Tag Archives: Refugees

Salih – Inda Ahmad Zahri. Anne Ryan

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Ford St Publishing

March 2021

ISBN: 9781925804645

RRP: $16.99

The global issue of the plight of refugees, and in particular, child refugees is the focus of this sensitively written and beautifully illustrated book. Even your youngest readers will be able to comprehend the circumstance of those who must flee their homes, with only what they can carry – like turtles carrying their homes on their backs – and the ensuing discussions which will arise will help your little people develop empathy and an appreciation of diversity.

The first person narrative is almost poetic as it describes the flight from danger, the happy memories and the terrible ones and the therapeutic release through art is a beautiful way to tie a healing process to the visual metaphors used in Anne Ryan’s illustrations.

This is an emotional journey as well as a political and cultural one and is an important addition for any classroom unit of work or library collection. It is certainly a theme which has resonance in today’s global circumstance and one that deserves to fully examined in just such a sympathetic and compassionate way.

Recommended with my fullest endorsement for your readers from around five years upwards.

Small Town – Phillip Gwynne and Tony Flowers

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Penguin AustraliaAugust 2020

ISBN: 9781760893484

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

This is just a delightful and heart-warming picture book which is based on the true story of how small rural towns with dwindling populations have opened their community and hearts to welcome refugees and re-invigorate their townships.

The narrator is Milly who loves her town and her netball team but is sad that her team is shrinking as her friends’ families move to seek life in the city. After learning about refugees at school resourceful Milly comes up with an idea – she’ll write a letter inviting refugees to come to her lovely town to settle and help it survive. Her supportive family go one better and they all create a promotional video invitation – jobs and houses, country life and a great community.

And the plan works! What a thrill to see your endangered community not only rejuvenated but enriched with a diverse and vibrant influx of newcomers!

Gwynne’s text is simple but highly effective as it emphasises Milly’s passion for her home and Tony Flowers brings Gong Gong to life in rich detail with his fabulous illustrations – including in-jokes like including his own motorbikes and VW beetle as well as his family’s bakery! The end papers are just gorgeous (my kiddos know my love of great endpapers so well!) and fully realise the complete journey of Milly’s plan.

This would be a terrific read-aloud and one which will generate much rich discussion and inspire deep learning around the complex issue of small-town Australia’s plight as well as that of refugees struggling to find their place in our wonderful country.

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

The Year the Maps Changed – Danielle Binks

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Hachette Australia

APR 28, 2020 | 9780734419712 | RRP $17.99

What a glorious book with so much richness as it reveals not only a tragic episode in recent history but explores the pain but beautiful bonding in a family and community.

1999 in Sorrento is a difficult time for Fred (Winifred). Her mother died when she was very little and since then she’s lived with her adoptive dad Luca and her Pop but now everything is changing and not for the best. Pop has had to go away for a while into a rehab/nursing home and Luca’s new girlfriend and her son, slightly younger than Fred, move in. To add to that distress, and her ever-present grief, as Fred struggles to re-adjust to the changing dynamic, Luca and Annika announce that they are having a baby.

For Fred it seems like the end of everything and not even her life-long friends can help to make her feel better about the whole situation. Then a major upheaval for their small community brings unexpected connections, dramas and emotional situations which ultimately bring not only Fred’s family back into focus and closeness but forces the entire country to re-evaluate their beliefs and values.

A group of Kosovar-Albanian refugees fleeing the deadly warfare in their splintered country are brought to a centre near Sorrento in an humanitarian exercise that the then government referred to as “Operation Safe Haven”. While there are many whose compassion is extended to these displaced persons there is division within the community. Fatefully the lives of the refugees, a few in particular, become entwined with Fred and her family testing the boundaries of family trust but ultimately bringing this very different blended family into a stronger bond.

Beautifully – indeed, exquisitely- written Danielle Binks provides the reader with not only an understanding of the largest humanitarian effort provided by Australia and it’s less than humanitarian outcome but also an insight into a family’s own personal tragedy and their journey to becoming a whole.

This is a coming-of-age story that will appeal greatly to readers from around 12 years upwards as Fred deals with the immense changes in her life. These same readers will also be exercised in their own compassion and empathy which, in light of recent events, can only be a good thing.

Highly recommended for your readers in upper primary to secondary.

Aussie Kids

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Introducing an absolutely fabulous new series for your newly independent/emerging readers that will take them all over Australia to meet a diverse array of characters and visit iconic destinations.

Not only will this be the perfect share for those units on Australia for Junior school kiddos but is a superb introduction to diversity, inclusion and current topics expressed in an easily relatable manner.

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Zoe and Zac at the Zoo – Belinda Murrell/ David Hardy

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Penguin Australia

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states!

Published: 4 February 2020

ISBN: 9781760893651

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

First up let’s meet Zoe and Zac – two ‘almost twins’ as they share the same birthday who are from Dubbo. (Fancy that, I lived there for twelve years and two of my daughters were born there!). These two lucky kids live within the well-known Western Plains Zoo and for their 7th birthday they will spend the day with Zoe’s zookeeper mum helping out with all the animals.

It sure is a lot of fun and also hard work feeding the hungry lions, giraffes and meerkats and poop-scooping large mounds of elephant dung but the most exciting part of the day is discovering why Amali the lioness has not turned up for her food.

Who better to write this first instalment than Belinda Murrell who grew up in a vet surgery and whose love of all animals shines through in so many of her highly popular titles? David Hardy’s illustrations are exactly right for the intended readership full of life and just a little on the cheeky side.

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Taj at the Lighthouse – Maxine Beneba Clarke/Nicki Greenberg

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Published: 4 February 2020

ISBN: 9781760894528

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

Set in Victoria, Taj and his family have not long been in Australia and like so many refugees have their own struggles both in leaving their homeland and also in settling into a completely new country, community and society.

When Taj gets despondent about feeling out of place, his Mama reminds him to ‘believe’. It’s very hard to do so at times and Taj doesn’t even want to wear his favourite lightning bolt t-shirt, which has given him his nickname. His Dad is worried as well as he can’t find work – any work – but again Mama is there to reassure and urge him to ‘believe’.

Gradually things start to improve, Mama is learning English at the local library (Yayy! For libraries!) and Taj is beginning to enjoy his new school. They are starting to adapt to different foods and different sounds and different people but Dad still can’t find a job.

Until one day Dad comes home and suddenly the little family is packing up excitedly and driving a long way south along the Great Ocean Road until they arrive at their new home and Dad’s new job – a lighthouse and Dad is the new lighthouse keeper!

The new community welcomes the family and soon Taj is not only wearing his favourite shirt again but also a life-savers cap as he joins the local Nippers.

Again a terrific story introducing young readers to the wealth of diverse cultures and people in our big beautiful country. Maxine and Nikki have created a warming and relatable story for migrant and Aussie born kids alike.

 

At the end of each book is a double page of fun/interesting facts – in the first about animals in the second about lighthouses.

This is going to be an outstanding series to get onto your shelves and into the hands of your readers from around 7-9 years.

Highly recommended for Junior libraries and personal collections!

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver – Michael Morpurgo

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Harper Collins

September 2019

ISBN: 9780008347925

ISBN 10: 0008347921

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

And the master has done it again! Morpurgo has drawn on Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as his inspiration for this latest exploration of human nature, political unrest and compassion.

Omar has fled war-torn Afghanistan with his mother in a race for survival. A long and dangerous journey sees them at last reach the sea and a boat for England but a storm at sea wreaks havoc and Omar finds himself washed up on a small island – and even stranger, surrounded by hundreds of tiny people.

It is Lilliput and the inhabitants believe that Omar is the descendant of Gulliver their revered saviour who visited them three hundred years earlier.  Omar’s sojourn on the island helps him to recover from terror, to develop compassion and wisdom, discover skills and strengths and eventually prepares him for a risky journey to England to try and find what remains of his family.

With much skill Morpurgo draws parallels between a three hundred year old text considered seditious and subversive in its time with its criticism of power and politics and the present day where our humanity struggles against those who are determined to destroy and oppress.

MM is one of my most favourite authors and never fails to astonish me. Who else could suspend my disbelief to the point where a tiny pair of Lilliputians helping to narrate a tale would seem so normal?

This is another fine tale for readers from around ten years upwards and in fact would make a splendid read-aloud or class novel for upper primary/lower secondary to engender discussions and commentary.

Of course, highly recommended – loved it!

 

Detention – Tristan Bancks

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detention

Penguin Random House

Imprint: Puffin

July 2019

ISBN: 9780143799

RRP: $16.99

 

Just wow! Once again Tristan has crafted a sensational narrative with high-impact tension and thought-provoking themes which will keep readers eagerly turning pages.

Two young people are both, each in their own way, prisoners of sad circumstances. Sima, with her family, is detained in a centre for illegal immigrants and under threat of deportation after three years of trying to reach a safe haven, escaping violence and turmoil at the hands of the Taliban. Dan lives in a run-down caravan park on the edge of local society ostensibly with his mother, except she’s been absent for long periods engrossed with her new partner, leaving Dan to fend for himself. Both are desperate for escape.

When protestors help fifty detainees in a daring and dangerous flight from the centre, Sima is separated from her family and does her best to evade capture by hiding out in a toilet block at the local high school.

The school goes into lockdown as a result of the incident at the detention centre and Dan inadvertently becomes involved in Simi’s predicament. For both it is a delicate balance of trust and neither is confident of the response from adults such as Dan’s mum or his teacher but it seems that, almost unexpectedly, the morality of the issue outweighs the legality and help comes when it is least likely. After all, what price a life?

As the plot unfolds the reader becomes completely invested in the characters that are realised with a deft portraiture which is compelling and emotional without becoming cloying or stereotyped. Details which round each one out are often subtle and understated lending more weight to the overall picture. It is certainly clear that one cannot categorise people as simply one thing or another – good or bad, sympathetic or callous, that there are dichotomies in everyone. This viewpoint alone would give rise to much worthwhile and meaningful discussion with young readers.

Tristan points out that essentially he has written ‘a human story, rather than a political one’ with the ultimate goal of exploring the reactions, observations and actions of those dealing with difficult situations.  Despite this there is no doubt that for many readers there will be, like Dan’s teacher Miss Aston, opportunity to discuss and debate various aspects of current social conditions.

It’s never been difficult to ‘sell’ Tristan’s books to  my students and now the ripple effect is evident as more and more share their recommendation with peers but this one will be a block-buster I foresee. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts with our staff as I believe it will make a great read-aloud for Middle year students.

Don’t miss out – get your copy on order now!

Empathy and Books for Children

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At present our Junior School is focusing on developing empathy with our children and particularly the value of books/shared reading in this process (yay!) so it seems apt to collate some of my current review picture books that fit this agenda.

 

The Day War Came –   Nicola Davies/illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

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Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781406376326
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $24.99

Nicola Davies’ #3000 Chairs campaign came about as a result of her poem published in The Guardian which highlighted the UK Government’s 2016 refusal to allow the entry of 3 000 unaccompanied child refugees as well as her notice of a refugee child being refused admittance to a school because ‘there was no chair for her to sit on’.

Since the poem was published the campaign has been taken up by hundreds of citizens in an unprecedented show of solidarity for the children whose lives have been torn apart by war, famine and persecution.

Now in this beautiful book form readers are invited to see for themselves the tragedy of other children for whom life has taken an almost hopeless turn. With the help of those who truly care and organisations such as Help Refugees and the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Network we can all, each of us, make a difference.

Without being graphic or violent enough to distress young readers, this book gently shows the way in which an innocent child’s life can be completely and utterly turned upside down in a minute.

Highly recommended for young readers from around Year 1 upwards.

 

 

Waves – Donna Rawlins/Heather Potter/Mark Jackson

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Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781925381641
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

In a similar vein and for older readers is this beautiful narrative nonfiction book which traces the often perilous journeys of child immigrants to our country from the arrival of First Australian Anak 50 000 years ago to Abdul, his mother and brother seeking asylum in the present time.

For each and every one the vast distance travelled, for some leaving behind not only home but family has been a tremendous and often fraught undertaking. The early European explorers and later settlers, including convicts, the child immigrants from the UK during World War II, the post-war Jewish families, Italians and Dutch assisted passage, the throngs of Vietnamese refugees and the continuing stream of those escaping deadly circumstances are all included. Though the characters are fictional their journeys are realistically described.

As well as each child’s short narrative the book includes factual information at the end making this a superb book for teaching units on Refugees and Immigration.  The glorious illustrations by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson are filled with rich and informative details. Teaching notes are available here.

This is a must have for any primary library and a worthy addition to the classroom curriculum

Ruby in the Ruins – Shirley Hughes

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Walker Books Australia

April 2018

ISBN: 9781406375893

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

Shirley Hughes brings her long expertise to this beautifully evocative picture book which focuses on a little girl’s experience in the aftermath of the London Blitz and the long separation from her daddy. Not surprisingly for so many children during the long years of the war, fathers were often a rather blurry mystery and the reality when they returned home would be quite confronting for little ones.  It would be very difficult for many of our students to even imagine this though there would be some in similar positions now if they have parents serving overseas.

Ruby feels shy with her father, she’s surprised how ‘large’ he is, she doesn’t like sleeping up in the shabby attic instead of with her mother and all in all perhaps is a little disenchanted.

But when she goes adventuring with her playmates amidst the rubble of bombsites and hurts herself it is Dad who rescues her, bandages her knee and doesn’t even rouse on her. For the first time Ruby realises what having a dad around can mean.

Filled with warmth and love this is destined to be another of Hughes’ classic picture books.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 2 upwards.

 

 

Cloud Conductor – Kellie Byrnes/Ann-Marie Finn

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Wombat Books

May 2018

ISBN: 978-1925563344

Price: $24.99 Hardback

 

Frankie is adventurous and busy and blessed with the gift of a wonderful imagination. This is an immense positive as she deals with her ongoing illness and not only can she imagine herself away from her bed and hospital room but realises she can also inspire the other children to create their own fantastical adventures.

Being a cloud conductor means you can create symphonies of animals running across the sky or listening to the music whispering on the air.

Healthy and hardy children can often find it hard to comprehend what it might mean to be chronically ill and may not always feel the level of empathy we might hope for from them.

This is a gentle and lyrical way to explore this idea and perhaps consider how we can also inspire our friends when things are not going so well.

Recommended for readers from around Year 1 upwards.

 

 

Visiting You : a  Journey of Love – Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Andrea Edmonds

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Exisle Publishing

9781925335668

RRP $24.99

As a little child and his mother take their trip to visit their own loved one the child is curious about fellow travellers and asks them ‘Who are you going to visit?’.

Such a simple question which reveals to the reader one infallible truth – that love is everywhere. No matter how different people might look – large, young, old, tattooed – we are all connected in a universal human experience. And under a mother’s supervision, the child’s ingenuous conversations reveal this as a father explains how he loves to play with his little girl or an old man visits his much-loved wife in the cemetery or a mother goes to see her injured son at the hospital.

Such a story encourages readers to look past the differences and seek out what makes us similar and how we are part of a community wherever we live.

A beautiful exploration of acceptance and the power of love.

https://youtu.be/UclU7ouo6Ak

 

 

Along Came a Different – Tom McLaughlin

different

Bloomsbury

May 2018

RRP $21.99

ISBN: 9781408888926
Imprint: Bloomsbury

Children’s Books

 

Following on that theme of accepting differences this is a very lively and rather amusing take on this topic.

Reds love being red. Yellows love being yellow. And Blues love being blue. The problem is that they just don’t like each other.

Soon the sparring colours are establishing rules to keep everyone and everything separate so they don’t have to put up with each other and it’s all a bit silly really. But that all comes crashing down when yet another colour comes along who actually likes everyone  – no matter what they are!

And then before too long another and another and finally a whole rainbow of colours when everyone realises, just a little embarrassed, how ridiculous the whole separate thing was.

This is a really fun and light way to have children start a discussion about acceptance others no matter what their outward appearance or differences.

Highly recommended for Preps upwards.

Goodbye Mr Hitler – Jackie French

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Harper Collins – AU

May 2017

      ISBN: 9781460751299

RRP: 16.99 AUD

In a modern world that often seems to be filled with hate and prejudices and refusal to acknowledge basic human rights, we could easily fall into a despondency that could be soul-destroying. Many of us in daily contact with children will have observed that they too feel fearful about outcomes of some of the huge issues the world is facing. How can we as educators help them to overcome their fears and even perhaps hatred born of influence from media and other sources?

I believe that it is with great literature such as this that we can examine the horrors of the past and show the path to a place of peace, love and forgiveness.  We have a real duty to impart to these children that we cannot stand by and let evil happen and that if we all do that, it cannot survive.

Jackie French has continued her “Hitler” series with the story of Johannes and his doctor parents sent to concentration camps when the Nazis took over Poland, as well as following the threads from the previous two books with the fate of Heidi, believed to be Hitler’s daughter, as well as Georg, now firmly an Australian and his mother who has also survived the horror camps.

Their stories are vivid and told with Jackie’s usual painstaking historical accuracy and each resonates with the pain and suffering endured by so many. It is heart-wrenching and poignant and not for the first time we are inspired by the indomitable human spirit of truly good people. How could someone who has survived such vileness heal their hearts we might ask? And yet so many have done just that. Having witnessed truly despicable and terrible events and actions, these are the people who know that the one true way to freedom, not just of body but of mind and spirit, is through letting go of hate.

As these memorable characters find renewed hope and begin to build new lives in Australia, their various secrets, fears and sorrows begin to soften and ebb into a past.

The contemporary situation with asylum seekers and the denial of their rights should be compared to the spirit of generosity with which nations, especially Australia, welcomed displaced persons following the war.

This series is one of the most important and significant within my experience. Students particularly of Modern History and indeed Philosophy should be firmly pointed in their direction.

Find superb teaching notes here.

Highest recommendation for readers in Upper Primary onwards.

The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard

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ISBN:9781743315897

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:February 2016

Age: 13 – 17

 

I am always in awe of those multi-talented writers who can turn their hand to such a wide range of text types. From picture books to novels for younger readers to such as this for young adults, Glenda Millard is one of those amazing talents.

Alice Nightingale is fifteen but twelve, trapped in an acquired brain injury following a violent and traumatising attack which tore her apart along with her family. Unable to cope with the rigours of ordinary life such as school she is protected and loved by her brother and her ailing grandmother. Isolated and lonely, Alice expresses her perfect thoughts through her broken speech poetry and her creativity by making unique and beautiful fishing flies.

Manny James is a refugee from a dark and turbulent warzone and is desperately trying to put ugly and terrible memories to rest. He lives with a kind older couple who are wise with their understanding of differences and staunch in their support of a sensitive young man.

He is intrigued when, on one of his night time runs, he sees Alice on her rooftop – hair streaming, arms wide – and then when he finds one of her poems he is driven to know her. Alice’s first sight of Manny similarly mesmerises her.

carved from ebony

polished with beeswax

a saint from the book of kells

a warrior

a dream with

embroidered-on hair

neat tight french knots

i wanted to

touch them

read them like Braille

run my fingers along

the lumpy scar that joined

shoulder to elbow

i wanted to

know why it was there

what had shaped this boy?

 

The story of Alice and Manny is haunting, touching and powerful.  They both have extraordinary obstacles to overcome not the least of which is the ignorant small town bigotry which seems to abound in so many places.

Told in two parts from these young people, the text is lyrical and full of beauty as Alice and Manny overcome the wrecks of their childhood lives and cleave to each other for strength.

This is a novel that will move you and I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around 13 years up.

 

The Boy with Two Lives – Abbas Kazerooni

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ISBN:9781743314838

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:September 2015

RRP: $15.99

 

Many of you will resource units of work/inquiry examining the lives of inspirational people through biographies and memoirs. This book and the previous memoir are perfect, timely and contemporary for readers from Middle Primary upwards.

This second instalment in Kazerooni’s powerful history continues from his international bestseller On Two Feet and Wings. The first volume retells then nine year old Abbas’ amazing escape from war-torn Tehran during the Iraq-Iran conflict. This second continues the story of a character determined to survive and succeed.

Now a refugee in England, the cousin who is supposed to be caring for Abbas as his sponsor and guardian dumps him in a boarding school where the boy thrives, makes friends, impresses staff with his character but grieves for his absent family. The feckless and cruel cousin Mehdi has one saving grace. His girlfriend has compassionate and kind parents who take Abbas into their home and offer much love and comfort. That is, until Mehdi decides he is tired of waiting for money from Abbas’ parents to pay school fees and puts the young boy to work illegally in each and every school holiday under the threat of deportation.
After some time this awful situation gets worse when after several traumatic life changes, Mehdi abandons Abbas to homelessness at age 13. His triumph at winning a scholarship to a prestigious school is marred by his daily struggle to simply survive with little food or personal comforts such as clean clothes, warmth and shelter. With family and friends unaware of Abbas’ situation he is forced to improvise his own life as he becomes all the more determined to attain his education.

This is a gripping read (one sitting for me) made all the more poignant because Abbas’ amazing character shines through despite all his dreadful situations. At no time is there a total collapse into self-pity, instead even in his darkest hours and immense despair Abbas finds inner strength and resilience somehow.

When Mehdi goes one step too far and threatens to kill Abbas, thinking the boy has ‘snitched’ on him and his nefarious activities, Abbas is finally rescued from his nightmare.

Tracing the extraordinary and at times harrowing journey undertaken by the young Abbas makes the reader reflect on the many things we often take for granted here in Australia.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – please take some time to find out more about this exceptional man who is now a successful writer, actor and producer living in California. I was fortunate enough to hear an interview with him on Radio National a couple of years ago and hope to secure a blog Q&A with him if possible.

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