I'm Australian too by Mem Fox

cover image

Ill. by Ronojoy Ghosh. Scholastic (Omnibus) 2017. ISBN 9781760276218
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Refugees, Inclusivity, Multiculturalism, Verse. In rhyming stanzas Mem Fox outlines to small children the range of people who make up Australia. The verses rhyme easily and could be readily leant by children after hearing it only once, enabling them to join in. The statement at the end of each verse underlines its impact stressing the inclusion of each of the groups of people she writes about.
But it is the last several verses that knock a punch.
In the first part of the book, each of the verses has ended with the refrain, 'I'm Australian too'. They tell of the Australian born, the English, Irish, Aborigines, those with Greek or Italian backgrounds, with hints about why some have come to live here.
Then we hear of the Lebanese, Afghanis and Syrians and Somalis, all here after fleeing war. And each verse ends with the refrain, 'I'm Australian too'.
Each page gives many points of discussion for younger readers, the illustrations adding another level of interest and information. But the last several pages highlight a different group of people.
Here the readers meet a young refugee, 'not Australian yet' but hoping to become an Australian, to line in a place which opens doors to strangers and where hearts are mended, beneath the Southern Star.
The bright illustrations will appeal to all readers as they recognise iconic places within Australia: the Melbourne tram, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Adelaide's Elder rotunda, the Ghan train as well as the ordinary things Australians expect to be able to do, lazing at the beach or by a pool, out on a cattle station, eating pasta, watching fireworks, catching a bus, all without having to run from war, seeing their homes and families disintegrate.
My initial thoughts about the word, 'too' in the title, were overwhelmed by the heartening message in the book, that we are all Australians, no matter where we have come from. There are those who wish to be, and by implication through the illustration, we are not treating them with the fairness implicit in our anthem. This little book will arouse much thought, discussion and introspection.
Fran Knight