Everyone Belongs – Harmony Day Picture Books

Today, Harmony Day, is a day of celebration, marking the significance of community inclusion, diversity, respect and belonging. As my kids went off to school in their orange attire and stocked with their cultural lunch, they are amongst the nation representing a position of peace, togetherness and harmony. To follow on this auspicious day, we will be reading some inspiring and poignant books, a few of which are listed here.

This hauntingly stunning picture book by Margaret Wild, with stirring illustrations by Freya Blackwood, will have readers gasping with bated breath at its tainted beauty. The Feather, a symbol of redemption and hope, floats with its message of how one object can be so powerful in bringing people together, and also how quickly that faith can be lost. But with that inner light and love, it can not only be restored but also prospered.

Wild’s poetic, visual narrative is as soft, light and silky as the regal feather it represents, conjuring deep reflection and emotion within its harrowingly dark, war-torn setting. Blackwood beautifully does the same with her expert use of light and shade, highlighting the glimmers of hope amongst the grey and ghostly village. And with the strength of two inspiring children as the central characters to help signify the sense of safety, warmth and optimism with the clean feather, overcoming its muddied, spoiled shadow of life, is a brilliant concept that this superb pairing have perfected.

The Feather is a striking reminder of the importance of community and living together in harmony to reach a common goal of peace, happiness and a fighting spirit. Meaningful, majestic and masterful for primary aged children.

Little Hare Books, February 2018.

In association with Amnesty International UK, and a special foreword note by Yoko Ono Lennon, this heart rending rendition of John Lennon’s 1971 hit song, Imagine, feels poignant and powerful, empowering and inspirational. It is a beautiful book to share with every generation every day, and particularly on a day like today’s Harmony Day.

The pigeon, or dove (symbol of peace) in the book takes its readers / listeners on a journey over the waters and across the world, welcoming a colourful and varied array of birds to join him. The lyrics relay the message of living in peace without restrictions of borders, predujices against religions and cultures, or material things. Hence the wording, “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

Jean Jullien is a perfectly suited illustrator for this book with his bold black line and brightly coloured drawings; simple, charismatic and impactful. His images are joyous and energetic and heartwarmingly represent how “the world will live as one.”

Our younger generation of preschool and primary school children will hopefully carry forth this valuable mission of human rights; of equality, safety, belonging and love, in helping to Imagine and ‘make the world a better place.’

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, September 2017.

Hello!, illustrated by Tony Flowers, is a playful and exotic blend of cultures following twelve children from different backgrounds. We meet kids from Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities, to Asian and European heritage. Each section introduces a child and describes some special qualities and traditions like cuisine, clothing, language, recreation and holidays. The book is complete with guides on pronunciation of terms from each language and photographs adopted from various resources.

Flowers casts a wonderful representation of diversity and energy with his detailed pencil and watercolour illustrations.

Hello! is a terrific resource to have in every early childhood and primary school setting. This book certainly acknowledges, represents and celebrates our wide mix of multiculturalism in our country to encourage the value that ‘everyone belongs’.

NLA, April 2016.

Happy Harmony Day!

Big Adventures with Alison Lester’s Picture Books

Alison Lester; much-loved, legendary children’s author illustrator, Australia’s Inaugural Children’s Laureate 2011 – 2013, multi-award winner with a long-standing, colourful career and classic books including ‘Imagine’, ‘Magic Beach’, ‘Nony the Pony’, ‘Kissed by the Moon’, ‘Our Island’ and ‘Are We There Yet?’.
imageHaving said all that, I’m still pinching myself that I actually met her last weekend! Attending her special storytime at Readings, we were lucky enough to get a personal reading of her gorgeous, new book, ‘My Dog Bigsy’.  

From the wonderfully textured front cover, to the interactive farm route on the endpapers, and the animated sound effects emanating from the words, ‘My Dog Bigsy’ is the perfect language experience for little ones.

imageIntroducing Alison‘s real dog Bigsy, with a detailed diagram of his unique body parts, including crooked front legs and a special scratching spot, we immediately fall in love with this bouncy character. A little girl tells of his silence as her co-sleeper, but once outside, she hears her hairy friend clamouring, barking and chasing the animals all around the farm. Rollicking onomatopoeia have us bounding along with Bigsy and his noisy counterparts, from screeching cockies to thumping kangaroos, snorting horses, ducks and lazy cows, bold pigs and non-mathematical hens. At the end of his rounds, Bigsy is exhausted. Where will he go next?

imageAs Alison explained, her line work is different from her usual technique. This time the watercolour pictures were cut inside the outline for a smoother look, and the textures of the mixed media and frayed edges of the dress material is ideal for that added depth and authentic rustic feel.

‘My Dog Bigsy’ is a fun, vibrant romp with an endearing character, including a sweet message of friendship and a clever approach to reinforcing knowledge of farm animals and their noises. Just delightful for children from age two.

Penguin Random House Australia, 2015.  

imageAnother engaging book for early childhood readers is Alison‘s most recent edition of her classic story, ‘Are We There Yet?’, this one with fun lift-the-flap and I-spy components.

Whilst the first is aimed at an older target audience with its sweeping detail, this current book is a terrific summary of this family’s trip around Australia including simple, short sentences and interactive I-spy questions and answers under the flaps. I love this format for introducing young ones to our unique locations and landmarks, flora and fauna, enthralling activities and modes of transport, as well as a touch of history that makes our land so extraordinary.

imageAll the stunning imagery exquisitely painted by Alison Lester in this book have been transferred from the original, in a more compact form with round-edged and glossy pages, specially adapted for those little hands.

‘Are We There Yet? Lift the flap and play I-spy!’ is sure to be a trusty travelling companion for any young reader all the year round.

Penguin Random House Australia, 2015.

For more information on Alison Lester, visit her website here.

Review – ‘Imagine’ by Emma Mactaggart and Ester De Boer

Imagine emma mactaggart picImagine, Emma Mctaggart (author), Ester De Boer (illus.), Boogie Books, 2015.  

What would you do in your most fantastical of daydreams? Totally let your imagination run free…where would you go? In Emma Mactaggart and Ester De Boer’s explosive ‘Imagine’, we are taken on a zoo adventure wilder than you could ever devise!  

Utterly ridiculous! Absolutely preposterous! So much fun! We are given a little taste of individual children brainstorming their interactions with animals in the most unusual, extraordinary ways. From tall giraffe high-chairs, to bathing in a hippo, riding in an elephant car, using an ostrich as a broom, and speeding along on a cheetah bike. Now children, don’t frighten those animals with those rip-roaring imaginations!  

Imagine pic With its lyrical rhythm and fast-paced flow, Emma Mactaggart has created an energetic and delightful story to engage all the senses. The equally exuberant illustrations by Ester De Boer add an extra dimension to the text with their colourful watercolours, movement and intricate details. The result of the pair’s collaboration is ”magical”. As Emma describes, “On one hand, a great deal of trust has be to shown as you are trusting another person to interpret your words. It is super important to pick the right person who has the right style for what you envisage. Even though Ester had never illustrated a book before, I knew her drawing skills were masterful, her sense of imagination was extraordinary and she has a wicked sense of humour!”    

The repetitive theme and sentence structure, along with the interactive nature of the story will be sure to hook its readers along for the ride. ‘Imagine’ is creative and refreshing, perfect for children of primary school age to delve in to again and again.  

Head-shot_Emma Mactaggart‘Imagine’ is a book that certainly encourages readers to open their minds and test logic, but it also empowers emotive and coginitive control. It has been found by scientist J.L. Singer that daydreaming benefits a healthy mental life by driving creative thought, ambitiousness, the development of social skills, and as a form of meditation (brainpickings.org). When asked for her thoughts, author Emma Mactaggart believes that “Daydreaming is the ultimate right brain activity. We float into a space which allows the ‘flash’ of an idea to pop up. It is a homework item for the Child Writes children for exactly this reason. Daydreaming needs two things – permission from those around you and permission for yourself to drift.”  

Child Writes pic Award-winning independent publisher and author, Emma Mactaggart is an inspirational literacy advocate for young people, establishing the Child Writes program which enables students to create and publish their own books. She is the author of ‘Child Writes: Creating a Children’s Picture Book is Child’s Play’, which is a valuable resource for aspiring children’s writers and artists.

To find out more about Emma and her work, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/ChildWrites

To view ‘Imagine’ on YouTube, click here:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DfpJY1V8uxY