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LM_NET  September 2016

LM_NET September 2016

Subject:

REVIEW: small things

From:

Barbara Braxton <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Barbara Braxton <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 10:02:59 +1000

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I don't usually send reviews of Australian books to this list, but the one
I've just written has such universal application I think we all need to know
about it.  (If the references don't transmit well, you can read the review
on my blog.)

 

small things

Mel Tregonning

Allen & Unwin, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781742379791

 

Over recent weeks my life seems to have been leading up to opening this
book.  

It started with a friend's son committing suicide and my going back into the
classroom as a volunteer to allow a colleague to attend the funeral.

There was RUOK Day <https://www.ruok.org.au/>  which is a big thing for me
because suicide has touched my life too many times.

Three schools I've been associated with have recently installed buddy
benches <http://buddybench.org/> .

This story came through my Facebook feed-Teen Makes Sit With US App That
Helps Students Find Lunch Buddies
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/teen-creates-app-sit-with-us-open-we
lcoming-tables-lunch-bullying_us_57c5802ee4b09cd22d926463>  and then, this
morning, this meme...

 
<https://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/files/2016/09/small_things2-2keu1t7.gif
> small_things2

Even so, I was not prepared for the storyline of this important book even
though I'd skimmed posts about its launch on my network connections. Let the
blurb tell it for you...

An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. small things tells the story of a boy
who feels alone with his worries, but who learns that help is always close
by."

Perhaps a storyline that has been done one way or another many times - but
then, on the publishers' blurb there is this...

In 2008, Mel began illustrating a graphic novel about the universal feelings
of loneliness and happiness. In May 2014, Mel took her own life.

It is the most absorbing story of a boy who is dealing with lots of the
small things in life that we all face but which affect each of us
differently - small things that appear to be so unimportant that they don't
even require capital letters in the title.  Yet, while for some they may be
no big deal, for others they lead to sadness, anxiety and depression
exacerbated by the perception that you are the only one feeling this way.
Other people can make friends, other people can do pesky maths problems,
other people can play basketball - why can't you?  And the thoughts and
doubts start to chip away and open cracks until you are surrounded by and
followed by demons which constantly exude from you until you are so
overwhelmed that physical pain to let them out is greater than the pain of
keeping them in.  And when even that doesn't help and the darkness
descends...

Mel died before she completed her book and the wondrous Shaun Tan completed
the final three pages.  And in doing so, he turns the darkness around into a
powerful and hopeful ending so that  even though there are small things that
can cause such despair and desolation there are other small things that can
lead to hope and happiness.

With so many of our students, even very young ones, struggling with bullying
and mental health issues that too often lead to the dire consequences of
drugs and death, this is an important book for teachers to examine so we can
be alert to the needs of the children in our care and consider whether the
remark made in jest or the less-than-average grade might have a deeper
impact than we think. It's about the need to help our children build a core
of resilience and self-esteem so they can cope when their expectations are
not realised and to help parents understand that stepping in and solving
every problem for a child in the short term in not necessarily the best
solution in the long term.  It's about helping our children understand that
there are not losers, only learners.

It's about so much more than one reviewer can express in one review.
Perhaps its most critical role is that it even though it encapsulates the
feelings and thoughts of the boy in its evocative pictures so well that no
words are needed, it becomes the conversation starter - more than that, it
generates a loud call to action.

On a literary level I believe this will feature in the CBCA Book of the Year
lists in 2017; on a social level it is so much more important than that.

There are Teachers Notes
<https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/childrens/picture-books/Small-Th
ings-Mel-Tregonning-9781742379791>  for both primary and secondary available
and they come with a warning of how you use it because of the nerves that
may be touched, a warning I would echo.  Do not share this as a stand-alone,
time-filler.  However they offer some really positive ways of promoting
positive mental health and strategies for those who are feeling fragile as
well as helping others know how they might help a friend.  Asking R U OK? is
not just for one day a year. 

A most remarkable and life-changing book.  We need to nurture those who will
sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria but we must also know who the
lonely kids are.

 

 

 

Barbara Braxton

Teacher Librarian

M.Ed.(TL), M.App.Sci.(TL), M.I.S. (Children's Services) 

Dromkeen Librarian's Award 2003

COOMA NSW 2630

AUSTRALIA

 <mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]

Together, we learn from each other

500 Hats  <http://500hats.edublogs.org> http://500hats.edublogs.org 

The Bottom Shelf  <http://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/>
http://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/

 


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