I wonder if any parent out there can read this picture book by the Stephen sisters, (aka the Teeny Tiny Stevies) and not feel a little wistful?
As each double page spread charts a child’s growth and passage through their world, readers also catch glimpses of the emotions of mum and dad as they witness their daughter’s growing independence.
There’s love, and pride, and satisfaction, of course – with a little nostalgia in the mix:
Darling, I’ve been feeling wistful lately.
I’m so proud of you, but I feel sad
that you don’t need me.
Can you stay where I can watch from the side?
I won’t get in the way,
I’ll just be thinking ’bout how time flies…
…One day soon I’ll take the leapHow Brave Can I Be
and let go of that
tight grasp I keep.
I’ll move away and say,
‘I’m OK, I’ve got this, I’ll show you how brave I can be.’
Cause I had you to teach me.
The lovely thing about the illustrations by Simon Howe is that readers always know which character’s thoughts we are hearing, (mum, dad, or daughter) because the individual is highlighted in the picture. It’s a clever technique which underlines the contextual understanding of the words and pictures together.
A lovely, lovely book, How Brave Can I Be? was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books with ABC Books in May 2023.
My thanks for a review copy.
This beautiful picture book by Gumbaynggirr author and artist Melissa Greenwood reads as a bedtime story from a mother to her child.
With soft illustrations in pastel and ochre shades, it is a perfect introduction to a First Nations language and contemporary art style for very young Australians.
The text follows the path of the sun and moon across a day and night, incorporating words and phrases from her Gumbaynggirr language from the mid-north coast of NSW.
As the sun shines throughout the day,My Little Barlaagany
it warms your cheeks while we play.
As the sun sets in the evening sky,
say, ‘Yaarri Yarraang, goodbye.’
Now it’s time for Giidany (the moon) to rise
and we say, “Darrundang, thank you,’
for the gift of the night skies.
It is wonderful to see First Nations language included in texts for children, and I look forward to more works of this kind to add to children’s bookshelves across the country.
My Little Barlaagany was published by ABC Books and HarperCollins Children’s Books in May 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for a copy.
Jason Om will be familiar to viewers and listeners of Australia’s ABC network, presenting for programs such as 7.30 and Four Corners. His memoir opens with an account of witnessing his 44-year-old mother die of a heart attack when he was just twelve. Such trauma would have to impact on a young life and indeed, Jason and his family were never the same afterward.
He lived with his Cambodian-born father in Melbourne, until study and a career in journalism took him to Sydney, Adelaide and back to Sydney.
In the background, rearing up to confound and confront, were memories of his mother: her mental illness, her own (hidden) trauma, her love and her erratic, troubling behaviours.
His memoir has vibrant descriptions of individual and family quirks, along with the puzzling questions about his family’s past, for which it seemed impossible to get answers.
So, Jason decided to put his journalism skills to use and approached the secrets of his family, and particularly those of his parents, as he would approach an investigative piece: uncovering records and photographs, interviewing family members, visiting the places where long-ago events occurred.
This took him to Malaysia and Cambodia where he began to piece together the personal and national tragedies that had such profound effects on his own life. He writes beautifully and sensitively about these issues and how he slowly began to come to terms with the past and its impact on his life and those around him.
Also of great interest are his insights into the experiences of mixed race children, migrant families in Australia’s suburbs in the 1970’s and 80’s, the courage needed to come out as a gay man within his family, community and workplace, and the development of a more ethnically diverse media landscape in this country. All fascinating to read about and described with great sensitivity and honesty.
I loved his ‘handy trick’ of reflecting the ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘What’s your background?’ questions (often asked out of curiosity and with no ill intent) back to the questioner:
It meant we were all talking about race, not just mine, and I found that mutually sharing our heritage would open up the conversation.All Mixed Up p125
‘That’s my background, what’s yours?’ I would ask them.
I could always see the strain on their faces, their eyes darting around for an answer because the question had never entered their heads.
As someone with a deep seated and passionate interest in family history and identity, I love this tip and I think I’ll use it myself to spur conversations about the fascinating array of cultural and family backgrounds to be found in this country!
All Mixed Up is a beautiful tribute to Jason’s family, his own struggles with acceptance and understanding, and the measure of humanity. I highly recommend to anyone interested in people!
All Mixed Up is published by ABC Books and HarperCollins Publishers in April 2022.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.
I had to consider the question of whether these books (no’s 1 & 2 in the Self Help for Babies series by husband and wife team Beck and Matt Stanton) were written for babies or adults. The answer, I’m certain, is both. A bit like the Shrek movies, these are humorous messages of support for stressed-out parents, cleverly disguised as short, read-aloud stories for the very young.
Other titles to follow in the series help to prove my point: Dummies for Suckers, One Ingredient Cookbook (for infants still breast or bottle feeding, I assume), and Baby Goes to Market. The first books explore two of the frustrations that parents of a baby will experience day to day: the challenges of getting an infant to sleep, and how to interpret your new baby’s cries.
Illustrated with very simple line drawings that manage to capture real life scenarios every new parent will recognise, they are tongue-in-cheek reassurance to hollow-eyed, exhausted parents wondering ‘Is it just me? Am I a terrible parent? Why won’t my baby sleep? What am I doing wrong?’
Here’s an example, from Whine Guide (Find your voice and start sweating the small stuff):
Each double page spread then analyses, in a simple sentence, the various permutations of a baby’s cry, grizzle, whine or full-throated bellow, and pairs each one with the appropriate life occasion. For example:
‘The bubbly. An open-mouthed, gassy whine, requiring attention.
Best served with bicycle legs and a tummy massage.’
You get the idea. It’s a delight; something that could be read aloud to a baby while giving a wrung-out parent a much-needed chuckle.
These first two in the Self-Help for Babies series are published by HarperCollins and ABC Books in September 2020, with more available for pre-order.
My thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books for copies to review.