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By James Minter, May 23 2018 03:40PM

For me, the holding of positive values for children and adults is essential. A set of positive values is the most significant legacy any parent can leave their child, and so I applaud any book which promotes and guides the development of values and notable in this case, kindness, respect, and trust.

Our values shape our behaviours and are especially important when we have to deal with difficult situations. Through acquiring positive values children are empowered, they can make better decisions, and are more likely to overcome the challenging issue.


My Actions Matter – A Book on Life Values by Kayla J W Marnach, is aimed both at young children and their carers. Using this book as a vehicle, teachers and carers can start a conversation with children about the issue under discussion. In addition to the illustrated story, the book features a section on behaviours and the needs the child is displaying, and further a section with open-ended question suggestions caregivers can ask children to get a discussion going.


Although the book is well presented – font choice, size and line spacing, and the illustrations are beautiful, the overuse of repetition in the narrative is too much. I know and agree that 5, 6, 7-year-olds need repetition, but in effect, there are four identical double-spread pages which are not necessary. I would have liked to see the messages given on the same pages being built upon as the book progressed.



By James Minter, Jan 16 2018 11:15AM

The day I sat down to read this book, quite by chance I observed two entirely unrelated events. One was a TED Talk by Iain McGilchrist, a Fellow at All Souls college, at the University of Oxford: discussing what’s happened to our soul or spirit. And the second, an event on a TV show for pop-star hopefuls. One contestant, a lady in her early thirties, had been driven for as long as she could remember to become a singer. So much so, when she was 9-years-old, she had made up her mind to seek a place at a school specialising in music education. She worked hard and won a scholarship. At the school, she achieved a great deal, but her success was in opera singing when she really wanted to be a pop singer. However, she stuck with opera to please her teacher, her parents, grandparents and other family members. In other words, she lived the life they wanted for her, not the life she was supposed to live. It was only on the death of her younger brother did she realise, in the words of Heaney, “You see, a life doesn’t last forever, and then you become dead.”. At the moment she promised herself to switch from opera to popular music-her lifelong dream-and competing for a place on the TV show was her starting point to start living the life she was supposed to live.


“A Yorkie's Tale” operates on a number of levels – for a child, the beautiful illustrations will engage their young minds as well as the array of diverse characters which populate the story – a rat, an owl, a possum, a parrot and many more – plus it’s a well-written to boot. For the adult reader, woven into the plot are messages we all need to remember. For example, we all live in our own world, but actually, there is a much bigger world out there – we have so much to learn and experience. Equally, it’s not about how we look on the outside, but what’s important is who we are on the inside: our spirit or soul. As Heaney says, “It’s the spirit that puts the light in your eyes and the love in your heart.” This is what McGilchrist explored in his presentation.


Heaney also recognised that leaving the familiar is always uncomfortable but a discomfort which has to be borne to find the life you should be living. This is shown, in the above example, by the hard decision the promising pop star had to make and relay to her family and teacher. But notwithstanding, it’s a complicated world, meaning that what is good for one is not necessarily good for others.


Heaney doesn’t make light of deciding to live the life you’re supposed to. He recognises it’s only the start, and nothing is easy. Our chosen path can lead to uncertainty, to moments of doubt and even regret. Being strong is necessary. “The road you are on, the quest undertaken, immovable obstacles seem placed in your way. Ne’er turnaround now; to learn, you must stay…or the truth you shall miss.”


“A Yorkie’s Tale” is full of great life lessons we all need to absorb or be reminded of. To treasure friendships; the importance of generosity and kindness; take nothing for granted and look for the richness of the world in which we live; joy and contentment can be discovered almost anywhere; and that latter exist as much inside us as outside.


Heaney continues, we should not fear death since our mortality urges our spirit to seek out what our lives mean, and living the life you’re meant to live is about embracing the totality of the life you live.



By James Minter, Jun 14 2017 01:01PM



This book is close to my heart, and I have to applaud Luke Christodoulou for making these ancient stories accessible to modern youth. My preoccupation is with teaching positive values to children through storytelling in the Billy Books series (http://thebillybooks.co.uk/ ) of the behavioural aspect of a person. Whereas morals are a system of beliefs that are taught for deciding good or bad, Values are personal beliefs that come from within. However, the two are emotionally related for choosing right or wrong.


Over and above rewriting the stories in contemporary language, for each fable, Mr. Christodoulou has included extra pages for parents to make clear the moral under discussion, and he’s proposed a number of activities parents can do with their children to help to reinforce the message. Also, he has also included suggestions for YouTube where children can see cartoon versions of each fable.


My only reservations with the book are the extra ‘parent’ pages – Mr Christodoulou is an English graduate, and some of his exercises appear a little demanding. The book is an eBook I would have expected to see clickable links to YouTube versions, and some of the parent’s pages seem to be rushed making them light on content. Though this is still a very worthwhile read, I feel there is an opportunity to revisit it to make it easier to use in this digital age.




By James Minter, Jun 2 2017 03:15PM

We are all different. It’s a fact and one that should be embraced and fostered. Without differences, the World would be a very grey, boring place, and without the vast array of innovations and cultures we all take for granted. Left-handedness is another example of the differences between people, and like all differences, it brings out prejudices similar to those held toward skin colour, religion, gender, height, weight and more.


Prejudices are negative behaviours learnt in childhood from parents, peers, and society as a whole, and reflect the values held. Since prejudices are not likely to go away anytime soon, children and teens need to be taught to understand and embrace differences at a minimum and to become resilient to the bullying, name calling, and aggression that often follows.


Jean Gill has done a good job opening up the left-hand, right-hand debate. However, this book is actually two books – the first one covers who in history is left-handed, and what it’s like to be different, and is fascinating and well researched. The second is a story dealing with being a left-handed teenager and trying to educate peers about the issues encountered, while dealing with the usual angst of being an adolescent, and at the same time, running a long-distance friendship.


A lot is going on in this book. Mixing the two books together, with the friendship storyline, plus extraneous scenes like, for example, the band members getting drunk in the coal shed, added little to story and became a distraction to the message. This is an important issue book, and brings with it a great opportunity to open up conversations about left-handedness in the classroom and at home. Definitely worth a read though. 4.5 star.




By James Minter, Aug 17 2016 01:18PM

I am a father to two children and stepfather to three more. They are all responsible adults now and successful in their relationships and chosen careers. But watching them grow opened my generational eyes to the issues and problems they faced, the decisions they’ve made, and opportunities they’ve taken. Of course, as a parent, I always wanted to share my wisdom with my children, and offer my input when they wrestled with difficult issues. However, facing the parental dilemma of getting the balance right between giving an opinion versus interfering, led me to consider what I, or other parents, could do better to equip children for adulthood.


With hindsight, what I should have done was consciously provide them with the means to make informed, more appropriate, and more realistic decisions. This is a big task. Nevertheless, since a person’s values underly their thought processes and how they react, and respond, to situations and information, it occurred to me that if parents focus on the development of positive values at an early age, this would be a great place to start.


Combined with the fact I am a fiction author, and I know how positively children respond to stories, it seemed to me a traditional story book was the right vehicle to share my ideas.

Such an approach was too late for my children, but since there are plenty of new parents out there who could benefit, I was motivated to write the Billy Learns About series of books. Combined with the fact I am a fiction author, and I know how positively children respond to stories, it seemed to me a traditional story book was the right vehicle to share my ideas. In addition, I am fortunate to have a great resource to call on—my wife, Maggie, a personal and business development coach, an NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist—making me ideally placed to bring these differing factors together into a series of children’s books which focus on developing positive values.


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