The Curiosities centers around a young boy named Miro, who begins to see the world in a way that is different to others. When the Curiosities first appear they seem to blend in, but gradually they show Miro the 'oddments and snippets', 'wonders and possibles' in the places where no-one else looks. Sometimes the curiosities would show Miro how to tickle songs from the earth, whisper up waves and dance with him deep into the night. The pull of the curiosities gradually became stronger and stronger and soon others in his village begin to notice them too. They became so loud that people began to stare, and no matter what he did, Miro could not tame them. They were almost unbearable, and he felt as though he was vanishing deep inside the earth. Then he heard the whisper of a village elder who helped Miro brush away the darkness of the curiosities. They were still there, but he found the more he connected with people, the easier it was to control them. And he noticed that many others had their own the curiosities too which helped him feel not so alone.
There are many who deal with neurodiversities and disabilities, and this book is a wonderful celebration of who we are and how we see ourselves, and encourages us to not to worry too much how others choose to see us. Zana Fraillon is one of my favourite YA authors and she has managed the cross over to picture books flawlessly. Her text is poignant and uplifting, but also challenging, asking us to know ourselves first before we look at how we perceive others. Phil's whimsical and playful images draw us into Miro's world to see what life looks like through his eyes. His clever depictions of the curiosities as recognisable but wisp-like creatures, make us aware but not afraid of them, and inspires us to embrace the curiosities in all of us.
Diversity, autism, neurodiversity, acceptance, empathy, perspective, community, culture and mental health are all topics that can be introduced and discussed when using this beautiful and highly recommended book in the classroom.
Find out more about Zana Fraillon
Find out more about Phil Lesnie
Published in 2021 by Hachette Australia
ISBN 9780734417848 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
How do you grow your heart? With gratitude. Jack, Lila, Mina, Li Wei and Rosie are back again and this time each reveal how they learn to focus on what they have rather than what they don't have, to say thank you and to be grateful. Each child takes us on their own journey of discovery to find out what gratitude means to them, and how it inspires them to try and make the world a better place. We learn about the many ways we can show our gratitude and not only help other peoples hearts grow and become filled with joy and happiness, but our own as well. One of my favourite lines from this gentle and thought provoking story is 'Gratitude is like opening a door, and seeing the world in a new way.' What a simple but beautiful message, and such a wonderful way of encouraging our youngest humans to look after the world, and to connect with and understand each other. Each page is full of bright and intuitive images that perfectly capture the meaning of the text. The smiles on the faces of the children as they experience the joy of being grateful are truly heart warming.
Back matter includes 'big people' talking about what they are grateful for, discussion questions for children, notes for parents and carers, and tips for nurturing gratitude in children. This is the latest in series of books about values by this superb author/illustrator duo entitled 'Human Kind: A Little Good in a Big World' and would make a wonderful addition to any library collection.
Wellbeing, mindfulness, being thankful, values, diversity, kindness and cultural understanding are all topics that can be linked as teaching ideas for the classroom from this delightful picture book.
Find out more about Zanni Louise here.
Find out more about Missy Turner here.
Find out more about the Human Kind series here.
Published in 2021 by Five Mile Press
ISBN 9781922514455 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 8
'I'm afraid I have some bad news.' Ms Burns, the librarian, is about to tell twins, Sassafras and Alcatraz (Sass and Traz for short) not just bad news, but the worst possible news EVER! Mayor Carter is going to demolish the town library and Ms Burns will have to leave! The twins love their local library and its librarian. There is no library at school anymore, and this is one of the few places away from the hustle and bustle of life where they both feel comfortable - especially Traz. They try to think of a way to help but it seems Ms Burns has tried everything. 'You can help me pack?' suggests Ms Burns. Sass heads down to the storeroom to bring up some packing boxes for the books, leaning on the old, dusty library card catalogue shelf to steady herself, and her anger, in the dim light. As she does so, a drawer abruptly throws itself open, and cards start to pop up as if to say 'pick me!' As she reads out the book information on the highest card, Sass hears a scream from upstairs. She doesn't know it yet, but Sass has just brought one of the books and it's swashbuckling characters to life! She races back upstairs, and what follows is an hilarious and magical journey through time and literature, as the library itself begins to fight back. Well known author Michelle Worthington's new book is a fast paced, fun filled adventure, with some of our favourite and most famous book people as the unlikely heroes. This story will captivate and engage young readers as well as highlight the special place libraries have in our communities.
Find out more about Michelle Worthington here.
Released 20 October, 2021, by Daisy Lane Publishing
ISBN: 9780648819356 (SC)
ISBN: 9780648819363 (eBook)
Recommended for ages 7 - 12
‘Tell me a story Babushka,’ asks Karina
‘Maybe one of those stories about a princess and monsters, Baba’.
The story opens with young girl asking for a story from her Babushka (grandmother). Babushka begins the tale of a young girl happily tending her flowers and cabbage patch until the day she finds herself and her family caught up in Holodomor, the ‘terror famine’. Mass starvation and confiscation of food and property across the country is happening at the hands of the monsters - Baba’s term for the soldiers. Many families, including that of the young girl, are sent to camps in Siberia. Upon arrival, the children and adults are separated, with neither knowing what will happen or if they will ever see each other again.
Whilst in the camp, the girl finds a matryoshka (a small set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other) under her mattress. She wonders how they came to be there when there are not even any pillows for the children to sleep on, and certainly no toys. She carefully removes one doll after another until, inside the fifth matryoshka, she finds a message of rescue.
As she and some of the other children make their escape with the help of an unknown woman across a frozen forest to a waiting freight train, the girl wraps her scarf around her head, picks up the length of her oversized skirt, and boards the train not knowing where the journey will take her.
As the story concludes, we find out that Babushka was the young girl, and that she eventually found her way to safety and freedom in another land, where she is recounting the story to her granddaughter, Karina.
The Holodomor was the result of Stalin’s decision to collectivize farms and agriculture in the Soviet Union in 1929. Farms, villages, and whole towns in Ukraine were placed on blacklists and prevented from receiving food causing widespread suffering from 1932-1933.
Carola tells the story through simple, gentle and honest text. The strong bond between grandmother and granddaughter is evident from the opening page, emphasizing the importance of generational connections in keeping history alive. Melo’s illustrations are childlike yet evocative, especially the likeness of Babushka to the matryoshka dolls, and the black silhouettes of the soldiers against a blood red background - a stark representation of the cruelty endured by the Ukrainian people.
Stories of war and oppression are never easy to tell, especially to younger children. Tell Me A Story Babushka does so with heart and sensitivity.
I have not read or heard of many books that tell the story of the Holodomor, so this would make a wonderful addition to any library looking to add more stories from the Ukraine and diversify their collections.
Published in 2019 by Carola Schmidt.
Available from Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats
Recommended for ages 5 - 7
Lali finds a feather while she's playing in the field. She thinks the feather might be lost so she sets out to find it's home. Along the way she meets la ot of different birds and asks them all the same question, 'Is this feather yours?' Each bird replies 'Na, Lali, Na!', saying the feather is either too little, or not perky or fancy or warm enough, So Lali decides to keep the feather and show the cheeky birds all the wonderful things the feather can do. All of a sudden big old wind comes along and lifts the feather high in the air and it floats away. This makes Lali very sad and, although all of the other birds offer her their fancy feathers, Lali just wants her plain, pokey little feather. When it eventually floats back to the ground, everyone wants to play with this most wonderful feather! The book ends with Lali finding another, equally intriguing object that promises even more adventures.
This is a wonderful story about a young Indian girl with a big imagination, who sees the value and potential in the small things around her. The vibrant illustrations are a perfect match for the text which is interspersed with Indian slang, and helps showcase the diversity inherent in the story. Lali's colourful clothes, her long brown braid and her bindi, are a beautiful depiction of a carefree young Indian girl. This is a must have book to help diversify your library collection for younger readers.
You can find out more about Farhana Zia's books here and about Stephanie Fizer Coleman's beautiful illustrations here.
Published in 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
As a teacher librarian, I’ve found very few books about dancing for my younger students. Let’s Dance fills that gap brilliantly. From it’s exuberant cover to the end pages, this is a book full of the joy of movement. Written in simple, musically imaginative rhyme, each double page spread taps, whirls, wiggles, grooves and boogies its way across the globe. The dances encompass both traditional and modern, including my own favourite of Disco. I definitely remember boogieing on down in my youth!
The illustrations are colorful and fun, and highlight perfectly the diversity of the dance origins in the portrayal of each of the characters. There is an easy to understand, illustrated explanation of each of the dances at the end of the story.
Let’s Dance is a wonderful way to introduce dance from around the world to young readers, and will have them wanting to jump up and join in from the very first page!
Published March 2020 by Boyds Mills Press.
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
For more information on Valerie you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram or check out her Website.
For more information on Maine you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or check out her Website.
This is more than just a simple book of shapes. The wonderful illustrations are a perfect compliment to the text which is a window into the world of Islam and the beautiful symmetry of it's places of worship. A book that can be used to simultaneously explain simple shapes to young children and show them the colours and purpose of the shapes in the Muslim world. Through simple but evocative text, highlighted by colourful and intricate images, this book is a lovely way to help younger ones of non Muslim faith become more culturally aware. I'll be adding the companion book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: a Muslim book of colors to my library shelves soon!
Published in 2018 by Chronicle Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 5
As promised here are some of my favourite Australian fiction books with diverse characters. There are more, but I've selected these as they are the ones that have really made me think, reflect and respect. I've just ordered The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling for my library and can't wait for my students to read it. Both of Zana Fraillon's books on this list have sparked some pretty intense conversations with students and it's so interesting and wonderful to hear young people talking about global issues like refugees, social justice and diversity - not just in books but in other areas as well. These are excellent supplements to school library collections.
I LOVE our Aussie picture book authors and illustrators. If you're looking to supplement your collection at home or an international school library wanting to diversify both your author base and your collection, try some of the ones below. It is by no means an exhaustive list (there are SO many more!) but it is a great start. My favourites are those by Freya Blackwood, Matt Ottley, Bronwyn Bancroft and Glenda Millard. More wonderful diverse Australian books coming soon.