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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…

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.  

 

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.” 

 

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Awaits

Tomos Roberts

Nomoco

Farshore, 2021

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

9780008502058

As one little boy lies in bed one morning, not wanting to face the day, it’s up to his older brother to show him the extraordinary potential within him and how even the smallest of his actions will make the world a better place . . .

In the child’s world of the here and now, where it seems that their world has been dominated by restrictions and limits for ever, and even just the regular routine of going to school is a list of must-dos and dont’s, where even they, as littlies, are subjected to an uncomfortable nose-swab test every other day, it is easy to see why the prospect of staying in bed and hiding under the doona is an attractive option.  Without the adult’s ability to see the big picture and know that each day they get up and face is a day closer to the end of this situation, even the child’s natural resilience can be tested and their robust (or not-so) mental health can be chipped away.

But how do you explain to the child who mostly lives in Piaget’s world of the concrete operational stage where they are becoming more aware of the world around them but are straddling the phases of things needing to be real and that of being able to think and act in the abstract, that they have something called potential and that they can make a difference? Cleverly, in this poem, which is a conversation between adult and child,  Roberts breaks this concept down into things the child does understand – the concepts of adding and subtracting to a larger element known as the ‘common good’ and identifying simple everyday things, like ringing a grandparent, that they can do that contribute rather than withdraw.

“In our core is a plus and minus, and they’re eternally at play.

They give us the power to add goodness to the world or to take some good away.” 

As with The Great Realisation, Roberts shows his ability to take himself to the child’s level, to talk to them in language they understand, yet at the same time provide layers of meaning that more mature readers can delve into. So while he talks to the child of making its bed or helping a struggling beetle back on its feet, there are also more oblique references to the global situation –

A little look at human history tells us all we need to know

It’s no surprise the toughest times were when that number got too low.  

As with that first book, throughout this one are the threads of hope, of better times and of the child having the power to make the decisions and take the actions that will improve things for all, not just themselves.

Roberts’ poems have been described as “a manifesto for our time” and with his ability to connect with kids of all ages, he is certainly one whose works need attention and further explanation.  Perhaps exploring this poem with a child in your realm, and offering them a way forward, is your addition to the bucket of common good for today. one that will have a long-term benefit that, as a teacher, you may never see or know.  As important as it is invisible. 

Diamonds

Diamonds

Diamonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diamonds

Armin Greder

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760877040

A young girl watches her mother get ready for a night out, curious about the diamond earrings she is wearing.  Using a child’s logic and train of thought she asks about their origins, but her mother cuts the conversation short ostensibly because it is time for her to go but perhaps she doesn’t really want to delve too deeply into their story.  

When the young girl is put to bed by the maid, clearly of African descent, the story continues without words, tracing the journey of those diamonds from the African mine workers through the hands of various “brokers” each seemingly driven by the riches they will bring regardless of the poverty and plight of those whom they exploit until the earrings are presented to her mother by Winston.

Greder is well known for looking beyond the story to the story beneath and presenting this with a minimum of text but the most powerful illustrations, and this is no exception. What really does go on in the mysterious netherworld of international trade so that those with a lust for power and riches can satisfy their hunger?

This is a picture book for older readers that, like The Mediterranean and Australia to Z,  is confrontational but it is one way to raise awareness and start conversations.  The afterwords by Francesco Boille and Riccardo Noury are not only powerful but also add extra information and insight making this a unique must-have for any school curriculum and library collection that has a social justice focus.