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Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Peter Macinnis

NLA Publishing, 2019

248pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642279347

Anyone who knows Peter Macinnis, either personally or through his writing, knows that he is passionate about connecting young children with science and this latest contribution to the education of our students sits perfectly alongside his Australian Backyard Explorer and Australian Backyard Naturalist

In it, Macinnis takes the reader on a journey from explaining what earth science is and the earliest beginnings of the planet to the current debate about climate change, stopping along the way to investigate and explain all sorts of things which affect the development, health and performance of the planet like how rain is formed, the various types of rocks that lie beneath our feet, the impact of the currents on life and a zillion other things like why humidity is a critical factor in bushfire season, all tailored to helping young scientists understand what is happening in their own backyard.  It’s not “out there”, it’s right in front of them.  

Using his incessantly curious mind, he ferrets out all sorts of unknown facts and curiosities and then writes about them in a way that makes them so easily readable by his young target audience while giving them all the information they need yet not overloading them with too much detail. He leaves the door open for further investigation from more specialised sources.  The book is richly illustrated with photos, many of his own, diagrams and charts and there are projects to undertake, sections that delve more deeply into a topic, and ‘ologists’ to investigate and inspire.  

But for all the facts and figures and photos, there shines through a deep and abiding respect for this planet and an acute awareness that we must do more to protect it, and it is through young people having the knowledge and understanding about how it works that is likely to make the most difference.  Even though it has a global perspective, readers are inspired to “think global, act local” and examine what it is they can do to make their part of the world a better place for all, such as making a frog pond and keeping a seasonal diary.

If you add one non fiction book to your collection  this year, then this should be it – and if you don’t have the previous two then track them down through the NLA Bookshop.

Teachers’ notes are now available.

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Dippy's Big Day Out

Dippy’s Big Day Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9781460754061

All Dippy wants to do is fill his tummy and find a soft place to sleep.  But it seems that that is a bit tricky when you are a diprotodon, a kind of giant wombat the size of a rhinoceros!   No matter what he does or where he lies down, it seems Dippy is doomed to be hungry and wide awake.  Beds that are nests, snacks that attack, it’s a bit bewildering until…

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have developed an idea from Ben Smith Whatley and teamed up once again to introduce young readers to the world of megafauna, huge creatures that evolved from the dinosaurs and roamed Australia up until about 50 000 years ago. Not surprisingly, given her well-known love of wombats, Jackie has focused this story on their ancestors, the diprotodon, but even though this initially appears to be a story for the very young, it opens up so many areas to explore that it could be for any age.

Combining minimal text with illustrations that contain so much action, this is a great introduction to the genre of ‘faction” where a fictional story is based on so much fact that the lines are blurred and it becomes an information text as much as a imaginary one, meeting many of the Australian Curriculum outcomes in the process. Whatley has painted a very different Australia to that which we are used to, which has to spark questions about climate change and what happened to these ginormous creatures. And are there lessons we can learn because we no longer have diprotodons in our landscape? Is its descendant, the wombat, likely to follow in its footsteps? Put May 11 aside to celebrate Hairy Nosed Wombat Day as a focus for endangered and extinct species!

Given the fascination that young children have for dinosaurs, it is surprising that there are so few stories, or even resources, about these other prehistoric beasts and so, this is a must-have in any collection.

Excellent teachers’ notes (written by me) exploring the riches of this book are available both on the publishers’ website  and their Teachers Hub , demonstrating that what might be considered a book for preschoolers actually has a much wider application, making it a model of its genre..

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

Britta Teckentrup

Big Picture Press, 2018

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

9781787410763

As summer draws on, it is likely that many of our young readers will have either been fishing or will have eaten fish or perhaps seen them “in the flesh” over the past few months. While those who have caught them in rivers, lakes or the sea may be able to identify the species of their catch, with over 33,600 described species in the world, fish are the most diverse creatures  than any other group of vertebrates found in aquatic environments all over the world. 

“Big or small, spiny or flat, spiky or blobby, bright or exactly the same colour as the sand”, fish have inhabited the planet for about 420 million years, and in this richly illustrated, informative book from Britta Teckentrup, young readers can investigate all things fishy from the biological characteristics of fish to their evolution to what lives where. Focused on providing initial answers to a variety of questions it is a broad-ranging text that will  satisfy the reader’s curiosity and perhaps inspire them to investigate further. With information in manageable chunks and accessible language it is an ideal starter text for the independent reader, and with invitations to search for things, including the rarely seen but most common fish on the planet, the bristlemouth, they are encouraged to read and look carefully.  Ideal for those with an interest in these amazing creatures.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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

 9781925594249

Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.

 

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Priscilla Lamont

New Frontier, 2018

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925594287

The Pigwigs who live at Hodge Podge Lodge are obsessed with acquiring new things.  Pa Pigwig loves to order items online; Ma Pigwig is always shopping; Master Pigwig spends all his money on junk food and Little Miss Pigwig collects all sorts of bits and pieces.  But with new stuff comes packaging – paper, string, tape, plastic wrap, boxes, bottles… the list is endless and sadly the Pigwigs did not do not get rid of it. They just drop it wherever they like and it piles up.  So one day when a big wind sweeps in, it all ends up in the nearby woods proving disastrous for the creatures that live there…

While we are gradually becoming aware of the impact of plastic bags on out marine life, there are still so many other issues with the careless disposal of all sorts of waste that we must acknowledge and this book helps us think about this.  A box might be a nice house for a mouse until the rain collapses it; fishing line can tangle around legs and beaks; paper can blind if it’s flying around… So this is an excellent story that really highlights the message about the amount of rubbish we generate and what happens to it, particularly at this time of gift-giving and summer holidays, in a way that even youngest readers can understand.

Reduce, reuse, recycle are the new 3Rs that we need to continually introduce and reinforce with our youngsters and Little Miss Pigwig’s examples and solutions just might be the inspiration for a cleaner 2019 in your family and your school.

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go Strolling

Katrina Germein

Danny Snell

Little Book Press, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780648115687

Taking a toddler for a walk in a stroller on a sunny day is one of life’s more pleasant and relaxing experiences, especially if it’s a welcome break in a hectic daily routine.  Enjoying the activity, taking notice of nature and the amazing things that can be seen as you stroll rather than rush, sitting in the park, meeting friends with their toddlers – it all goes to making an enjoyable experience for parent and child. 

So this lovely book for preschoolers that focuses on this simple activity and brings it to life is a delight to share, as our soon-to-be readers not only relate to the events but are also encouraged to think more about what they see on their daily walk.  Perhaps it is an opportunity for parent and child to take a lead from Germein’s text and Snell’s illustrations and create their own book about their daily walk.  A few pages that have the repetitive text of “On our walk we saw…” and a photo or drawing will not only become a family favourite but also help the child understand the power they have over words – saying them, writing them and reading them.

This book has been produced under the umbrella of Raising Literacy Australia, and with such experienced authors and illustrators on board, it certainly helps meet the mission and aims of that charity. It’s familiar setting and activity, its simple rhythmic language accompanied by illustrations that enable the young reader to predict the text, and the potential for follow-up are all part of those essential elements that lay the foundations for mastery of print. 

 

Vanishing

Vanishing

Vanishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanishing

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227444

Once, creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered this empty land. They had horns and wings, scales and feathers. They lived in vibrant forests, desert plains and icy tundras. But where are they now?

This is an evocative picture book, lyrically written and sublimely illustrated, that introduces young children to a host of the creatures that have inhabited this planet over the millennia but which have now disappeared, often because of the impact of humans on their habitat or a desire to own what they offered.  But this book goes further than the extinction of its creatures for it warns that humans with their cities and all that they consume will also disappear.

“The humans learned about their past.  But they didn’t learn  enough from it.” 

But there is also hope that perhaps once the humans have gone, the creatures will emerge again. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The recent criticism against the students who chose to display their anger through a national strike about the inaction of governments and corporates towards climate change really angered me. Rather than asking themselves why the students felt compelled to take this action, those self-styled “social commentators” and politicians just demonstrated their ignorance about what our students are concerned about, what they are learning in schools through curricula that they, the politicians, have put in place, and the emphasis placed on transferring what has been learned into action. As well as ignorance, they also showed their arrogance in thinking that they know better and are the only ones with “solutions” to fix things.  

The publication of Vanishing at this time is very timely and it should be an essential element of any study focusing on sustainability of the landscape so that, regardless of their age, they can “learn  enough from it”.  Enough for them to continue asking questions, to examine their own beliefs and practices, to encourage others to think about the then as well as the now, to take the action they did and to maintain it until the changes are stopped if not reversed, and to not give into a future of doom and gloom.  To show those who were of a similar mindset when they were students, that there are more important things than those that they now worship, particularly in a country that is among those with the worst rate of animal species extinction in the world.

A comparison of the front and back end-pages should be enough to pique the interest but further teaching notes are available here.

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925335880

“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..

 

Billie

Billie

Billie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billie

Nicole Godwin

Demelsa Haughton

Tusk Books, 2018

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

9780994531414

Billie the dolphin loves the wildness of surfing the ocean’s waves -for her there is no greater thrill.  And so she sets off to find the most enormous wave that she can, one that will make her happy, safe and free.  But in her search for that one wonderful wave, she encounters more than she expected as she finds fellow marine creatures entangled in the human detritus and pollution of the ocean.  Fishing lines, plastic bags, nets, noise… all are modern-day hazards that have to be navigated as the ocean’s creatures go about their daily lives.  Billie helps to free as many as she can, but when she herself is caught in a net and her new friends come to rescue her, she finds something that is even better than surfing the enormous waves.

The Canberra author of Ella has made it her mission to be a voice for those creatures of the wild who don’t have their own voice to bring attention to the destruction of their habitat.  Many young  readers will be familiar with the sight of dolphins surfing the waves and develop a fascination for these beautiful, intelligent creatures from a young age.  But they are unaware of the issues that dolphins face as the human world encroaches more and more on their environment and so it is books like this that carry a critical message of conservation as well as a charming story that inspire them to action.  Rather like the little wave that forms and is then apparently lost in the vast ocean, but in fact becomes part of a larger wave, so the voices of authors like Godwin and illustrators like Haughton who has created such vivid images become bigger and bigger and louder and louder as both Ella and Billie are shared with our young students as part of the sustainability perspective of the Australian Curriculum.

The final double spread explains more about the issues that Billie encountered on her journey, and part of this includes this statemet, “One of the saddest parts of my journey was not being able to help my friends in the dolphin park. They belong in the wild, not in tanks.” This has the potential to become a formal debate on the role of places like SeaWorld and other venues where dolphins are held in captivity, perhaps even extending to the roles of zoos, in the understanding and conservation of the planet’s fauna.  So while this appears to be a picture book for the very young, it has scope to be used with a much wider, older audience.