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Where?

Where?

Where?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Jordan Collins

Phil Lesnie

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526382

‘Where are you from?’ they say.
What they mean is,
‘Why is your skin that colour?’
‘Why does your hair look like that?’

I am from the mountains,
The seas and the sky.
I am from children of millions of years,
A timeline of humanity.
I am from this planet
And all others.

Being  African-American-Greek-Australian with  dark skin and curly hair, the author wrote this poem in response to a lifetime of being asked questions like, ‘where are you from?’ in an attempt to show, that, ultimately, we are all from the same place … “the primate who decided to walk upon two legs for the first time” and all those who have followed through time and generations. 

Powerfully illustrated by another who has also experienced that constant questioning, this is a book to challenge the reader’s thinking to look beyond the immediate physical appearance that makes us unique and consider all that has gone before to make us the same.  It is an opportunity for more mature readers to step beyond the multitude of stories that focus on who they are as individuals and the importance of being true to oneself, and look at a bigger philosophical picture of humanity as a whole with a shared heritage and history.

 

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

9780062994547

“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

 9780063228658

“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

9780733341595

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. 

Little Nic’s Big World

Little Nic's Big World

Little Nic’s Big World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Nic’s Big World

Nic Naitanui

Fátima Anaya

Albert Street Books, 2021

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

9781761066061

At last, the day of the school fete has arrived and Little Nic is very excited because he has promised to make and donate his Fijian grandmother’s favourite cassava cake.  For this fete, with its theme of “the world comes to us” being chosen by the children. is a celebration of all the different cultures of the students themselves and everyone is excited to share in the games, foods, music and traditions of the various countries. 

But in the excitement of the traditional Welcome to Country, seeing his friends and joining in, Nic gets distracted and loses his backpack with its precious cake.  Will he find it in time to contribute it to the community feast?

Nic Naitanui’s name will be familiar to those young readers who also follow AFL, particularly the West Coast Eagles, and that alone will spark interest in this story for many.  But as we know, a famous name alone is not enough to carry a story so it is pleasing that this has a lot of substance to it as well.  Told in a rhyme that underlines the rhythm of our speech, it is a celebration of things familiar and not-so and many young readers will be thrilled to see that their cultural elements have been included as Nic and his friends enjoy the offerings of the fete, while introducing them to their classmates.  It opens up the opportunity for students to share their special talents and favourite things so that Nic’s school fete happens within their own classroom.  

Tiny speech bubbles offer explanations of language where needed and there is also a list of things for the reader to look for as they help Nic search for that elusive school bag. 

This is such a joyous celebration that the fun and excitement is almost palpable, and is a worthy follow up to Nic Nat’s first book,  Little Nic’s Big Day in which he faces the fears of starting school, huge enough in itself without also being a child of colour. The children find only wonder and opportunity to share and learn in the different activities, as they do in real life, showing that prejudice and racism are learned adult attitudes.

 

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

9781760895228

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

9780702263231

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.  

 

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Colin Hoston

Yujia Wang

HarperCollins, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780063002418

After losing someone, special, Fei Fei a bright young girl fueled with determination and a passion for science, builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess who may hold the answers  to her questions.  There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. 

Based on the Netflix original animated film, this picture books retells the story of Over the Moon. Based on a classic Chinese myth, it is a timeless tale of keeping the faith, keeping the love and embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.  Young readers will enjoy reliving Fei Fei’s adventures long after the screen image has faded with its simple, direct text and stunning illustrations, and perhaps encourage them to move on to the novelisation.. 

The Big Book of Festivals

The Big Book of Festivals

The Big Book of Festivals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Festivals

Marita Bullock & Joan-Maree Hargreaves

Liz Rowland

Lothian, 2021

56pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780734419972

One of the most effective ways to promote and support inclusivity in our schools is to acknowledge and celebrate the festivals that are important in the lives of our students.  Having various groups develop a display and gather a collection of books about their country and their beliefs to share with their peers really says to them that they are important and valued within the school community.

In this new publication as well as the usual celebrations like Christmas, Diwali Eid Ul-Fitr and the lunar New Year,  there are lesser known ones such as Anastenaria, Matarki the Whirling Dervishes festival of Turkey and the Bunya Dreaming festival of our indigenous people. There are also festivals associated with each of the seasons, so the library could be the most vibrant place all year round. 

Each celebration has its own double-page spread with easily accessible information and illustrations offering opportunities to become involved in crazy celebrations and holy holidays, from graveside picnics to epic dance-offs, tomato-throwing frenzies, crying-baby competitions and the biggest bathing ritual on the planet. 

This is an important book to add to the collection so that those who celebrate the various festivities can read about themselves while opening a world beyond the usual for others. 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326133

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.