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‘Twas the Night Before Pride

'Twas the Night Before Pride

‘Twas the Night Before Pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Before Pride

Joanna McClintick

Juana Media

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781529512502

 On the night before Pride, families everywhere are preparing to take part in this special parade celebrating gender diversity and honouring those in the LBGTQ+ community who fought against injustice and inequality. As one family packs snacks and makes signs, an older sibling shares the importance of the parade with the newest member of the family. Reflecting on the day, the siblings agree that the best thing about Pride is getting to be yourself.

This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting for the right opportunity to review it, and that seemed to present itself in the last week or two. Firstly, there was a conversation with a number of women of a certain age who still seem to believe that gender diversity is an active choice made by the individual and who not only thought it “disgusting” but believed it to be a result of the child’s upbringing and so condemned all those involved, which in this instance, included me.  Secondly, there was a request to a teacher librarian forum for LGBTQIA+ book suggestions for a primary school including how to deal with anticipated parental backlash.  So clearly there remains a need to continually educate and advocate for those who don’t fit the accepted norm, and the lines from the story

It sometimes happens we’re not given respect. It can take a long time for some to accept

becomes even more poignant and relevant, especially in light of some of the policies in schools in parts of the US and book bannings in libraries which clearly, some would prefer to have here as well.  

It remains my hope that one day soon that family and gender diversity in stories will not be a cause for comment, let alone a label but until then we need to continue to include books that demonstrate that people are people regardless of who they might share their nights with in our collection so that our young people don’t have the prejudices that are clearly still in our community.  This one, written to the rhythm of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, although written for a US audience with reference to historical events there, is nevertheless, a worthwhile addition to your collection particularly because of the lines I’ve quoted, and to help our young ones understand the message behind the parade at Mardi Gras.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for appropriate titles, search this blog for LGBTQIA+, check out this list from Walker Books, or this one from Readings, and if you need to explain or defend your position, see how it is dealt with in this sample collection policy and this blog post

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and the Pen

David Lawrence

Cherie Dignam

EK Books, 2023

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781922539380

Ever since her husband died, Ruby’s mum has tried to manage her grief with a series of boyfriends, each weirder than the last.  Ruby has named the current one Dodgy Dave and not just because he is sending her to boarding school in another state. Grounded and confined to her room, Ruby sneaks out to her favourite markets one last time to sell some of her cartoons and have a little pocket money for the trip, and through a series of mysterious circumstances comes home with an unusual old fountain pen, inscribed with the words manibus futuri meaning  “the future is in your hands. “

Being an excellent cartoonist, Ruby is fascinated by the pen but it is not until she gets to her new school and is being bullied by students and staff alike that she discovers it powers – whatever she draws comes true. But while she is able to protect herself from the bullies through her drawing, she discovers that Dodgy Dave and Mr Lemon, the principal, are in collusion in a very dodgy plan and it is going to take more than the stroke of a pen to disrupt it.  And although that leads her to making some friends, she also finds that there are things like relationships that need more work than a funny/nasty drawing.

With its Trunchbull-like characters and the theme of kids triumphing over adults, this is an engaging read that despite its humour in both text and illustrations, has some powerful undertones about relationships and how they can be much more complex to make and maintain than just having a magic wand to fix problems.

And to cap it off, it concludes with Ruby throwing her pen into the sea and it being purchased, again from a mysterious market stall, by a boy named Xander who loves to draw superheroes

Not Here to Make You Comfortable

Not Here to Make You Comfortable

Not Here to Make You Comfortable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Here to Make You Comfortable

50 Women Who Stand Up, Speak Out, Inspire Change

Puffin, 2023

176pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

 9781761340581

In the vein of Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women, this is a collection of one page vignettes of 50 women who ” did something brave. Something disruptive. Something exceptional.”

Featuring familiar names from the Australian landscape such as Ash Barty, Celeste Barber, Grace Tame, Turia Pitt,  Julia Gillard and Tayla Harris, as well as a host of contemporary women from around the world, this collection was inspired by the way that Grace Tame’s unsmiling face at a reception with then prime minister Scott Morrison was shared world wide and her behaviour dissected and demeaned around the world, diminishing both her and what she had fought so hard for.  Once again, just as with Tayla Harris, it was a female’s appearance and demeanour that became the news story rather than their accomplishments.

And so the women at PRH Young Readers publishing section have put together this compelling collection of stories of real young women, famous and not-so, who have had the courage to stand up for their beliefs, to be bold and true to themselves, “a celebration of assertiveness and certitude”. Each entry begins with the phrase, “There was that time when…” and continues with a description of the incident, its impact, a thumbnail sketch of the person and a full-page sketch from a new or emerging illustrator. 

Each is an affirmation of empowerment, often taking great courage, but resonating with today’s girls and encouraging them to be just as bold if needs be.

The activities of women in both World Wars I and II as they stepped into men’s shoes made great strides in changing the attitudes of men towards women, the activists of the 60s continued that and there have been decades of trail-blazers and game-changers since then, yet still 50% of the world’s population is subjected to irrelevant judgements, continual media coverage focusing on their appearance rather than their accomplishments, social media trolling, and toxic behaviour that is inevitably claimed to have been “consensual”. So while a book of this nature inspiring girls to be more than a pretty face and affirming their right to be so is still required, it is a grim indictment of society that it is.  While the treatment of women in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, is of huge concern as it should be, it is appalling that even in Australia in the 21st century, it is clear that misogyny is still alive and flourishing and our girls need role models like those in this book to tell the world, “We’re not here to make you comfortable.  We’re here to celebrate being ourselves.”

Eat My Dust!

Eat My Dust!

Eat My Dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat My Dust!

Neridah McMullin

Lucia Masciullo

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760654191

It is 1928 and despite proving their capabilities during World War I,  most men still believed a woman’s place  to be “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen”. Many who had stepped in to fulfil the roles and occupations traditionally taken by men had been relegated back to domestic duties, yet there were many who defied the prevailing practices and attitudes and chose to follow their dreams.  

Among them were Kathleen Elizabeth Howell and Jean Ochiltree Robertson whose passion was driving and who, in 1927, had completed the perilous trip between Melbourne and Darwin mapping their journey and the mileages as they went from Melbourne to Mount Gambier and Adelaide before heading north through the Central Desert to Oodnadatta and Alice Springs and up through to Darwin, sending their research back to their sponsors, the Shell Oil Company, who used the information to produce their first map of the route to central Australia.

Even though they were well-known in the motoring circles of the time, were experienced in both motor mechanics and driving in the desert, in 1928 when they took on the the west-east speed record from Perth to Melbourne (having already driven from Melbourne to Perth) and beating it by five hours, it was the derision and discrimination of the men that proved to be a greater hurdle. Each place they stopped for fuel or food, they were met by those who felt that such a journey was not the realm of women. To which they tended to respond, “Eat my dust!”  Thus, told as narrative non fiction, this new book provides both an introduction to two little-known heroines who paved the way for women to drive today, and highlights those attitudes offering an insight into how difficult it was to be female in a male environment and the opportunity to investigate the transition of women’s achievements and influence over the last century.

With the 2023 CBCA Book Week theme of Read. Grow. Inspire still fresh in our minds, this is another story that allows young readers to meet the pioneers who followed their dreams, inspired others and  made something “abnormal” normal for today’s generations. 

 

 

I Spy Treasure!

I Spy Treasure!

I Spy Treasure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Spy Treasure!

Vikki Marmaras

Binny Talib

New Frontier, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922326744

Every week, Captain Snarkle Tooth sailed into the harbour of Shimmertown and because of his villainous reputation, the people hid while he stole anything that sparkled.  But Billy was a little braver than most and as he watched the pirate from the safety of a tree, he noticed something strange.  Captain Snarkle Tooth didn’t find many jewels to take but he did delight in finding shimmering cans, sparkling glass and shiny plastic.  Things like broken bikes, old shopping trolleys and rusty pots and pans seemed to bring him joy. And as he rowed his treasure back to his ship, Billy noticed that the ship itself was getting grander and grander…

This is a most original story that is more to do with ‘reduce, reuse. recycle” than nasty pirates, and young readers will start to develop there awareness of the amount of rubbish we generate and what happens to it.  As Billy discovers how the captain upcycles his finds, they, too, might like to think of innovative and imaginative ways of repurposing their rubbish – or, at the very least, ensuring it doesn’t end up in the ocean or in landfill.

Primarily written to be shared with younger readers, nevertheless, it could also kickstart a broader investigation of the problem of plastics and so forth being dumped in the seas, the impact of that on the creatures that live there including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And for those who still believe that picture books are for little children, they could investigate the purpose and effectiveness of an author sharing their message in this format. 

 

When The War Came Home

When The War Came Home

When The War Came Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The War Came Home

Lesley Parr

Bloomsbury, 2022

320pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781526621009

Wales, 1920. Twelve-year-old Natty is quite happy living with her mam in their flat, going to the village school with its yummy free lunches, and special fish and chip teas on Fridays just like her dad used to do when he was alive. 

But when her activist mum loses her job for sticking up for the workers’ rights, and they are forced to move in with relatives in a nearby village, things change dramatically.  Firstly, she has to share a room, even a bed, with her cousin Nerys who is very bright and never stops talking.  Then there are the unpredictable Huw who lied about his age to enlist but who has come home a totally different 17 year old suffering from shell-shock, and the mysterious “Johnny”, another young lad who has returned from the Western Front but who has no idea who he is or where he came from.  She also has to attend a school ruled over by a brutal principal who uses his cane freely, particularly on those who are poor and hungry because there are no free dinners at this village school because their provision is the prerogative of the local council.

Even though she is angry at her mother’s desire to right wrongs that are not even her problem because of the impact it has on her own life, Natty is surprised to find herself drawn into a student strike demanding free school lunches so those who don’t have enough to eat can think about their studies rather than their stomachs. Perhaps she is more like her mother than she realises.  But it is her friendship with both Huw and Johnny that has the most profound effect on all their lives, particularly as the message about never giving up is one that comes from all angles.

Once again, Lesley Parr takes the reader back in time to an era of Welsh history, but, as with The Valley of Lost Secrets and  Where the River Takes Us , the issues she addresses will resonate with today’s readers.  For although World War I is over a century ago, many children will know someone who is experiencing PTSD  or the impact of some extraordinary trauma -or it may even be themselves- and so they empathise and perhaps find a little more compassion. And even though women now have the vote and workers have rights, this can serve as a starting point for  an investigation into why such change was inevitable as well as discussions into what remains the same.  Homeless, hunger and abuse are still rife in our society so what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

At the very least, the story shines a light on what happened in so many homes and families around the globe after the guns fell silent.  Sometimes, having your loved one home wasn’t the be-all and end-all – the war came home with them, shaping lives in a way that has impact today.  As Nerys tells Natty,  “The war took him away, Natty. And it gave him back, only not every part of him. And it took away some of the good parts and gave him bad ones instead.”

Lesley Parr has written three books now, and each one has been the most absorbing read – stories of kids of another time and place but whose lives seem so familiar, making them an opportunity to reflect and respect and understand the power of well-crafted, well-rounded characters, a story that seamlessly embraces critical social issues as it flows along, and the joy and satisfaction of being just a little wiser for the experience.  Definitely an author to introduce to those who like meaty, engaging stories. 

Say No To Plastic

Say No To Plastic

Say No To Plastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say No To Plastic

Ned & Shane Heaton

Tamzin Barber

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922358646

Use less plastic, every day.
“Be the Change.” Start today.
The ocean should be clean and blue.
But who’s it up to? Me and YOU

Young readers are invited to join Heidi the Piedy, Roy the Boy and Fran his Nan as they travel from their favourite beach to New York City, to talk to the world’s nations about plastic pollution. and to learn that sometimes, the smallest voice can have the strongest message. 

Written in rhyme with integrated activities that offer opportunities to interact with the text, this is another which focuses on the impact of plastics in the environment and particularly the ocean.  While New York may seem to be remote from the Australian classroom, nevertheless this demonstrates the global nature of the problem and offers suggestions that even our youngest children can do to help. 

As well as consolidating the problem of plastic, it also offers the opportunity to compare and contrast two  texts with a similar message and audience for purpose, style and impact enabling students to become more critical readers. 

Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacey Casey (series)

The House that Time Remembers

9781922615886

The Cheeky Outlaw

9781922615848

Michael C. Madden

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2022

164pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Stacey Casey’s father is a terrible inventor. But now, despite years of failed inventions, he has created a functioning time machine.  But instead of sending him back in time, he turns their entire house into a time machine, transporting everyone and everything in it back into history, although they still have access to parts of 2022 like mobile phones and the internet.

In the first episode, Stacey and her friend Oliver find themselves in 1964 faced with a series of extraordinary events. They find a bizarre artifact and encounter strange man who seems to know Stacey … but why is he chasing them? Who set the school on fire? And what’s with all the famous people they keep meeting? Can the friends solve the string of unanswered questions and find their way home?

In the second in the series, Stacey, Oliver and Mr Casey are 100 million years in the past looking at dinosaurs. Suddenly they find themselves chased by an angry lightning claw and escape by an emergency jump back to 2022. Now they have two problems: a stowaway baby cooperensis dinosaur and a damaged time machine. To try and fix things they travel back in time to 1880s Australia where they find themselves faced with more challenges – outlaws, explorers and a mystery that could destroy the universe!

Historical fiction is a valuable way to take students back to previous times so they can immerse themselves in the way of life then and thus get a better understanding of the events that occurred and the decisions that were made, some of which may still be impacting them today.  This new series for independent readers who have developed that concept of times and lives  past being real, as opposed to the futuristic, imaginary world that much of contemporary literature places itself in, is another opportunity to broaden horizons.  For example, in the first story they find themselves still in their home town but in 1964 so students might like to investigate what their own town was like in 1964, perhaps interviewing residents who were there then or investigating how it has changed over 60 years and the causes for those changes, thus developing an understanding of how the past can reach out to shape the present. 

Teachers’ notes  linked to Australian Curriculum outcomes offer suggestions for implementing these sorts of investigations with a strong theme of linking today’s students’ lives to the events in the story, such as being accused of something they haven’t done, ensuring that the series is more than just a fictional recount of past events. 

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Rebecca Schiller

Sophie Beer

Walker Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397024

In the USA school students are walking out of school to protest the lack of gun control laws; in Australia, they walked out of school in 2021 to protest the lack of action on climate change… The names of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists are as well-known to them as those of their favourite singers and movie stars as the mantle of protest moves from its traditional university setting to the classroom.  

But who are they inspired by? On whose shoulders do they stand? 

Defining an activist as one who uses their knowledge, skills and energy to make the world a better place by protecting human rights, ending prejudice and inequality and protecting the planet from harmful human activities so all its creatures are safe, this book introduces young readers to 20 people who have made a significant contribution to changing the world – some names familiar, others not-so – including Sonita Alizdeh; Rachel Carson; Favio Chavez; Mahatma Gandhi; Jane Goodall; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr; Nelson Mandela; Wangari Maathai; Aditya Mukarji; Emmeline Pankhurst; Autumn Peltier; Boyan Slat; Gareth Thomas; Harriet Tubman; William Wilberforce; Ai Weiwei Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as well as both Yousafzai and Thunberg.

Each person has a double-page spread that includes an outline of what they have achieved, the core motivation for their actions, the particular powers that they employed, as well as a significant quote to inspire the readers to continue their work.  There is also an activity suggested so that this can be done so the reader begins to realise that no one is too small to make a difference. For example, they are encouraged to build their public speaking powers so when they have something important to say they can speak out with confidence as Mahatma Gandhi did, or perhaps create something that will solve a problem as Boyan Slat did when he was confronted with an ocean of plastic rather than marine creatures on his first scuba diving trip.

Conservative, right-wing, middle-aged men in suits (and those who follow them) condemned those children who left their classrooms to protest – they should have stayed there to study and learn –  yet it could be strongly argued that those same children were actually putting their learning into practice, determined to make the world a better place for themselves and others, because “there is more to life than increasing its speed” as Gandhi said.  By introducing our students to those who have gone before, and those who are already forging a new path, through books such as this,  Children Who Changed the World , and others, perhaps we can plant the seeds that will grow the future.  Encourage each to “dream with their eyes open.”