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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. 

 

 

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.