Ships in the Field
Ford Street Publishing, 2012
This is a very special book written by Susanne Gervay, one of my favourite authors and illustrated by Anna Pignataro, one of my favourite illustrators. It is a celebration of Australia’s multicultural heritage with both author and illustrator drawing on their family’s history of being post-war European refugees to create a story that demonstrates the amazing resilience and hope of the human spirit regardless of the trials it encounters. Told through the eyes of a child, it touches on many emotions from the sadness of memories too raw to have many layers to soften them, to the joy and excitement of a new life as a family in a new place, while stopping, momentarily, at the happy spots of what has been and anticipating what is yet to come.
This is such a magical blend of words and pictures that there is something most of us will relate to. For me, it’s the phrase ‘ships in the field’. For one with a distinctive Kiwi accent (even after all these years), getting it wrong is something I’m used to although no one has corrected me as beautifully and tactfully as the little girl does to help her father.
It would be the perfect starter or accompaniment to any investigation of what it means to be Australian, because that is what we all are, and opens the door to enable our students understand that they and their families have a past, a present and a future.
You can read what Susanne has to say about the imagery of dogs in the story here and there are teaching notes here.