author) and Camille Manley (illustrator)
Affirm press: 2021
Reviewed by Viv Young
Goodnight Toes is a bedtime book and wind-down routine all rolled into one that will help young listeners focus on each part of their body and relax it, ready for sleep.
This sweet bedtime book is a great tool for parents wishing to help their kids sleep and to start teaching them some good mental health techniques, such as gratefulness and body positivity in an age-appropriate way. The focus on relaxing each part of their body by thinking about its usefulness during the day is a thoughtful and positive way to encourage children to think of the functionality of bodies and the way they help us play and learn all day long. The tone of the book is also loving. The parent who narrates the wind-down routine begins and ends with a reassuring statement about love and safety that is useful for caregivers looking for books that emphasise connection.
The artwork for Goodnight Toes, which focuses on a mum and her daughter, begins and ends in bed at night-time. As the relaxation routine starts the mum encourages the girl to thank her toes for the wiggling, her feet for stomping etc. while the images recall their day at the beach together. Although the illustrations switch from day to night, the day beach scenes are full of deep colours and tranquil natural environments, mirroring the relaxing tone of the book as a whole.
Worry Monster is growing bigger and bigger, keeping Archie awake with worries about starting at a new school. Archie remembers what Mum did last time and he’s going to give it a try, but will it work without Mum there?
Go away, Worry Monster! is a great story for kids who are ready to take a more independent approach to anxious feelings. Archie remembers previous anxious episodes when Mum helped him banish the worry monster, but now he’s a ‘big boy’ he wants to tackle his Worry Monster all by himself. This is a particularly apt approach for a story which involves fears surrounding starting at a new school where kids do have to tackle uncomfortable feelings without key support people physically present. The text also provides some good practical tips for tackling anxious thoughts, namely breathing and using factual information to combat spiralling anxious thoughts, which are appropriate for young people to practise on their own.
The illustrations for Go away, Worry Monster! give due weight to the fear that anxiety can entail—the Worry Monster’s expanding presence and somewhat reptilian features are just the teeniest bit scary but the monster’s sock-like appearance, highlighted by frenetic squiggly marks, always keeps the mood light and fun. Night-time anxieties with their capacity to become distorted and more worrying are given superb expression in the illustrations, which underscore the bedtime setting with a deep purple background that glows a little in the lamplight. A cast of silent, comforting characters—an owl lamp, a dog, and a teddy bear—remain unidentified in the text, but provide Archie with some moral support and the readers with lots of laughs.
Go away, Worry Monster! is a fun story about a not-too-scary worry monster that also provides practical resources for growing-up kids to manage their anxiety independently.