Review of ‘Bea’
Author/Illustrator: Christine Sharp
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press)
Age Range: Early Childhood – Lower Primary
Themes: daring to be different, uniqueness, celebrating difference, friendship, birds, bird behaviour, rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, visual literacy.
Awards: none yet though a Crichton shortlisting next year is in order I think. Am I even allowed to say that?
I’m supposed to be concentrating on my Masters. However this evening I left the tall pile of qualitative and quantitative dissertations on the future of children’s reading and went out to what I hope is the actual future of children’s reading: the launch of a clever and sophisticated picture book for young people.
10000 words on the future of children’s reading and the digital/print debate says many things. But a well-crafted picture book of around 500 words shouts I AM IMPORTANT IN A CHILD’S LIFE.
The well-crafted, clever, sophisticated book launched tonight was ‘Bea’, written and illustrated by first time author/illustrator Christine Sharp. The most excellent publishers at UQP have helped to fashion ‘Bea’ into the very lovely publication that it now is. I love that a Queensland publishing house is producing some of the best children’s and YA books in the country. UQP you rock.
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
Bea is bird of unusual tastes…for a bird. She likes baking while the other birds peck at ants. She likes disco beats, bathing in bubbles and dreams of travelling the world. The other birds in the story act as birds generally do…flocking, fluffing and hippity hopping up high in branches. They might be wondering why she is different but they do not pick on her.
Bernie is Bea’s best friend and they get along just fine. Bernie could be the name of a male or female bird and I liked that this was left open as this is a story to be enjoyed by all. Also so pleased that we didn’t descend into a story of a bird/child isolated.
In ‘Bea’ difference is celebrated and encouraged. Bea the bird/child is true to herself and her dreams: she’s one of the birds/children, one of the flock/classroom and yet she is still herself through and through.
It’s heartening to see a story celebrating the unique spirit and encouraging children to dare to be different. I know I am not alone in feeling torn about my children’s unique qualities. Sometimes I just want PudStar at nearly five to conform just a little because I know that road is slightly easier; and sometimes I just want to say ‘yep it’s totally fine to go out to coffee dressed as a tiger, with a doll strapped to you and tell people that you are Vietnamese even though you have blonde hair and blue eyes’. At our first ever parent teacher interview this week her teacher used the words ‘interesting’, ‘switched on’ and ‘storyteller’ with a genuine (I think) smile on her face. Of course I then asked if she was behaving herself and listening. I mean I don’t want to crush her little spirit and all…but I want her to sit still on the mat.
So when Pud wakes in the morning she’ll find ‘Bea’ next to her bed. And next time I’m out in public and feel the need to whisper through gritted teeth in her unique little ear ‘We’re in Coles! Stop belly dancing whilst loudly singing hip hop rhymes ’, I’ll come home and read her ‘Bea’ and I’ll take deep breaths and celebrate her uniqueness.
I hope this lovely publication makes its way into many bedrooms and home and libraries.
Welcome to the world ‘Bea’…here is a virtual celebratory cake.
Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:
Because I am an organised and well planned teacher librarian, all my planning for this term is done. But because I can be spontaneous (deep breaths) next week Prep-Year Three are NOT doing lessons on OPACS and parts of a book. The importance of the book spine is on hold. We are making birds.
- If you were one of Bea’s friends what would be your special and unique qualities. Think about how you would be different from all the other birds.
- Using collage materials create a flock of birds which are all different and wonderful.
- Follow up this artwork by creating a collage of a biscuit or bun which Bea might like to bake!
- What techniques has the illustrator used in her book? There are photographs and fabric, drawings and painting and it is all put together in wonderful collages. Which of those techniques of illustration do you like the best? Why? Can we use some of her techniques in our artwork?
- Think about a situation and write a short piece about a time when you ‘Dared to be Different’. Share your story with the class.
- It makes us feel so great when our friends love us for who we are. Think about one of your friends. What qualities about them make them special to you? Write down their qualities and share these with them. Obviously we want all the children in the class celebrated so this one will need some teacher management! Or do this about a family member.
- Have a class discussion and brainstorm the qualities of friends. Some people might value the same qualities that you do; some people might value different qualities. Why is it great to let everyone be themselves?
- Find all the examples of alliteration and have a go yourself or as a class. Write a new page for the book.
- Can you think of any other books you have read about daring to be different? Keep your eyes out and start a class list of such books. One to get you started is ‘Too Loud Lily’ by Sofie Laguna. A lovely one about being confident and making friends is ‘Squish Rabbit’. My review of ‘Squish Rabbit’ is here.