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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.  

 

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

9781474995825

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. 

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to be Different;  Inspirational Words from People Who Changed the World 

Ben Brooks

Quinton Winter

Hachette, 2022

208pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781529416244

The words in Dare to be Different have great power, just as the phrase itself does as it challenges the individual to stand apart from the crowd, to be proud of whatever it is that makes them unique and celebrate it.  Not always easy, and particularly not when you’re at the age when the natural desire is to fit in, to be one of the in-group, to conform and be anonymous but at the same time to have and follow heroes who do have the courage to shine.

In this compendium, Ben Brooks has brought together 100 people who have all in some way or another used words to do wonderful things, rather than sporting prowess or heroic deeds.  Some may have changed a single life, while others have changed the course of history for almost everyone on earth. But whether their effects were big or small, these individuals’ speeches, letters, poems, songs, stories, and advice prove one thing: words can make the world a better place. It includes personal letters that were written for just one reader to help guide them through life’s journey; and others that were intended for millions of people to hear about grand declarations of war, peace or new discoveries.

From Plautus’ plays about the power of laughter to Selena Gomez’s speech about bullying; and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters of encouragement to his daughter, Scottie, to Bambi, the mysterious graffiti artist who sprays words of truth on walls, there is something to be learned from every quote in this inspiring and illuminating book.  It contains the words of wisdom that children will love to hear, about kindness, bullying, or whether it’s OK to sometimes eat chocolate for breakfast, and allow them to feel more secure about themselves and accept that who they are is enough. Not everyone has to be a headline.

Each double-page spread gives a background narrative pitched at the reader’s level and includes a significant quote that offers a life message that might be just what the child needs to hear at the time.  For example, Selena Gomez says, “You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a like, by a comment…”; founder of the charity Sight Learning at just 14, Yash Gupta says, ” Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It’s just a matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that”; while Yoda reminds them that “Size matters not. Look at me, Judge me by size, do you?”

While many of those included do have an international profile like Desmond Tutu and Dolly Parton, most do not, just being acclaimed for having made a significant difference in someone’s life, somewhere, reinforcing that it is ordinary people from ordinary places who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that allow them to make that difference. So, as well as the positive affirmations from those that have, it offers a belief that we all can.   It also shows that you don’t have to set out to make a difference, or to receive recognition, acknowledgement or acclaim. and that sometimes your impact can be invisible and unknown. Many years ago I taught a quiet, shy young lad, one whom, honestly, I had all but forgotten until he told my BFF, his prospective employer, that it was my words about believing in himself and being able to do whatever he dreamed that had led him safely through university to a career that he loves!   Sometimes just being who you are and following your passion can be all the different you need to be.

 

 

 

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

This Is My Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is My Dad

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2022

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

9781922539076

Leo’s teacher announces that the class’s next focus for Show and Tell will be their fathers and while this excites the other children, Leo’s tummy belly-flopped.  And did another one when Harper asks if their dads can come and share the experience.  Because that can be all well and good for some kids, but what if you don’t have a dad?  And have never known one? “How can I celebrate someone I’ve never met?”

So while his children’s author mother hunts dragons and arrests aliens and rescues her characters from all sorts of predicaments, Leo hunts through the family photos for something he’s not going to find.  And then he has an idea…

Back in the day, teachers would celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with card and gift-making and all sorts of other activities almost without thought – it’s just what was done.  We didn’t really give a lot of consideration to the Leos because two-parent families were the norm – it was rare to have students without that traditional family structure,  But that was back in the day, and now we recognise that families are as individual as the people in them and we cannot take anything for granted.  Clearly Miss Reilly didn’t get the memo and so this is a timely, important look into the anxiety that an announcement such as hers can make, how carefully we have to tread and how we need to change our focus so that our students are not marginalised or become anxious when what to them is “normal”, becomes apparently not-so.  

This is a book to share with a class whenever one of those traditional celebrations rolls around, or the curriculum demands a focus on families.  Apart from resonating with many of the children themselves, it could be a time to examine Leo’s feelings when Miss Reilly made her announcement. Why did his tummy do a belly-flop? They could also look at the strategies that Leo employed to try to solve his problems. Why couldn’t he just tell Miss Reilly he doesn’t have a dad? Is he ashamed, angry, embarrassed? But even better, an astute teacher could involve the students in finding a big-picture question that embraces everyone’s circumstances.  Perhaps something that looks at the ties that bind a group of people into a family unit, rather than its physical structure; perhaps celebrating the influential adults in the child’s life without reference to gender or relationship; or perhaps even comparing human family structures to those of animal families. More able students might like to consider whether a wedding ring makes a family, and delve into the traditions and purposes of marriages, including cultural aspects, 

While the structure of a family becomes more and more diverse and accepted, and the kids themselves don’t look sideways at two mums, two dads, no mum, no dad and every variation in between which also reaches into the extended families,  Leo’s story is a reminder that, nevertheless, we need to tread carefully and between Powell’s writing and Johnston’s illustrations, we not only have a great heads-up for teachers but also a book which appears to be for littlies but which can enable older students to examine their own perspectives at arm’s length, perhaps even reflect on their own situations and how that has shaped them. 

Teachers’ notes are available

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

Jarvis

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

 9781406392517

David has flowers in his hair and that’s just fine with all the other kids in the class, particularly his best friend. But when the bright, pretty petals start to fall off and David just has spiky twigs, things changed.  David was quiet, he didn’t want to play and he started to wear a hat. He never wore hats.  And when he took it off and reveled that he was twiggy, spiky and brittle, the other kids didn’t want to play with him either.  Until his best friend had an idea…

This is a touching story about what being a best friend really means – being there when your mate is at their most vulnerable, whether that be through illness or any other hardship that might strike.  The clichéed “thick and thin” that few are fortunate to experience, but when they do it means a lifelong bond that is remembered forever. Even though having flowers growing out of your head might be noticeable in the adult world, it is totally accepted as natural by the children who haven’t yet learned about adult perceptions or prejudices. But whether it’s because they’ve heard parental whispers or it just takes them a while to adjust to David’s new look, their attitudes and behaviour changes when he does, leaving him even more vulnerable than he would have been just dealing with its cause. Thank goodness for his best friend who supports him regardless.

While the story itself deals with David’s hair, which, while being the thing we often notice first about a person yet which is really the easiest thing to change, it could apply to any situation where the child feels isolated or marginalised and so, in the hands of a sensitive adult, it can help little ones share their own stories – perhaps illness, divorce, financial hardship, whatever – while helping to build compassion and empathy amongst their mates as they understand that their friend is still the same inside,  

Sensitively written and illustrated, this is one for the mindfulness collection that deserves to be shared and discussed and valued for its bravery/rarity in touching on a delicate subject in such a tactful way. I could use the other cliché, “Ask me how I know” but all I will say is that I have been David, and hopefully I’ve also been his best friend. 

Grandad’s Camper

Grandad's Camper

Grandad’s Camper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad’s Camper

Harry Woodgate

Andersen Press , 2022 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781783449927

There’s nothing she loves more than to visit her Grandad, snuggle up on the sofa and listen as he tells all about the amazing places he and Gramps would explore in their camper.  But these days, Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…

This is a delightful story of a little girl’s relationship with her grandfather, a bond that those of us who have been fortunate to experience it never forget.  But this story has a twist because there is no grandma – rather there is Gramps, her grandfather’s much loved partner. And while it is a reminder that there are many definitions and designs of “family” – the rainbow flag on the camper on the cover is an indicator- it is the little girl’s complete acceptance of the situation that is heart-warming because it shows we have come a long way, albeit there is still a way to go.  So while gender diversity is not the obvious in-your-face focus of the story, it is the memories that are so inextricably bound together by Grandad’s and Gramps’ relationship that are at its heart. 

Family diversity is so widespread and little ones need to see theirs in stories, so this is another opportunity to share and celebrate. 

A Good Place

A Good Place

A Good Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Place

Lucy Cousins

Walker, 2022 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99 

9781529501254

Bee, Beetle, Ladybird and Dragonfly are each looking for a new home.  They each want something different – Bee wants some beautiful flowers;  Beetle some dead wood; Ladybird some leaves and Dragonfly is looking for a pond – but just when they think they have found what they want, it proves to be not-so-perfect after all.  And then Butterfly comes to the rescue…

 A story for our youngest readers, with illustrations that look like their own, this is one that will appeal as it introduces them to the concept of each creature having different needs – it’s not a one-size-fits-all world.  It also alerts them to the diversity they will find in their own gardens, perhaps even encouraging them to plant one even if it’s just a pot on the balcony. But as well as the diversity, there is also the opportunity to look at the similarities of the four friends – the first illustration clearly shows the common characteristics of insects – perhaps starting them on their first investigation into the classification of the world’s creatures in general, and minibeasts in particular. 

Bright, colourful and engaging, for all its seeming simplicity, Cousins demonstrates that we can learn from picture books if we delve more deeply..

On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Origin of Species

Sabrina Radeva & Charles Darwin

Puffin, 2022

56pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780141388519

On The Origin of Species has been the definitive explanation of the theory of evolution since it was first published in 1859. 

Pulling together Charles Darwin’s observations from his travels around the world and his groundbreaking – and controversial – explanation of how species form, develop and change over hundreds of thousands of years, On The Origin of Species is as relevant and important now as it ever was.

So, this first ever picture-book retelling of  Darwin’s work  through stylish illustrations and a simple, easy-to-understand text brings evolution to the younger generation. Interspersed with relevant quotes from Darwin himself, and accompanied by many illustrations, this is a sample explanation demonstrating its ease of access…

“For most of human history, many people believed that everything in the world was created all at once. They thought that plants. animals. and people were always the same as they were now. But there were a few clever and curious scientists [such as Georges-Louis de Buffon and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck] who challenged this idea… ” But it was the travels and studies of Charles Darwin whose work and theories have endured. “In his book, Darwin explains that species are groups of living things that look alike and can have babies together,  But even if they belong to the same species, no two animals are exactly the same.”  

Even for those who have different beliefs about life’s first beginnings, this is a must-have in the school library’s collection if we are to provide students with a variety of viewpoints, and it is the perfect adjunct to those books that I’ve reviewed so far this year that may have created a curiosity about this planet and its inhabitants…

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began

Australian Backyard Naturalist 

Earth is Big

We are One: How the World Adds Up

Australian Backyard Explorer

The History of Everywhere

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Atlas of Amazing Migrations

Ouch! Tales of Gravity

The Same But Different

It also helps them understand all those books that have the “same but different” theme – having explored this work, they will understand the why that underpins the message. It encourages them to develop their own powers of observation and thus the discoveries they make so as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes , the endpapers also offer an immediate challenge. As well as the narrative, the book also includes an appendix (unusual in a primary-school text), a glossary and other elements that underpin the development of information literacy skills. 

 While, for some, this book may raise more questions than it answers, it is nevertheless an important addition to the library’s collection as we cater for those with a deep-seated curiosity about where they have come from. 

The Same but Different

The Same but Different

The Same but Different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Same but Different

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781472978028

“I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t… Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me.” Dylan Alcott Australian of the Year 2022.

Nobody who heard Alcott’s words during his acceptance speech could have failed to have been moved by his passion for making a difference for those with disabilities and such was their power in lifting both his profile and his message, that two days later Channel 9 delayed their main nightly news bulletin so we could all witness his final appearance in the Australian Open in its entirety.  And while the match’s result didn’t go to script, nevertheless his message was underlined as time and again the cameras focused on young wheelies in the crowd – all there to watch one who was already a hero and a voice, but one whose voice has just become infinitely louder!

Ever since the UN General Assembly declared 1981 to be the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) with a focus on “a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities”. slowly, slowly progress has been made and now, as libraries have a real focus on the diversity of their collections, children are seeing themselves in the books they read and the movies they watch.

So the release and review of this book is timely. It explores the ways in which we’re all unique as well as the similarities we share. Using everyday examples, clear explanations and colourful illustrations by Sarah Jennings, this book prompts children to broaden their perspectives and rejoice in their differences while accepting those of others as what makes them unique. Including double-page spreads that focus on how we look, where we live, the languages we speak, what our families are like and what we believe in, it can start important conversations with children about diversity and inclusion. Early Years expert Molly Potter also provides a glossary of terms and notes for parents and carers offering advice on tackling prejudice right from the start.

It took 62 years for the AOTY award to be given to a person with a disability, and Alcott says his purpose is “changing perceptions”  – as educators we can start with our youngest students with books like this.