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

Fire in the Belly, by Carole Wilkinson

We shall not have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different races shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility?

When Frenchman Baron de Coubertin proposed and founded the modern Olympic Games, it is unlikely even he could have foreseen just how big and how important to the world this event would become.

Since the first games, held in Athens in 1896 and featuring 241 Athletes from just 14 countries competing in 9 sports, the Olympic movement has grown so that in recent games around ten thousand athletes from 200 countries have competed in 28 different sports. More importantly, the games have also, as the Baron hoped, come to be about much more than sport and winning.

In Fire in the Belly award-winning children’s author Carole Wilkinson traces the history of the Olympic movement from its roots in ancient Greece, to its reinvention by the Baron, right through until modern times. Each Games from Athens (1896) till Sydney (2000) is profiled, with information about the number of countries, athletes and sports, a general overview of the event, interesting highlights and first person recounts of key events. There are plenty of interesting facts and quirky tales that will fascinate young sports fans.

Fire in the Belly is a fascinating read, from an author who makes nonfiction just as readable as fiction for primary aged readers.

Fire in the Belly, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2004