Blue Flower

Exploring the 2022 CBCA Short List: Picture Books

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Author: Sonya Hartnett

Illustrator: Gabriel Evans

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Unit writer: Karen Rogers

Publisher's SynopsisA young child describes her qualms about going to school and how hard she finds asking the teacher for help; how she feels shy about making friends, not being funny or a fast runner. But through her love of art, a conversation with her mother and her observations about nature she comes to see that being different might not be a bad thing after all. A beautifully told picture book about self-esteem, resilience and the discovery that being different can be something wonderful. From award-winning author Sonya Hartnett, with stunning illustrations by Gabriel Evans.

Themes: starting school, diversity, self-appreciation, change, relationships, talents, resilience

Year levels
: Australian Curriculum: English, Foundation; Arts (Visual Arts; Drama), Foundation-2; Personal & Social Capability, Level 1a & 1b; Mathematics, Foundation.


Why use this book? The themes of difference and self-appreciation in this text act as a great discussion starter for young learners as they seek to find their ‘place’ in the new world of school. In addition, it prompts thinking about the unique talents that we all possess and the ways that we all contribute to the wonderful world that we live in.

The text provides authentic opportunities to make connections between the characters in the text and learners’ own lives and to support the building of personal and social capability. In addition, opportunities for enhancing vocabulary and exploring simple text structure are provided, as well as support for developing visual literacy and critical thinking skills.

Focus passages: The following pages have been selected for closer analysis throughout the teaching unit:
Front and back cover and endpapers – text predictions & reading the visual
Pages 4-5 – visual literacy
Pages 12-13 – capital letters
Pages 26-30 – comprehension, plurals, critical thinking & personal connection

Reading and appreciating the book

Book introduction (big picture)

  • Text predictions: Look at the front cover with students. Discuss the title of the book and what it might tell us about the type of book this is. Next look at the cover illustration. Do you think the character is happy or sad? What is she doing? Does she look like she is enjoying herself? Based on the illustration what might we be able to guess about the character? Then read the blurb to students – what might be ‘different’ about the character in the book? AC9EFLA04, AC9EFLA02
  • Building the field: This is a story about being ‘different’. Discuss what it means to be different. What is another way that we can say it (not the same)? Make a class list of some of the ways that people might be different from each other. AC9EFLA08, AC9EFLE01  
  • Text connections: Tell learners that this story is about a little girl that doesn’t want to go to school because she feels different to all the other children. Ask if students have ever felt different to the people around them. Did it make them reluctant to go somewhere or do something because they felt different? How did they overcome those feelings? What happened? AC9EFLE01, AC9EFLE02, AC9EFLY02 
  • Reading the visual: Before reading the text show students the endpapers at the start of the book and ask them what they notice. Record their observations (be careful not to point out any features – just record students’ first thinking). After reading the book together, show the students the endpapers at the end of the book and ask if they notice anything new. If they notice the blue flowers at the end, but not at the start discuss why this might be. If they were noticed at the start, discuss the way that the yellow flowers are easier to see and notice than the small blue ones. How has the theme of the story help them to see the ‘different’ flowers? Support students to see that the blue flowers represent the people in the world that are different to everyone else (the yellow flowers). When have they felt like a blue flower? Or a yellow flower? AC9EFLA07, AC9EFLY05  

Close reading

For this unit, links between receptive and productive modes have been made. For each teaching idea in Close reading you will find a corresponding teaching idea in Using the book for listening, speaking, writing & creating.

  • Visual literacy: Look closely at the illustration on pp. 4-5 of the children in the schoolyard. As a whole class find the main character and examine them closely – notice and discuss the way they are standing, where they are looking (gaze) as well as their facial expressions. Using these clues, what might they be saying, thinking and feeling? Next, ask each student to choose one of the other people from the picture. Using the same visual clues, ask the students to role play their chosen person and create a whole class Freeze Frame. Depending on the class dynamics you may like to use the Thought Tracking drama routine to tap students on the head in turn to share what their character is saying, thinking and feeling. Otherwise, ask students to think about their character and what it would be like to be in their shoes at the time. AC9EFLA02, AC9EFLY05AC9ADRFC01AC9ADR2D01AC9ADR2C01
  • Comprehension and critical thinking: Read pp. 28-30 closely and notice the way that the little girl realises that lots of things are different in the world. Write the sentence “Things being different is what makes the world wonderful” on the board for students and ask them if they agree or disagree. Why or why not?  Discuss the difference in meaning between ‘different’ and ‘wonderful’. Notice how different has a negative meaning, but wonderful has a positive meaning (young learners may not yet have the language to explain this difference). To further build understanding ask students to think of something that is different about themselves and use a sentence starter to share ‘I am different because……’ Then ask them to say the same sentence again, but this time substitute ‘wonderful’ for different ‘I am wonderful because….’ Discuss how the change of words makes them feel. AC9EFLE02, AC9EFLY05, AC9EFLY02
  • Language: Notice that the text is told from the point of view of the main character. Look at the text on pp. 4-5 and support students to find the words that tell the reader who is telling the story (I, other kids, I’m). Discuss point of view and think about why the author decided to use the little girl’s voice to tell the story. How does it help the reader to understand what the character might be thinking or feeling? AC9EFLY05, AC9EFLA01
  • Text structure: The text follows a simple complication-resolution narrative text structure so is good for introducing these concepts. Introduce the idea of a problem/ complication as ‘something that is not going right for a character’. What is the problem for the little girl in the story? [She doesn’t want to go to school]. What is the reason for the problem? [She feels different]. How is the problem solved? [She realises that being different is wonderful]. Compare the text with another simple complication-resolution text such as Lottie and Walter or Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Anna Walker (try to use a text that students are already familiar with). Notice the same complication-resolution structure and challenge students to think of and share other stories they know that follow a similar structure. AC9EFLA03, AC9EFLE03
  • Text structure and organisation: Look closely at the text on pp. 12-13. Copy the page or transcribe the text for analysis. Support students to find and circle all of the capital letters on the pages. Discuss the reasons why we use capitals, using the examples from the text [to signal the start of a sentence; at the start of a name; and for the pronoun I]. Sort the examples found into groups of words that are names and those that show the start of a sentence. AC9EFLA09, AC9EFLY11
  • Text connection and comprehension: As you read the book record the different activities and subjects that the little girl participates in at school. For each one discuss whether or not she enjoys that subject or activity. Put a smiley face next to the things that she enjoys and a sad face next to the things that she does not enjoy as much. Next, create a class graph by listing the different activities and subjects in your class along the x axis. Ask each student to add a smiley face above all of the subjects and activities that they enjoy. Look at the completed graph and discuss which are the most enjoyed activities or subjects and which are the least enjoyed. AC9EFLY05, AC9MFST01

Word recognition, phonic knowledge and spelling

  • Colour words – Look at the text on pp. 28-30 and make a list of the colours mentioned. Some will most likely be familiar to students (yellow, blue, white, black, orange) and some less familiar (calico, tabby). Explore each colour and make a word wall display that shows the colour name as well as the colour that it represents. You may like to use paint sample cards or similar to help students to see the range of colours. Students can also create a game of Memory – using sets of cards with the written name of the colour and a matching card with a sample of the colour itself. Shuffle and place all cards face down and take it in turns to turn over to cards with the aim of finding a matching name and colour sample. AC9EFLA08, AC9EFLY14
  • Plural words – Look at the text on pp. 26-29. Find examples of plural words that consist of a base with ‘s’ added to show that there is more than one (birds, trees, songs, flowers, clouds, cats). Represent the words using a ‘word equation’ with two parts that represent meaning: base + s = more than one. As an example: bird + s = birds (more than one bird) AC9EFLY15

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Using the book for listening, speaking, writing and creating

For this unit, links between receptive and productive modes have been made. For each teaching idea in Using the book for listening, speaking, writing & creating you will find a corresponding teaching idea in Close Reading.

  • Visual literacy: Make a large copy of pp. 4-5 of the text, or use the original text if preferred. Ask students to remember the role play of the characters from Close Reading and to think about what their chosen character might be thinking or saying during this scene. Use post-it notes or small notes to record the words or thoughts for each character (students can write these themselves or the teacher can act as scribe). Use a speech bubble or thought bubble shape as relevant and attach the notes next to each character on the copied page. AC9EFLY05, AC9EFLY06  
  • Comprehension and text connections: Revise the Close Reading activity focused on being different/ wonderful. Ask each student to draw a picture of themselves to show a way that they are different. Write a supporting sentence using the sentence starter ‘I am different and wonderful because...’ Compile students’ texts into a class book titled “We are all different and wonderful”. AC9EFLY06AC9EFLE01, AC9EFLA05, AC9AVAFE01, AC9AVA2E01AC9AVA2E02AC9AVA2C01AC9AVA2P01AC9AVAFC01AC9AVAFP01
  • Language: The story is told from a first-person perspective, using the voice of the little girl. Supports student to retell the story from a third-person perspective. Notice the change in pronouns used from ‘I’ to ‘the little girl’ or similar. Model with the first couple of pages by retelling the story orally and then recording them in a written format. Underline the noun groups that show who the sentence is about. Then allow the students to retell the rest of the story, using the pictures in the text as a guide. AC9EFLA01, AC9EFLE03   
  • Text structure: Ask students to think about a time when they didn’t want to do something. Draw a picture and create an oral story or play to share their experience. Help them to structure the story by introducing themselves, what they didn’t want to do (problem) and what happened in the end (resolution). AC9EFLY06AC9AVAFE01AC9AVA2E01AC9AVA2E02AC9AVA2C01AC9AVA2P01AC9AVAFC01AC9AVAFP01
  • Text structure and organisation: Go on a capital letter hunt in the classroom. Look around the room and in books to find at least 5 words that start with a capital letter. Students can copy them into their books or onto a mini whiteboard to be added to the class list (writing it themselves or scribed by the teacher). AC9EFLA09, AC9EFLY08
  • Text connection and comprehension: Review the class graph of subjects and activities created in Close Reading. Ask each student to choose one of their favourite subjects or activities at school and draw a picture of themselves participating in it. Guide them to think about the ways that they can show they enjoy that task through their facial expressions, body language and use of colour. They can write or orally share (with teacher scribing) what their favourite thing at school is, as well as their reason for liking it. AC9EFLY06, AC9EFLA07AC9AVAFE01AC9AVA2E01AC9AVA2E02AC9AVA2C01AC9AVA2P01AC9AVAFC01AC9AVAFP01  

Relevant resources and links 

  • Teaching notes: From the publisher
  • About the author & illustrator: A video with Sonya Hartnett and Gabriel Evans where they explain the creative thinking behind the book.
  • Books about starting school: The Little Bookroom has created a comprehensive and up-to-date list of books focused on starting school.
  • Book about feelings: The Little Bookroom also has a list of books about emotions, including a number of titles about ‘being different’.
  • Resilience, Rights and Respectful RelationshipsA wealth of resources developed by experts from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne to support the development of social skills in schools.
  • Resilience Project – Some free resources for schools and families based on the wellbeing principles of gratitude, empathy, mindfulness and emotional literacy. 
  • Be You – From Beyond Blue, Head Space and Early Childhood Australia these resources provide guidance for educators to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people from birth to 18 years. 


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