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Empathy – and where to read about it

Today is Empathy Day, and what better way to learn about what it is and why it is important than through children’s books?

What I love about children’s books is that they can convey very important messages and morals without sounding preachy or authoritarian. That’s a pretty impressive skill and one that perhaps isn’t always celebrated when considering the impact and effect children’s literature can have on its readers. I know of many examples of books that portray difficult emotions and conditions exceptionally well, from grief and sadness to anger and frustration. These needn’t be ‘special’ books either – ones that have been written for children dealing with bereavement or social anxiety, for example. Their strength lies in their ability to inspire or soothe, explain or question. Children learn through osmosis – they understand what’s in front of them without it having to be made explicit.

For today’s post, I will concentrate on Empathy since it’s celebrating its own special day! But I will return to other emotions soon!

Great  books for talking/learning about empathy:

The Lumberjack’s Beard and The Bear Who Stared

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Duncan Beedie’s recent creations deal with empathy in a humorous yet effective way. In The Lumberjack’s Beard, the titular lumberjack suddenly realises what effect his tree-unfriendly actions have on the environment and tries to put it right. In The Bear Who Stares, the bear doesn’t understand why everyone he meets gets angry with him… until a friendly frog sets him straight and tells him that staring isn’t the best idea when trying to get on with others. Both books have wonderful illustrations that enhance the story and which children never tire of seeing.

Dave’s Rock

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Frann Preston-Gannon’s second book featuring caveman Dave is a great look at the importance of sharing and getting along with others. In it, Dave is competing with Jon to see whose rock is better, but all it leads to is frustration and annoyance. However, in the end, the two find a way for them both to be happy, by understanding how each other feels. This makes them feel better than winning any competition.

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

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Nadia Shireen’s new book, The Cow Who Fell to Earth, takes a very bizarre situation and makes a heartwarming comedy from it. Poor Woo has landed on Earth and no one can understand a word she says. To make matters worse, the sheep assume she is a he and call her Dave. When Woo starts crying tears of sadness and frustration, the sheep work hard to make her feel better and get her back home. A hilarious and sweet book about the importance of helping others, even if they speak a different language!

Odd Dog Out

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In Rob Biddulph’s humorous story, being out of place seems like the worst thing in the world, until Odd Dog discovers that it’s kind of cool to be different. When she decides to be true to herself, she realises that plenty more dogs want to be their own dog and sets a trend. This is great for teaching children acceptance of other people’s differences and to be happy in themselves.

Mr Stink

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It’s not very nice to be stinky but there’s often a reason behind it, as Chloe discovers in David Walliams’s Mr Stink. The two characters soon forge a firm friendship based on their experiences of being bullied and misunderstood, and find ways to help each other out of sadness andloneliness.

Matilda

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On a similar theme of not belonging, Roald Dahl introduces us to Matilda, a clever young girl who seems to have been born into the wrong family. Preferring books to television and education to laziness, Matilda finally finds a kindred spirit in Miss Honey, who turns out to be the niece of the very wicked Miss Trunchbull. Even though life becomes very difficult for the two, the fact that they have found each other makes it much more bearable.

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Happy Roald Dahl Day!

We’re only in our second week back at school and already we have something to celebrate:

 

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If one of the most popular and well-loved storytellers of all time were still alive, he would have been 100 today, and the whole country (and beyond) is celebrating!

We’ve currently been running a survey to see which of his books is the most popular amongst our pupils. We’re still awaiting a few results but The BFG is in the lead by a fair amount, possibly influenced by the new Steven Speilberg film, followed by Matilda, then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Roald Dahl remains a huge favourite in St Michael’s Library so we’re all excited to be talking about him and making things in his honour. For a start, we’ve created this wall display:

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The little test tubes and jars will be full of dreams soon!

The children also spent much of last week inventing their own candy or drawing their own Roald Dahl character.

Candy creations

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Sara (top left) created The Dancing Twirl (ingredients: sugar, music, fizz and ice cream), which makes you dance perfectly forever.

Arfah (top middle) did a Chewy Mug (ingredients: sucker, Mars, Snickers, Bounty, Twix and M&Ms) which is a sweet and yummy mess.

Sabeen (top right) created The Bouncy Castle Everlasting Jelly Kingdom of Chocolate, Including Boiled See-through Sweets (ingredients obvious).

Sahar (middle left) invented a Giant Chocolate Rainbow Bird Head (ingredients include chocolate, flavoured with orange, peach, blackberry, blueberry and lime but NO BIRDS).

Dexter (middle middle) designed a chocolate bar full of things guaranteed to make your teeth ache (ingredients: Gummie bears, marshmallows, chocolate cookies, strawberry lollies, white chocolate, dark chocolate, Haribos and fruit). Maybe we should call it Dentist’s Nightmare!

Harvey (middle right) rather likes the traditional chocolate bar, so decided to create his own Milky Way with lots of nuts.

Ethan (bottom left) made a very interesting but perhaps dangerous concoction called An Exploding Sprinkles, Lumpy-Bumpy, Triple Dipple, Chocolate Bomb.

Thomas (bottom middle) named his creation the Gob Grower, which gets biger and bigger the more you suck it!

Lily (bottom right) created her own Crunch, made from boiled sweets in the middle and first layers, biscuit crumble (second layer), and chocolate on the third layer and outside.

Crazy Characters

characters

Unfortunately, my collage-maker has turned some of these the wrong way around (!) but I will talk you through them.

The large image on the top left is The Rotsome Trunchbull

The top right image is The Snoozing Gloop

The middle right drawing is The Frightsome Roly-Poly

The bottom right picture is The Squibbling Crabcruncher

The bottom middle creation is The Frightsome Bootboggler

The bottom left drawing is The Snodsin Twit.

We got these fantastic names from the Roald Dahl name generator. It caused great amusement as everyone came up to find out who they would be in a book (you take the first letter of your first name and the first letter of your second name and match them up to the names in the two columns). One person got The Vermicious Knid, which pleased me!

Cake sale!

There will be a Cake Sale in Year 3 at the end of the school day, with all proceeds going to Roald Dahl’s charity, so do pop along and buy a cake! Just look at some of the mouthwatering ones we’ve had in so far:

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This clever chocolate creation contains Nishnobblers from The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me.

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These cupcakes are based on George’s Marvellous Medicine!

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This is an amazing tortoise based on … Esio Trot.

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These are Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delights!

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This wonderful creation is based on the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Family.

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Mmm, Crocodile Tongue Cupcakes, from The Enormous Crocodile.

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This really is a Fantastic Mr Fox!

 

Which is your favourite Roald Dahl book?

Who is your favourite character?