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Saturday 11 March 2017

Flis’s Books of Influence

Flis (better known than Felicity) is a Teacher-Librarian (on the Tasmanian critically endangered list) who, for all but one year of her career (starting in 1981), has been employed as a Teacher-Librarian in Education Department schools, initially in primary schools and more recently at Don College (Year 11 & 12) in Devonport.

I recently came across the following in my Facebook feed: 30 of the Best Books to Teach Children Empathy.

Some of the titles were familiar, but others not (possibly because it’s heavily American weighted). It prompted me to think about the books that influenced me as a child, or as a former primary school teacher-librarian. I wanted to share these – and would like to read your responses listing your influential books.
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) was the first science fiction book I discovered in primary school. I found myself fighting ‘IT’ in my sleep until the book reached resolution. The power of the story teller to invade my unconscious mind, as I slept, stays with me today. Another in this genre, Grinny (Nicholas Fisk), also based upon mind control, was entertaining and thought provoking. As a young person, I loved that it was the children who were able to resist domination and save the day.
I love a book that hijacks my emotions, whether it be tears, anger at injustice, or laughter. Goodnight Mister Tom (Michelle Magorian) was the first time I had read a novel about child abuse and the injustice that William experienced. Unfortunately I find his story replicated, in some way, in the students I teach. The sassy Galadriel in the Great Gilly Hopkins (Katherine Paterson) epitomised a child who protects her emotions by attacking the world that has disappointed her – again a child I see in my teaching career. Love You Forever (Robert Munsch) is a picture book I struggle to read as an adult, but is probably just a ‘nice’ story for a young person. The inhabitants of the nursing home in Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Mem Fox) tug at the heart strings.
Picture books I love to read aloud include Whistle up the Chimney (Nan Hunt) – Nan’s onomatopoeia ensures that the train sounds are articulated. The fun participatory read aloud, It’s a Perfect Day (Abigail Pizer), builds a cacophony of farmyard sounds as the story progresses. The minimal text story No ducks in our Bathtub (Martha G Alexander) relies on the pictures to tell the story of the battle between a heavily pregnant mother and her pre-school son, who desperately wants a pet. Stories from our Street and More Stories from our Street (Richard Tulloch) are six vignettes of family life, written in a most engaging manner and beautifully illustrated by Julie Vivas.
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) and Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) are stories I love to read, but usually not aloud. Pooh-isms are the vernacular of my childhood, and often caused confusion for visitors. The question: Would you like cream or ice-cream with that? was answered with: Can I do a Pooh? Sounds quite different to how it looks in writing! Winnie the Pooh was my deceased mother’s favourite story, and as she lay in a coma, we sat and read our favourite Pooh chapters to her – mine was an Eeyore story. My Grade 6 teacher read Wind in the Willows aloud as a class novel, and I have never been able to replicate her wonderful Ratty and Mole voices – but they are there whenever I read this book.
My two Christmas favourites are The Father Christmas Letters (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Worst Kids in the World (Barbara Robinson). Tolkien’s letters to his children over twenty years, explaining the evil in the world (the Goblins) and present disasters (North Polar Bear), created the world inhabited 365 days of the year by Father Christmas. I too, wrote letters from Father Christmas to my children, once they started writing Christmas letters to Santa. The Worst Kids in the World is probably the best book to ever be included in a class reading library (Scholastic). The Herdmans take over the lead roles in the Nativity play and take the Christmas story to a whole new level.
Please add your favourite reads/read alouds that have influenced you in the comments section. The hardest part is signing in the first time – then it’s quite straight-forward. I’d really like to read your comments, and hopefully discover new titles.
Felicity Sly
Teacher librarian & CBCA Tasmania Treasurer

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