A mountain of stories

“We know of course that there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”

-Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize 2004[1]

everything out of home copy

I am currently sifting through a mountain of children’s paintings, drawings, collages and writing, transcripts of dictated stories, play-scripts, conversations, anecdotes and photographs of children’s play. I accumulated this collection when I was teaching at Yarralea Children’s Centre in Alphington, Victoria, on and off, between 1984 and 2006.

For the past nine years I have also been encircled in the life stories of my grandchildren, Rory, Otto and Fraser – ‘the brothers’.

Packing for the Journey – a spaciousness for sharing children’s voices over a timespan of thirty years.

 

Book Week visit – a week early

Yesterday Andrew and I visited Delta Road Pre-School to talk about our booksP1010591

We read The Riverboat Crew, our very first picture book, published so long ago, in 1978. The big book was published in 1988. Here, I have just read the first page: The Alice was a paddle steamer on the Murray River, and a little voice piped up, My name’s Alice – there’s always someone – or they know someone with that name – a brother or sister, a cat or dog, a mum or dad, or a mouse. Andrew told the children that the riverboat was named after his Mum, whose name was …Alice. 

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I also read three of the ‘Josh’ books. They had already read Josh and the Monster, but hadn’t read Josh, Josh and the Ducks, and Josh and Thumper. Behind me is the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Short-List Poster. Fabish, illustrated by Andrew, and written by Neridah McMullin, has been short-listed in the Eve Pownall Information Book Category.  The children were excited to point out to us that they had seen the picture of the book on the poster.

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Andrew drew some pictures with sticks of thin charcoal. He says that one of the best things about using charcoal is, if you want to change something you can rub it out with  kneadable rubber – by rubbing, pressing or dabbing. On this paper he drew a picture of our white Skye terrier, Danny. (We didn’t get a photo of the final drawing).

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He also drew a picture of our cat, Norah, who got herself into a pickle one day when she found herself spreadeagled on top to the clothes horse. It took her a while to work out how to get back down, but it didn’t stop her trying again, and again… 

Who is the mother?

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Can I play?

    I ‘m the mother 
I want to play
    I’m playing with the baby

You can’t say I can’t play
    Yes I can – You can’t play
You can’t say you can play
    Yes I can – you can play
Yes – I can play
    You can play
    But
    I’m the mother

© Janet McLean, 3 March 2016
After Vivian Paley –  ‘You can’t say you can’t play’

 

Pirates – Prologue

Put your play into formal narratives, and I will help you and your
classmates listen to one another. In this way, you will build a literature
of images and themes, of beginnings and endings, of references and allusions.
You must invent your own literature if you are to connect your ideas to the ideas of others.”

Paley,V. G. (1990). The Boy who Would Be a Helicopter

 Playing Pirates

Nearly every day Ned, Richard, George and Adam played pirates Sometimes they all played together, but often broke off into pairs. One day Ned and Richard made the climbing frame into their ship.

George and Adam made their ship from loose parts –tyres, ladders, steering wheel, blocks, carpet, reels, pipes, wheelbarrow… and more.

ready-to-go

The ground around was the sea, filled with sharks and crocodiles.

When Ned and Richard played together, it was Ned who always wanted to be the captain. But, that day, when Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank Ned’, things began to change. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house.
I’m the captain, Richard!’ he shouted.
He couldn’t accept Richard’s version of the story, the one where Richard would be the Captain, and he would end up in the water.

I tried to help.
‘There could be two captains’.
‘No! I’m not playing,’ said Ned.
Ned wouldn’t compromise. He stayed by the cubby, watching and scowling. Richard was faced with a choice – let Ned be the captain (again) or, go and play with George and Adam on their pirate ship. He turned his back on Ned and went to join the others on their pirate ship, where when they turned the steering wheel, the electricity went on and off. They needed electricity to search for the treasure.  Adam turned the electricity on. After a few seconds Richard turned it off.

‘Don’t turn the electricity off!’ said George.
‘Yes’, said Adam. ‘We’ve reached the treasure.’
The three of them jumped off the ship and went to search for treasure. Richard looked over at Ned who was still watching from the cubby house. Could persuade Ned to come back?

‘You’re turn, Ned!’
‘No!  I’m the Captain’.
‘We’re playing workers now’, said Richard
‘No!’ said Ned, ‘We’re playing pirates.’

A few moments later, Ned past the boys looking for treasure.

‘Come on, Richard,’ he said. ‘Let’s go and be workers.’
Richard glanced up at him.
‘Richard, let’s do work.’
‘What sort of work?’
‘We’re working, trying if there’s no gaps in the ship.’

Richard stood still, then turned away from Ned and went on looking for treasure.

Ned and Richard didn’t work it out that day. In the free flow of the pirate dramas, these disagreements continued. Real-life dilemmas seeped into their imaginary storyplay as they tried to work out the twists and turns of social relationships.