Sunday, November 17, 2019

Rosa and the Daring Dog by Megan Rix

Rosa and the Daring Dog by Megan Rix
Published November 2019 Penguin UK

HOWLY is a tiny puppy, left abandoned in a trash can next to a school.
EDDIE is the young girl who finds him . . .
Eddie is immediately drawn to the puppy, whose bravery and determination remind her of a very famous person indeed.
Eddie's class are learning about Mrs Rosa Parks, whose act of courage on a bus in 1955 started a whole movement against racism in America. Mrs Parks herself soon visits Eddie's school, and when the great lady points out a stark reminder of racism in the school's own playground it's up to Eddie, her friends, and their new school dog Howly to remind everyone how to stay hopeful and stand up for what is right.

I had heard of Rosa Parks, and I kind of knew who she was and what she did, but this is the thing about children;s books, it has the ability to expand my universe.  Reading this 250 page children's novel gave me more insight into Rosa Parks, more context into which her story fits, and a new desire to find out more.  This is my first Megan Rix novel, but I am keen to read more, as she has a great way of incorporating historical facts into a story.

The story is set in 1990, in Detroit.  There is an authors note at the back of the book , where she explains why she set the book in this time period.  Rosa Parks is 77 years old, and she has lived through all kinds of segregation, because she is black...she also made a stand for what she believed in and has become known as the mother of the civil rights movement in the USA.  Through Rosa Parks and other characters in this book, we learn more about her story as well as the stories of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr.   We learn about the Walk to Freedom March and the Children's March in Birmingham Alabama, where more than 600 children were arrested!

So, you may think, that's all good and well, but that's American history.  This is true...but America is still part of the world that we live in, and that's like saying we don't need to read about the Holocaust, because it's not Australian history.  Racism is a global issue, and as Australians we have our own history and current problems with racism.  I think a book like this is a great way to open discussions, and look at out own history with the segregation of Aboriginal Australians, the stolen Generation,  the White Australia Policy, and even our treatment of refugees. The importance of knowing and facing up to the not so pleasant parts of our history is surely the first step into it never happening again.

The other idea that this book brings up is the power of out voice, and how if enough people are willing to stand up and do the right thing, then change might actually happen.  So again it leads into contemporary issues like climate change, and Greta Thunberg, or the rights of girls and Malala.

On a completely different note...there's Howly, the puppy.  He represents a different change, a change in how we can support children in schools.  In 1990, the Reading Education Assistance Dog program was being trialed, and now it is now a successful way that schools are boosting literacy and reading levels with their students.  In Australia we have the Story Dogs organisation, where reading dogs are playing such an important role, in not only improving reading, but in many cases changing children's lives.  

If you're keen to look a bot further here's a few places to start:

 ISBN 9780241372791
ISBN 9781786030177
ISBN 9781445164038

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