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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Tomlinson)

Redirection to ANZ LitLovers

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 29, 2009

Click on the link to redirect to Lisa Hill’s book blog ANZ LitLovers.

Students, click this link to go to the LisaHillSchoolStuff Wiki.

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New history unit for Years 1 & 2: Technology and Tradition (Toys and Games of the Past)

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 15, 2014

This week I’m working with my colleagues to develop our units for Even Years Term 3.  Today I worked with the Junior team to develop a history unit, and you can download it from the Goodies to Share menu:

Technology and Tradition (Toys and Games of the Past)


Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, History units of work, Resources to share | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New unit and resources for NAIDOC Week: Indigenous War Service

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 13, 2014

Indigenous ServiceLast term I developed and trialled a new unit of work about Indigenous War Service for years 5 & 6. It’s based on a resource called Indigenous Service, A Resource for Primary Schools, published by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Shrine of Remembrance, but I adapted it quite a bit.  You can download the unit, and all the supplementary resources from the Goodies to Share menu, Australian Curriculum Literature & Research units for Years 5 & 6

This unit forms part of our whole school plan for the ANZAC Commemorations for 2014-5 (which you can download from the same page).

As it turned out, although I didn’t know this when I decided to develop this unit, the theme for NAIDOC Week 2014 was Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond:.  As it says on the NAIDOC website

This year’s NAIDOC theme honours all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country.

From our warriors in the Frontier Wars to our warriors who have served with honour and pride in Australia’s military conflicts and engagements across the globe.

We proudly highlight and recognise the role they have played in shaping our identity and pause to reflect on their sacrifice. We celebrate and honour their priceless contribution to our nation.

I would be rapt to get some feedback from teachers who download and try out the unit. Please use the comments box below.


Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian History, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Library activity sheets, Resources to share, School Library Units of Work | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Background reading: “Repaying our debt to Aboriginal soldiers” – The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 9, 2014

“How many Australians know that Matthias Ulungura, a young Tiwi Islander, captured – and disarmed – the first Japanese serviceman taken as a POW on Australian soil in 1942?”

It’s NAIDOC Week: Visit this link to learn more about the contribution of our indigenous people to the defence of Australia

Repaying our debt to Aboriginal soldiers – The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Indigenous Teaching Resources | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Rift-breaker, by Tristan Michael Savage

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 9, 2014

It’s been so long since I’ve read any SF, I’ve almost forgotten how to read it. Rift Breaker, by award-winning indigenous author Tristan Michael Savage, is a high action space adventure that will appeal to fans of Doctor Who and similar types of fantasy. The book won the 2013 Black&Write award for YA writing, but I think that adolescent boys of any age will like it. I’m not so sure about girls…

The main characters are Milton Lance, a human, and his simian mate Tazman. Although Tazman is unreliable and his party-animal ways often get the pair into trouble, there is never any doubt that they are the Good Guys. Inexperienced, sometimes naive and often impulsive, these two are recognisable as the antithesis of Evil because they show compassion for the suffering of others. With their sidekick Luyulla, it’s not so clear where her loyalties lie…

This is also true of the other significant characters. Fleet Commander Viceon Raegar works for the Tranquillian Composite, which is a ‘fusion of worlds dedicated to preserve cohabitation’. Sent to discover how the space colony Orisurrection was annihilated, he sees Luyulla’s spacecraft and assuming that the trio are responsible, circulates a Wanted notice throughout space.

From here on the trio have all kinds of trouble. Clearly there are Bad Guys, but all kinds of confusion keeps the reader guessing about who’s double-crossing whom. Milton finds himself the object of interest from both sides because the Good Guys think he’s on the wrong side and the Bad Guys somehow know that he has acquired a powerful gift that facilitates their Evil Quest.

There are so many twists and turns in the plot that I could not quite keep track, but in SF I think that hardly matters. It’s a Battle between Good and Evil, framed by a quest. The hero is double-crossed by someone, and there is a sexy female of considerable power (though she behaves in a rather incompetent way with her weaponry). In this respect it’s a rather ‘male’ book: the male characters dominate, the female has moments of being ruled by heart not head, and problems are all solved by fighting.

On the other hand, while the Bad Guys are motivated by lust for power, Milton saves himself with thoughts of home, family and friends. While there is the usual impressive range of weaponry that’s familiar from Doctor Who, the really dastardly stuff is created by evil scientists with a medical bent. Milton ends up with his mind under control through a Xoeloid implant in his brain, but the message seems to be that human love will prevail if people remain strong.

Milton is in some ways a symbol of Aboriginal resilience and reconciliation. He is a lone human in a world of other creatures, and he was raised by adoptive parents. He enjoys new experiences and he puts up with Tazman’s crazy behaviour because he craves adventure – but his heart belongs to his quiet home in an isolated rural environment. His sense of justice is outraged by colonisers who destroy space colonies for their own purposes, and he is determined to survive in order to resist their domination because he doesn’t share their values.

At 350-odd pages it looks like a long book but the font is well-spaced and it’s a quick and easy read. For fans of high action space adventure, it has plenty of techno-babble, weird creatures and snappy dialogue. I’m confident that boys will like it, and I’ll be interested to see if teenage girls like it too.

Update: Tristan Savage has won the Kris Hembury encouragement award at the recent Aurealis Awards for science fiction…Congratulations!

PS I left this book behind at my parents’ place, my mother (who’s in her late 80s) absolutely loves it!

Author: Tristan Michael Savage
Title: Rift Breaker
Publisher: Magabala Books 2014
ISBN: 9781922142467
Source: review copy courtesy of Magabala Books.


Fishpond: Rift Breaker
Or direct from Magabala Books

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.

Posted in Book Reviews, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Book review: Tracker Tjugingji, by Bob Randall and Kunyi June-Anne McInerney

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 5, 2014

I’m going to kick off Indigenous Literature Week 2014 with a review of a delightful picture book called Tracker Tjugingji, by Bob Randall of the Yankunytjatjara desert people from Central Australia and a listed custodian of Uluru.  The book blurb tells us that the author was taken from his family when he was 8 or 9 years old, and sent from Alice Springs to Minjala (Croker Island) off the north coast of Arnhem Land.  A well-known story-teller and songwriter, he used this childhood experience to write the award-winning song Brown Skin Baby.

Tracker Tjugingji, however, is not a sad story of the Stolen Generations, it is a celebration of traditional Aboriginal family life.   Tjugingji is a little fellow who lives in the desert with his parents, camping in little windbreak shelters and sleeping by the fire.  One day his parents let him know that he’s not to play too late that night because they are moving on in the morning, to a big lake, a long way east of where they were camped.  Of course kids will be kids, and by the time he gets back from playing his parents (and the dogs) are all fast asleep, so he lies down beside his father and goes to sleep.


When Tjugingji’s parents woke up there was a glow in the sky -  the sun was rising.  But Tracker Tjugingji was still fast asleep.  ‘Oh well, let’s leave him,’ they said.  ‘He can catch up later.’

That’s  the Aboriginal way – you don’t wake your children when they are fast asleep.

I expect this will raise a few eyebrows today when so many children are raised to be fearful of stepping outside their own front gate by themselves.  But Tjugingji is not the least little bit alarmed, because he knows he can follow their tracks.  He has his little spear and boomerang with him, and by walking around in a circle he soon picks up his parents’ tracks and sets off.

Before long he picks up other tracks as well: he meets an assortment of wildlife who tell him that yes, they’ve seen his parents, and what’s more, they’ve been chased by the family dog.  The snake, the perentie, the malu (kangaroo), the papa (dingo) and the emu all follow him to make sure that he doesn’t lose his way, and they all end up having an inma (dance to celebrate.  The song they sing is included on a CD at the back of the book.   (There is also a glossary and a pronunciation guide).

The pictures, by Kunyi June-Anne McInerney, of Yankunytjatjara descent are gorgeous.  A stunning sky blue contrasts with the rich red of the desert landscape, and as you can see from the front cover Tjugingji is  a really cute kid with unruly curls and an infectious grin.

In the classroom, I would use this book to talk about how Tjugingji managed to find his parents, eliciting that Aboriginal families in traditional communities teach their children the skills they need to know to manage in a desert or bush environment, in the same way that city children are taught to manage traffic in an urban environment.  I think it would also make a superb stimulus for artwork with pastels or crayons, and art teachers could take the opportunity to talk about the Aboriginal mining of ochre, discussing the traditional routes and the trading that went on.

(I would do this because I think the best way to counter the insulting ignorance of anyone who thinks that Australia wasn’t already ‘settled’ in 1788, is to teach children about the thriving culture that was here in Australian for 40,000 years or more, and survives to this day).

If you have enjoyed a book by an indigenous author this week, please drop in at the ANZ LitLovers reviews page, and either leave a comment or a link to your review on your blog, at Goodreads or at Library Thing.

Update 14/7/14
I’ve been working on including Aboriginal Perspectives (aka the AC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures priority) in our new Year 1 & 2 unit on Past and Present Family Life (ACHHK030), and have included this title in one of the activities.


Author: Bob Randall
Illustrator: Kunyi June-Anne McInerney
Title: Tracker Tjugingji,
Publisher: Jukurrpa Books, an imprint of IAD Press, 2012
ISBN: 9781864651263
Source: Review copy courtesy of Dennis Jones and Associates


Fishpond: Tracker Tjungingji

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Recommended books | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Indigenous First Discovery Series, by Debbie Austin

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 30, 2014

I came across the Indigenous First Discovery series when book distributors Dennis Jones and Associates sent me three of their little books to review for Indigenous Literature Week 2014. 

They’re small square board books entitled

  • Animals
  • People and Places
  • At the Billabong

and they’re all illustrated with exquisite artwork by Debbie Austin,  from the Kirrae Whurrong nation in western Victoria.

Animals is a simple little book of symbols representing Australia’s native animals.  There are footprints of wombats, kangaroos, dingoes and so on, all painted in the traditional colours of black, yellow, red and white.  There is a legend at the back so that children can guess which footprints belong to which animal.

People and places is similar, but the symbols are of fire, watering places, weapons and so on.  I enjoyed trying to guess what these ones were, and will use this knowledge next time I try to interpret an Aboriginal work of art.

At the Billabong features a cut-out circle representing a billabong in the middle of the book, and the text tells a simple little story about the creatures that gathered at the billabong on a hot day.

Small children will find these little books enchanting, but they serve a wider purpose.  As the blurb says:

The series was created to help raise awareness of the importance of using Australian Aboriginal symbols to teach stories top our young in all cultures, as they have been for over 60,000 years.

In this delightful new range of books for babies and children, we discover the value of learning more about the spirituality of the Australian landscape and its indigenous people and embrace an Australian identity infused with existing native wisdom and lore.

Suitable for kindergartens and prep classes, they would also make a very special gift to welcome a new baby, I think.

Click the links to buy from Fishpond.

Animals (Indigenous First Discovery) People and Places (Indigenous First Discovery) At the Billabong: An Indigenous First Discovery Book [Board book]
Author and illustrator: Debbie Austin
First Discovery Series
Publisher: Discovery Press, 2008
ISBNs: Animals  9780980470109; People and Places 9780980470116; At the Billabong 9780980470123
Source: review copies courtesy of book distributors Dennis Jones and Associates sent



Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Book review: Silly Birds, by Gregg Dreise

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 22, 2014

Silly Birds

Silly Birds is a delightful book with a clear message about the folly of joining in with destructive gangs.  The artwork is stunning.

Gregg Dreise is a descendant of the Kamilaroi people from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales.  The youngest of eight children, he grew up in a family that valued sport, music and poetry, and was inspired to write by his mother, Lyla Dreise-Knox, who has been writing poetry for decades.

Currently a teacher on the Sunshine Coast, Gregg was inspired to write Silly Birds by hearing the Elders saying that it was ‘hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’.   I love the way the book begins, and from now onwards, I plan to use its opening lines whenever I read indigenous stories about The Dreaming to my students:

Way back before Once-upon-a-time time, there was the Dreamtime…

Maliyan is an eagle who comes from a loving family that’s very proud of him.  They teach him to be a good listener, and to remember that talking too much is only for wombah thigaraa – silly birds.  So Maliyan becomes a well-respected bird, until he meets up with Wagun, a bush turkey and a braggart, a boaster and a bird that’s careless about others.  Alas, Maliyan is attracted to Wagun because of the fun they have, mocking the Elders – and talking, talking, talking.

The gang doesn’t listen to the Elders, and they cause a lot of trouble, especially when they pollute the billabong with their rubbish and cause food shortages by taking more than their share.  Fortunately Maliyan responds to his parents’ concern in time and he decides not to hang around with the turkeys any more.   With help from the Elders he changes his ways and gets back his ability to see and hear things from a long way away.  The other birds respect him again, and follow his example.

All except for Wagun.  He loses his ability for soaring flight - and his friends - and is reduced to scratching around in a limited world.

Like many indigenous stories I have read, Silly Birds has an explicit moral, but it is not didactic in tone.  This beautiful, brightly coloured and superbly illustrated picture book is a 21st century way of doing what our indigenous people have always done – teaching their children through the arts.  In indigenous oral culture, children learned what they needed to know through story, song and dance.  Making the transition into print means that we can all share the story, no matter where we live.

Gregg has also made a very 21st century book promo at YouTube!

Author & illustrator: Gregg Dreise
Title: Silly Birds
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781922142993
Source: Review copy courtesy of Magabala Books

Fishpond: Silly Birds
Or direct from Magabala Books

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Announcing 2014 Indigenous Writers Week at ANZ LitLovers

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 22, 2014

ILW 2014I am pleased to announce that ANZ LitLovers will again be hosting Indigenous Literature Week in the second week of July to coincide with NAIDOC Week here in Australia. (6 to 13 July). This is a week when Australians celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and this year the NAIDOC Week theme is Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond. ANZ LitLovers’ contribution to NAIDOC is to celebrate all forms of Indigenous Writing, and I hope that many of my readers will join in and read a book by an Indigenous author.

Here at LisaHillSchoolStuff, I will be placing my reviews of  children’s literature by indigenous authors, and tagging the reviews

If you would like to participate, your choice of indigenous literature isn’t restricted just to Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori literature. Participants are welcome to join in reading indigenous literature from anywhere in the world, from Canada to Guyana, from Native American to Basque to Pashtun or Ixcatec. (For a list of indigenous people of the world, see this list at Wikipedia.) As to how we define indigenous, that’s up to indigenous people themselves. If they identify as indigenous themselves, well, that’s good enough for me.

Thanks to contributions from a fantastic bunch of participants in ILW 2012 and 2013 the reading list is growing. For reasons of space and time and personal preference my ANZ LitLovers reading list is limited to literary fiction titles by indigenous Australian and New Zealand authors but participants are free to choose any form you like – short story, memoir, biography, whatever takes your fancy! The permanent link to my reading list (and to other sources) is on the ANZLL Books You Must Read page in the top menu I plan to generate a reading list of children’s books by indigenous authors here at LisaHillSchoolStuff as well, but for the time being please visit the one at ANZ LitLovers .

Thanks to all those who joined in last year and have encouraged me to host the week again.

Interested? Sign up now to give yourself time to source the book you want to read.  Click this link to go to the ANZ LitLovers page.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Indigenous Teaching Resources | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

GTAV Primary Conference: How do I teach the new Australian Curriculum?

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2014

Last Monday I attended the GTAV Primary Conference: How do I teach the new Australian Curriculum? at the Melbourne Museum.   I was very impressed by the level of support that the GTAV (Geography Teachers Association of Victoria) is offering to primary teachers.   The GTAV has always been more of a professional association for secondary teachers, but they are reaching out to primary teachers by offering free membership for 2014 and are obviously keen to help us to implement the new curriculum.

There was an excellent display of materials for browsing, and I was most impressed by the Pearson Discovering History series.  This series of 10 books comes in three levels – lower, middle and upper primary – and it’s written specifically for the Australian Curriculum, including teacher resource books, laminated cards, online content and a ‘Hot Topic’ book.  The supplementary topic books for independent student research look excellent.  I wish Pearson would send me (and my cash-strapped school) a set to review!

The GTAV showbag included heaps of other useful stuff including a glossy promo for getting involved in Commonwealth Class, which of course is linked to the Commonwealth Games.  There was also a CD with links to the Global Education Project (GEP) which I intend to explore further, and a stack of GEP units for me to put into the library, as well as a CD offering primary and secondary units of work, short films & photos and interactive multimedia resources.


As it happens, I’d had rather a rude awakening to the new Australian Curriculum requirements on the Friday before the conference.  I’m teaching my new Explorers unit to Years 3 & 4, and it soon dawned on me that the children were none too familiar with the oceans that Magellan et al were circumnavigating.  I downloaded a label-the-oceans activity from Enchanted Learning and was somewhat dispirited to discover that while the children knew north, south, east and west, some of them had no idea how to use them in a clue like this:

Atlantic Ocean – an ocean bordering western Europe, western Africa, Antarctica, and eastern North and South America.

Anyway, after school I cranked up my Excel assessment file to record the results and so went hunting at ACARA Geography, expecting to find the relevant  content description somewhere around Years 4-6. only to find *gasp* it was an expectation for Year 2:

The location of the major geographical divisions of the world in relation to Australia
  1. using geographical tools, for example, a globe and world map, or digital applications such as Google Earth, to locate and name the continents, oceans, equator, North and South Poles, tropics and hemispheres
  2. describing the location of continents relative to Australia using terms such as north, south, opposite, near, far

I should add that AusVELS for Year 2 expects no such thing, presumably because they haven’t signed off on geography yet, and so all we have is the old Humanities statement, and no standards either till level 4:

Students develop their awareness of spatial concepts and use terms that demonstrate an understanding of absolute and relative locations. With guidance, they recognise and point to their street, town or city and state on an appropriate map. They recognise the globe as a model representation of Earth and can locate Australia and other places with which they have links. Students learn to identify and name physical features and distinguish them on the basis of variables, including size (scale/height/distribution) and colour. Through observation, they investigate and describe elements of the natural and built environments in their local area.

Well, whether or not little kids in Year 2 are expected to name continents and oceans, clearly we are going to need to jazz up our teaching of geography in primary schools, so the conference was indeed timely.

The keynote speech, Walking the Country, Exploring the History, was by author Nadia Wheatley.   I was a little bit disappointed by the exclusive focus on her own books, My Place, Going Bush, Playground and Australians All, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that they are the answer to a very crowded curriculum.   The message is, of course, that geography needs to be centred on place, be inclusive especially of indigenous prior ownership, and integrated with other subjects.  I really liked the emphasis on the integration of art, poetry and science with geography, especially drawing on-site because I know how much kids really enjoy this, and learn from it.  (Years ago on a camp at Licola, I took a session on sketching in situ.  The other teachers thought it was really daggy, but the kids loved having time for a quiet, reflective activity and their sketches were wonderful, ranging from intimate sketches of plants and insects to astonishing landscapes).  Nadia Wheatley said that drawing in-situ is ‘walking into the landscape’, and whereas a photo is a split-second observation, a drawing observes also the sounds, the weather and other things that are going on – a holistic memory that is in harmony with country.

But no matter how good they may be, (and I was a bit concerned that in a global world, there was no mention of global geography) adding more integrated units isn’t a solution.  IMO what we need to do is to use opportunities to integrate geography into existing units that we’ve already developed using the content in the Australian Curriculum.   (Explorers is an obvious example, and I’ve done heaps of geography using the Aboriginal map of Australia in my Y3&4 Aboriginal Legends unit and also in my Y5&6 Indigenous Service unit.  The Habitat unit that I’m doing with Y1&2 has lots of possibilities too, as does the Natural Disasters unit we’re updating for Years 5&6.)

InteractionStephen Latham, Education Officer at the GTAV, gave an excellent presentation.   So good, that I wish the conference had been a full day rather than a half day and we’d had time to explore the resources that he told us about.  They have a portal at Facebook, a Twitter account @GeographyVic and a stack of member only resources at their website.   They produce a journal called Interaction, and amazingly, they had extracted pages and pages of content relevant to primary schools and bound this into a booklet for the ‘showbag’ that we received at registration.

From the slideshow notes that we were given, I can share the basic ideas of geography, and the things that a primary teacher needs to keep in mind:

Geography is about

  • The physical environment of the earth’s surface (landforms, weather and climate, ecosystems (plants, animals and soils) and environmental hazards)
  • The human patterns on the earth’s surface (population patterns, cities and settlements, agriculture and industries, and resources & their uses)
  • The interactions between physical and human processes
  • The results of these, such as distinctive regions, resource uses, food production, inequalities, hazards, conservation etc.

There is a geography inquiry process (which should be represented as a cycle, but I haven’t got the graphic):

  • observing and questioning
  • planning, collecting and evaluating
  • processing, analysing, interpreting and concluding
  • communicating
  • reflecting and responding

Sustainability is a major focus, one of seven major concepts which Stephen represented in a concept wheel:

  • place,
  • space,
  • change,
  • scale,
  • environment,
  • sustainability, and
  • interconnection

So much to think about, I really think that Stephen could have done an entire day all by himself.

I was not so thrilled by the next presentation.  Making and Using Maps seemed to be the major emphasis – and maybe this just proves that I am not a geography teacher’s shoelace -  but for the life of me, I cannot understand why in the technology-rich 21st century anyone expects students to spend time neatly colouring in maps using BOLTSS (borders, orientation, legend, title, scale and source).  19th century schoolroom stuff like that is guaranteed to put students off geography if you ask me.  Once again there was the ho-hum ‘plan your next holiday’ activity – and I wondered how many times students will do this during the course of their schooling, and how much geography do they actually learn as they do it?  Feeling rebellious, I also wondered: what is the point of planning the same trip that explorers took and explaining how it is different??  My kids are loving the Explorers unit that they’re doing at the moment, but they’re not asked to colour in any maps.  No, their assessment task is to use an iPad app called Explain Everything to trace the route of their explorer on a world map, including the place of origin and the stopovers they called in at on their way, and provide an oral explanation as they do it, naming the continents, countries and oceans, telling me the name of the ship/s, and explaining the perils they encountered.

I didn’t stay for the last session.  I feel bad about this because it’s really not fair to the presenter.  I have never skipped a conference session before but (thanks to my dodgy ankle) I had had a nasty fall en route to the museum from Melbourne Central, and although I’d had good first aid from the museum staff, I was starting to feel very sorry for myself and rang my husband to drive in and rescue me.  The doc next day gave me the rest of the week off to recover, so now I feel quite heroic for having pressed on to the conference in spite of it!




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The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly, retold by Bronwyn Davies

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 29, 2014

I’m not very enthusiastic about the fairy phenomenon that seems to have engaged so many little girls, but I did like this book.  It’s a retelling of a fairy story by Pixie O’Harris that would make most modern readers gnash their teeth in dismay because it promoted conformity and obedience to gender roles that are now obsolete. Bronwyn Davies has updated this story so that it fits more comfortably with contemporary life, and the edition is complemented by illustrations from Pixie O’Harris and other images from the collection of the National Library of Australia.

Here’s how it goes: the Queen of the Fairies banishes the fairy who wouldn’t fly because she needs to learn to be like everyone else.  Other fairies lift up the heads of flowers after rain, they help lame beetles and they save silly baby birds.  In other words, their role is to nurture and care for others (and presumably not to aspire to the role of the powerful Queen).  There is no room in Fairyland for lazy fairies…

But the Fairy-who-wouldn’t-fly was not the same as other fairies.  Instead of working, she wanted to read, to sleep, and to dream.  And when she woke, she would wonder about things.  She wondered where the wind came from, and wondered how seeds knew what kind of flower to grow into.   (p.3)

Too bad, is the Queen’s verdict, so the FWWF is whisked away to the Woodn’t, a place full of idiosyncratic rebels like the Kookaburra-who-wouldn’t-laugh and the Bee-who-wouldn’t-live-in-a-hive.  The FWWF is both pleased and irritated by the assorted manifestations of wilfulness, and she misses Fairyland – but she still doesn’t want to be like everyone else.

It so happens that a small human stumbles into the dell with her, and it takes a combined effort and some unaccustomed cooperation from the rebels to restore him to his mother.   This makes for a return to Fairyland where the Queen welcomes back the FWWF who is then able to show her that Fairyland can make a place for individuals who have ideas of their own.  Pleasingly, not everyone capitulates: the Bee still fancies freedom:

I want to explore new places, and I want to find out what’s killing the honey bees.  I need to live on my own for  a while and have time to think. (p. 40)

This retelling allows the FWWF to be true to herself, and the Queen gets a bit of a makeover too.

The Fairy Queen smiled at the Fairy.  She was so brave and honest.  “It’s very hard to tell a Queen that she’s been wrong, and I thank you for it.  The Bee will be most welcome in Fairyland when she completes her investigation.”  (p. 46)

So, if we must have little girls tripping about in sparkles and tulle, The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly is an alternative that suggests that girls can have agency in their own lives.

Author: Bronwyn Davies
Illustrator: Pixie O’Harris
Title: The Fairy that Wouldn’t Fly
Publisher: National Library of Australia, 2014
ISBN: 9780642278517
Source: Review copy courtesy of the NLA

Direct from the NLA Bookshop
Or Fishpond: The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


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