Books CORL (Check Off your Reading List) Challenge 2014 GB Challenges It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes War, Poetry, Refuge, Peace

[Monday Reading] Picturebooks about War from New Zealand and Australia: Home and Away, Ziba Came On a Boat, and Lest We Forget

Three powerful picturebooks depicting war and poetry, refuge and peace.


Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.


Sign up here to join us! Here is the July-September linky. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Slated by Teri Terry to two lucky CORL participants from July-September.

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.


I am constantly on the look-out for titles that are published in Australia and New Zealand, as I am a huge fan of most of the authors and illustrators coming from these two neighboring countries. I am glad that I found quite a few titles from Australia and New Zealand in keeping with our Tales of War & Poetry, Refuge & Peace reading theme.

IMG_5595Lest We Forget

Written by: Feana Tu’akoi Illustrated by: Elspeth Alix Batt
Published by: Scholastic, 2011
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

It is going to be the Dawn Parade in Tyson’s community the next day, and contrary to what is expected from young men like him, Tyson is not very excited about the entire prospect of attending the celebration. After all “Why celebrate something so terrible?” is what was going through his head, as he goes through old photo albums with the men in his family proudly wearing their soldiers’ uniforms.


Tyson is staunchly anti-war. He thinks of war as “stupid” and his attitude implies that nothing is worth the lives lost for wars that should never have been fought in the first place. A conversation over tea with her Grandmother, Great-Gran and Mom made him realize that it is not really as simplistic as this. All this time, he was thinking: “Three generations of men wiped out… and for what?” And rightfully, so, perhaps, given the loss he has suffered.


Hearing his great grandmother’s stories, however, and how excited his family members were when they realized that they would be serving the country, made him go outside of himself and his preconceived ideations, seeing the experience through their eyes for the first time. He felt that the service rendered by the men in his family for their country negates the importance that they place on their families whom they had willingly left behind to fight for a war so far from their own country in both World War I and II.


Great-Gran however set him straight by saying:

“The boys were over there fighting for us. To keep us safe. We knew that.”

What I particularly liked about this picturebook is that the stories are told not directly from the men, but from the women who suffered in anguish, in worry, in hopes of their men’s safe return. Whether Tyson would end up attending the event, I shall leave for you to discover. This is a beautiful book that celebrates inter-generational ties and narratives that are passed on from one generation to the next. The story explores the meaning of what it means to be a man, and the many sacrifices everyone have to make to keep their country and their families safe.

When I did a bit of research for resources about this picturebook, I discovered that the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day features solemn “Dawn Services” or “Dawn Marches.”  It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served” (source here). I would have liked an Author’s Afterword though that contains much more detailed information about Anzac and how greatly it is valued in New Zealand.

Ziba Came On A BoatIMG_5585

Written by: Liz Lofthouse Illustrated by: Robert Ingpen
Published byKane/Miller Book Publishers, 2007
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This haunting story of Ziba is based on real events, of a young girl whose family has lost everything as they sought refuge in another land. As Ziba and his family journey on a “soggy old fishing boat,” she looks back and remembers what life was like back in her hometown. These are not ugly memories of war and uncertainty, of displacement and misery. Rather, these are little every day things that make up a life: her mother weaving and making a rug, her father telling her poems and stories, her aunts preparing flatbread, and the cool mountain air.


As the waves become angrier, Ziba’s memories turn into less pleasant memories with gunfire, angry voices, and fleeing to safety. There is the quiet hope that when the boat finds its anchor in another land, Ziba’s family would finally find their much-desired “Azadi,” or freedom. The reader can then, surmise or extrapolate whether Ziba would indeed find refuge in another land.


There is no Author’s Note that provides a context for this story. However, the author’s biography as found in the jacketflap of the book gives a bit of information about what inspired the creation of this story. Apparently, Liz Lofthouse, the author, teaches at a primary school “and has worked in a volunteer capacity with local refugees. She was inspired to write after hearing stories told by people from the Hazara community – refugees from Afghanistan who now live in Perth. This is her first picture book.”


The real star in this picturebook is the art. I have reviewed Robert Ingpen’s The DreamKeeper several months back, and I have always admired his luminous paintings that respect a child’s sense of aesthetics and appreciation of beauty and fine art. This book is no different as you can see from some of my photographs above. For teachers who wish to make use of this picturebook in the classroom, click here to be taken to the Reading Enriches Learning website that includes possible discussion guide questions, a list of recommended activities, and suggested assessment guides that can be used in the classroom.

IMG_5602Home And Away

Written by: John Marsden Illustrated by: Matt Ottley
Published by: Lothian Children’s Books, 2008
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

While the first two books may be perceived as more of feel-good, uplifting reading materials about children and their experiences of war and seeking refuge, or understanding about the past – John Marsden’s picturebook is anything but. Author of the acclaimed The Rabbits illustrated by no-less than Shaun Tan himself, Marsden has created another haunting, unsettling picturebook that is unflinching in its portrayal of lives lost, dreams reshaped into realistic low-standing goals, and battered spirits staring at the face of helplessness and barbed-wire darknesses.


The book begins with a vivid characterization of this 15 year old boy’s typical Australian family (his name is never mentioned in the story), his parents, his eleven year old sister, and five year old brother whom he describes to be something like a “legend” with his beautifully strange ideas and free spirit. And then the war started. The reader catches glimpses of how much their lives have changed through little scraps of handwritten notes and raw sketches that detail increasingly-desperate circumstances, as could be seen below:


When his father heard word about a boat that could lead them to safety, they exchanged all their life savings to secure a place on that boat filled with hungry, angry people who are only looking after their own survival and no one else’s. When they arrived in Hollandia, the supposed-host country, they were turned away and imprisoned, as they did not go through the proper procedures, and that they should have queued in the stipulated manner for their names to be considered first.


This is a haunting but realistic portrayal of what a lot of refugees experience: the lack of compassion among people who are in a position of power, the dwindling sense of hope, and the growing sense of despair. There is hope, yes, in this book. Fleeting, transient, yet it is there. I would have liked an Author’s Afterword that would provide more information about refugees in Australia and what inspired the writing of this narrative. Despite this, I find this to be a very important book that could raise a lot of discussion points in the classroom, and force the reader to reconsider their values, and examine, and hopefully find, their sense of humanity amidst darkness.

For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, here is a downloadable PDF link of the entire 2009 CBCA Short List which includes Home and Away and so many other book titles. It includes discussion guide questions, as well as activities that may be done with students in the classroom.

Here is a book trailer that I found of Home and Away. I hope that you find this book, dear friends.

Currently Reading…

I finished reading The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier last week.


I fell in love with the story and will be featuring it for our Fantasy theme in November/December. The book is riddled with my post-its. One of my best reads this year.


This is what I have been reading over the past several days: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Gritty, grasshoppery, angst-filled, teenage boys. I’m loving it so far.



Reading Challenge Update: 197, 198, 199 (25)

10 comments on “[Monday Reading] Picturebooks about War from New Zealand and Australia: Home and Away, Ziba Came On a Boat, and Lest We Forget

  1. I’ll be sure to look at our library for these books, Myra. John Marsden’s ‘tomorrow’ series is one I discovered a few years ago, & I recommend it often to our students. I love Rabbits, too, & the ones you share today are excellent for the older students’ work. I need to read The Night Gardener, have Grasshopper Jungle. Perhaps I can get to them soon! Thanks always for your excellent reviews!


  2. I should give Grasshopper a real try since I’ve never had a book described as “grasshoppery” before!


  3. thelogonauts

    Great, detailed reviews! Looks like you shared some of my favorites this week too – I’ll be reading Sangoel to my students either this week or next.


  4. So many that I do not know. I will be making a list to look for so many of these.


  5. Looks like you had a great reading week! I love that the books you choose always have such material for great conversations!


  6. As always, I so enjoy these posts and get lost in the images and your words.


  7. Ok, The Night Gardener is back on my “TBR” pile… I wasn’t drawn in the first chapter so put it to the side… 🙂 Thanks. Enjoy Grasshopper Jungle, what a wild book!


  8. You always find such amazing books! I bought a copy of Night Gardener and added it to my Must Read in 2015 list since I’m running out of time this year. I read Grasshopper Jungle and it just didn’t end up being my thing. I can totally see why others like it so much, though.


  9. Pingback: [Monday Reading] The Disappeared, The Displaced, the Dislocated in Powerful Picturebooks “Flight” by Wheatley and Greder and “Migrant” by Mateo and Pedro – Gathering Books

  10. Pingback: [DiverseKidLit] Rocks that Breathe Life’s Sufferings in “Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey” – Gathering Books

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