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All I Want for Christmas is Rain

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is Rain

All I want for Christmas is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

Cori Brooke

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059717

It is a sight so familiar to many Australian children.  Brown, cracked, dried earth as far as the eye can see, and even if it could see further, the landscape wouldn’t change. Drought.  The farmer’s curse is this sunburnt country where it can be a long time between drinks for the land and paddocks are empty as livestock is trucked off to the saleyards because it costs more to feed them than they are worth. 

It takes its toll on farmers and their families and in a desperate bid to change things, Jane takes the long shiny train into her nearest town because Santa is coming and he is the one person who can grant children’s wishes.  Standing in the queue in the hot sun, patiently waiting her turn, Jane has only one request from Santa.  “My wish is for rain.”

Set against a backdrop of the most stunning and powerful illustrations that depict the desolation of the Australian landscape in drought, this story-in-rhyme brings alive the reality of summer and Christmas for so many and gives the reader pause to think about what life can be like at this time for our country cousins and what are the true gifts that we can hope for.  While we cling to the English traditions of our ancestors with snow-clad scenes, hot dinners and Santas in red furry suits, there are those who see an entirely different side to this festive time that may not be so joyful. An excellent opportunity for the children to express their interpretation of an Australian Christmas in art and perhaps a change from the more traditional pictures and crafts.

I wish it had been available in 2002 when the news was dominated by the dreadful drought gripping so much of the country and my library’s focus was on gathering gifts for the children of Charleville. It would have been the perfect starter to show the people behind the landscapes of the news in a way that spoke directly to my students.  But, in the meantime, it’s winging its way to Wales to show some children there what Christmas can be like for the children here.

 Another worthy addition to Australia: Story Country.

Gifts for Charlevile

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

 

Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Switch Hit Showdown
9780143782193

Captain’s Clash
9780143782216

Double Delivery
9780143782230

Bowling Blitz
9780143782254

With the cricket season well under way and the very popular Big Bash League looming, this is a series that will appeal to all fans of the format, both boys and girls.  Each book is a separate entity focusing on fans of two of the teams in the league – Switch Hit Showdown features the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades; Captains’ Clash is Sydney Sixes and Sydney Thunder; Double Delivery is Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat and Bowling Blitz, the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers. Each has passionate cricketers involved in a local competition and having to find a way to work together to overcome obstacles.

Panckridge, well known for his sports adventure books, has cleverly included players of both genders in the stories acknowledging that cricket is not a male-only sport and the WBBL and our national women’s cricket team the Southern Stars are gaining a much higher profile and respect as their success grows.

Written for independent readers, each book includes tips about the focus skill – batting, all-rounder, fielding and bowling as well as a profile of the two teams.  Double Delivery even has instructions for Dice Cricket that can be played when you can’t get outdoors.

A great series for those who love their sport and demand to read about it. 

 

 

 

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly & Mae

Danny Parker

Freya Blackwood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742975276

 

A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city.  On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds.  Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight.  And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company.  When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!  

But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in.  Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside.  The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings.  Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?

This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come.  But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.

This is a true marriage of text and graphics.  Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper  through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city.  Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.

If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!

Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.

 

 

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio Rescue!

Jane Jolly

Robert Ingpen

NLA Publishing, 2016

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

9780642278784

Jim loved living at Four Wells – hunting rabbits, exploring with Bluey and chasing goannas.  But life in Australia’s remote regions can be very lonely and there were times when Jim wished he could be a bit closer to his best friend Frank.  He couldn’t wait until they got one of those “new-fangled radios” that were making people so excited.  It would be wonderful to hear voices from all over the country – voices other than those of his mum and dad who loved the life as much as Jim did, but who often felt just as lonely and isolated as Jim.  

So there was huge excitement the day a truck finally appeared on the horizon and a man called Alf helped them connect it altogether and how to use the pedals and tap out Morse code.   And when the words, “Hello to everyone at Four Wells, Welcome aboard” came back, it felt as though the world had burst open!  

But when a snake spooked Dad’s horse and he fell off with a thud, that radio came into its own…

Although the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service under the stewardship of John Flynn was well established, it was clear that there needed to be better ways for those in the Outback to communicate their needs and their location so during the 1920s Alf Traegar worked hard at inventing a radio that could be powered by foot leaving the hands free to tap out the dots and dashes of Morse code.  He finally succeeded in late 1928 and in mid-1929 the first radio was installed in a private home, changing the lives of so many for ever.

While there is information in the back of the book about the invention and impact of the radio,  it is the way Jane Jolly has interpreted this into a personal story that brings the importance of its invention to life so that today’s technology-immersed children can connect with life in a time not so long ago. Surrounded by instant communication with the entire planet,  it takes something like this story to demonstrate the life of children before the Internet and the difficulties that were faced not 100 years ago!!!  These developments have happened within the lifetime of their great-grandparents.

Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are exquisite – each one featuring a monochromatic drawing of its focus and then opening out into a double page colour spread that echo the colours of the land, its unique light  and emphasise its vastness and isolation.

A superb contribution to Australia: Story Country.

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

It is Sydney in 1791 and Barney and Elsie have settled into their lives with the Reverend and Mrs Johnson as the fledgling colony tries to establish itself.  The Third Fleet has arrived and Captain Melvill is a guest at dinner.  Little does Barney know that this will change his life for Melvill is in command of the Britannia, a whaling ship and intent on sailing into southern waters to plunder its riches now their human cargo has been safely delivered.

With a promise of earning enough money to buy stock for land he hopes to be awarded in time, particularly after the Johnsons have made it clear they will return to England, Barney is enticed to join Melville’s crew for the journey south.  But the dream is shattered almost the minute he steps on deck and he is dismayed to discover that this is not a one-off experience – he is indentured for three years!  Assigned to being up the mast as the lookout, Barney soon spots whales and he and the reader are plunged into the gruesome details of the hunt, the capture and the destruction of a magnificent creature.  Because he is the one who gave the alert of its presence, Barney holds himself responsible for its death and wonders if he can really do this for another three years.  

The second in the Secret Histories series and sequel to Birrung, the Secret Friend, this is another engrossing and engaging read from master historical storyteller, Jackie French.  In the notes at the back she makes it clear that distasteful as they may be to the modern reader, whaling and sealing were the two industries which sustained our nation in those early years and enabled it to diversify so that other products like wool could take over.  

Written for readers the same age as Barney, it traces Barney’s story through his own voice and his discovery of himself – a landlubber rather than a seaman – with a clarity that many of his age would not have today. At its most basic level  there is scope for comparing the life of a child of Barney’s era and circumstance to one of a 12 year old in Australia in the 21st century and even to track the events that have occurred to bring about the changes.    What do today’s children think those of the 23rd century might think about their lives?

French has not glossed over the details of the fate of the whale but viewed through Barney’s perspective which is sympathetic to the whale’s ordeal, it is perhaps a more gentle account than the reality and may well raise issues about how humans treat animals and why they do or did.  There is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the perception and treatment of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries and their consequences  to the current situation where they are revered. 

As usual, Jackie French has crafted a tale that is a perfect standalone read as well as being an opportunity to dig deeper, behind and beyond the words.  Teaching notes are available.

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99

9780143780687

In 1911 John Flynn went to work on a mission more than 500 kilometres from Adelaide, the beginning of a journey for which thousands of people have been grateful for over the decades since then.  In what is still a remote area, Flynn was greatly disturbed by the lack of medical facilities beyond the metropolitan areas . Not satisfied with patients being treated by those with a rudimentary knowledge of first aid with support being sent in Morse code over the telegraph system, while doctors could take weeks to reach them using whatever transport was available.  Flynn knew there had to be a better way and so began his quest to find a solution.

Flight seemed the obvious answer but in those days both planes and pilots were hard to come by and it took 10 years of campaigning before his first plane was ready for service.  In 1928, his dream came true – he formed the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service using  a single-engine plane on loan from QANTAS< aptly named Victory.  Immediately there was a difference – 50 missions and 255 patients treated in a year.  

But they were not out of the woods yet – in fact they were a bit lost over desert landscapes navigating by landmarks because there were no radios in the planes. Even though it meant that they could only fly at night in extreme emergencies,  nevertheless the pilots put their craft down in the most amazing places and with Alf Traegar’s invention of the pedal radio in 1929 at last the people of the outback started to get the services they needed.

In 1955 the name was changed to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and one of Australia’s most iconic institutions  has gone from strength to strength now servicing rural and remote areas from 23 bases scattered around the country. 

The story of the RFDS is one that every child should know – from those in the cities where medical services on tap can be taken for granted to those in the Outback where lives depend on it daily.  It is a rich and rewarding story of success and Ivanoff has managed to cram so much information into just 32 pages while still keeping it personal and connected to its child audience.  Wood’s illustrations emphasise the isolation and enormity of the landscape adding weight to the extent of the issue and the importance of its solution.

As always with this series, there is a timeline at the back that encapsulates the milestones.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

Edward the Emu (mini-book)

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward the Emu

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460753514

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly a bore.

And so Edward decides he will be a seal, and when that doesn’t work out he thinks he would like to be a lion, and then a python until it becomes clear that when you are an emu, that really is the best thing to be.  

Companion to Edwina the Emu and perfectly illustrated by Rod Clement, this is always the go-to book to kickstart a fun storytime and a discussion about being yourself, and that we all have special attributes that make us unique, different but just as important as anyone else. Nearly 30 years since its original publication it sits solidly in the realm of Australian classics for children and now, reprinted in mini-book format so it is the perfect size for little hands, its popularity will peak again.

A must-have in every child’s library.

Ellyse Perry (series)

Ellyse Perry (series)

Ellyse Perry (series)

 

 

 

 

 

Pocket Rocket
9780143781240

Magic Feet
9780143781264

Winning Touch
9780143781288

Double Time
9780143781301

Sherryl Clark with Ellyse Perry

Random House Australia, 2016

145pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

With the Southern Stars and the Women’s Big Bash League now getting greater coverage on prime time, mainstream television, the name of Ellyse Perry is becoming one that is widely known and recognised.  So it is pleasing to see a series of stories that focuses on her sporting career from the choices she had to make at high school through to her current success becoming a part of the literature available to newly independent readers.  While there have been other series of this ilk such as Glenn Maxwell and Billy Slater there have been very few focusing on the prowess of Australia’s female sports stars.  Ellyse who plays both soccer and cricket at the elite level is a wonderful focal point for inspiring young girls to continue their sport after they leave primary school and she shows that with care and good choices, you can do all that you want. Boys will also enjoy reading about one of Australia’s leading lights.

Pocket Rocket and Magic Feet are available now just in time for the Christmas stocking and Winning Touch and Double Time will be available in early January ready for the long January days after the excitement of Christmas is over and our children are looking for something new.

 

 

Colours of Australia

Colours of Australia

Colours of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colours of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2016

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

9781742976914

That eerie time just before dawn as the sky lightens and the stars are fading rapidly.

That split second of sunrise as the shards of light spread new life on the landscape.

That changing palette of oranges and yellows as the sun marches across the zenith on its inexorable journey , textures are in sharp relief and stones shelter and slumber.

That sheltered, filtered coolness as a few rays reach down through the canopy to the soft, sensitive plants on the forest floor.

Those subtle changes as the day draws to a close in a hush of blue, indigo and violet as gentle showers fall and sometimes thunder rumbles.

That all-consuming blackness of night as the sun takes its rest and only shadows remain.

In this visually stunning new book by one of our nation’s leading indigenous artists, the colours of the day stride through the pages capturing and encapsulating the patterns, the moods and the moments of what we so often take for granted, or just don’t see.  Bancroft always brings the beauty of nature into focus in her paintings and her evocative text, leaving an impact that forces us to look around and start to view what she sees – perfection in the natural shape, lines and layers of the landscape – through a new lens. Even if we do not have the talent to interpret the landscape and tell its story in the wonderful way of Bancroft, at the very least we can drink in this book and look with new eyes and better understand the connection to the land that our indigenous people enjoy and celebrate so well.

She has used the colours of her homeland west of Grafton, NSW as her inspiration but are they the same colours  that would be seen in other parts of Australia?  Are we united by them or is the landscape different but no less beautiful?  Have you students observe and paint what they see during the course of the day to discover the answer. 

As always from this creator, superb.

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Gina Newton

NLA Publishing, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642278883

Australia’s island geography means that our environment supports an amazing variety of unique wildlife many of which most Australians have never heard of let alone seen.  

But in this amazing, full-colour book the reader is introduced to a whole world of tree-dwelling kangaroos, a frog that looks like a turtle and birds that like blue as it spans 55 national parks and the habitats they embrace – woodlands and grasslands, forests, rainforests, arid zones, mountains, wetlands and waterways, coasts, oceans and islands. There is also a chapter devoted to the vast array of minibeasts that are found all over the nation.

Beautifully laid out with full-colour photographs, maps and diagrams, each habitat section opens with photographs of the featured national parks and a description of the habitat. Each animal has its own page, which has a stunning colour photograph of the species, a map of its distribution range, its conservation status and scientific information about the species. The information is divided into the following sections: ‘Fast Facts’ gives you all the vital statistics, such as size, lifespan and number of young; ‘Where Does It Live?’ tells you where in Australia you can find the species and provides details about its home; ‘What’s Its Life Like?’ tells you a bit about how the animal moves, behaves, eats and has young; and ‘Interesting Info’ has quirky and fascinating facts.

As well as providing easily accessible information about each creature, each page could serve as a role model for student reports when they undertake the ubiquitous investigation into our wildlife while offering some alternatives to the usual cast of kangaroos, koalas, platypus, echidnas and wombats.  With over 700 national parks covering 28 000 000 hectares of country and accounting for almost 4% of the land mass, it also offers scope for investigating why national parks exist, what they contribute to our ecological well-being and may even become the young person’s travel guide for the future.  

A superb addition to either the school or home library.