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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.

The Bee Book

The Bee Book

The Bee Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bee Book

Charlotte Milner

DK, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241305188

As Spring finally reaches even the coldest parts of Australia and the blossoms, wattles and daffodils finally emerge from their winter slumber, so too comes the sound of the bees – as welcome as the warbling of nesting magpies and the laughing of the returning kookaburras. 

Bees have been an essential and integral part of life on the planet for over 100 million years – even pre-dating the dinosaurs – and about 20 000 different species can be found all around the world. While some bees are large, others small., some can cook and the original name of the much-loved bumblebee was “dumbledore”, the most famous is the honey bee and this amazing new book focuses on this species as it explores all aspects of its life and why it is so important to the survival of humans. 

Packed with easily accessible information  and eye-catching illustrations, this is the ideal book to show young children how critical bees are within the environment as they, along with other insects, are responsible for about a third of everything we eat! As well as emphasising their importance, there is also a warning about their decline in numbers and the potential for catastrophe if that happens. There are suggestions for how we can assist their longevity, including building a simple bee motel (although I cheated and bought one) with more detailed instructions available here.

With Christmas approaching, and Miss 12 and Miss 7 growing beyond toys and stuff, this book and a copy of this year’s winner of the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, How to Bee  because they seem like natural companions, as well as the bee motel will make a somewhat different gift, but one which will inspire them!

A must for school libraries and fascinating and informative for those with an interest in the environment.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Dam

The Dam

The Dam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dam

David Almond

Levi Pinfold

Walker Studio, 2018

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

9781406304879

It looks like death will come to this valley as the dam is almost completed, and when it is and the waters rise, so much will be washed away, drowned and never seen again.  In tribute to all that have gone and for all that are still to come, the musician sings and his daughter plays her violin as they wander through the empty houses that were once homes. But even though the physical things may be gone or going, the music plays on, locked in the memories as new opportunities await.

Forty years ago when a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland,  UK, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place.  But while much of the natural landscape was lost, a new one was created, one which brought new activities and adventures and allowed for new memories to be created.

While this is the story of a dam in the UK, it could be the story of places in Australia like Adaminaby, moved in the 50s to allow for the creation of Lake Eucumbene, nine times larger than Sydney Harbour and part of the might Snowy Hydro scheme that changed Australia forever.  Yes the valley was drowned, and as droughts wrack this country, sometimes, as now, remnants of what was lost rise from the deep, but in its place is a haven for fishers, boaters and artists, and the influx of European refugees who came to help build it changed the shape of Australia forever.

It could be the story of parts of the South Island of New Zealand as dams like Benmore and Aviemore reshaped that landscape as the need for electricity grew; parts of Tasmania where building dams on Lake Pedder in the 60s and the proposed damming the Gordon below the Franklin River in the 70s shone the brightest spotlight on the environment and its conservation that this country had seen.

It could even be the story of those living near Badgery’s Creek where Sydney’s new airport is at last being constructed after 50 years of talk.  It could be the story of 1000 places where human needs have outweighed those of Mother Nature and “progress” moves inexorably onwards and outwards.  

But this is not a morbid book, despite its dramatic, monochromatic sombre palette, vignettes of things lost like fleeting memories and the haunting text which is like music itself.  While it is a memorial to those who have gone before it is also a promise that there will be new life, new different memories  waiting to be made and celebrated just as the change in colours and mood of the illustrations indicate. 

Change throughout our lives in inevitable – some visible and dramatic, others not-so and more subtle – but each alters the path that we have planned or dreamed of.  While this book might be overtly about a true story of the Northumberland wilds, it is a conversation starter for all those who are facing life-changing circumstances, physical or emotional.  The musician and his daughter chose to remember through a musical tribute but were also ready to embrace the new landscape, illustrating that it is how we deal with and embrace that over which we have no control that shapes us.  “That which doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger” has never been more apt. 

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collecting Sunshine

Rachel Flynn

Tamsin Ainslie

Puffin Books, 2018

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

9780143785187

Mabel and Robert are enjoying walking in the park, collecting things in their paper bag.  Leaves, stones, seedpods, berries, flowers and sticks – they all go into the bag.  But disaster strikes when it begins to rain and Robert decides to collect the raindrops.  The bag disintegrates and their collection falls on the ground!  Mabel is despondent but Robert soon cheers her up – he has another way to collect things.

The is a charming book for early childhood readers that turns an ordinary walk into an adventure and will inspire them to do the same. Before the rain, Mabel and Robert just collected things they could pick up and put in their bag, but without the bag they have to use their senses and really start to experience the beauty of the park so this could be the beginning of a sensory walk through the playground.  But first they can use their sense of sight to spot the budgie and the mouse hidden in each illustration, helping them to hone in on the detail in the illustrations – an essential early reading skill!

As cheery as its title.

An activity pack is available.  

 

Where in the Wild

Where in the Wild

Where in the Wild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where in the Wild

Poppy Bishop

Jonny Lambert

Little Tiger, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781848699557

Inspired by Theodore Roosevelt saying, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will”, this book takes the young reader on a journey through the world’s key habitats and introduces them to some of the creatures that live within them. 

From rivers to jungles, the savannah, the desert, woodlands and the frozen extremes, familiar and not-so creatures make an appearance in colourful artwork and rhyming text. Using a double-page spread for each, the two-verse rhyme begins with an introduction to the habitat and then an inhabitant “speaks” to the reader about itself.  The rest of the pages are filled with a collage of flora and fauna, each with  a clever cutout featuring a creature that  lives in the featured habitat but which can adapt to the succeeding one to entice the reader to keep turning, reading and learning. Some of these cutouts have text which encourages closer observation of the illustrations, making the reader engage more through this interactivity.  The final message about habitat destruction and the need to protect what is left is very clear and ties in well with the initial quote. 

Often, books from the northern hemisphere tend to feature the creatures with which children from that part of the world are familiar but this one spans the globe, although, thankfully, the polar region is confined to the Arctic so there is not the confusion of polar bears and penguins on the same page.  

As well as being a comprehensive introduction to the world’s habitats so young readers can learn that there is more to this planet than their immediate surroundings, its strong conservation message can also lead to inquiries about the inhabitants of their local area and their protection and promotion; the impact of humans through the destruction of habitat, particularly deforestation;  the life cycles, needs and adaptation of creatures as their habitats change (such as described in Moth); and even individual responsibility and actions that could be taken to preserve what we have left. 

With the drought in eastern Australia drawing our attention to the land beyond the city environs, this is a great opportunity to have a look at the broader world and how it copes or doesn’t, and this would be an excellent introductory text. 

Bonkers About Beetles

Bonkers About Beetles

Bonkers About Beetles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonkers About Beetles

Owen Davey

Flying Eye Books, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171485

The fourth book in Owen Davey’s series about the creatures on our planet focuses on the 400 000 different species of beetles which are found all over the world with the exception of Antarctica.

As with Mad About Monkeys, Smart About Sharks, and  Crazy About Cats  young, independent readers can use the clear layout, short paragraphs and accessible language to discover more about these insects.  Although it is illustrated with pictures and diagrams rather than photographs, nevertheless these are clear and easy to understand, with all sorts of amazing information. 

While several species are put in the spotlight including fireflies and their strange luminescence, and the common, much-loved seven-spot ladybird, Davey covers all sorts of aspects of the beetles’ lives ranging from their camouflage to their place in mythology to their contribution to ecosystems, the impact of human activity and their conservation. There are even instructions for building a bug hotel which could make for interesting on the spot observations and investigations in the school playground.

Even though the retro, subdued palette might not appeal at first, this is an excellent series for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with those things that inhabit our planet.

 

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.

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760297824

“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

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

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moth: An Evolution Story

Isabel Thomas

Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781408889756

In a clean, fresh world, a shiny cocoon wriggles and jiggles and a moth with salt-and-pepper wings emerges. But there is no time to languish – as daylight emerges, it must fly to the nearby trees with their lichen-covered branches where its colouring camouflages it from its predators – birds, bats and cats!

But some moths are born with charcoal wings, easy prey as their colouring makes them stand out . While they become food for hungry birds and their chicks, the speckled, freckled ones are safe in their disguise and the next night they lay eggs of their own, and their babies will be just like their parents.

But then the world began to change and coal-burning factories and steam-driven trains changed it to a dirty, dark place full of pollution which stained the clouds, and darkened the branches where the speckled, freckled ones rested. And they became the vulnerable ones while their charcoal friends were safe.  So gradually, they changed and it was the dark-winged variety that was common and the salt-and-pepper ones became rare.

However, as people realised the harm they were doing, slowly the world began to change again – not quite as clean as before but so much better.  And a miracle happened…

Encapsulated in this beautifully illustrated book is the story of the peppered moth, an example of natural selection and the theory behind process of evolution – creatures changing themselves to adapt to and survive in their changing environments. With its explanation of the moth’s story and extrapolating from that to all creatures including humans, this is the perfect introduction to Darwin’s theories and the impact of human intervention on the environment.  Throughout though, there is hope – that we are not doomed as many would have us believe, but that we are changing and we must adapt to that change whilst doing all that we can to assist Mother Nature by keeping our planet pure and pristine because try as we might, not all creatures can adapt as readily and quickly as the moth does and the list of species, both fauna and flora, that have become extinct continues to grow.

A must in any library in a school that has students and staff concerned about the environment – what might be living in the playground that could use a bit of positive human intervention?