Our Race for Reconciliation, by Anita Heiss

I hear Mum again, and almost wish I had a different name, like Cathy. And then I see her, my hero, Cathy Freeman. In my mind she is running gracefully on the track; she is smiling and isn’t even showing any effect of the heat of the sun. She’s breathing at the correct pace, not like me, panting away. And then I imagine I am her, turning my legs over in smooth rotation, faster and faster, focusing on the finish line, and before I know it, I’m there. I’ve overtaken the two girls who were ahead of me.

Mel Gordon loves to run. Her idol is Cathy Freeman, Australia’s best sprinter. Mel wants to be as good as Cathy one day – and represent Australia in the Olympics. First, though, she wants to see Cathy run at the Sydney Olympics, and win gold.

The year 2000 turns out to be a big one for Mel, as for many Australians. As well as the looming Olympics, a letter to Cathy Freeman leads to her promising to visit the school during Reconciliation Week. And before that, Mel’s family are planning a road trip to Sydney to take part in Corroboree 2000, a landmark march to celebrate Australia’s indigenous heritage, and push for reconciliation and, particularly, an apology for the stolen generation. Mel’s Nanna is a member of the Stolen Generation, making the march especially significant and, while Mel and her twin brother Sam love sport and school, there are times when they have to educate their non-Murri classmates about issues surrounding race and equality.

Part of Scholastic’s My Australian Story imprint, Our Race for Reconciliation explores major events of the turn of the millenium in Australia, with a special focus on the issue of Reconciliation, a topic which is always important in Australia, but is particularly significant in 2017, being the 50th anniversary year of the 1967 Referendum, which saw Australians vote for recognition of Aboriginal people. Mel’s story of wanting to emulate a role model is one which many children, from varied backgrounds, will connect with, and Heiss weaves the various issues and historical events into the story in a wonderful blend of entertainment and education.

A must-read for middle and upper primary children.

Our Race for Reconciliation, by Anita Heiss
Omnibus Books, 2017
ISBN 9781760276119

Matty's Comeback, by Anita Heiss

Matty's ComebackThere’s only two minutes left but the ball is back in play and then the entire Burrow breaks into a slow song that gathers pace. Matty is leading the way and he is proud, until he hears his mother singing completely off-key, and then he’s just a little bit embarrassed, but he keeps going…
Botany Road, take me home
To the place, I belong
Back to Redfern, South of Sydney
Take me home, Botany Road.

Matty loves footy, and he loves his team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He’s pretty sure he’s their number 1 fan – and his friends and family agree. He’s even chosen the team he plays for because they have the same colours as South Sydney. When he’s not cheering for the Rabbitohs, Matty is scoring tries for his team, and soon they’ll be playing in the grand final. But when he is injured, it looks like Matty won’t be able to help his team out at all.

Matty’s Comeback is a sports-filled junior novel. Matty is a determined, likeable kid – though he isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to the way he teases his little sister. He is surrounded by a loving Koori family, works hard for what he wants and is loyal to his friends – and his team.

Perfect for any kid who loves rugby, Matty’s Comeback is also a great story about family, friends and overcoming obstacles.

Matty’s Comeback, by Anita Heiss
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760152031

Harry's Secret, by Anita Heiss

Harry takes a seat, all alone, and in one quick second, grabs a palm-sized sketchpad he’s got wedged between his jeans and stomach, and pulls a small HB pencil from behind his ear. He starts to draw quickly, nervously checking that he’s not being watched. Harry knows everyone thinks skating is cool, but he also knows that his best friends think drawing isn’t.

Harry loves hanging out with his mates – skateboarding, or camping, or swimming at the pool. But he has a secret – he also loves to draw, and is pretty good at it, too. The problem is, his mate Gav thinks art is dumb, and Harry really wants to be cool. So he draws in secret, and doesn’t tell anyone what he’s doing– until he sees an advertisement for the local art competition and knows that he has to enter it.

Harry’s Secret is an upbeat novel for junior readers. Harry and his friends are funny, warm-hearted and energetic, always on the go and looking out for each other. Harry’s dilemma is one many kids will relate to – whether it’s an artistic talent or some other hobby or ability that they fear being teased for.

Good stuff.

Harry’s Secret, by Anita Heiss
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760152024

Paris Dreaming, by Anita Heiss

Libby is over men. Every time she’s been serious with one, they’ve cheated and hurt her. Now she’s on a man-fast, and happy to keep it that way. After all, she has plenty of good stuff in her life…

I’m telling you now: I’m never having another boyfriend – EVER!’

Libby is over men. Every time she’s been serious with one, they’ve cheated and hurt her. Now she’s on a man-fast, and happy to keep it that way. After all, she has plenty of good stuff in her life – a great job that she loves, three wonderful tiddas, and two cats for company at home. She doesn’t need a man. But when she gets the travel bug, Libby finds herself in Paris, surrounded by men and by lovers. Will her resolve falter?

Paris Dreaming is the second in Anita Heiss’ ‘Dreaming’ series featuring strong Koori characters each on a quest for personal fulfilment which includes, but is by no means limited to, romance. Set initially in Canberra, then in Paris, the story follows Libby’s adventures as she travels to Paris to represent the National Aboriginal Gallery at an exhibition in the Musee du Quai Branly. In Paris Libby hones her fashion skills, makes new friends and explores exciting career possibilities, whilst also protecting herself from again having her heart broken.

Libby is an endearing narrator, sharing her story as a first person narrator. The book is Heiss’s special blend of Koori chit-lick, with strong female Aboriginal characters, and the exploration of serious issues such as racial tolerance and cultural sensitivity alongside romance, fashion and fun.

Paris Dreaming is fun and intelligence in equal measure.

Paris Dreaming

Paris Dreaming, by Anita Heiss
Random House, 2011
ISBN 9781741668933

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Manhattan Dreaming, by Anita Heiss

As I drove towards Adam’s house I felt nauseous at the thought of the conversation we had to have, but I was still looking forward to seeing him. I ‘d missed him. But, as I walked to his front door and put my keys in my bag I felt the newspaper and immediately became angry again. When he opened the door I said firmly, ‘We need to talk.’
’It’s never a good thing when a woman says that.’ Adam pulled me close and kissed me heard on the mouth, his tongue teasing mine before I had a chance to pull away and remember all the things I had to say. The heartburn jealousy was momentarily gone.

Lauren has been hurt by her sport star boyfriend Adam one time too many, so when she’s offered the chance for a year in New York, she knows she should take it to make a clean break. And what an opportunity she’s being offered. A curator at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra, she has been selected for a fellowship at the Smithsonian. But Lauren isn’t so sure that she wants to leave her friends, her family, her lifestyle, or oven Adam, to take up the fellowship.

Soon, however, she finds herself in Manhattan, discovering that men in New York know how to date and how to look after women. But will any of these men be able to mend her broken heart and replace Adam?

Manhattan Dreaming is chick lit at its best – with a feisty main character who is a successful career woman with a need to love and be loved and a mix of potential suitors ranging from the loveable to the plain annoying. The mix of settings – including Canberra and Goulbourn, with the main action taking place in New York – is also absorbing, with the reader able to see the big apple through the eyes of an Australia visiting for the first time.

Great stuff.

Manhattan Dreaming

Manhattan Dreaming, by Anita Heiss
Bantam, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon, by Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School

‘That’s it.’ Yirra’s mum stands up. ‘Demon’s done something disastrous nearly every day for the past two weeks. This is the last straw. You are grounded, Yirra, and you are NOT going on the excursion to Bare Island.’ Yirra’s mum is so angry she says each word louder than the one before, so Yirra knows exactly how angry she is.

Yirra loves her dog, Demon, a Siberian husky. But Demon is always getting into trouble. He steals the neighbours’ underwear, makes a mess in the yard, and jumps on people. Now Mum has had enough of Demon’s naughtiness and is threatening to get rid of him. Yirra only has two weeks to train him, or he will be sent away.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon is a fun novel for primary aged readers. Set in the La Perouse community, the book is a collaboration between author Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School. As such the book gives an insight into contemporary urban indigenous life in Sydney. And, because of the collaboration, the book has an authentic viewpoint character. Kids from all over Australia will connect with Yirra as she plays with friends, goes to school, and worries about her dog.

An entertaining read, suitable for 9 to 12 year ld readers.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon, by Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School
ABC Books, 2007

My Story – Who Am I?

“Matron Rose said I should write in you every day about all the things I do and stuff. And I do lots of things that I’m gunna tell you about.” So begins the diary of Mary Talence, aged 10, Sydney 1937.

Mary’s story, presented via her diary entries, begins at Bombaderry home for Aboriginal children. Mary has been living here since she was five, but remembers another home- with her Mum and Dad and lots of brothers and sisters. Mary likes her family at Bombaderry, including her best friend Marj, and the babies she looks after, but she still misses her Mum and wonders why she doesn’t come to visit.

Mary’s life changes again soon after the diary begins, when she is fostered by a white family. The diary follows her struggle to assimilate into the white society she finds herself living in. Mary is repeatedly told that to be Aboriginal is bad and that she must forget her past. To Mary this is incomprehensible.

Who Am I ? creates an awareness and understanding in young readers of the policies of protection and assimilation of Aborigines which were practiced in Australia until 1969. By using the intimate first person format of the diary, readers are given a first-hand experience of the emotional effects on the children from the ‘stolen generation’ of being removed from their families and stripped of their identities.

Who Am I? is part of Scholastic’s ongoing My Story series, presenting the stories of young people in different periods of Australian history. A quality read for readers aged 10 and over, and also suitable for study as an in class text.

My Story: Who Am I?, by Anita Heiss
Published by Scholastic Australia, 2001