Reena’s Rainbow, by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood

In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense.
But her clear blue eyes saw everything.
She saw the scruffy brown dog with drooping ears who hid in the shadows of the park.

Reena is hearing impaired. She loves to play with the other children who come to the park but sometimes she is left behind because she doesn’t hear what is happening. Dog is homeless. He loves to watch and to play, but he doesn’t have a person or place of his own. But when the two pair up, each findsa new sense of belonging.

Reena’s Rainbow is a touching story of friendship and belonging. The pairing of girl and dog is heart warming, and the message about acceptance is important. The gentle soft-toned illustrations are a perfect complement to the gentlessness of the story.


Reena’s Rainbow , by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335491

Letters to Leonardo, by Dee White

Dear Leonardo
Talk about serendipity. Just found out it would have been your birthday today too.
And that’s not all we have in common.
Your dad took you away from your mum. How weird is that?
How did you deal with the missing bits in your life?

On his fifteenth birthday, Matt gets a book from his dad, and a card from his mother. The only problem with that is that he has long believed his mother is dead. Now he needs to find out why his dad has lied to him for the past ten years and why his mother hasn’t contacted him before now.

At the same time, Matt has been given a school assignment involving writing a series of letters to a historical character. Because of his love of art, he has chosen Leonardo da Vinci, but as he learns more about the artist he discovers they have more in common than a love of art. Writing letters to Leonardo gives him a chance to lay bare his feelings as he searches for sense and truth.

Letters to Leonardo is a stunning debut novel from Victorian author Dee White. The blend of first person narrative with letters gives the reader a wonderful insight into Matt’s thought processes and emotions. Matt’s journey is full of action, emotion and twists and turns which keep the reader riveted from chapter to chapter, wanting everything to turn out okay. In a story dealing with the effects of mental illness on a family, it is soon obvious that it won’t be all happy endings, but White manages to offer hope and understanding, as well as a wonderful dose of realism.

Aimed at teen readers, this is powerful tale.

Letters to Leonardo

Letters to Leonardo, by Dee White
Walker Books, 2009

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A Duel of Words, by Dee White

The ‘duel of words’ took place at a difficult time in Australia’s history. In the lead up to Federation…on 1 January 1901, Australia was struggling to build its identity. The gold rush was over, sheep farmers couldn’t sell their wool and the country was in severe drought.

Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson are two of Australia’s best-known poets. What is perhaps less known is that although they wrote extensively for the same newspaper, The Bulletin, they had quite different ways of showing life in the bush. Duel of Words, a hardback non-fiction title sets the scene at the end of the nineteenth century and introduces the two poets and their backgrounds. The ‘duel’ takes place over several months as they respond to the other’s description of outback life. Paterson’s poems tended to idealise the bush and the characters who inhabited it, perhaps reasoning that Australia needed positive images to pull them through the Depression. Lawson, on the other hand, was of the view that glossing over ‘discomfort and isolation’ would not help Australians understand the realities of their land.

A Duel of Words gives insight into the difficult period in Australia’s history which followed the boom of earlier years. It also showcases the talent of two men, who observed the same landscape, yet reflected it quite differently. Double page spreads include photos and illustrations, including the diversity in paintings of the period (including one of my favourite Drysdale paintings, ‘The Drover’s Wife). Page embellishments are iconic and include rusting corrugated iron, ants, Bogong moths, bark, leaves and more. There is a taste of the poetry of both men, with enough information for interested readers to track down more. A Duel of Words’ doesn’t set out to decide who was right and who was wrong in this duel, rather to stimulate thinking about history and how it was recorded. There is a contents page, a glossary of challenging words and an index for ease of navigation. White has given the reader a chocolate box of historical titbits for sampling. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

A Duel of Words, Dee White
Insights series, Heinemann Library 2008
ISBN: 9781740707367

Hope for Hanna, by Dee White

AIDS is a small word for a big sickness. It is more terrible than a crazy lion or a maama hyena with babies in her belly. HIV/AIDS kills many people in our village.

Hanna is an 11 year-old girl living in a village in Uganda. Her mother is very ill with AIDS and as oldest child, Hanna helps care for her three younger sisters. Her father is angry and there is little money for food, and none for medicine. As if life weren’t difficult enough, rebels invade the village regularly stealing older children to become soldiers. Ignorance and fear make outcasts of the sick and those who help them. But in the midst of the hardship there are also good people. There is Kunata, Hanna’s friend; Tenywa, an older village boy; and Ally and her father Steve. They help Hanna to maintain hope that she may one day be able to help improve life in her village, in her country. Most spreads include sketches from talented illustrator, Kylie Dunstan.

Life for most 11 year-olds in Australia is relatively easy. There may be challenges with friends and other choices but most Australian children have food and shelter. But life is seldom easy in many of the world’s poorer, war-torn countries. Illness and disease take their toll on already undernourished communities. War steals the children and makes them soldiers. Fear and ignorance make already difficult lives even more difficult. In Hope for Hanna, Dee White has taken very few words to paint a rich and detailed picture of life in a Ugandan village. Although there is plenty to be despondent about, it is the resilience and determination to bring change that shines through in the main character, Hanna. Hope for Hanna is told in the first person and brings the reader in close, to understand what it is to be Hanna. Strong support characters include her grandmother, her teacher and a new friend. Themes for discussion include tolerance, security, strength and hope. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Hope for Hanna, Dee White
Rigby Blueprints series Pearson Education 2008
ISBN: 9781741402025