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My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Very First Book of Our World

Matthew Oldham

Lee Cosgrove

Usborne, 2016

12pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474917896

One of the wonderful things about working with our youngest readers is watching them emerge like The Very Hungry Caterpillar from their self-centred world focused on their immediate family and surrounds into creatures who not only realise that there is a larger world around them but want to explore it oand take it on head on.  So this large-format board book is the perfect starting place to help Miss 5 and all those like her to start to learn about this planet they live on, how it works, how it is shaped and who they share it with.  

Beginning with a personalised explanation of night and day and how it and the seasons differ in different places, young readers them learn about the features and creatures of deserts, rainforests, polar regions mountains, rivers, coast, oceans and even under their feet. There are pages about wild weather (very appropriate right now) and volcanoes and earthquakes are explained in lanuage and diagrams that they understand.

Apart from answering their questions at a level that is accessible to them,  My Very First Book of Our World also starts to develop their information literacy skills as they start to realise that books contain information as well as stories and books can offer them the explanations they are seeking so it makes sense to them. As they see pictures of new worlds and unfamiliar places and creatures, their world continues to expand as they demand to know more and more.

As well as being a useful addition to the non fiction collection for early readers, with Christmas coming and parents and grandparents looking for suggestions for Christmas stockings, this is one to share with them.  Miss 5 will find it in her stocking!

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gumnut Babies

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781460752555

 

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 of  Snugglepot 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.

A century apart... Gumnut Babies then and now

A century apart… Gumnut Babies then and now

The ABC Book of Food

The ABC Book of Food

The ABC Book of Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC Book of Food

Helen Martin

Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733334269

Just as cars and trains and boats and planes need fuel to keep them going, so do our bodies.  But while vehicles need only one sort of fuel, our bodies operate best on a variety of foods from a variety of sources so that all its myriad parts can operate with maximum efficiency.  Many young children, particularly those who live in the cities, go to the supermarket with their parents and carers and see their food being bought but they don’t often realise how it has got to be on the shelves in the first place.

This story-in-rhyme helps to explain the process and the journey from paddock to plate of some of the more common foods the children eat.  Starting with breakfast where eggs and milk are tracked, different staples for each meal are investigated in a series of clear vignettes that helps the very young child understand the connection between what they eat and where it comes from.

Using familiar scenes such as the breakfast table, a picnic and a family dinner there are many foods on display and while only a couple are featured in the explanations, there is plenty of scope to consider where others might come from.  If the bananas start on plants, what other foods in the pictures might come from plants?  Would they have a similar journey?  What about the cupcakes or the sausages?

There is also a page devoted to the common foods that some people cannot eat which makes food intolerances more ‘mainstream’ and perhaps better understood.

This book is an opportunity to start the children thinking about what they eat, what the best choices might be, sorting them into food groups, identifying and graphing not only their favourites but also mapping what they eat each day and maybe changing the proportions if their pie graph is a bit skewed.  It might even be the beginning of the child’s desire to produce their own food either in a home or school garden as well as introducing plant life cycles and the notion of seasonal produce.

This is the latest in this series of excellent titles which helps our very young children begin to understand the world around them as well as helping them understand the differences between fiction and non fiction.  

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Spark

Spark

Spark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spark

Adam Wallace

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781925272406

“I began as a tiny spark in the dry grass.  All I wanted was a friend.”

And soon enough a friend comes along. Wind. Together they play and as Wind whistles and picks him up, Spark begins to grow and fly.  Skipping and sprinting through the bush, chasing animals and tickling trees, Spark is enjoying the power and wants to go faster, be bigger – and Wind is happy to oblige, So Spark grows ever larger feeding on the bush until…it is not fun anymore.  But Wind will not stop and together they tear through forests, fly over rivers, raze homes and the clouds’ tears just sizzle on their back.  Then, eventually, Wind hears Spark’s pleas and stops.  Turns.  And together they slink home through the destruction and devastation and end as they began.

Every Australian summer fire dragons race out of the bushland and across the grasslands consuming all in their path with their insatiable appetites. Not content with destroying the vegetation and the creatures that live within it, the dragons devour everything in their paths, totally indiscriminate of their diet and vanquished only when they meet a greater force of water or an opposing wind. They leave behind a smoking, desolate landscape and  lives that will be forever shaped by their hungry tongues and never-full stomachs.

And as summer approaches every year, the one certainty that embraces this vast country is that somewhere, someone’s life will be affected by fire and that will include our children. Whether they and their homes are directly impacted or it’s the ominous curl of smoke or an orange glow on a distant horizon or a six-o’clock news report; whether it’s a local blaze or one that makes international news like those that raced through the Canberra region in 2003 or the Victorian Black Saturday fires of 2009, the tentacles of a fire reach far beyond its jaws.

Like those children, the author’s life has been touched and tinged by the dragon and from that experience in 1983 when the Ash Wednesday fires devoured so much of south-eastern Australia has come this remarkable picture book that tells the story from the fire’s point of view. Through personification, a first-person perspective and superb illustrations that give life to the text as Wind did to Spark, Wallace and Plant bring the fire to life – something that has no control over its journey or its destiny, focusing on the here and now rather than reflecting on the aftermath and the afterwards as most stories with such a focus do.

What we, as educators can do, is to take a step backwards rather than forwards and get our students to consider where did Spark come from.  Was it born of lightning?  Or an accident?  Or deliberate?

Since the 1970s the risk of bushfires in Australia has increased and while ABS statistics suggest that lightning is the predominant cause particularly in remote areas, other sources say “Human-caused ignitions are by far the most prevalent” in more populous areas. Therefore as the bushfire season rapidly approaches and there is a greater fuel load as there has been above-average rainfall, this book would be the perfect springboard for a fire-awareness program with our students – how to prevent fires from starting and what to do if they threaten. Encourage them to bring up the need for a bushfire survival plan at the family dinner table, even for those who live in the city because as Canberra children can attest, being in a suburb is not necessarily a safety blanket.

This is a powerful book that will not only resonate with many readers but which can also play an important role in keeping those in our care safe.

Teachers’ notes are available.

The Big Flood

The Big Flood

The Big Flood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juliet Nearly a Vet: The Big Flood

Rebecca Johnson

Kyla May

Puffin, 2016

84pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780143507031

Juliet and her best friend Chelsea love animals, and Juliet KNOWS she will be a vet.  Problem is, she’s only ten years old so she has a bit of time before she can go to university and start the study.  But she’s getting a head start by helping her mum in her veterinary practice, keeping her vet diary meticulously and making sure her emergency kit is always on hand. Chelsea is also an animal fanatic but her dream is to be a world famous trainer and groomer. 

In this, the 11th in this series, Juliet and Chelsea are involved in rescuing a variety of creatures after rain has deluged the land and left it flooded.  The first task is to get their neighbours’ alpacas to higher ground and while the cria goes willingly on the boat, its hembre (mother) is a little more hesitant.  Once that task is complete, they head for home but Juliet is sure she spots movement on an island and wants to stop. However, her mother is anxious to get back to the surgery in case neighbours have brought in any emergencies and so Juliet is left frustrated.

She is determined to confirm what she saw and so with the help of Chelsea and her dad (who is afraid of animals, particularly mice) she sets off in Chelsea’s brother’s canoe to investigate.  And sure enough, there is a whole menagerie there including mice, lizards, stick insects and an echidna who is struggling to breathe.

This is a series that is loved by young girls who love animals and who are independent readers. The combination of strong, independent girls who are “clever, almost grownups” and animals mixed with a touch of humour is  unbeatable. It’s written by Rebecca Johnson who is the author of so many of those delightful junior non-fiction titles photographed and published by Steve Parish, and illustrated with cute pictures by Kyla May.  Interspersed throughout are excerpts from Juliet’s vet diary which actually include some interesting facts such as those about the alpacas and which could be a model for the other Juliets in the offing.  There’s also a quiz at the end of the book that enhances the learning.

All the books in the series are listed here. If your library doesn’t have them they are a worthwhile investment because they tick so many boxes for the Year 2-4 reader.

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml

Random House, 2016

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

9780143782537

 

The little wombat from One Very Tired Wombat is back in a new counting book adventure!  But this time, instead of being kept awake by all the daytime creatures, it is his nighttime friends who are coming out to play.  Hopping mice, quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders and fruit bats are all there in their nocturnal romp from dusk till dawn until the ten little owls hoot a goodnight tune and signal that the sun is rising and it’s bedtime.

So many baby animals exploring their nighttime surrounds under the cover and care of darkness show the very young reader that this is not a time of rest for everyone and that for many creatures once the sun goes down is a time of safety and security.  They can speculate about why some animals feel safer at night and learn new words like ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’, perhaps even seeking to find out more about the creature that most appeals to them.  Anticipating how many creatures might feature on the next page is always fun as counting skills are consolidated and confirmed is a bonus.

Slightly older children might even do a compare and contrast with One Very Tired Wombat or use this as a model for a class book as they explore what other creatures prefer night to day, where they live and what they find on their nocturnal wanderings.

Renée’s exquisite scratchboard illustrations bring each creature to life in great detail and the rhyming texts provides a rhythm that’s going to ensure the little listener will be joining in enthusiastically.

For those of you in Melbourne, the book will be launched at The Little Bookroom at 759 Nicholson Street at 3.00pm, this Saturday August 27.  More details here

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toad Delight

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309239

He’s back!!!!  That ugly, poisonous, gentle-hearted cane toad Limpy is back!!!  In his fifth adventure just in time to be introduced to a whole new generation of newly independent readers who just want a light-hearted read full of fun about Australia’s public enemy #1.

After doing his usual morning rounds of saying goodbye to his relatives that have been squished flat as a placemat by cars and baked as hard as a pizza in the sun, Limpy goes to check on his cousin Goliath to try to stop him getting himself killed by threatening traffic.  But this morning Goliath is not at his normal spot in the swamp sharpening sticks to wave at cars and trucks and yelling obscenities at them –  this morning he is sitting on a mound of freshly picked waterlilies, his arm around a penguin-like creature that turns out to be a child’s backpack.  And there the trouble begins.

Goliath has fallen in love and when the owner of the backpack takes it away from him, he is so distraught and heart-broken he is determined to find ‘Penny’ again, even if it means venturing into the city.  In the meantime, Limpy has decided that the reason that humans don’t like cane toads is because they see them as greedy and mean and he is on his own quest to persuade both his relatives to change their ways and for humans to form a different perception.  So when there is an opportunity for the two of them to get to the city, albeit with a camera crew for a television show, they don’t hesitate.  What they don’t realise until it is almost too late, is that this television crew is from a culinary show specialising in unusual ingredients and their next big thing is going to be battered cane toad buttocks…

Gleitzman is a master storyteller and it is hard to grasp that the author who introduced us to the sombre story of Felix in the series Once, Now, Then and Soon is also the creator of this crazy, humorous, mad series about a cane toad with a squashed right leg (that predicts the weather) who has delighted readers since we first met him in 1999 in Toad Rage when he tried (and failed) to have cane toads become the mascots for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.  Since then, thousands and thousands of children have followed his madcap adventures, always pushing the good side of the species, through Toad Heaven, Toad Away and Toad Surprise. Toad Delight is just as much fun and begs to be shared aloud and read alone but not before a meal.  (Perhaps not immediately after it, either.) 

With its Olympic theme, now might be a prime opportunity to introduce new audiences to Limpy through Toad Rage and then tantalise them with Toad Delight as the next course. 

No child should complete primary school without knowing this endearing little character and his loving rellies.

 

Morris Gleitzman promotes Toad Delight in Canberra

Rockhopping

Rockhopping

  Rockhopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockhopping

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2016

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760112349

 

Uncle Egg and Clancy are spending a lazy, languid afternoon on the Glenelg (Bugara) River which flows through the area we call The Grampians but which is known to its indigenous peoples as Gariwerd.  Clancy muses on where all the water is coming from and Uncle Egg suggests that they should find out.  But this adventure will be different to the previous one in Rivertime  where they took a canoe to the river’s mouth.  This time they will be heading upstream so they will have to walk and rockhop.  And this time, Clancy is much more enthusiastic, even prepared to walk to school in new boots every day so he can prepare for the journey.

Their journey begins at Budja Budja (Halls Gap), sleeping in a tent under the stars amongst the motorhomes, caravans and pop-tops, already suggesting an underlying theme of being at one with the world rather than manipulating it.  And just as in Rivertime, through detailed text and illustration in graphic novel format, we share Clancy’s journey, learning as he learns about the river’s story, its flora and fauna, its secret ways of enabling its ancient custodians to survive, and the prehistoric mountains it passes through.  It is an intimate account of his journey, not so much his self-realisation this time as it was in Rivertime but one of resilience, perseverance, self-reliance, respect and trust, particularly when Egg’s backpack falls into a ravine and Clancy is stranded halfway up the cliff.  He learns about the power and the gift of silence and solitude and the surprises and secrets Nature is willing to show us if we take the time to look and listen, and about his place in the universe.  Even when Egg rejoins him and while they are not lost –“just going a different way”- there are lessons to learn and gradually the relationship becomes one of two equals regardless of age, sharing something unique that teaches them more than they ever imagined. Going with the flow rather than the plan.

This really is a story about the journey being as important as the destination.

“That’s just it.

I’m not going anywhere, or trying to find anything. I’m just being here.”

And that message of enjoying the moment we are in is perhaps the most important of all. 

There is an interview with Trace Balla on the CBCA Reading Time site  which explains the authenticity of the story and how she enables the reader to be embraced by the serenity and beauty just as Egg and Clancy are.  In my review of Rivertime I wrote, “ It’s not just the story of Clancy and Egg and their journey, but a calming, almost meditative, read for the reader. The format of the comic strip with individual panels not only reflects the pace of the dogged, uphill climb but also ensures the reader slows down to enjoy the surroundings just as Clancy and Egg do. Often when we pick up a picture book we just skim read it just as we can “skim read” our daily lives because we don’t think we have time to delve deeper and really appreciate and value what we have, but as you get into this story it drags you in, just as it did Clancy, until you become absorbed and oblivious to the distractions around you.”  And so it is with Rockhopping.  It’s a book that deserves every minute you put into reading it but ensure you have lots of minutes so you can savour it to its core.

The epitome of Australia: Story Country.

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snow Wombat

Susannah Chambers

Mark Jackson

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781760113810

 

Wombat is out on his daily wander through the high country.  Everywhere he goes there is snow. 

Snow on the stockman’s hut

Snow on the crows

Snow on the woollybutt

Snow on my NOSE!

But in this winter wonderland, there is one place where there is no snow… and that’s where he is headed.  But not until he’s savoured the delights on his way, appreciating the sights, smells, tastes and feel of the snow.

How could I resist a beautiful story about my favourite creature exploring the country I live in?  Few Australian children have the opportunity to live where snowfalls are a regular event and where our native creatures have to do the best they can to survive so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an environment that is Australian but so different to their own.  Wombat meets some of the high country fauna and flora on his journey, all snow-covered in what is a harsh habitat in the winter months but which is his home and which he loves.

Written in rhyming text with perfect pauses that invite the reader to join it, the story is beautifully illustrated in a palette that is so familiar to me yet so unfamiliar to others.  This is not your harsh red and ochre colour scheme of the stereotypical Australian landscape, but the subtle whites, greys and murky greens set against the brightest, bluest sky anywhere.  The endpapers have the map of Wombat’s journey which adds another dimension (including consolidating the left-to-right progression of text) and would encourage getting an atlas to see just where this story is set. Some may be surprised to find it is very close to their home!

This story is rich in possibilities for starting investigations.  Apart from the obvious of finding out about wombats generally, they could explore the prospects of the endangered Northern Hairy Nose Wombat who has its own special day on May 11 each year headed by Wombat Foundation director Jackie French http://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/hairy-nosed-day.html   Older readers could be inspired to think about the adaptations made by both wildlife and vegetation to survive in snow country and how it compares to that with which they are more familiar while others may choose to look at climate change and what that might mean for Wombat and his friends, and the high country generally.   A sign of a great picture book is its ability to engage readers far beyond its apparent audience, and this is one of those.

For those of you who are lucky to live near Great Escape Books on the Great Ocean road at Airley’s Inlet there is a free event focusing on this book on Monday June 13, 2016 at 11.00am.  It’s free but bookings are essential – myevents@greatescapebooks.com.au.  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to get to know this iconic creature and the Australian landscape better.

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

Help me with the rhyming words

Help me with the rhyming words

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O. http://www.laoko.org.au

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O.

Getting up close and personal

Getting up close and personal

 

 

 

 

Rain

Rain

Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain

Manja Stojic

Pavilion, 2016

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

9781843653059

 

On the African savannah the animals are waiting for the rains as the soil cracks from the hot, dry, unending sun.  Porcupine can smell the rain; Zebra can see the lightning and Baboon can hear the thunder.  Rhino feels the first drops and Lion can taste it.  It rains and rains and rains but even after it stops it continues to bring comfort to the animals -until the whole cycle starts again…

As the vegetation of south-east Australia withers beneath an unrelenting heatwave and that of central regions flourishes under record rains, this is a most timely story to share with young readers learning about the cycle of weather and its impact on the environment.  Using simple, cumulative language and big, bold type and pictures that encourage young listeners to join in, it introduces them to a climate that might be very different from that which they experience as well as encouraging them to think about how we are as dependent on rain as those on the African savannah. 

By focusing on how the animals use their senses to predict the rain, it also offers an opportunity to explore how animals more common to them use their senses – such as a dog’s dependence on smell – as well as how humans use theirs. 

In her debut book for children, Stojic has used colour very well to contrast the dry, cracked, sunburnt landscape with that after the rains have fallen.  For those where rain brings such a change to the landscape, this could encourage some interesting before/after artwork from children with the focus on colour and hot and cool tones. For those who are ready, there could also be a focus on adjectives  as Stojic has carefully chosen her words to depict that which can’t be shown in pictures.

What seems a simple book on the surface has a depth that makes it more than a one-off read-aloud.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

rain3