Songbird - Middle Grade 8+ (Text Publishing, 2019)
Jamila has left her friends, her school and her home in Iraq, and now she has a new home. It’s safe in Australia, but Jamila is finding it hard to settle in. She misses her best friend and worries for her dad’s safety back in Iraq. It’s hard to speak and write in English all day. And Jamila has a secret she wants to keep hidden.
When she joins the choir, Jamila begins to feel happy. Singing helps take her worries away. And singing will help her find her place in her new life, a place where she can shine.
Songbird is a tender story about belonging, about the importance of friendship and of asking for help, and about the parts of our lives we keep concealed.
Praise for Songbird:
‘A beautiful story of hope, heartache and love.’
'I loved the story of Jamila and the resilience and bravery of her family.’
Serenade for a Small Family – Memoir (Allen & Unwin, 2010)
Serenade for a Small Family is a simple, moving and unforgettable story of love and loss.
This is an earthy, honest and heartbreaking memoir about what it means to love; and about the terrible powerlessness and torment involved when there is fear of losing a child. Yet despite the pain and anguish, Ingrid's memoir is at its heart about how we can experience unimaginable difficulty - and still somehow find the spirit to come through blazing with love and optimism and even a kind of joy.
Praise for Serenade for a Small Family:
“To find the strength to write about the kind of experience Ingrid Laguna and her husband Ben went through is an achievement in itself. But to have written about it with such restraint, poise and lightness of touch is to have produced something special.”
“Laguna has totally bared her soul on love, babies and her winding road to happiness. Despite the pain and anguish, this is a thoroughly readable memoir about love, courage and building a family.”
Australian Women’s Weekly
The Age Newspaper 27th May, 2019 The power of Student Voices
“The first time I did the circle of trust with my Iraqi and Syrian students in Broadmeadows, I put myself in the middle of the circle. A new boy hovered his hand over his open mouth. It was about six weeks into the term, so I knew most of the kids pretty well, and they knew me. I folded my arms across my chest, hands on opposite shoulders. "Catch me and pass me around," I said. "My feet will stay on the spot."
Alina giggled and re-pinned her headscarf…”
The Monthly ( October 2016 ) : ‘New students’
“There is a New Student folder in my pigeonhole. I flip it open and scan the enrolment form. From her listed date of arrival, Kafa* has been in Australia for less than two months. She has come from Ethiopia, speaks Oromo and lives with her aunt. She is 15. Years of schooling: two. Country of schooling: Ethiopia. Date last attended school: 2009. Interruption to schooling: approximately six years. Orphan child visa: 117 – “for a child whose parents are dead, permanently incapacitated or of unknown whereabouts”. It’s the middle of the term and Kafa is my third new student in a fortnight. So it goes…”
Booktopia Interview: Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and raised in Sydney with a radiologist father and a ceramicist mother. I have two brothers and a sister. Mum says that when we were little, she sat herself inside the playpen hand-coiling clay into pots while we were all on the outside. She cooked by candlelight to pretend she was somewhere other than in a kitchen. Dad was always trying to learn an instrument but simply couldn’t, no matter how many hours he practiced. He cranked Kris Kristofferson, Rod Steward, Greek dancing music and Nana Mouskouri.
We moved house regularly. When I was eleven, Dad decided he wanted a farm, so we moved to the Southern Highlands and I was made school captain at Exeter Primary School; there were thirty-five students in total. I had a short, rotund pony that refused to canter and a motorbike for rounding up cows before school in my nightie, a fake fur coat and gum boots.
Mum and Dad split when I was thirteen and I was shuffled to Canberra with Mum and my little brother. Mum was a mess. When I was fifteen, I ran away from home and school, to inner city Sydney. I felt lost and wore a lot of black. I stayed out late and ran amuck. I waitressed. At eighteen, I went to East Sydney Tech to finish high school doing two years in one. I caught a bus to Randwick High School to sit my exams with actual school kids. I knew no-one. I felt self-conscious and alone. I didn’t make it to university until my late twenties.
Inspiring, Heartwarming and Timely: Review of Songbird by Ingrid Laguna
Better Reading Kids, June 18, 2019
Jamila has fled her home in Iraq to live in Australia, a new school, new friends and a new language makes life complicated. Aside from all of this she is desperately missing her father (Baba) and her best friend Mina who are both still in Iraq.
She tries to fit in at school but it’s hard when Jamila feels so different. When her new teacher Miss Dana asks her to tell the class a few things about herself Jamila doesn’t know how much to share – should she tell them that she had to leave her home because it wasn’t safe for her to stay?
Sharing Stories of Courage: Q&A with Ingrid Laguna
Better Reading Kids, June 20, 2019
You’ve had an amazing and varied career, including supporting Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, what brought you to writing for children?
My inspiration to write my middle-grade novel, Songbird, came from the courage and resilience I saw in my Iraqi and Syrian students. Since 2013, I have been working at an intensive English language school for kids who have recently arrived in Australia since 2013. Most of my students come from refugee backgrounds.
Jamila, the main character in Songbird, came to me fully formed – her experiences reflect many of the same struggles as my students who, alongside their family members, have been forced to leave their home countries. I have been stunned by their warmth and hope and buoyancy, despite the challenges they face and the experiences they have had. I wanted to write a story that these children and others like them could connect to….
Centre for Stories, June 2019
Between the LInes - Interview with Ingrid Laguna
In Songbird, the protagonist Jamila finds a love of singing, which becomes her refuge and strength. Why did you choose singing as the creative outlet for your character?
I chose singing because I have a music background – singing, song writing, playing percussion and guitar. I have firsthand experience of the power of singing and song writing to remind you of who you are; the way it can bring you back into yourself when you are anxious or distracted. I have found music has calmed and centred me, and filled me up, in the same way that writing does for me now.
Jamila, the protagonist in Songbird, was one of the brightest kids in her class in Baghdad, confident handing in homework, and putting up her hand to answer questions. Now that she is at school in an outer suburb of Melbourne, and English is ‘not her real language’, Jamila may not be able to give a good speaking presentation or write clever sentences, but she can sing better than anyone else in the school. Singing gives Jamila a chance to shine in a place where she feels otherwise invisible.
Q & A + Review - Magpies Magazine, July 2019
SONGBIRD Review by Fiona Harding
Jamila has recently moved from Iraq to Melbourne, and life isn’t anything like it used to be. Now there is safety, and no bombs; but there are also no friends, no familiarity, and no Baba, Jamila’s father. Baba is still back in Iraq, in hiding, waiting to come to his family, uncontactable.
Jamila wants to make friends at school, but it’s hard. Kids are already settled into their groups, and when she reaches out it never seems to work. She desperately misses her best friend, Mina, and the beautiful country she loved. When she discovers the school choir is holding tryouts, she jumps at the chance–to prove to everybody that she’s somebody beyond the new girl, and to remind herself how good it has always felt to sing. But with her classmates not always being particularly encouraging, apart from Eva, the even-newer-girl, and Jamila’s mother–once a brave, lit-up woman but now always tired and worried about her family back home–constantly calling Jamila out of class to help translate appointments or shopping trips, can she find the song inside her?