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Three Dresses

Three Dresses

Three Dresses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Dresses

Wanda Gibson

UQP, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A6.99

9780702266355

Three things are vivid memories of  the childhood of author and illustrator Wanda Gibson, Nukgal Wurra woman of the Guugu Yimithirr people – the harsh life on the Hope Vale on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland; the annual two weeks holiday, the only time they got off the Mission, spent at the beach; and receiving three dresses and three pairs of undies from the Lutheran Church at Christmas time – “one to wash, one to war and one spare”.

But despite the hard life on the Mission – school in the morning, work in the afternoon, picking weeds out of cotton, pineapples and peanuts for no pay even in hot weather, – this is a story of the happy memories of those special two weeks spent with her family at the beach and the simplicity of a time shared and enjoyed just by being together,  

Taken at face value it is a joyful story of a holiday at the beach that could no doubt be contrasted to the holidays current students have at a similar location, or even the notion of being thrilled to get just three dresses a year, and even those were second-hand. However, thorough teachers notes help readers delve into the impact of  colonisation on our indigenous peoples and the various policies that governed their lives including extensive background information as well as points for investigation and discussion and classroom activities, making this a picture book to span all ages and aspects of the curriculum.  Indeed, there are links to further resources specifically for upper primary students. 

Whether it is shared as a story of the importance of a family making and sharing memories or one that opens doors to a different aspect of Australia’s history, this is one that has the potential to make a big impact. 

Giovanni

Giovanni

Giovanni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giovanni

Crystal Corocher

Margeaux Davis

Wombat Books, 2023

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

9781761111235

In 1881, four-year-old Giovanni and his family and local villagers leave the Veneto region of Italy bound for Australia having been promised “paradise” only to find that they are in the hands of a people smuggler with a rickety boat, little food and no real concern for their safety, let alone comfort.  Eventually stranded on a beach in Noumea, they were in despair of ever reaching Australia dying in huge numbers from bad food, mosquitoes, undrinkable water and back-breaking work in the monsoon season. 

But hearing of their plight, Sir Henry Parkes, the “father of Federation” but then colonial secretary of NSW sent a boat to rescue them and 22 families eventually settled on the NSW north coast in what was to become known as New Italy and the start of the Italian migration to Australia that continues today.

Told by the great-granddaughter of Giovanni, with a concurrent Italian translation by Jada Valpato,  this is a story meticulously researched that tells of an almost-forgotten part of Australia’s migration history, making it one for both younger and older readers, particularly those of Italian heritage.  Coupled with links to resources such as the New Italy Museum, this is definitely one for the collection for both your Italian families as well as any study of Australia’s immigration history. 

 

Shearer

Shearer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shearer

Neridah McMullin

Michael Tomkins

Walker 2023

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

9781760653163

Click go the shears, boys — click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied yoe.

Click Go the Shears is one of those traditional Australian songs that our children learn about the same time they learn the iconic Waltzing Matilda. But while the origins and meaning of that song are learned alongside the lyrics, what is the story behind some of the strange words and phrases in the shearing song?  Surely sheep are shorn using machinery.

But before Frederick Wolseley perfected his invention of mechanical shears in 1888 – a design 25 years in the making – sheep were shorn with hand or blade shears requiring great skill and considerable strength in the hand, arm and back and then, as now, it was one of the most physically demanding jobs as far as stress to the human body according to a 2000 report by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. 

Iconic images of the 19th century shearing shed. Shearing the Rams (top) and The Golden Fleece (bottom) both by Tom Roberts.

Iconic images of the 19th century shearing shed. Shearing the Rams (top) and The Golden Fleece (bottom) both by Tom Roberts.

Shearers travelled from woolshed to woolshed as wool became one of the most valuable resources of the Australian economy, particularly as gold discoveries dwindled, and among those men, was Jack Howe who had “hands the size of tennis racquets, legs like tree trunks and wrists made of steel”. 

Shearer is the story of the day Howe sheared a record 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 mins at Alice Downs Station in Blackall, using blade shears, bringing to life the story of a man still regarded as Australia’s greatest shearer and after whom, the iconic navy blue singlet of the tradie is named.  

With her books Eat My Dust, and Drover  and the upcoming Tearaway Coach, Neridah McMullin is becoming known for telling the stories of those who have had a significant impact on Australian life, particularly that of rural communities, and thus opening up all sorts of opportunities to explore further.  Shearer continues this tradition, particularly as attendances at shows that bring the country to the city continue to break records and shearing demonstrations attract huge crowds.

For a century Australia “rode on the sheep’s back” and this book gives readers, young and older, an entry point to investigate the hows and whys of this common saying. 

Ash Barty Champion

Ash Barty

Ash Barty Champion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Barty: Champion

Young Readers Edition

Ash Barty

Harper Collins, 2023

288pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781460762738

In these days of the unprecedented success and support from women’s sports, there are few who would not know the name Ash Barty, and in this young readers’ edition of her autobiography, independent readers can learn about her story.   In her words, “It’s a tennis story. It’s a family story. It’s a teamwork story. It’s the story of how I got to where and who I am today. My story is about the power and joy of doing that thing you love and seeing where it can take you.

It reflects on my whole tennis journey – from the first time I picked up a racquet as a young girl in Queensland, to the night I packed up my tennis bag at Melbourne Park after winning the 2022 Australian Open. It explains how I worked through self-doubt, homesickness and a break from the sport to realise my tennis dreams, winning Wimbledon and ranking number 1 in the world.

Maybe my story will inspire you to follow your dreams – I really hope it does”

Often when our students fixate on real-life heroes, all they are seeing is the here-and-now, the success and the attention that comes with that and they don’t realise that that part of the journey is but the tip of the iceberg, that there have been years of hard slog and sacrifice that have gone into making that here-and-now what it is.  One of the most powerful traits that we can teach our children is how to be resilient, how to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after unexpected knockbacks and knockdowns, and this story in which Ash Barty talks about the highs of her career she also is honest about the lows – her struggles with her mental health, body image, self-doubt, her fragmented schooling, the loneliness and the homesickness of being on tour – shows that it is not all about glory, fame and money and that for anyone determined to follow their dreams, there are times when that in-built resilience is all that is left. 

Students also see those heroes as being special somehow, as though they had been touched by the magic fairy at birth like Sleeping Beauty, and do not see themselves as being the sort of person who could reach such heights, so that focus on her childhood and her struggles show that in the beginning, she was just as ordinary as they are, and it is the dedication and determination to succeed at her passion that is the driving force.  

So as much as this is a story about Ash Barty the person, it is also a story about having that inner strength and that resilience to find and follow your own dreams and it is that intention to inspire that sets this one apart from so many of the other  autobiographies and biographies that young readers pick up as they expand their reading horizons. You don’t have to be a tennis player to enjoy this.

 

Khawaja

Khawaja

Khawaja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khawaja

Paul Kelly

Avinash Weerasekera

Puffin, 2023

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761340611

As Australia’s men and women’s cricket teams continue to do amazing things in this year’s Ashes series in England, the name of Usman Khawaja is now well-known well beyond cricketing fans and families, if it wasn’t already.  The top scorer in both Australian innings in the first test, following his two centuries in the 2022 New Year’s game, having been recalled after being sensationally dropped from the team in 2019, Khawaja was headline news well beyond the sports pages.

And it is this rise and fall and rise again that is captured by music legend Paul Kelly in this tribute to the man’s determination, patience and resilience, given that Khawaja himself thought he would never represent his country again. Now in picture book format so all little cricket lovers, and Khawaja fans especially, can have it forever at their fingertips, this is the print version of Kelly’s song that he wrote and released on social media after that 2022 performance.  

With the music based on the Hank Williams tune Kaw-liga, it is a catchy tune that will not only have young readers easily able to read the words for themselves, but also show them that perseverance and self-belief underpin success, regardless of whether it is cricket, sport or any dream. For even though Khawaja himself will likely be remembered for being the first Pakistani-born Australian and Muslim to wear the prized baggy green, it is the message of dedication, hard work, going-back-to-basics to make things better, application and commitment that will remain with the reader and inspire them. 

 

Logan’s Big Move

Logan's Big Move

Logan’s Big Move

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logan’s Big Move

Logan Martin & Jess Black

Shane McG

Puffin, 2023

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

9780143778240

It’s tricky moving to a new place and knowing no one but the local skatepark offers a way to get to know the locals, and so Logan and his brother head there as soon as they’ve helped with the unpacking.  While his brother is inspired by the tricks of the skaters it is the BMX riders who attract Logan’s attention and he decides he’s wants to be just like them.  But even though he gets a coach, learns what to do, practises hard until he thinks he is ready to join his new friends at the park, he discovers there are a few more lessons to learn, including a really important one…

Inspired by the true story of Australia’s BMX freestyle Olympic gold medalist and 2021 Sports Dad of the Year, Logan Martin, this is a story that will appeal to young readers as the characters are all anthropomorphic with Logan himself portrayed as a lion, so that is a stand-alone story without knowing the backstory, but also those who have become fans of the athlete himself as he showed during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 why BMX freestyle is a legitimate Olympic sport. 

“Gold Coast’s Logan Martin started freestyle BMX at the age of 12 after following his brother, Nathan, to the Crestmead Skate Park. Spending most of his spare time there, Martin started showing real talent at the age of 15, entering competitions with his parents, Donna and Sean, taking him to the events and buying bikes and parts. Logan first travelled overseas in 2012, where he won the first international event he entered. Martin won the International Festival of Extreme Sports (FISE) World Series title in both 2015 and 2016, following those titles up by claiming the inaugural BMX Freestyle world title at the UCI Urban World Championships in China in 2017. A stellar 2019 followed, which saw Logan win dual X Games gold, the Urban Games gold, and a World Championship silver behind teammate Brandon Loupos. He also built a BMX ramp in the backyard of his home to prepare for his Olympic run during lockdown. At the 2020 and 2021 National Championships in Melbourne, Martin won gold, and added a second career rainbow jersey when he took out the 2021 UCI World Championships in France. The culmination of Logan’s career so far was claiming gold at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.”

Not all the sporting heroes of our students are footballers or cricketers even though there is a dearth of accessible stories about those who make the heights in other fields so this is an important addition to the collection for those who know who Logan Martin is, and who are inspired to be like him, just as he had his own role models to aspire to. More mature readers might also like his autobiography Logan Martin: Journey to Gold opening the door to a whole new genre of non fiction for them.

 

 

Last Man Out

Last Man Out

Last Man Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Man Out

Louise Park

Wild Dog, 2023

80pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036427

While most children in Australia and New Zealand learn much about the landing of their combined troops at ANZAC Cove on April 25, 1915 that built the legends and legacy that the bonds of the two nations are now so solidly built on, and that these days, they learn that from the get-go this was a disastrous campaign starting by the soldiers being dropped at the wrong location, not so much is known about the subsequent withdrawal in December 1915 masterminded by Australian Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Brudenell White.  And that for the plan to be successful, audacious as it was, there needed to be a handful of men to remain behind to the end to provide cover for their fellow soldiers, even though to be part of that mission meant that they, themselves, would probably not leave the battleground alive.

Author Louise Park’s grandfather was one of those chosen to be part of that rear guard – an assignment hotly contested amongst those who remained because of the bonds forged during those eight torturous months – and, using his letters home as well as meticulous research, she has crafted an eye-opening story that sheds new light on what those times and that miraculous evacuation (which he survived) were really like.  This is a personal account of what life was really like in the trenches, told first-hand rather than a third-party voice that can never truly capture the reality.  It tells of the deprivations, the lack of sleep,  food and water, the pain  of the never-ending digging of trenches, the illnesses like “Gallipoli Gallop”, the strategies employed to trick the Turks, the dangers and most of all, the mateship that grew between the soldiers and the respect that they developed for the enemy, because they are just defending their families and farms from invaders, as the ANZACs would do if it were their country.  

The reader is right there beside John Park, Charles Rankin, Freddy Woods, Francis Owen, and Lieutenant Riddell and all the others, including my own grandfather – ordinary men doing extraordinary things – and we learn about the true meaning of “loyalty, having each other’s backs no matter what, and valuing something greater than yourself”.  The Gallipoli Campaign took an estimated 400 000 direct casualties , an impersonal statistic difficult for young (and older) minds to comprehend, and while there have been many accounts written for all ages, this one for younger, independent readers stands apart because John Park and his buddies are real people with a real story rather than an anonymous fictitious character invented to carry the narrative along.  With my own dad named after Lord Kitchener, this could have been the story of my grandfather, my grandchildren’s great, great-grandfather, any of our students’ ancestors, regardless of the side they were on, and that makes it personal..

John Park was a seasoned soldier aged 36 when he was at Gallipoli and he clearly understood the importance of documenting his experiences, whereas my grandfather was a young lad of just 18 and even if he did write, the letters have long been lost.  And as with so many who finally did return, (after Gallipoli, he was sent to the Western Front and gassed on the Somme), he didn’t share what he had seen and done with those who had not been there; there was no 24/7 news cycle to bring pictures into the family living room and so it is left for people like the author to tell their family’s stories so that we can better understand ours, 

An essential addition to any ANZAC collection.

Dorrie

Dorrie

Dorrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorrie

Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2023

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

 9781460760109

If you read the entry for Dorothy Wall, creator of Blinky Bill, in the Australian Dictionary of Biographyyou learn, “Dorothy Wall (1894-1942), author and illustrator, was born on 12 January 1894 at Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand, daughter of Charles James William Wall, soldier, and his wife Lillian, née Palethorpe, both English born.”

If you read the new biography by Tania McCartney, creator of Mamie (amongst many others), you learn. “On a frosty day , in a land of long white clouds and snowy peaks , a little girl was born. Her name was Dorothy but her family called her Dorrie.”

If you look at the ADB entry you get a formal photo of the subject…

While the McCartney version is this…

 

Two different styles for two different audiences, each appropriate for their situations, but Dorrie demonstrating yet again why it is essential that we, as teacher librarians, must continue to offer our students non fiction in accessible, engaging print format. 

As with Mamie, in which McCartney brought to life May Gibbs, the creator of the Gumnut Babies and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, so too has she created an appealing, readable biography of the author of the Blinky Bill series, focusing on her early life that helped shape the creation of the characters. As a child, Dorrie was  a master creator- singing, Dancing, sewing, making jewellery, designing patterns, painting nature and drawing illustrations, winning scholarships to prestigious art colleges in New Zealand and then migrating to Australia at the outbreak of World War 1. But it is when a cheeky koala appears in a tree outside her window, her world is turned upside down. A fascination and passion for Blinky soon becomes her life work – and not only is  a lifelong friendship born but also a series of stories that remain children’s favourites generations on.  Who hasn’t read The Adventures of Blinky Bill  or seen the television series or movie made from them? 

The little koala in the red overalls is a  literary staple in our children’s lives and this outstanding new biography is an essential addition to the collection because just as Dorrie captured the warmth and beauty of Blinky, his pals and their environment, so has McCartney.  Although in reality, if you continue to read the ADB entry, Wall’s life was not an easy one and she died from pneumonia at a young age, McCartney focuses on the joy and the fun of playing and singing and dancing like no one’s watching.  The final illustration of her books being displayed in an Angus & Robertson window (a company synonymous with books in times past) is perfect – not just for the book itself, but also for this year’s CBCA Book Week them of Read. Grow. Inspire.  Both Wall and McCartney encourage that. 

  

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)

Various

DK, 2022

128pp. hbk., RRP $A14.99

Over time and across generations there are people who have such a significant contribution to the world that they have changed its direction – people our children should know about regardless of their origins or field of endeavour.

The lives of some of these people like Martin Luther King Jr and Marie Curie are featured in this series for independent readers who are beginning to realise, understand and appreciate the size of the shoulders on which we stand and whose names and achievements are seen as common knowledge.   A leader in publishing non fiction for children, the books have full-colour photographs and hand-drawn illustrations to complement thoughtfully written, age-appropriate text creating an engaging book children will enjoy reading. Definition boxes, information sidebars, maps and inspiring quotes add depth and demonstrate that each person started life as a fairly ordinary child who later found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Young readers are always keen to find out about the lives of their own personal heroes, an interest that leads them to the autobiography/biography/memoir genre and this series is one that offers them an accessible and engaging starting point.