Ford Street, 2018
32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95
A hot, sticky summer afternoon and Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie don’t know what to do with themselves. Lying under the large jacaranda tree, with little energy and less motivation they are bored with their regular pursuits and with each other.
“Too mopey for mischief, too wriggly to rest.
All stuck for ideas, no one knew what was best.”
Suddenly a little breeze blows through the tree and showers them with beautiful purple petals – and that gives Will an idea! And in a flash that tree becomes the ultimate playground – just add imagination.
In this age of wrapping our kids in bubblewrap and cottonwool and where allowing them to be bored is seen as the ultimate failure as a parent, this story whisks the reader back to a time when climbing trees was a vital part of growing up and there was no such thing as risk assessment and management. In fact, schools spent a lot of money installing climbing frames and other equipment so that there were “fake trees” available and children could build their upper body strength and indulge in all the gross motor activities so critical for development. Climbing encourages children to develop their own risk assessment and management and while there may be falls and the occasional broken arm, it’s all part of growing up and building a willingness to take a chance and being resilient.
And at last, there is recognition that boredom is also critical for development, that on-tap entertainment in whatever form stifles the imagination and creativity which is THE essential element of human endeavour. There is no more critical question starter that “what if…”
As the children scramble through the tree’s branches, feeling its different textures and letting its shapes inspire their imaginations, they discover a world of fun and endless possibilities that will not only encourage the reader want to find a tree and shinny up it, but will want them to return again and again as its potential for fun and discovery is endless.
Even if there is no tree nearby for the children to climb, or policy forbids that, maybe start with asking the children “What would you do if you had an afternoon to yourself and no access to toys or technology?’ It’s amazing how many times the things that stick in the child’s memory are those that cost nothing and were done with family or friends. Their imagination is not dead – they just need to time and space to explore it. Just as Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie discovered.
Teachers notes are available to kickstart your imagination.