Magnificent! / In Her Element

These are two of the titles in the Pop Up Projects CIC 10 Stories To Make a Difference collection, each one inspired by the theme of difference.

Magnificent!
Laura Dockrill and Ria Dastidar

At the start of Laura’s poem, Magnificent! the chief protagonist is trying to cover up individuality, acting like others and trying like mad to blend in – a familiar scenario I suggest. In graphic detail Roa Dastidar shows the trials and tribulations this causes, covering up one’s true feelings and trying to fit in. Social inadequacy, as we see in the playground scenes certainly brings no comfort: overthinking and overcompensating are unrewarding.

Later though, we see a difference – ‘a flip of the coin today’ – it’s time to toss aside boring, cheating sameness and start celebrating differences, no matter what they might be. Quirks are part of what makes us who we are, we’re all different – be that where we come from, how we communicate or how we look.

So long as we remember to reach out to others, especially those who might be struggling, our world can be one of joy where uniqueness rocks.
A smashing book to share and discuss, especially as part of a PSED session.

In Her Element
Jamila Gavin and Jacinta Read

That Jamila Gavin is a superb crafter of tales is evident from the very start of this moving sharing of events in young Sophie’s life, In Her Element. Sophie has cerebral palsy, communicates through her beautiful expressive eyes and a screen, and has a carer, Martin with whom she has a special bond. She loves to be taken swimming , has a special connection with the ocean and dreams of swimming with whales: “Water is my element” she tells Martin, imagining herself as an aquatic creature. Indeed the watery world acts as a metaphor for all the thoughts Sophie cannot give voice to.

Now there’s to be a change in her life: Sophie’s parents tell her that a special residential school they’d previously visited has offered her a place to start the next term. Tears stream down her face as she informs Martin what’s to happen, although she remains calm showing no anger. He in turn is hugely reassuring, reminding her of her ambitions and the importance of becoming as independent as possible.

Almost inevitably, life at school is challenging, especially as Sophie has to share a room with the far from welcoming Amber, an ace swimmer who has been severely injured and now wants nothing to do with the sport or water. So she says, but then one night, Sophie’s actions cause Amber to show what her element truly is. Jacinta Read’s final two watercolour illustrations portray this brilliantly.

What a powerful story with such an uplifting ending. Jamila Gavin paints a picture of an enormously positive main character whose imagination is a key part of her life.

If the rest of the series is as good as these two I’d strongly recommend primary schools get all ten.

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