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Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Rebecca Schiller

Sophie Beer

Walker Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397024

In the USA school students are walking out of school to protest the lack of gun control laws; in Australia, they walked out of school in 2021 to protest the lack of action on climate change… The names of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists are as well-known to them as those of their favourite singers and movie stars as the mantle of protest moves from its traditional university setting to the classroom.  

But who are they inspired by? On whose shoulders do they stand? 

Defining an activist as one who uses their knowledge, skills and energy to make the world a better place by protecting human rights, ending prejudice and inequality and protecting the planet from harmful human activities so all its creatures are safe, this book introduces young readers to 20 people who have made a significant contribution to changing the world – some names familiar, others not-so – including Sonita Alizdeh; Rachel Carson; Favio Chavez; Mahatma Gandhi; Jane Goodall; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr; Nelson Mandela; Wangari Maathai; Aditya Mukarji; Emmeline Pankhurst; Autumn Peltier; Boyan Slat; Gareth Thomas; Harriet Tubman; William Wilberforce; Ai Weiwei Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as well as both Yousafzai and Thunberg.

Each person has a double-page spread that includes an outline of what they have achieved, the core motivation for their actions, the particular powers that they employed, as well as a significant quote to inspire the readers to continue their work.  There is also an activity suggested so that this can be done so the reader begins to realise that no one is too small to make a difference. For example, they are encouraged to build their public speaking powers so when they have something important to say they can speak out with confidence as Mahatma Gandhi did, or perhaps create something that will solve a problem as Boyan Slat did when he was confronted with an ocean of plastic rather than marine creatures on his first scuba diving trip.

Conservative, right-wing, middle-aged men in suits (and those who follow them) condemned those children who left their classrooms to protest – they should have stayed there to study and learn –  yet it could be strongly argued that those same children were actually putting their learning into practice, determined to make the world a better place for themselves and others, because “there is more to life than increasing its speed” as Gandhi said.  By introducing our students to those who have gone before, and those who are already forging a new path, through books such as this,  Children Who Changed the World , and others, perhaps we can plant the seeds that will grow the future.  Encourage each to “dream with their eyes open.” 

 

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460760208

When Ming Qong put up her hand in Mr Boors’ history class and asked him why they only ever learned about men in history, never girls, she had no idea the chain of events that she was about to set off.

Suddenly the class was silent and still, as though frozen in the moment, except for a strange, almost ethereal woman dressed in purple sitting in the window sill -someone Ming feels she knows but doesn’t.  The woman introduces herself as Herstory, the sister of History, a woman passionate about the part women have played alongside men as the centuries have rolled past and as frustrated as Ming that those stories have not been told because “men wrote the history books and they mostly wrote them to please kings or generals or male politicians.” Even though the women’s stories are there in letters, diaries and even old newspapers waiting to be discovered, the past was always viewed through a male lens. and then she offers Ming a way to travel back to the past for just 42 days, to see it for herself (even though it wouldn’t always be pleasant, pretty or comfortable) and be part of it although she, herself, would not be seen or heard and she couldn’t change anything that happened.

Ming is eager to accept, to be a girl who changed the world, and suddenly she is Flo Watson and she has what she wished for  It’s 1898, she’s scratching a living alongside her mother on a farm in the middle of nowhere and a severe drought, anxiously awaiting the return of her father with his drunken, violent temper and handy fists.  But that life changes when Ma dies of a snakebite and she finds herself living with wealthy Aunt McTavish in Sydney who believes in women having the vote, financial and legal independence, racial equality and universal education for children and who puts her time, money and energy where her mouth is. 

Ming, as Flo, sees, hears and engages in much as she works by her aunt’s side as they work with Louisa Lawson (mother of Henry whose later writings would be one of the windows to this world) and the Suffragist Society seeking signatures on a petition that will eventually see the entire continent united, yet it is something apparently insignificant that is actually the world changer…

Those familiar with Jackie French’s meticulously researched historical fiction know that she has been telling herstory in her stories such as The Matilda Saga for years, but this new series The Girls Who Changed the World focuses particularly on the stories of girls of the readers’ age.  (And, in fact, the final pages leave Ming and Tuan on a cliffhanger in the battlefields of World War I. )

However, the significance of this particular story at this particular time cannot go unnoticed given the results of the recent federal election and other recent events. For while Ming believes that what happened in the past explains the present, and we know that Australia became a federation in 1901 those original divisions, parochialism and desire for autonomy quickly became apparent during the response to the COVID 19 pandemic; and while women did, indeed, get the vote, the wave of female voters voting for women candidates in the federal election shows that there is still much about women’s lives and status that needs to be addressed and changed.

While the groundwork was laid by the likes of Louisa Lawson and Aunt McTavish, who were those who carried it forward, who continue to do so and who might be dreaming with their eyes open to take it even further?  Seems to me that there might be scope for each of our students to investigate and write a story to add to this one…

Women Who Led the Way

The Women Who Led the Way

Women Who Led the Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Led the Way

Mick Manning

Brita Granstrom

Otter-Barry Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781913074432

“From Aud the Deep-Minded, an early voyager to Iceland, and Sacagawea who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition across the USA, to Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest, this book shows the incredible courage, determination and power of women explorers over the last 1200 years. These women have led the way exploring lands, oceans, mountains, skies and space, but have also made pioneering discoveries in the fields of science, nature, archaeology, ecology and more. The lives of these women, told as personal stories, are an inspiration to us all.”

As I looked back over the increasing number of reviews for books that showcase women who have changed the world in some way, none of them have focused on female explorers breaking through that traditionally male domain peppered with names like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Abel Tasman, James Cook, Robert Falcon Scott and Edmund Hillary. (Even the Australian Museum’s Trailblazer collection is predominantly men.)

In fact, when I looked through the contents page, there were only three names of more than 30 that were familiar, yet here are the stories of women who broke new ground in so many areas including being the first to cycle round the world, the first black woman into space,  the first to look into space and discover eight comets…  One wonders why they are not household names like their male counterparts.

However, apart from a brief mention of Nancy Bird Walton, there were no Australian names suggesting that perhaps there have been so many women to choose from that Australia’s heroes were overshadowed.  Where are Kay Cottee, Jessica Watson, Emily Creaghe, Lady Jane Franklin, Jade Hameister, Robyn Davidson,.. even my own mum, Dorothy Braxton, the first female journalist to travel to Antarctica and the first female to set foot on some of its hallowed places in 1968 (although, to be fair, she was a Kiwi through and through)?

Dorothy Braxton, Scott's Cross. Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton, Scott’s Memorial. Antarctica, 1968

So, as well as learning about these trailblazers, the book needs an Australian companion so we can set students the challenge of not only researching someone suitable and retelling their story in the same format as the book – brief personal accounts and which include an inspirational quote – but also pitching for their contribution to be included. Obviously, such a book can only have limited entries so students would have to argue why the contribution of their selection changed the world while the rest of the class would take on the role of the editor choosing.

Alternatively, it could be ties to this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Dreaming With Eyes Open and students could write about why, in the future, they would be included in such a collection.  What will be their legacy? 

Books like this, apart from always introducing the reader to new heroes, open up so many more possibilities that can make each of us an explorer in our own way.  

 

Seal Child

Seal Child

Seal Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seal Child

Robert Vescio

Anna Pignataro

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326294

Life was both predictable and peaceful on the island and the little girl played happily, safely on the sand as all around her life went on.  But then, the storm hit. And there was nothing and nobody left – except for an abandoned boat and a lost baby seal.  Together they huddled in the boat sailing over the ocean with its perils lurking, giving and seeking comfort and confidence from each other as they sought sanctuary.  But when the pup’s mother eventually finds it, the little girl is left alone once more… will her story have a happy ending too?

Superbly illustrated by Anna Pignataro who captures the many moods of the ocean in an amazing mix of watercolour hues, moods which reflect those of the little girl as she moves through fear, comfort, hope, resignation, loneliness, anticipation and a host of other emotions as the days drift by, there is nevertheless an underlying sense that there will be that happy ending as the  image of the polka dot cloth from the beach illustration appears as a blanket, a scarf and a sail like a symbol of hope and a connection between then and the future.   She describes the processes involved in her illustrations here.

Nearly all the reviews I discovered for this book just offered the publisher’s blurb, accepting the recommendation for “3-6 years” at face value, but anyone who is familiar with Vescio’s writing knows that this is more than a story about a little girl and a seal pup finding solace in each other while lost at sea – the storm in the child’s life could be a real wind-and-rain, lightning-and-thunder storm, but it could also be any number of events that disrupt the routine of what our children expect – fire, floods, pandemic, death, divorce; the seal could be a favourite toy, a pet, an imaginary friend… And while there is an underlying message for the child to ride the waves to a safe haven, and that fear and uncertainty are a natural part of the voyage,  and it’s OK to seek comfort wherever we may find it, there is also a message to parents to be patient while the child navigates the trip and to have faith that they will emerge into their arms safely again.

So, as usual, much to think about and consider, and definitely for a broader audience than our youngest readers.

 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow the Koala

Remy Lai

A&U Children’s, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761065453

It is time for Rainbow the Koala to become more independent and so, after a year of being nurtured and comforted and provided for, he has to say goodbye to his mother and venture off on his own- find a new tree, seek his own food and generally be the adult he was destined to be.  But it’s not easy – for starters,  it’s not just a matter of climbing the nearest tree and calling it his.  It has to be the right species and unoccupied and with the way land is being cleared for humans and the drying landscape making them less nutritious,  there are not so many of the just-rights available.  Waterholes made by humans can be treacherous, dogs are not always the koala’s best friend and the smell of smoke on the air is a signal for alarm…

This is the first in a new graphic novel series called Surviving the Wild designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it.  The new NSW English syllabus, particularly, requires students to be able to “to express opinions about texts and issues… both objectively and subjectively”, so as well as empathising with Rainbow as they, too, face having to step out of their comfort zone to navigate the new world of school; meeting new people who, like Kookaburra, may not be as friendly as they expect, and having to solve problems for themselves, they also learn about the perils of things like habitat destruction, climate change, drought…  Being in the shoes of the main character, in this case a koala which automatically has inbuilt appeal,  helps them be more engaged and understand the situation better, hopefully inspiring them to become not only more aware but more active in environmental protection.  Inspired by the devastating bushfires of the 2019.2020 summer in which it’s estimated over one billion creatures were lost, there are extra pages explaining the origins of Rainbow’s predicament as well as ways that the reader can help by making simple, everyday changes. 

Hallmarks of quality literature include having characters and a plot which are engaging and interesting for the students, offering layers and levels of complexity that are revealed with multiple readings and which enrich discussion and challenge perceptions, thinking and attitudes.  This certainly does that and young readers will look forward to Star the Elephant which is already published and Sunny the Shark due in August. 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761044366

Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.” 

 

Tyenna

Tyenna: Through My Eyes - Australian Disaster Zones

Tyenna: Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyenna

Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Julie Hunt & Terry Whitebeach

A & U Children’s, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760877019

They huddle low, nostrils burning from the smoke. A wave of despair flows over Tye. Nothing will survive this firestorm. The bush and everything she loves will be lost.

It’s the summer holidays, and Tye is staying at her grandparents’ lodge at Chancy’s Point in Tasmania’s beautiful Central Highlands. But her plans for fun with best friend Lily and working on her pencil pine conservation project are thwarted as fire threatens the community and the bush she loves – and when Tye discovers Bailey, a runaway boy hiding out, she is torn between secretly helping him and her loyalty to her grandparents.

As the fire comes closer and evacuation warnings abound, Tye is caught up in the battle of her life. Will she and Bailey survive? What will happen to her beloved pencil pines and the wildlife at risk? Can she and her close-knit community make a difference in a world threatened by climate change?

This is the latest in this series that offers fictionalised accounts of world events that help our older, independent readers not only understand what happened but allows them to process it.  By giving each story a central character such as Lyla who endured the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the story becomes one of courage, resilience and hope rather than an historical recount with meaningless facts and figures. It offers the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  

Like its predecessors, Tyenna is a well-written, well-researched blend of imagination and information that above all, tells a story of one girl’s experience -sadly one similar to that of  so many of our students who faced that dreadful Black Summer of 2019-2020 when the whole of the east coast of the country seem to be alight – and shows that it is OK to have been scared and fearful, but that natural human resilience can prevail. The first to focus on an Australian disaster (it will be joined by Mia later this year), it will resonate with many in one way or another and thus, if you have a system that places trigger warnings in your books, this may be one to consider.  

While we would all like to protect our kids from the disasters of modern times, natural or otherwise, that can be an impossible task as the world now comes to them in the palm of their hands, but stories like this can offer insight, understanding and a feeling that they too, have come through the other side – often shaped by it but also more resilient and courageous because of it. 

 

 

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

Mara Rockliff

Daniel Duncan

Walker, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406399004

A century ago, as Britain emerged from the horrors of World War I,  Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. Instead of spending any pocket money on sweets, she bought tools. She could make anything. She could fix anything. And when she took a thing apart, she put it back together better than before. When Beatrice left home to study engineering, she knew that as a girl she wouldn’t be quite like the other engineers – and she wasn’t. She was better. Still, it took hard work and perseverance to persuade the Royal Aircraft Establishment to give her a chance. But when World War II broke out and British fighter pilots took to the skies in a desperate struggle for survival against Hitler’s bombers, it was clearly time for new ideas. Could Beatrice solve an engine puzzle and help Britain win the war?

This is the intriguing story of a remarkable woman whose dismissal of other’s opinions about what women should/could do, and whose ingenuity, persistence, and way with a wrench (or spanner) made her quite unlike anyone else, adding to the growing list of remarkable women whose ground-breaking stories are only just being told. For even though she changed the course of the war and was awarded an OBE , she retired 20 years later never having held a top post in the Royal Aircraft Establishment because even then in 1969, those jobs were only awarded to men.  Shilling is another woman to introduce students to when they are looking for heroes to investigate and model, and because this has a clear explanation of the problem with the Hurricanes and Spitfires and how it was solved, it will appeal to those with an interest in engineering and mechanics as well.  

An extended biography and selected resources for further exploration round out this amazing story. 

 

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the Butterfly

Helen Cooper

Gill Smith

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397208

Older sister and younger brother have fled their homeland, the only two to survive the perilous boat trip to safer waters, where helping hands gave them sanctuary. And even though they had nothing from before, except each other, older sister said they were lucky because they could have lost so much more. 

But while younger brother didn’t think about that for long and began to make new friends and learn new things, older sister dwelt in the past – she felt she shouldn’t forget and gradually a shadow fell over her mind, as dark and gloomy as their meagre surrounds.  Until one day, younger brother captures a butterfly and brings it home. “Set it free!” cries the older sister, but in its panic it bashes into the walls… Eventually it tires and settles on her hand and doesn’t leave, as though it senses her pain.  Older sister knows what she must do but does she have the courage…

This is a poignant story, sadly a repeat of so many times when people have had to flee their homes, and even today, it is happening again… It reminds us that there is so much more to starting again than the relief of reaching a safe harbour.  Matching the lyrical text are stunning illustrations whose palette mirrors the mood perfectly, contrasting the darkness of older sister’s thoughts and feelings with the hope offered by the bright butterfly.

With so many of our students having found themselves in the predicament of both older sister and younger brother, this is an insight into that long period of adjustment, the grief and fear that must be worked through, and the changes that must be made so we can be more sensitive to the needs of these children.  It is so much more than just a story about refugees.