Some Families Change

Some Families Change

Some Families Change











Some Families Change

Jess Galatola

Jenni Barrand

EK Books, 2024

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


For most children, their family is their safe haven and they expect it to be the same format/structure. arrangement that they know for ever and ever.  And, in the past, that was usually the case with perhaps the addition of a baby or the death of an elderly relative the only changes to their world. In the 50s, the term “nuclear family” was coined and it commonly consisted of two adults, a male and female, who were married, had 2.4children of their own making with the adult male being the patriarch. And sadly, for many, this remains the “norm” embedded in their social, cultural or religious value systems meaning that those who choose or have to live outside of that model can be ostracised if not condemned and the casualties are many.

Today’s lifestyles mean that this is very different from even the time when I was a child and to some kids, change can be confusing and challenging, and if the change is not a positive one, they can shoulder the responsibility and begin the “If only I…” tail-chasing blame game.  And so this book which covers scenarios including single-parent families, blended families, and the loss of a loved one, can be a reassuring guide for children experiencing such transitions using gentle verse and illustrations that clearly show a photo of any family in the class will be different to the photo of any other.  As Ms Molly said, so wisely in Heather has Two Mummies, “It doesn’t matter who makes up a family, the most important thing is that all the people in it love one another very much.”

The core Foundation Year unit of the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of the Australian Curriculum calls for children to know and understand “the people in their family, where they were born and raised, and how they are related to each other” and thus this book is an essential part of that understanding as they learn that not only are families different but also that theirs might change. 


Heather Has Two Mummies

Heather Has Two Mummies

Heather Has Two Mummies











Heather Has Two Mummies

Lesléa Newman

Laura Cornell

Walker Books, 2016

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


Heather’s favourite number is two – she has two arms, two legs, two pets and two lovely mummies, Mama Kate, a doctor, and Mama Jane, a carpenter, plus dog Midnight and cat Gingersnap.  But when Heather goes to school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy … and Heather doesn’t have a daddy! But then the class all draw portraits of their families, and not one single drawing is the same. Heather and her classmates realize – it doesn’t matter who makes up a family, the most important thing is that all the people in it love one another very much.

In the international bestseller, Lessons in Chemistry, which focuses on the attitudes towards women in the 1950s and early 60s, Teacher Mudford asks her Year 1 class to fill in a diagram of their family tree including a photo, but not only does she share what she learns about some of the diverse families of her students with other parents, but she persecutes those children who don’t have the stock-standard, mother-father-child/ren arrangement that was the only accepted model of the times.

Fast forward 30 years to the 1990s and the original version of Heather Has Two Mummies is published, despite many rejections from mainstream publishers because it was considered too controversial because attitudes had scarcely changed, and is challenged, banned, the subject of public debate, attacked by clergy and politicians alike. By the end of the decade it was the 9th most challenged book in US literary history.  

Now, another 30* years on, the self-published first editions have become collectibles, and reprints are common in school libraries because diverse family structures are mostly more acceptable and children have both the right and the need to read about themselves. While as recently as 2015 teachers in some US states faced dismissal for sharing such stories, a situation that has become even more dire in some US states since the extreme right-wing presidency of Donald Trump with books with any sort of reference to sexual diversity being pulled from shelves and banned in state-sponsored legislation, nevertheless this book has persisted and has not been out of print for 35 years, indicating that there is clearly a demand for these sorts of stories that address the tricky topics that children live daily, that cause both confusion and anxiety, and which have to be shared if we are to normalise anything that is not the norm. 

For those for whom such stories might be problematic because of the ethos of their schools, I invite you to read both the discussions that were generated in 2015 when I wrote the tricky topics hat for my 500 Hats blog and how it has been addressed in the Sample Collection Policy under Diversity and Inclusion. The mental health of our students is more prominent now than it has been in the past and much stems from feelings of being different, excluded, not belonging and so, IMO, we as educators have a responsibility to embrace diversity, to show that there is so much more that includes rather than divides. As the wise MS Molly in the story says, “each family is special, The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another.”

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep











Kevin the Sheep

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99


Shaun, Shauna, Sheryl and Shane are sheep – and are as predictable in their sheepish behaviour as the alliteration of their names.  Along with the rest of the flock, they are happy doing the same things over and over day after day in their fields of green grass and clover.

But Kevin is different.  To start with, he’s allergic to grass and would much prefer a bowl of soup (sprinkled with chives) and instead of subjecting himself to the regular shearing, he prefers to keep his locks long, and have painted purple hooves!  And if that’s not enough, he’s into drama and dance, is learning to knit (from a Ewe-Tube video), and is mastering kung fu, among other things. Sadly for Kevin, the other sheep don’t approve and ostracise him, make him feel like an outcast and he gets sadder and sadder.  Until one night…

There are many stories for young readers about being yourself, embracing the things that make you unique and standing up to those who would prefer you to be one of the flock, but few that I have read have been as LOL funny as this one, and as appealing.  Living as I do in sheep country, sheep behaviour is a common sight and both the author and the illustrator have captured that brilliantly. A paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep… So to have a Kevin to rock the flock is a masterpiece, particularly as his differences span all sorts of attributes from physical appearance to food allergies to sporting prowess to hobby choices… No matter how a little one in your realm stands out from the crowd, they will be able to relate to Kevin and draw strength from his determination to accept his differences (even though it takes some sleepless nights to understand that he has the inner strength to do so) so that they, too, can revel in who they are, what they look like and what they can do. 

Teachers’ notes include some pages to colour that could become the centrepiece of the reader’s own story or they might even like to use Kate Scott’s illustrations as a model to draw Kevin doing what they like to do most, then making up their own story to go with that. 

Definitely one for both the home and school library.


Grandad’s Pride

Grandad's Pride

Grandad’s Pride











Grandad’s Pride

Harry Woodgate

Andersen Press, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Milly and her family, including Gilbert the dog, are back for their annual summer holiday with Grandad, and while she is rummaging in the attic to build a pirate fort, Milly discovers a beautiful rainbow flag.  It sparks a discussion about how Grandad used to march in the Pride parades, celebrating the diversity of the community and sharing the message that regardless of who they love or their gender, everyone should be treated with equality and respect. 

When Milly suggests going to a parade in the old camper van, and Grandad tells her his partying days are over, she has an idea… and Pride comes to Grandad and the village!

Not only is this a joyous celebration of Pride and all that it means, it is also a down-to-earth explanation that young children can understand immediately, and many will delight in seeing children just like them portrayed in the illustrations as the villagers come together to make this a brilliant celebration.  Like its predecessor, while gender diversity is at its core, it is more about relationships and communities and connections regardless of differences like skin colour, beliefs or living arrangements.  After all, we are all humans striving to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.  

As Bright as a Rainbow

As Bright as a Rainbow

As Bright as a Rainbow











As Bright as a Rainbow

Romy Ash

Blue Jaryn

Working Title Press, 2024

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


When we think of the colour blue, do we all visualise the exact same shade or do we see hues like cornflower, ultramarine, azure, cerulean? Perhaps even turquoise like the ocean – but is the ocean just turquoise? Or can it be one of the myriad of iterations of green?

Just like there are so many ways to describe the core colours of the rainbow, then so are there many ways to express yourself as a boy or a girl and this book encourages young children to understand that there is no specific, set-in-concrete way to define one or the other.  

Gradually, we are moving away from the stereotype notion of “pink for girls and blue for boys” (so many ask for gender0neutral colours for baby items in the chop where I volunteer), although it was only 10 years ago when there was an enormous fuss in some places with the release of Jacob’s New Dress and people asked if girls can wear trousers, why can’t boys wear dresses? But while schoolboys wearing skirts in protest of school dress codes still get headlines around the world, and others roll their eyes and tut-tut if someone signs their email indicating their preferred pronouns, it is clear there is still a way to travel and this book for young readers not only raises awareness of the issue, particularly for those struggling with their identity, but does it in a way that is so simple to understand = an analogy that could be used to explore any sort of difference or diversity.

Regardless of the progress that has been made, gender diversity remains a struggle for those who are diverse, so perhaps this is a way to change thinking from the very beginning.  It is somewhat ground-breaking, would certainly be banned in some states of the US and perhaps in some schools here, but nevertheless it is an important contribution to the well0being of those who are different.  


Chloe’s Lunar New Year

Chloe's Lunar New Year

Chloe’s Lunar New Year











Chloe’s Lunar New Year

Lily LaMotte

Michelle Lee

HarperCollins. 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


It’s almost Lunar New Year, and Chloe can’t wait to celebrate! But first, Chloe and her family must prepare for the new year. They buy new shoes, lay out good-luck oranges in a bowl, decorate the red envelope, and make a crispy turnip cake. Everyone comes together to cook a fantastic feast, saving a plate for A-má, no longer with them, of course. Chloe enjoys the festive celebration and yummy food, but most of all, she loves spending time with her family.

As many of our students start to prepare for their most important annual celebration, just as with the traditions of Christmas there are core elements that all observe, but this story focuses on the traditional things that form part of the Taiwanese version of the celebration, particularly the reunion dinner. There are many dishes, each with a special significance for individual members of the family and it is this coming together and sharing this special time that flows through this story.

The upcoming year is the Year of the Dragon, and while this opens up all sorts of possibilities to investigate, perhaps this story will encourage an exploration of how each of our Asian neighbours celebrate, especially the different emphases on various elements and the food that is shared.   Students could share their stories, acknowledging their culture and customs and feeling that they are continuing those traditions by teaching others about them.  A search of SCIS shows very few picture books about this important celebration that are readily available in Australia, so maybe this is an opportunity to collect the students’ stories and create a new resource for the collection. 

Pink Santa




Pink Santa

Pink Santa











Pink Santa

Tanya Hennessy

Ben Whitehouse

Albert Street, 2023

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


‘Twas the night before Christmas and everything in Santa’s workshop was ready to go – work done, lists checked, biscuits baked, gifts wrapped… But then Santa remembers his suit is still in the dirty clothes hamper from when he wore it last year and it desperately needs a wash before he and the reindeer can go.

 Being helpful, Rudolph volunteers to do it but when he takes it out at the end of the cycle, it has turned PINK. Can Santa be Santa in a pink suit? 

With rollicking, rhyming text and hilarious illustrations, this original story touches on being who you are inside rather than what you look like on the outside, even venturing into stereotypes and preconceptions formed on the basis of appearance. Will the colour of Santa’s suit really affect the joy and delight of the children in the morning? Indeed, with Santa’s proposal to make the following Christmas even more radical, older readers might want to trace how the image has changed since the days of St Nicholas in the 3rd century being variously depicted in the long garb of a bishop and particularly the influence of the Haddon Sundblom images of the 1931 Coca Cola campaign.  

But whether it is used as a stepping stone to learn more about the traditions, the man or ourselves, or just for the sheer fun of it, this is one to keep in your collection.  It is thoroughly modern and will cheer up anyone, even The Grinch!


Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day

Emma Memma's Alphabet Day

Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day











Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day

Emma Memma

 Puffin, 2023

26pp., board book, RRP $A16.99


Behind the the curly red hair, pink shirt and orange dress of the main character is  Emma Watkins, once known as the “yellow Wiggle” but also a woman passionate about raising awareness  of Australia’s deaf community, who already has formal qualifications in Auslan and who is currently undertaking her PhD in “the affective, artistic integration of sign language, dance and film editing.” In consultation with artists who themselves are deaf, she is producing and releasing a range of formats that as well as the storybook will include, an ebook, audiobook and an Auslan video translation so that all young readers can be entertained through “movement, creativity, inclusiveness and friendship”.

In this new release Emma Memma takes a walk through her day teaching young readers how to sign each letter of the alphabet relating the letter to something she sees or does. 

There is a lot of research relating to learning a second language in early childhood, not just because it is easier for the child but because of associated benefits so learning Auslan alongside learning the English alphabet makes a lot of sense.  By using a recognised character, everyday situations and multi-modal delivery, Emma Watkins is doing much to normalise this way of communicating so that all children can be included.  

Say My Name

Say My Name

Say My Name











Say My Name

Joanna Ho

Khoa Le

HarperCollins, 2023

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


There is an old riddle that goes, “What is yours alone but used by everyone else? Your name”. 

There is so much embodied in a person’s name that it can be (and was) one of the most popular units of work that I did with my students at the beginning of each year.  They loved to discover why they had the name they did, its history and significance within their family, its meaning, its cultural connections  and how it shaped their own identity. They enjoyed having conversations with family members about why it was chosen, seeing their birth announcements and sharing their stories.  But most importantly, they wanted to teach us how to say it properly because that demonstrated that we respected them, cared enough about them,  to make the effort to learn it and use it and acknowledge that they were not invisible.  Even though some chose to use a more common “European” name, there was always a spark in their eyes if their birth name was used and pronounced correctly.

In this new book by Joanna Ho, whose stories  Eyes the Kiss in the Corners and Eyes that Speak to the Stars embody and celebrate diversity in a perception-changing way, six children of Chinese, Tongan, Persian, Diné, Nahuatl, or Akan descent share the meaning and history of their names. Names that are “full of tones and rhythms, melodies and harmonies, chords and cadences, Each syllable, each sound, is a building block in an architecture constructed over oceans and across generations.” (And there is a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to help you out.)

Accompanied by stunning illustrations that are rich in the symbolism of the culture of the child, the lyrical text shows us how important it is to each child, indeed each person on the planet, to say their name correctly because “My name is a window to my world, a door to my destiny, a key to unlock the dreams of my ancestors, the hopes of my family and the divine that lives within. Anything less is not me.”

Sadly for some children having someone say their name and smile is the only positive acknowledgement that they will get in a day and it is that affirmation that they exist that is enough to bring them back to school for one more day.  If ever there was a book that demonstrates just how important your name is and how we each cling to its uniqueness, this is it.  With a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to serve as a model for each child’s story, here, embedded in this literary treasure,  is your program for the first few weeks of Term 1 2024 sorted…















Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog, 2023

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


Listen, and you will hear the voices of Ancestors.

At a time when there is such an important focus on Australia’s First Nations peoples,  this is a timely release to help students better understand the need for the referendum, where it has come from and what it is based on. 

Accompanied by the stunning artworks of Yorta Yorta man Jandamarra Cadd, each of which has its own story and significance, this is a book that has the minim um of text but the maximum of meaning.  While our students may have some knowledge and awareness of the importance of Country to indigenous people, this book explains the weight behind the acknowledgement of the phrase “elders, past, present and emerging” that is expressed in any Welcome to Country address.

This is a book that should not be shared without also using the teachers’ notes because they provide critical background information…

The Uluru Statement from the Heart
Key elements from the Uluru Statement from the Heart underpins the text … The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to all Australians to walk together towards a better future. It provides a roadmap with three key pillars – Voice, Treaty and Truth.

It explains why and what The Voice is, why it requires a referendum to be put in place, and what it will achieve if the referendum is successful.

But beyond that, it also has a strong element of text-to-self as readers are encouraged to consider the hopes and dreams of the children on the front cover and relate that to their own, while also having them investigate the Country they live on, its indigenous languages and stories. 

 If the referendum is unsuccessful, it is unlikely to be the end of the narrative of the requests and rights of our First Nations people to be recognised, so this book, in conjunction with We are Australians should form the core of a modern indigenous library collection as well as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures strand of the curriculum.

Together, they are a powerful and essential resource on which to base positive change for the future.