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.
The Spaghetti Book Club is a resource where children can read book reviews written by other children. Children can search for reviews based on their interests. Schools and teachers can subscribe to allow their students the opportunity to submit reviews. The administration provides scaffolding which assists all children to cover the necessary elements they require for publication. Children are also encouraged to submit a drawing with their review, so the site itself is peppered with colourful children’s drawings. This site has been added to our Fun Resources page.
The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts
With art by Nomoco
Harper Collins Children’s books 2020
Age range 4+
Reviewed by Cath Young
The Great Realisation by Tomos Robertson is a poem that in part explains the adult world, its structure and flaws, and the upheaval caused by the 2020 pandemic in a way that children can understand. It is bound to prompt many thoughtful questions from young listeners. Some of these may make adults uncomfortable, for this is an expose` of greed and disconnection, the darkest verse exploring the concept that leaders “taught us why its best not to upset the lobbies- more convenient to die”. But ultimately it is a hopeful tale, a little like The Lorax, of humanity saving itself and the world. As such it looks back on the year of 2020 as a year in which change was born from suffering. It promotes a vision of the future where the earth is cared for and regenerates, and families and communities are reconnected. It has a timeless rhythmic tone, like a lullaby, with a first-person narrator whose poetic monologue is punctuated by questions from the child he is reading to.
The illustrations are simple, dreamy watercolours. Pictures of cities and people seem to emerge from splashes of colour and are further defined by simple lines.
There is a short film to accompany the book on youtube. It has a shot which some young viewers may find disturbing, that of a large dead fish washed up on the ocean, with plastic washing around it. But it provides another way of understanding the text and older children may also like to engage with this film and find it a useful springboard for discussions about the changes they witnessed in 2020.
Some Boys by Nelly Thomas
Illustrated by Sarah Dunk
Publisher: Some Kids’ Books 2018
(in conjunction with Piccolo Nero)
Age range 0-7
Reviewed by Cath Young
Some Boys by Nelly Thomas is a brief manifesto which challenges the gender stereotypes for boys and encourages them to express themselves however they want to out in the world. It is fast paced and fun. Repetition within the text recalls childhood chants, culminating in the very affirming position of “All kids can be whoever they want!” It tackles the way boys look, what they wear, how they do their hair, what toys they play with and what emotions they express. It affirms all ways of being by comparing the different way boys may present themselves or behave. As such boys are presented equally positively whether they wear shirts or skirts, play with dolls or diggers, are gentle or rough, or are sad or mad. The book also briefly embraces the complexity of the human experience by announcing that lots of boys are, “Sad, mad, shy, funny, nice and naughty all at the same time!”
The full-page illustrations are bright, simplified drawings of children at play. Children from a variety of racial backgrounds are depicted in the illustrations. The illustrations are also positively inclusive of both able-bodied children and children with a disability or illness, for example one scene shows a boy in a wheelchair playing basketball, and another a boy with an oxygen tube baking a cake. The font forms part of the vehicle for communication about difference. Specific words are highlighted through size and colour and add meaning and energy to the page.
Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez
Pictures by Jess Golden
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company 2018
Age range 4-6 years.
Reviewed by Cath Young
Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez is the story of a young girl who learns how to deal with her anxiety as she auditions for a Ballet. It presents the complex character of Pilar with empathy and deals with her anxiety in a realistic way. Pilar does not suddenly learn how to feel less anxious, even about Ballet, which she loves. However, with support from her Mother and friend, Sebastian, she auditions despite her worries and allows her dancing to assume the important role it plays in her life. Other than an occasional reminder to “breathe”, Pilar’s Mother, her Teacher and Sebastian, accept Pilar as she is. They allow her to make her own decisions about whether or not to audition and do not teach techniques for dealing with anxiety but rather offer some validation and reflections along the way such as, “If you decide to audition you will feel scared. But usually when you are doing what you love the good feelings are so big that the bad feelings become small.”
The book describes the physical manifestations of anxiety which children and parents may be able to discuss, such as butterflies in the stomach, tension, heart racing and hot, prickly skin. There is some humour in the book, courtesy of the character of Sabastian, who also feels nervous before the auditions and shares with Pilar that he “want(s) to barf!” Pilar’s classmates react positively to Sebastian’s announcement that both he and Pilar are going to be snowflakes in the upcoming production. The acceptance of a male ballet dancer in the class is a subtle, but important device in underscoring the idea of societal acceptance of varying expressions of individuality and gender.
The full-page illustrations by Jess Golden are rendered in mostly pastel colours, which supports the gentle tone of the text. The figures are simply drawn, with a pencil like outline. Attention is paid to the expressions on Pilar’s face which would allow for discussion between reader and listener.
The book includes a short list of selected resources about childhood anxiety.
MY DADDY IS DIFFERENT
by Suzi Faed
Illustrations by Lisa Coutts
Publisher: Empowering Resources 2019
This book follows the story of an unnamed young boy whose Father’s emotional state and availability changes due to an unspecified mental illness. Although it is not a light-hearted story, or topic, the book ends on a positive note. The boy’s emotional journey is the focus of the story. The boy moves from a positive and connected relationship with his Father, (who initially makes “wonderful things” for him and smiles warmly), into a disconnected and confusing one as his Father’s withdrawal into illness begins to affect their lives. The boy eventually moves back to a state connectedness with his Father, after his Father is helped by a stay in hospital. Finally the boy accepts that although his Father is “different”, he is still a loving and caring parent. A brief meeting in the hospital with another child allows the boy to see that he is not the only child who has a parent with a mental illness.
The simplicity of the prose allows the focus to be on the inner experiences of the child. This is further highlighted by the change in font on key words and phrases such as “Remember, I still love you. That will never change.” The background colours of each page reflect the boy’s journey, changing from yellow to blue/grey to pink as the story develops.
The illustrations are simple colourful sketches with a soft pastel effect. The character’s emotions are represented by simple smiles and frowns and provide a good talking point for parents and children as they reflect upon what the boy is feeling. This book does not shy away from the fact that a child’s life is greatly affected by having a parent with a mental illness, however it outlines this in very general terms. This gives the adult reader plenty of scope to use this book as a platform for discussing the personal experience of any child to whom they may be reading.
LITTLE UNICORN IS ANGRY
by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine
Edited by Sylvie Michel and Hannah Daffern
Buster Books 2019
Ages 4- 8 years
Little Unicorn is Angry by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine describes how the character of Little Unicorn uses a simple breathing technique to soothe himself and blow his anger away. It is not so much a narrative as a child friendly instruction manual showing how to recognise and deal with anger. It is one in a series of four books dealing with the emotional states of Little Unicorn. It may be useful to parents or carers who wish to introduce their children to the concept of emotional self regulation.
Although it is quite a wordy book for a young age group, it could easily be broken up into sections by the adult reader and opened at relevant sections when needed. The first few pages focus on naming common emotional states. This includes a page which pairs an illustration to an emotional state in order to help a child indicate what they are feeling in the present moment. This is followed by several pages which provide suggestions for what could be making Little Unicorn Angry. Many of these might be recognisable to parents and their children, such as not wanting to get in the bath, and then, not wanting to get out of the bath. The depiction of Little Unicorn when he is angry also includes the distinction between grumpy and angry. The next section introduces a breathing technique that Little Unicorn performs in order to “chase away a cloud of anger”. The final page shows that Little Unicorn is feeling much calmer after the breathing exercise and suggests that the reader might like to use the same breathing technique.
The format of the book is a small square with glossy pages. The illustrations focus on a cute, rotund, cartoon unicorn whose mane changes colour depending on his emotional state. The illustrations are non gender specific, though the text indicates that the unicorn is male. The emphasis of the illustrations are on Little Unicorn’s emotional expression, which includes facial expressions as well as physical posture, such as hands on hips or stomping on the floor. There is a combination of full page illustrations and smaller symbolic drawings which add meaning to the text.
I’M THE BEST by Lucy Cousins
Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd London
First Published 2011
Age range 2-5 years
I’M THE BEST by Lucy Cousins tackles the uncomfortable topic of competition between friends with cheeky humour. It follows the emotional development of “Dog” as he declares his supremacy over his friends, notices their reactions and is confronted by their respective efforts to highlight their own talents which surpass his. Dog learns that everyone is “the best” in their own way and that friendship matters more that being better than others. The final page is a cheeky return to his original declaration, suggesting that Dog has a little way to go until he truly understands that friendship is not a competition. This book allows the reader to experience the tension between the friends from different points of view and may be a useful resource for adults to discuss their child’s own behaviour and attitudes about hierarchy and winning. The language is simple and repeats the central phrase “I won, I’m the best”, which functions as chant that children can predict in each scene, allowing them access to the humour and irony of the fact that Dog is not actually the best, no matter how many times he declares it. The book is in a large square format with font that emulates a young child’s handwriting with a crayon like texture. The illustrations similarly reference a young child’s drawing with “messy” black outlines and bright pops of colour that don’t quite fill the shapes in the illustrations. Splashes of watercolour add to the vibrancy of the illustrations and help make them even more playful. The text and illustrations combine to create a tone of warmth and playfulness that might counter resistance to discussing a potentially embarrassing topic for a child.
This is a link to a young child reading “I’m the best” from the Fun2Learn youtube video channel and adding his own commentary, which includes facts about the animals. This is interesting to see a child’s comments and understanding of the book.
By Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak
Armond goes to a party – a book about Asperger’s and friendship
By Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak
Illustrations by Nancy Carlson
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis. 2014
Reading age 5-9 years
The title of the story book “Armond goes to a party – a book about Asperger’s and friendship” by Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak is self-explanatory. The storyline is simple and linear. The main character of Armond appears to be based on the “friend” in this authoring duo. The reader is allowed into Armond’s private thoughts and experiences as he prepares for, and attends, a friend’s party. The story allows the reader to experience the party from Armond’s point of view and describes Armond’s sensory experiences with wit and humour, such as when the baby brother’s smelly nappy makes him feel sick, or when the crowd of children becomes overwhelming and Armond tugs his friend’s Mothers’ skirt saying “I need a break”. At this point it is easy to empathize with Armond’s experience and enjoy joining him in a quiet room where he can relax and play lego. The book ends with Armond’s honest and positive assessment of the party and his part in it, which in turn allows connection between himself and his friend.
The full-page colour illustrations are bright and busy, allowing the reader to see the chaos of the party from Armond’s point of view. They feature boys and girls from a racially diverse group, rendered in a cartoon style. Attention is paid to the expressions on Armond’s face.
The book contains an end note to “grown ups” about Asperger’s Syndrome and friendship. This contains quotes from the real-life Armond about his experience of Aspergers, interspersed with explanations and tips for adults to assist children with Aspergers in social situations.
NB: it is the reviewer’s understanding that in 2021 Aspergers is currently considered be part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not a separate diagnosis. Therefore it might be necessary or desirable for the reader to adjust some of the terminology whilst reading or discussing this story.
This is a link to a youtube video of “Armond goes to a party- a book about Asperger’s and friendship” being read aloud.
The Classroom Mystery – a book about ADHD
DrTracy Packiam Alloway
Illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo
QED publishing 2019
Reviewed by Cath Young
THE CLASSROOM MYSTERY – a book about ADHD, is a light-hearted and strength-based introduction to ADHD, which may help children understand themselves or other children they encounter. Featuring full page illustrations and a story set within a school context, it is clearly aimed at early primary school children. The story centres around Izzy, a girl who is so intent on solving the classroom mystery that she cannot attend to the teacher’s lesson. Eventually the teacher allows all the class to take a break while Izzy connects pieces of information together to solve the mystery of the pet rabbit’s missing food. The story itself makes no mention of ADHD, but rather tells of Izzy’s experience and behaviour in the classroom as she tries to focus. For example, we read about Izzy tapping her foot, wiggling in her seat, snapping her hair clip and climbing on her desk, while she thinks about the mystery rather than the lesson. The teacher in the story becomes a little frustrated saying “What on earth are you doing?” but adjusts to Izzy by allowing the whole class to investigate outside and congratulates Izzy when the mystery is solved at the conclusion to the story. Izzy’s classmates show enthusiasm for her powers of deduction at the end of the story. The final two pages of the book offer notes for parents and children about ADHD, which is described as a learning difficulty, and discussion points that the adult reader may wish to raise with their class or individual child.
The bright and slightly retro look illustrations are inclusive, featuring cartoon like characters with different colours of hair and skin. Attention has been paid to the expressions on the children’s faces in the various scenes and these would make good discussion points. The pages are mat and the font is dyslexia friendly on a soft pastel background.
You can hear Dr Packiam talk about her books and neurodiversity on her website: