What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows











What Snail Knows

Kathryn Apel

Mandy Foot

UQP, 2022

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


“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?


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


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.