The Gum Family Finds Home
NLA Publishing, 2018
40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
The Gums – Mum, Dad, Leaf and Nut – are a family of koalas who live in a eucalyptus tree which is perfect for them as a food source, but not much else. The open nature of the branches means they have little shelter when it rains and on days when the branches are whipped about by the wind, it is just plain dangerous. Reluctantly, because it means leaving all they know especially their dear friend Kooka, they decide to find a safer home – one that is rock solid. Armed with a checklist of must-haves including safe, dry, strong, food, shelter, views, friendly neighbours, water, rocks… Dad hooks up the caravan and off they go leaving their cackling, buzzing, windy, rainy home far behind.
And so begins an adventure that takes them and the reader on a journey around Australia’s iconic geological formations – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Karlu Karlu, the Bungle Bungle Range, Katherine and its Butterfly Gorge, the Glasshouse and Blue Mountains, the wonders of Tasmania and the Twelve Apostles of Victoria, and across the Nullabor to Wave Rock and The Pinnacles. Is there any place that will fulfil their requirements?
Let me declare that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan – I love the way that she can write the most engaging stories while weaving in all sorts of information that just beg the reader to explore further. And this is no exception. Together with Christina Booth’s unique illustrations which seamlessly combine her artwork with photographs of the focus landscape, this story introduces young readers to Australia’s distinctive, ancient geographical features formed up to 3000 million years ago, encouraging them to wonder about the what, where, why and the how of them. Each place that the Gum family visits has its origins explained in notes and photos in the final pages, each of which is part of the National Library‘s collection.
The story cries out for students to discover more about the land they live in, perhaps setting up a challenge where partners investigate one of the landforms that the Gum family visit, post a series of clues based on their findings and invite their peers to work out where it is. (I did this some years ago using pictures from landscape calendars but it could also be done effectively as a slideshow or other digital app.) They might even investigate other landshapes and landscapes choosing one of these instead…
|Great Sandy Desert||Tanami Desert||Great Victoria Desert||Gibson Desert||Simpson Desert|
|Sturt Desert||Mt Kosciuszko||Mt Bogong||Mt Bimberi||Mt Bartle Frere|
|Mt Ossa||Mt Zeil||Mt Woodroffe||Mt Meharry||Great Diving Range|
|Australian Alps||Murray River||Murrumbidgee River||Darling River||Lachlan River|
|Franklin River||Cooper Creek||Goulburn River||Gascoyne River||Lake Eyre|
|Uluru||Twelve Apostles||Devils Marbles||Three Sisters||Bungle Bungles|
|Coorong||Flinders Island||Fraser Island||Heron Island||Melville Island|
|Grampians||Great Barrier Reef||Jenolan Caves||Kakadu||Kangaroo Island|
|Katherine Gorge||Lake Mungo||Lake Pedder||Nullabor Plain||Wave Rock|
|Flinders Ranges||Wilpena Pound||Kangaroo Island||Kings Canyon||Kata Juta|
|Wallaman Falls||Lake Argyle||Lake Eucumbene||Lake Gordon||Mt Townsend|
|Finke River||Yilgam Lakes||Gulaga||Mt Augustus||Menindee Lakes|
Others might prefer to investigate the formation of the land generally – there are a number of excellent resources available via Scootle and GeoScience Australia or even reading the opening chapter of Michener’s Hawaii while others may prefer to examine, compare and contrast the creation stories of our indigenous peoples and other first nations.
Younger students could map the Gum family’s travels trying to plot a journey that doesn’t double back on itself too often, learning how to interpret and create maps as they do while even younger ones might like to think about the requirements the Gum family needed for a safe home and compare those to those needed by a wombat or a dugong or other species that they are interested in.
I’ve often said that the best picture books are those that entertain and educate and this has to be up there with the very best of those.
Tania has decorated the bookshop at the National Library in Canberra and has written about the book and its purpose here, she talks more about the creation of the book and offers some goodies here. and more teaching ideas covering AC English, Science and HASS are available here.