It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, isn’t it? Once again, many of us are engaging with virtual learning and working from home in some capacity. At least there’s always books! This month’s blog is an all- Australian line-up, with a selection of books that are thought-provoking, funny and full of heart.
My Favourite Teachers is the latest picture book from Beck and Robin Feiner, the duo behind the wonderful If I Was Prime Minister and The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour. This book sees them shining a spotlight on all the wonderful teachers in our community. From Freddie, the community elder who teaches cooking with native ingredients, to Mr Yao who gives his students the confidence to present short speeches, through to the grandpa who helps us to understand maths and money by setting up a savings account, we are shown the many people who take on the role of teacher, both in the classroom and outside of it. Children are challenged to think of all the important teachers in their lives, and to thank them for their contribution to their education.
For many of us, roaming Europe in a bookshop caravan with TARDIS-like properties sounds like the very definition of heaven! For Mim, the main character in the new series from Katrina Nannestad, The Travelling Bookshop, this is life as she knows it. She shares the caravan with her father, Zedekiah, and younger brother, Nat. In this adventure, The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully, Mim and her family find themselves in a Dutch village, where Mim and her family befriend Willemina, who is suffering at the hands of her bully, Gerda. How on earth can they help? Through watching, listening and thinking, and helped by Zedekiah’s philosophy of giving people the books they need, rather than the books they want, Mim is sure to come up with a solution to this problem. Funny, smart and just flat-out delightful, you’re sure to find an audience for this wonderful book in your primary classroom. Classroom resources available.
Half My Luck by Samera Kamaleddine is the inaugural winner of The Matilda Children’s Literature Prize, and is just an absolutely fabulous novel besides! Based on her own experiences growing up in Sydney with a Lebanese father and Australian mother, I don’t think it’s going too far to say that this novel is Looking for Alibrandi for the 2020s. According to her grandmother, Leila Karimi has been cursed by the evil eye. And she can well believe it, because luck has always been against her. And things take a definite turn for the worse when a beach party goes very wrong, and she finds herself caught between her friends and the Lebanese kids who call themselves the Cedar Army, which includes her cousin Sufia. Attempting to juggle the competing expectations of two worlds, sometimes it’s not clear what the right thing to do is, let alone being brave enough to do it. This beautifully written novel captures just what it’s like to be on the cusp of adulthood, and the difficulty of fighting against other people’s expectations of who you should be to try and to become the writer of your own story instead. Classroom resources available.
Read of the Month – Now for Something Sweet
Let’s talk about comfort reading; comfort reading is different for all of us. For my partner, it’s immersing himself in the longest and most convoluted fantasy book he can find; for a friend of mine, it’s immersing herself in difficult, twisty literature. For me, and I suspect for many of us, it’s plots and writing that are engaging, but not too taxing, it may even be rereading old favourites. And then there are cookbooks! Because not only do cookbooks often have a comforting familiarity, but there’s also the prospect of delicious food if we have the energy to get up and attempt one of the recipes within!
It’s somewhat ironic that of all the recipes in a book called Now for Something Sweet, most of the ones I’ve actually cooked are savoury. Now there’s a few reasons for this: I may have massively over-stocked on baker’s flour and yeast during the first lockdown; the savoury recipes are amongst the easiest in the book; and, well, cheese bread! The two recipes I’ve cooked more than once are the Frojalda (Turkish Cheese Bread), and the Onion Pletzels. The Frojalda is absolutely delicious, and oh so cheesy! If you have a dough hook on your stand mixer, it’s really simple to make. It’s best straight out of the oven, but is also great with soup and freezes really well. The Onion Pletzels are a bit like an onion-topped focaccia (although if onion isn’t your thing, I’ve also made it without the onion, and it’s still great). Again, a dough hook on your mixer makes this a very easy recipe to master, although hand kneading can be a good way to get rid of any built-up tension. Delicious slathered with just butter while still warm, but also brilliant topped with bacon/smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast.
One thing I love about all of the recipes is that there are photos! It’s always nice to be able to see what the end product should look like (and, based on my experience, they do end up looking pretty similar!). The instructions are easy to follow and there’s also a brief explanation of the history behind the recipe at the top of the page.
Given it’s going to be a while before us Sydney folk get to go anywhere exciting, maybe I’ll try some of the sweet recipes (Butterscotch Pudding with Caramel Sauce is calling my name!) over the next few weeks and keep you posted.