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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…

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Join Forces

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

Tim Harris

James Hart

Puffin, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761044557

Even though the students is 12B of Blue Valley School have been labelled the misfits and miserables of the school, they are beginning to blossom and bloom  under the influence of their teacher Mr Bambuckle, who, unlike Principal Sternblast, sees and teaches them as the unique individuals they are, each with their own stories and challenges.  They are now a cohesive group who value and support each other, but that connection may be challenged when they are joined by four new students from Blue Valley Grammar, the rival school which has just closed. 

But when Principal Sternblast’s plan to create a school for high achievers so he will get paid more and have new students join while existing students who do not pass the academic entry test will be excluded, the class feels threatened and doomed.  Are they to be disbanded and each marginalised yet again?  Are they going to be able to set aside their differences with the new students to unite to come up with a plan to save their school? How will they be able to put what they have learned about themselves and each other through Mr Bambuckle’s teaching into action that means they can stay together? But while the solutions are hilarious, amidst the shenanigans and LOL moments, there are some serious messages about working together, trusting others even if they may seem to be very different, and finding the joy in deep friendships that come through the storyline that every reader can appreciate. It might even set up philosophical discussions about the concepts of division based on academic ability, a practice still rife in the education system, and whether success is only measured in grades, scores and potential salaries. 

Readers who took a shine to Mr Bambuckle in the first of this new series, and those who have not yet met him, will be glad to see him making a  comeback in the fifth in this series ideal for independent readers with its humour, identifiable characters, short chapters, copious illustrations and other inserts that break up the text. Each student in the class each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book enabling the reader to see that these kids are just like them, thus immediately building connections and suggesting that this is a school story that reflects their experiences.

As well as being an ideal read-aloud,  it is also perfect for moving some of the more reluctant readers along their reading pathway, While each book is a stand-alone read, with five in the collection there is scope to satisfy those who become hooked as well as introducing other equally engaging Tim Harris reads like the  Toffle Towers  or Exploding Endings series or James Hart’s Super Geeks  series, each building confidence and opening up even more doors. 

 

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Reef

Paul Venzo & Prue Francis

Cate James 

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315314 

Most Australians, even our youngest and newest, are familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches over 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space. But even longer and more accessible to most is the Great Southern Reef , a fringe of interconnected underwater systems that span 8000km from the NSW/Queensland border, around Tasmania and its islands, along our great southern coastline and up to Kalbarri in Western Australia.  

First defined as an entity just six years ago in 2016, it has already been identified by Mission Blue  as a Hope Spot, a biodiversity hotspot critical to the health of the world’s ocean environments, particularly because of its forests of giant kelp, Ecklonia radiata, that offer shelter and food for more than 4000 species of invertebrates, countless fish species such as the weedy sea dragon, the WA rock lobster and the blacktip abalone, and many seaweeds, most unique to the reef, which offer carbon storage to offset climate change as well as potential for a plastic-free world of the future. 

But despite 70% of us living within 50km of it, its existence is little known and so this beautifully illustrated, informative book is an essential step in teaching our young students (and hopefully the adults in their lives) not only about its existence and inhabitants but also its importance.  After a storm thrashes the coastline, Frankie and Sam join Professor Seaweed in a walk along the beach to see what has been washed up overnight.  Together they find many things and not only does Professor Seaweed explain what they are but she also demonstrates the need to leave the beach as we find it, to be careful when delving into rockpools, and the significance of the saying, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Kill nothing but time.” However, she does encourage the children (and the reader) to collect any rubbish that will also have been washed up as their contribution to helping the beach and its creatures stay pristine and healthy.

Even for those of us who do not live within that 50km of the reef, or the ocean, it is a destination that naturally attracts millions every year, so this is the perfect book to introduce our children to the existence of the reef itself and their role in protecting it.  Teachers notes  linked to the Australian Curriculum are available to help you do this. 

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.  

 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Jordan Akpojaro

Ashley Evans

Usborne, 2022 

14pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474995825

While the issue of racism has bubbled along in the background of schools for decades, the recent rise and focus on the Black Lives Matter movement has brought it forward into the loungerooms and lives of our students and many have many questions. This is to be expected if we accept the premise that “race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour” particularly when ‘race’ itself is defined as “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences.” (Britannica, 2022

Therefore this book is a timely release that uses a simple lift-the-flap technique to answer children’s questions in a way that they will understand.  For example, while the Britannica definition can be easily unpacked by an adult here it is explained as “treating people differently and unfairly based on their skin colour, where they’re from, their religion or their family traditions.”

From ‘What’s wrong with the idea of ‘race’? and ‘Why is life harder for people with darker skin?’ to ‘Don’t ALL lives matter?’ and ‘What’s racism got to do with me?’ this book tackles powerful, pertinent questions in a direct, accessible and thought-provoking way. Even if the reader has not encountered racism, they learn why it is everyone’s problem to solve, and how we can all be part of the solution.

There is also a blog post  that offers guidance about how to talk to children about racism because “even by the age of two children begin to notice skin colour and other differences in appearance” and there are also the usual Quicklinks to help the reader understand more deeply. 

Spike Surfs

Spike Surfs

Spike Surfs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spike Surfs

Robert Lorenzon

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036229

This book is subtitled “From Lost Dog’s Home to Surfing Champ” and that is exactly the story it tells.  Spike was at the Lost Dogs’ Home, waiting in vain for someone to love him enough to take him home – and along came Rob!

But Rob loved to surf and the ocean terrified Spike but with friendship and patience, amazing things began to happen culminating in a spectacular ride at the championships in Noosa!

Told by Spike and illustrated with real photos, this is a heart-warming story of how hope and devotion can blossom when the chemistry is right. And the author is putting his money where his mouth is by donating 50% of the royalties to the Lost Dogs’ Home so they can continue helping other surrendered dogs whose numbers have increased by 70% in the last 12 months.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Don’t Forget

Don't Forget

Don’t Forget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761040955

Sometimes being a kid can be overwhelming – there are so many things to remember to do, to say, to be… Particularly with all the busyness and chaos in the lives of our children, these days.  

Don’t forget to make your bed, and wear socks that fit your feet.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth, and don’t forget your homework!

In this charming book for young readers, acknowledged in the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notables , little ones are reminded that as well as all that actual stuff, in the whirlwind of the day it is easy to forget the other things that are just as important…

Don’t forget to wonder, to be brave, to share.

Don’t forget to imagine, and to feel the touch of each season

For while we have to do that ordinary, everyday stuff, it is the long-term, intangible things that create memories, build dreams and shape us as we grow.  While celebrating the joy of childhood, Godwin has carefully chosen events that will resonate widely but all the while it is the connections with nature, the  being with and  caring for others that are the most enduring – the things that cause us to wonder, to imagine, to share and to reflect that are both the building blocks and the stepping stones.

Alongside Godwin’s superficially simple text are Anna Walker’s exquisite illustrations which bring both them and the child’s life to life.  The reader becomes part of the neighbourhood, rather than an observer, again reinforcing that connectedness on which families and communities are built. As we move out of such a long period of enforced isolation, books like this which celebrate the simple, that literally remind us to smell the roses, that ground us in the here-and-now rather than the what’s-next and the what-might-be that will help us realise that which really matters.  It’s not about the extravaganza birthday party that was missed but the community street party that was shared by all. 

And for those who want to explore the concepts further, there is a unit of work available through PETAA but for members only.

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Snail Knows

Kathryn Apel

Mandy Foot

UQP, 2022

232pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702265464

“It’s just you and me, Lucy. We don’t need nobody else.” 

How many times had Lucy heard that as Dad packed up their old brown car again, and they moved to yet another caravan park and, for Lucy, a new school? It seems that since her mum died, she and her dad have been constantly on the move from place to place, school to school and if the memories themselves weren’t enough, there were the reminders at school where teachers asked students to make Mother’s Day cards or draw their family tree.  Lucy sees them as just a seed of a family, but desperately wishes there were branches like other families.   

So when she discovers Snail carrying his home on his back, a home he can tuck himself inside whenever things get tough, it seems like the ideal pet for her and so he joins them in his special box in the caravan.  And just as Snail becomes more used to his surroundings, gains confidence and tentatively comes out of his shell, so does Lucy.  Even though there are the usual adjustments to make as she starts yet another new school, gradually she starts to fit in and make friends as together the students investigate how they can help each other, their families and their communities under the sensitive and caring Miss Darling.  Does it really just have to be Lucy and her dad keeping themselves to themselves, or is there room for others as well?

This is a most poignant verse novel for young independent readers that will resonate with so many – Lucys who are the new kid, yet again, and who have already learned to build the defensive walls to protect themselves; teachers who have had new students start this year and who will have a host of reasons for starting a new school but will have “new kid” syndrome in common;  and students who are comfortable in their established friendship groups and are wary of how the dynamics will change if someone new enters…  And each will take something different away after having read it.

Written in the present tense from Lucy’s perspective each poem raises all sorts of issues that can be explored to help students understand the various perspectives and themes, while each blends into the next to build a potent story of loneliness, friendship, acceptance, and building and connecting with community. How can we each reach out to the new kid, our classmates, our families and those in the broader circle, particularly the lonely and the vulnerable, to build communities again, particularly after the isolation of the last two years?  Even without cane toads to conquer, could this rain and these floods on the East Coast, in fact, have a silver lining?

 

Specky Magee

Specky Magee

Specky Magee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specky Magee

Felice Arena & Garry Lyon

Puffin, 2022

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

9780143777168

Twenty years ago when the AFL season was being dominated by the team from Port Adelaide but two less-likely contenders, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood  fought out the premiership, one of the most popular series that wouldn’t stay on the shelf was Specky Magee – the story of a 12-year-old footballer whose off-field challenges almost surpassed his on-field exploits.  

Nicknamed Specky because he takes such spectacular marks, the young Specky can’t understand why there is a photograph of him in footy gear in pride of place in the family home yet the family can’t stand football. And so he decides to investigate… It is Specky’s backstory that made this such a popular read because suddenly the boys particularly, were reading about their own challenges as they navigated puberty and family interactions and the bridging that child-adolescent chasm.  They found themselves in the story.

And while Felice Arena’s name wasn’t well-known at the time, Garry Lyon’s was.  As captain of the Melbourne Demons from 1991-1997,  three All-Australian nominations and an emerging media career, Lyon was a leading personality whose name on the front cover of a book would draw in even the most reluctant reader.  For it to evolve into a series of eight books was just the icing on the cake. There are many who owe their reading prowess today to that series, girls as well as boys, because this was also a ground-breaking series that was written for both. While the AFLW was still 15 years away, nevertheless the girls are strong characters who help shape Specky off the field. And Christina introduces him to the notion that girls can play as well as boys.

It is testament to the quality and strength of the story that it is being re-released 20 years on from its debut and it will have as much appeal now as it did then.  While the series spans Specky’s life from 12-14, and thus perhaps is at the upper end of the readership of this blog, nevertheless there will be younger readers who will cherish it for being one of just a handful available about their beloved game. 

Meanwhile, having read the series all those years ago, I’m looking forward to Arena’s new title – The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan the story of a young girl who used her football skills to raise funds for the troops in 1942… perhaps the origins of AFLW go back much further than we think.