Understanding Ukraine and Russia: A Guide for Kids and their Adults

Wellington is home to thousands of people of Ukrainian and Russian descent, as well as people from Polish, Belarusian, and other Eastern or Central-Eastern European backgrounds. The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia means that people who have moved here from those countries, or who have family there, are probably feeling pretty anxious, scared, or upset right now. And of course, whenever there is conflict happening somewhere in the world, it tends to find its way into our everyday lives — through the news, through TV or internet content, or through our friends or teachers at school talking about it — and it’s completely normal for that to make us feel a bit scared or anxious as well.

A man in Ukrainian cultural dress, including a tall fur cap and an elaborately-knotted brocade, is holding a small child in front of a festival stall which is decorated with sunflowers.

The Ukrainian stall at the Palmerston North Festival of Cultures in 2018. Note the Ukrainian flag in the background, as well as all the sunflowers — the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. Image courtesy of Palmerston North City Library, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

One way that we can help ourselves, and others, is by learning as much as we can about the history and culture of those places, and how news gets created and reported. If we learn about that, we can understand more about what’s going on at the moment in Ukraine and Russia — which means we’ll be more aware of, and better able to process, what’s being reported in the media and what our friends, whānau, and the wider community are talking about.

The good news is that the library has a whole heap of resources — books and other things — to help you learn more about Ukraine, Russia, international conflict, and the media more generally. Read on to find out how the library can help you understand what’s going on in the world at the moment.


HINT: Many of the links in this blog go to the Encyclopaedia Britannica for Kids. This is accessible to all Wellington City Libraries patrons. But to access this wonderful resource, and the others mentioned in this blog, you’ll need to login using your library card number (on the back of your card) and 4 digit pin (last FOUR numbers of the phone number listed on your library account), and the link will take you straight there.


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Spring is here! and so are these fabulous new kids fiction picks from your local Library for you to enjoy!

 

Spring is an inspiring time of year – warmer weather, more sunshine, flowers, lambs, longer days… So why not yet inspired with a new book or two? Here are some new ones we thought looked fresh and fab.

 


Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

In order to heal after his mother’s death, Sal learned how to meditate. But no one expected him to be able to take it further and ‘relax’ things into existence. Turns out he can reach into time and space to retrieve things from other universes.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest plaguing her country in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.

Dancing the Charleston by Jacqueline WilsonImage courtesy of Syndetics

In a little cottage on the edge of the grand Somerset Estate, Mona lives with her aunt – a dressmaker to the lady of the house. Even though Mona never knew her mother and father, she knows Aunty tries to give her the best life she can. When Lady Somerset dies and a new member of the family inherits the house, life changes drastically for Mona. Suddenly she’s invited to dazzling balls, dines on delicious food and plays with wild new friends. But with these changes come secrets that Mona can’t dance away from.

Dog Man; For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav PilkeyImage courtesy of Syndetics

The Supa Buddies have been working hard to help Dog Man overcome his bad habits. But when his obsessions turn to fears, Dog Man finds himself the target of an all-new supervillain! Meanwhile, Petey the Cat has been released from jail and starts a new life with Li’l Petey. But when Petey’s own father arrives, Petey must face his past to understand the difference between being good and doing good. Dav Pilkey’s wildly popular Dog Man series appeals to readers of all ages and explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of being true to one’s self.

The boy who grew Dragons by Andy ShepherdImage courtesy of Syndetics

When Tomas discovers a strange old tree at the bottom of his grandad’s garden, he doesn’t think much of it. But he takes the funny fruit from the tree back into the house – and gets the shock and delight of his life when a tiny dragon hatches! The tree is a dragonfruit tree, and Tomas has got his very own dragon, Flicker … Tomas soon finds out that life with Flicker is great fun, but also very … unpredictable. Yes, dragons are wonderful, but they also set fire to your toothbruth and leave your pants hanging from the TV aerial. Tomas has to learn how to look after Flicker – and quickly. And then something extraordinary happens – more dragonfruits appear on the tree. Tomas is officially growing dragons …

Some fun new fiction for you to try out!!!

Image courtesy of SyndeticsHappy Bethday by Knife & Packer

So I’m being chased through the park by a pack of angry zombies, I’ve got cake mix on my face and MY MOST EMBARRASSING PHOTO EVER IS IN THE SCHOOL MAGAZINE! Beth Orsen is back for her third hilarious adventure. And with a zombie party, Granny’s baking contest and Beth’s baby photos accidentally being printed in the school magazine, life is about to get messy again!

Image courtesy of SyndeticsPodkin One Ear by Kieran Larwood

A thick white blanket covers the wide slopes of the band of hills known as the Razorback Downs. Podkin One-Ear is a legend: a fearsome warrior rabbit whose reputation for cunning and triumph in battle has travelled the ages. When a travelling bard arrives at Thornwood Warren on Midwinter night, he is warmly welcomed. In return for food and lodging, he settles down to tell the tale of Podkin One-Ear – and soon the rabbits are enthralled to hear the story of how one lost little rabbit overcame the cruellest enemy imaginable, and became the greatest warrior their land has ever known.

Image courtesy of SyndeticsWelcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird

Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sister were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar doesn’t care about politics – all he wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes. Before long, bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their home with only what they can carry. But no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them – until they have no choice but to attempt the dangerous journey to escape their homeland altogether. But where do you go, when you cannot go home?

Image courtesy of SyndeticsWhat not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford

Turning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed. It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret. Or does she…? When one day the invisibility fails to wear off, Ethel is thrown into a nightmare of lies and deception as she struggles to keep herself safe, to find the remedy that will make her seen again – and solve the mystery of her own birth…

Image courtesy of SyndeticsAn Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

It’s 1944. Elizabeth and Karli live in Dresden where their mother works at the zoo. When the zoo director announces that the dangerous animals must be shot to prevent them running amok if the town is bombed, the childrens’ mother moves a young elephant into the back garden to save her. Then the allied bombs begin to fall and the whole family, elephant included, must flee the city.

 

New Historical Fiction

In the current context of international tensions, isn’t it a good time to pick some good new fiction that will make you think, understand and reflect on important issues such as war, refugee and society crisis?

Alexander Altmann A10567, by Suzy Zail Image courtesy of Syndetics

Fourteen-year-old Alexander Altmann doesn’t need to look at the number tattooed on his arm. A10567: he knows it by heart. He also knows that to survive Auschwitz, he has to toughen up.

When he is given the job of breaking in the commander’s new horse, their survival becomes intertwined.

Alexander knows the animal is scared and damaged, but he must win its trust. If he fails, they will both be killed.

Age 10 and +

 

Image courtesy of SyndeticsMy brother’s secret, by Dan Smith

Twelve-year-old Karl is a good German boy. He wants his country to win the war – after all, his father has gone away to fight.

But when tragedy strikes and his older brother Stefan gets into trouble, he begins to lose his faith in Hitler. Before long, he’s caught up in a deadly rebellion.

Age 10 and +

 

 

Image courtesy of Syndetics

Refuge, by Jackie French

When a boat carrying a group of asylum seekers is sunk by a freak wave, Faris wakes from the shipwreck in an Australia he’s always dreamed of. There are kangaroos grazing under orange trees and the sky is always blue. On a nearby beach, Faris meets a group of young people who have come from far different times and places.

They are also seeking refuge, and each has their own story of why they had to leave their country to make a new life for themselves. It is only when Faris chooses to return to “real life” and find his father in Australia that he learns the extraordinary truth about the friends he made on the golden beach.

Age 10 and +

 

Image courtesy of SyndeticsValentine Joe, by Rebecca Stevens

Rose goes to Ypres in Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great war. There, the name of one boy stays in her mind: fifteen-year-old Valentine Joe.

That night, Rose hears marching and when she looks out of her window, she sees a young soldier…

Age 10 and +

World Refugee Day

June 20th is World Refugee Day.

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their home country because of war, conflict or violence.  Many have been treated unjustly because of their race, religion or beliefs.  Most refugees cannot return to their country because it is unsafe, so they find freedom and a new home in another country – like New Zealand.  World Refugee Day is a special day set aside every year to commemorate the courage and resilience of the millions of refugees throughout the world.

For more info and events, visit the World Refugee Day website; and check out some of the great books about refugees that we have in our collection: