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.
Davina Bell (author) and Allison Colpoys (illustrator)
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.
Scott Rothman (text) and Pete Oswald (illustrations)
Random House: 2021
Reviewed by Viv Young
Sir Cole is looking for an assistant. Luckily, she turns up just in time to help Cole with a frustrated Underwear Dragon who’s learning to read.
Return of the Underwear Dragon is a fun adventure-filled tale that engages with the theme of learning challenges. Sir Cole is a cool and clever knight whose teaching techniques put his reluctant scaly student at his ease; he accepts the underwear dragon’s attempts at subterfuge, takes it slowly, adapts learning to the dragon’s needs and adds in a special underwear reward. Young Sir Cole’s calm approach imagines kids in a position of authority and control which may help some early readers look at the experience of learning in a new light. The dragon’s sometimes explosive responses may also help readers explore the challenges of learning; the Underwear Dragon feels all the feelings you might expect—frustration, fatigue, anger and a desire to learn.
The artwork for Return of the Underwear Dragon is hilarious. The dragon is full of expression—cute and awkward one minute, ready to blow the next. For those kids already interested in castles and knights, the mingling of modern and medieval in text and illustrations is sure to provoke laughter. The dark muddy palette makes for a grim medieval setting overall and allows the touches of colour to highlight key characters, scenes and humour.
The Return of the Underwear Dragon is an entertaining read for any child but for kids struggling with expectations at school and especially with reading, it’s cathartic—full of fun to help the giggles bubble over while learning to learn.
Jabari is building a plane. When he experiences some setbacks, Dad encourages Jabari to take on a junior partner.
Jabari Tries is a heart-warming tale about managing frustration with help and through collaboration. Like many books that tackle frustration it describes what the emotion feels like, provides some tips for managing strong emotions (take a break and breathe away the ‘muddy feelings’), and portrays typical acts of frustration in the illustrations. Its great point of difference, however, is the beautiful sibling relationship it presents which encourages readers to consider how we can share both the difficulties and the triumphs when we work cooperatively with others.
The relationship between Jabari and his little sister is touching and feels authentic. Nika is a young child who for the most part says ‘me’ to any question—she is on her own journey and Jabari’s act of inclusion benefits both himself and his sibling. The sibling sub-plot makes Jabari Tries an excellent choice for young kids who also have a tricky relationship with their baby sister or brother, but the portrayal of working co-operatively may well resonate with kids who don’t have this particular difficulty or who don’t have siblings.
All the action of invention and collaboration is placed by Gaia Cornwall in a backyard setting. The natural green backdrop provides a calming undertone to the scenes of experimentation and frustration. The occasional use of engineering plans in the design and especially on the page in which Jabari recalls key inventors for inspiration provides a contrast to the natural world. These ‘scientific’ motifs also highlight the real-world inventors Jabari recalls. These inventors, who represent both gender and cultural diversity, are named but not described, providing a potential cue to extend the reading process for young readers by doing a little research on ‘real” inventors.
Jabari Tries is a special book sure to appeal to budding scientists who need some help learning how to deal with setbacks and how to collaborate.
A young child, narrating a quest for the cookie jar, quickly becomes enraged when the jar is hard to reach.
Red Red Red explores pre-schooler frustration and anger with great fun and empathy. The child narrator’s tone escalates quickly from indignation at her mother’s soothing words to outright anger, mirroring the strong and sudden emotions of many young people. The mother is always understanding and her suggestion—counting to ten—is gentle, respectful and, best of all, a sound practical measure that can be tried at home.
The artwork for Red Red Red focuses especially on the child and the physical nature of anger—the screaming, head banging, and stomping are conveyed with extra oomph. There is also the liberal use of red—frenzied crayon-like scribbles radiate from the child character, increasing and decreasing as the anger rises and falls. This creative use of red is fun to notice and provides a vivid illustration of the bigness of anger as well as the relief when it is resolved.
This is an entertaining and cathartic story that can help children register anger and learn some tools to manage it.