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Over the Moon

Over the Moon

Over the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Moon

Wendy Wan-Long Shang

HarperCollins, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780063002432

 

Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl named Fei Fei builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. 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 illustrated novel retells the story of Over the Moon and includes original concept art!

Directed by animation legend Glen Keane, and produced by Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, Over the Moon is an exhilarating musical adventure about moving forward, embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.

Although I am unfamiliar with the screen version of this story, this novelisation offers an engaging tale of a modern young miss who likes both sides of the story – the one her mother used to tell her of the fantasy and the scientific explanation of the same phenomenon given by her father.  Does the moon change its shape because the Space Dog bites chunks from it until the Moon Goddess Chang-e makes him spit it out, or is there another explanation? There is a delicate balance that keeps the reader entertained as Fei Fei fulfils her quest, at the same time as offering the reader another, deeper layer to accompany the screen version.  

Just as very young readers like to connect with the print versions of their favourite screen characters, so too those who are older and independent.  The subtle nuances of the written word add substance to what might be lost in the whizbangery of the animation. 

This will be a great addition to those who have a focus on screen-print matches this year while offering a quality read to take our girls to new worlds. It also opens up the world of traditional tales that have carried the stories of generations over generations.

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

9781733121255

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.. 

Little Lon

Little Lon

Little Lon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lon

Andrew Kelly

Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

Wild Dog, 2020

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

9781742035970

In the heart of Melbourne is a narrow street running between Spring Street and Spencer Street known as Little Lonsdale Street. In an area originally built from gold rush money, “Little Lon” was a dark, dingy place hidden from the elegant homes, shops and hotels of the main streets surrounding it, but it was home to many, and even if they were poor and not so flash as their nearby neighbours, immigrants newly arrived and those down on their luck, it was a thriving, energetic place, a melting pot of cultures and customs and colours that made it unique.

In this exquisitely illustrated book, the reader is taken back in time to that time when families created lives very different to today’s, where the only place to play was on the street so kids made friends with everyone; where Saturday night was a dip at the local pool to wash away the weekday grime; and on Sundays you dropped your roast and veg into a shop on the way to church and it was cooked ready for you to collect on your way home!

Drawing on the memories of one of the children, Marie Hayes, Andrew Kelly shows the 2020 reader a different life in a different time where everyone was accepted for her they were and valued for what they added to the community.  

Children’s lives have not always been rush, rush, rush, screen-driven hives of activity and this will be a valuable addition to that collection that takes them back in time to discover how things have changed and to consider whether it is a time to envy. Extensive teachers’ notes are available.

Small Town

Small Town

Small Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Town

Phillip Gwynne

Tony Flowers

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760893484

Milly loves her little town – in fact it is so nice, they named it twice.  But sadly, others don’t find it as attractive and fulfilling and families keep moving to the city.  Within just a short time her basketball team comprising the four Chloes and Milly shrinks as both Chloe P and Chloe B leave – they might even have to let the boys play!

But then Milly learns about the refugees who have had to leave their own countries and who have nothing – and she has an idea.  Can one letter and a video made by Granny Mac save the town?

This is a unique, charming story about the resourcefulness and resilience of a young girl who sees an opportunity and acts on it.  Echoing the plight of many little towns in this vast country as the appeal and perceived opportunities of the cities beckon, Gong Gong could almost be renamed Anytown, Australia and its scenery, so artfully depicted by Tony Flowers will be recognisable everywhere. But not every town has a Milly who really just wants more players for the basketball team but starts a change that will turn empty houses into homes once more and vacant shopfronts into hubs of employment and breathe new life into a community looking for a focus.

With the story echoing those of many places such as Nhill in Victoria, but making a child the protagonist, Phillip Gwynne has put a national issue into the realm of children’s understanding perhaps sparking the imagination of some other child looking to bolster their sports team.  

Compelling reading that may start something, particularly as we emerge from lockdown and look for alternatives to crowded city life.

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

9781783449712

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

9781925381795

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

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Caveman Next Door

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594850

Penny’s street and home were just like any others until a caveman moved into an empty lot next door.  A caveman who cooked his meals outside, didn’t have a TV, didn’t wear socks and whose furniture (what there was of it) was made of sticks and stones. And he didn’t speak English – all he could do was grunt.

One day after school, Penny decided to show him around the neighbourhood – the library, the bus, the park, a restaurant… But wherever they went, and no matter how hard he tried, Ogg didn’t know what to do or how to act and they were shown the door of every place. Until Penny took him to her school…

It’s hard enough fitting into a new neighbourhood when you speak the language and have mastered the social niceties, but to do so without either of these like Ogg, must be overwhelming and daunting.  And yet, with our multicultural and global perspective that welcomes people from all over the world, this must be a common experience for many.  While the children are able to go to school, make friends, learn the language and the expectations, parents, particularly mums, are left at home isolated, mixing only with others who share their lifestyle and so a vicious cycle of exclusion and racism begins.  While Ogg’s attempts to do the right thing are funny, there is an underlying pathos at his awkwardness and also a sadness at the actions of those who object to his actions.  Only at school does he find compassion.  

Using a caveman analogy to bring awareness to the issues of being different is clever because not only does it highlight just how hard it can be, no one can criticise the author for being insensitive towards one group or another.  It certainly opens up the opportunities for discussions about how we respond to newcomers and identifying those things peculiar to us that they might have difficulty adjusting to as well as putting the students in Ogg’s shoes.  With space travel on the horizon, what if they went to Mars to live and found there were indeed Martians…?

While the theme of being different, fitting in and accepting others is common in children’s picture book, even though it might be expressed in a unique way each time, the more often we expose our students to these sorts of stories and talk about them, provoke their thinking and even develop strategies to embrace all, then the better and stronger the communities we build will be.  Strong, united communities are the key to a peaceful, harmonious future if we are to move beyond the current, nationalistic “our best interests” philosophy and look at what is good for humanity as a whole.

Colouroos

Colouroos

Colouroos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colouroos

Anna McGregor

Lothian Children’s, 2019

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

9780734418821

In the Red Centre of Australia live the red kangaroos; in the Blue Mountains live the blue kangaroos; and on the Gold Coast live the yellow kangaroos.  When the drought drives each group from their traditional homes and they go in search of water and end up gathered around the same waterhole, they look at each other and think they are strange. But they all enjoy the cool water, are afraid of dingoes, leap on their long legs and eat the juicy grass and when, at night. “the colour left to dance in the sky above”, they all looked the same.  And strange things began to happen…

On the surface this is a delightful Australian story for our youngest readers about the mixing of colours to create new ones, and it does this very effectively, although the adult sharing it might have to explain how joeys arrive. Full of colour, rhythm and repetitive text it engages and perhaps inspires the young child to do some experimenting with their own paints and ask What happens when…? It could give rise to a host of science and art activities about colour and light.

But a deeper look could also lead the older reader into considering how humans also mix and match, mingle and marry and give birth to the continuing story of multiculturalism and diversity that makes each community so special. Not just colours interacting but also cultures, foods, sports …

If there is one book to put on your to-buy list in preparation for the next Harmony Day, this is it. The best picture books span the age groups seamlessly and this debut by this author/illustrator has nailed it.