Our village in the sky by Janeen Brian
Ill. by Anne Spudvilas. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743318140.
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Poetry. Himalayas. Village life. With short poems reflecting the lifestyle of those who live in the village and its setting in the Himalayas, this book is a treat. Each poem shows another aspect of the children's lives, all contrasting with the lives of our students, while some show unexpected similarities. The watercolour illustrations of these children are absorbing as Spudvilas manages to get so much detail into a wash drawing, entreating the eye to look at the pots and pans, clothing, footwear and housing of these villagers, all the while surrounded by the mountains.
Each poem and illustration shows a different aspect of life in this remote village. The opening double page shows a young girl sitting with her village and the mountains in the background, just losing their wintry white cover of snow. The opening pages introduces the reader to a place not well known, and through the book, it becomes more tangible. Then we see the child using the water tub as a drum on the way to the pipe, then struggling to bring the full tub home. And over the pages small children are helping their parents build their house. They must dig mud out of the ground and take it to their father who moulds it with clay and straw and dung before putting it into moulds to make bricks. On another page the young girl is cleaning her brother's clothes, and on another, they mind the goats or wash the dishes, or use a ladder as a seesaw, all with smiling faces, all using the experience to draw some fun out of the work.
Janeen's poems are delightful, adding nuances to the children's play which is poignant and affecting. Her imagery is controlled, and reflects a deep understanding of village life. As a read-aloud or a class story, as a model for their own writing, this book will have a multitude of uses in the classroom, where looking at other countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific region is part of the increased emphasis on geography in the curriculum.