Illustrated by Greg Abbott
For ages 3+
It's been a big week this week... Refugee Week and 75 years of Windrush!! I spent quite some time pondering how I was going to pay homage to both these vitally important topics with the children. Last June, incidentally, I ran a book club dedicated to each of these events separately. This was going to take some planning!
Armed with my copy of 'The Place Form Me: Stories About The Windrush Generation' published by the Black Cultural Archives with Scholastic (with a forward by Dame Floella Benjamin) to accompany 'Everybody's Equal', and, a mental plan of how I was going to approach the session in an age-appropriate manner, I remembered that I had asked the children to all bring books from home in their mother tongue to share... the perfect springboard for a more global discussion!! After looking at the pictures of, and reading excerpts from, children's books in German, Romanian, French, Norwegian and Ukrainian (Malayalam is delayed a week due to a little forgetfulness), we talked about refugees and Windrush.
The photos from 'The Place for Me' were absolutely perfect to talk about the 1000s of people who came from the then British Empire to help rebuild 'mother England' after World War 2 and how this country wouldn't be what it is today with out them. The children all had a go at trying to define what it means to be a refugee and what might have led to them leaving their homes - war, natural disasters... Some were more aware than others, most knew very little, however, all were listening and contributing with empathy and thoughtfulness, concern and kindness. So proud of them.
About the book
The first few moments on presenting the children with the book were taken up with them very much enjoying the fact that the front cover has a cut out for the 'Everybody's Equal' sign and that I could peep out at the children. The book's illustrations in earthy tones are throughout with no white space at all. There are other clever touches too - when the pages get narrower in sequence to provide a buildup of anticipation. There's a further die cut page towards the end of the story. All this adds to the effectiveness of the storytelling, especially with the rhyming text and repetition. The children all joined in as they soon learnt some of the key phrases to chant back to me!
The protagonist is a little mouse, who enjoys living in the forest, in a lovely house. Forest co-dweller, Stoat, one day decides he's going to build a big fence to keep Mouse out! Stoat tells Mouse it's because he doesn't belong! The children's faces were quite shocked at this rather stern message of overt prejudice.
Stoat gets busy building his fence with various types of 'Keep Out' signs; meanwhile the other forest creatures - showing Mouse their loyalty and friendship - come together to work out how to talk some sense into him. However, much like when countries come together against an aggressor, there follows a leadership battle that wastes time and effort... so much so that disaster strikes!! Mouse's house is on fire and guess what's now firmly fixed on the other side of Stoat's fence? Perhaps an emergency can make Stoat change his ways?
The obvious recent history event that one thinks of is Trump's wall on the border with Mexico. However, taking other events in history into consideration, especially where refugees are involved, the lack of early intervention in recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine both led to a massive flight of a the human population that still makes the headlines on a daily basis.
On an obvious and much more simple level, this story can be read highlighting Stoat's selfishness, bullying behaviour towards Mouse; the bickering between friends when trying to elect a leader to influence Stoat to change his mind about the fence.
I not only used this book to read and discuss Refugee Week and Windrush Day with my KS1 book club, I also ran the same format for my KS2 book club at a different school. Both book clubs were an absolute success, and I have to say, 'Everybody's Equal' was both enjoyed greatly and intently by Years 1 - 6 as a story book too.
With the responsible adult leading a book club or lesson taking some moments before beginning this free book-based activity sheet to explain the terminology therein, and to give some examples, this is a very rewarding exercise. Empathy building and growth mindset at its best... planting seeds of knowledge and understanding outside a child'd everyday frame of reference.
About the creators
Patricia Hegarty (author)
Patricia Hegarty is currently the Editorial Director of Caterpillar Books and has written about all kinds of things from trees and bees to ABCs (and she loves to rhyme). (Source: Little Tiger Press)
Greg Abbott (illustrator)
Greg Abbott is an illustrator and designer based in West Sussex, England. He works with a variety of clients on all sorts of creative endeavours, but mostly as a children’s illustrator on narrative and character driven projects. In between commissions Greg likes to experiment with new techniques and keeps himself busy with self-initiated personal projects, from developing story ideas and illustrations, to coding and automating things. (Source: Little Tiger Press)
Buy the book
Purchase your copy today through my Bookshop.org UK affiliate link below or purchase from your local independent bookshop... (I receive a small commission from each sale on my online affiliate store at no extra cost to you)
Publication date: 8 June 2023
Also available in this series:
For fans of...
*reviewed from proof via advance reading copy provided by the publisher
Please like this post and leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts too!