Review Blog

Oct 16 2014

Hello from Nowhere by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

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Viking/Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780670075003
(Age: K-3) Far out in the middle of nowhere, the back of beyond, even beyond the black stump lives Eve - and she thinks it is the best place in the world to live. Even though it is so desolate and distant, she's never lonely because there are all sorts of creatures who keep her company and she meets plenty of people who come into the family's roadhouse. And even when there is no one there it doesn't matter because she has time and space to run or lie down and just look at the sky and feel the magic of nature all around her. But there is one person she really wants to see-her Nan. Can she persuade her to come for a visit?
This is a joyful book that celebrates how much pleasure there can be in the simplest of lives and the starkest of surroundings. Eve can't rely on screen-based connections and organised activities for her entertainment - she has to rely on herself. And for me, this is the power of the story. Every time school holidays roll around parents hear the 'I'm bored' refrain and are bombarded with advertisements about ways to amuse and entertain. But there is a whisper that is growing louder that kids need to be bored if they are to develop their imaginations, their resilience and their ability to relax and do nothing. Not every minute of every day has to be crammed with something. Hello from Nowhere is the perfect starting point for getting younger readers (and older) to consider this and stop and think about their surroundings. What is there already in their environment waiting to be discovered? If, like Eve, they moved from city to country, would they have the wherewithal to discover the delights of such a different situation? In the US particularly, schools celebrate Screen-free Week (it used to be Turn Off TV Week) so if this were also a major focus here, what would the children do to entertain themselves?
There are many challenges that could be set . . .
Be like Eve and write to someone persuading them to visit by identifying all the things you could do together, none of which is to involve organised entertainment but each of which is to tempt the person by being something they probably wouldn't experience where they are.
Give students a budget of $50 and have them investigate and devise a timetable of entertainment for the next school holidays which includes a limit on the amount of screen-time. Publish the suggestions in your school's newsletter for parents to consider.
Have students investigate how their peers entertain themselves, then analyse the data and publish the findings.
Investigate ways of adding extra-curricular activities to what the school offers - perhaps creating a frog-friendly garden or starting an interest-based group - and discovering how these might be actually put in place.
Karen Blair's illustrations also depict the isolation and beauty of Eve's circumstances - when was the last time you shared a waterhole with camels? - and that leads on to a whole new field of investigation about looking at landscapes and examining and creating artworks that depict their diversity.
The best picture books are a synergy of text and illustrations and have many layers which allow them to be shared again and again and again, with something new to be discovered each time. This is one of those.
Barbara Braxton

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