Frank’s Red Hat by Sean E Avery

Frank’s Red Hat

Sean E Avery
Walker Books: 2022
ISBN: 9781760654283
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Frank the penguin is full of ideas but not all of them are good ones, so the other penguins are nervous when Frank knits a red hat, but should they be?

Frank’s Red Hat is a wickedly funny and poignant story about being different. Frank’s knitting ostensibly leads to trouble, but he persists and stays true to his passion with some interesting results. The humour is devilish and therefore perhaps for older preschool and school aged children but will definitely make most kids laugh out loud. The outcome is reassuring—Frank finds his tribe—but also realistic; one’s tribe isn’t always made up of the creatures one expects.

The artwork for Frank’s Red Hat is splendid. The tonal variation and different textures in Sean E Avery’s icy landscapes convey the cold and colourless nature of the world Frank struggles in while at the same time providing lots of interest for readers to explore. These landscapes draw attention to Frank’s experimental knitting and some of its hilarious results. Frank and the creatures who live around him are also wonderfully expressive, with their bulging eyes and flapping arms. Lastly, the unusual array of red hats adorning the end pages is sure to spark interest.

Frank’s Red Hat is a must for any child or adult who struggles to fit in. It is also an important book for everyone else, who may, after reading it, want to rethink their approach to the Franks of this world

Wild for Winnie by Laura Marx Fitzgerald and Jenny LØvlie

Wild for Winnie

Laura Marx Fitzgerald (author)
Jenny LØvlie (illustrator)
ISBN: 9780593111819
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A new girl called Winnie is joining the class and sometimes she howls like hyena or kicks like a kangaroo or chomps like a piranha. So, it’s time for everyone to get a bit wild …

Wild for Winnie tells the story of Winnie’s first week at a new school. Winnie experiences sensory processing challenges and her behaviour is affected as a result. Different behaviours that Winnie and her peers may find distressing are explored through analogy with various wild animals. With guided play, however, Winnie and her new classmates are taught ways to channel challenging sensory experiences into activities that benefit the whole class.

The story is told by a classmate (though the reader is not told which one) and this child-centred perspective is brought out thoughtfully in the illustrations. While the text never rebukes Winnie, the illustrations do allow the kids in Winnie’s class to express their surprise, pain, fear and enjoyment making this an excellent book for exploring emotions with young children. Moreover, not all the children experience Winnie’s behaviour in the same way; this is particularly useful for talking to kids with sensory processing challenges about the different responses and experiences of children around them.

The illustrations use muted bright colours which convey all the brightness of an early learning space but remain low-key and not too overwhelming. Winnie’s wild behaviour is conveyed through her body movements and also various animals that shadow her in the artwork. This creates some humour that kids are sure to enjoy! Hints in the text remind readers that Winnie’s ‘wild nature’ is not unique and the final spread draws attention to the different wild tendencies of the classmates on a particular day, making sure no kid is singled out.

Wild for Winnie is a sensitive, empathetic treatment of challenges many children experience with lots of real-world advice woven into the illustrations and text. It is useful for kids managing sensory processing challenges as well as kids who may have friends that behave like Winnie. Make sure you look closely at the end pages for a list of practical tips for parents and caregivers to try for different types of behaviour.

Easy Peasy by Ky Garvey and Amy Calautti

Easy Peasy

Ky Garvey (author) and Amy Calautti (illustrator)

EK Books: 2023

ISBN: 9781922539441

Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

When Ruby is given shiny, red roller-skates for her birthday she is sure that learning to skate will be easy peasy, but it’s not!

Easy Peasy is an upbeat, high-energy story that conveys the thrill of roller-skating while also touching on some important themes like persistence, resilience and learning to learn. The author has a gentle and genuine voice. The heights of Ruby’s excitement, her initial instinct to give up when it is hard and her desire to roller-skate all by herself, without instruction, will be familiar to many readers. Ruby’s independent approach may make learning to roller skate tricky, but she is well supported to achieve her goals; Dad’s persistent yet kind attempts to offer instruction model a laid-back and patient style of parenting that many kids will appreciate. The positive and exciting outcome of the story sees Ruby manage a busy roller-skating rink filled with kids and music, making this an encouraging book for young readers finding it hard to meet those challenges close to their own hearts.

The artwork for Easy Peasy is super bright and fun, making sure the themes of persistence, resilience and learning are always child friendly and appealing. The psychedelic rainbow stripe rolling over the end pages is repeated at key stages in the book to underscore Ruby’s wibbly, wobbly moments on the roller skates and her eventual success. It is fun to spot and makes the challenges and achievements stand out.  Ruby’s enticing pair of red, sparkly roller-skates also feature on every page, making it easy to follow the central character, her highs and lows. Lastly, Kids will have a ball spotting Ruby’s pet bird (unmentioned in the text) who is as keen as Ruby to learn a new skill!

Breathe And Be: a book of mindfulness poems by Kate Coombs

Breathe and Be: a book of mindfulness poems

By Kate Coombs

Illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen

Sounds True

Boulder CO. 80306

2017

ISBN: 9781622039371

Ages 4-8 years

“Breathe and Be: a book of mindfulness poems” by Kate Coombs, can assist children in developing a mindfulness practice of breathing and paying attention to small moments. Each poem and page flows onto the next like a stream of consciousness, so that the book can be read as a whole or dipped in to. Each poem functions as either a stand-alone poem or as a continuation of an experience.  The collections of poems are bookended by the same poem, which grounds the reader in noticing a single breath and moment in time.  The central figure of the poem is the gender non-specific “I”, which the reader is free to interpret as themselves or as one of the children depicted in the illustrations.

Each poem directs the readers to some particular aspect of thought or bodily sensation, often linking them to the natural world, such as thoughts that swim like fish, or leaves that stand in for worries or sadness and can simply drift away.

This is a subtle and effective way to introduce children to the concept of mindfulness and leaves it up to the parent to decide if each poem will simply be read or used more explicitly as a mindfulness meditation.

As one would expect the poems are consistently and rhythmically calm in tone and all follow a Japanese poetry form called Tanka, which is explained further in the end notes.

The illustrations are rich in harmonious colour and detail. They allow for a listener to become absorbed in each page as they listen to the poem. Each page is colourful but muted in tone. The children illustrated in the book are from diverse cultural backgrounds, as depicted by skin tone and hair colour. They include both girls and boys engaged in natured based play together.

Review of Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Big Feelings

Alexandra Penfold (author) and Suzanne Kaufman (illustrator)

Bloomsbury: 2021

ISBN: 9781526639769

Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A group of children negotiate conflict, disappointment and differing perspectives as they play in their local park.

Big feelings is an uplifting and practical exploration of children’s play and their big feelings. As the child characters explore their local park and experience various problems with each other and their environment their big feelings come and go. There is a recurring set of questions ‘How can I help? What can we do?’ woven (with a few variations) into the playful rhyming text that can help children consider how best to navigate conflict, such as co-operation and looking at things from a different perspective. There is also validating recognition of the range of big feelings that such conflict can create.

The child characters, not identified in the text, are beautifully rendered in the illustrations. There are lots of bright, messy colours that capture play and its ups and downs. The range of expressions on the children’s faces help explore all the emotions mentioned in the text and add great humour too. The end pages present portraits of the children featured throughout the story and are a wonderful resource for parents wishing to talk about specific emotions, moreover, they show a variety of children from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Big Feelings is a visually enticing resource for families that uses up-to-date language and attitudes to explore emotions with young children in a fun and reassuring way.

Too Many Bubbles by Christine Peck and Mags Deroma (authors) and Mags Deroma (illustrator)

Too Many Bubbles: A Story of Mindfulness

Christine Peck and Mags Deroma (authors) and Mags Deroma (illustrator)

Sourcebooks: 2021

ISBN: 9781728235905

Ages: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Izzy’s thought bubbles keep ‘pop, pop, popping up’ until there is no room left for Izzy, but she knows some useful ways to make room for herself and her thoughts.

Too Many Bubbles follows Izzy, a small grey mouse, on her quest for a quieter mind. Izzy’s journey begins with a single ‘sort of grumpy’ thought that multiplies and becomes oppressive. The idea of busy and cumulative thoughts is otherwise kept quite general, making this story a good one for lots of different children and their various thoughts and emotions. There is also an overall practical focus in this mindfulness book. For instance, the reader is asked to help Izzy by gently blowing on her thoughts, thus beginning one of the approaches to mindfulness—breathing—that is discussed at the back of the book. Several other practical tips to help kids practise mindfulness are also discussed here.

The artwork for Too Many Bubbles uses bright, block colours and white space to great effect. The white space, for example, helps to focus the reader’s attention both on the first grumpy thought bubble and then the oppressive cumulation of thoughts as they fill the white page and obscure Izzy herself. The choice of colours is thought-provoking—they are bright colours, primarily in warm shades of red, orange and yellow but there are also some cool tones. For this reader they were a useful reminder that busy thoughts may range around the full gamut of emotions. Overall, the bright colours feel fun and cheerful; they may attract some boisterous young children who are otherwise repelled by books on calm topics.

Too Many Bubbles is a gentle, practical introduction to mindfulness with bright, lively illustrations likely to interest young children.

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day

Davina Bell (author) and Allison Colpoys (illustrator)

Scribble: 2021

ISBN: 9781925849462

Reviewed by Viv Young

With lyrical, rhyming text the story of two girls and their day of questionable choices unfolds but don’t worry, they’ll be fine; tomorrow is a brand-new day.

The illustrations for this fabulous book about mistakes and moving on from them follows two female friends as they navigate a tricky day. The text works with the images but simultaneously addresses the audience, thereby encouraging all kids to identify with the challenges and emotions explored in the story. The central characters variously act impulsively, push, pull faces, chuck tantrums and fail to share as the difficulties they encounter and their feelings about them snowball throughout the course of the day. Most kids should, therefore, be able to recognise aspects of their own challenging days in the pages somewhere, if not the overall tendency for bad days to get worse. The fact that the friends fall out and make up again is also useful for parents looking for books about friendship, both its up and downs.

While bad days aren’t usually all that fun to talk about, Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys bring out the humour in ‘bad’ behaviour, moreover they empathise with the emotions at the heart of it all (‘You were tired! Worried. Scared’). With guidance, this empathy can help kids make important connections between feelings and poor decision making. This approach can also help kids feel understood too. The resolution of the story is uplifting as the two characters find ways to make up with those who they have hurt. There is also the overall feeling of acceptance and focus on the future that helpfully puts mistakes in their place as things everyone experiences and that we can all move on from.

The artwork for Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day is bursting with colour and this matches both the positive treatment of mistake-making and the chaos that sometimes leads to mistakes. The exaggerated expressions of the two central characters are fantastic for exploring a range of emotions with young kids. Moreover, various spreads interpret the open-ended text and lead to lots of humour and opportunities for kids to follow the pictures and work out what happened to encourage certain feelings. The end pages are worth pondering with young ones. They are a mass of great swirling rainbows, intertwined and confusing. For this reader they encapsulated the messiness of mistakes and self-acceptance that this book celebrates so sweetly.

One of several recent books that speaks to a growth mindset, Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day is an intelligent and fun story that normalises making mistakes and moving on from them.

Daddy’s Rainbow by Lucy Rowland and Becky Cameron

Daddy’s Rainbow

Lucy Rowland (author) and Becky Cameron (illustrator)
Bloomsbury: 2022
ISBN: 9781526615770
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Erin’s Dad always encourages her to enjoy the magic of colours around her but when he becomes sick and passes away, Erin’s world becomes grey until she finds a way to remember her Dad.

Daddy’s Rainbow is a sensitive story about grief and loss for young children that convincingly portrays the loss of a parent from the child’s experience. The treatment of the father’s illness and death is subtle and focused on the experience of Erin—Daddy is ‘poorly’, there is the hospital, handholding, hugs and then quiet. This account of illness and death is moving and feels authentic, moreover its subtlety allows readers to explore what is happening to a degree they feel comfortable with. Daddy’s illness and death is also not the key focus but rather Erin’s joyful relationship with her father and the excitement of his passion for colours. After Daddy’s passing, the memory of this passion brings the family together. While Erin initiates the memory of colour, her mum then takes the lead. This conclusion provides a reassuring message for children; adults in their life can help them with their grief.  

Colour is a key part of the story in Daddy’s Rainbow and Becky Cameron’s illustrations make the most of it. Key scenes use contrasting greys and bright colour, light and dark shades that draw attention to the magic of colour in the story. The use of water colours enhances the story at every turn—rainy and snowy weather feature in the text and the watercolours portray these scenes in a striking manner. Lastly, the chosen medium (watercolour) seems to encourage readers to fully appreciate the vivid yet elusive nature of memory itself.

Daddy’s Rainbow is a poignant story that can help young children and their families explore a challenging topic. 

We Feel Happy! A Fantastic First Book of Feelings! by Katie Abey

We Feel Happy: A Fantastic First Book of Feelings!

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury: 2022

ISBN: 9781526619914

Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

We Feel Happy! encourages children to explore the rainbow of emotions we all feel by investigating the antics of a host of colourful, quirky critters.

The reassuring introduction to We Feel Happy! emphasises the wide range of potential emotions and asserts that it’s okay to feel them all. The whole-page spreads that follow begin with a statement alerting readers to the emotion the animals on that page are feeling and asks a question that prompts readers to investigate the illustrations (e.g.: ‘We feel calm. What are the animals doing to feel calm?’). Speech bubbles sometimes explain what the animals are doing or thinking or present dialogue between the animals that helps readers work out what’s going on. Occasionally, an animal states that they don’t know how they are feeling, which may help take the pressure off for kids who find identifying emotions challenging. A monkey in the right-hand corner always asks the reader about their own experience of that particular feeling and occasionally gives tips about how to manage emotions like fear (e.g.: by thinking of something happy instead). This approach gives children plenty to do while talking about a subject that can sometimes be fraught. There are also some helpful hints for parents and teachers to provide even more practical and fun ways to explore feelings (e.g. making a happy recipe or a worry jar).

The colour palette for We Feel Happy! is super bright and bold! The almost fluorescent front cover is sure to attract attention. Then there’s the thick icy-pole stripes on the end pages that invite you into the book and of course the animals. With a pink unicorn, a rainbow dog, a cat with a polka-dot tie and many more fabulous creatures, most kids should find at least one animal to identify with. The busyness of the spreads draws the reader in and encourages the reader to follow the animals around the page and throughout the book.  

We Feel Happy! is a clever resource for families looking for a practical book about emotions that will engage children again and again.

It’s Okay to Feel this Way by Sara Biviano

It’s Okay to Feel this Way

Sara Biviano

Starfish Bay Publishing: 2021

ISBN: 9781760361105

Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

‘It’s okay to feel this way’ is the reassuring refrain running through this upbeat, colourful book about the broad range of emotions everyone experiences. Most pages explore one feeling but each feeling is carefully paired, so that emotions generally seen as more positive or less positive are discussed one after the other. This clever approach helps to reinforce and elaborate the message, presented early on in the text, that emotions ‘visit’ us but don’t stay forever.

The artwork for It’s Okay to Feel this Way is full of bright, clean colours. Some pages also utilise plenty of white space to highlight the key recurring text that ‘it’s okay to feel this way’. The illustrations both mimic the naïve style of young children and at some points incorporate the finger-painting style and scratchy texta work of preschool children. This approach matches the upbeat tone of the book and also gives it a sense of familiarity for young readers, perhaps even encouraging them to explore how they might feel through their own drawings. The occasional incorporation of photographic images (e.g. grass, a crochet flower) into the mixed media artworks also provides wonderful opportunities for small children to practise pointing and to explore the images thoroughly.

It’s Okay to Feel this Way is a comforting first emotions book to enjoy with even very small children.

Freddy the Not-Teddy by Kristen Schroeder and Hilary Jean Tapper

Freddy the Not-Teddy

Kristen Schroeder (author) and Hilary Jean Tapper (illustrator)
EK Books: 2022
ISBN: 9781922539090
Age: 4+

Review by Viv Young

Jonah’s soft toy is a Freddy, not a teddy, so, when Jonah’s teacher announces a teddy bear’s picnic at school Jonah must decide whether or not to take his beloved friend.

Freddy the Not-Teddy is a gentle and fun story that provides many opportunities to talk with young children about difference, belonging and being true to yourself. Jonah ultimately chooses to include Freddy in his school picnic, but he does struggle with Freddy’s difference. As Jonah seeks to make Freddy like a teddy bear, enlists the support of a ‘real’ bear and confronts the confusion of his school friends, readers can explore what the ‘risks’ are in doing something different and also appreciate Jonah’s bravery as he decides what is right for him. The subtle teasing of the children also enables Jonah’s character to model good techniques for dealing with hurtful remarks; a quick-thinking kid, Jonah uses humour to disarm Freddy’s critics. The uncertainty of Freddy’s identity (is he a funky duck, a peculiar platypus or something else?) provides lots of laughs and, through the illustrations, insight into the adventures Freddy and Jonah have had together. The reader feels genuinely worried about whether Jonah will be able to stand by his peculiar and loveable soft toy.

The artwork for Freddy the Not-teddy uses pastel colours with lots of warm yellows and oranges that convey the warmth of Jonah’s relationship with Freddy beautifully. These colours and the watercolour medium give the story a timeless quality that suits the themes of the book, given their perennial relevance. Don’t forget to draw your young reader’s attention to the beautiful endpapers that are filled with lots of different ‘not teddies’ (penguins, platypuses, chickens and ducks). These creatures all have a nursery feel and may be a reminder to many readers, young and old, of those toys that mean so much and are so often not teddies.

Follow Your Feelings: Max And Worry by Kitty Black

Follow Your Feelings: Max and Worry

 by Kitty Black

Illustrated by Jess Rose

Affirm Press 2021

Victoria. Australia

ISBN:9781922419729

Age range 4-6years

“Follow Your Feelings: Max and Worry” by Kitty Black is a story about a little boy, Max, who is very anxious about his Maths work. In the story Max’s worry and self-talk is externalized and represented as an anxious Meercat, who interrupts Max’s thoughts and encourages him to avoid the situation which is causing him concern.   Some bodily manifestations of anxiety are described, such as nail biting and stomach churning and, as pointed out in the notes at the end of the book, these could be good springboards for discussion about a child’s own physical experiences of anxiety.   Although the topic is a serious one there are moments of levity in the book, such as when Max throws his work away having, folded it into a paper aeroplane, and both Worry and Max appear to think they’ve solved the problem only to have the paper plane fly back to them.  Worry’s prioritizing about what might happen if Max makes a mistake are similarly humourous, seeming to escalate from “The world explodes-KaPow” to “people might look at you”.

As a result of the overwhelming presence and consequences of Worry, Max and his parents end up in the Principal’s office, which is a pivotal point in the story and underlines the importance of thoughtful caring adults, whose patience and wisdom encourage Max to just “try your best”.  Though not explicitly stated in the book his parents have obviously given Max a few strategies to try along with a hug, as the next day we see Max “take a deep breath”, ask for help and counteract some of Worry’s thoughts with his own such as “Other kids get things wrong…I’ve seen it”.

As Max faces his anxiety he transforms it. The character of Worry disappears and is replaced with a calm looking housecat called “Resilience”, thus supporting the main theme of the book; that in facing our worries, and with appropriate scaffolding and support, we develop resilience.

The full-colour Illustrations by Jess Rose are bold and colourful. Max has an oversized cartoon-like head which draws attention to his facial expressions. The Meerkat and Housecat are both a fanciful purple colour, contrasting nicely with Max’s orange hair, and supporting the notion that “Worry the Meerkat”, although very real to Max, exists inside his experience rather than belonging to the “real” world.  Apart from a couple of other children, we see only the legs of other characters such as the teacher and parents. This highlights the fact that the story is entirely from Max’s point of view and illustrates how isolating his experience is. We never know what his classmates or Teacher might make of Max’s plight, or even if they are aware of it. 

The book contains a parent’s page outlining the author’s underpinning ideas about worry and anxiety and may be a useful guide to parents or carers wishing to discuss the story with their children. There is another “Follow your Feelings” book titled “Lucy and Sad” and you can find out more about the author on her website.

The Seed of Doubt by Irena Brignull and Richard Jones

The Seed of Doubt

Irena Brignull and Richard Jones

Walker Books: 2021

ISBN: 9781406389425

Age: 4+

Review by Viv Young

A young boy dreams big dreams about what he will do when he grows up. When he plants a seed that grows into an unusually tall tree, climbing the tree becomes one of those dreams until the boy loses confidence.

The Seed of Doubt is suitable for a wide range of ages to mull over and there is plenty to think about with this fascinating picture book. The story deals most clearly with feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. The boy’s changing interaction with the seed he plants —from initial excitement to disappointment and lack of confidence—may mirror the experience of many children who find tree climbing alluring yet also challenging. The only overt advice for managing self-doubt is to believe in oneself and not give up. This advice is articulated by the father who encourages the child but is also taken on board by the child who reiterates his father’s words at a key juncture. There is perhaps though some implicit advice in the child’s physical contact with the tree, namely the potential role nature can play in restoring and healing.

Indeed, while the story is focused on emotions and overcoming fears, it raises interesting questions about nature and its capacity to both overwhelm and inspire. The boy’s physical contact with the tree ultimately leads to healing and inspiration but for older children who frequently encounter information about environmental crises the tree’s unsettling size and impact on the boy may be especially interesting to explore.

The artwork for The Seed of Doubt is stunning. Sprawling landscapes convey a sense of the wonder of nature, as do the many scenes in which the tree doesn’t quite fit on the page. The background colours are often muted greens, blues, greys and browns, which feel authentic for the natural settings, while touches of very bright colour draw attention to the brilliance of the tree and the exciting views the boy sees from it.

The Seed of Doubt is a book for all ages that is slightly unsettling at times but rewarding in its hopeful and awe-inspiring presentation of nature. The fact that tree climbing is often something of a rite of passage into older childhood and greater physical capacity may make this book particularly relatable for many children.

When I’m Feeling Happy by Trace Maroney

When I’m Feeling Happy

By Trace Moroney

The Five Mile Press

Australia 2005

ISBN 9781741245035

ages 0-4

“When I’m Feeling Happy” by Trace Moroney, describes the feeling of happiness, and the experiences associated with it, as it pertains to one cute, non-gender specific, rabbit character.  It is written in first person with the rabbit’s experience front and centre of the story. The rabbit describes what happens in his body when he feels happy, for example, “I feel bouncy” and “My face feels smiley”. This could be a significant talking point for the reader/listener as they consider what various emotions feel like in their own body. The occasions which the rabbit associates with feelings of happiness mostly stem from experiences of connection with family and friends, such as baking cookies with Grandma or camping and talking with Dad. Towards the end of the story the rabbit identifies how the experience of happiness is beneficial to their life, such as helping them have more patience and being able to feel kind and caring towards others.   It finishes with the rabbit’s gaze directed toward the reader, stating confidently that they feel good about themselves, and in doing so the feeling of happiness is directly related to this positive self-concept.  The prose is simple and direct, with occasional repetition and exaggerated words and sounds, giving ample clues as to how the text could be spoken aloud in order to convey the energy and positivity of the rabbit character.

The illustrations are bright and colourful with a slightly soft texture to their appearance.  The paper itself is embossed which makes it a multisensory reading experience, with the potential to run fingers over the outlines of the illustrations. The front cover features a delightfully furry texture on the face of the rabbit. There are a few beautiful full-colour pages within the book.  In line with the text, the rabbit is dressed in a non-gender specific green jumper and jeans

The final page of the book is dedicated to background notes for parents. On this page psychologists Bill Hallan and Dr Crag Olsson have outlined the link between self-esteem, self-knowledge and trust in one’s own emotional experience. They give hints for how parents can foster happiness and self-esteem.  There are ten “feelings books” created by Trace Moroney. The other books in the series are “Jealous”, “Disappointed”, “Love”, “Scared”, “Angry”, “Sad”, “Kind” and “Lonely”.

This is my Dad by Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston

This is My Dad

Dimity Powell (author) and Nicky Johnston (illustrator)
EK Books: 2022
ISBN: 9781922539076
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Leo is worried about the new show and tell topic about dads at school because he doesn’t know his father, but there is someone else who is cool and courageous to talk about.

Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston tackle a difficult but important topic with this picture book, namely kids who have no significant contact with a father figure. The resolution of the story affirms the role of mums who are both mother and father, loving, supporting and inspiring their children. The latter is playfully conveyed through the occupation of Leo’s mum who is a writer of wild fantasies but also the kind of mum who makes his favourite pizza. There are poignant moments in the story. For example, when Leo imagines what his father might do for a living and when he asks the next-door neighbour to stand in for his dad. These moments add authenticity to what is a challenging topic and opportunities to discuss the broader topic of parenthood without identifying any one situation that may or may not be relevant to particular families.

The artwork for This is my dad uses a broad pallet of muted bright colours that bring out the fun of Leo’s home, which is full of books, pets and artworks. These details and the pink, purple and orange backgrounds at home give the appearance of warmth and safety. The use of thought bubbles and symbols also helps explore some of Leo’s feelings and those of his school mates around the topic of dads, giving due weight to the importance of fathers for many kids and providing opportunities to extend discussion of the book to all children.

This is my dad is an important book for families that may not find themselves represented in picture books often. It is also a useful resource for any family wishing to explore different family structures. The topic is sensitively negotiated by the picture book creators who craft a space in which many different families could fit and feel comfortable while telling a story that is both realistic and positive.

Teachers notes and also fun activities can be downloaded from the publisher.