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The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise

The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise

The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise

Shona Riddell

Matt Gauldie

Tortoise Shell Press, 2015

36pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780473318949

Matthew and Marama loved playing soldiers in the backyard of the big, old house they had just moved into.  Using water pistols and plums as weapons, there were plenty of bushes and shrubs to hide in or seek shelter.  But most of all, Marama liked to attend to any wounds using the medical set she had been given for Christmas.  It even had fake blood! 

One day their games lead them to a hole in the hedge and when they crawled through it, they found themselves in a neat, manicured garden that had lawn as soft as carpet. And in the middle of the lawn, a strange creature was munching on dandelions. But rather than being the baby dinosaur they thought it was, it turned out to be Kemal an ancient tortoise with an amazing story – a story the children find themselves in when they touch the tortoise and find themselves transported back to the battlefields of World War I.

The centennial commemorations of World War I have inspired many to delve into their family histories to explore what part their relatives played in it, and from this many unique and unusual stories have emerged.  The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise is one such story. It is based on the true story of Peter discovered in the trenches of the Western Front by a wounded soldier who popped him in his pocket for safe keeping. After being evacuated to the Middle East for treatment, Pete was given to Nora, a New Zealand nurse stationed there, and she, in turn, took him back to New Zealand where he lived as a family pet until his death in 1994.

Told by Nora’s  great-great niece and illustrated by a former  former NZ Defence Force artist, this is yet another previously unknown but utterly intriguing story to emerge from World War I that helps to put a human face to the tragedies of so long ago that are so important to our nations’ histories but hard for little people to comprehend.  The final pages in the book tell a little of the story behind the story but since the book was written it has become more widely known and there is much online that the curious can explore.  

If for no other reason than it helps to illuminate to Australian children who put the NZ in ANZAC, this book deserves a place in your Anzac Day collection.

 

 

 

 

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stripes in the Forest

Aleesah Darlinson

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2016

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

9781925275711

Stripes in the forest, stealth in the shadows.

The last female thylacine tracks through the forests of Tasmania, lands this top predator once owned and roamed at will.  But now she watches the strange creatures who are invading the land with their firesticks as they hunt and kill, not caring about the impact they are having on the environment and its creatures.  She finds a mate and pups are born, but life becomes ever more precarious.  Will she be the last of her kind?

The fate of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger)  has been an enigma since the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after protection was finally granted in a bid to save them from extinction.  Did the pups in this story survive?  Were there more to be born? Even today, there are questions being asked and talk of genetic resurrection.

Darlinson brings to light the possible story of the final female in this story for younger readers who want to know more about this intriguing creature while McGrath’s illustrations help them imagine a different Tasmania, one that is full of menace and fear as European settlement continues to encroach on the indigenous inhabitants.

While Australia has lost 27 mammal, seven frog and 24 bird species to extinction since the first European settlement in 1788, and another 506 species are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened, the thylacine is the one that has captured the imagination and is the perfect introduction to investigating the concept of extinction and human impact on the environment. Unlike the dinosaurs which were wiped out by a natural disaster, extinction and endangerment is now linked directly to human habitation so using Stripes in the Forest as a starting point to ask why the men were intent on shooting every thylacine they saw and then investigating what happens to both fauna and flora when such an important part of the food chain is gone can be  a key part in creating awareness of the need to nurture our environment for our youngest readers.  A perfect example of using fiction to lead into an investigation that will go way beyond just the initial reading of the story.

Experience has shown that there is great interest in the thylacine but not a lot written for younger readers so this is a must-have for the collection.

Teachers’ notes fitting the Australian Curriculum can be found here

 

Bear and Duck (series)

Bear and Duck (series)

Bear and Duck (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodnight Already!

9780008101343

I Love You Already

9780008165994

Come Home Already

9780008276850

Jory John

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

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

Bear and Duck are neighbours – but two more different would be hard to find.  Bear is huge, slow and somewhat grouchy; Duck small, energetic and always looking for fun. Told in dialogue with each character having their own font that cleverly echoes their nature, each story focuses on a conflict between the two as Bear wants one thing – usually a quiet life – while Duck wants the opposite.

In Goodnight Already! Bear is ready to settle into bed with his pink fluffy bunny ready for his annual hibernation through the winter months while Duck wants to be up and doing; in I Love You Already Bear is set for a relaxing day but Duck wants him to prove his love; while in Come Home Already, when Bear decides to go fishing for a week Duck is lost without him so he finally decides to go fishing too…

Using a familiar dichotomy of unlikely characters forming close friendships regardless of their differences, this is a charming series that will delight preschoolers who will enjoy the humour and which will resonate with their parents who will see themselves as Bear just wanting a little respite from the untiring, unceasing energy of their “Duck”.

 

The Last Peach

The Last Peach

The Last Peach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Peach

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2018

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

9780670078912

As summer draws to a close, a delicious golden peach hangs in front of the two bugs, tantalising them with its perfection.   But which of them should eat it?  Indeed, should it be eaten at all? Should it remain beautiful and perfect or should they satisfy their hunger?

Discussing the problem and examining the pros and cons, the story is told entirely in dialogue and illustrated using mixed media, particularly paper collage, making the pictures as diverse as the bugs’ dilemma.  

It is ideal for encouraging students how to look at the many sides of a situation because even the simplest set of circumstances can have many perspectives and possible solutions, and perhaps even examining motive and bias,  Does the bug that tells them it’s probably “all stinky and rotten on the inside” covet it for himself? 

This is an intriguing read with a most unexpected outcome that will encourage lots of discussion and debate. 

 

Eric Makes A Splash

Eric Makes A Splash

Eric Makes A Splash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Makes A Splash

Emily Mackenzie

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408882962

Nothing worried Eric more than trying new things, but luckily he had a brave and kind friend who loved to help him be brave too.  On Monday when Eric was afraid to splash in the muddy puddles Flora suggested he pretends to be a hippo having a bath or a piglet rolling in the mud and soon they were splishing and sploshing together.  On Tuesday she suggested be be a bear so he would have the courage to taste honey sandwiches…  And so it goes on until they receive an invitation to a swimming party.  Eric finally gets his brave on all by himself, but it is Flora who has an attack of the unsures…

This is a new twist on a familiar theme that little ones will love and which parents will appreciate as it offers some new strategies to get timid toddlers to take that first step. Young readers could put themselves into Flora’s shoes and suggest how their friends might overcome a fear in a way that makes it fun. They might even discover that some of the things they are afraid of are common and work out strategies together..

Something a little different.

 

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

Piggy: Let's Be Friends!

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

Trevor Lai

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781681190686

Piggy loves reading books, having tea parties, and most of all, making new friends! One day he sees a little mole across his garden. Before Piggy can get to know him, the mole hides underground. 

Miles loves reading books and baking cakes, and he would love to have a friend! But the world above makes him so nervous that every time he goes above ground he sneezes. One day they spot each other but before Piggy can find out more, Miles disappears back underground.  Can they find a way to get together?

This is a picture book that little people will love for its bold, bright characters (especially Piggy’s enormous glasses) and its gentle message that friends can be found anywhere no matter how different or shy we might be.  Piggy knows this because initially, in Lai’s first book about him,  he spent all his time reading and was too busy to meet others, but discovered the joy of friendship when he decided to save his very last book and took a kite outside. 

A fresh story about a familiar topic that will appeal to very young readers.

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Builds a Nest

Martin Jenkins

Richard Jones

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406355130

It’s time for Bird to build a nest, but before she can begin she needs to find some food to give her the energy for the hard work ahead.  But the first worm she finds is very large and juicy, and no matter how hard she pulls, she is not strong enough to pull it from the ground because it is pulling back.  When she finally does get something in her tummy, she sets off to look for twigs – but some are too heavy or too long and she can’t carry them.  

And so the story continues until her nest is built with successes and failures as she goes – and each one explained in simple language to teach young readers the very basics of the physics of forces. Physics is a hard topic to understand because so much of it is invisible and requires the sort of abstract thinking that little ones are not able to do readily, so starting with a context such as this and using simple language is a brilliant idea.  The story is followed by an experiment using ping pong balls and modelling clay but no explanation is given to clarify the results.  

While the illustrations mirror the text to provide a greater understanding, they are in a muted, retro palette that may not catch the eye or interest of young readers.  Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing as part of the early childhood STEM curriculum simply because it makes the tricky concepts of force and pushing and pulling so explicit.  However, it might be worth having some props on hand so the children can try things for themselves as they learn that size and weight do matter. 

This is a companion to Fox in the Night which examines the phenomenon of light.  Putting physics into the everyday world of the young reader through stories about common events is a wonderful way to pique and satisfy their curiosity, encourage them to explore further and ask more questions and seek their answers. 

While not directly related to this book, there are several video clips available that will help explain the concepts as well as TLF resources  R10729 and L7879 available via Scootle

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Bill Baillie

Bill Baillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Ellis Rowan

NLA Publishing, 2018

104pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279200

In the harsh, hot Western Australian desert, several hundred miles inland from Perth lies the town of Goongarrie, where, at the turn of last century, Tabitha, a painter, came to paint the wonders of the landscape and its inhabitants.  Despite its remoteness there were people there and each day they brought her “curious plants and queer beasts” to examine and paint.  

Among those “queer beasts” was a little creature – naked, five inches (12.5 cm) long at most, long legs with a strange eyelet mouth that had been attached to a teat in its mother’s pouch before she was killed in the sharp teeth of a deadly trap. Looking like he had given up and decided to die, it felt the warm, comforting hands of Tabitha around him and in that moment both were determined that he would live.  Bill Baillie’s life and adventures with this itinerant painter had begun!

And what a life it was – becoming famous and known as ‘Master Bill Baillie of Goongarrie” he travelled everywhere with Tabitha for the rest of his life, his energy unbounded, his curiosity unsated,  especially at night time which was his day, and his love for her unequalled. Getting into precarious situations, dodging a host of bilby enemies who wanted to eat him and travelling on trains and boats and wagons from Perth to Melbourne, Bill Baillie was Tabitha’s constant companion until his inevitable, sad death in her arms just two years later. 

“Tabitha’ is actually Ellis Rowan herself who was determined “to find and paint every wildflower on the continent”, and she initially wrote this story in 1908 at a time when having a native creature for a pet was considered a curiosity rather than a concern.  Using remarkable skill that keeps the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about these almost mythical creatures, Stephanie Owen Reeder has abridged the original using more accessible vocabulary and shorter chapters while omitting none of the drama of this curious relationship.  Rowan’s descriptions of the environment as viewed through the eyes of a painter are exquisite and the reader is transported to that vast lonely landscape with its brilliant colours and on-the-surface desolation brought to life.  Many of the original illustrations by Rowan and Hans Praetorius have been left in while others from the NLA’s collection of bilby paintings have also been included.

As is usual with NLA publications, the story is complemented by  several pages of further information, all based on the library’s relevant collections including the Rowan collection itself.  

Bilbies are an endearing but endangered species brought to our attention as the Australian symbol of Easter to raise awareness of the damage done to the environment by the introduced wild rabbits so the release of the charming story is fitting, with Easter on the horizon.

 

 

Dingo

Dingo

Dingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dingo

Clare Saxby

Tannya Harricks

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381283

Australia’s high country, nestled amongst the ginormous boulders and gum trees, as the sun sets and the pinks and purples of dusk steal across the landscape, Dingo lies waiting, pointed ears twitching and tawny eyes flashing.  Around her, her pups and her pack still sleep as she watches and waits as hunting time draws near.  Here in the cool mountain regions she will hunt now and tomorrow at dawn, rather than through the night like her desert and hot-climate cousins. While she will eat insects, eggs and some plants she needs meat to maintain her energy as she may roam as much as 40 kilometres  in an evening. But possums climb, wombats burrow and kangaroos are too large so the pickings can be lean on snow-covered winter plains.

But she is smart and determined and her nose tells her that there is dinner nearby – rabbits! With her superb night vision it’s not long before there is tucker for her pups.  But it is not enough for them all so back into the darkening forest she goes, this time with her mate…

This is a new addition to the narrative non-fiction Nature Storybook series that opens the world of Australia’s fauna to young readers by telling the story of one creature and accompanying it with facts about the species in general.  Despite dingoes making their homes in many of Australia’s habitats, including the harshest, and having been here sometime between 5000 and 18000 years ago, generally there is little junior literature about them for those who want to know more.  Books about koalas, kangaroos and wombats abound, but dingoes seem to have missed the spotlight somewhat so this beautifully told and sublimely illustrated book is a welcome addition to the collection.

Saxby, also the author of Koala , brings her ability to create pictures with her words – not for her “the sun is setting”, rather it’s “the low-slung sun” – to create magic on the tongue, while Harricks has captured the colours and the contours of the mountain environment in oils with her bold strokes – I was immediately in a landscape that is so familiar.

A peek inside…

Koala is among the 2018 CBCA Notables; it would not surprise me to see this one there next year.

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) - Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008286385

Once upon a time a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, time ago there was a batch of 

nine perfect eggs.  One by one, eight of them hatched and out came Otto, Winnie, Hector, Sue, Nancy, Martin, Wilf and Boo Dinosaur.  And then, finally Greg (short for gregosaurus) popped out.  But Greg was a week later than his brothers and sisters and when he went to join them, they had paired up and were really busy – Otto and Winnie were painting and gluing; Sue and Hector were baking; Nancy and Martin were making music; and Wilf and Boo were blowing balloons.  There seemed to be no room for Greg anywhere. He was very despondent.  But then his little friend Ziggy the dragonfly tells him to cheer up…

This is a charming story, the first in the series, that will delight younger readers with its clever rhyme and bright pictures. They will empathise with Greg as he tries to find a friend and have fun trying to spot Ziggy in each spread.  

We all know that dinosaurs are the preschooler’s best friend so Biddulph has the content covered, and the rhyme and rhythm and colour will really entice the very young to want to read it for themselves. Perfect for preschoolers.