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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps this is the time and place to have a disclaimer that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan. Not just for her wonderful way with words and her exquisite illustrations but because no matter how often the topic of a text has been presented before, she always finds a way to present it in a unique way that totally engages her audience and makes them want to keep turning the pages.
A prime example is This is Captain Cook in which the story of the explorer is presented in a way like no other that not only entertains but educates and is likely to have teachers and students begging to do a similar production. Australian Kids Through the Yearslooks at Australian history through the perspective of children’s lives of the times and An Aussie Year is the perfect accompaniment to Harmony Day and all those other times we celebrate the diversity of the children in our care and in our classes.
So it is no wonder I was excited to receive her latest book Australia: Illustrated.
Again, there have been many books that try to explore and explain what it is that makes this country unique; what it is that encapsulates the Australian identity; and what it is that deserves our attention and pride. So why another one? What is its point of difference that will make it stand out and demand to be on shelves in libraries, classes and homes?
“Big, beautiful, and diverse” are the words McCartney uses to describe Australia, and they are the very words that could describe this book. It is big and it is fat (criteria important to some of our junior readers); it is beautiful with colour, iconic illustrations and few words; and it’s diverse with its focus on a range of topics that don’t usually feature in these sorts of texts. Each page is a vibrant explosion of colour and movement that celebrate our places and people in quirky ways like the Sydney Opera House portrayed as being made of chook feathers and little people running around trying to catch the chooks to get their feathers!
Beginning with an overview of the country as a whole, focusing on everything from our native and endangered animals to bush tucker, iconic foods, sports, weather and precious rocks, even our particular brand of English, it then moves on to examine each state and territory and their unique entities and emblems. And yes, both Tasmania and the ACT feature as prominently as the bigger states. But this is not a whole lot of facts and figures accompanying the sorts of staid photos seen on calendars for tourists… each page is just bursting with cartoon-like illustrations and few-word captions. It is peopled with children – many modelled on those whom McCartney knows and who unwrap the miscellany of heritage that makes us so every child will find themselves somewhere -and so it is not too serious her love of words and zany humour is everywhere. Just check out the page featuring the Snowy Mountains in NSW!
Readers will adore looking at places they have been to or things they are familiar with – listen for the chorus of “I’ve been there”” when they see the BIG page – as well finding places and things they want to do or try. Astute teachers might ask why a particular person or item has been included as well as seeking suggestions for things the students would include if they were to design a page or add to an existing one. (They would have to research their suggestion so they could defend its inclusion.)
This is a superb book for examining the Australian identity and answering “What makes me Australian?” It works for all ages because of its format, including those who are learning English for the first time. it would have suited this year’s CBCA Book Week theme Australia: Story Country perfectly as every illustration has a story behind it just waiting for the children to discover it. Younger students can just look at the pictures and use those to work out the words while older students may well be attracted to a particular illustration and want to find out more.
For those of you in and around Canberra there is a launch of the book at Harry Hartog’s in Woden on Saturday the 5th of November at 11am but for those who can’t get to that, there is a virtual launch with all sorts of activities from 24th to 31st of October
Definitely one for the collection and one to promote to your teaching colleagues.
One hundred years ago the first edition of May Gibbs’ iconic Gumnut Babies was published – the forerunner to her classic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In this stunning centenary edition which echoes the original layout, fonts, illustrations and colours, a new generation is introduced to the stories of The Gumnut Babies, the Gum Blossom Babies, The Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo.
On all the big Gumtrees there are Gumnut Babies. Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything. Perhaps that’s why their eyes are so big… They are full of mischief and are always teasing the slow-going creatures; but they hurt nothing and are gentle, for they love all the worlda.
Born in 1877 in England and coming to Australia at just four years old, May Gibbs spent years observing the bush and its creatures as her family farmed in both South Australia and Western Australia and she claimed she “could draw before I could walk”. She excelled at botanical drawing and has said, “It’s hard to tell, hard to say, I don’t know if the bush babies found me or I found the little creatures”. The Gumnut Babies made their first appearance in 1913 as part of the illustrations for Ethel Turner’s The Magic Button and gradually the bushland fantasy world grew with the writing and publication of a number of stories, including the publication of Tales ofSnugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918.
Gibbs was a fierce protector of the environment and these stories are guaranteed to have young readers begin to appreciate all that lives in our unique natural landscape. Her legacy lives on through Nutcote as well as her generous gift of leaving the copyright of all her works to Northcott which provides support to those with disabilities and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance which supports the 34 000 people living with this condition in Australia alone.
Apart from being a classic of Australian literature the May Gibbs website offers activities and lesson plans; there is a stage production of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie currently touring the country and the State Library of NSW has an online exhibition of her works.
A fitting centenary tribute to a true Australian classic.