Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the festival by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern
Illus. by Tania McCartney. Puffin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760894511.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Eight stories in the Aussie Kids series, each set in one of the states and territories of Australia, will appeal to those who have just achieved competency at reading chapter books. Each of these books is short, with brief chapters, well set out for early readers, highly illustrated and published in a clear well spaced font. The stories are evocative of life in each of the settings, and this one, set in Canberra, conjures up the lifestyle with its embassies and variety of people from around the world.
Matilda's father works for the government and so she has access to people from the embassies. Her close friend is Hansuke from the Japanese Embassy and she knows his house with its screens and quiet gardens as well as he knows hers, with its kangaroos in the park nearby.
A festival to celebrate the Emperor's birthday is held at the embassy and Matilda and her family join in each year. Mum and Matilda wear their kimonos and Matilda has a special goodbye present for Hansuke, as his family moves back home, a scrapbook of all their adventures in Canberra.
As they turn the pages of the scrapbook, Matilda finds it hard to keep back her tears, but Hansuke has a surprise for her when a new ambassador from Ireland comes with a daughter her age. She knows Hansuke well and has heard about Matilda, so they are instant friends.
The clear easy to read text gives the reader a feeling for life in Canberra, and Japanese words appear in the text, giving an authenticity to the story. I can imagine classes wanting to try out origami or the Japanese food mentioned in passing, and certainly the story gives them a tourist's view of what there is to see in the nation's capital.
Themes: Japan, Canberra, Friendship, Festivals, Aussie Kids (series).