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Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Development Project


introduction Jeannie Baker has long been one of Australia’s most loved and most successful picture book creators. Since her first picture book, Polar, published in 1975, Jeannie’s award-winning books have become a staple of every Australian classroom, library and home collection. Her exquisite collages are pored over with fascination and pleasure by adults and children alike, and her powerful narratives about the environment, culture and community speak to readers across the ages. Jeannie’s Mirror – which has been shortlisted for numerous prizes and was joint winner of the Children’s Book Council Picture Book of the Year in 2011 – brings all of these thematic interests together in one of the most innovative picture book formats in recent memory. The dual narrative – the two stories are intended to be read simultaneously – echoes the languages of the two cultures depicted. Reading left to right, we share a day in the life of a young boy and his family in the inner city suburbs of Sydney. Reading right to left, we join another young boy and his family, this time in the Arabic nation of Morocco. Image by image, detail by detail, we see how different their lives are – and yet how similar in all the ways that really matter.

We’re also very proud to present the Reflections exhibition side by side with Mirror. Reflections on the Books of Jeannie Baker was conceived as an opportunity for students in western Sydney schools to respond creatively to Jeannie’s picture books, either with an artwork or in poetry or prose. We think the work the students from the participating schools have created is remarkable, showcasing the creative talents of these young people and providing a fitting tribute to the extraordinary artistry of Jeannie Baker. We hope you enjoy the exhibition as much as the students have clearly enjoyed creating the work. Judith Ridge Project Officer, WestWords The Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Development Project

Acclaimed Australian author/illustrator Jeannie Baker in her studio.

Cover image: Mirror by Jeannie Baker, published by Walker Books, 2010. All writing and artworks © the artists 2012.

WestWords has been proud to be associated with the Mirror exhibition from the very early days. We worked closely with Jeannie on the Education Kit that has accompanied its tour around the country, and now we’re very excited to be working with our colleagues at Blacktown Arts Centre to bring the exhibition to western Sydney.



e X hibition

Aya El Ahhmad, Sarah Yolcu, Melek Nitelik

Shera Grewal

Jasmine Carroll

Jesse Wing

Jessica Weidemier

Years 3 and 4

Auburn Girls High School Year 8 Self Portraits

Cecil Hills High School The Lost Thing

Photographs by Alex Wisser. Artworks Š the artists 2012.


Kellyville Public School The Vanishing Dragon

Blacktown South Public School My Window

Glenfield Park School Looking Back

Lakemba Public School Special Places and Monuments Window

Coen Watt

Years 1 and 2

Emilia Bulloch

Rowland Hassall School

Robert Townson High School Is a Whisper Louder than a Scream?

Samantha Borg

St Marys Senior High School What’s that Flavour?

Parklea Public School Our School

Rowland Hassall School Moroccan Mosaic

Photographs by Alex Wisser. Artworks © the artists 2012.

Macdonald Valley Public School My Portrait

fairfield hei G hts public school Where the Forest Meets the Sea In a boat that sways, In rhythm with the waves, Passing bunches of colourful coral, Bright vibrant fish swarm in great numbers. As the boat reaches shore, A wild bunch of cockatoos greets with a squawk, Travelling through the lush greenery, I go. Pebbles and stones fall in rhythmically into the creek, I follow it down the core, Vines in different qualities hang like streamers across the forest canopy, And as I look at the earthly trees, They are pillars of this forest mansion. Different shades of greens, As I look at the shades, Canopy snakes slither and rustle through the leaves, They look like live vines stretching out at me. I step onto the leafy floor, I am mesmerized by the biggest tree that stood in the heart of the forest, It is hollow, I don’t hesitate to explore, It had gnarled roots that twisted over the gaps making windows, It is truly the perfect home for a spider. I follow the sound of the whoosh of the rippling of the receding waves, The density sweeps over me, As beads of salt sting my cheeks. I say farewell to the animals, I say goodbye to the mangroves, I step back into my little boat. – Bethanie Tran, Year 6

cecil hills hi G h school The Lost Thing There are many stories out there in our world, some that would make you happy and sad, cry and laugh and some that are too terrible to be spoken of. But there is one, one of these many stories that is just truly magical … one that is called The Lost Thing. Our story starts many years ago on an ordinary day at an ordinary park next to an ordinary beach. I was walking along the path picking flowers, one after another when I heard the noise; it was a sort of sloshing sound. At first I just brushed it off and continued at my business, until there it was again that same sloshing sound. As I edged closer and closer out of the park and onto the beach, that’s when I saw it behind the rock, the huge tentacle splashing around frantically, as if it were trapped. I ran over to the rock and searched for it, and then I saw it … the lost thing. It was a huge octopus thing with three tentacles including one as a head. I realised that one of its tentacles was stuck between two rocks so I tried using a stick to get it out but it was no use, it was just stuck. I started talking to the thing in a soothing voice to calm it down. It was then that I realised that it was very friendly and that it did not intend to harm me. I asked where its friends and family were. It replied that they had already swum away, it was lost. I tried to get the stuck tentacle out but this time with the help of the thing. Together we managed to get the thing’s tentacle out of the rock. “So,” I asked, “what are we going to do with you?” The thing just gave me a sad look and did not reply. I understood that the thing was lost but was not sure if I would be allowed to take it home and care for it. “I don’t know if I’m allowed to keep …“ But, before I could finish, the thing wrapped its tentacle around me and gave me a look that absolutely melted my heart, “Oh ok, you can come with me but we must keep you hidden until we can find a home for you.” The thing curled its tentacle around me and squeezed me tight, as if to say thank you. That night I managed to sneak the thing into my pool to stay the night and had made plans with it to look for its friends in the morning. To make sure mum and dad didn’t see, I pulled down all the blinds that looked outside so there was no way anyone would see the thing. That morning, I woke up to a heart stopping shock, the thing was gone!! To my luck it left a trail, a wet, slimy trail. I followed that trail, wherever it went, wherever it stopped, wherever it turned, wherever it led, until finally the trail came to an end at the park, the ordinary park from yesterday. I asked anyone and everyone if they had seen the thing, my new friend. I began to become very worried and then I realised that the thing must need water so I ran down to the water’s edge and looked out. Nothing. I just fell to the ground as the realisation hit me, the thing was gone. I was so overcome with emotion that I began to cry. It must have been a couple of hours that I was there sitting on the beach crying when I realised that this was such a foolish thing to do, so I pulled myself together and found the strength to continue searching. My search went for days, then weeks and then months, and then eventually a year went by with no sight of the thing. I began to grow very worried and so sad. Then – I remember the moment like it happened yesterday – I heard that same sloshing sound. I looked around and I saw that very same friendly tentacle. As I ran down to the beach, that’s when I saw them … One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine … There were just so many! At that moment I realised my new friend, the lost thing, had finally made his way home to his family! But, just before I walked away, I glanced back and I saw the lost thing’s sad look being replaced with a smile. Today, I can still remember that very smile. It can never, ever, ever be erased. – Jasmine Carroll, Year 7

A U B U R N G I R L S hi G h school Mirror We breathe the same air. I’m here and you’re over there. We both work hard. I’m here and you’re over there. We both have comforting families. I’m here and you’re over there. Why are we so different? Just because we have different lives. Just because we have different families. Just because I’m here and you’re there. Well, you’re wrong. Earth is just a cramped room And you haven’t found me yet. When I look in the mirror I see you. When you look in the mirror, I hope you see me. – Sarah Yolcu, Year 8 Sitting by the fire at night, Fire warms our bodies Conversation warms our soul No matter where you are in the world Your family is your home. – Harizo, Year 7 Dream Dream me Dream the world Dream many different people Dream different families Dream my future My dream Dream Dream Dream you Dream the world Dream many different people Dream different families Dream your future Your dream Dream – Zeynep Pekenti, Year 7

R O B E R T T O W N S O N hi G h school Mosaic Alone and isolated, sitting in a corner with hundreds of people standing around me, speaking in a language that I couldn’t understand and staring at me accusingly. After I moved to Morocco from Sydney when my dad got a promotion, that’s how I felt. I’m ashamed to say I cowered in the corner the first day at my new school and spoke to no one. Everyone stared at me, laughed and pointed at the scared expression on my face, and made no effort to make me feel included. It was the worst day of my life and I wasn’t prepared for it. I hadn’t thought it would be so hard. My whole life people had liked me from the moment they met me, honoured to be the friend of the football captain and the most popular boy in the school. I didn’t need to try to make friends; they had to try to be friends with me. Now, not only did I need to make friends but I had to form friendships with people who barely spoke the same language as me. It was a prospect I could not comprehend before I walked into the run down school and was assigned my classes, all of which were held in rooms that looked like they were going to implode at any moment. The lady in the office couldn’t speak English, and she looked at me as if I was from outer space. After giving me my timetable, she sat at her desk and stared at me until I left the office with no idea where to go and no one I could ask to help me. The day passed slowly, and I got lost between every class. Not a single person spoke to me, and during lunch I hid in an empty classroom. School was a cage and I was trapped in it, with no one to help me escape. It’s only been my dad and I for a long time, since I was five when my Mum left us. It was ten years ago and she hasn’t tried to contact me since. She didn’t even say goodbye; I just came home from school one day and she was gone. It’s hard to say I miss her because I didn’t even know her, so I find there is nothing to miss, and barely any memories to hold on to. So that’s why when my dad told me that moving to Morocco would be a good opportunity and we would be insane to turn it down, I couldn’t tell him that I did not want to go. He has done so much for me; worked two jobs my whole life and given me everything I needed. It was my turn to make the sacrifice but I hadn’t understood how hard it would be. After spending the morning hiding under the covers of my bed, trying to forget the fact I wasn’t living at home anymore, I woke in the afternoon and realised I had to get out for a while. I emerged from my cocoon and stepped out into the relentless Moroccan heat. Most of the buildings were run down, so many homeless people on the streets begging for money it was hard to believe. It was unbelievably hot, as if there was no air, and the ground was just compacted dirt. Yet the streets were bustling with people, dressed in vibrant coloured clothing. The buildings, those that weren’t knocked down to the ground, were unique, unlike anything I had seen before, covered with intricate details and carvings. Tiles made of coloured stones lined the paths and the walls as I walked the streets of a busy market with stalls packed so tightly it was hard to manoeuvre between them. Spices were piled high, bright reds and yellows, the smells so invigorating it was all you could do to just stand and breathe them in. At the next stall, fruits were stacked in crates, the vibrancy and freshness unbelievable. The shopkeepers grabbed at me, asking me to look at their merchandise, to feel the soft silk of scarves, to try on the bold coloured shoes or to buy the dazzling clothing. It was nothing like Sydney and I had thought it would be a wasteland, but it wasn’t. There was a strange, exotic beauty about it, and when I realised that, I ran back to my house and locked the door behind me. The culture was overwhelming and I wanted the plain streets of Sydney, with fast food on every corner and the plain, black clothing that dominated the streets. I missed my friends. I missed the green grass of the football field instead of the murky, brown dirt that was the floor of this desolate place. I refused to go to school the next day, I could not face it, couldn’t handle the feeling of total isolation again. I hadn’t seen my dad since we stepped off the plane because apparently his new job would be taking up all of his time, so he didn’t even know. I tried to contact my best friend from home, but he didn’t answer the phone. I spent the day hiding in my house trying to forget the fact I was living in an unknown country and pretending I was back at home. I looked into the mirror and noticed my normally pale skin was starting to become tan, the effect of the hot Moroccan sun.

Dad came home sometime that night, and he woke in the morning just as I was about to leave for school. He apologized for not having seen me off on my first day, and I forgave him. I slowly walked the beaten path to school, my heart hammering with anticipation and worry. I prayed it would be better, hoped the people would accept me. A group of 10 boys were standing at the gate staring at me as I passed them with my head bowed low, trying to inconspicuously hide my face. The first few classes that day were cancelled as there was an assembly in the hall which turned out to be a small room that we were all squished into so tightly that there was no room to breathe. Teachers spoke, but I didn’t understand a word they said. The last class of the day was the best I had had so far. Someone, the boy I was sitting next to, smiled at me. Still no one had talked to me at school, but it seemed that people were accepting me, or at least forgetting about me. During my second week of school, barely anyone stared. The worst part was I hadn’t spoken to any of my friends. I had been calling them every night and no one had answered, it was as if they had forgotten me already. Maybe they had. I felt abandoned for the second time in my life. It was during lunchtime when I realised maybe life wouldn’t be so bad in Morocco. There was a group of boys playing football. I had missed football every day since I left Sydney as it had once been so constant in my life, something I had been doing since I was young. I always thought I would never give it up. I was unsure if they would let me play with them, but at that stage I had nothing to lose. They let me. It turned out the boy that had smiled at me was playing, and that a few of them could speak some English. It got better after that. Every lunch I played with them, and then they invited me to join their team. That night, I called my friend from home and for the first time since I had moved, he answered. It was awkward; he obviously didn’t want to talk to me and thought he had better things to do. I had longed for the moment that I would get to speak to my best friend again, but it seemed he didn’t even care that I had left and after only a few minutes of conversation, he told me he was busy and had to go. Somehow, he still found time to tell me he had been named captain of the football team. I hadn’t even considered who would replace me and I’m glad it was my friend, but he told me in such a malicious way, I wondered if he was really my friend at all. That made me miss home a bit less. A boy from my team asked me if I wanted to join his family for dinner on the weekend, and after weeks of eating frozen food on my own while my dad was at work, I gladly accepted. I was nervous when I knocked on the door of his double story house. Their house was nice, one of the nicest I had seen during my time in Morocco. He answered, and then introduced me to his parents, who, as it turned out, could speak fluent English. It was refreshing to have a proper conversation with someone. In every room of the house there were luscious velvet curtains and bright, plush carpets that covered the floors. Sensual candles and spices filled the air and mosaic artworks and tiles hung on the walls. I looked at the mosaics and was reminded of my life, broken into small pieces and slowly getting put back together. I had spent countless hours worrying about what it would be like to eat with their family, but it was just the same as a family in Sydney. We helped to cook an endless amount of food, all in sizzling sauces that smelt like the Moroccan streets themselves. We sat at a long mahogany table conversing quietly whilst we devoured the food. The spices were intoxicating and the whole house smelt of saffron and cinnamon. After so many years of just eating either with my dad, or on my own, it was nice to sit with a family. They asked me how I liked Morocco, and I told them that I finally felt like I was settling into my new home. – Caitlin Ramondetta, Year 9




Two Full Moons The light shines in my room Turning night to day with a full moon Bright night, barking dogs, galloping horses, I’m sleeping sound. Wake up early, head to town Driving sister to school, not a single sound Missed breakfast, stomach growling, werewolves howling. Misty morning, spooky drive Sunshine finally arrives Heading home, satin birds are singing Full moon, good sleep, werewolf finally stops howling. – Zac Letzbor, Year 6

L A K E M B A P U B L I C school Work, work and work In Egypt you will work all your life In the City day and night It’s all you need for your life. It’s all rated a painful fight. I like Egypt. I like the City. All you have to choose is your job But in Egypt you have to go by the family rules If your dad was a shepherd you have to be one too. It goes down by the family tree Because your ancestor was one too. The City is crooked and no natural life is alive Just pollution everywhere. In Egypt it’s all natural land and beautiful like an oasis. In the City the shops are always open You can buy lots of things. If you want to build house All you need to do is visit a shop.

In Egypt it isn’t that easy. You need to visit markets All over the place They are always hard to find. Food, food It’s all you need for life. In the City you can eat all day. In Egypt it isn’t that easy. You have to earn it. The people in Egypt are all nice and kind. In the City they are always working and sometimes unkind. – Laiba Hamid, Year 4


A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S westwords WestWords – the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Development Project – engages children and young people in Greater Western Sydney with reading for pleasure and creative expression. Our diverse range of activities and workshops are facilitated by acclaimed authors, illustrators and literature professionals. We believe that engagement with reading and writing allows young people to give voice to their stories and experiences. A guiding philosophy of the project is a belief in the power of story to change lives and communities. WestWords Project Officer Judith Ridge


WestWords Project Administrator Jodie Polutele



Blacktown Arts Centre is a young and dynamic contemporary multi-arts venue. The Centre has hosted a variety of exhibitions, performances and events since opening in October 2002, providing a hub for arts and cultural activities in the heart of Blacktown’s CBD. Manager Arts & Cultural Development/Director Blacktown Arts Centre Jenny Bisset Cultural Planning Coordinator Monir Rowshan Visual Arts Curator Paul Howard Performing Arts Development Officer Maria Mitar T-Way Artwork & Collections Project Coordinator Tia McIntyre Programs Officer Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor Project Officer Stephanie Ferrara Exhibition Installers Tim Dale, Kris-Joe Fuertes, Dara Gill, Marius Jastkowiak


Operations and Administration Coordinator Miguel Olmo Senior Administration Officer Erin Rackley Administration Officer Dayna Coyle Administration Trainee Amy Foster


Special thanks to Jeannie Baker. Special thanks to students, teachers, staff and families from Auburn Girls High School, Blacktown South Public School, Cecil Hills High School, Fairfield Heights Public School, Glenfield Park School, Kellyville Public School, Lakemba Public School, Macdonald Valley Public School, Parklea Public School, Robert Townson High School, Rowland Hassall School, St Marys Senior High School and Toongabbie Public School. Thanks to Donna Rawlins for opening the exhibitions. Additional thanks to all the Blacktown City Council staff who have made this exhibition possible.


Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Development Project

PO Box 63 Blacktown NSW 2148 (02) 9839 6079

78 Flushcombe Rd Blacktown NSW 2148 (02) 9839 6558

Reflections on the Books fo Jeannie Baker  

Students from 13 public primary and high schools in Greater Western Sydney creatively respond to the books of accaimed artist Jeannie Baker.

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