Creation and research process

Crocodile, Unicorn and the worlds they encounter are creations from a series of workshops facilitated by Kids’ Own Publishing with parents and children at Cherry Crescent Preschool in Braybrook. The gatherings were an opportunity for the group to talk, listen and draw together. Sitting around the table, the old and new friends shared stories of language pride and shame, identity and transformation, and explored what it means to have, lose, hold onto, learn and pass on language and culture. And the journey continues…

The book was created and published in just six sessions. With deep gratitude to Rita and Viet-My for their expert, generous and kind facilitation, the group pulled together and formed a collaborative where the whole truly was greater than its constituent parts.

Join us as we relay how Crocodile and Unicorn playfully took us on a journey through language, culture and connection.

Session 1: Creating an eight-page book: “how does your language travel during the day?”

On the first day participants made eight page books with Rita’s prompt of “how does your language travel during the day?” Paper was folded, collage materials used, markers too, and beauty emerged. The children created in parallel and the story of a farting crocodile emerged as well as a unicorn with stars on its body, as well as other crocodiles and creations. Participants saw that language travels in so many ways. It travels through the body, it travels through food, it travels through family, through relationships, through the world.

Session 2: Extending the 8-page book to make new stories

During the second session participants created books and spreads that used elements from the eight-page books from the previous week. Rita noted that the eight-page books were so rich and beautiful, language wise, idea wise, and that it would be a lovely jumping off point if we could just stay with these eight page books a little bit more. “The composition, conception, conceptually, all of these universes that are within these tiny books.” 

Rita photocopied the work from the previous week, in colour and in black and white. She also enlarged and shrunk the images. The participants took pieces of each other’s work to create something new: a spread, a form of  a book, or an eight-page book again.  

As she worked on her second week creation, one of the participants stated, “It’s a really interesting process this because I was kind of expecting that we’d all be in a group brainstorming together then coming up with it but for us to do our own stuff and then..it’s a really good way in.”  

Session 3: Parents and children team up / A turning point in the making of the book

Using the pictures already collected and referring back to what had already been created, parents and their children worked together to write up a story. They were invited to use the unicorn, as created by Mira in the first session, the crocodile, as created by Stanley, Jack and Hugh, or other inspirations. One child created an under the sea spread while another drew an elevator taking people to the apocalypse (was that it?). Mira and Thanh worked together on drawing the unicorn visiting the heart forest and finding a key. Unicorn Everything, by Stanley and Jono had a unicorn taking on features of the creatures it came in contact with. 

Also this week Julie spoke to the group about a holistic approach to language, emphasizing the interconnectedness of linguistic and cultural identity. All participants appreciated Julie’s insights into language and found much to relate to as she affirmed that languages should not be seen as bounded or kept in separate boxes. Our languages live within us in creative and resourceful ways. 

Simon: “If the book can demonstrate that [resourceful use of languages] in some way that would be a massive success for us.”

Session 4: Starting to put the book together…

In the third session Rita helped clarify the process. She stated that every single thing is feeding into this book that they were building together. The final book would have a piece of everyone in it. It may have a piece of the drawing that was made in the first session, some ideas that were talked about in the second session, might have some images of this (third) session. “It doesn’t mean that every single drawing will be in the book but everyone’s making the book, all of our ideas, all of our drawings, all of our words will make their way into the book.”

In week four people honed in on what they’d like to see in the final product. What images are important to telling the group’s story? What images reflect the process carried out so far and the knowledge and experience that has arisen in these few weeks? What text did they want to include? Families worked on creating spreads on paper, the size that was used for the finished product. Hoang commented that “Someone’s story might might also mean something to someone else’s story. It’s not the same, it might not be the same story, but there’s something that’s being shared here.” 

Session 5: Crocodile and Unicorn on their journey…

This session was a whole group together session as we went through the mock-ups Rita and Viet-My had prepared. The Crocodile and the Unicorn are travelling through five worlds but the journey itself is never ending. The worlds are Food Valley, Language Mountain, Crocodile Island, Home World and Celebration World. Participants discussed the language used and the dialogue between our two main characters. Crocodile va Unicorn, as inspired by Julie’s work and conversations, speak both Vietnamese and English in ways that challenge bounded definitions of language. Their words are playful, fun, joyous, as well as serious and sad as emotions arose.  

Session 6: Final revisions!

The final session was time to verify all the elements of the book before it was sent off to the publishers. Some people worked on painting backgrounds for the spreads while others discussed language and how best to show the hybrid lives of our two characters. Emotions were high as the group reflected on the past six workshops and the bonds that were made.

Language in Community Festival

On the 9th of December, 2023, the book was launched at the inaugural Language in Community Festival in Footscray. Despite the rain’s near constant visitation a small and dedicated group of people were witness to the book being read aloud and performed by a parent and children.

Parent feedback

“For me, it’s it’s a very meaningful project. And it’s something that I can bring back home and show my kids and because they’ve been here they’ve seen the process and having that involvement, it actually will help excite them a little bit more with learning Vietnamese and more about our culture.” 

“I think outside of like going to an actual Vietnamese school like the kids go, there’s aren’t really bilingual groups that exist. So it’s hard to get that sort of language and play together. It’s interesting to experiment.”

“I was always like quite vocal about being interested in being okay with mixing the two languages and seeing it normalised. rather than it just all being Vietnamese, all being English and translated, it’s nice to have a mix.”

Credits
Workshop artists Ana Rita Pires, Viet-My Bui
Kids Own Publishing creative director Anna Dollard
Researcher Julie Choi
Research assistant Liz Murray
Childcare Hong Tran, David Tran, Quyen Nguyen, Elvis Tran
Project coordinator Hoang Tran Nguyen
 

The project was made possible by a generous donation from David Nunan.