All posts by Karen Seligman

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a newly-qualified librarian working in a public library. As a book- and library-lover from way back, she finds nothing better than being surrounded by books and other library-lovers! Karen’s past lives as a law graduate, corporate warrior and research scientist continue to inform her wide-ranging tastes in reading material, with her favourite genres including historical fiction, fantasy, food writing and popular science.

Our favourite titles about starting school (for kids of all ages!)

Starting school is a big milestone, not just for children but their parents (well done to everyone for getting this far!) It promises many new and exciting things, but the uncertainty can be scary too.  Here’s where story books come to the rescue, and there’s a range of funny and adorable stories to help young children familiarise with what “Big School” will be like.  We haven’t forgotten older children either, with some very helpful guides to both students and parents on surviving High School.

 

My First Day at School by Meredith Costain

It’s the first day of school for Mrs Mellor’s Prep class.  We meet Zach, Amira, Ari and Zoe, who take turns telling us what happens.  There’s learning to be done, snacks to eat, playtime and lots of rules! Some of the children have nervous moments – what if I don’t make a friend? What if I can’t hang on before I reach the toilet? – that resolve themselves happily.  All too soon it’s time to go home! The different personalities and first-person narration will draw child readers into this happy, upbeat story.

 

Mum at School by Eric Veille and Pauline Martin

Mum at School turns a traditional “starting school” story upside-down and makes it hilarious.  The first day of school can be tough. It’s nice if your mum can stay – and, before you know it, she’s cutting and pasting and joining in.  Except that school is not that easy for Mum – she forgets to raise her hand and she doesn’t fit at the table. Perhaps… it’s more fun at school when mum’s not around?  Mum at School aims to zap any lingering doubts in the most reluctant of new students.  Eric Veille’s deadpan drawings add an extra layer of comedy to this story of unexpected chaos!

 

I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

A classic starting school story about the beloved Charlie and Lola.  Charlie has a little sister Lola, who is small and very funny.  Mum and Dad think Lola is big enough to go to school, but Lola is not so sure.  Lola doesn’t think she needs it – she can already count to ten, and she doesn’t need to read words because she already has all her books in her head!  So it’s up to Charlie (and Soren Lorensen, Lola’s invisible friend) to help Lola realise that school is fun, and help you learn lots of useful things, such as how to write letters to Santa.

 

The Things I Love about School by Trace Moroney

Trace Moroney’s books are great resources for helping young children learn about themselves and their feelings. Her The Things I Love series celebrates the different everyday experiences that form the basis of our children’s world.  The Things I Love about School tells children about the fun and enjoyable activities that they can look forward to, or know about already, like making friends and learning new things.  This is a very gentle, reassuring story with cute illustrations, aimed at helping children to develop healthy self-esteem and resilience.

 

The High School Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Studying, Socialising and Succeeding by Jessica Holsman

Jessica Holsman is the star of popular YouTube Channel Study with Jess. Her videos of study tips, organisation skills and life hacks attract millions of views from around the world.  Teens know they need to study, but they haven’t always been taught how – and Jess is here to fill that gap.  Drawing from her own experiences, Jess has created detailed tips on how to beat stress and enjoy school by staying organised, studying smarter, and balancing study with socialising.  Jess has a direct, personal style that helps her connect with her teen audience, making The High School Survival Guide a useful handbook throughout the teen years.

 

 

Surviving Year 12: a Sanity Kit for Students and Their Parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

Year 12 has become a high stakes, high-stress year, but it doesn’t have to be that way – the last year of school is also a time to make good memories, and to enjoy the independence and respect given to these senior students. Now psychologist and bestselling author Michael Carr-Gregg has created a valuable guide on how to stay well and motivated during this critical year.  There’s useful tips on maintaining physical and mental well-being, how to set goals and prepare for exams, how to deal with procrastination, and how to make time for extracurricular activities.  A special section aimed at parents will help them manage their own expectations, and learn the best ways to support their children’s goals.

Get the best price for textbooks with Booko Alerts

Hey Students, I know it’s still the middle of January, and preparing for the start of Uni may be the last thing on your mind; but what if a few minutes’ work now can help you save lots of dollars, that you can put towards your dream trip / job interview outfit / coffee budget? What I mean is, using Booko – and also Booko’s Alerts feature – to help you find the best prices for your textbooks.

Academic textbooks can be breathtakingly expensive – a single title can be over a hundred dollars, so imagine how much your entire list will cost! You may have used Booko before to check prices for popular titles or gifts, but Booko can also be used to search for specialist or academic texts.  All you need to do is type a book’s ISBN into the main search box (this ensures you are searching for the correct edition) and away you go.  Booko can find most books, whether they are e-Books, Reference books, Fiction or Non-Fiction.  And since Booko can locate used copies, you may be able to save even more by buying second-hand!

Booko Alerts is a set-and-forget feature that emails you as soon as a price falls below the current (or a specified) level.  Just click the Add an Alert button directly below the Cover Image on the left side of the page.  Nominate a preferred price, type in your email and the Alert is set.  Now all you need to do is wait for the Good News email!

For more detailed instructions on Booko Alerts, click here for a step-by-step guide.

To give you some idea of the sort of savings achievable through Booko, here’s a list of potential savings for some common academic texts.  The savings are based on comparing the best price and the prices charged by leading academic bookstores, as found by Booko.

A Guide to Business Law (21st edition) by Christine Miles and Warwick Dowler
Save approximately $35

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Save approximately $7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychology (4th Australian and New Zealand Edition) by Burton, Westen and Kowalski
Save approximately $100

 

 

 

 

 

Microeconomics (Second Edition) by Goolsbee, Levitt and Syverson
Save up to $600

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (10th Edition) by Wilkinson et al
Save approximately $25

A Culinary Christmas

Preparing and sharing food is an important part of many festivals, and Christmas is no exception.  Celebrate the culinary side of Christmas, whether you prefer a traditional meal with all the trimmings, or something different, more modern or casual.  Here’s some delectable inspiration from our best-loved cooks; from guidance on how to host your first Christmas lunch, to the perfect gift for your foodie friend, or a bit of indulgence for yourself, these are books that will entertain, delight and inspire:

Jamie’s Christmas by Jamie Oliver
Delia’s Happy Christmas by Delia Smith

First up, two trusted guides to help you achieve a stylish and delicious feast, year after year.  For those who prefer their recipes to be detailed and precise, you’d love Delia Smith; Delia’s Happy Christmas will show you, in meticulous detail, how to cook all the traditional Christmas dishes. For those who prefer a more relaxed vibe and modern flavours, look to Jamie Oliver – he also loves the classics, but he’s not afraid to take shortcuts, and he offers a big range of alternative options, including vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Both Jamie’s Christmas and Delia’s Happy Christmas are much more than just a collection of recipes – they are complete how-to guides, and include planning tips, shopping lists, decorating ideas, and recipes for gifts and for leftovers – in short, everything you need to help you survive and succeed at entertaining during the entire holiday season!

Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

This latest book from Yotam Ottolenghi – co-written with pastry chef Helen Goh – makes an indulgent gift both to yourself, or to a loved one.  Sweet is a book about baking, desserts and confectionery, based on the delicious offerings in Ottolenghi restaurants.  Honouring Helen Goh’s Australian background, many of the recipes are inspired by Antipodean classics, including pavlovas, Anzac biscuits and even a coffee-flavoured “Ottolenghified” Eskimo Pie.  The recipes are supported by extensive notes on ingredients and cooking techniques.  Sweet is also about the celebratory joy of sharing sweet treats – so browse here for your showstopping dessert for Christmas Day, ideas for food gifts, or for the perfect cake or biscuits to make your home super welcoming.

Smorgasbord: the Art of Swedish Bread and Savory Treats by Johanna Kindvall

In our current obsession with everything Scandi, there’s curiously little attention on one Swedish icon – Smorgasbord. This tradition – of a table laden with good breads and savoury toppings for DIY open sandwiches – is perfect for relaxed holiday entertaining.  Johanna Kindvall’s guide includes recipes ranging from perennial favourites such as rye bread, chicken liver pate and Swedish meatballs, to contemporary and seasonal specialties such as elderflower cured trout and butter-fried mushrooms with walnuts.  There are also recipes for pickles, sauces and infused aquavit liqueurs. Get some healthy and elegant ideas for an everyday lunch, or for a feast!

The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater

I’ve already mentioned The Christmas Chronicles in my blog post about Creating your own Christmas Traditions; but I love this book so much that I am including it again!  The Christmas Chronicles is Nigel Slater’s love letter to winter – the crisp cold air, the cosiness indoors, the food and festive traditions at that time of the year.  Arranged like a diary (from early November to early February), each entry is a mix of anecdote, recipe and folklore – there’s interesting stories on candles, and pantomimes, and (of course) an extensive discussion about plum pudding.  Fascinating and curiously intimate, The Christmas Chronicles will take you to a sparkling wintery Christmas, wherever you are in the world.

The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook by Good Housekeeping Magazine

Baking cookies and biscuits are part of the Christmas traditions of many countries, and a Cookie Swap / Exchange is a fun way to meet up, share and have fun.  Have each guest bring a batch of cookies, enough to share with everyone.  At the party, sample the treats, mix and match the cookies and provide pretty packaging, so that everyone leaves with a beautifully wrapped cookie assortment.  The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook offers large-batch recipes perfect for sharing.  With recipes for goodies including blondies, chocolate crinkles and apricot almond squares, it offers plenty of inspiration for hosting your own Cookie Swap.

And finally…
The Hungoevr (Hungover) Cookbook by Milton Crawford

So you had a great time last night at your end-of-year work do, but now you are feeling a bit under the weather. And 25 of your relatives are coming for a “casual” pre-Christmas catchup.  The Hungover Cookbook (or rather, The Hungoevr Cookbook) promises to help you perk up, ready for another day – and another drink. Drawing on the wit and wisdom of P.G. Wodehouse, Milton Crawford classifies hangovers into six different types, before prescribing appropriate cures – actually quite delicious-sounding recipes including lemon pancakes and breakfast burgers – to suit each type.  And for those who really can’t manage more than a phone call just now, the author has thoughtfully offered a range of takeaway suggestions in addition to recipes.

The Savvy Shopper’s Christmas Guide

Online shopping is a real blessing when you have family and friends scattered around the world – not only can you shop at your leisure, but the parcels can be sent directly to the recipients (giftwrapped if required), without a mad scramble to find packing materials and a trip to the post office.  But not all of your favourite stores will ship overseas that way – so how to find one that does? This is where Booko can help.  Booko can help you work out the best prices for books, eBooks, DVDs and games for delivery in 17 different countries – here’s how:

• When you visit the Booko website at www.booko.com.au, the region is set to Australia. This is indicated by the Aussie flag in the top-right corner of the webpage:
• Click on the flag and it will reveal all the countries/regions available – which includes Japan, China, Spain as well as NZ, US and the UK..
• Click on the flag for the destination country you require. The new flag is now displayed in the top corner. Now search for your preferred book / eBook / DVD as usual, and Booko will calculate and rank prices based on shipping to your new destination country.

So easy!

Here are a few book and DVD goodies that I’m earmarking for friends overseas…

Kedi [DVD]

Kedi proves that, yes, everyone loves watching cat videos.  This feel-good success of 2017 is a documentary about the street cats of Istanbul – they have been an inextricable part of the cityscape since first arriving in trading ships centuries ago. They are free to roam and are often fed and cared for by their human neighbours. Kedi focusses on seven cats with different personalities and stories full of humour and drama.  The camerawork offers a cats-eye view of beautiful chaotic Istanbul and encourages us to reflect upon our notions of community, of progress, and of the relationship between animals and people.

 

A Die Hard Christmas by Doogie Horner

Die Hard is widely regarded as one of the Best Christmas Movies ever – and now comedian Doogie Horner has amped up the festive feel and made the Die Hard story fun for the whole family! A Die Hard Christmas is a beautifully illustrated picture book set to the rhythms of Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The violence has been toned down but is still present – so best to share with older kids – that is, if you can prise it from the fingers of the grownups!

 

Twilight Zone – The Original Series Season 1 [DVD – NTSC Region 0]

The Christmas Break is perfect for binge-watching, with many DVD sets released in time for the gifting season.  This Twilight Zone Season 1 box set allows you to revisit this classic series that has remained fresh, relevant and chilling for over 55 years.  Its mixing of science-fiction, fantasy and horror themes, its famous twist endings and use of speculative fiction as a vehicle for social and political commentary is groundbreaking and has influenced generations of Creatives.  This is a 6-disc set offering all 36 episodes of Season 1.

 

 

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Already a bestseller beloved for its authentic voices and gripping story, Wonder has now become a major film starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay.  10 year-old Auggie has facial deformities that make him look different, but he loves Minecraft, Star Wars, and ice cream just like any other kid.  Auggie had been home-schooled, but he and his parents decide that he is now ready to re-join the wider world. Wonder tells the story of Auggie’s first year at school; it shines through its cast of complex characters and its deft handling of sentimentality.  A fabulous conversation-starter about empathy, differences and bullying.

Creating your own traditions for the festive season

How do you like to celebrate Christmas?  Christmas is a time when we find comfort and joy in performing familiar rituals with familiar people. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make new traditions, and indeed many have – by creating something to share with your own children or your tribe of friends, or by adopting something you’ve loved in your travels.  If you’re ready to put your own special touch on your Christmas celebrations, we’re here to help – we’ve gathered some great resources to help you make your Christmas more imaginative, creative, sustainable and authentic:

Christmas: a Biography by Judith Flanders

Social historian Judith Flanders investigates the history of Christmas in this extensive and entertaining biography.  She turns up some surprising tidbits – Christmas has long been more about merriment and feasting than about religion (even in the fourth century, Church Fathers were lamenting that people were forgetting the “true meaning of Christmas”); that the commercialisation of Christmas is not a recent problem, and that Santa was dressed in red even before the iconic Coca Cola advertisements.  The evolution of Christmas meanders from Europe towards Turkey (where the real Santa Claus supposedly lived) and even to Japan, where Judith Flanders discovers that Christmas Eve is seen as a romantic time, like Valentine’s Day, to be celebrated by couples. The wealth of detail in Christmas: a Biography is perfect for putting you in the festive mood.

Green Christmas: how to have a Joyous, Eco-friendly Holiday Season by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander with Anna Basye

“Give more, consume less” is the mantra that will help you achieve a more eco-conscious Christmas without skimping on the love and fun – it will make Christmas cheaper and less stressful too.  Green Christmas shows us how the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle ideas can work at Christmas time – a time typically associated with conspicuous consumption.  It’s packed with tips on reducing our environmental impact, from using recycled materials to make cards and gifts, choosing between a live or an artificial tree, to creating eco-responsible lighting displays. It also reminds us that even simple actions such as carpooling and swapping outfits with friends can reduce our use of limited natural resources.

 

Maggie’s Christmas by Maggie Beer

As a former northern-hemispherian who has fully embraced summery Christmases, I think the Old World can learn a thing or two from the New.  One of these is our approach to festive food – lighter dishes, emphasis on seafood, a relaxed and informal attitude to entertaining, and a willingness to incorporate new flavours.  Let Maggie Beer be your trusted guide in introducing new ideas to your Christmas menu.  Whether you’re after a twist on classics, such as roast turkey with prune and orange stuffing, or passionfruit and banana pavlova; or crowd pleasers such as gourmet pizza, pan-fried squid or espresso jellies, you’ll find recipes that will make your next season’s entertaining more memorable than ever.

 

The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater is one of my favourite authors, and this is my early Christmas present to myself.  Like his Kitchen Diaries series, the Christmas Chronicles is a journal studded with seasonal recipes – and also Nigel Slater’s love-letter to winter.  Spanning the days from November 1 to February 2, The Christmas Chronicles waxes lyrical about anything and everything wintry, from hot toddies to pantomimes to choosing Christmas trees to winter travels in Norway and Japan.  Nigel Slater’s quiet but evocative writing takes the reader straight to a cosy room with a crackling fire, book in one hand and hot drink in the other, while outside the landscape is silenced by falling snow.  The Christmas Chronicles is not just an absorbing read, but also the ultimate journalling inspiration.

 

 

Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do by Fiona Watt
The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book by Chris McVeigh

One of the best ways to get kids involved and busy at Christmas is through making decorations – there’s nothing more personal than decorating with items made by your kids or yourself, and even the wonkier pieces are sure to bring back fond memories in years to come.  The Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do offers lots of ideas in a range of crafts including Christmas decorations, cards, wrapping paper, toys and baking.  Projects are illustrated with stepwise instructions.  For those who don’t fancy paper crafts, how about making decorations from LEGO?  The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book offers detailed instructions on fifteen impressive projects, from traditional styles such as snowflake to more lighthearted ones such as a hamburger!

 

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party: Christmas Crafts, Recipes and Activities by Brandy and Matt Shay

When did ugly Christmas sweaters come back as a thing? Add some silliness to the festive season by throwing your own Ugly Christmas Sweater party.  It’s a good opportunity to hang out with friends, dress up and have lots of laughs.  You can also use this opportunity to help those less fortunate, by raising funds for charities such as Save the Children. Marketing experts Matt and Brandy Shay have done all the hard work for party-throwers by compiling this manual – suggestions for outfits (including for your pets!), decorations, food, drinks and games are all included.

Books to get you thinking this Christmas

As we hurtle towards December, a few things brighten our days – anticipation for Christmas (the food! The long holiday! The time to read!) and also the wave after wave of new release books, ready for gifting or to add to our own wish lists. Team Booko’s currently in a cerebral mood, so here are our top picks for books that inspire and challenge us to think:

Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: the Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves by Jessica Yu

This biography of Ugandan journalist Gladys Kalibbala shows human nature at its most selfless and inspiring. Gladys writes a newspaper column in Kampala called “Lost and Abandoned”, where she profiles homeless children in the hope of reuniting them with their families. Her conviction about giving these children a chance to thrive leads her to set up a farm for them to stay in.  Garden of the Lost and Abandoned offers an absorbing portrait of a charismatic, determined and energetic woman.  Jessica Yu’s background as an award-winning filmmaker shows in her use of vivid dialogue, local colour and a dramatic narrative with plenty of highs and lows.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano

Comics / graphic novels are not just about superheroes, and Illegal highlights how it can be a powerful tool for discussing complex issues.  Twelve-year-old Ebo is all alone – his sister and brother have both disappeared, escaping their African homeland for the safety of Europe. Hoping to reunite with his sister, Ebo also sets out on this long and perilous journey, crossing the Sahara Desert before sailing across the treacherous sea. Throughout his ordeal, Ebo never loses hope of reaching his sister, or of finding a place where he can grow up in peace and safety. Illegal is a gripping story and an excellent way to help children understand the refugee crisis. For ages 9 and up.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start with Why is the basis of the third most-watched TED Talk ever (34 million views and counting).  The name “Start with Why” refers to a common trait in the most successful leaders and organisations – they are very clear about why they do what they do.  Focussing on the Why – rather than the How or the What – engages people’s emotions and motivates them to act.  When the Why (i.e. mission) of a company is unclear, it leads to poor decision-making that loses sight of longer-term success.  Simon Sinek is an anthropologist who has turned his analytical gaze towards what makes leadership and management effective.  The simple yet powerful messages in Start with Why inspire us to find our Whys and act upon them.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This follow-up of sorts to the bestselling Lean In  is one nobody would have wanted, or expected Sheryl Sandberg to write – it’s the story of how she clawed her way back from profound grief following the recent, unexpected and public death of her husband. Feeling lost and disoriented, Sheryl Sandberg turned to Adam Grant, a friend and psychologist, whose professional insights became her framework for how to survive through, and overcome, this bleak time.  Option B is part memoir, part social science and part self-help manual; Sheryl Sandberg’s openness, honesty and her fighting spirit make it both a very moving and a very helpful book.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

The latest Stephen King novel sees him collaborating with his son Owen (also a published author).  Their take on Sleeping Beauty imagines a viral pandemic that makes women fall asleep and grow cocoons around themselves; disturb the cocoons, and the women awake as vicious zombies. In their dream-state, women enter a better, happier alternative-world; meanwhile, the loss of an entire sex creates chaos in the real world.  Is Sleeping Beauties straight horror, a twisted fairytale, or a fable? Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale may spot its dystopian themes. Read into this what you will.

Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Having put his unique spin on childhood favourites (including Mirror, Mirror and the fabulous Wicked, Gregory Maguire turns his eye to the quintessential Christmas story – The Nutcracker. Hiddensee tells the life story of Drosselmeier, the elderly toymaker who made the nutcracker given to his goddaughter Klara. Drosselmeier was a foundling who, despite a miserable upbringing, retained his innocence and his ability to love and care. Hiddensee is another showcase for Gregory Maguire’s gift for giving emotional depth and a rich, surprising backstory to characters that we thought we knew well.  Pre-order now ahead of its release on October 31.

Books to help you get your act together

Last week we offered some ideas on how to spring clean and declutter your belongings; this week we turn inward to look at how we can declutter our minds.  Do you ever feel exhausted just thinking about change?
It’s easy to procrastinate when we feel anxious about the amount of disruption and effort we’ll need to make lasting change. Decluttering our minds means letting go of these preconceived ideas and anxieties, which can then help us welcome in fresh thinking and opportunities.  These authors are here to guide you towards greater clarity, focus and calm:

 

Declutter Your Mind by S J Scott and Barrie Davenport

Do you feel overwhelmed easily? As if your mind is spinning from too many thoughts?  Do you find it hard to get motivated? Or feel there is too much negativity around you? If you answered YES to any of these then you may be experiencing mind clutter.  Mind clutter gives rise to anxiety, stress and frustrations – issues that can only be solved by changing mindsets and behaviours. S J Scott and Barrie Davenport show how to use mindfulness techniques to declutter our thoughts, obligations, relationships and surroundings.  Declutter Your Mind is concise and readable, packed with ideas and advice.

 

 

Unstuffed: Declutter your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed helps with spring-cleaning of both our physical and mental spaces. Following Ruth Soukup’s bestseller Living Well, Spending Less, Unstuffed continues to help us reduce those cravings for more of everything – possessions, relationships, responsibilities. She encourages us to think deeply, identify our most important values and prioritise accordingly, shedding unimportant stuff in the process. She also advises on how to deal with the guilt associated with letting go! For those interested in faith and spirituality, there is also a unique section on decluttering your spirit. Unstuffed comes with an app that offers further tips and support on this decluttering journey.

 

The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight penned this irreverent but heartfelt anti-self help guide when she realised her perfectionist “good girl” tendencies were the cause of her constant stress and anxiety. So she learned to give fewer f**ks – to feel OK about not being perfect, to say yes only to things she cared about. The result is letting go of everything except the things that actually matter.  With a decluttered mind and fresh focus, Sarah Knight then takes us to the next level in Get Your Sh!t Together, which shows how to “win at life” – start prioritising and doing the things you actually want to do, while still managing all the sh*t you have to do.

 

Let it Out: a Journey through Journaling by Katie Dalebout

Journaling can be as simple as jotting down a To-Do List, or as complex as expressing your innermost feelings.  In either case, it is a powerful way of relieving a load from your mind. Let it Out is both an inspirational story and a how-to guide to Journaling.  Katie Dalebout has been journaling since her teens, discovering that her writing can be a plan, a review, therapy as well as life coach.  She credits journaling in helping her to recover from an eating disorder.  After sharing her life story in the Introduction, Katie sets out a range of journaling topics / exercises to suit different moods and purposes.  Katie’s young age and experiences make this a great book to share with the teens / young adults in your life.

 

Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

When Bill Gates writes a detailed (glowing) review of a book then you know it deserves attention.  Carol Dweck is a psychology professor who popularised the idea of fixed mindset versus growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes ability is innate and thus success is largely predetermined; while a growth mindset believes that ability is the result of effort and persistence, and thus can be attained by anyone.  A growth mindset makes us more resilient and helps us maximise our potential.  I’ve included Mindset here as inspiration of what can be achieved when our minds are unburdened by anxieties, bad habits and negative self-talk, which tend to contribute to a fixed mindset.

 

Smiling Mind

S J Scott advocated mindfulness in Declutter your Mind, but, if you’re like me, you might prefer to learn mindfulness while listening – this is where Smiling Mind comes in.  Smiling Mind is a non-profit organisation aimed at making mindfulness techniques accessible to all ages.    They have two excellent free apps (one for smart phones and a web-based app for computers) co-developed with psychologists and health professionals.   These apps offer something for everyone – there are guided practices of different lengths, separately aimed at kids, teens as well as adults.  My local school uses Smiling Mind in the classroom and I know many parents who use it in their children’s bedtime routines. The Smiling Mind website also offers tips on how to use mindfulness meditation at schools or in the workplace.

The Books that are the Playlist of my Life

Sometimes, the books you read, and the authors you love, are like staging posts, reflecting particular stages and events in your life; you grow from the experience and move on.  Sometimes, what you crave is a life partner – someone whose books engage and resonate with you year after year, come what may.  While most authors excel at writing in a specific genre or for a particular age group, there are many who write more broadly and are potential “life partners”.  Here are three popular authors who write across genres and age groups… do you have more you can recommend?

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is best known for his children’s stories – including his acclaimed and very entertaining autobiography Boy – but his adult fiction is also incredible.  He is a master of the short story, able to evoke a vivid scenario, then throw in a gasp-inducing twist, all within a handful of pages.  Where Roald Dahl’s twisted humour makes his children’s stories fantastical, it turns his adult stories hyper-real, emphasising the sinister, nasty side of human nature.  A celebrated example is The Champion of the World, a short story about pheasant poaching contained in his compilation Kiss Kiss; its twistedness was then transformed into Danny the Champion of the World, an altogether more whimsical story about the father-son bond and beating the establishment (and pheasant poaching!).

Kaz Cooke

Kaz Cooke is a fearless, frank and funny feminist – the sort of person you wish were your cool best friend, or fun auntie. Kaz works as a cartoonist, journalist, and agony aunt – and she has used these skills to create a range of advice books for women and children. From pregnancy (Up the Duff) to puberty (Girl Stuff) and women’s health (Women’s Stuff), Kaz has pretty much every life stage covered. What I love about these books is their excellent balance between irreverence and information – they are funny and easy to read, yet meticulously researched. Kaz also champions a body-positive message that helps readers block out the BS and learn to love and trust themselves and be more confident.

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries, which amply showcases her chatty style and deft balancing of comedy, romance and sweet earnestness. Through a series of fifteen books, we see Mia come of age, from a gawky teenager to a confident princess, developing her own personality while honouring duty, and juggling the demands of family, friendship and romance.  Meg Cabot has extended this series up into Chick Lit territory with Royal Wedding, where an adult Mia prepares to get married (but not before lots of drama!); and also down into junior fiction, with the spin-off Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.  Not content with one hugely successful series, Meg Cabot has also written in other genres, including series of paranormal romance, and murder mysteries.

Escape to Everywhere

Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to children’s literature – so it is particularly fitting that we devote an entire week to celebrating this each year. This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is “Escape to Everywhere”, which perfectly describes what great writing means to me: whether it takes you to a fantasy land within your mind, or offers a glimpse of life elsewhere on Earth – a great book stretches your imagination and broadens your horizons.  Drumroll please for this year’s winners…

Book of the Year: Older Readers

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a YA force to be reckoned with – all three of her novels are award-winners, including two CBCA Book of the Year awards (The Protected won in 2015).  One Would Think the Deep is about Sam, whose mum dies suddenly, shockingly, in his arms.  Having no options, he moves to the coast to live with his estranged aunt and cousins.  In this new environment, he struggles to process his grief, shock and anger – but also finds some solace in the surf.  One Would Think the Deep is almost painful to read, but Claire Zorn’s complex characterisation and raw, visceral portrayal of grief draws you in and doesn’t let go.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Rockhopping by Trace Balla

Trace Balla is another rising star, with both Rockhopping and its prequel, Rivertime, winning major awards. Having travelled down the Glenelg river together in Rivertime, Uncle Egg has finally agreed to take Clancy hiking to the Glenelg’s source in Gariwerd (the Grampians). During their five days in the wilderness, they see lots of flora and fauna, meet other hikers, have some scary moments – and Clancy grows up a little.  Trace Balla shows her love of nature through her incredibly detailed illustrations; she also conveys some beautiful messages about slowing down, living in the moment and respecting indigenous culture.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley

Inspired by life in Tennant Creek, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a great book for reading aloud (loudly!), with lots of opportunities for audience participation.  There are too many cheeky dogs in Canteen Creek, but when the weather changes and more cheeky animals arrive, chaos begins! The lively rhythm of the text and child-like illustrations combine to present a hilarious and riotous scenario that will appeal to both school-aged and younger children.

Picture Book of the Year

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

“Delightful” and “heartwarming” are no exaggeration when it comes to Bob Graham’s books – he is an expert at showing the humour and joy in the minutiae of life.  Home in the Rain starts with a little red car stuck in traffic – Francie, her mum and her baby sister (warmly tucked inside Mummy’s tum)  face a long drive on a rain-sodden day. From such an ordinary premise, Bob Graham has crafted a tender story that makes your heart glow. Home in the Rain is his eighth CBCA win – and a compelling example of why Bob Graham is one of our most beloved and awarded authors.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M. Newton

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks showcases more than 120 animals from 55 National Parks around Australia – from our national icons, through birds, to fish and insects. The book is divided into seven sections, each exploring a different habitat; thus offering additional insights into geography and ecology.  Gina M. Newton and NLA Publishing have done a terrific job in making a wealth of information accessible rather than overwhelming, using a range of colour coding, charts, maps and photos. Perfect for browsing as well as for reference.

The Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke)

A streetwise gang of children build a patchwork bike using what they can find – branches for handlebars, a flour sack for a flag. This exuberant story highlights the joy of making your own fun using creativity and imagination. The setting is hugely different from suburban Australia, emphasising how play is universally valued by kids, whatever their circumstances.  The street-art style of Van T Rudd perfectly matches the rhythmic text of slam-poet Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Unravelling the climate change debate

11 years ago, Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth burst into our consciousness, raising climate change awareness everywhere, promising to be the tipping point towards greater environmental protection.  Fast forward to today, and what seemed like a simple scientific observation has morphed into a bitter political dispute that stifles action.  As the issues surrounding climate change become more complex and emotive, how do we separate the facts from the manipulation?  These books can help you analyse, unravel and understand the complexities of climate change:

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Al Gore

An Inconvenient Sequel is a timely update, released 11 years after the influential An Inconvenient Truth.  In these intervening years, a string of extreme weather events – Hurricane Sandy, heat waves, melting polar ice – have caused huge damage, while action has stalled as climate change becomes mired in political controversy.  Hot off the press, An Inconvenient Sequel focusses on possible solutions, particularly around the use of clean energy, and also reflects on the consequences of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

 

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm

If you want a concise, readable introduction to the issues and consequences of climate change, then this book is for you.  Writing in a Q&A style, Joseph Romm, a physicist and former US Energy Department official, explores key points including basic theory, projected impacts, politics and policies, and possible solutions.  A particularly powerful section explores how climate change will impact everyday decisions for ordinary people, including where to retire, what to study, how to invest, and necessary changes to our diet.

 

 

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman

Eyes Wide Open aims to help teens critically assess the issues and arguments surrounding environmentalism.  Paul Fleischman draws on history, psychology, sociology and economics to explain the origins of key environmental issues including population, energy and climate.  He also tries to explain why different reactions to these issues exist.  A particularly useful feature is its guide on “How to Weigh Information”.  Eyes Wide Open is valuable for readers of any age who want to cut through emotive writing, and develop their own informed views.

Don’t Even Think About it: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall

Most people accept that climate change is real, yet do nothing to stop it.  Don’t Even Think About It suggests that this has an evolutionary origin – human brains are hard-wired to prioritise immediate dangers over future dangers; and they tend to interpret new knowledge through existing frameworks, increasing the likelihood of confirmation bias.  George Marshall interviewed psychologists, evangelicals, activists and conservative politicians in this entertaining yet thought-provoking study on the psychology behind the climate change debate.

On a Farther Shore: the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder

The effect of pesticides on wildlife may seem unrelated to climate change, but our current awareness of the environment is arguably influenced by Rachel Carson’s work. Her seminal book, Silent Spring, inspired the modern environmental movement, and influenced legislative changes and the founding of the EPA.  Rachel Carson was a skilled nature writer who combined lyrical prose with extensive research to make science understandable and compelling.  On a Farther Shore is an engrossing biography that places Rachel Carson’s life and work within the context of the politics and culture of the mid-20th Century.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

If you don’t normally read non-fiction, there is a growing list of novels to help you visualise the world post-climate change.  The latest novel from SciFi master Kim Stanley Robinson imagines life in New York in 2140 – a sort of “ Super Venice” partially-submerged due to climate change. New York 2140 creates a vivid world packed with details of economics, politics, and the minutiae of life; it is not grim, but offers a critique of capitalism’s role in climate change.