If I Built A School – Chris Van Dusen – If I Built #3 – Dial Books – Published 13 August 2019
If Jack built a school, there would be hover desks and pop-up textbooks, skydiving wind tunnels and a trampoline basketball court in the gym, a robo-chef to serve lunch in the cafeteria, field trips to Mars, and a whole lot more. The inventive boy who described his ideal car and house in previous books is dreaming even bigger this time.
If I Built A School is Chris Van Dusen’s third If I Built… picture book. Brilliantly coloured spreads full of wonderful imaginings provide the perfect leaping off point to spark children’s own creativity. If I Built A School is more like If I Built a fun park. From glass tube travel ports and spaceships to holograms and water slides, Jack’s school design is wild and heaps of fun.
While the inclusions in Jack’s school are perhaps not exactly surprising, it is the leap of creativity and the passing of design over to the child that I really like. As Jack tours his teacher around the school, introducing her to his plans and reasoning behind them, even sometimes admitting that he doesn’t yet have all the details on how something might actually work, it is the creativity that is passed into his hands and his teacher’s looks of wonder that I most appreciate (especially her considered look at the existing brick school box at the close of the book).
There is so much that one could do with children after reading this book. Having children design their own school is just one simple activity. Working with DIY holograms is an easy tech-related activity, while in-depth discussion, for example, about Jack’s decision to have animals sequestered into small enclosures just inside the entrance of his school could spark much-needed conversation about the relationship between animals and humans.
The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann – Aladdin – Published 30 August 2011
When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.
It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.
I was forced to read this book. It has quickly become a favourite amongst my book club members and I was fearful that my membership (despite being the group leader) was going to be revoked if I, too, did not read it. I was also intrigued when those same readers said they would rather go to Artimè from the Unwanteds than Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I thought that a) it was obviously a fantastic book or b) they were all crazy. Now I have read it for myself and, while it is certainly a fun book that teems with creativity and fresh ideas, I would still (and will probably always) choose Hogwarts, should my letter ever finally arrive.
I cannot overstate the popularity this book has amassed in the last few months at our school. It has been quickly passed from hand to hand, spreading through word of mouth and recommendations. The middle-school boys have been the driving force behind the fandom, but girls from that age group, and older, have equally loved it. And I can understand why. The Unwanteds is the ideal book for readers – those who value creativity and imagination for whom simple articles of stationary or clay or drawings or anything can always be more than they first appear.
Suri’s Wall – Lucy Estela, illustrated by Matt Ottley – Penguin Books Australia – Published 26 August 2015
Eva squeezed Suri’s hand. “What’s there? What can you see?”
“What can I see?” Suri looked out over the wall. “Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.”
A moving tale of the power of the human spirit.
This is an incredibly powerful book.
I went into the book knowing very little about it. I had not even read the blurb. And I think that was the best way to read it. So, if you want to go and find a copy, snuggle down, enjoy the story and then come back and read my review, go ahead. I’ll wait….
Suri’s Wall has been nominated for CBCA’s Book of the Year in 2016, and for very good reason. It is a particularly powerful and moving story. It speaks volumes and yet is gentle and quiet in conveying a message of hope and beauty in times of pain and loss.