Rebecca Lim has created a powerful and highly engaging #OwnVoices novel that captures the circumstances for some children, growing up Asian in Australia.
Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants who came to Australia for a better life, only to find it not so. Her father has failed three times to secure a surgeon’s post in this country and refuses to take on anything lower, though he is a highly competent doctor who would easily find a place elsewhere in the health system. Wen and her mother live in a perpetual state of anxiety and almost fear with her father’s rigid rules and anger issues. Wen despairs of ever getting out of the rut in which she finds herself and her friend Henry is also in the same situation, though because of different circumstances. With the support of their teacher both children are preparing themselves for a scholarship exam that could help them move forward to a brighter future.
When tragedy strikes Henry’s family, Wen persuades her mother to help her support her friend and they begin a cautious campaign to do so, while hiding all evidence of their help from Wen’s father. Little by little both mother and daughter begin to find their own voices again and when Mr Zhou loses his job, they are able to manage an even greater shift in the domestic power.
The resilience and compassion demonstrated by Wen makes for marvellous reading and few readers would remain unimpressed. This is not just a novel for your Asian students (although we certainly have those in a majority at my own school) but one that will promote understanding of different cultural and family perspectives.
It was a compelling read – I binge read it in one afternoon – and I highly recommend for your readers from Upper Primary
‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’
Many children are fearful of storms – especially when they are ferocious. The Kid was one of these and would quite literally turn white and visibly tremble. It took a couple of years to build her up to a point where now she almost enjoys a storm – except for when they are really wild and then she will always sit quite close!
When Felix can’t cope with the tremendous crashing and the horrid dark he decides to put his torch to good use and create a ‘light’ friend. What follows is a cavalcade of strong and brave shadow creatures and all are impatient to play. A little uncertain at first, Felix is soon frolicking with them all, confronting his fears of the night and becoming empowered in his own resilience.
Readers will be truly enthralled with the wonderful traditional shadow shapes and will be uber-excited when they reach the end of the book to find some fabulous information on shadow puppets in general and their cultural importance in Asia. To top that off they will able to create their own shadow puppets with the templates and instructions which conclude the book. Puppetry is a dramatic art which never fails to engage children of all ages (our own Year 9 students have been creating puppet play scripts and using some fabulous ‘muppets’ to perform them). Shadow puppets are possibly one of the simplest to achieve with ready-to-hand materials at home which is a big plus and very handy in these times!
Perhaps readers could create their own scripts which echo the bravery and imagination in Felix’ story and then perform them for family. Alternatively, they might like to recreate favourite stories using shadow puppets. This would certainly be a very rich learning experience all round.
I would highly recommend this for children from around 6 years upwards and the follow-up for families who are looking for a different activity to reduce a little screen time.
You could even make a theatre for your puppet play…