Friday, November 15, 2019

Kind - a book about kindness


Alex Scheffler asked 38 kind illustrators to contribute to this book which was published to support Three Peas - a charity who provide vital help to refugees.

Some names you may recognise among the 38 illustrators are listed here. I've put one book title after each name but of course there would be many more you could explore.


  • Beatrice Alemagna (On a magical do nothing day)
  • Michael Foreman (War and Peas)
  • Sir Quentin Blake (Mr Magnolia)
  • Axel Scheffler (Books by Julia Donaldson such as Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo)
  • Steve Antony (Please Mr Panda)
  • Brigitta Sif (Swish and Squeaks noisy day)
  • Ken Wilson-Max (Astro Girl)
  • Britta Tecentrup (Kindness Grows)
  • Nick Sharratt (Books by Jacqueline Wilson and picture books such as Pants by Giles Andreae)
  • David Roberts (The Dunderheads)
  • Chris Haughton (Shh! we have a plan)
  • Lydia Monks (What the Ladybird heard)
  • Guy Parker-Rees (Giraffes can't dance)
  • Helen Stephens (How to hide a lion)


You can see some pages from this book here.  Here are a set of teaching ideas from the publisher Scholastic.

Here are some examples of the text which these illustrators were given:

"Imagine a world where everyone is kind. How can we make that come true?
Here's a good place to start - just give someone a smile!
There are lots of good ways to be kind.
We can listen to people, especially when they're sad.
We can give them a hug if they're feeling lonely."

"Sometimes people have lived through very hard times. They've had to leave their homes and their countries because of danger. They are brave and amazing and have extraordinary stories to tell."

This is a book to treasure in a library or a home. I love books where a number of illustrators are able to showcase their work in this way.  Here are some other books that follow this format:






I first saw Kind about four months ago at the Westmead Children's Hospital Book Bunker. On that day it was a brand new addition to the collection so I decided to wait a few weeks before borrowing this book so it could be shared with the children. Sometimes we loan books in the hospital to patients with infectious diseases. When this happens we cannot take the books back and so we either gift them to the child or sadly need to destroy the book. Yesterday, when I visited the Book Bunker our replacement copy of Kind had arrived. You have probably guessed what happened to our original copy. I have loved spending time exploring this book and I look forward to putting it into the hands of a child in the hospital over the coming weeks.

If you can find a copy of this book in a shop or a library take a look at these pages. The pages illustrated by Cindy Wume (she is new to me); David Barrow; Susanne Gohlich (an illustrator from Germany); Lucia Gaggiotti (she is new to me); Helen Stephens; Melissa Castrillon (her page is about making a kindness jar); Philip Waechter; Pippa Curnick (she is new to me) and David Roberts.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dumazi and the Big Yellow Lion by Valanga Khoza illustrated by Matt Ottley


Dumazi, a Zulu girl, is on her way to the waterhole to fill her empty calabash pot. She comes across a lion caught in a trap.

"I've been trapped for many days without food or water ... Please save my life and set me free!"

Dumazi has to decide what to do? This story is filled with problem solving and decision making. She asks the lion to promise not to eat her.  He makes the promise so Dumazi sets the lion free but once the ropes fall away he breaks his promise.

"I am so thirsty, I could drink the whole African River Limpopo. And I'm so hungry I could eat a Zulu girl."

Dumazi is shocked but also she is a quick witted girl. She offers to let the lion eat her but suggests they should first talk to the other animals and ask their advice. The lion reluctantly agrees. They ask the giraffe but Aunty Giraffe is worried about humans and the way they are cutting down trees. The giraffe tells the lion he can eat the girl. Dumazi quickly suggests they need to ask one more animal. The lion reluctantly agrees and so walk on and meet an elephant. Just like the giraffe, the elephant is worried about humans - the poachers take tusks. The elephant tells the lion he can eat the girl.

Luckily for Dumazi, a small monkey has been listening to all of this. He is such a clever monkey. He challenges the lion to show him the ropes that held him captive and then he tricks the lion back into those ropes. The lion is trapped, Dumazi is saved but is everything really resolved? No Dumazi feels sorry for the lion.

"She picked up her kalimba and returned to him. From nearby, she played gentle music and the big yellow lion fell into a deep, deep sleep. Dumazi crept up to the sleeping animal and untied the hunter's ropes."

You may be surprised to see what happens next.

This book is the complete package. It is a clever story that reads like a fable or a trickster tale. It has vibrant illustrations, a text with just the right amount of repetition for young readers and as a bonus the book comes with a wonderful music CD all packaged in a beautiful hardcover book. This is a book to enjoy in a classroom, in a library and it is also a book you should consider for your home shelves.

I say music because this CD is so much more than just a reading of the story. It has music composed by Matt Ottley and sung by Valanga Khoza.  The orchestration matches each animal that Dumazi encounters. It is a really special listening treat.  Here is a set of teachers notes from Scholastic made available by Pegi Williams. This is a book you should share with a music teacher. It would be perfect for a collaboration between the library and a music specialist if you are lucky enough to have someone who has this role in your school.

I am going to predict (here is another one) that THIS book will make our CBCA notable titles and from there the 2020 Book of the Year short list.

Listen to an interview with Valanga Khoza where he talks about playing the kalimba, he sings and plays the kalimba in this interview too and he explains his childhood in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise




First off you might like to grab a map.  I'm in Australia so my knowledge of American states is fairly basic. Coyote and her father live in a bus. It's a converted school bus which they have named Yager. They don't have a destination. They just travel from place to place, across the US continent, occasionally picking up a traveler. Coyote believes she has to look after her dad. They are both suffering after the death of Coyote's mum and two sisters but this topic is banned and so while the pair are moving forward on their journey (they have been traveling for five years) they are not moving forward with their grief.

Each week Coyote makes a call to her Grandmother who lives back in their home town of Poplin Springs, Washington State. The news delivered by her Grandmother is a catastrophe for Coyote. Just before her mother and sisters were killed in a road accident the four of them buried a memory box in a local park. Coyote learns the park is being dug up to make way for a new intersection. Coyote is in Florida when she hears this news. Now she has to work out a way to get her father to drive 3,600 miles to Washington State and he cannot know why they need to go home.

Along the way, with Coyote desperately trying to make her dad hurry, they collect a few passengers. A new special friend for Coyote  - a boy named Salvador, a musician named Lester, a cat called Ivan, Val, a teenager who is running away from home, a goat, Salvador's mum Esperanza Vega and her sister Concepcion.

I started this book on Sunday afternoon and finished it midday Monday. Yes it is that good - reading this book over the last 24 hours became my addiction.

Colby Sharp video review:
"A remarkable book"
"One of those books you're just on the edge of your seat."
"You'll find things that need to get done aren't getting done because you're choosing this book over ... doing the dishes or folding the laundry or watch Netflix"
"If you're in a reading rut and you're looking for a book that you'll just have to keep turning pages .. read this book!"

Dan Gemeinhart talks to Mr Shu about the book cover the writing of this book. Here is a teachers guide and set of discussion questions from the publisher. Here is an audio sample from Chapter One.

In an interview for Horn Book Dan Gemeinhart said he loved journey stories such as A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (I adore this book); Bud not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (this book has scenes that will linger with me forever); and two other books I need to put on my to read list Under a Painted sky by Stacey Lee and Train I ride by Paul Mosier.

Click these review extracts to read more about the plot and characters.

It's a grand old journey across the United States in search of a pork chop sandwich with a gang who can name their favorite book, their favorite place and their favorite sandwich.  It's a tale of pain and grief and choices and sharing and opportunity and Uno and a wise cat and all the richness of a life. A Book and a Hug

In this book, the author builds trust between the reader and the author. So much so that you can have a scene where two characters scream their secrets into the wind on the top of a moving school bus and it’ll feel real and earned rather than a sneaky plot device meant to further the characters’ emotional growth in the eyes of the reader. Elizabeth Bird School Library Journal

I would pair The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise with Savvy by Ingrid Law. I am putting US and UK covers.  Look closely for the pink bus.



When you read The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise you will also want to read The One and Only Ivan (remember I told you the cat is called Ivan) and Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller


Tuesday Treasure



Farfallina, the caterpillar, meets the gosling Marcel. The pair quickly become great friends. Playing hide and seek and enjoying their pond environment.

"Farfallina liked his soft feathers and his gentle eyes."

"He (Marcel) liked Farfallina's smile and her pretty colors."

One day Farfallina feels a little unwell. She retreats to the top branches of a tree and as time passes, Marcel comes to think he will never see her again.  Meanwhile Farfallina is undergoing a transformation. Of course Marcel is changing too.  Farfallina emerges from her cocoon transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She looks around for her old friend but all she can see is a large handsome goose on the pond. The pair strike up a conversation and make the amazing discovery.

"It's funny,' Marcel said, 'but I feel as though I've known you a long time.'
'I was just thinking the same thing,' said Farfallina."

This heartwarming, colorfully illustrated story underscores beautifully the power of true friendship without glossing over the reality that change is inevitable as friends grow and mature. Kirkus

Listen to this book reading on NPR. Farfallina and Marcel was given the Charlotte Zolotow Award in 2003.  I adore this book - it is a beautiful story of friendship, understanding, acceptance of difference, loyalty and hope for the future happiness of this unlikely pair of friends.

I have always liked the art of Holly Keller.  Here are her books about Geraldine which sadly are out of print:






I would pair Farfallina and Marcel with Caterpillar Dreams by Jeanne Willis illustrated by Tony Ross.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

The secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt illustrated by Katherine Quinn

"Magnolia wondered gloomily if they would ever again hang upside-down from the old fig, inventing new kinds of animals or guessing what type of fruit they would be."





Magnolia is nine and a half and her life is changing. Her best friend has moved away. Mum is having a baby. Magnolia has moved up to grade four with a new teacher and new friends.  Magnolia is a very special girl. She is positive, forthright and honest. She is also a problem solver, which I love. She thinks up practical solutions for any problems that come her way.

Here is an example. She visits her friend Imogen May for a sleepover. Imogen explains there is a ghost in the new house. Magnolia wakes up in the middle of the night and she hears the ghost. She leaves Imogen May sleeping and heads downstairs.  The ghost is in fact Ernest, Imogen May's brother. He is frightened of the noises made by the toilet when it is flushed. Magnolia takes charge. She leads Ernest up to confront the toilet. "I am going to flush you now, and you are going to get on with it and not make a fuss ... And you are to stay there, and you are not, I repeat not, to follow us down the hall."

I love the way Magnolia makes sense of time. "Time was tricky like that. It could be long and short all at once. And it was always going backwards and forwards getting stuck between yesterday and tomorrow."

"There's a whole year to go, which is a lifetime if you are a giant jellyfish."
"Barrow is a whole hour away, which is a lifetime if you are a cake in the oven."
"Six months .. but that is a lifetime if you are a bed bug."
"It was only three weeks since the girls had seen each other ... that was a lifetime if you were a bar of soap."
"There were five more hours until the end of school which was a lifetime if you were a sandcastle."

If you were using this book with a class you could make a lifetime book with a different example on each page.

I also love the tiny observations of life:

"Magnolia turned her pillow to the cool side."
"There were piles of washing all over the floor, spilling out of the basket in a tsunami of towels and sheets and tiny singlets."
Magnolia's new friend Casper Sloan makes his own lunch each day. He uses an alphabet system. On the w day Magnolia guesses it will be "won tons with wasabi, then waffles with white chocolate and watermelon." No he is having "watercress on white bread, walnut cake and wheatgrass juice."

And I love the delightful names:

Chimneypot Parade
Thistledown Preparatory
Applewhistle Lane

I think you can tell I really loved this little gem of a story. This is a quiet book which gently observes daily life for Magnolia allowing us to know her secrets.

I first read The Secrets of Magnolia Moon in June this year. Walker Book Australia kindly gave each of the people attending an advance copy. I am never sure how long I need to wait to talk about a new book so I put it to one side. The Secrets of Magnolia Moon was published in October and it is receiving so many positive comments.  Megan Daley read this book to her little girl and they both loved it.

Katherine Quinn is an illustrator from New Zealand.

I will make the prediction that The Secrets of Magnolia Moon will be a notable title for our CBCA awards in 2020 and from there a short listed title in the Younger Reader category.

I loved the previous picture book by Edwina Wyatt - In the Evening. I would pair The secrets of Magnolia Moon with Where Dani goes Happy follows.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is a whimsical and gentle portrayal of friendship and problem solving, with each page to be savoured. And I think young readers could do with more of that. Kids Book Review



A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck



It seems odd to say I really love books set in America (remember I live in Australia), set in times past (this is set in 1937) and set in small rural towns (this one is in Illinois). Perhaps it goes back to my childhood reading of the Little House books which I devoured.

A Year Down Yonder won the Newbery Medal in 2001. This means it is famous in America and it also means it has gone through lots of cover designs (see below).  I spied my copy (above) with a sale price in a Sydney children's bookstore. I know how much Horn Book editor, Roger Sutton, adores the writing of Richard Peck and I knew I had already read and enjoyed A long way from Chicago - many years ago so it was easy to make the decision to buy this book. I started reading it this morning and finished it about two hours later - yes it is THAT good!

This book is a sequel but I have no memory of reading of A long Way from Chicago so A Year down Yonder can certainly stand alone. Mary Alice is a wonderful character but it is her Grandmother that I especially love. She has a gruff exterior but underneath she has a heart of gold. She is wise, confident, loud, clever, caring and so very very hard working.

Click these review quotes for more plot details:

And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. Kirkus

Between antic capers, Peck reveals a marshmallow heart inside Grandma's rock-hard exterior and adroitly exposes the mutual, unspoken affection she shares with her granddaughter. Like Mary Alice, audience members will breathe a sigh of regret when the eventful year ""down yonder"" draws to a close. Publishers Weekly

You can read an extract here.  You can also listen to an audio sample from the first page onwards.  I would follow A Year Down Under with Letters to Missy Violet, Turtle in Paradise, and The Girl who bought mischief.  I also recommend other books by Richard Peck such as The Mouse with the question mark Tail and Secrets at Sea.



Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket by Margaret Mahy




Carlo and his mother don't have much money. They really cannot afford extra things in the supermarket. Arriving in the car park Carlo sees a lady with a trolley full of shopping. Her name, he discovers,  is Mrs Christmas and she looks a little like a Christmas tree. 

She was an "old woman in her dark green skirt, her dark green jerseys and her red velvet jacket. Not only that her hair was dyed dark blue, and she wore a golden star in the front, which glittered beautifully, even though it was tilted sideways."

Carlo moves close to Mrs Christmas. He is curious to discover if she smells like pine needles but he gets a little too close and the pair of them trip and her shopping trolley falls over. The eggs are broken but Jessica immediately offers to pay for new ones. Carlo is shocked because they hardly have enough money for their own food. As they chat about shopping and busy places Mrs Christmas explains she usually shops at the Supermarket at the end of the World.  It turns out she is leaving town soon:

"my son's coming for me. His wife, who is such a nice girl, has got a job sorting out international rainbows, and they need someone to be at home after school - they've got twenty-seven children and it keeps them utterly busy ... oh and the elephant as well, which is a big job, with elephants eating so much ...  "

This sentence is quintessentially Margaret Mahy.  Think of all the children in The Rattlebag Picnic, think of the work done by the mother in Jam (she is researching sun spots) and think of the beautiful language used in The Man whose Mother was a pirate.

Mrs Christmas pulls out a dark blue card - it is a bus ticket that takes you to the end of the world. Waiting at the end of the world, travelers lucky enough to have this special ticket, find a supermarket. Not just any supermarket - it's the supermarket of your dreams. Carlo and his mum are allowed on the bus but there are some other characters, the Dowlers, who are out to destroy the supermarket. It is vital to stop them catching the bus.

The bus driver began "studying their feet closely. ... 'I can't let just anybody onto the bus of course, or we'd have the bus filled with Dowlers in no time. They're good at disguising most of themselves but it hard to get away with forked feet, let alone claws, isn't it?"

In the supermarket you can buy:


  • Optional Soup - tick the desired flavour - Tomato, Cockaleekie, Mixed Vegetable Turtle, Onion, Octopus, Gunpowder and so on.
  • Exploding Porridge - very useful if you are being attacked by Dowlers
  • There's a tearoom with "tongue-twisting tantalizingly tasty treats, tricked with tomato, toffee, tamarillo, treacle and tapioca, all tarted up with tender tapeworms."
  • And there is everything you could possibly need for an Almost Party.

At its heart this is a story about good friends, team work, trust, fun and of course good versus evil as Carlo and his new friend Jessica battle against the dastardly Dowlers - and win!

I spied this book at a recent charity book sale. I adore the writing of Margaret Mahy. The story is quite simply a delicious romp from page 1 to page 159.  Sadly, though, it is out of print. Perhaps you will be lucky and find a copy in a library or at a book sale as I did. If you can find The Dark Blue 100 ride Bus ticket I think it would make the perfect class read aloud for Grade 3 or 4.

Listen here to an audio sample from page 16 - Chapter 2. An audio version of whole book can be found here - I highly recommend you listen  - what a treat! Scroll down to find part 1 of the 10 parts.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway children book awards 2020



The Cilip Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medal nominations have been released.  Lists like this are so exciting especially when I see books I have read and loved. Lists like this are also a way to create my own reading list of books I can now hunt for. There are lots on the Greenaway list I need to read but I was pleased to see books I had read and loved included on the Carnegie list.

Carnegie Books 



Here are the titles I've already talked about (on this blog). 

Where the river runs gold by Sita Brahmachar

No Ballet shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton

Swimming against the storm by Jess Butterworth

Louisiana's Way home by Kate diCamillo

The secret Starling by Judith Eagle

Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxleee (Australian title)

The dog runner by Bren MacDibble (Australian title)

The Skylarks war by Hilary McKay

Anna at War by Helen Peters

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Lampie and the Children of the sea by Annet Schaap

Our Castle by the sea by Lucy Strange

Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams


Carnegie books I've read but not discussed here:

Toffee by Sarah Crossan
This is a wonderful Young Adult verse novel. The depth of emotion explored in this story will linger with me forever.

The words that fly between us by Sarah Carroll
I need to talk about this book on my blog. I enjoyed the complex relationships in this book and the exploration of betrayal.

The Afterwards by AF Harrold
As with The Imaginary, I found this to be a disturbing book. The final scenes helped me cope with the way grief is explored here.

A different land by Paul Jennings (Australian title)
I was only able to borrow this for a short time. I will talk about it here when I can borrow it again. This is the third in a series by Paul Jennings and he again demonstrates he is a master storyteller. I highly recommend the previous two books A different dog and A different boy.


Greenaway Medal



Here are the titles I've already talked about (on this blog)

Captain Rosalie illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

The suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

I am the seed that grew the tree illustrated by Fran Preston-Gannon

Australian titles on the Greenaway list:

Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

Wisp - a story of hope by Zana Fraillon

The Dam by David Almond has an Australian illustrator - Levi Pinfold

Happy Reading

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore

Tuesday Treasure



Sid, the black cat lives on Aristotle Street. The people who live on this street don't talk to one another. This is lucky for Sid because it means he can enjoy six delicious meals each day but he does have to use six different identities. He is known as Scaramouche, Bob, Satan, Sally, Sooty and Schwartz. Life is good for Sid until the day he catches a cold which turns in to a cough. Each family takes him to the vet - that's six vet visits and six doses of medicine. Luckily the vet becomes suspicious. He checks the records and discovers there are six cats living on Aristotle Street all with a bad cough.

The people from Aristotle Street gather together. "When they discovered what he had been up to, Sid's owners were furious. They said he had no business eating so many dinners."  Every one agrees Sid will only have one meal each day but this does not suit Sid. He moves on to Pythagoras Place where again there are six houses and hopefully six dinners but unlike Aristotle Street, the people who live in Pythagoras Place do talk to one another. Can Sid still enjoy his six dinners?

In 1990 I showed Six Dinner Sid with a Kindergarten teacher. From then on, for over 30 years, various Kindergarten teachers continued to share this wonderful book with their students along with Scallywag which makes an excellent companion or comparison text.


There is a second story about Sid.


Inga Moore was born in the UK but lived in Australia as a child. She is the illustrator of several classic stories such as The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows.  She is also the illustrator of a book I really love - The Vegetable Thieves. Six Dinner Sid won the Nestle Smarties Prize in 1990. Her two earliest books - Aktil's Big Swim and Aktil's Bicycle Ride are on my Tuesday treasure list. I am still hoping to come across copies of these so I can share them here.


Monday, November 4, 2019

The Shape of Hope: Finding wonder, joy and strength in literature


In this post I am going to attempt to distill three wonderful conference days into one post.  I tend to think in 'dot points' so here are my reactions and thoughts now that I am home from this splendid conference. This is my third post about this event. You can read about all the presenters here and also details of my presentation at the Texas Book Festival.


  • Austin/Texas authors - books to explore



Paige Britt  Why am I me? Kirkus Star review

Samantha M Clark The Boy, the Boat and the Beast

Meredith Davis  Her Own Two Feet
This is the true story of a little girl from Rwanda who comes to Austin for an operation to help her walk.

Carolyn dee Flores The amazing water color fish
Watch this video of the story. The unique aspect of this book is that it rhymes in both English and Spanish.

Bethany Hegedus  Grandfather Gandhi; Rise Maya Angelou

KA Holt  Redwood and Ponytail; I wonder

Lupe Ruiz-Flores  Author of six bilingual picture books and Lupe is a poet.

Vanessa Roeder  Lucy and the string; The Box Turtle

Christina Soontornvat  Diary of an Ice Princess series
New book coming about the rescue of the Thai soccer team - The Thirteen


  • Conference program

Briley Dinner table decoration speaker Nicola Davies


There were so many special aspects to the organisation of this conference. One thing I really appreciated was the use of a schedule app. This conference was almost paper free (apart from all the glorious books in the bookshop, the IBBY book displays and the poster sessions). By using the app participants were sent a daily personalised schedule with times and room numbers. The other aspect of the program that I really appreciated was the pace of this conference and they way the organisers at no time had to cajole people into sessions. It seemed to me the delegates were expected to take responsibility for their own program - there were no bells and no one rushing around saying go to this or that session. Here is a list of all the breakout sessions.


  • My Pre-conference Reading

My reading really paid off.  Prior to the conference I tried to read any many books from the range of speakers as I could. On my flight over I completed a few more Middle Grade novels such as The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, Whale Boy by Nicola Davies and The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye. On the days prior to the conference I visited the Austin Central library. What an amazing space, building, and children's collection. The library was built two years ago and is housed over six floors with an outdoor courtyard garden, central light filled atrium and bright comfortable furniture. While I was there I read several picture books including: Mine Yours illustrated by Qin Leng; The Red thread by Grace Lin; Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin; What can you do with a Rebozo by Carmen Tafolla;  The Pond by Nicola Davies, and The Promise also by Nicola Davies;




  • What do I want to read now?
Aunt Pearl illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Black is a rainbow color by Ekula Holmes
Just in case you want to fly illustrated by Christian Robinson
A time to Dance Padma Venktraman
Deep Underwater illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Nerdy Book Club blog post by Padma Venkatraman about colonisation and the depiction of people from India in books like The Secret Garden.
A place at the table by Laura Shovan and Saadi Faruqi
Lucy and the string by Vanessa Roeder




  • References to Australian books

Florette by Anna Walker
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Every Child a Song by Nicola Davies illustrated by Marc Martin (Australia)
Sophie Scott goes South by Alison Lester (poster session)
The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke (poster session)
Bob the Railway dog by Corinne Fenton illustrated by Andrew Maclean (poster session)


  • Some memorable quotes (paraphrased)
"Poetry is a party we're all invited to" Jacqueline Woodson
"We never know how our words go out into the universe"  Naomi Shihab Nye
"We are always looking for answers but really it is curiosity that unites us." Paige Britt

On Hope:
"Hope is generosity - to give something away that is unexpected." Ekua Holmes
"Hope - there is no other way. ... Find that book for that child. Words matter. We need to be hopeful for a better tomorrow."  Baptiste Paul

"You're not supposed to have an agenda! NO I have an agenda. I want to re connect the child with the natural world, I want to open up conversations, I want children to be empowered not powerless." Nicola Davies
"Picture books are extraordinary, powerful and unique."  Nicola Davies
"The story space allows us to imagine a new world - dreams become action." Nicola Davies


  • Poster Session highlights
  1. Spark wonder in Green Literacy - Jen Cullerton Johnson  
  2. Representations of food insecurity and hunger in children's literature - Maria V Acevendo-Aquino and Estela Ipina
  3. Student-created book trailers on motivation and comprehension - Jared Crossley
  4. Map it - using maps and digital collection to teach information books - Bindy Fleischman

  • Discoveries
Grace Lin was inspired by Ezra Jack Keats and his book Snowy day and this lead to her books about Little Snow.

Many years ago Allen Say was asked a very serious question by a Grade 4 child - "To be an artist can I be one by working hard or do I need talent?"  This question lingered with Allen and led to his newest book - Almond

Christian Robinson dedicated one of his books to his high school art teacher who not only encouraged him she organised for him to enter competitions. I think he said she paid for them.

Elise Gravel has wonderful cartoons on her web site which explain concepts such as empathy, diversity and racism. Her book What is a Refugee was developed when a publisher saw one of her cartoons.

The second pre conference tour was to the Harry Ransom Center which is which is an archive, library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin. There we viewed a range of items by Arthur Rackham. I was interested to discover there are many other archival collections like this in America such as the Children's Literature Research Collection at the University of Minnesota. At this conference I met librarian Lisa von Drasek. I would love to spend time in her library and possibly others like it some time in the future.

The common bird in Austin Texas is the Grackle. I think they drive the locals crazy but I found them fascinating.  This sculpture can be seen in the Austin Central library - it's a cuckoo clock with no hands.




  • One more thing ...

Poem from the session:
"Looking at Refugees: Books as Help Patricia L. Bloem, Oralia Garza de Cortés, Laura Vander Broek"

Home, by Warsan Shire (British-Somali poet)

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it's not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did -
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage -
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child's body
in pieces - for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don't know what
i've become.


  • Silent Auction raising funds for IBBY projects

The silent auction was fabulous and I picked up a signed copy of the new Rosemary Wells book Twin Trouble. This linked beautifully with the display at the Austin Central library from the Rosemary Wells book about Yoko.


 Mural in the children's section of the Austin Central Library

One piece of art from Yoko's Show and Tell on display in the Central Library in Austin

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth




Before you read The Eleventh Trade please try to read Sonam and the Silence. This will help you understand the importance of the rebab and why the loss of this precious instrument is so utterly dreadful.



Sami and his grandfather have arrived in America after a long journey from their homeland in Afghanistan. The other members of the family are all dead. Sami and his grandfather have spent time in wretched circumstances in Istanbul, Athens and Iran.  Finally they have somewhere safe to live in Boston. Baba (grandfather) is a skilled musician but he now plays his beautiful antique rehab in the subway to raise money for food and living expenses.

"Back in Afghanistan, before the Taliban came, Baba was a famous performer. People would pay thousands of Afghanis to hear him play."

As the story opens Sami has arrived at the subway. His grandfather leaves Sami for a moment to go to the bathroom.

"I flick my fingers over the rehab's three main strings. The mulberry wood base presses into my chest. ... The pegbox at the end of the neck is carved in a flower design, with one end chipped where Baba dropped it in Iran. The tassel - woven by my grandmother in blue and white string with red beads - swings as I adjust the rebab in my lap."

Sami is transported by his own playing to memories of his mother (mor) and father (plar). His eyes are closed and while he plays someone snatches the rebab from his hands and runs away. Sami chases the teenager but the precious instrument is lost. Sami feels enormous guilt. He has badly let his grandfather down.

Sami has felt utterly alone at school but one boy, Dan, offers to help him. Dan finds the rebab for sale on the internet at a guitar shop but when Sami goes there the owner demands $700.  Now go back to the title and the word "Trade".  Sami begins to trade things to make the money so he can retrieve the rebab.  The shop owner gives him one month. These are the twenty eight days of Ramadan. If Sami can raise the $700 he can give the rebab back to Baba as an Eid gift.

Alyssa Hollingsworth allows the reader to slowly discover what happened to Sami and his parents in Afghanistan. It is a heart wrenching but important story.  Along the way Sami makes new and wonderful friends and he does raise, with a huge effort, the necessary $700 but when he arrives back at the guitar store the rebab has been sold.

I read this book in three huge gulps - up to chapter 9 in one breath, then on to the end of chapter 19 and finally one more breath to reach the end of this utterly splendid book. You can hear a radio interview with Alyssa here. Here are a set of teachers notes from the publisher.  This is a book you must put on your own "to read" list.

I would pair The Eleventh Trade with No Ballet Shoes in Syria.

Both a quest story and a friendship story, this book brings to life the traumatic reality refugee children experience in a world filled with borders and walls. Kirkus

Readers will cheer Sami on in his quest and cry with him when he shares his worst experiences. A true read for empathy and a great story of our times. Book Murmurmation