Teacher

Teacher

Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher

Gabbie Stroud

Allen & Unwin, 2018

352pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760295905

Even though I requested this book for review I didn’t know if I could read it let alone review it, because even now, 12 years into “retirement”, I am still heavily invested in the world of education, constantly leaping to the defence of my colleagues whenever I hear disparaging comments or “helpful” suggestions.

Not a week goes by without someone who has never stood in front of a class of 30 expectant children uses their power of position to say that Australian education is failing; that teachers need to be held accountable; that this or that should be in the curriculum (although nothing is ever taken out); that teachers are underworked, overpaid and have too many holidays.  They seem to believe that while every child has an innate desire to “reach their potential” that potential or success is defined by academic ability encapsulated in a meaningless score on a one-size-fits-all test administered on a particular day when who knows what else might be going on in the child’s life at the time. 

For my own sanity and peace of mind, these days I use the OFF button whenever I hear this sort of stuff so to request a book that has the subtitle “One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching” seemed stupid.  Did I really want to read about a teacher going through all that remains so familiar  to me (I went back and did another year in a school in 2015) and which is still the life of 90% of my friends?  

Even the cover was confronting- once upon a time teachers were symbolised with a ripe, red apple, wholesome and nutritious, but the one on the cover is just a core.  Is that all we are worth now? Or does it represent all that is left of a teacher after they’ve been in the system, chewed up and spat out with only their essential core of themselves remaining, and that very much exposed?  There are also quotes (and three pages of commentary) about the value and the integrity of the book from people that anyone in education will recognise but none from anyone whose opinion of teachers was changed by reading it.  With such illustrious company already spruiking its value, what could I, as just one of tens of thousands of Gabbie Strouds, without a fancy title or a string of letters after my name add to what had already been said? All I have is 46 years  of experience in schools, a mixture of successes, failures and mistakes, and a deep and abiding passion for children who deserve more than they get at home and school. They are the ones who will be making the decisions about my life in my old age and I want them to be the best they can be!

And so I started – and I couldn’t put it down.  Here was my teaching experience, and that of almost every other teacher, laid out in front of me reminding me of what I did and why I did it.  Every one of us remembers the bright eyed, bushy-tailed, eager graduate who finally bid farewell to Uni knowing that all those worst-case scenarios we’d been told about would never happen in our classroom. Every one of us recalls that first day in front of our first class and watching four years of university learning fly out the window. Every one of us has a Grayson, a Ryan, an Ed, a Warren, a Billie for whom life at school was better than being at home, whose role models there set them up for failure in a society that demanded manners, proper language, and a range of acceptable strategies for dealing with frustration and who learned that what they had learned only got them into strife but who didn’t learn any other ways. Every one of us has had a principal who is too scared to rock the boat, who is driven by the numbers of bums on seats and the public perceptions of the school.   Every one of us has had colleagues who support us, hold our hands, offer chocolate and empathy when it is needed in a way that no one else can because they’ve been there themselves, and those who would rather compete than collaborate.  Every one of us knows the drawn-out staff meetings, the endless professional learning about the-new-best-thing-to-revolutionise-education when we know it’s a case of everything-old-is-new-again, the hours devoted to writing individualised reports that will only get a cursory glance or an angry please-explain phone call. Every one of us has known the partner who doesn’t get that this is a 24/7/365 commitment and the consequent juggling of the needs of family and the needs of kids who see us more than our own do.  Every one of us knows the times we’ve had to miss a family event because of planning and preparation and the endless paperwork that soaks up the hours that are not 9-3.  (I’ve always said that 9-3 is performance time; the other 18 hours are preparing for the performance.)  And the lucky ones among us have taught at Belmora and made lifelong friendships just as we have all experienced Paradise.

Every one of us has walked in the author’s shoes, even if it was to a different destination.

When Gabbie’s brother Phil committed suicide an astute teacher who knew she was hurting but was probably invisible as the rest of her Catholic family wrestled with his death and it implications, told Gabbie that she was a writer and she needed to “write her way through this.”  And just as she did then, so she has done now – working her way through a tale so familiar to those “on the inside” from the child who knew she wanted to teach to one who was outstanding but for whom the cost became too much and the price to pay unbearable.  In a narrative that makes you laugh and cry as you remember, empathise and sympathise, even those who have not been teachers get such a clear insight into the life, struggles and emotions that make up what it is to stand up in front of 30 expectant little people each day, putting yourself aside so that you can help them be the best they can be. 

Will this book change Australia’s public perception of teachers? No – because those who should read it, won’t.  Will it stop the politicians and power-brokers constantly meddling in what teachers should teach? No – because they are too bound up in their own “success” that is dependent on being seen to be fixing things (even when they aren’t broken) and teachers are such easy targets that anything that humanises them is off-limits. So, apart from coming to terms with her own situation, what will Gabbie achieve from this?  I believe it will be something more important – because teachers will read it, recognise themselves,  remember that inner drive that compelled them to teach, review what they do, realise that people are more important than paperwork,  renew their passion and revitalise themselves so they get back to the core of teaching – relationships! 

And that can only be good for the kids in our care.  

When I review children’s books I look for those in which children can see themselves and understand that they, their issues and problems are not unique – they are shared by many others and so they can gain comfort from not being alone, from not being the ‘freak’ they often perceive themselves to be. Teacher is such a mirror.  With many students starting this new term with an unfamiliar face in front of them because yet another teacher has moved on this is a book that needs to be shared widely and discussed in staff meetings.  With long-term tenure in politics so fragile, it is unlikely we are going to extract the meddling fingers of the politicians from our profession – fiddling with education and blaming teachers is a crowd-pleaser – so we need to sit down with our colleagues, have the courage to speak openly, share the issues impacting us and work out strategies that can support each of us now and into the future.  We need to create a collaborative culture that allows for the sharing of problems knowing that there will be support and understanding, not condemnation and a feeling of failure as reality meets ideality, particularly for those less-experienced. Each child belongs to all of us.   “No man is an island…”

Reviewers get to keep the books they review, but instead of this one sitting on my shelf, I’m sending it off to a colleague with instructions for her to pass it on and for it to be passed on and on and on until it falls apart from being read by teachers who are feeling swamped by the system and need a reminder of the personal rather than the public, of the individual rather than the crowd, and the  people they have touched rather than the paperwork which has piled up, of the fact that they are the nurturers of the future rather than the fiction that they are the failures of society. As deputy principal I know she will use it as a catalyst for reflection and discussion in her school and knowing her principal, they will work together to make it a force for improvement.

The author’s final words are, “I don’t believe I left teaching. Teaching left me”.  For Gabbie, the only outcome for her was to leave what she loved so she could become the whole apple again. After devoting over two-thirds of my life to the profession, my words are, “I don’t believe I left teaching.  Teaching left me…proud, privileged, exhilarated, satisfied, fulfilled, with a profound knowledge of how people tick so I can bring out the best in them yet a little saddened that not every teacher can be so positive and not every child can be taught by those who have inspired, guided and mentored me.” For I have been privileged to work with the crème de la crème for most of those 45 years, relationships I still treasure and draw on. 

Teacher gives each of us an opportunity to read, review and reflect on our own stories and write the next chapters so that when that time comes we can say, “Teaching left me…” 

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

Professor Astro Cat's Human Body Odyssey

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

Dominic Walliman

Ben Newman

Flying Eye Books, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781911171140

Young readers can join Professor Astro Cat, his helpers Evie, Martha, Gilbert, Felicity and Astro Mouse as they journey through author Dr Dominic Walliman’s body to discover its bits and pieces and how they work. 

Using cartoon-like illustrations, diagrams and simple narrative text that speaks to the reader, this is a wonderful first information book that helps young readers understand what’s under their skin from the very aspects that mean they are alive (they grow and reproduce) through to the minute organisms that combine together to make the organs which in turn work together to make the body work. 

While the explanations are simple, nevertheless they are complete and use the proper language and labels so there is no sense of things being dumbed down for the reader – it fulfils its intention of teaching young people about their bodies, how they work and how to care for them.  Complete with a comprehensive glossary and index so that questions can be answered as the need arises, this is an exciting new addition to the 612 section of your library. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Kensy and Max – Breaking News

Kensy and Max

Kensy and Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max – Breaking News

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

366pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99  

9780143780656

Imagine getting in a car in one country and waking up in a strange place in another!  That’s the beginning of a whole new adventure for twins Kensy and Max who started their journey in Zermatt, Switzerland and 16 hours later find themselves in the grounds of an unfamiliar mansion in England.  While it seems their carer Fitz knows his way around as he follows an unfamiliar fellow wearing a red dressing gown with matching slippers inside and up the stairs, Max is mystified but the warmth and comfort of a large, soft bed is too tempting and he is soon asleep again.  But when they wake in the morning to find themselves locked in the mystery deepens and the adventures begin…

Breaking News is the first in a new series by the author of both Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series, featuring feisty twins Kensy and Max.  At just 11, Kensy is feisty, impulsive and has two speeds – full-tilt or out-cold – while Max is more measured and perceptive, They are smart and athletic and fiercely competitive, particularly between themselves, but also tough and determined, which seems a perfect combination of characteristics for amateur sleuths who find themselves in a strange and mysterious situation as the real truth about their parents’ employment emerges and they are separated from them for their own safety.

As well as writing another cracking story that will engage independent readers who love a good mystery, Harvey also invites the reader into the story by enabling them to try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.

With the second in the series, Disappearing Act just weeks away from release this is the perfect time to hook young readers into an intriguing series from one of our best authors for the age group.

 

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A First Book of the Sea

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2018 

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406368956

With evocative blank verse poems and stunning watercolour illustrations, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton take the young reader on an amazing journey to the sea, under it and beyond it in this new anthology that is the third and final in the series.  Beginning with First to See the Sea the reader is immediately engaged because who has not wanted to be the first to see that elusive glimpse of blue as the coast draws nearer and the air sharpens?  

Encapsulating the most common experiences of the ordinary beach-goer in short poems – paddling, building sandcastles,  catching waves, fishing, gathering pebbles, being mesmerised by the lighthouse flashing its warnings- the net is cast wider and wider and explores the creatures beneath the endless waves and in the ocean’s depths from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Those for whom the sea is home, for whom it is their livelihood or an adventure to be conquered, all are featured in words that are as informative as they are picturesque.  And the stunning fold-out of the humpback whale with instructions for singing a whale song is just superb.

If you buy just one poetry anthology this year, this should be it – there is a poem for every day to spark the imagination and the wonderment of the magic that covers more than two-thirds of this planet. As one born and raised by the ocean and a dream to return, this is one book that is staying in my personal collection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Sarah Kilbride

Ada Grey

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99

9781408881934

Throughout the generations, inspired by storybooks and real-life princesses like Elizabeth and Margaret, Anne, Diana, and now Catherine and Megan, little girls have had dreams of being a princess, no matter how fleetingly.  But when the little girl in the story is dropped off at princess school by her parents, she soon finds it not just about pretty dresses and handsome princes.  

Being a princess is very hard work,

There’s so much to do it would drive you berserk.

Not only is there so much to learn like sitting on a throne for hours, practising handshakes and being tested by spinning wheels and dragons, but there is also so much you are not allowed to do.  No bouncing on the trampoline, no nits in your hair, no burping or farting or picking your nose… really, in the end it is much better to be an ordinary little girl.

With its fast-moving rhyme and bright pictures that are full of humour and detail this is a story that will not only illuminate the behind-the-scenes life of princesses but will also reaffirm that little girls are perfect just as they are.  

Lots of fun and perhaps an inspiration to look at what really lies behind some of the other glamorous jobs that appeal.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

We Wear Pants

We Wear Pants

We Wear Pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Wear Pants

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408893609

When animals wear clothing you get some hilarious results and when you combine the visuals with speech bubble comments, the result is a crazy, funny book about the different types of clothes we wear and the importance of getting dressed. There are 35 main characters that appear on every spread so children will learn to find their favourites, as well as looking out for hilarious guest animal appearances all wearing a variety of clothing items.

Captions encourage them to search for various items, particularly the eccentric monkey who just does not conform. The diversity of activities involving spotting, choosing, counting and decision-making ensures the child engages with the illustrations, such a critical part of early reading behaviour.

One that will become a favourite as there is something new to discover with each visit.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a Mermaid?

Candy Gourlay

Francesca Chessa

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781910959121

It has been suggested that the origin of mermaids comes from sailors mistaking ‘sea-cows’ or dugongs for these fanciful creatures and letting their imaginations and desires fill in the gaps.  But not so for Benji, who, with his sister Bel spots a dugong on the beach.  He knows exactly what it is but dugong disagrees, insisting she is not an “it”, but is, indeed, a mermaid – a beautiful mermaid.

She shows the children her tail, which Benji insists is a dugong’s tail; sings to them which hurts Benji’s ears;  and even demonstrated how gracefully she could swim in the sea.  While Bel wishes she, too, could be a mermaid, Benji refuses to give up his criticism, adamant to prove the creature is a dugong. But when he calls her a “sea cow”, she is very hurt and Benji suddenly realises how sharp and cruel his words and attitude have been. Can he make amends?

The word ‘dugong’ comes from the Malay for mermaid as 17th and 18th European sailors saw them or the first time in South East Asian waters  and while this story is set in the Philippines, they are also found in warm Australian waters too.  So, as well as being a story about the power of words and how hurtful they can be even when that is not the intention, this is also a story that puts a focus on these elusive, endangered creatures more closely related to elephants than cows. Young children could create a comparison between mermaids and dugongs while older students might investigate their habits and habitats more fully, perhaps even getting involved in Project Seagrass

The sustainability of the environment and its inhabitants is an important part of the primary curriculum and this is the perfect introduction to a less familiar endangered species that could be added to those already studied. 

 

Sleep – how Nature gets its rest

Sleep

Sleep -how Nature gets its rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep -how Nature gets its rest

Kate Prendergast

Old Barn Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781910646229

As little ones snuggle down into their beds and listen to a bedtime story to pull the curtains on the day, most of Mother Nature’s creatures are also getting ready for the night ahead.  But none of them have a cosy bed with a quilt and a pillow – for them it is very different.  Some, like tigers, sleep in the heat; others, like penguins, sleep in the cold.  Giraffes sleep standing up while sloths sleep upside down!

This is a charming first information book that little ones will love to explore as they think about where and how their favourite creatures might sleep.  Are they curled up in front of the fire like a cat or dog, or are they huddled in the corner of a barn like a cow?  While the main text comprises simple statements and stunning illustrations, there are pages at the back which provide a little more information about some of the animals so the child learns that books can educate us, not just entertain us.

Not only does it pose lots of questions that the curious will like to explore, it also emphasises the necessity for sleep for all living things so they can grow and be healthy, which might be an added bonus for the child who resists bed!   Although they can’t close their eyes, even fish sleep but…do animals dream?

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Monsters

Monsters

Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsters

Anna Fienberg

Kim Gamble & Stephen Axelsen

Allen & Unwin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760293369

Tildy hated the night.  Night meant sundown. Sundown meant moonlight. Moonlight meant monsters. They sailed in from outside and hid behind the curtains., invisible to anyone but Tildy. No matter how much reassurance she got from her mum and dad, her aunts and uncles and 23 cousins (including the one who told her not to eat spicy food before bedtime) the monsters remained very real and bedtime was nerve-wracking.  It’s very hard to sleep with one eye open!

However when Hendrik comes to school and spends his time drawing monsters that he kills with his sword, Tildy finds an ally – someone else who believes in these fearsome creatures of the night. All is well until Hendrik invites her to his house for a sleepover and suggests they can sleep in the garden in his tent…

Adults and children alike are plagued with monsters in their lives, some with shape and from like Tildy’s, others not so tangible but just as scary and threatening, and so the message from this book that there is a way through is important.  Little ones who have their own monsters will draw comfort from knowing that they are not alone and may even offer suggestions for how Tildy can relax and enjoy the sleepover before  she is faced with her fears.            

Lovers of Tashi will adore this latest book from the imaginative mind of Anna Fienberg, the final one from Kim Gamble who became too ill to finish it so his close friend Stephen Axelsen took over.  The story of its creation is told in part on the endpages as we bid farewell to Kim, but Megan Daley’s blogpost is just exquisite.  Vale Kim Gamble – thank you for all the joy you have brought me, my family and the children in my care over the years.

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

DK Children’s, 2018

320pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241227862

As soon as our little ones begin their formal education in preschool (or its equivalent) they start to engage with STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – as they participate in all sorts of activities that have one of these critical areas as their foundation.  And, as is normal with inquisitive minds, questions beget answers which just pose more questions so in this one volume, DK have tried to address the key areas of early science and not only provide some answers but also offer things to try that will open up new worlds.

Beginning with an introductory section which looks at how science works and how to work scientifically by making an observation, forming an hypotheses, carrying out an experiment, collecting data, analysing the results and then repeating the experiment to test the validity of the results it then takes readers through the main facets of science -life, matter, energy, forces, and Earth & Space. Using the typical DK layout of small pieces of information, clarity of language in the explanation and  hundreds of easily-understood diagrams which serve as models for how students can showcase their own work,, this becomes a ready reference book for budding young scientists that will support learning, answer questions and inspire more.  

As usual, there is an informative glossary for those needing a quick explanation and a comprehensive index so desired topics are found easily. 

Perfect for both the home and school libraries.