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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 asking for help, and about the parts of our lives we keep concealed.

176 pages, Paperback

First published May 7, 2019

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About the author

Ingrid Laguna

4 books6 followers
Ingrid Laguna is an author, teacher and Education Advisor for the Melbourne Writers Festival. Her memoir, Serenade for a Small Family (A&U) was awarded a Varuna Fellowship and, after publication, The Age Non-Fiction Book of The Week. Songbird (Text Publishing) was Ingrid’s debut children’s fiction novel, and was released in May 2019. It was given Notable recognition by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and shortlisted for Speech Pathology Australia’s Book of the Year Award 2021. It has been published in Australia, NZ, the UK and the US. The companion novel and sequel, Sunflower, was released in August, 2020 and was long listed for the ABIA. Bailey Finch Takes a Stand is Ingrid’s latest middle grade novel. She has written for numerous publications including The Monthly, The Age, Magpies Magazine and the AEU magazine.

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5 stars
38 (31%)
4 stars
55 (45%)
3 stars
18 (15%)
2 stars
7 (5%)
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2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,744 reviews2,273 followers
May 22, 2020

Jamila is eleven-years old, and she along with her mother and baby brother have moved to Melbourne, Australia fleeing from their home in Baghdad, Iraq, and leaving Jamila’s father behind until he can join them. She misses her best friend Mina, who called Jamila Songbird for her love of singing, and writing her own songs. Singing takes her away from her worries about her father, and her struggles to make friends in her new school.

Her mother needs her help for many things, she knows very little English, and begins to call the school often, saying that Jamila needs to be excused for various reasons, and Jamila begins to feel further removed from school as the students begin to make fun of her, and pick on her.

When her school has choir auditions, she is anxious to audition, to be accepted, to feel a part of this new country, these people, and especially to find a friend.

This was an insightful, sensitive, sweet story about leaving a life, a language, family and friends behind, even temporarily. The struggles to find a new place and people that feel like home.

I love that this debut story for children was written by a teacher, who is also a musician, who teaches English to both children and adults, some of who are refugees like Jamila. This background really shows in the compassion that is evident throughout this story.

Pub Date: 30 July 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Text Publishing
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,110 reviews2,668 followers
July 24, 2020
Eleven-year-old Jamila, her mama and little brother Amir had moved from Iraq to Melbourne Australia, and now Jamila was going to a new school. She was just learning her English, but her mama was struggling to adapt to her new way of life. She constantly called the school for Jamila to come home, to help her with various situations. But Jamila, whom her best friend Mina had called Songbird in Iraq, joined the choir in school. And her beautiful singing helped her to fit in. She made a new friend at school, Eva, and was chosen to sing solo at the school concert. All Jamila needed now was her Baba to join them from Iraq…

Songbird is a beautiful story for children by Aussie author Ingrid Laguna; a story of being torn away from the life you’ve always known, from your friends and family, and about having to adapt. It’s about friendship, love, hope and kindness from people who help with the situation Jamila and her family were in. Helping the refugees of our country to belong is important – Songbird shines with that importance. Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
July 28, 2019
Jamila has migrated to Australia from Baghdad Iraq, a country ravaged by conflict. In their quiet and humble Melbourne home, Jamila and her mother await the arrival of their father and husband from Baghdad, an investigative journalist taking shelter from the authorities. Feeling displaced and missing her homeland, Jamila attends school, translates English for her mother and helps care for her brother, often at the expense of attending school.

Jamila is gentle soul, her character is representative of Australia's diverse multiculturalism and the overwhelming feeling of being displaced. She wears a hijab, a traditional head covering that attracts questions from her peers and unfortunately, incidents of casual racism. Her heart aches for a real friend, someone she can talk to and share her fears about her father without judgement but attending a school that's predominately caucasian and born in Australia, she longs for her best friend Mina who she left behind in Iraq. Jamila seeks solace in the power of song, reminding her of her time in Iraq where she was affectionately known as the songbird. It's through her love of music where Jamila meets her first friend and new student Eva.

While Eva eases the ache of being in a new, unfamiliar country, Jamila still fears for her father and with no word on his arrival, fears the worst. I adored the friendship between Jamila and Eve, Eve is an Australian girl from Sydney who lives with her Aunt while her father works and befriends Jamila through their love of song. She's supportive and ensures Jamila feels comfortable and encourages her to share her experiences as a young girl in a new country. Although on a lesser scale, Eva understands Jamila's feelings of trying to fit in and with a predominant birthmark on her face, knows all too well the cruelty of other children.

Songbird is a beautiful narrative and exploration of the refugee experience through the eyes of a young girl aching to belong. In a country that preaches acceptance but rarely accepts migrants or those who are different, Jamila's mother felt this very deeply. With a small amount of English, she needed help navigating tasks like supermarket shopping and speaking to government departments, often calling the school during the day to pick Jamila up to assist her. I was so relieved for both her mother and Jamila when the Migrant Resource Centre reached out and she was able to connect to a support officer who not only understood but was also originally from Iraq. These services are so incredibly important to help refugees settle within Australia, a sector that needs more government funding to support our multicultural communities.

Songbird is absolutely lovely, a gentle narrative about acceptance, friendship and family. Achingly beautiful.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,877 reviews197 followers
June 26, 2022
‘Jamila has left her friends, her school and her home in Iraq, and now she has a new home.’

Eleven-year-old Jamila, her mother and little brother Amir, have moved to Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is safe in Australia, but she worries about her father and her best friend who are still in Iraq. And it is hard to settle into a new school in a new country with a new language. Jamila’s mother is finding it difficult to manage, and often calls Jamila home from school to help her. And Jamila has a secret.

Jamila joins the school choir and makes a friend, Eva. Singing brings Jamila joy, and she is selected to sing a solo at the school concert. If only her father could be there.

This is a beautiful story for children (and was much enjoyed by this senior adult). ‘Songbird’ is about dislocation, adaptation and belonging, about friendship and trust, about hope and trust. It is a reminder about helping others to find their own place.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Profile Image for Sharah McConville.
557 reviews20 followers
April 11, 2020
Songbird is a powerful story about acceptance, family and friendship. 11 year old Jamila and her Mum and baby brother are refugees settling into their new life in Melbourne. They fled Iraq and had to leave Jamila's Father behind. Jamila loves singing and is called Songbird (Mutraba in Arabic), by her best friend in Iraq. Her new school in Melbourne has a choir so Jamila auditions. What follows is a beautiful story for children (and adults like me!). With thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for my digital copy.
Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,828 reviews508 followers
July 2, 2020
This was the loveliest little story and I am SO SO SO happy I had the chance to read it! I can't recommend this book enough.

This little story brings lots of hope and inspiration. It's a book about family, friends and community, and I just really liked how heart warming it was! Jamila was shy due to moving from Iraq to Australia. Iraq was her home, and her Dad is there. She misses her home, even if it wasn't the safest. She's struggling in Australia because she's new and young - English is new and she doesn't fit in perfectly. But then she discovers singing and slowly finds that she does truly belong.

This is a great little book! it brings forth a perspective I don't have - a refugee in a new country, and especially as a child. This story of acceptance and learning is just so utterly sweet. You can se the passion Ingrid Laguna put into this story. I'd highly recommend picking it up if you haven't grabbed it already. It's such a delight! It warmed my heart up and made me feel so many feelings! Ugh, the feels!

Five out of five stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Text Publishing.
597 reviews221 followers
May 24, 2019
‘Laguna has put much of the experience and understanding she has gained as both a musician and as a teacher of English to new arrivals into this engaging first novel.’
Adelaide Advertiser
Profile Image for Moony (Captain Mischief) MeowPoff.
1,502 reviews127 followers
January 25, 2021
I got this eARC from netgalley in exhange for a honest review
I think songbird was a very adorable children`s book. It teaches about the importance of not lying, of being the best person one can be, of that some people comes from places that isin`t as good and we should treat them with respect and understanding, and if we don`t understand - try to learn to and so much more.
Profile Image for Emily Wrayburn.
Author 5 books40 followers
October 10, 2019
Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 11 October 2019:

This was such a sweet, uplifting book! It’s only short and I read it all in one sitting, and afterwards had a huge smile on my face. It was kind of easy to see where the story was going, but that didn’t take away from it at all.

Jamila, her mother and younger brother are refugees newly arrived in Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is struggling to balance her new school life where she is the odd one out with her mother’s needs as they all try to adapt. But when Jamila joins the school choir and begins to make friends, she starts to fit in there… if only her father could make it to Australia, too…

I really felt for Jamila. I could feel her distress and not being able to talk to her classmates and being nervous due to her less-than-perfect English. I felt her frustration when her mother called her home from school to help with things like groceries. i have not had the same life experiences as Jamila but music got me through some bad times, too, so I completely related when she found that the school choir rehearsals were one of the only times at school that enjoyed, and how she could lose herself in writing a song.

The book deals with refugee issues, racism, death and terrorism in a way that I think would be accessible to readers in the target age group. I think it would be a great introduction to the topic, with room for discussion afterwards, and without feeling too overwhelming.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.
Profile Image for Isabelle.
447 reviews37 followers
December 21, 2020
Songbird // by Ingrid Laguna

Songbird is the story of a young girl that flees her country of Iraq during wartime and finds a new life in Australia. Sadly, only her brother and mother were able to come with her while her father, uncle, and best friend had to stay behind. Follow Jamila as she learns her way around her new school with the difficulties of learning a new language, making friends and enemies, learning to be the better person, and learning to be comfortable being herself while also helping her mother at home.

I really enjoyed this book because it shows that children from other countries/religions/races/etc. are just like all other children when it comes to feelings, fears, struggles, and other things in their lives they may be going through. This book is an easy way to introduce a new language as well because the telling goes smoothly from Arabic to its translation without feeling clunky or breaking up the flow. Show your children how Jamila learns to be herself and how to handle the different obstacles she faces in her new country.
Profile Image for Tanya.
289 reviews13 followers
April 19, 2020
Thank you Netgally and the author for the gifted copy, all thoughts are completely my own.

I was rather blown away by this book. It spoke of sensitive subject matters such as terrorism and immigration, but it was handled very respectfully.

This book includes both English and Arabic words and at the end is a glossary of Arabic words and their English translations.

I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for something with emotion and depth.
Profile Image for Shane Harcombe.
1,158 reviews13 followers
September 28, 2022
3.5 stars.This short book tells us the story of Jamila, a refugee from Iraq who has come to Australia. It deals with her struggles to adjust to life here, learning English, making new friends, fitting in at school, missing her home and, most importantly, her father who sent his family to safety with the promise to join them later. Jamila worries about what might have happened to him and how long it will be before she sees him again . She also has to balance making her own life with helping her mother deal with depression and fit in to Australian society too.

This is a quick, easy to read story that will help readers think through some of what new arrivals have to deal with. It reminded me of Onion Tears by Diana Kidd, just updated for today's readers. It is informed by the author's own work with refugees.
21 reviews
June 11, 2020
Songbird is a beautifully written book, the words flow almost like lyrics.
Jamila is a young girl trying to find her feet in a new country (Australia) having moved from Iraq. Her plight is sensitively handled and it is written in such a way that her troubles and tribulations are relatable and understandable even for those of us that have never been in such a situation.
Jamila came to Australia with her mum and younger brother, leaving their father behind in Iraq to follow on, the aching with which they all miss him is conveyed marvelously, my heart broke for Jamila numerous times during the story.
A really hard topic to cover sensitively has been written about and dealt with wonderfully in this book. An absolute must read, particularly with refugee week coming up.
Profile Image for Jasmine Dayal.
41 reviews24 followers
June 4, 2020
Such a beautiful story.
I'll get back with a detailed review when I've collected my thoughts but one thing is sure, this book is a must-read.
Profile Image for Ula.
177 reviews19 followers
April 12, 2020
4.5 out of 5 🌟A wonderful and emotional story about hope

'Songbird' is a name Jamila was called by her best friend Mina back in Baghdad, Iraq. Now she is in Australia, a new country away from her friends and family, speaking a foreign language she doesn't fully understand. Jamila is trying hard to succeed in school and fit in among her peers despite all difficulties. Singing is her way to escape from troubles, allowing her to be happy and careless again. Jamila's life is hardly resembling all other middle-grade stories, telling about fear, war, and longing for a missing family member whose whereabouts are unknown. Her experience shows the everyday struggle of thousands of children that often goes unnoticed by colleagues and teachers. 

The story was captivating and deeply emotional, I felt Jamila's pain when she struggles to communicate and was missing her loved ones abroad. My personal experience as an immigrant is very different from hers but I know what an effort is to express oneself in a foreign language and what does it mean to miss someone who lives far away. The novel teaches about the power of love, friendship and how important are tolerance and kindness toward people.

I was in great admiration for the book's design, the font is stylish is easy to read and visual accents was a pleasant addition to the reading experience. I read the novel in one sitting because I just cannot stop. I was cheering for both Jamila and her mum. It was pretty short therefore there are only a few other characters are none of them isn't fully developed. I'd love to hear other voices -like Jamila's friends and family and their life stories. I loved and was longing for more.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Baobablady (Stacy Greene).
29 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2020
I loved this book! I am so thankful that this incredible author put this book out in the world. This is a tender, caring book about a girl from Iraq who has moved to Australia and is awaiting the arrival of her father. It focusses on the struggles of Jamila and her mom and brother (Amir) as they adjust to their new situation in a strange land. The book features Jamila as the main character who is struggling with homesickness, adjusting to a new school, helping her mom navigate life in a new country and trying to find her own way in the midst of the challenges. This book conveys a multicultural understanding as the flavor of the language, customs, religion, and food of Iraq is interwoven throughout this book. I spent time in Arabic speaking countries and this book brought back many nostalgic memories. Songbird is a book that is critical for this day and age with the topic of immigration, refugees, and family separation in the news spotlight. I look forward to sharing this book with my students. Kids NEED this book now more than ever. Readers who are in similar situations or who have experienced what Jamila is going through need to feel like they are not alone. Readers who may not be knowledgeable about Jamila's struggles need to understand. So....why is this book called Songbird? Is there any hope for if or when Jamila will see her father (Baba) again? You will have to read this sensitive, caring book to find out! For the author, my final word, after reading this book is Shukraan!!
Profile Image for Liliana Silva.
73 reviews5 followers
May 20, 2020
I myself left my own country when I was 14 with my family to find a better life elsewhere.
My family also needed me to learn the new language and be the one to take care of everything.
I can say that I shed a few tears thinking about how I struggled to keep up with school, a new country a new language and the fact that I was no longer a kid, instead I became a teacher, a translator, a doctor, a mother, I had to be who my family needed me to be.
Loved the story it touched me so much..
Profile Image for Stephani.
221 reviews5 followers
May 23, 2020
* I received a digital ARC from NetGalley to review.* A nice, wholesome story aimed towards younger Middle Grades. Includes diverse characters and is good example of overcoming obstacles.
Profile Image for Lisa.
27 reviews2 followers
May 13, 2020
Songbird is a heartwarming story of an immigrant family from Iraq, and the struggles the main character, an 11 year old named Jamila, faces. I appreciated the gentle way those struggles were presented, and think this is a perfect book to add to your classroom shelf or introduce to your children. Songbird succeeds in not being heavy handed, and is a great way to open children's eyes and hearts to the struggles others can face, as well as to learn about other cultures.

This book would make an excellent read aloud in a classroom setting or at home.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in digital format through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Isya.
162 reviews
April 26, 2020
A beautiful story about friendships and the struggle a little girl and her Iraqi family go through after migrating to Australia. I read this in one sitting!

Jamila is a character that you can't help but to adore, and hope that no harm ever comes her way. She loves her family more than anything, but she also knows what she wants and she strives to get it.

This book makes one feel sorrow at the harsh reality families—like Jamila's—from war-torn countries face, but also warmth at the endless hope she and her family have.
July 20, 2019
For Upper Primary students, this novel shares the often untold difficulties refugee children have, particularly the pull between their new and old lives. Jamila is struggling with her sense of self as she tries to navigate her new school while also being a rock for her family. She finds solace and self in songwriting and singing. A thoughtful read, addressing issues like language barriers and bullying. Jamila’s perspective allows readers to step into her shoes.
Profile Image for Sharlene Evans.
201 reviews2 followers
March 1, 2020
What a beautiful story! I had strong memories of first reading Looking For Alibrandi as I read Songbird purely because it took me into the life of a culture different to my own ... I might go as far as to say it is a modern day Alibrandi for middle school readers - no dating or teenage issues explored - from an Iraq refugee perspective (not too heavy with the refugee story however ... more about fitting in to life in a new country). Beautiful!
Profile Image for Sara.
110 reviews4 followers
April 14, 2020
What a beautiful book! I absolutely loved reading this. It's about an Iraqi refugee in Australia and her mum and younger brother. She's trying to fit in at school while at the same time trying to help her mum who is struggling with the change in culture (especially language) while being in what appears to be a state of depression. It is beautifully written. It is a story that really touches the heart.
Profile Image for Brona's Books.
514 reviews82 followers
May 9, 2019
Lovely, heart-warming story for mature 8+ readers.

Refugee issues of fear, belonging and fitting in are discussed tenderly and thoughtfully via Jamila's story.

The power of song and music to be inclusive shines through every page.

Touches on how to make friends, to stand up for yourself, to embrace diversity and still honour your family and traditions.

Highly recommended
Profile Image for Kerryn Lawson.
390 reviews
June 8, 2019
What an absolutely beautiful, delightfully tender story of family and friendship but most importantly the struggles families face when settling in a country that is not their own, often without their whole family. I challenge anyone reading this story not to be moved by the end of the book. Loved it.
Profile Image for AD.
344 reviews9 followers
June 13, 2019
A story about courage in the face of frightening adversity. How do you make friends when you look different, have trouble keeping up with the language everyone else speaks, fear for your father and his friends, and have to take on adult responsibilities because your mum is depressed and not coping? This is a powerful story for readers around Year 5 and up.
Profile Image for Katya.
38 reviews
September 7, 2021
so emotion and heart wrenching - i cried throughout at least the last 50 pages ❤️
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews

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