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Emma Memma: How Are You?

Emma Memma: How Are You?

Emma Memma: How Are You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Memma: How Are You?

Emma Memma

Puffin,   2023

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

9781761341083

Emma Memma is back to delight young readers with a new book in which she introduces her friends, at the same time teaching those young readers how to use Auslan to sign “How are you?”

Emma Memma waves hello
Can you wave a hello too?
Smiling, she signs and asks
‘How are you?’

Behind the the curly red hair, pink shirt and orange dress 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”.

Aimed at the early childhood audience, this is a perfect way to help them understand that kids who have different needs are just like them, like the same things they do, and are easily included if we are just prepared to make a bit of extra effort. 

Our Mob

Our Mob

Our Mob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Mob

Jacinta Daniher & Taylor Hampton

Seantelle Walsh

Ford Street, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.95

9781922696236

If you look at the AIATSIS  indigenous map of Australia it is obvious that the Australia of our First Nations people ” is made up of many different and distinct groups, each with their own culture, customs, language and laws” and thus it is clearly rich in diversity and difference.  Or is it?

In this beautifully illustrated book for younger readers, each double-page spread is devoted to a proud Aboriginal kid from a number of countries, each sharing the word for ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ in their own language as well as something that they really like to do.  But what struck me was that although the words might be different, the sentiments were the same – the connection to and concern for Country, the sharing of favourite activities with family members and the similarities among the activities themselves.  From watching the stars at night to collecting the treasures of the sea; from the collection of food and preparing and sharing it – all are based on meeting everyday human needs and all offer the connection with family and friends that humans need.  The words might be different, the stories that accompany them varied, and the actual activity unique to the circumstance but there is a common thread of childhood joys and human needs that weaves everyone together, regardless of their origin and ancestry.

So while the richness and diversity of indigenous culture is celebrated, IMO its power lies in the realisation of the  similarities that connect us all regardless of race. religion, location, timeframe or any of the other constraints that might appear to be impediments .  Targeted at those “aged 3 to 8 years”, it could form part of a bigger investigation into identifying what are our basic needs as humans –  to love and belong, to be powerful, to be free, to have fun and to survive – and then compare and contrast these to how they are met by the children in the class and the children in the book.  The teachers’ notes offer some ideas for exploring  this, such as Lylah’s aunty making bush bread, but there is scope in every page for students to connect the text to themselves and the world. For example, Eli is a proud Aboriginal kid from Gamilaraay Country and he likes to look at the stars with his uncle and hear the stories associated with them, such as the emu in the sky.  But other students might see the Southern Cross or other star patterns of the southern sky, while some may have been more familiar with the northern hemisphere, opening up scope for investigations on many levels.

The potential of this book to permeate so much of the curriculum beyond its initial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures makes it an essential part the collection.

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Catherine Bauer

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2018

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

9781925675528

Jimmy Watson and Johnno Hogan were the best of friends – swimming-in-waterholes, camping-under-the-stars, sharing-water-bottles kind of friends. Throughout their lives they did everything together and even when their paths diverged because there were different rules and expectations for “white” and indigenous children then, they still came back together as close as they had ever been.  And then one day they went into town for supplies, heeded the call for men to fight in a war far away and enlisted…

This could be the story of any number of friendships of the early 20th century when ‘white’ and indigenous kids on farms formed friendships that were blind to colour, cultural differences or any other racial prejudices and its strong focus on that friendship is its positive. While the treatment of indigenous soldiers during the conflicts that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War in 1899 could have been its focus, its power lies in that spotlight on the friendship, the shared adventures and stories, the fears and hopes that are common regardless of skin colour. Teaching notes are available. 

Within the Australian Curriculum, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority is designed for all students to engage in reconciliation, respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures, and so this book offers the opportunity to help our younger students understand that despite rules against their enrolment (those not of “substantially European origin” were excluded from enlisting by the Defence Act 1903) and not being recognised as citizens until 1967,their neglect and exclusion on their return, indigenous people have fought for Australia in many overseas conflicts and their contribution has been vital.  Now, each year following the Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there is a special ceremony acknowledging their service. 

Further information, and some of the stories of the estimated 1000 who managed to enlist can be found on the Australian War Memorial site and an internet search will provide links to further valuable resources.


 

Originally published April 23, 2020

Updated March 2023

How Do You Say I Love You?

How Do You Say I Love You?

How Do You Say I Love You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Say I Love You?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342172

In every country around the globe,
we all have ways to show
the people who mean the most to us
what they ought to know.

And whether through actions or words, the three most important we can utter are “I love you” and every language has its own phrase to express the emotion.

In this companion to What Do You Call Your Grandpa?What Do You Call Your Grandma? and What Do You Do to Celebrate?  young readers journey around the world from dawn to dusk, having meals and school days in a variety of places and learn that wherever they are, the bonds are strong and each country has its own way of saying “I love you.’ Whether it’s Sami saying munayki in Quechua, one of the official languages of Peru and Bolivia or Tala in the Philippines saying mahal kita in Tagalog, or Henry signing in Auslan, it’s obvious that regardless of the words, it is the love that is shared that is the main thing. 

While there are clues to the locations in the illustrations, there is also a glossary that explains where the children are, the language they are speaking and where they are living.  It just screams to be added to by the children in your care as they add their own special words in their language. No wonder it’s a CBCA Notable Book for 2023. 

Aroha ahau ki a koe

Hello, Emma Memma

Hello, Emma Memma

Hello, Emma Memma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Emma Memma

Emma Memma

Kerrie Hess

Puffin, 2023

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

9781761341045

On a gum tree, amidst a cloud of orange and pink blossoms and butterflies hangs an orange and pink cocoon which gradually grows and changes to reveal its secret – the emergence of Emma Memma, a new character in children’s books for our youngest readers in what is the first of “an expansive publishing program encompassing story, novelty and activity formats.”.

Welcome to a place
With a gum blossom tree
And pink painted leaves
What else can you see?

A friend, a buddy
A pal to play games
She is ready to join in
Emma Memma is her name.

But to many, she is not so new because before the curly red hair, pink shirt and orange dress, Emma Memma was dressed in a familiar yellow skivvy performing with The Wiggles from 2013 to 2018. And behind the entertainer’s face is Emma Watkins, 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.”  So, through a range of projects, young readers can expect to be entertained through “movement, creativity, inclusiveness and friendship” that embrace those with special needs because as well as the storybooks, there will be simultaneous releases of an ebook, audiobook and an Auslan video translation, accessed through her website where there is already much to entertain.

This not the first picture book released by a media personality whose name is already familiar but it would among but a handful that reaches out beyond the pages of print so that a much broader audience can enjoy what their peers are reading. 

 

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ying-Hwa Hu

UQP, 2023

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

9780702266072

It’s ten blocks through Chinatown to the Big Wok, Mia and Uncle Eddie’s favourite restaurant. On the walk there, Mia counts all the interesting things she sees – one giant panda, two lion statues, three toy turtles…. But will she remember how many dumplings to get for Grandmama?

This is a joyful journey that not only has the anticipation of some delicious food at its destination, but also highlights all the things that we can see if we take the time to look and don’t whizz past in the car.  Added to the symbols and words for counting to 10 in Mandarin is the little kitten who joins them as they step out of the house -and gets his reward!  Little ones will enjoy finding him in each of the stunning illustrations. Not only will there be many who will delight in seeing themselves in this story, but the author has included notes about each of the things that Mia and Uncle Eddie see and their place in Chinese culture,so all readers will learn something.

There is also a chart that shows the Mandarin symbols, words and their pronunciation for one to ten which could inspire creating similar charts for all the other languages spoken in the classroom, perhaps even an investigation into the story of numbers, in itself a fascinating study that links research and mathematics. For those just beginning to learn to count, go on a maths walk around the school or neighbourhood and take photos of the groups of items discovered to create your own “ten blocks” story. Add captions that emphasise the numbers, numerals and words. 

Julian at the Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian at the Wedding

Jessica Love

Walker, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397482

Julian and his grandmother are attending a wedding. In fact, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to muddy puddles!  So when Mariola’s dress gets ruined, Julian has the perfect solution. But how will the grown-ups respond?

We first met Julian and his flamboyant grandmother in Julian is a Mermaid, a brilliant but controversial interpretation of being true to oneself. This sequel is just as good as it subtly shifts the narrative of convention so that the wedding being that of two brides is as normal as any other is almost unremarkable. After all, a wedding is just “a party for love.”

However, its impact may be more profound. 

The story behind Charles M. Schultz introducing a black character into the Peanuts comic strip has been well-documented and there are stories galore of how this impacted young black readers in the US, particularly.  Suddenly they were seeing themselves in literature in a new and positive portrayal. And so it may well be with children like Julian – those who don’t live in a conventional family; those for who two mums and two dads is the norm; those who prefer to be mermaids than superheroes. Here they are in a story that treats their situation as the norm and moves on to the real issues – ruining your bridesmaid’s dress at a wedding where, traditionally, you’re supposed to remain pristine!

Like its predecessor, most of this story is told in the stunning illustrations with the minimum of text, and they hold so many riches that the book demands to be explored again and again. Jessica Love won the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Klaus Flugge Prize for Julian is a Mermaid, her debut picture book and it is quite probable that this will be among the prizewinners too. 

Originally published November 3 2020

Updated February 2023

Julian Is a Mermaid

 

 

 

 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love

Walker, 2018

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

9781406380637

Going home on the subway with his grandmother, Julian spots three glamorous women dressed as mermaids and is immediately transported to his imaginary world living under the sea as a mermaid, at one with the creatures there.  He is pulled from his reverie as the train reaches his stop but the memory lingers and once he is home and his grandmother goes to have a bath, he uses the things in her apartment to transform himself – plant fronds for flowing, hair, lacy curtains for a splendid tail, and some lipstick. But then his grandmother comes out – will she scold him for becoming something so feminine or will she embrace his imagination and diversity?

In what is almost a wordless picture book, the reader has to immerse themselves in the pictures to really engage with this story that challenges the stereotype of being a mermaid being a girl’s dream and celebrates diversity, being true to yourself and accepted for that. 

One can imagine the eyebrows that would be raised on an Australian metro train should three glamorous women dressed as mermaids get on, each confident in themselves and their dress (reminiscent of the costumes of Priscilla, Queen of the desert)- but this is New York and instead of derision they encourage a young child to dream and then make that dream a reality. 

His grandmother, somewhat overweight but nevertheless flamboyant in her own style, is clearly very comfortable in her own skin, not driven by the expectations of others and definitely not the stereotype grey-hair-and-knitting that is so commonly portrayed in stories, and so it is not surprising that she embraces Julian’s desires and takes him to a place where he can truly belong. 

Because so much of the story is told in the illustrations, they have to be superb and they are. From the stunning undersea creature presenting the mermaid Julian with a coral necklace to the characters that Julian and his grandmother pass in the street, indeed even the women in the pool in the endpages, each with is imbued with personality and confidence and pride in who they are. 

This is a book that demands close reading and reflection so its riches are revealed; it is one that will raise questions and demand explanations; but to those who are like Julian and dream of things that are beyond the traditional stereotype bounded by gender, it will bring comfort and maybe confidence so they too can be themselves. 

Originally published June 28 2018

Updated February 2023

Introducing Teddy: A story about being yourself

 

 

 

 

Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Teddy: A story about being yourself

Jessica Walton

Dougal Macpherson

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408877630

 

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends.  They do everything together and go everywhere together.  Riding the bike, planting the veges, eating sandwiches in the treehouse, and having tea parties indoors when it is raining. 

But one day Thomas seems incredibly sad and nothing Errol can do can cheer him up – not even playing on the swings in the park. 

“What’s wrong, Thomas. Talk to me,” said Errol.

“If I tell you,” said Thomas, you might not be my friend any more.”

“I will always be your friend, Thomas.”

Thomas the teddy took a deep breath.  “I need to be myself, Errol.  In my heart. I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy.  I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.”

Does this revelation affect Errol’s friendship with his teddy?  Not at all. It’s their friendship that matters.  Neither does it bother their friend Ava, who scoots by and joins in the fun of the park.  And at the very next tea party Errol and Tilly have a lovely time with Ava and her robot.

The publisher’s blurb for this book says it is “a ground-breaking children’s book about gender identity and friendship’ and indeed it is for if you have ever tried to find stories about this topic for young people, you will know they are few and far between.  In fact, anything that touches on gender diversity is scarce and yet it is an area that needs and deserves attention.  Written in response to a personal need, its Australian author has really highlighted that gender orientation should not be that which defines us, and for kids, it isn’t.  Being a friend is much more important.  Having witnessed the transition of a girl to a boy first-hand, what was very evident was that the other students just accepted the child for who he was.  There was no fuss or bother, teasing or bullying.  Perhaps this was because of the way both the parents and the school handled the matter, but it was very apparent, that as with any form of discrimination, it is the adult generation that finds things hard to accept and imposes sanctions.  Just like Errol, the existing friendship was stronger and more important than anything else.

Through a wonderful marriage of text and illustrations, Walton and Macpherson have explored this concept perfectly – the repositioning of the bow tie to hair ribbon is just exquisite.

However, while I believe that this book and others like it have a place in the school library collection, there are those who are likely to object and therefore it would be prudent to make sure that your Collection Policy includes a statement such as “no resource in the general collection will be shelved, labelled or displayed in a way that discriminates or marginalises a user on the grounds of ability, culture, ethnicity, religion sexual orientation, or any other consideration”.  It would also be prudent to talk to your exec so they are in the loop as they are usually the go-to people when parents complain.  (For more information on this go to The Tricky Topics Hat )

“Inclusivity” and “diversity” have to be more than just buzzwords in the current educational jargon, and we need more writers like Jessica Walton to enable us to ensure that all our students are able to read about themselves in the resources we offer them.

Originally published June 1 2016

Updated February 2023

Perfectly Norman

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Norman

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408880982

Norman had always been perfectly normal. That was until the day he grew a pair of wings! 

He had imagined growing taller or even growing a beard like his dad, but not growing  a pair of wings!

Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly – and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think? Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat.

But hiding the thing that makes you different can prove tricky and upsetting. The coat became a burden, even an embarrassment and Norman began to resent the wings until he realised it was the coat making him unhappy, not the wings. After all, no-one else has wings, so why him? Can he find the courage to discard the coat? What does he discover when he does?

In this poignant story about being different, Percival has set the text against striking backgrounds of various shades of grey depicting normal and dull while giving Norman bright colour and light so that his feelings of being unique are highlighted physically as well as emotionally. He has also chosen to depict a diversity of characters, each unique in their own way and each of whom accept Norman as normal, so really, what does “normal’ mean? What do Norman’s wings represent – could it be he has come to terms with his gender identity and regardless of the coat, he can now use the wings to be true to himself?  

 For a wonderful part of their lives, children don’t see difference and they just love who they are but then awareness starts to develop and they start to see themselves with new and often unkind eyes.  They want nothing more than to be the same as their peers, to not stand out, to be normal and anything that makes them unique, whether it is skin colour, wearing spectacles, being an only child or growing a set of wings, becomes a burden that they would rather not carry. But the freedom when the coat is shed… 

Accepting and celebrating who we are and what we are, especially those things that make us special and unique is so important for our mental health and at last, we are starting to understand that the self-talk and messages we give ourselves as we interpret our interactions and experiences as a child can have an incredible impact on the well-being of our older selves. The more children can encounter books like Perfectly Norman and discuss them so they understand that there is no ‘normal’ or “perfect” the healthier they will be.  It is our responsibility as teacher librarians, teachers and other significant adults in their lives to make sure they meet lots of Normans and not only grow to love their own wings but to use them to fly!

Originally published October 1 2017

Updated February 2023