Shortlist year: 2022
Shortlist category: Children's literature
Published by: University of Queensland Press
Mina wants her own bedroom more than anything else in the whole wide world. And it's almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it's hers.
But when Mina's parents take in an unexpected guest, they give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She doesn't care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay.
At school, the other kids call Azzami names, and Mina wishes he'd stand up for himself. Then she sees his drawings, and for the first time really thinks about the life of the quiet boy in front of her.
Here is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this big wide world.
About the author
Sherryl Clark is a writer, editor and writing teacher with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and a PhD in Creative Writing. She has been writing poems and stories for children for over twenty years. Her verse novel, 'Farm Kid', won the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Children's Books in 2005 and 'Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!)' was an Honour Book in the 2008 CBCA Awards. Sherryl worked in community writing for many years and taught professional writing and editing at Victoria University TAFE for over two decades. She now writes full-time.
About the illustrator
Briony Stewart was born in Perth back when Ninja Turtles were 'the coolest'. With a father in Zoology and an artistic mother, Briony decided she was either going to grow up to be a traveling entomologist or a famous artist like Picasso.
Briony's first book, 'Kumiko and the Dragon' published soon after she graduated won the 2007 Aurealis Award for Children's Short Fiction. Since then, Briony has received an arts grant for artists under 25 to develop as a children's author and illustrator with the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust in Melbourne, has presented at libraries and festivals and has held three successful exhibitions of her illustrated work.
This deftly crafted verse novel tells a powerful story with depth and authenticity. We see and hear this story through Mina's eyes and voice, a young girl who can't wait to move into her own room. Her disappointment when her parents tell her that her long-awaited room will now be inhabited by a refugee boy, is acute, and stops Mina from engaging with Azzami. But gradually her resentment changes to curiosity as she starts to see things from Azzami's point of view and wonders about his life and what has brought him here.
Sherryl Clark evokes Mina's family life, her parents' values and attitudes, and Mina's emotional struggles as she faces a situation where she needs to act, to right a wrong.
Mina's voice is poetic and well-pitched and Briony Stewart's illustrations are a highlight, using marvelously expressive body language and unusual perspectives to eloquently express an important theme of this book: that pictures can be a profound form of communication when words are too hard to find.
This is an outstanding example of a verse novel for younger readers; a slim yet satisfying story that opens up a world of ideas with plenty of space for children to imagine, empathise and ponder complex issues and feelings.