Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 8 (NSW Stage 4)
culture, family, identity, interracial
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
'This chapter explores how Australian writers and illustrators in the twenty-first century depict the act of mothering in picture books for young children in relation to cooking and serving food. It draws on the idea that children’s texts can be understood as sites of cultural production and reproduction, with social conventions and ideologies embedded in their narrative representations. The analysis is based on a survey of 124 books that were shortlisted for, or won, Children’s Book Council of Australia awards between 2001 and 2013. Of the eighty-seven titles that contain food and have human or anthropomorphised characters, twenty-six (30 percent) contain textual or illustrative references to maternal figures involved in food preparation or provision. Examination of this data set reveals that there is a strong correlation between non-Anglo-Australian maternal figures and home-cooked meals, and a clear link between Anglo-Australian mothers and sugar-rich snacks. The relative paucity of depictions of ethnically unmarked mothers offering more nutritious foods is notable given the cultural expectations of mothers as caretakers of their children’s well-being. At the same time, the linking of non-Anglo-Australian mothers with home-cooked meals can be seen as a means of signifying a cultural authenticity, a closeness to the earth that is differentiated from the normalised Australian culture represented in picture books. This suggests an unintended alignment of mothers preparing and serving meals with “otherness,” which creates a distancing effect between meals that may generally be considered nutritious and the normalised self. I contend there are unexamined, and perhaps unexpected, cultural assumptions about ethnicity, motherhood, and food embedded in contemporary Australian picture books. These have the potential to inscribe a system of beliefs about gender, cultural identity, and food that contributes to readers’ understanding of the world and themselves.'
'This paper shares findings from part of a larger project exploring students' interpretations of children's literature during independent reading time. Examined in this paper are interpretations by students in Grade 4 (aged 9-10 years) about the messages conveyed in the almost wordless picture book Mirror by author and artist Jeannie Baker. Mirror shares a multicultural perspective on life through its portrayal through collage of the lives of two families living in different countries. Data were collected as semi-structured interviews and observations recorded as field notes. Chambers' (1994) 'Tell Me' framework informed the question schedule of the semi-structured interviews, which were designed to promote opportunities for students to share their interpretations following independent reading time. Emerging themes from data analysis are considered through critical literacy lens (Janks, 2010). Further, implications for the use of almost wordless picture books in classroom reading experiences are identified in connection with the development of children's cultural awareness and sensitivity (Short, 2003).' (Publication abstract)
'When a full account of the rise and fall of the printed book is written, the year 2010 will be seen as a turning point. It had become clear to even a mildly interested observer that the book as physical object was under siege. To read long-text books and journal or news articles, many people were turning to tablets and e-books; even I had begun to read Dickens novels on an iPad. But the picture book was mounting a powerful defensive skirmish. Lane Smith’s It’s a Book! appeared in the US, with cartoon animals asking ‘Do you scroll down? Does it need a password? No, it’s a book!’, a reminder that, as Adam Gopnik wrote about it,’what books do depends on the totality of what they are’. In Australia, where picture books have for decades been both innovative and respected, books without words were among leaders of the charge. The Picture Book of the Year award in 2010 went to Gregory Rogers’ wordless The Hero of Little Street; three years earlier the winner had been Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, an album of 128 pages, with nary a word except for some signs in an invented language.'
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