Tag Archives: Deb Hudson

Christmas Goodies

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Zola and the Christmas Lights – Melina Marchetta/Deb Hudson

Penguin Australia

October 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143777649
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

For the entirety of the delightful What Zola did On… series, Melina Marchetta consistently delivered such beautiful and meaningful messages to young readers around diversity, community, empathy, friendship and family, all without once becoming preachy or tedious. It truly was joyful to read each new instalment. Now Zola has her very first (and let’s hope, not last) picture book and once again Zola’s story embodies all that made the chapter books so special.

Before school finished up I had the pleasure of sharing this gorgeous book with at least five different classes from Prep to Year 3 and all not only loved it, but also keenly participated in predicting and postulating. It was a highlight of my last few weeks of casual teaching.

Best of all for the very diverse population of children with whom I shared this, there was not one who could not identify with some aspect of this Australian celebration, from my sweet girl who so excitedly told me ‘we have a lantern just like that for Ramadan and my mum wears [that]’ i.e.a hijab, to the ones who could talk earnestly about some people finding it hard to buy groceries, to the ones who had already put up Xmas decorations. We really did have such fun and such richness from it.

Of course the narrative is beautifully illustrated by Deb Hudson, whose work enhanced the chapter books so ably but now explodes into a perfect riot of colour and detail.

It’s not too late to pick up a copy and share with your own little people – and enjoy the talk about what our various celebrations mean to us all.

Highly recommended for readers from 4 years upwards.

What Zola did on Monday – Melina Marchetta. Illustrated by Deb Hudson

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Penguin Australia

June 2020

ISBN: 9781760895150

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

This is certainly a departure from Looking for Alibrandi and Melina’s other novels for YA but what an absolute joy it is! From start to finish it ticks every box I love!

Zola lives with her mum and Nonna Rosa in a little house in the suburbs, with her cousin and bestie, Alessandro, living directly behind. Before the two lost their Nonno Nino, he cut a gate into the back fence so they could spend as much time together as possible – whenever Alessandro is not at his dad’s place.

Everyone in the neighbourhood loves their beautiful front garden filled with flowers and Nonna Rosa loves the backyard with its vegetable garden even more. But although Zola loves flowers she certainly does not like gardening!

At school her Year 2 class are temporarily housed across the road from the school, which is being renovated, within the grounds of the much-neglected community garden. Zola’s teacher Ms Divis is keen on gardens, community and sustainability – the perfect combination to inspire her little charges to take on the project of rejuvenating the community garden as well as investigating their neighbourhood’s local history.

Zola does have a knack for finding herself in sticky situations like leaving the back-fence gate open so that Alessandro’s naughty dog causes destruction in the backyard and even worse, ruining the newly planted special seeds Nonna Rosa had saved, given to her by Nonno Nino. But luckily she is also a smart little cookie who can come up with a solution to her various little problems.

This is about so much more than the very important theme of growing our own food (itself so timely at present) and being attuned with nature, it’s about re-connecting with community and sharing care, compassion and concern. There is a rich diversity in families with single parents, same-sex parents, multi-generational families and different cultures.

Thankfully it’s the first in a series – one for each day of the week – so there is more joy to come. Perfect for newly independent readers or for class or home read-alouds, I highly recommend this for little humans from around 6 years upwards.