Older sister and younger brother have fled their homeland, the only two to survive the perilous boat trip to safer waters, where helping hands gave them sanctuary. And even though they had nothing from before, except each other, older sister said they were lucky because they could have lost so much more.
But while younger brother didn’t think about that for long and began to make new friends and learn new things, older sister dwelt in the past – she felt she shouldn’t forget and gradually a shadow fell over her mind, as dark and gloomy as their meagre surrounds. Until one day, younger brother captures a butterfly and brings it home. “Set it free!” cries the older sister, but in its panic it bashes into the walls… Eventually it tires and settles on her hand and doesn’t leave, as though it senses her pain. Older sister knows what she must do but does she have the courage…
This is a poignant story, sadly a repeat of so many times when people have had to flee their homes, and even today, it is happening again… It reminds us that there is so much more to starting again than the relief of reaching a safe harbour. Matching the lyrical text are stunning illustrations whose palette mirrors the mood perfectly, contrasting the darkness of older sister’s thoughts and feelings with the hope offered by the bright butterfly.
With so many of our students having found themselves in the predicament of both older sister and younger brother, this is an insight into that long period of adjustment, the grief and fear that must be worked through, and the changes that must be made so we can be more sensitive to the needs of these children. It is so much more than just a story about refugees.
December in London “where the days end early and forget to start on time” can be cold and miserable and so the Stewart family decide to spend the afternoon at London Zoo. Six-year-old Arthur and nine-year-old Imogen each have their favourites to see, but Arthur particularly wants to visit the penguins. And while he is there, it seems he connects to one tiny one in particular, reluctant to leave, and so Mrs Stewart bids it farewell saying, “And you, Mr Penguin, must come and stay with us whenever you like. Penguins are always very welcome at our house.”
So everyone is very surprised when Mr Penguin actually turns up on their doorstep that evening, with a rucksack labelled ‘Einstein’ on its back…
But what is a fairy penguin from Sydney, Australia doing in London in the first place? Imogen, who fancies herself as a detective like her favourite book character, enlists Arthur’s help on a mission to find out… But will the discovery mean saying goodbye to Einstein forever?
This is a thoroughly enjoyable, very different story for newly independent young readers who will love the fact the Mr and Mrs Stewart are not only willing to go along with having Einstein stay but also enable the children to discover what’s going on. Rarely are parents so amenable to their children’s wishes. But the story also throws up questions about keeping pets, and whether it’s fair to keep some creatures in captivity either as a pet or in a zoo, so it offers an opportunity for the reader to reflect on issues broader than the story itself.