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Wilam

Wilam

Wilam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilam – A Birrarung Story

Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly

Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381764

As ngua rises, Bunjil soars over mountain ash, flying higher and higher as the wind warms. Below, Birrarung begins its long winding path down to palem warreen. Wilam – home.

In this stunning new picture book, Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly joins award-winning picture book duo Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy to tell the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s beautiful Yarra river, from its source to its mouth; from its pre-history to the present day. Using many of the words of the Woiwurrung language for places and things, the reader is taken on a journey that not only embraces this much-maligned river but also draws the reader into the journey as they use Lisa Kennedy’s beautiful artworks to interpret the text. This makes for a remarkable sensory experience as you are engrossed in the beauty and diversity of the river.

2019 has been declared by the UN to be the International Year of Indigenous Languages and this is the perfect addition to a collection celebrating this.  Not only does it embed the language of the people whose lands were focused around Birrarung into a context that makes sense to all readers, it also exemplifies the connection between text and illustrations as readers must use the one to understand the other. 

A must-have.

 

Colouroos

Colouroos

Colouroos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colouroos

Anna McGregor

Lothian Children’s, 2019

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

9780734418821

In the Red Centre of Australia live the red kangaroos; in the Blue Mountains live the blue kangaroos; and on the Gold Coast live the yellow kangaroos.  When the drought drives each group from their traditional homes and they go in search of water and end up gathered around the same waterhole, they look at each other and think they are strange. But they all enjoy the cool water, are afraid of dingoes, leap on their long legs and eat the juicy grass and when, at night. “the colour left to dance in the sky above”, they all looked the same.  And strange things began to happen…

On the surface this is a delightful Australian story for our youngest readers about the mixing of colours to create new ones, and it does this very effectively, although the adult sharing it might have to explain how joeys arrive. Full of colour, rhythm and repetitive text it engages and perhaps inspires the young child to do some experimenting with their own paints and ask What happens when…? It could give rise to a host of science and art activities about colour and light.

But a deeper look could also lead the older reader into considering how humans also mix and match, mingle and marry and give birth to the continuing story of multiculturalism and diversity that makes each community so special. Not just colours interacting but also cultures, foods, sports …

If there is one book to put on your to-buy list in preparation for the next Harmony Day, this is it. The best picture books span the age groups seamlessly and this debut by this author/illustrator has nailed it.

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Renée Treml

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143789697

Alone in his burrow, the baby platypus wakes up and is disturbed by the shadows and noises of the night.  He calls out for his mummy who has been out searching for food, and after giving him a big hug she takes him outside to show him the night.  At first all he can see is darkness but when she encourages him to look more closely, he sees other things that are familiar to him during the day and starts to understand.  When the wind blows, she encourages him to listen carefully to the sounds and again, he starts to distinguish those that are familiar and his fear dissipates.  

Superbly illustrated in her distinctive style, the creator of gems like Wombat Big, Puggle Small, Ten Little Owls, Once I heard a wombat, One Very Tired Wombat and Colour  for Curlews  has designed another gentle story for young readers which not only introduces them to another of Australia’s unique creatures but also helps dispel fears they might have about the night – perhaps even offering human parents a strategy that could help their little ones.  

With its soft, gentle palette of purples portraying the night, rather than the more usual starkness of black, its sensitive text that reflects just how a mother would soothe a frightened child and its universal theme of a fear of the dark, this is a winner on so many levels.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

An activity pack with some lovely activities to enrich the book and help them understand their fears is available. 

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293123

Noni the Pony heads out for a wander in the hills behind Waratah Bay with her friends Coco the Cat and Dave the Dog.  They haven’t gone far when they meet a lost wallaby on the trail and so it becomes their mission to help the little joey find his family.  But none of the other creatures can help, mostly because they sleep during the day and haven’t seen anything. Will the joey find his family?

Former Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester first introduced us to Noni the Pony in 2011 and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  This was followed by another adventure Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.in 2014 so she has become a favourite of  many preschoolers over time.  This new adventure, written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, will become a favourite too, particularly if today’s preschooler has an older sibling who remembers the earlier stories.  Apart from the joy of the rhythm and the rhyme of the language, it’s a chance to introduce our youngest readers to some of the more familiar indigenous creatures of this country and talk about why they would all be asleep during the day when surely, that’s the time to be up and about like Noni. There is also the opportunity to talk about how the joey felt being separated from its parents and what the child should do if it finds itself in a similar situation.

While it is the perfect bedtime story, it might be better shared during the day when everyone can join the cows in the celebratory dance at the end!

 

 

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2018

272pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781460756218

A century ago, as the war that had shaken the world and shattered so many families was finally drawing to a close, an Australian artist who specialised in satirical cartoons and social commentary gave the world her now-iconic work about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the two little gumnut brothers who set off on an adventure to see a human. 

May Gibbs  had completely changed her focus from her earlier work and because of ill-health moved to Sydney where she fell in love with the natural bushland of the Blue Mountains. In 1914 the Gumnut Babies made their first appearance and quickly became popular with Australians at home and in the trenches as her range of works were included in Red Cross parcels, bringing sentimental reminders of home to the troops.

Now a committed conservationist, Gibbs brought the world of the Australian bush alive for those who were far from it as she tells the tale of how Cuddlepie is rescued by Nut from the spiderweb and taken home to meet Snugglepot and they became foster brothers and lived together side by side until they became “strong and fat as you see them in the pictures.” Enthralled by the stories of Mr Kookaburra about humans and their ways, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie determine that these strange creatures are  something they want to see and so one very hot night, “when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn’t hear his father’s snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house.”  Decking themselves in  in feathers from an old nest to look like birds and fly, by sunrise they were far from home. And so the adventures began…

And a century later, little ones are still captivated by the stories and the characters who helped them on their way like Mr Lizard,  Mrs Fantail, Little Ragged blossom, Little Obelia, the evil Mrs Snake and, of course, the big bad Banksia Men. 

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie has never been out of print since it was first published and this new centenary edition is an heirloom to be treasured, and certainly the perfect gift for any baby born this year.  All of her original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned  and it features a fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these  stories.

Included is a biography of May Gibbs that reveals her remarkable life and talent and how deserving she is to be regarded as one of Australia’s most treasured illustrators, artists and children’s authors.

In her will, May Gibbs left the copyright of her works  jointly to The NSW Society for Crippled Children (now known as Northcott) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance) with payments for the rights to use her designs going to these charities and so her legacy continues in a practical way.  Nutcote, her harbourside home in Neutral Bay, Sydney is now a house museum that can be visited by the general public.  There is also a travelling exhibition celebrating her life and work with a selection of original and reproduction artwork from her children’s books and other works from the State Library of NSW that is currently on tour.  (These photos are from its stay at the Queanbeyan Library, NSW -apologies for the poor quality.)

As teacher librarians we talk about finding THAT book for each child that will transform them into a lifelong reader – THAT book for me was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie shared with me as a little one recovering from the mumps by a loving grandmother.  Over 60 years on and the magic has not faded! Who would ever have imagined I’d be reviewing the centenary edition!!!   #fanforlife

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gum Family Finds Home

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279255

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.  

 

The (temproary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

The (temporary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

 

 

 

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji

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.

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Birthday

Lorette Broekstra

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., hbk.,  RRP $A14.99

9781925267051

One climbs up a tree with an intriguing gift-wrapped package and Two climbs down to receive it.  Then they pass it to Three, and together  they creep through the hollow log to the burrow of Four.  And so it goes on, the group getting larger and larger until they finally reach the home of the recipient.  Whose birthday is it?  And what could be in the package? 

Using iconic but stylised Australian creatures in their natural habitats, this is a delightful story for little ones that uses a minimum of text to tell it, but that text is carefully chosen to explore both numbers and position so that the reader has a better understanding of both.  Little ones will have fun identifying each of the animals as well as working out which one has not yet been featured as  they try to identify whose birthday it is.   And what sort of gift could come in a parcel of that shape and size?

More to this one than it appears at first glance and something new to explore with each reading.