Text and Illustrations
by Issa Watanabe
Walker Books, 2020

Migrants is a thought-provoking story that narrates the journey of migration but told without words. It is a picture book designed to allow readers to explore everything it takes to flee your homeland and journey into the unknown.

Watanabe, author and illustrator, uses the bleak backdrop of darkness to highlight the journey of a group of animals that must leave their forest and escape into the night. Death beckons, lands and oceans are crossed, meagre possessions are shared and sacrifices are made. The group survives fear and loss, persevering with courage and hope.

The colourful characters are similar and different. All have unique animal characteristics, yet all show the same despair, resilience and determination to survive, refusing to accept the metaphorical death that beckons, though suffering loss along the way.

Although marketed as a book for three to eight-year-olds, Migrants can be used with much older students, especially for developing creative and critical thinking skills via visual narratives.

Mandy Wells is the Multicultural Officer/Organiser

The Things I Love About Family
By Trace Moroney Five Mile/Regency Media, 2010

The Things I Love About Family is an amazing book for preschool and primary school children, that looks at the value and respect of family. The word “love” and “family” in the title are key. The excellent illustrations and beautiful colours bring life to the characters in the book. The repeated usage of “love” is a great reinforcement of the theme.

The book features beautiful illustrations of a rabbit family sitting together with their pets at home and in the park. It promotes a positive attitude and an optimistic and constructive mindset that allows the characters to feel loved and safe while having fun.

My daughter really enjoyed this book (and adored the pictures) and remembers a lot of the vocabulary and uses them in her speech. By reading this book to my children it also reminded me how to discipline them in a positive way. It not only benefited my children with its optimistic values but also benefited me as a parent. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who would like to promote a sense of love and togetherness with their family.

Lina Lay teaches at Hunter School of Performing Arts

If I Tell You
By Alicia Tuckerman Pantera Press, 2018

This is pretty solid young adult fiction set in a rural Australian town, something I applaud the author and publisher for exploring. The depth of the homophobia in Twin Creeks was difficult to read about.

The overall message and theme is about hope and acceptance and — as it’s mentioned many times — personal truth. These are great themes, but I found myself forgetting about how powerful they were in the wake of how the story ends.

The atmosphere of the town, general characterisation, and writing is all very strong. Pantera Press is a publisher I’ll continue to look to for modern Australian voices and I hope that their future LGBTIQ+ projects are as well written as this, but perhaps a little wiser in terms of their underlying problems.

It’s a tiny thing, but I don’t understand the rather Hollywood-style aspects of the school setting.

Spoiler alert! This novel adds another notch to the “bury your gays” trope. I was so disappointed, because I had wanted this to be a novel that Australian English teachers would order for their faculties, that I could run to my teacher-librarian and rave about as a new purchase for our students. That said, I’d recommend the book. It’s a well-executed coming-out story with some gorgeous moments of acceptance, realisation, and honesty both with one’s self and with others.

Rebecca Langham is a member of the LGBTIQ SIG

Girls Resist: A guide to activism, leadership and starting a revolution
By KaeLyn Rich Quirk Books, 2018

American feminist organiser KaeLyn Rich shares her expertise in this great “how to” guide for young potential activists. As Rich explains in the introduction: “If you have no idea how to understand or stand up against the social and political problems that keep heaping up, knowing where to start can be confusing, overwhelming and exhausting. But you’ve already made the first important step: you’re here.”

The book has practical tools, templates and examples for identifying and designing a campaign around an issue. It walks readers through the process of recognising strengths, developing skills, seeking out others to participate and how to craft a campaign message. There’s a useful summary of the three key elements called “takeaways” at the end of each chapter.

While the book is written for the American context the content is transferrable to Australia and comparable resources and references can be found fairly easily. It’s a practical manual that fits with the PDHPE Respectful Relationships curriculum and could be easily used by year advisers and girls’ supervisors, particularly if your school was interested in developing a “feminist collective” project such as Fitzroy High School in Victoria. Click here.

Leeanda Smith is the Women’s Coordinator

A room made of leaves
By Kate Grenville, Text Publishing 2020

This compelling and engaging memoir, weaving fiction with truth, forces audiences to rethink Australia’s history. It depicts the first settlement through the female lens of Elizabeth Macarthur, sheep farmer and wife of infamous, unforgiving, John Macarthur.

The writing is impeccable. It successfully grapples with the possibility of what might have been, painting the harshness of Australian life for those arriving from the shores of England. Grenville highlights the silencing of women and our First Nations people, dissecting misconceptions and showcasing how lies and power can shape reality.

Hannah Archer Lawton is a City Organiser