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Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

A&U Children’s, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761065088

Mum is taking David and Lucy on a road trip to visit her family and they are as excited as they are curious for this is their first time back on Country and there are so many special places to see, things to do, stories to hear and words to learn. This is their time to reconnect with their Aboriginality, and learn about their land and culture and how they fit within it from their Elders. As the children find out, it can be very emotional and spiritual as they learn of the generations who have gone before and how those ancestors continue to influence and impact their modern lives.

The third in this series, which includes Somebody’s Land and  Ceremony, young readers continue to learn about what is behind the Acknowledgement of Country that has become an integral part of the day in so many schools now.  As with the others, this is a story from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. with  stunning illustrations and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages).  As well as the introductory background notes on the verso, there is a QR code that leads to a reading of the story as well as teachers’ notes  available to download. 

In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country they do so with knowledge of and respect for all that is contained in the words.  

 

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda

Sue Whiting

Walker Books, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654634

As the 19th century becomes the 20th, hard times have befallen Tilda and her beloved Papa as they grieve the loss of Tilda’s mother, the burning down of the Nimble Ninepence so Papa is out of a job, and his family turning his back on them. Desperate, he puts Matilda into the Brushwood Convent and Orphanage for Girls while he joins the SA Citizen Bushmen Contingent to go to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.  

But he vows to return to her for her, and it is this promise that Matilda clings to as she endures orphanage life with all the harshness that we associate with those institutions, except she has a particularly rough time as head nun Sister Agatha has singled her out for some reason, determined to break her spirit.  Buoyed by her mother’s advice telling her to be strong, and her strong friendship with the sickly Annie, Matilda resists every attempt and every punishment to admit that she is an orphan, until she sees apparent proof that her father has indeed, abandoned her, and her world crumbles…

Ever since I first came to Australia and read Playing Beattie Bow in 1980 (introduced to her by a Tl mate whose job I envied),  I have had a penchant for historical fiction set in Australia, with strong female leads..  Tilda is a worthy addition to my list.  Author Sue Whiting has grounded the story loosely on her grandmother’s life who, like mine, was born in New Zealand in 1896, and then moved as a baby to Australia.  While she has manipulated the events and the timeline slightly, as authors are allowed to do, she has used the little she knows to craft a powerful story of courage and determination, a willingness to stand up to authority and be her own person, that was not the norm in those times.  Or, if they were, it was still very much a man’s world and such resilience in girls was not written in the history books.  Despite the reign of Queen Victoria. the lives of independent young women were relegated to novels. 

More for the older end of the target readership of this blog , nevertheless it is one that more mature younger independent readers will relish as a new world of times past will be opened up to them.  While they may not relate directly with Tilda’s circumstances, nevertheless they will be cheering her on, barracking for her each time she stands up to Sister Agatha, and empathising with her as she is determined to look after Annie.  Who knows – this may be a young girl’s “Beattie Bow” and lead them down reading paths they didn’t know existed.  

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. 

Wild Bush Days

Wild Bush Days

Wild Bush Days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Bush Days

Penny Harrison

Virginia Gray

Midnight Sun, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780987380906

There’s a whisper among these ghosts, these craggy shadows on the hill. 

The song of a forgotten past, it tells of wild bush days, of rough and hungry times, a fierce woman tearing through the scrub…

Jessie Hickman was Australia’s bold, but little-known, Lady Bushranger. Raised in the circus during the early 1900s, she later turned to a life of crime and cattle hustling. Also referred to as the “Wild Woman of Wollemi” because she roamed the upper Blue Mountains and Lower Hunter in what is now the Wollemi National Park she used her skills as a rough-rider and tightrope walker to elude police (echoed in the illustrations in the final pages) and often hiding in a cave, deep in the mountains. 

In this lyrical and superbly illustrated new picture book, two young, modern-day adventurers go looking for that cave, accompanied by the whispers of the past calling them further on through the rough terrain, deeper and deeper into history until…

The concept of telling Hickman’s story through the eyes of the girls, the exquisite choice of language and layout and the illustrations which interpret the text bringing it to life and beyond, combine to not only introduce young readers to a little-known character in Australia’s bushranger story but also show how history can be told in a way that straddles both information and imagination, bringing it to life in a way that facts and figures don’t.  Certainly, I was off on a rabbit-hole chase to find out more…

At the same time, there is also the joy of having the freedom to explore the bush, to echo Hickman’s circus skills as the girls scramble through the undergrowth, climb rocks, traverse creeks over slippery branches, unperturbed about scratches or dirt or “danger”, inspiring a desire in the reader to just get out into the fresh air of the outdoors and explore. 

A contender for next year’s CBCA awards for sure.  

 

 

Australia Remembers: Cameron Baird

Australia Remembers: Cameron Baird

Australia Remembers: Cameron Baird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers: Cameron Baird

Allison Paterson

Big Sky, 2022

72pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922615572

This is the fifth in this series which tracks some of the highlights of Australia’s military history of both war and peace-keeping missions over the last century. and includes Australia Remembers : ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials  and Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force   Len Waters: Boundless and Born to Fly , The Bombing of Darwin (timely in its 80th anniversary) and the upcoming Wartime Nurses .

In recent times, 41 Australian Defence Force personnel lost their lives whilst on duty in the conflict in Afghanistan. Cameron Baird, VC, MG is one such Australian who died in the service of his country. Cameron was born to lead, inspiring others and gaining the respect of his peers. A dedicated soldier, Cameron’s leadership and courageous actions resulted in the award of the Medal of Gallantry in 2007-2008. In 2013, while on active service in Afghanistan, Cameron lost his life while attempting to rescue a wounded mate. His act of supreme sacrifice, valour and devotion to duty was recognised with the awarding of Australia’s highest battlefield honour – the Victoria Cross.

This is a story of Australian service in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a story of mateship, dedication, leadership and sacrifice, and one we should never forget.

With facts and photographs combined in a layout that makes the information readily accessible, it will appeal to those who have an interest in the military, particularly modern conflicts.  Teachers’ notes  are available to guide a deeper understand of the man and his life as well as the campaigns he was engaged in, making them more real than just a bunch of facts and figures from a time and place far away.

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Me Out of Here!

Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes

Pauline Deeves

Brent Wilson

A & U Children’s, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760526993

The publisher’s blurb for this fascinating book reads … “

Full of crims, crooks and rascally runaways, this fun and light-hearted non-fiction title is a colourful celebration of our convict past Meet the convicts behind Australia’s most rascally, dastardly prison escapes. Gifted geniuses or total goofballs? You be the judge! Featuring Moondyne Joe, Mary Bryant, and a guy who put on a kangaroo skin and hopped away (literally), this fun and engaging collection brings our country’s early colonial past to life.”

And, indeed, it is a ‘fun and engaging’ read for older students who want to know the stories behind the stories of some of those whose names have become a familiar part of our history, 

But, IMO, the ‘fun and engaging’ is found in the stories surrounding the stories behind the stories, which reflect that author’s experience as a teacher librarian and an understanding of not only how students like to read but what they want to know.  

To begin, each person’s story is told as a narrative, some in the first person, and as well as their story, there is also a short explanation of what happened to them after their exploits – whether their escape was successful,  they were caught and punished or…  There are also two pages of Fun Facts after each chapter that expand on the circumstances of the time. For example Mary Bryant ‘s story is followed by information about female convicts and alerts the reader to other stories that could be followed, while others include explanations of vocabulary and other tidbits that add colour and interest. There are the usual glossary and index as well as suggestions for further research that offer other child-friendly books to explore.

Each chapter is set on bold background colours with lots of cartoon-like illustrations that will appeal widely.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

All in all, this is an intriguing book that will add insight and understanding into our past in a way that is not the usual dry recounts full of facts and figures.

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460760208

When Ming Qong put up her hand in Mr Boors’ history class and asked him why they only ever learned about men in history, never girls, she had no idea the chain of events that she was about to set off.

Suddenly the class was silent and still, as though frozen in the moment, except for a strange, almost ethereal woman dressed in purple sitting in the window sill -someone Ming feels she knows but doesn’t.  The woman introduces herself as Herstory, the sister of History, a woman passionate about the part women have played alongside men as the centuries have rolled past and as frustrated as Ming that those stories have not been told because “men wrote the history books and they mostly wrote them to please kings or generals or male politicians.” Even though the women’s stories are there in letters, diaries and even old newspapers waiting to be discovered, the past was always viewed through a male lens. and then she offers Ming a way to travel back to the past for just 42 days, to see it for herself (even though it wouldn’t always be pleasant, pretty or comfortable) and be part of it although she, herself, would not be seen or heard and she couldn’t change anything that happened.

Ming is eager to accept, to be a girl who changed the world, and suddenly she is Flo Watson and she has what she wished for  It’s 1898, she’s scratching a living alongside her mother on a farm in the middle of nowhere and a severe drought, anxiously awaiting the return of her father with his drunken, violent temper and handy fists.  But that life changes when Ma dies of a snakebite and she finds herself living with wealthy Aunt McTavish in Sydney who believes in women having the vote, financial and legal independence, racial equality and universal education for children and who puts her time, money and energy where her mouth is. 

Ming, as Flo, sees, hears and engages in much as she works by her aunt’s side as they work with Louisa Lawson (mother of Henry whose later writings would be one of the windows to this world) and the Suffragist Society seeking signatures on a petition that will eventually see the entire continent united, yet it is something apparently insignificant that is actually the world changer…

Those familiar with Jackie French’s meticulously researched historical fiction know that she has been telling herstory in her stories such as The Matilda Saga for years, but this new series The Girls Who Changed the World focuses particularly on the stories of girls of the readers’ age.  (And, in fact, the final pages leave Ming and Tuan on a cliffhanger in the battlefields of World War I. )

However, the significance of this particular story at this particular time cannot go unnoticed given the results of the recent federal election and other recent events. For while Ming believes that what happened in the past explains the present, and we know that Australia became a federation in 1901 those original divisions, parochialism and desire for autonomy quickly became apparent during the response to the COVID 19 pandemic; and while women did, indeed, get the vote, the wave of female voters voting for women candidates in the federal election shows that there is still much about women’s lives and status that needs to be addressed and changed.

While the groundwork was laid by the likes of Louisa Lawson and Aunt McTavish, who were those who carried it forward, who continue to do so and who might be dreaming with their eyes open to take it even further?  Seems to me that there might be scope for each of our students to investigate and write a story to add to this one…

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

Allen & Unwin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761065064

Welcome, children!
Nangga! Nangga! Yakarti!
Tonight will be our Ceremony.

Our family gathers as the fire burns.
The smoke rises up as we take it in turns . . .
Then clapsticks tap – one, two, three –
but a stick is missing! Where could it be?

Joyful and full of fun, Ceremony invites young readers to celebrate the rich traditions of dance, family, community and caring for Country from the world’s oldest continuous culture, helping them to better understand what is meant when they recite the Acknowledgement of Country or hear the Welcome to Country. 

While there are over 350 First Nations groups in Australia, each with different languages and customs, this particular one is from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. 

Using stunning illustration and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages)  the preparations for and the ceremony itself highlight that Adnyamathanha  society is divided into two moieties. membership passed on from mother to child and your father must be the opposite moeity, and that your moeity determines all the important aspects of life including who can be married, special knowledge possessed and relationships  with others.  It is an exciting time for the children as they get ready and while the story is carried along in rhyme, it is also full of humour and surprises.  

Like its predecessor, Somebody’s Land  Ceremony is designed to teach young children and families about Australia’s First Nations history and it has done this very well.  A must-have. .

 

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Canberra

Krys Saclier

Cathy Wilcox

Wild Dog, 2022

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

9781742036120

About this time of the year excitement begins to ramp up as students anticipate their school excursion to the national capital, Canberra – perhaps even moreso as there is a federal election due and government, its purpose, politics and people become a curriculum focus.  And so it is with the Mount Mayhem Primary School students, as readers are reunited with Farrel, Kira and Jack who introduced them to the mysteries of Australia’s preferential voting system in Vote 4 Me

Written in a diary format, the class has been divided into three groups – the Menzies, the Gillards, and the Holts, names worth investigating in themselves – and each visits a number of Canberra’s attractions including

Using Wilcox’s signature cartoon characters overlaid on to photographs of each location, this is a thumbnail tour of what to see in this city that makes it unique as the nation’s capital – having spent 30years living and teaching there, each was familiar so it became a trip down memory lane.

Thus the quiz at the end was rather easy but what wasn’t included is that under PACER, (Parliament and Civics Education Rebate) those students who come from more than 150km (calculated by road using the “most favourable” routes) can have their costs subsidised provided their visit includes an educational tour of Parliament House and where possible, an immersive learning program with the Parliamentary Education Office, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House, and the Australian War Memorial.

Any excursion sparks excitement as it is a break from the ordinary routine of things and IMO, those who come to Canberra should also include a trip to the top of Telstra Tower (although it is temporarily closed for refurbishment) or Mt Ainslie so the layout of this planned city with Walter Burley Griffin‘s vision of the National Triangle and the lake at its heart can be clearly seen.

Teachers beyond the realm of Canberra cannot be expected to know their way around this city nor the must-see destinations or even the fun recreational places like Commonwealth Park and other playgrounds  (my favourite is Boundless Park in the centre built for all ages and abilities)  on offer where kids can just romp and play so this book offers a valuable introduction so the itinerary can be planned so everyone gets the most from it. While there are teachers’ notes to accompany the book itself. hopefully the links in this review will add a little more to the physical experience.