Sunflower by Ingrid Laguna

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Text Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781922268754.
(Age: 8-12+) Recommended. Sunflower by Ingrid Laguna is the second story with Jamila as the main character. In the first book Songbird, eleven year old Jamila has arrived in Australia and has difficulty settling in until she joins the choir and it is realised that she has a beautiful voice and a gift for song writing. In this first story she makes firm friends with Eva and it changes her life. In Sunflower Jamila has been in Australia for six months and with her closest friend Eva at her side is finally feeling like she is starting to belong. The two girls do so much together and support each other through life's obstacles. Jamila is excited to learn that her best friend Mina from Iraq is coming to Australia to live nearby. She imagines that Eva, Mina and herself will form a fast and cohesive friendship. However that does not happen and the three girls have to learn to work out their differences. Mina is struggling with a terrible sadness from her time in Iraq and language barriers. Eva is also going through a tough time as it is the birthday of her deceased mother coming up. Jamila feels frustrated as she is trying to appease both girls at the same time. The Year 6 class including the three girls travel to a school camp in the Australian Bush and it is there that the friendship issues are eventually sorted out after a worrying situation develops.
The author Ingrid Laguna has a deep understanding of issues surrounding refugees in Australia and a strong sense of friendship complexities of this age group of girls. This story is sensitively written and will interest readers in the primary years 3-6. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Friendship and Friendship Issues, Iraqis in Australia, Refugees, Singing, School Camp.
Kathryn Beilby