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The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761044366

Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.” 

 

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Catherine Bauer

Big Sky, 2021 

60pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922488602

Kamilaroi man, Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him.

From his childhood days, Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. But being indigenous, born in the 1920s and with just a basic education restricted by rules and regulations, it was an unlikely dream at the time. However dreams can come true and from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table,  his supportive family, determination, persistence and work ethic meant  he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot, flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.

Len was a history maker, a young man who didn’t let society’s prejudice, his culture or skin colour stand in his way. But when WWII was over, Len sadly discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’.

Today, decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia, his story now told in the third in this remarkable series that makes Australia’s military history accessible to younger readers. with its age-appropriate text, many coloured photos, and appealing layout. But more than that, it is one of a growing number of titles, which includes Dreaming Soldiers by the same author , that are at last, acknowledging the contribution made by our First Nations peoples and perhaps inspiring those of the current generation to also dream big. 

This series which includes Australia Remembers : ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials  and Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is a valuable addition to any library’s collection so that our students can learn about the significant events and people of the past that continue to shape us. Len Waters died in 1993, but books like this and The Missing Man are finally bringing his service to prominence and making him so much more than “a black fellow.”  I wonder what he would make of that. 

Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force

Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force

Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force

Allison Paterson

Big Sky, 2021

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

9781922265234

As our nation prepares to honour those who have served this country in both war and peace on ANZAC Day 2021,  once again we will see and hold commemorations that while confronting in their origins are comforting in their familiarity. Regardless of which town or city we are in, there will be many aspects of the services that are familiar because they have been traditionally associated with ANZAC Day (and other remembrance days) for over a century.

In this new book, a companion to Australia Remembers  the author has worked closely with the Department of Defence and History and Heritage units of the Navy, Army & RAAF to deliver answers to questions I have often been asked as a teacher on our major days of commemoration, Beginning with answering the question “Why do we have customs and traditions?,  chapters address items such as mottos, codes, music, parades and drills, flags, banners and pennants, badges and awards, ranks, uniforms, animals and mascots and many other elements that go together to make up these special days.  It is more than just pomp and pageantry – there is a story behind each story!

With hundreds of photos, easily accessible language and all the supports needed to navigate the text easily, this is a fascinating look behind the scenes enabling students to have a better understanding of not just the overall ceremony but why things are done the way they are. Having been a teacher librarian for over 20 years, the author knows just what is needed to make a text student-friendly.

Remembering those who have served has a prominent and rightful place in the ceremonial life of our schools, as was demonstrated in 2020 when thousands stood at dawn in their driveways because COVID-19 prevented them from participating in the traditional assemblies (itself the beginning of a new tradition) and this new volume in this series  is another significant contribution to the library collection so that the memories and the understanding continue.

It will joined by Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters – Boundless and Born to Fly in September, which tells the story of Kamilaroi man Len Waters, who, during World War II became Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot.

 

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles

Puffin Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puffin Littles

Snacks

9781760897000

Composting

9781760897017

The Solar System

9781760897031

The ANZACs 

9781760897024 (Sept 2020)

Robotics

9781760897680 (Sept 2020)

The Ocean

9781760897666 (Sept 2020)

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

 

A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for 80 years, Puffin introduces our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in this new series of non fiction titles, the perfect size for little hands. In them, he talks directly to the reader sharing information in manageable chunks in a layout that not only appeals but also supports their reading skills and their interests.

Little Cook: Snacks focuses on the fundamentals of cooking and preparing food; Little Environmentalist: Composting teaches them about composting and recycling to make a difference while Little Scientist: The Solar System takes them on a journey around the planets. Planned for September are three more which explore the ocean, robotics and the ANZACs. 

Not all children like to read fiction and so this series caters for both the newly independent reader and those who are almost there using its narrative style voiced by that iconic character to offer more than just a book of facts and figures. The contents page to help them navigate to a specific page and the glossary to build and explain vocabulary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned.

Young readers will appreciate this series because there has clearly been a lot of thought put into addressing their unique needs as emerging readers as well as tapping into subjects that appeal. 

 

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

Allison Marlow Paterson

Big Sky, 2015 

52pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925275148

In the years of 1914-1918 over 330,000 Australians served their country in a war far from their homeland, more than 60,000 of them died. Five of these Australians were brothers; three of them were destined to never return to the home they loved.

The Great War brought enormous sorrow to families all over the world. In Australia there were few who escaped the fear, nor the tragedy. This is the story of the Marlow brothers. This powerful children’s book brings their story to life for future generations. It is a tragic tale of mateship, bravery and sacrifice; a heartbreaking account of a family torn apart by a devastating war. It is a pledge to never forget.

Based on the original title Anzac Sons; the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars, this important children’s book compiled by the granddaughter of a surviving brother tells the true story of brothers’ service, the impact on the family and community and weaves through the facts and history of the Great War and battles.

Combining beautiful prose and imagery including photographs, maps, letters and facts, the book will reach children of a variety of ages. Children, teachers and parents can read the letters her ancestors wrote from the trenches, walk in their footsteps and remember all those who have served throughout the generations to defend our freedom and our way of life. This and Dreaming Soldiers have been released as a special 2020 ANZAC Day book pack with a number of accompanying resources.  Details are available here

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Catherine Bauer

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925675528

Jimmy Watson and Johnno Hogan were the best of friends – swimming-in-waterholes, camping-under-the-stars, sharing-water-bottles kind of friends. Throughout their lives they did everything together and even when their paths diverged because there were different rules and expectations for “white” and indigenous children then, they still came back together as close as they had ever been.  And then one day they went into town for supplies, heeded the call for men to fight in a war far away and enlisted…

This could be the story of any number of friendships of the early 20th century when ‘white’ and indigenous kids on farms formed friendships that were blind to colour, cultural differences or any other racial prejudices and its strong focus on that friendship is its positive. While the treatment of indigenous soldiers during the conflicts that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War in 1899 could have been its focus, its power lies in that spotlight on the friendship, the shared adventures and stories, the fears and hopes that are common regardless of skin colour. Teaching notes are available. 

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here

 

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Kate Simpson

Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99  

9781760637019

It is 1914 and war has broken out in Europe and because of its ties to England, Australia is mobilising. On one of the ships leaving port is Sister Alice Ross-King who is not going for the adventure like so many of the men, but because her passion was nursing and her country needed her.

She thought she was ready but as the entry in her diary for April 29th, 2015, just four days after the Gallipoli debacle, shows, they were not… “I shall never forget the shock when we saw the men arrive covered in blood, most of them with half their uniform shot or torn away. They kept coming, seven at a time.  Soon all our beds were full and new ones were being brought in and put in every available corner…”

Written by Alice’s great-granddaughter and taken from the actual diaries of Australia’s most decorated woman, this remarkable book, a seamless weaving of text, diary entries and illustrations, offers an extraordinary insight into life during World War I for those at the front line. It begins as a love story but when her fiance is killed, Alice has to find a way to carry on despite her grief, to put her duty before her personal loss and feelings. 

As we are unable to commemorate Alice and all our other men and women in familiar ANZAC Day activities this year, sharing this story and others like it, is one way we can take ourselves back in time to remember just how it was we have arrived at where we are, and perhaps put any current hardships into perspective.  Perhaps older students could research the stories of one of their family members, trace their family tree and write the diary that that person might have written as their contribution to honoring those who have gone before in the absence of traditional tributes.

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

Jackie French

Angus $ Robertson, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460757727

 

Butter O’Bryan lives in a Very Small Castle with his father and three aunts – Aunt Elephant, Aunt Cake and Aunt Peculiar. These aren’t their real names, of course, just as Butter’s father isn’t really called ‘Pongo’.

And even though Butter is only twelve years old, and the grandson of one of Australia’s most successful Jam Kings, he is very aware of the hardship many people are experiencing.

Butter has been told there are ghosts at the nearby isolated Howlers Beach, but are there? And how can the children Butter plays cricket with on the beach simply vanish? Who are these children and why do they refuse his help?

The Ghost of Howlers Beach just sounds like one of those old-fashioned Secret Seven or Famous Five stories that generations have enjoyed for years, and in a way, it is. But this one has the unique Jackie French touch of magic, and rather than being a contemporary novel as those adventures were, this one takes the independent reader back to The Depression of the 1930s when the ramifications of World War I were still very evident and the realities of being unemployed, or worse, being a woman without a man but with a family, or even worse, being an indigenous person, are brought to light. With a light hand and intriguing characters, French brings to life life in the “susso camps” ; the great divide between the haves and the have-nots and the ever-present threat of diseases like polio before vaccines were available.

Read against the backdrop of today’s coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide economic collapse, it is very clear how far we have come in less than 100 years in both health, economic and social support and perhaps put things in perspective.

The subtitle to this novel is The Butter O’Bryan Mysteries, #1 and with the cast of characters now set hopefully more will follow quickly as we not only enjoy a good, meaty story but one that teaches us about a time not that long ago but eerily familiar all the same.

The timing of its release is remarkable (set long before the current virus was even heard of) and while there are comparisons that can be made between now and then, knowing that its setting and background are based on reality there is a sense of optimism that current times will pass and we will come out of the other side. Perhaps changed, but definitely intact.

The ANZAC Billy

The ANZAC Billy

The ANZAC Billy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ANZAC Billy

Claire Saxby

Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925126815

At first they said the war would be over by Christmas, but another Christmas is coming and it’s time to fill a billy for Dad who is overseas with the rest of the Australian troops, somewhere in Europe. Into the tin, which is not only airtight and sturdy enough to withstand the sea journey but can also be used by the recipient for cooking, the little boy puts his favourite things – butterscotch, a fish, the last walnuts from the tree, a bar of chocolate and a pair of hand-knitted socks. His mother and grandmother also put in things, more practical than the little boy’s but packed with just as much love. And then it is time to send it on its way – will it reach the little boy’s father or find a home with another soldier?  Whichever, there is a letter and that’s what matters. 

This is a tender family story, one known by so many families in so many places at the time, of waiting for a father, a husband, a son to come home from war safe and well. Meticulously researched and illustrated in great detail in water colours as gentle as the story, it provides yet another glimpse into what life was like a century ago as families came to terms with what it meant to have the men overseas, and the sending of these special hampers was common. 

The centenary of World War I has provided us with a wealth of stories for young readers, each unique and each helping the young reader to understand life in this different and difficult time, bringing history to life in a way that resonates with them. As well as the teachers’ notes available for this book, there is much to explore and compare in this story to life 100 years on and the opportunity to speculate about what might go into a soldier’s billy today. 

An essential  inclusion in your ANZAC collection.

 

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers

Allison Paterson

Big Sky, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925675788

As the centenary of the silencing of the guns of World War I approaches, and once again our attention turns to remembering Gallipoli, the Western Front and all those who have been part of our armed services in whatever capacity, this new book from the author of ANZAC Sons explores the concept of commemoration – what it is, how we do it and why it is so important.

There would be few towns in Australia that do not have a war memorial, one that becomes the focal point for commemorations on April 25 and November 11 each year. But many of our young students do not realise the significance of this place so this book which explains the background of conflict, the history and meaning of ANZAC Day, the significance of the elements of the ceremonies,  and the role of Australia service people in war and peace since they were first called to support the “mother country” in 1914 with simple accessible text, coloured photos, and an appealing layout will be a wonderful addition to your library’s collection.

With a Table of Contents, glossary, index and bibliography it is a wonderful model for those learning about using the cues and clues to find the information they want, but what set this book apart are the frequent quotes about its various topics that have been collected from children who are the age of its target audience, offering their own insights into what these events mean for them. There are also questions to ponder and activities to do, all in all making this a superb contribution to the collection that has been produced over the last few years to commemorate what was arguably, the making of this nation.