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Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326133

When Amira’s family arrive in their new home as refugees, it is clearly different from what Amira is used to and she is felling lost and alone.  But hiding in her suitcase is a tiny seedling struggling for life and it becomes her new best friend, thriving as she nurtures and nourishes it. Something warm starts to grow inside her  as she is reminded of happier times. 

As children do, Amira meets some of the other children in the camp who share their seeds with her and despite being surrounded by poverty, tin shacks, and not much else between them and the friendship that grows like their plants, they are able to bring a little beauty to the bleak environment and harsh life that is now their reality. And just as the seedlings climb and reach for the sun, so do the children build hopes and dreams.

This is a gentle text that tells an all-too common story of displacement but it is tempered by the friendships that are born and thrive like the seedling in Amira’s suitcase. It is a story of acceptance and hope as the children reach out to each other oblivious to race, colour, beliefs and backgrounds, seeing only someone to talk to, to play with and who understands the circumstances. Smiles appear on their faces again as families meet new families and a community begins to grow because a little girl felt lonely and found a seed.

There will be children in our care who will have their own stories to share about camps such as that Amira finds herself in, in a world very different to what they have now and that of the children who are their peers.  But just like Amira they will build new friendships and a new future buoyed by seeing themselves in a story book, learning that just like plants, friendships need to be nurtured to make them strong and healthy. 

 

 

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Katha Chest

Radhiah Chowdhury

Lavanya Naidu

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760524326

Asiya loves going to Nanu’s house because it is filled with all sorts of treasures, but the very best one is the katha chest.  For inside it are the katha quilts that Nanu made from the old saris that Maa and her sisters didn’t wear anymore, quilts that hold the family’s history in their patterns and stitches and stories.  Asiya likes nothing more than to crawl inside the chest and listen to the stories of her family that the quilts whisper to her.  Stories of her family members that unfold in four panels on subsequent pages showing not only the richness of pattern, texture and colour of the saris but also the family itself; stories which wrap themselves around Asiya as warmly as the quilt. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

While this is a story rooted deeply in the Bangladeshi family of the author, for generations women, particularly, have made quilts from discarded clothing, quilts which tell the story of its wearer or an event.  Every traditional patchwork block has a story behind its creation and some, when put together in a particular way, carried secret messages such as those of the Underground Railroad. Thus, this story with its stories within offers riches beyond that of the beautiful fabric of the saris – the reader is invited to trace each family member’s story from the panels to understand the connections between that and the sari that Nanu has used for the katha. 

It is also one of those picture books that can span the ages and stages because what the reader takes from it will depend on their level of maturity.  Young children may just consider their family tree and who is part of it beyond those they see daily; while much older readers may like to think of a family member they know well enough to construct their story in four panels and even design a fabric swathe that would epitomise that story. Those with a deeper interest might like to investigate the role of patchwork and quilting in communities as a way of passing on the culture between generations and across borders and understand that it is universal. 

Being a quilter, I found this story really resonated with me (inspiring me to dig out the bag of my son’s music t-shirts that he asked me to make into a quilt for his children years ago) but as can be seen, it is so much more than a tale about putting pretty fabric together. This is one for every collection and curriculum that has a focus on children discovering their family history.

Teachers’ notes are available from the publisher’s website

 

Main Abija My Grandad

Main Abija My Grandad

Main Abija My Grandad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main Abija My Grandad

Karen Rogers

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760526030

As the loss of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is dominating headlines, the special relationship we have with our grandfathers has been thrown sharply into focus – the memories we made, the things we were taught… particularly if he, too, has passed and so there can be no more.

And so it is for Ngukurr great grandmother Karen Rogers who reflects on all that she learned from her grandfather, the adventures they add, the memories they made and how she is passing it all on to her grandchildren and great grandchildren in this enchanting story told in both her own Kriol language and English and illustrated with her bold illustrations, a talent inherited from her grandmother and great-aunts.  From school holidays spent on his outstation at Wuyagiba “near the saltwater” where he was a stockman, she recalls travelling in the old Toyota troopy to go fishing and swimming, and learning about  the land, its bounty and its secrets while they were there. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The stories are told in words and pictures that are inseparable, as the best picture books are, and the feelings of connection and the unending circle of life are strong.   It offers a wonderful opportunity to not only see how the author’s memories are common to all of us – there will be many, like me, who have sat and listened to their granddad tell stories as the sun sets over the ocean (or anywhere) or had their first fishing lessons under his guidance – but also to reflect on other memories and what they have already learned, despite being so young, that they will pass onto their own children.  Sitting in my loungeroom, untouched for years because I never mastered it is an expensive Yamaha piano, bought purely because of the memory of sitting on my grandfather’s knee while he played to me! 

Even though this is a story personal and unique to Ms Rogers, it is, at the same time, a universal one – and stories come no better than that. 

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mo and Crow

Jo Kasch

Jonathan Bentley

A & U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760631758

Mo lives in a little house high on a hill, protected by a thick stone wall that is stronger than both the wind and the rain.  It keep out everything that Mo wants kept out and that is exactly how he wanted it.  The outside world was not welcome in Mo’s world.

But one day he hears a tap-tap-tap on his wall and even though he whistles loudly and pulls hit hat down over his ears, the noise continued.  Tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity until suddenly a crow pushes a stone out of the wall and pops its head through the hole.  Mo tells the crow to go and fills the breach, but next day the crow is back.  Each is as stubborn and persistent as the other, so who will wins this war of wills?

On the surface this is a charming story about a man and a bird each determined to get their own way, but for the more astute reader it is also an allegory for the walls we each build around ourselves to protect our innermost personal thoughts and feelings.   While one might speculate on what has happened to Mo to make him choose to live in such isolation, we might also reflect on those things that we, as individuals, hold deep and refuse to share.  Is there any truth in the old adage, “A problem shared is a problem halved”?

Bentley’s bold illustrations bring to life this clever story about breaking down barriers and discovering the joys that a strong friendship can bring. 

Hello and Welcome

Hello and Welcome

Hello and Welcome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello and Welcome

Gregg Dreise

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760898328

Hello and welcome to our corroboree.
Hello and welcome to our gathering.
Father Sky, Mother Earth, together here with me.
Different colours, different people, together in harmony.

Welcome to Country has now become the norm before any formal gatherings in Australia and in this stunning book by Gregg Dreise, a companion to My Culture and Me, the reader is taken through this traditional welcome in the traditional Gamilaraay language of the Kamilaroi people.

Paying tribute to those who have gone before, their stewardship of the land they live on, the generosity of that land and thanking them for those who are here now and yet to come, the words are interpreted in traditional dance moves that have been passed down through generations.

If we want our students to respect these sorts of traditions, rather than pay lip service to them, then the more they understand the meaning and movements associated with them , the better. To enable this,  the initial words of welcome and their actions have been included so all children can join in.  The illustrations that depict ancestors sit alongside and intertwine with illustrations of how the modern day Kamilaroi people celebrate and thank Father Sky and Mother Earth demonstrating that this is a ceremony that embraces everyone and all can participate. Despite there being 250 Indigenous Countries within Australia, each with its own language and cultures, each shares a respect for Mother Earth, each other and sharing resources, so this book could inspire a new way of sharing that Welcome to Country.

Students in a Canberra school were challenged to examine the meaning of their local Welcome to Country text and to develop one that had meaning for them which would be used at the start of each day. This is the result from the Year 3 class in the Bungle Bungles unit. With students from preschool to Year 6 all undertaking this task at the beginning of the year, the principal reports there is not only greater understanding but greater harmony and respect for the environment across the school.

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)

The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)

The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Rules are Optional 

9781760525712

A Class Full of Lizards

9781760877378

Alison Hart

Allen $ Unwin, 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

In the first in this series which takes a fun look at life in Year 6, Jesse is in his final year of primary school and should be living it up as one of the ‘Kings’, but he can’t even get his Prep buddy to follow school rules. There is a a plumbing problem the size of Niagara Falls, not to mention the dreaded compulsory school camp.

“It’s the first day of school and I’ve already got three problems:
1) Mrs Leeman is my classroom teacher. She’s so ancient she taught my dad.
2) I might have accidentally been voted school captain. I had an unusually popular day when the class voted last year.
3) Somehow I’ve lost my Grade Six jumper between receiving it and Mrs Leeman’s lecture about being responsible.

That’s a lot to go wrong in half an hour. On top of that, it’s a million degrees. So that’s four problems. It’s worse than I thought! At least things can only get better, right?

In the second book his problems continue as he returns from holidays, not the least of which is the class being overrun by lizards.

Although focused on that final year of primary school, this is a duo that will appeal to those independent readers who are looking for something similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid  with characters and situations that are familiar and thus relatable.  A funny, light read that will take the mystery out of Year 6 and entertain even the most reluctant readers. 

 

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Flower

Sonya Hartnett

Gabriel Evans

 Puffin, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760894450

Each morning when she wakes up, the little girl doesn’t want to go to school. There are so many reasons why.  She doesn’t make friends as easily as you’re supposed to; she can’t run and jump and climb as well as she is supposed too; she’s not chatty or fast of funny; not bossy or loud or wild.  And she anguishes about answering questions in case she is wrong.  She constantly compares herself to her peers and finds herself wanting, so the anxiety builds and builds.  

But she gathers her courage and goes each day, although it’s at her mother’s insistence.  Finally, her mother asks her why she doesn’t want to go to school and they have a conversation that turns her life around.  With her new-found perspective she ventures outside with her cat Piccolo and begins to see that being different is what everyone is and that it is to be celebrated rather than shunned or feared.  “Things being different is what makes the world wonderful.”

So many children suffer anxiety because they view the world through the lens of what they think they should be, rather than who they are. They watch others do things, listen to adults admire looks and skills and achievements , feel the impact of peer pressure as others boast… and all the while they don’t realise that others are admiring them for their unique attributes.  This story is one for the mindfulness collection as it now only has the power to spark discussion but to promote self-acceptance and a change of mindset.  Anxiety amongst children is on the rise at an alarming rate  and the sooner we can teach them that life is not a competition, that who they are at this time is enough; that it our uniqueness that makes the tapestry richer,  the better,  . Hartnett has done this beautifully. 

The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Valley of Lost Secrets

Lesley Parr

Bloomsbury, 2021

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526620521

September, 1939. Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are “in another country that feels like another world [and] there’s a big scary war on that no one seems to be talking about.”  Evacuated from London to a small coal-mining village in Wales where the landscape is so different; the family they are billeted with are viewed with suspicion by the locals; and London friends are now enemies and vice versa it is no wonder that 12-year-old Jimmy finds it so much harder to fit in than 6-year-old Ronnie.  And on top of that, by accident he finds a human skull in the hollow at the base of an old tree.  What are the secrets it holds?

This is an intriguing read that kept me absorbed from beginning to end as it will any young independent reader who likes a mystery that twists and turns but ends up just as it should. Taking them to a real period in history when the children were sent to stay with strangers in strange places to keep them safe from the expected bombs that would fall on London, the characters, although unfamiliar, are very relatable and the whole thing epitomised this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds opening up a different but real way of life.  While it’s not the green lush countryside his Dad promised him, and he can’t read the sign at the train station, to Jimmy nothing feels right  and everything feels wrong. Although Ronnie quickly settles in and embraces his new life with Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun, Jimmy is reluctant, resentful. and, at time, rude. Confused by the circumstances, and convinced the war will be over by Christmas, he doesn’t want to accept their kindness feeling like it would be a betrayal to his family. Despite being surrounded by people, he feels alone. His best friend has changed and there’s no one he can confide in. Even though he knows that when he finds the skull it is a discovery that is too big to bear alone, and his imagination goes wild, he still keeps the secret close in a town where everyone seems to know everyone’s business and have an opinion about it.

While this is a debut novel, it has the power to send readers on a new reading journey as they seek to find out more about this period and the stories of children who endured so much more than they will ever know. Both Jimmy and Florence learn a lot about themselves and each other as the story evolves, encouraging the reader to perhaps look beyond the surface of their peers and be more compassionate and considerate in the future.

Added to that, the author has embedded another mystery in the pages for the reader to solve, making this a must-have read that deserves all the praise it is getting.

 

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest ShowPenguin

Lucy Freegard

Pavilion, 2021 

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

9781843654681

Poppy the Penguin comes from a long line of circus performers. Many skills have been passed down from penguin to penguin. However, Poppy soon decides that performing in the family circus is not for her as she prefers to feel calm and in control. But the hardest thing is not juggling, or riding a unicycle – it’s telling her mum that she doesn’t want to perform any more. The bravery is worth it when Poppy discovers a better role – organising and coordinating the whole show. And what a show it turns out to be!

So often, we, as parents, lead our children down the path of learning the things we like to do and expecting them to love them with a similar passion.  But it can be a road fraught with danger because our children always see us as the experts and that somehow they are never going to be quite good enough, which can lead to mental health and self-esteem issues.  Even though Poppy is very good as a performer and her parents are really proud of her, deep down inside she knows that the limelight is not for her and luckily she not only has the courage but also the relationship with her parents to express her unhappiness. Perhaps sharing this story might be the catalyst for our students to have similar conversations if they feel they have the need.

Freegard also brings up another element that often rears its head, particularly during class performances – that of “job snob”.  How often is the lead in the school play sought by the class’s leading light and both child and parents celebrate their celebrity?  Yet, as Poppy shows, the whole show cannot go on without those backstage workers, the support cast and everyone else who helps to make it happen.  Here is a great opportunity to demonstrate that no job is better or more important than another – they are just different and without one, others will flounder.  The school cannot function without all the admin staff making it easier for the teachers to do their thing.

Some big life lessons in one little book! 

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733340840

In every country around the world are grandpas short and tall,

Though they go by different names, we love them one and all

A Granny here, a Nanna there – or maybe she’s a Nan?

Turn the page, let’s meet a few of the finest in the land…

This is the companion to What Do You Call Your Grandpa? and like its predecessor, it introduces readers to all the words that our students use to refer to their grandparents, but this time it is grandmothers in the spotlight. But whether it’s Nonna, Nani, MeeMaw, Bibi, Amma or one of the other special names,  what is also in focus is that special relationship and bond that children have with their grandmothers and the precious memories that are made as they celebrate life together. 

As well as teaching little ones new names – I can envisage of wall display of photos of the children’s grandparents and the special names they call them, especially as the author invites the reader to share – this would also be a grand book for those who are learning English as a new language because they will delight in seeing their own culture represented in a way that connects us all.

Perfect combination for Harmony Day with so many opportunities to develop displays .