Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Children’s Book Review, I’m Australian Too

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

I’m Australian Too is a children’s picture book written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh and published by Scholastic (2017.) RRP: $Au19.99 HB.

From the publisher:

I’m Australian! How about you? Many people from many places have come across the seas, to make Australia their home. How Australian is that?

From countries near and far, many have made their home in Australia, sharing it with the original inhabitants, and living in peace beneath the Southern Star.

Mem Fox celebrates Australia's incredible multicultural heritage in this beautiful book illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.

I loved the emphasis in I'm Australian Too on celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity, but doing it in a matter-of-fact way that avoids the tub-thumping kids don’t need to hear. Instead, we meet a range of kids who share their backgrounds with us. One Melbourne-born child has a dad born in Sydney, and a mum born in Ballarat; three kids looking out of an apartment window tell us Dad grew up in Darwin, Mum in Humpty Doo and that their “mob’s been here forever…” leading us to infer their heritage is indigenous. Kids whose families came from Ireland, Italy, England, Somalia and Syria share brief snippets of their past and current life, and we slowly become aware that some of those lives have been very difficult and different to ours. Fox’s text is simple, spare almost, even in the final two pages where she reminds us that Australia is ours to share with others, and a place where broken hearts can mend.

Ghosh’s illustrations are interesting, and I think they suit the text very well. He shares different views of the Australian way of life - many clearly showing the children we meet in the text, others portraying Australian icons. Repeated white birds range from cockatoos to a classic dove of peace, adding a nice sense of continuity to the visual story. One stark page stands out - a little girl next to a razor-wire topped high concrete wall. She is a refugee and confides that if Australia lets her in, she would love to be a vet.

This new children’s picture book works at different levels. Younger ones might enjoy the surface story and wonder where their own grandparents came from. I think it will certainly give older kids pause for thought. I hope they will feel thankful to live in a country where diversity and multiculturalism are celebrated by most people, and understand that not all countries have this freedom.

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  1. This sounds like a great book and I can't help but wonder if it was written as a result of the appalling, totally embarrassing way Mem Fox was treated when she visited the US not so long ago (and who could blame her, if it is). I've always wanted to visit Australia and still hold out hope that I will do so one of these days. Thanks for sharing this book today.

  2. I hope you get here, Alex, and when you do I hope we can get together and talk books!


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