Reading for Social Peace project launched

We’re delighted to announce that the Reading for Social Peace Project is now up and running.

Inspired by a National Library of the Maldives reading campaign, we’ve teamed up with Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Victoria to create a project that encourages kids to read with a questioning and open mind, and to use their reading to stimulate thought and discussion about social peace.

What’s social peace? It’s peace in our families; among our friends; in our communities, towns, cities or country; it can mean the absence of conflict and war; it can also mean how we can better live together.

At the launch of Reading for Social Peace (from left): YPRL Director Christine Mackenzie, with author Davide Cali, YPRL’s Blaise van Hecke, Councilor Mary Lalios and Wilkins Farago’s Director, Andrew Wilkins.

Ultimately, this project is about helping kids arrive at their own definition of social peace, by exposing them to books that get them thinking. Then, it’s over to them to respond in a creative way: through a piece of writing or art, a video or song: anything that makes sense to them.

Reading for Social Peace has its own wiki space page where you can find out about the first four books chosen for the project:

  • The Bear with the Sword by Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli
  • The Red Piano by André Leblanc and Barroux
  • The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch
  • Empty Fridge by Gaetan Doremus (to be published in August)

There’s also a space for kids to post their own creations.

This is not just a project for those within the area serviced by Yarra Plenty Regional Library. Libraries and schools across Australia—or indeed around the world—are more than welcome to get involved now. All you need to do get started is pick up one of the four books above and get reading!

Reading for Social Peace is a National Year of Reading project.

Sign up for our special e-news here.

‘The Red Piano’ playing well with schools and libraries

The Red PianoA NICE REVIEW of The Red Piano from the South Sound Book Review Council, a US library review website. Here’s an extract:

What a powerful human rights story told in a sparse, succinct styled prose. Also, appropriate to the pervasive bleakness of the situation, the illustrator did an outstanding job using black and grey watercolor illustrations punctuated by only one colour … red.

You can read the full review here.

We have had a lot of library and school orders for the book, which was on last year’s VCE drama syllabus. It was recently listed in children’s literature specialist Fran Knight’s booklet Literature to support the Australian Curriculum.

US indie picks ‘The Red Piano’

The Red PianoANDRÉ LEBLANC AND Barroux’s The Red Piano is one of ten staff picks this month at Lift Bridge Bookshop, an independent children’s bookshop in Brockport, New York (‘the Victorian village on the Erie Canal’).

‘A solemn and beautiful presentation. Even the end papers are a work of art,’ says staff member Pat of the book.

It’s grass roots independent booksellers such as Lift Bridge Books that have made this book such a success. Keep supporting them!

Wilkins Farago books for NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge

FOUR WILKINS FARAGO books are on the recommend reading lists for this year’s NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge, which runs until 1 September.

  • Davide Cali’s Santa’s Suit (illustrated by Eric Heliot) is on the list for Years 3 and 4
  • The Red Piano by André Leblanc and Barroux is on the list for Years 5 and 6
For more information about the Challenge, visit

‘The Red Piano’ makes impression on US librarians

Brrrr! indeed

IT’S ALWAYS exciting to see one of our books finding its way around the world. In particular, we’re getting a lot of interest in The Red Piano from the United States at present. Here’s a review from Charlotte’s Weblog, a children’s book review site run by librarians in Cleveland Heights, Ohio:

Imagine the thing you love to do most in the world.  Something you do whenever you get a chance, something you talk about to other people because you want them to know all about it.  Now imagine that the thing you love to do has been made illegal.  Not only that, but now you have to be retrained to love other things.

This is life in 1975 for Zhu Xiao-Mei, a young girl stuck in a Chinese Cultural Revolution Camp where the Communist Party conducts “learning through labour and self-criticism.”  Brrrr!

Zhu Xiao-Mei has played the piano since she was little but has spent the last five years in a world where the piano, and pianists, are illegal.  Somehow, she and her accomplice in the camp managed to smuggle a piano in.  A miracle!  Now she can play the piano after working in the field, performing pieces written on small scraps of paper she hides in notebooks.  But eventually, Zhu Xiao-Mei and her piano are discovered …

This book is larger than normal size for a picture book, and well worth the extra space.  The simple art style combining small collage elements with inky brushtrokes is beautiful.  Beside the worn and dirty tan, the only other color in the book is a deep red.  It’s hard not to be moved by this biography of Zhu Xiao-Mei, the young pianist who plays for the love of music in a hostile situation.

One of the most popular posts on this blog is our interview with the book’s author, André Leblanc, who explains how he turned Zhu Xiao-Mei’s true story into a work of children’s fiction. Well worth a read if you haven’t already.

State reading challenges approach their climax

On the Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge booklist

ACROSS Australia, school kids are gearing up for the last weeks of various state Reading Challenges. These State Government-sponsored read-a-thons encourage kids of school age to read a certain number of books within a fixed period of time. Most of these books have to be from prepared lists.

While the rules vary from state to state, the good news is there are Wilkins Farago books on booklists for several of the challenges across the country.

NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge

In New South Wales, school students have until 1 September to complete their reading targets. We have three books on this year’s NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists:

  • Davide Cali and Anna Laura Cantone’s marvellous A Dad Who Measures Up is a new addition to the Kindergarten-to-Year 2 Booklist this year. K–2 kids have to read 30 books between 1 February and 1 September, 25 of which have to be from PRC’s booklists.
  • Another by Davide Cali title, the delightful Santa’s Suit (illustrated by Eric Heliot), is on the Years 3 and 4 booklist. Kids at this level have to read 20 books, 15 of which have to be from the booklists.

On the NSW booklist

  • André Leblanc and Barroux’s moving The Red Piano (just reprinted) is on the Years 5 and 6 booklist, as it was last year. Year 5 and 6 kids also have to read 20 books, including 15 from the lists.
The Red Piano

Listed for the challenges in SA and NSW

South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenge

Meanwhile, in South Australia, the SA Premier’s Reading Challenge ends on 9 September and our The Red Piano is on the booklist for Year 6 and older. Kids at participating schools in South Australia (and the Northern Territory) are encouraged to read 12 books, at least 8 of which should be from the recommended booklists.

Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge

The Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge ends on 16 September. Our title Waiting for Mummy is on the reading list for Grades 3 and 4.

Other states and territories

Here’s some information about the other state and territory challenges:

On the NSW list

Reading for charity

There are also two projects that encourage readers to read for charity:

  • The MS Readathon is run to support research into multiple sclerosis and celebrated its 30th year in 2009. Its 2011 readathon runs for any 30 days in June and July.
  • The fabulous Indigenous Literacy Project, a partnership between the Australian book industry and the Fred Hollows Foundation, is this year running a Great Book Swap Challenge to raise money for indigenous literacy. Kids bring a favourite book to school with a gold coin donation and swap it for another book brought in by a schoolmate.

‘The Red Piano’ back in stock

The Red Piano

'The Red Piano' is now back in stock.

We’ve had quite a few enquiries from booksellers and members of the public about the availability of The Red Piano, partly because the book is a text for this year’s VCE Drama in Victoria.

I’m delighted to confirm that the keenly-awaited reprint of the book is now in the warehouse of our new distributor, Dennis Jones and Associates, and so is available again. Back orders are on their way out this week.

It’s really encouraging to see the continued interest in this extraordinary book – its page on the Wilkins Farago website is currently the most visited book page on the site.