The Unbreakable Code, written by Sara Hoagland Hunter and illustrated by Julia Miner.
About:In World War II, the Americans needed a code that couldn’t be broken by the Japanese – and they recruited a group of Navaho to develop one. This book tells the story of the Navajo code talkers, put together out of interviews with many of the surviving code talkers, and framed in fiction as a grandfather telling his grandson not to be afraid to move to a new home. It’s an important part of American and WWII history, a discussion of how codes, languages and alphabets intertwine, and a clear portrait of what advantages cultural differences can bring to a multicultural society. It also tells clearly and effectively of the sadnesses of war, the punishments applied to Native Americans who tried to hold onto their culture and some of the barriers they faced to acceptance. The reading level is quite high and the themes quite strong, so I’d put this book at at age level of say 5-10 years old, despite it being a picture book with stunning illustrations.
Positive indigenous contribution to society
Central characters are Native American
War descriptions effective but without undue emphasis on the terrible
Places the code talkers in cultural and historical context
Talks about language and codes and how the code was developed
About: This is a sweet little kids’ tale, about loneliness and finding a friend, set within the context of nomadic Aboriginal culture. David Hardy is Aboriginal, and also Disney-animation-trained, so the illustrations have that 2D cartoon cuteness and impishness to them that really works. At first I had misgivings about Disneyfying Aboriginal folk, but then I figured Disney does that to everyone so I’d probably rather have the representation than the lack of it. And it’s grown on me.
Lead is POC, Aboriginal, traditional culture
Emotionally expressive illustrations
Australian landscape and colours
Rhyming text, limited number of words on a page for early readers.
About: Saffioti retells one of her family’s stories, of her mother-as-a-young-girl entering the school’s fancy dress parade. This is one of those books that reminds you that history isn’t just about the big things, but also about the little things, the things that make us family and town and nation. The illustrations are warm and in an Australian palette, easily bringing the emotions of each page to life.
True story and historical event, retold by someone with a direct connection to the event
Aboriginal author and illustrator
A small event with a big impact, easy to empathise with
Lead character is female, Aboriginal, POC
Strong and present family supporting the lead girl
Setting is Australian, non-Eurocentric
Artwork is warm, Australian colours, shows a range of emotions clearly