Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism












Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Jordan Akpojaro

Ashley Evans

Usborne, 2022 

14pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


While the issue of racism has bubbled along in the background of schools for decades, the recent rise and focus on the Black Lives Matter movement has brought it forward into the loungerooms and lives of our students and many have many questions. This is to be expected if we accept the premise that “race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour” particularly when ‘race’ itself is defined as “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences.” (Britannica, 2022

Therefore this book is a timely release that uses a simple lift-the-flap technique to answer children’s questions in a way that they will understand.  For example, while the Britannica definition can be easily unpacked by an adult here it is explained as “treating people differently and unfairly based on their skin colour, where they’re from, their religion or their family traditions.”

From ‘What’s wrong with the idea of ‘race’? and ‘Why is life harder for people with darker skin?’ to ‘Don’t ALL lives matter?’ and ‘What’s racism got to do with me?’ this book tackles powerful, pertinent questions in a direct, accessible and thought-provoking way. Even if the reader has not encountered racism, they learn why it is everyone’s problem to solve, and how we can all be part of the solution.

There is also a blog post  that offers guidance about how to talk to children about racism because “even by the age of two children begin to notice skin colour and other differences in appearance” and there are also the usual Quicklinks to help the reader understand more deeply. 

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border











Playing At The Border

Joanna Ho

Teresa Martinez

HarperCollins US, 2022

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


“Feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another, Yo-Yo Ma played a solo accompanied by an orchestra of wind and water.” 

On April 13.2019, on the  US banks of the Rio Grande he played a piece of music hundreds of years old to an audience on the opposite banks in Mexico to show that building bridges is so much better than building walls.  

But this is more than just a story of one man playing a cello alone to be heard by a few – this is the story of a renowned cellist, himself a blend of cultures as he was born to Chinese parents in France and raised in the US. Because his fingers were too small for a double bass, as a little child he chose the cello – and its particular blend of international origins is woven into both the story and the music.  And from its strings comes the music dancing ‘over rocks and rivers and walls into the sky”, born in Germany 300 years before, lost,  then found in Spain, and renewed in the US to unite those who had once been one but who were now separated…

Connecting cultures and countries through music was Yo-Yo Ma’s ambition when he began the Bach Project in 2018, reviving the rare cello solos which “create the sound of harmonising melodies on one instrument” there was as much symbolism as there was entertainment on that day in 2019 when the people of two nations momentarily joined together again, in defiance of the rhetoric and actions of the then POTUS. And in Johanna Ho‘s text, which is as lyrical as the music itself, we discover that there were many more than just two nations involved in making it happen. 

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes












A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?












What Do You Do to Celebrate?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2021 

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


In every corner of the globe,
as years begin and end,
there are many ways to celebrate
with family and friends.

Thanksgiving in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November heralds the beginning of a season of celebrations around the world, as calendars draw to a close and preparations for a new year begin.  No matter where in the world you live, there is something to mark the passing of time and in this book created by the team behind What do you call your grandma? and What do you call your Grandpa?  the reader is taken on a journey around the globe to share significant celebrations with other children. Whether it’s skating to mass each morning in Caracas Venezuela, waiting for the littlest camel of the Three Wise Kings to bring treats on Epiphany or just visiting the displays in the shop windows of Sydney, children around the world share those end-of-year traditions.

Each double page spread is vibrantly illustrated with a description of the festival in rhyme, and further explanation offered in the final pages. While some of the experiences may be familiar, so many are not but the joy is that it is likely to touch the heart of at least one of our students and at last they are seeing themselves and their culture in a book shared by their peers.  Beyond that important connection, the power of this book lies in its final verse…

So many traditions to mark the year.

What about you – what brings you cheer?

Presents, dancing or is it cake?

What do you do to celebrate?

This sets up the perfect opportunity for our students to investigate and share those things that they do in their homes offering the opportunity for the perfect end-of year activity that goes beyond the more common Christmas Around the World. It acknowledges the different ways our families celebrate this time, builds connections and understanding and provides an authentic vehicle to put all those information literacy skills into practice. 

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday











What Zola Did on Sunday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021 

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


Ever since we first met Zola a year ago,  readers have been following her adventures as she brings her community together and now all the connections reach their pinnacle at the St Otto’s Community Fete. Their is the stall of the knitting group that Zola and her nonna belong to; her friend Leo’s mum is going to be givng a demonstration about how police dogs work in the community; her other nonna will be hosting the organic produce stall and her mum will have the cake stall.  As well there are competitions and all sorts of other attractions.  Will Zola be able to get through the fete without any of the drama and strife she seems to attract?

This is the final in this series that has had young readers enthralled and Zola and her friends have become friends of the reader too.  And for those who have not yet met Zola, then there is a treat in store.  A must-have for anyone with a reader who is just embarking on novels but needs the textual supports as well as the familiarity of characters and situations to consolidate their skills.

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World











Mina and the Whole Wide World

Sherryl Clark

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


More than anything else in the whole wide world Mina wants her own bedroom . And it’s almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it’s hers.

But then Mina’s parents take in an unexpected guest, and give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She is so devastated by her loss and she doesn’t care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay. Her loss is almost too great to bear. 

At school, the other kids call Azzami names but throughout the bullying, he stays silent.  Mina wishes he’d stand up for himself especially after she ends up in strife for hitting Oliver, the worst of the culprits.  But although Azzami doesn’t speck he draws and he as a tale to tell in his drawings,  a tale made all the more poignant when Mina goes with him to visit his very sick mother.  For the first time she really thinks about the life and loss of the quiet boy, what he has seen and escaped from, the death of his father and the illness of his mother, being the least of them, and gradually the loss of her own bedroom is put into perspective. 

This verse novel for younger readers is an important addition to the collection and a vital inclusion to any study of refugees because it gives the silent among our students a voice.  Even though Azzami himself doesn’t speak, his silence is powerful because it echoes that of so many of those we teach who have experienced trauma and fear that we will never know.  Sadly, there are those like Oliver in every class who cannot cope with difference and manifest their lack of understanding and empathy through a display of power and disdain, but there are also Minas who have a more open mind and benefit by finding friendship and tolerance and gratitude. And there are also wise teachers like Ms Smart who know when to step back and when to step up.

This is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this “whole wide world” and the teachers notes will help guide students’ awareness, knowledge, understanding, compassion and tolerance so that the conversation about acceptance, diversity, and caring for others has a new tone.  In addition, there is much to be learned about Clark’s choice of format, vocabulary and using only Mina’s perspective as a vehicle for  a narrative that needs to be had (seemingly over and over, even though refugees have been a critical part of this country’s fabric and fibre since the end of World War II). 

Look for this among the award nominees in 2022.  


Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase











Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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


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 Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived











The Day Saida Arrived

Susana Gômez Redondo

Sonja Wimmer

Blue Dot, 2020

32pp., hbk. RRP$A27.99


The day Saida arrived at the school she seemed to have lost her words and instead of joy and laughter there were tears and sadness. Her new classmate hunted high and low for the words but could not find them so instead, she drew a heart in chalk and Saida drew a smile.  The first breakthrough!

When her dad explains that Saida probably hasn’t lost her words, it was just that her words wouldn’t work in this country, the little girl sets out to teach Saida the new words she needs as well as learning Saida’s words.  What follows is the beginning of a joyous, lifelong friendship that is so characteristic of our children when confronted with this sort of language problem. They work it out, find common ground, ignore boundaries and borders and learn together.  

Having worked so often  in schools where English is an additional language for so many, where students with no English at all come to get that first grounding before they go to their neighbourhood school, this story is a stunning portrayal of how kids get along regardless particularly when adults don’t intervene.  The playground is such a cosmopolitan learning space and whether the language is Arabic like Saida’s or Tagalog or whatever,  the children’s natural needs overcome barriers. Enriching friendships are formed and their words that every “shape, sound and size” just mingle naturally.

With illustrations that are as joyful as the concept and the text, this is the perfect story for this time of the year to help students understand that being in such an alien environment can be bewildering and confusing, that there will be times when they are in Saida’s shoes and their words won’t work, but there is always help and hope. Because the learning between the girls works both ways, the story values Saida’s Arabic as much as her new friend’s English so that Saida is an equal partner in the story, offering a subtle nudge for us to consider how equally we treat our NESB students. What accommodations can and do we make for those whose words don’t work in our libraries and classrooms?

Teachers’ notes are available and while these are written for the US, they are readily adaptable to the Australian situation.. 

The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue











The Proudest Blue

Ibtihak Muhammad

SK Ali

Hatem Aly

Andersen Press, 2020 

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


The first day of the new school year is fast approaching and so Mama takes Asiya to buy her first-day hijab for her first day in Year 7.  Asiya chooses the brightest blue one because if you squint your eyes there is no border between the water and the sky, just as thereshould be no borders between people.  Her little sister Faizah is so proud of her but sadly not everyone understands what hijab is or represents and so both girls are teased and tormented because they are different.  But guided by their Mama’s wise words that echo in their head, both manage to navigate the day proudly, determined to keep the ancient tradition of covering the hair from puberty. 

Written by one who has been Asiya, Ibtihak Muhammed is the Olympic fencer who became the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing for Team USA, this story is not only an insight into the wearing of hijab as a testament to the faith and love of Allah, it is also about being proud of who you are and what you believe in regardless of whether that is based on religion, culture, colour or any other dimension that can be perceived as setting us apart. (Try being a round redhead with glasses in a world that was in love with Twiggy!) There will be many Asiyas and Faizahs in our classrooms this year, Asiyas wearing hijab and navigating the taunts of the ill-informed, and Faizahs fielding questions while feeling enormously proud so this is a book to share across the year levels to help the acceptance and understanding. 

Regardless of the reason that someone may be isolated by their peers, perhaps the most memorable part of the story are the words of the girls’ mother… “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them.  They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” Wise words that we can all learn from.

An Internet search will bring up many resources for using this book in the curriculum.

Sarah’s Two Nativities

Sarah’s Two Nativities

Sarah’s Two Nativities









Sarah’s Two Nativities

Janine M. Fraser

Helene Magisson

Black Dog Books , 2019

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


This is the story of Sarah, daughter of Sadek and Anna, granddaughter of Ali and Azar, and granddaughter of Maria and Paul. 

In Sarah’s house the Bible and the Koran sit side by side on the shelf, each full of stories which her grandmothers tell her when they come to visit.  Sarah’s favourites are those about the birth of Baby Jesus, but she is confused because even though parts of each story is similar to the other, there are parts that are different.  “how can they both be true?” she asks.

Sarah’s situation is not an uncommon one – there are many families where there are differing belief systems, and these are often highlighted at this time of the year.  Similarly, in our classrooms where we share stories about the Nativity with children who might hear a different version at home.  How can the two be reconciled? Grandmother Azar provides an answer that satisfies Sarah and celebrates the richness of the two cultures her family straddles.  

This is a beautifully illustrated story that is sensitively told and acknowledges that this is a special time of year for many, not just Christians, and that there can be bonds that are stronger than anything else.

Watch the story read aloud here