Tag Archives: Australia

The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

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Now is the hour

After my brief break to honour  Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.

Two nights and three short days have passed. Now  it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have  done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.

Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the  hymns and Bible stories my friend and I  absorbed,  filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that  we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the   Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted  all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.

As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist  Fiona Pfennigwerth.

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfenningwerth

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfennigwerth

Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts  ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens.  The book was  the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.

I commend joy Ecclesiastes 8:15

I commend joy
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Update:

Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/  “Po Atarau” has been  sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.

© silkannthreades