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Detention

Detention

Detention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detention

Tristan Bancks

Puffin, 2019

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791799

Sima and her family are pressed to the rough, cold ground among fifty others. They lie next to the tall fence designed to keep them in. The wires are cut one by one. 

When they make their escape, a guard raises the alarm. Shouting, smoke bombs, people tackled to the ground. In the chaos Sima loses her parents. 

Dad told her to run, so she does, hiding in a school and triggering a lockdown. A boy, Dan, finds her hiding in the toilet block. 

What should he do? Help her? Dob her in? She’s breaking the law, but is it right to lock kids up? And if he helps, should Sima trust him? Or run?

Whatever decisions are made will change their lives forever.

With the rise and spread of nationalist, right-wing conservative governments around the globe, xenophobia is alive and well in communities and countries around the world. In Australia it is always a hot topic particularly around election time and especially since former prime minister John Howard declared, “It’s about this nation saying to the world we are a generous open hearted people, taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any nation except Canada, we have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” in an election speech just weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Centre buildings in 2001.

Having just had another federal election with the rhetoric of asylum seekers, detention centres and people’s rights claiming a lot of media space and votes, this new book from Tristan Bancks is very timely. In it, through the students in the Reading Superstars class and their teacher Miss Aston, he asks the questions that need to be considered about the plight of refugees, particularly as much of what the children say is the echo of their parents’ perspectives. Bancks says he has tried to tell the story as “a human one, rather than a political one” and he has achieved this as the reader becomes very invested in the plights of Simi and Dan and constantly wonders what would they do if they were either of those characters.

In my opinion, the greatest power of this book is in the hands of a class teacher reading it aloud and discussing the issues as Miss Aston does while she and her charges are in lockdown. That way, a range of points of view can be explored and explained, taking the story to a whole new level, rather than being an individual read that throws up questions but for which the reader doesn’t seek answers. And that teacher should be prepared to answer the inevitable, “What would you do if you were Miss Aston?”

Books for this age group are rarely the focus of reviews on this blog, but I believe that this is such an essential read as part of any study about migration and refugees, it deserves all the publicity it can get. Superb.

 

 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

Susanne Gervay

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925335996

Superhero Sam has had to get glasses – big blue ones – but he doesn’t like them. They make his ears hurt and even though, his well-meaning parents and  grandparents and even his teacher say he looks handsome in them, he hates that.  It’s as though it’s all about his glasses and he, himself, is invisible. They make such a fuss about this new superhero, it’s as though they’ve forgotten the old superhero he was before.  

His best friend George still knows him and plays with him though, but then the day comes when George is not at school and the other children start to make fun of him…

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Sam was me 60+ years ago, my son 40 years ago and my granddaughter seven years ago.  Each of us had to go through the trauma of appearing in public wearing glasses, and despite the well-intended comments of others, it’s tricky to know who you are when you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror but you know you are still you inside.

Sam is just one of hundreds of other kids who face this situation, and author Susanne Gervay is well-known for taking those everyday but confronting situations and putting them into the spotlight so the extraordinary becomes ordinary, and inspiring hope for happiness ahead.  No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  Yet inside you know you are just the same person you were the day before when you didn’t have glasses.

Superbly and sensitively illustrated, this is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers and which should be actively promoted because so many children will see it as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves. Others might see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Sam and others feel and how they can be more empathetic, rather than unkind like the children in the story who call Sam “googly-eyes” and “pufferfish”. It might even be an opportunity to  explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Excellent, down-to-earth, and one for everyone, glasses or not!

Pippa

Pippa

Pippa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa

Dimity Powell

Andrew Plant

Ford St, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804270

Pippa the pigeon thinks she is ready to fly the skies by herself and have adventures. Rather than being hesitant to go out of her comfort zone, Pippa wants to experience the world for herself.  But her parents have other ideas. They are worried she is too young and do all sorts of things to keep her  at home and safe . But one day while they are out foraging for food, she flaps her wings and soars.  Over the town, the river and the paddocks she sails, going further and further from home.  But then fatigue and hunger set in and she discovers that while this big wide world is beautiful there are perils in it! Will she make it home safely?

A tender tale about parents wanting to keep their children safe, this is a story that cuts through the middle of parental protection and childish curiosity.  Our children need to be allow to fly; they need to face and conquer the obstacles they encounter if they are to be resourceful and resilient, but they also need to know there is a soft place to fall when it all gets too much.  

Dimity Powell has created a story that reflects both the parents’ perspective and that of Pippa – offering much to talk about as readers think about what they would like to do, whether they are ready and what they might learn as they try. It’s about striking a balance between independence and the security of home and Andrew Plant’s illustrations are perfect. Who wouldn’t be terrified seeing the face of the falcon coming towards you or those malevolent red eyes glowing in the dark?

As our young readers go through a number of stages where their desire for independence becomes overwhelming, this is a book that spans many age groups and there are excellent teaching notes which support this sort of use.  Perfect for teaching about being prepared, being resilient and being able to overcome obstacles without panicking. 

Maple the Brave

Maple the Brave

Maple the Brave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple the Brave

Chloe Jasmine Harris

Walker, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925381924

Nestled in the high branches of a tree deep in the forest is a little house where Maple lived. “No one knew how she got there or where she came from, but nevertheless there she was.” Sustained by the rain that gave her water and the trees that gave her ripe fruit, Maple never ventured from her high house because she was afraid of everything that was below it.  Her dreams were peppered with fierce creatures who lurked below, the wind becoming their terrifying howls.  Until there came a time when the rain and the trees no longer gave her what she needed and she knew she would have to descend the ladder into the unknown…

Facing your fears and even conquering them is a common theme of picture books for the young, but the setting and the isolation of Maple without parents or history, gives this one an olde-worlde feel that will appeal to those who like gentle stories that are neither confronting or confrontational. At some stage in our lives we all have to step outside our comfort zone and face the unknown, an unknown that we may have already built up to be scarier than it is and Maple offers inspiration that it can be OK.

Beautifully illustrated by this debut author/illustrator with pictures that are as gentle as the story itself, this is one that can be shared as a read-along or a read-aloud to encourage young readers to take that first step.

 

 

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Tiger

Sophie Beer

Puffin Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143791836

Arthur’s circus is full of daring performers.

The Acrobat can soar like an eagle. The Strongman can lift a car with one finger. The Jugglers can breathe fire like dragons. But Arthur has never been brave enough to learn any daring circus tricks. He would prefer to have a picnic and tea with his friends.

So what will Arthur do when a terrifying tiger joins the circus? Especially when his father, the Ringmaster tells him he is to be the tiger tamer!

This new book from Sophie Beer with its bright illustrations with a rather retro look focuses on Arthur facing his fears and overcoming them, albeit with a little help from the tiger itself. Even though  community rumours have built up the fear to fever pitch, perhaps, in reality, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

It also takes readers back to a time when the circus coming to town was a huge event, animals were allowed to be part of the acts and part of the appeal was seeing them as wild creatures being subjugated by humans even though they were supposedly wild and fierce and scary. In fact circus public relations traded on this to attract the crowds so if older students were investigating animal rights in relation to recent news events, this could be a valuable resource to examine another perspective. Similarly, the way the citizens of the city respond to the news of the tiger, each adding to or twisting the story could also be the basis for a discussion about fake news, particularly in light of the current election.  

Good picture books span age groups – this is one of those.

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Girl

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780702260025

Mary is one of those children who treads lightly on this planet, preferring to look and listen and learn its wonders and secrets rather than be an in-your-face master of it. But when she tries to share her discoveries her voice is too quiet for most people to hear, and even though she tries to speak up she is still not heard.  And so she withdraws more and more into herself, becoming more and more invisible to the world, even her parents.  And then one day one of her little bird friends comes to the window and suddenly her mother discovers that she has no idea where Mary is.  She begins to look, shouting and calling and soon the whole neighbourhood is looking for Mary. Will they be able to find her?  What must they do if they want to discover where she is?

Peter Carnavas is a master at crafting stories out of very ordinary situations, turning the gentle and everyday around so the pack a powerful punch. A Quiet Girl is no exception and he reminds us of those more introverted souls we know, who really do have much to say and share but just are not heard over the raucous, busy, noisy world that seems to be today’s norm.  (No wonder there are so many successful television programs about escaping to the country!)  Rather than be constantly on the chase for the “next big thing”, to be over the fence on the greener grass, or being the Joneses that other strive to keep up with, perhaps there is more calm, peace and pleasure in living life at a gentler pace; being the meandering stream rather than the rushing river.

Mary can teach us all lessons about listening, looking, thinking and appreciating and how it is often as important to be an observant bystander as much as an active participant.  And she can also teach us lessons about embracing and encouraging those who are not as bold as we are, but rather than urging them to join our noisy world we should visit theirs. She can also teach us about being true to ourselves and who we are, believing in our strengths and talents and being resilient enough to withstand the criticism and demands of those more outgoing, and understanding that being loud doesn’t mean being more confident. 

There could even be a broader message here as Australia heads towards a federal election – who are the quiet voices with concerns and considerations who are being drowned out by the big voices and the big bucks? Will those quiet voices still be there when the noise dies down?

The teachers’ notes offer some questions and activities that may help you explore this book and its concepts with your students, particularly as we strive to help them become more mindful. 

 

 

A Cat Called Trim

A Cat Called Trim

A Cat Called Trim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cat Called Trim

Corinne Fenton

Craig Smith

Allen & Unwin, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760631840

On a dark night 220 years ago a little kitten. more adventurous than his brothers and sisters, fell from the deck of HMS Reliance into the deep, dark sea doomed to drown if it had not been for the quick thinking of a sailor, Matthew Flinders who threw a rope to the struggling creature and it was smart enough to clamber to safety.

And so began the story of Trim, the cat that became the constant companion of the man who was to be the first to circumnavigate this continent, prove it was an island and give it its modern name of Australia.  In some places, Trim is almost as well-known as Flinders himself, being immortalised in several books, including Flinders’ own biography Trim, Being the True Story of a Brave Seafaring Cat; Matthew Flinders’ Cat by Bryce Courtenay; news stories, and various monuments around the world, including Sydney.

In this stunning picture book, Fenton and Smith have drawn on a wide variety of sources to present the story of this famous cat to younger readers , offering not only a true tale but also a glimpse into the early exploration of this country, perhaps sparking an investigation of Flinders’ own story and its wider ramifications. Fenton’s factual retelling of Trim’s adventures combined with Smiths detailed, lifelike illustrations bring together a story that all our children should know in a way that puts a human face on history, bringing names and events to life in a unique way.

A peek inside…

 

A must for both primary and secondary collections.

 

Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand Up for the Future

Puffin Books, 2019

208pp.. hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780143794394

There will be many teachers and teacher librarians who will skim the contents of this book and be unfamiliar with most of the names, but to our students they will be very familiar because in this companion to Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women and High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men the focus is the heroes of the younger generation -the inventors, the conservationists, the sports people, the entrepreneurs and innovators whose names are so well-known to the current generation and whose names will feature in the “Famous Australians” contents pages of the future.

Using the same format as the other two of a clear one-page bio and a portrait by one of Australia’s leading illustrators, each of them an inspiring and aspiring young illustrator, this books celebrates the achievements of those who can see a brighter future for this nation and its peoples, one that is inclusive, socially and environmentally aware, and compassionate. 

From my own hero Cameron Remess, who at the age of nine taught himself to sew so he could make teddy bears for sick kids in hospital and has now made over 1700 bears and established his own charity Kindness Cruises  to Baker Boy 2019 Young Australian of the Year, there is an amazing group of young people featured who shine in many areas. 

This is an exuberant, uplifting book that needs to be in every library collection and promoted so our students  can find new role models, new directions and even new dreams, as well as understanding that paths to success can change directions, present obstacles to be overcome and that “failure can be a source of learning and inspiration”.

As with the others, all royalties are donated to The Smith Family.

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall

Orchard Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780316362382

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. As the seasons pass and the waves rise and fall, outside, the wind blows; inside, the lighthouse keeper writes, and the rhythms of his life unfold. But change is on the horizon…

Whatever the season, whatever the weather, the lighthouse keeper must keep the light going to warn ships of the dangers nearby. and this stunning book by Australian illustrator Sophie Blackall takes the reader back to a time in history when men lived on these far-flung beacons, isolated from civilisation and charged with keeping the ships and their sailors safe, regardless of whatever might befall them.  Set on a lighthouse on the tip of Newfoundland, the story unfolds of the loneliness and the joy of a typical lighthouse keeper who has a duty above all else. 

In 2016, Blackall was  awarded the Caldecott  Medal, the first Australian to receive if for her work on Finding Winnie  and now, in 2019, she has won it again for Hello Lighthouse. “Masterful ink and watercolor illustrations illuminate the story of a lighthouse and the family inside. Stunning images of the lighthouse in all kinds of weather alternate with views of intimate interior detail and circular motifs. Blackall’s skill with composition, line and close attention to detail have created an exquisite book. “

But apart from the quality of the illustrations, this is a book that will resonate with so many who are familiar with lighthouses as there are over 350 of them dotted around our coastline. While there are no longer any manned, nevertheless they still hold an appeal and this journey back into another time because regardless of its position, life was pretty much the same for all those who tended the beacons.  

Something very different that deserves a place in any collection. 

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?