Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Scapegoat (Ava Keyes, illus by Aleksandra Schmidt, Little Steps)

There are plenty of picture books in the market that deal with bullying, but very few address the subject of being bullied at home, as Scapegoat does. Author Ava Keyes has tackled the subject in rhyme to try and add a bit of levity to what could otherwise be a heavy topic. However, sometimes the rhyme doesn’t flow easily. The play on the meaning of ‘scapegoat’ (by giving that name to the main character) highlights the way that some children often bear the brunt of other family members’ blame and frustrations and shows how these instances can be internalised by children as misplaced shame or guilt. Readers are shown that confiding in a friend, getting help and believing in themselves are effective ways to find hope and alleviate fears. Aleksandra Schmidt’s illustrations are reminiscent of Jane Cabrera’s colourful, bold style and present the animal characters as cute and relatable. Scapegoat could help explore issues that arise when being bullied at home with children aged four to seven, particularly in a classroom situation. It will make a good addition to a well-stocked ‘family issues’ section of any bookstore or library.

Michael Earp is a children’s bookseller at The Little Bookroom


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