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Common Wealth (Gregg Dreise, Scholastic)

In light of the recent change to the lyrics of ‘Advance Australia Fair’, as well as the ongoing debate surrounding January 26, this impassioned plea for recognition and unity from Kamilaroi and Euahlayi author–illustrator Gregg Dreise is a timely and essential read for upper primary and secondary school students. In Common Wealth Dreise delivers a heartfelt exploration of Australian history and an examination of our national anthem in the highly readable style of slam poetry verse. The result is a compelling look at some of our country’s darkest chapters, presented in a way that is both accessible and age-appropriate for its intended audience. Although some tragic and distressing themes are explored through the verse and artwork, an overriding sense of optimism shines through as Dreise encourages all Australians to unite, to ‘work together to create, negotiate and celebrate’. He also asserts that our national anthem needs a further ‘tweak’ and calls for changes to the flag and the date of Australia Day. Dreise’s vibrant and striking artwork complements the verse and adds to the appeal of the book. Common Wealth is a highly recommended addition to any classroom, as both a tool for examining Australian history and as a call for change.

Melinda Allan is a librarian and a freelance writer.

 

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