Stuck in a Book: ‘I’m Australian Too’ & ‘Room On Our Rock’

by Ella Peile

This month our Children & Young Adult Programs Coordinator can’t contain her enthusiasm. She’s sharing two picture books that have left an impact. Both books offer different looks at the topic of refugees.

From Ella:

The first book I wanted to share is I’m Australian Too by the wonderful Mem Fox. Each page-spread in this colourful rhyming book introduces us to a different Australian child, exploring diversity and commonality.

The bold full-page illustrations by Ronojoy Ghosh effectively communicate a broad tapestry of Australian cultures. The variance in colours, shapes, and perspectives provide a contrast to the regular rhythm and expresses the difference in each family and place. The simple rhyming text will appeal to little ears and provides consistency: reinforcing that despite our differences we are all Australian.

The book has a simple message about multiculturalism and refugees which young children will easily grasp. It could be a great conversation starter amongst families, kindies, and primary schools to share their own family histories without judgement. The message about refugees is clear: “everyone’s a friend”.

The second book also has a message about refugees but is delivered through metaphor. Room On Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple tells the story of two groups of seals vying for space. Read front to back, the seals appear unwelcoming to newcomers, but thanks to clever arrangement of each phrase, the meaning is entirely subverted when the book is read back to front. The clever structure makes this book unique.

The illustrations by Terri Rose Baynton are gorgeous watercolours which suit the setting and allow the literal and deeper meanings to be read through the expressive seals and stormy seas.

Like I’m Australian Too, Room On Our Rock has a simple message about being welcoming. While it can obviously be a conversation starter to discuss welcoming refugees, readers may also reflect on simpler notions of welcoming: sharing a room, toys, and treating people kindly.

I’m Australian Too and Room On Our Rock are both great books looking at the general topic of welcoming refugees. I’d love to see more own voices stories on this topic, but these are nonetheless well-executed books with a positive message of inclusion.

I’m Australian Too, written by Mem Fox, illustrations by Ronojoy Ghosh. Scholastic 2017.

Room On Our Rock, written by Kate & Jol Temple, illustrations by Terri Rose Baynton. Scholastic 2018.

Posted 23rd February 2018