Helping Kids: Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts!

The final review in our Helping Kids series is one for all those parents of little worries, of which I am one.

Interestingly, I’ve got one kid who seem to worry about nothing much at all, but another who finds himself worrying about pretty much everything (he’s a bit like his mum I’m afraid). I’ve asked him to have a read…

Today’s picture book is Nicky Johnston’s Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! which has been written and illustrated to help and encourage children to manage and overcome their anxiety:

Bayden is an intelligent, confident and courageous boy. Yet he is often overwhelmed by his worry thoughts. His anxiety makes his life quite unbearable at times.

See how Bayden discovers his superpowers, takes control and is able to live free and happy!

I love how this story has been put together! It doesn’t try and unpick worries, and doesn’t offer complicated explanations as to the what and why of anxiety in kids. It simply suggests – to the kids themselves – that they have the power to choose not to worry.

It is empowering, sensible and gentle, offering the reader encouragement to start using their ‘superpowers’ to enjoy life and to make Mr Worrythought shrink away:

Pow! Instantly Bayden’s superpowers reduced Mr Worrythoughts to half his size.

“I am not going to listen to you anymore!” Bayden yelled.

Zap! Mr Worrythoughts shrank again.

I particularly like the fact that there are some very practical suggestions at the end of the book that kids could use to actively fight their anxiety – stress balls, letters, paper planes! It’s great advice!

The book has been beautifully illustrated by Nicky, making the story bright, attractive and accessible to kids of all ages.

You can find out more about the book and about Nicky Johnston her website. There’s also a Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! production that provides a great avenue to support discussions around managing anxiety and worries. If you think this would be helpful to yourself or your school, why not check out more information here?

I’m definitely going to keep this book on hand for future reference, and might even try and take a lesson out of it for myself!

You can buy a copy of Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! in the TBYL Store now, as well as copies of Nicky’s follow-up book Happythoughts are Everywhere… Shop Now!

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Helping Kids: My Mum Has Breast Cancer

Today’s instalment in our school holiday Helping Kids series is on a topic very close to my heart. The book in question was written by a good friend of mine, and has been put together to help kids work their way through a loved one being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

My Mum Has Breast Cancer was written by Lisa Sewards after her diagnosis with breast cancer, and has been beautifully illustrated by her son and his grandmother.

It has helped countless families (including my own) deal with the shock of a mother, aunty, grandmother, being diagnosed with breast cancer. It helps in a very real and practical way, and is incredibly touching as a story in itself.

By happy coincidence, My Mum Has Breast Cancer was reviewed this week by Babyology. Not being one to reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d share their review with you today rather than write a brand new one. You can read it here.

As well as being an author and very talented artist, Lisa is the founder of the Pink Lady Art Exhibition. This art show will be running in Brighton, Victoria on 27th and 28th October 2012. I’m involved with this show, it’s inspirational and lots of fun and raises heaps of money for some really important breast cancer organisations. You can check out their website here.

If you’d like to buy a copy of My Mum Has Breast Cancer, they’re available through the TBYL Store. For September and October, 100% of proceeds from the sale of the book will go directly to BCNA (normally, 50%) Shop here for your copy…

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Weekend outing: Capturing Flora

I hope you don’t mind too much, but I’m interrupting my school holiday series to brag about what a wonderful weekend I’ve got planned!

As well as the obvious, mandatory AFL grand final festivities, I’ve been invited to view the latest special exhibition; Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, and so, we’re taking a day-trip!

If the exhibition is anything close to as good as last year’s Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales it’ll be well worth the day out.

I’ll be sure to take a few photos and post a full review once I’ve taken a look, but I wanted to let you know that this really special show is now open…

The exhibition Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will take visitors through a historical journey of how Australia’s amazing and diverse flora have been recorded, interpreted and popularized by botanical artists from William Dampier and the early explorers to the present day.

Over decades and generations, the practice of botanical art has changed in practice and product, and this exhibition does what no other has done before. It explores the evolution of Australian botanical art over the centuries as well as highlighting the differences in emphasis and technique between botanical artists. It promises to be both beautiful and intelligent.

Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will run from Tuesday, 25 September to Sunday, 2 December 2012 at Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat. Admission is just $12, Concession $8, and Child and Gallery Members get in free.

For more information, visit the gallery’s website here.

Stay tuned for more…

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Helping kids: Mitchell the Pixel

When kids start school, creche or kinder, it’s of course fascinating to watch them learn about colours and numbers, shapes and letters. It’s amazing how quickly they learn and how much delight they get out of showing off their new skills.

Interestingly though, the part of this early school experience that can be the most challenging is often learning about friendships. I remember it from my own childhood, and now I’m seeing it with my own kids.

Leon James Wisewould’s Mitchell the Pixel (Ashworth Publishing) is a helpful picture book that addresses friendship, self assurance and bullying…

Mitchell the Pixel is a digital square. He lives in  your computer and doesn’t have hair. Join him as he explores what it is to have friendship, face up to bullies and find forgiveness. While all along, staying true to his unique self.

Mitchell is little, much smaller than his messy friend Perry Paint. Perry Paint isn’t happy, upset about being pushed around by a gang of other messy paint spots, and he takes this out on poor Mitchell.

What Mitchell does next is a wonderful illustration for kids, about how friendship can sometimes be tough, how bullying can make you sad, but that by expressing yourself and standing up for who you are and what you can do, you can make a major difference to a difficult situation.

The brillant and bright illustration of this book (by Paul Nash) makes the book instantly attractive, and the characters will be especially fun for those techy kids out there (of which mine are two).

The thing that I really like about this book is that it’s not just about dealing with bullies. Rather, it’s about all the different factors that come into play when dealing with other people. It’s about learning what friendship is all about, and how to deal when things become difficult.

If you’d like to find out more about this book, you can check out their website here. Buy a copy from the TBYL Store here.

How do you help your kids form working friendships? Have you had to talk to them about bullying?

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Helping kids: Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream

I don’t know about you, but I love school holidays. I miss my kids a lot while they’re at school, and the running backwards and forwards makes me crazy.

Spring school holidays are my favourite, it’s the best time of year – the sun is shining, the kids are smiling and it’s like a shot in the arm for us all, keeping us going through the busy, busy final quarter of the year.

Being focused on the kids, I thought it would be a good time to run with a series of reviews on children’s books, and in particular kids’ books that have been written to help kids through troubling times.

As much as we try to protect our kids from strife, there are still those times where our children have to manage through serious issues. Be it nightmares, illness, loss or anxiety, picture books can play a major role in helping us to talk to our kids, and in turn help them to cope with challenging times.

Today’s book has been written to help kids self-manage bad dreams. I know that my Oscar has very vivid dreams and often worries long in to the next day about nightmares that might have troubled him through the night. Needless to say, I’m going to give this book a go, to see if it can’t help him with his bad dreams.

Mommy, Daddy, I had a Bad Dream! by Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. (Smart Love Press) is the story of Joey, a bouncy happy kangaroo, who has a series of bad dreams. His parents lovingly help him understand them in a way that helps him control his worries.

Illustrated by Jo Gershman, the story is cast with a family of kangaroos and various other Australian favourites. In beautiful watercolour scenes, Joey and his family cuddle and snuggle and look out for each other. Nonetheless, Joey is still a worried little kangaroo…

Troubled by nightmares, Joey finds himself needing help from his mum and dad to settle. He finds his dreams really upsetting, and he doesn’t understand why he keeps having nightmares.

Interestingly, how Joey’s parents talk him through his dreams is quite unique:

Joey bounced straight into his parents’ room. “Mommy, Daddy, I had a terrible dream! The judge said NO apples with honey for three whole days! Why would I have such a bad dream?”

“Let’s think about it,” Daddy said.

“Dreams are stories we tell ourselves for a reason. We just have to understand the reason. Are you upset about something that happened today?”

Joey doesn’t work it out straight away, but after a number of conversations, and a little help from his parents, his dreams become less worrying. He learns to work through them himself, resettling without the help of his mum and dad.

The author, Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D has used her considerable experience in working with families, to help parents help their kids to take control of their anxiety around bad dreams, making night times run much more smoothly for all concerned.

If you’d like to know more about this really interesting, very unique picture book, you can visit their website here.

Do your kids have trouble with nightmares? How do you handle bad dreams at your house?

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The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D

Last month I got chatting to lots of other book bloggers, as part of my second ever read-a-long. We all read Nichole Bernier’s The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D (Allen and Unwin) and discussed it over three weeks in August.

The read-a-long was once again hosted by Bree of All The Books I Can Read. You can check out what the other bloggers had to say about the book, on her blog.

The book is intriguing from the outset, and very sad…

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died.

I’d say that there are two quite distinct themes in Bernier’s novel. The first is that of internal conflict and second, the notion of who you are versus who you seem to be. Both of these themes make for an incredibly moving story, one that really gets to the heart of what it is to be a woman living a suburban, matrimonial and maternal life.

From the beginning of the story we are cast inside the anxious mind of Kate:

“The sun was strong, glinting off the bridge and hitting the river like shattering glass. Drivers traveling in both directions were shielding their eyes, staring as she was down the length of Manhattan. She didn’t know what any of them expected to see. Mushroom clouds? Skywriting in Arabic? She wished for some visible sign of drama where the towers had once stood. Then she looked towards Queens, even though it was impossible to see the site from this distance. Few people were even looking anymore, though she always would.”

We ask Kate’s questions with her; Why had Elizabeth trusted her with a life-time of personal journals? How well had she really known Elizabeth? How well did she really know anyone? What danger lurked around any given corner, a potential threat to herself, her husband, her children? The tension and anxiety is inescapable…

We’re also thrust, via her journals, into the secret world of Elizabeth D, who it would seem for years had been hiding a grieving, conflicted self behind the smile and charm of a suburban housewife. Nothing that Kate had assumed to be true about Elizabeth, both before or after her death seemed to be entirely accurate. It’s a gripping journey.

Interestingly, despite the introspect nature of both these narratives, the story itself avoids being insular. The reader is still offered an incredible sense of place, Bernier painting an atmospheric picture of New York, Washington and Kate’s small holiday island. Kate’s pre-kids professional was as a pastry chef and the descriptions of kitchens and food, bakeries and desserts is positively mouthwatering.

I was completely drawn into The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D and as you might expect, it had me asking one single question… what would I want done with my journals, should the unthinkable happen? For the record, I think a bonfire might be in order, but as we find out from this novel, some people seem to take comfort in the idea that their true self might be revealed to others, after they’ve gone.

Do you keep a journal? What would you have your loved ones do with it, once you were no longer around?

Buy your own copy of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D at the TBYL Store


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Secret Mothers’ Business? The Mothers’ Group

There are some books that just get a conversation going. It’s not even necessarily the book that’s being talked about, sometimes it’s just a chat about memories, experiences, emotions… the book is just the catalyst, the starting point, the excuse.

Fiona Higgin’s The Mothers’ Group (Allen and Unwin) is one such book. A book club favourite, this novel has sparked many conversations in lounge rooms and cafes, over coffee and wine. Not surprisingly it has struck a cord with mothers around the country, all eager to share their own experiences of the spell-binding, mind-blowing and at times terrifying stage of early motherhood:

‘The Mothers’ Group’ tells the story of six very different women who agree to regularly meet soon after the births of their babies.

Set during the first crucial year of their babies’ lives, ‘The Mothers’ Group’ tracks the women’s individual journeys – and the group’s collective one – as they navigate birth and motherhood as well as the shifting ground of their relationship with their partners.

Each woman strives in her own way to become the mother she wants to be, and finds herself becoming increasingly reliant on the friendship and support of the members of the mothers’ group. Until one day an unthinkably shocking event changes everything, testing their bonds and revealing closely held secrets that threaten to shatter their lives.

Sucked in yet? I know I was…

I’d had lots of people recommend this book before I read it, and I’ll admit that at chapter one I wasn’t quite sure why. The story was interesting, albeit a little stereotypical, but on meeting Ginie, the first of six main characters, I found her somewhat unlikeable, she irritated me and therefore, so did the book. But, by about forty pages in, I worked out that this was exactly what I was supposed to feel, and decided to go along for the ride.

The novel paints a picture of challenges, both personal and maternal…

“All those things no one ever tells you about motherhood. It’s like secret mothers’ business. Lots of my friends had babies before me, but not one of them ever told me it would be this hard… It’s like a code of silence.”

…and appeals to a wide range of readers by presenting a fair range of ‘typical’ types of mothers. The story’s mothers’ group is an eclectic mix of woman, and half the intrigue of the novel is watching how these people relate to each other, and overtime, learn from each other.

Higgin’s had constructed a suspenseful, relatable and quite complex novel. It is at times a little cliched, but is no less enjoyable for it. In addition, I think the book encourages important conversations that can be very helpful to new mothers, and equally to those mothers who’ve gone through this challenging stage in the past.

The Mothers’ Group is our September TBYL Book Club book, and I can’t wait to hear what you thought of the book. Discussions kick off online on Monday, 24 September and will continue until Wednesday evening. I’ll be online on Monday night (from about 7:30pm) if you’d like to join me for a live chat. You can join the TBYL Book Club here.

If you’d like to buy a copy of the book, I’ve got copies in the TBYL Store, here…

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Should she or shouldn’t she? Speechless

I’ve read a few Young Adult titles lately, and I’ll admit to have enjoyed them probably more than I had expected that I would. They’ve been absorbing, complex and pretty unique.

But, I’m well aware of the fact, as I review these books for TBYL that I’m reading and reviewing them as an adult. My view of them could possibly be quite different to that of an actual teen. And so…

I’m really happy to introduce a brand new TBYL Reviewer, Clea Boyd-Eedle. Clea is a teen, and has kindly offered to give us her perspective on this really exciting genre. This month, Clea has read Speechless, by Hannah Harrington (Harlequin Teen). Here’s what she thought…


“Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret…”
I suddenly think I am about to read another story about another silly teenager who again did something she shouldn’t have. And in a way it is, but it’s also more than that.

“Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast – and nearly got someone killed.”
That’s when I started to listen, what secret could have been so dangerous? To me, it seems as if no real debatable topics are ever presented in chick-lit young-adult fiction, just glossy versions; usually never anything serious. What could this story have that was different?

“Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence – to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting everyone else. And if she thinks keeping a secret is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence and in new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way. People she never noticed before. A boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends forgive what she’s done.”

Hannah Harrington’s second novel, Speechless(Harlequin Teen) is refreshing to read – the teenaged characters have been portrayed as they really are, without fine-coating everything. It is written in a language actually relatable to teenagers.

Speechless is set in your average American community, complete with parties full of red solo cup scenarios, one of which turns very ugly. What makes this book really interesting is just how a public issue is addressed and presented to the teenagers in the story.  I haven’t read of a situation like this before in any young-adult fiction.

The stories main character, Chelsea Knot is under the wing of the top girl, Kristen, making her somewhat popular and in with ‘that’ crowd. Red-headed, but not exactly fiery, Chelsea is clumsy with her words and is notorious for saying everything and anything her ears come across, which up until ‘that night’ hadn’t caused her any serious consequences, surprisingly. Since things turned bad, Chelsea has made a vow of silence and an effort to make things right. This in turn earns her the hatred of half her school, but also relationships blossom with people she would never have considered as friends.

Meeting Chelsea in detention, Asha is the friend everyone wants. Asha is quirky (she actually knits…seriously), an incredibly loyal and defensive friend (even though Chelsea didn’t speak a word to her) and a real people-person. I admittedly fell in love with Asha before Chelsea, envying her characteristics and wondering what made her so admirable.

And of course, where there’s girl’s teenaged fiction there is almost always, and inevitably, boys; and the choice between two. Sam is an artsy character, quite similar to Asha, who decides to help Chelsea out despite clearly having problems with her original popular position – will the relationship work or not?

Speechless was a great book, perfect for your typical teenaged girl looking for more insight into high school life, how to overcome problems (although not talking may not always be the solution) and more assurance that their issues are normal.  If you like Louise Renninson or Sarah Dessen you’re sure to enjoy Hannah Harrington’s, Speechless.


I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Clea in the future, what a great way to work out what’s good in the world of YA fiction!

You can find out more about Speechless here…

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Sure beats another cat video

I’ve got a bundle of new reviews lined up for the second half of this week, but I thought I’d begin my blogging week with the words of some people far wiser than I.

If you’re a little tired of Youtube’s usual fare of flash mobs, classic crashes and crazy kitties, maybe you’d like to take a look at these interesting videos from ABC TV’s Big Ideas

How about some real class?
Great English actor, writer and director, Simon Callow was the headliner act at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival and he based his keynote speech on his biography of Dickens – titled Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World. In this address, he discusses the importance of theatre to the life and work of one of the greatest storytellers in the English language. You can watch the video of his presentation here.

I’ve not read Anna’s book yet, but I hope to soon…
This year’s Miles Franklin winner, Anna Funder is in conversation with writer Anne Summersabout All That I Am. You can watch the video here.

I’m missing the Melbourne Writers Festival now that it’s over, so I’m going to revisit one of the sessions that I went too…
Labor in Vain – Is the fate of the federal Labor Party sealed? Is it in crisis or just experiencing the odd catastrophe? You can watch this conversation here.

And lastly, some food for thought…
‘Foreign aid is a waste of money” – this was the proposition for this IQ2 debate in Melbourne. Watch this polarising debate here.

Have you come across any interesting ‘thinky’ videos online lately?

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Love 2 Read? Yes, we do!

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to get up and out there for a little while now, because it’s something I’m incredibly excited about – new friends!!

Although I’ve already mentioned this wonderful new friendship in TBYL News, I want to make sure that everyone knows just how thrilled That Book You Like… is to be partnering with the fantastic folks at the National Year of Reading 2012!

The National Year of Reading is most definitely something I can get behind…

The National Year of Reading 2012 is about children learning to read and keen readers finding new sources of inspiration. It’s about supporting reading initiatives while respecting the oral tradition of storytelling. It’s about helping people discover and rediscover the magic of books. And most of all, it’s about Australians becoming a nation of readers.

And they’ve been doing this throughout 2012, running bookish events, supporting local bookstores and libraries, and most recently, promoting the fabulous Reading Hour.

Wonderfully, there are lots of amazing programs and initiatives aimed at encouraging reading and literacy around Australia, and NYR have made it their mission to make sure that we all know about what’s going on in our own neck of the woods. Make some time to visit their website, to see what they and others are up to at the moment, and of course, like Love2Read on Facebook for daily updates!

There are an amazing number of bookish organisations partnering with NYR, and you can check them out here. Ten points if you spot TBYL!

Now, I know that 2012 is whizzing by us super-quick, but I for one intend on fitting in as much book lovin’ as I can, and the National Year of Reading can help. I can’t wait to do more with them toward the pointy end of 2012.

Have you been involved in any NYR events this year?

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