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Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

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.

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99

9780143780687

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.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Dinosaurs

Simon Chapman

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408194614

Can we ever have too many books about dinosaurs to entice our young people, particularly boys, to pick up a book and read?  

Certainly in my school library I put all those with the 567.9 classification on a special shelf so they were easily gettable (and put awayable) because they were in constant demand and it was hard to keep up with the requests.

But this new title by explorer Simon Chapman is not just another book of facts and figures and pictures.  Told in a semi-narrative style, Chapman tells the stories of  various paleontologists who made the various discoveries across the world and fills the pages with incredible illustrations, pop-outs, pull-downs, lift-the flaps and other devices that make this one of the richest, most intriguing books on this subject I’ve seen.  Every page is crammed with new discoveries to be made so the reader feels the anticipation of those early scientists as they pursued their quests.  

From the 3D-like cover through to its glossary on the endpapers it is the most sumptuous, luxurious publication you just want to keep running your hands over it and investigating each page thoroughly to what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Not only would this be a very welcome addition to a library’s collection, if I had a student who was passionate about this subject I’d be giving parents a heads-up that this might be an ideal item for this year’s Santa sack!

Big Picture Book Long Ago

Big Picture Book of Long Ago

Big Picture Book  Long Ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Picture Book  Long Ago

Sam Baer

Wesley Robins

Usborne, 2016

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

9781409598725

Take a city, an English city, and then take a journey back through time and discover how people have lived and worked there over the centuries right back to its Stone Age camp beginnings.  

Interspersed with double-page spreads of how people travelled, what they wore and the structures they built, this is a Richard Scarry-esque picture book loaded with pictures and captions that will fascinate the young reader fascinated with history.  Or it might be the one that sparks an interest as the reader looks for the changes across the centuries and thinks about why they have occurred.

Even though it is very English-oriented, it could also be used as an introduction to compare the histories of Australia and England and examine why much of our life is still tied to that of the “Mother Country”, or comparing the Stone Age camp life with that of our traditional indigenous owners.  

More to this than meets the eye.

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Nursery Rhymes

L. Edna Walter

Lucy E. Broadwood

Dorothy M. Wheeler

Bloomsbury, 2016

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781472932389

Even though it’s 2016, almost 2017, there is something about a superbly crafted , beautifully bound book of traditional nursery rhymes that tugs at the heartstrings and takes older adults back to their childhood.  And even though it’s 2016, almost 2017 they are rhymes that are still taught to our little ones today – some new but most very familiar.  They are part of the traditions that we hand on from generation to generation regardless of the numbers on a calendar.

Published to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the original, it is illustrated using the original watercolour-and-ink illustrations of Dorothy M. Wheeler who also did the original illustrations for many of Enid Blyton’s books.  With her eye for detail, and a soft pastel palette the illustrations bring the rhymes to life showing life at the time she knew it when the rhymes were learned at Nanny’s knee as joyful little ditties and no one delved too far into their origins and meaning.  Each is featured on a double page spread, the full rhyme on one page and a full-colour illustration surrounded by exquisite line work on the other.  To complete the package the music for each is included at the back of the book, just ready for little fingers to play.

This would make a great gift for anyone with a new baby in the offing – the perfect foundation for their first library that will become a treasured heirloom.

Usborne Illustrated Originals

The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Railway Children

E. Nesbit

Ji-Hyuk KIm

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

384pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474915984

 

Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson

Fran Parreno

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

448pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409581970

 

The Odyssey

Retold by Anna Melbourne

Sebastiaan Van Donnick

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

255pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409598930

 

Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

504pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409598671

Every time someone produces a list of “Books Children MUST Read” or “The Top 100 Books EVER” or something similar, there are certain titles that are always included – titles like The Railway Children, Kidnapped, Anne of Green Gables and The Odyssey and a host of others that have been written over the past century or so and the quality of the story has earned them the tag of ‘classic’.  While it is hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes a story “a good read” let alone a classic, generally it is agreed that it is a story that has a plot that focuses on a universal truth that is understood by readers from various backgrounds, social levels and abilities and has stood the test of time and is considered representative of both life and literature of the time.

However, as our children are surrounded by graphics and demand these as an integral part of their reading, some of the text-dense releases of the past hold little appeal for them and so many miss out on being acquainted with stories that they might enjoy.  Usborne is addressing this with their new releases of the stories under their Usborne Illustrated Classics banner with complete and unabridged reprints of the originals but that are illustrated in full colour and packaged with attractive covers.  Endpapers help situate the story as their landscape is very different to that which is now familiar and  some have glossaries of unusual words or phrases and information about the author, the setting or the timeframe.  By searching for the title on Usborne’s Quicklinks site readers can find links to websites that tell them more about the story itself or its author.

While competent, independent readers will read the stories for themselves, these new editions are perfect for a teacher to serialise in the classroom or a parent reading to a child at bedtime. (Kidnapped first appeared as a serial in the magazine Young Folks, so it would a perfect starting point to introduce Stevenson’s works.) A wonderful way to introduce a new generation to titles from the past that they should read. 

 

I was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was Only Nineteen

John Schuman

Craig Smith

Allen & Unwin, 2014

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

9781743317235

The banner across the top of the cover of this book says, “The iconic song about the Vietnam War that helped change a nation” and indeed, anyone who has heard the original with the haunting voice of John Schuman as the lead singer of Redgum will find that echoing in their head as they “read” this picture book version of the song that brought the realities of the war to a generation. If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s available on You Tube

While, for the first time in history, war was brought into the family living room through the immediacy of television news programs, it was the personalising of what was happening through the lyrics of this song that not only provided a real insight but which has also endured.  In fact, along with the picture of the little girl running naked from her village after it had been destroyed with napalm bombs it would be one of the most-recalled memories of that time.  Its refrain and final line, “God help me, I was only nineteen” encapsulates it all. Both the words and the sensitive, evocative images of Craig Smith show that war is the antithesis of the great adventure that these soldiers’ ancestors thought that it would be as they hastened to answer the call of 1914 and which will be in our thoughts as we move towards the commemoration of ANZAC Day.

But this is much more than another picture book about Australia’s war effort to support the national history curriculum.

As one of those who was very much involved in the events of the time and worked towards the big-picture objectives of not only having Australia and New Zealand troops out of Vietnam because we were against the “all-the-way-with-LBJ” policies of the prevailing governments but also against sending young men to war who, in their own country could not vote or legally have a beer, we did not consider or understand the effects our actions would have on those young men when they eventually came home, mentally and physically wounded, and to have served in Vietnam was a secret and a shame.  There were no parades or celebrations – you might talk about it with your mates to keep you sane but that was all. There was no respect from the public and each soldier was somehow held personally responsible for the events which we saw each night.  (If you, as an adult, want a greater understanding, read Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard and Smoky Joe’s Café by Bryce Courtenay.)

And so we have the situation today that many of our students have grandparents who are perhaps not as they should be and cannot explain why. They saw and did things that no 19-year-olds should ever have to and it is their experiences, their illnesses, their PTSD, their suicides that have changed the way we now view our serving forces and how they are treated and supported when they come home.  The picture books and television shows always stereotype Grandpa as being loving and jovial and every child deserves such a person – the production of this book might help them understand why theirs is not. It has an important role to play in helping our little ones understand.

If just the lyrics or the clip of the original “I was Only 19” were the only ones used in a study of the Vietnam War, the story would not be complete.  It is through Craig Smith’s final illustrations of the young soldier now a grandfather with his grandson ducking from a chopper, then sharing an ice cream and finally marching on ANZAC Day together that are critical because they show that while he is still troubled by his experiences, he has survived and 40 years on society has moved on to a new and different attitude.  For that we have to thank the continued and sustained efforts of all those Vietnam Vets who would not let us forget. We salute you now as we should have then.

For those who see this as a teaching opportunity, there are teachers’ notes are available.

 

Republished in honour of the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Long Tan.  August 18, 1966

long_tan

 

Meet… Nellie Melba

Meet... Nellie Melba

Meet… Nellie Melba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet… Nellie Melba

Janeen Brian

Claire Murphy

Random House Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk., $24.99

9780143780298

Many of us, and our students, will have tasted the traditional dessert consisting of vanilla ice cream, sugary peaches, and raspberry sauce and known as Peach Melba.  It was created by famous French chef Auguste Escoffier to honour his friendship with the world-renowned opera singer Dame Nellie Melba who wowed the world with her singing as the 19th century turned over into the 20th.  But while her name is now featured on restaurant menus around the world, her life began very differently.

Helen ‘Nellie’ Porter Mitchell  was one of those children whose lives are incomplete without music.  When she wasn’t playing the piano, she loved to sing and wherever she went she either whistled or hummed.  But in the mid-19th century it wasn’t proper for girls to sing in public and so her father restricted her to singing for friends, church and charities, even though Nellie had bigger dreams than that.  But even without her father’s rules, she would have had limited opportunities because Edison was yet to invent the means to record sound and with Australia’s isolation, opera companies did not visit. 

After the death of her mother and sister, she moved to Queensland with her father where she married and had a son.  But her singing was always her primary love and she returned to Melbourne determined to carve a career for herself, despite her lack of money and freedom. She persuaded her husband to move to England with her when her father took a job there, but her success was not instant.  It was not until she auditioned for Madame Mathilde Marchesi in Paris that her talent was recognised and the career of Australia’s first renowned opera singer, the “Australian nightingale” began to flourish… Drawing on her home town for her stage name, Nellie Melba soon became a household name in high society in huge demand. Through determination, her dreams had come true.

But she did not forget her roots and was determined that everyone, regardless of income or status, should be able to hear her so when she toured Australia the ticket prices were the same for everyone.  She brought opera to people who would never had heard it otherwise.

In this latest addition to this fantastic series which brings the lives of those who shaped Australia to life for young readers, Janeen Brian has captured the essence of Melba perfectly portraying a young girl with a dream and the determination to achieve it.  Right from the beginning when Nellie’s father tells her to stop whistling because she “sounds like a tomboy”, she hits on humming as a compromise.  Unlike others of her time, being married and having a family is not enough for her and she is a single mum at a time when such a status is totally shunned and her divorce in 1900 would have sent lesser women into hiding. Against such odds, made even greater by the rigid society of the times, she perseveres and triumphs – a role model in resilience that stands tall for today’s young girls.

From such a rich life that spanned 69 years and a wealth of material available, Brian has picked those elements that show that spirit that drove her on to do and achieve that which was an innate part of her and woven them into a very readable story that makes the reader want to keep reading to find out how she conquered the obstacles. It’s a story of dreams, hope and strength of mind and character that will lift any reader up.  Claire Murphy has captured the author’s words well, particularly when she contrasts Nellie’s father’s perspective with Nellie’s dream.

Made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her fundraising efforts during World War I, Nellie’s contribution to Australia was so significant she is commemorated on the current $100 note..  It also makes her a worthy subject for this series and very definitely an important chapter in Australia: Story Country.

On the River

On the River

On the River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the River

Roland Harvey

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781760112455

 

“Each year, as the winter snow falls on the mountains, the currawongs head down to the valleys and the mountains are silent under their new white blanket.  In spring, as the snows melt and the streams roar, the currawongs return to feast on the new hatches of bogong moths.  The mountains explode in a riot of flowers.  Here in the foothills, tadpoles practise to be grown-up frogs in crystal-clear ponds, surrounded by wiry grasses and tough little plants that have spent the winter sleeping under the snow.  Small fish dart to and fro, hidden beneath overhanging grasses, and brightly coloured beetles go exploring in the green moss beds.

These are the headwaters of the Murray River, where this story begins.”

In this latest addition to his At the Beach series, Roland Harvey takes us on a journey from the mountains to the sea along the waters of the mighty Murray River, the state boundary between New South Wales and Victoria, from its humble beginnings high on the western slopes of the Australian Alps to its junctions with the Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers and down through South Australia to where it empties itself into the ocean in the Coorong – Storm Boy country. A journey of more than 2500 kilometres that has as many tales as it has twists and turns, a history longer than the river itself and a diversity of flora and fauna richer than any fortune made from its waters.

In his iconic illustrative style and ‘handwritten’ text, Harvey tells the stories of the river as it wends its way through the landscape – there’s Paterson’s meeting with Jack Riley who inspired The Man from Snowy River and whose grave is in the cemetery at Corryong; there’s the hilarious passage through the gorge known as Murray Gates; the weir near Albury Wodonga known as Lake Hume that is a fisherman’s paradise (if it hasn’t all but dried up in a drought): the rich river wetlands that are host to a plethora of amazing bird and river life; the pier at Echuca which was so critical to opening up the inland in the days of wool and paddle-steamers; the historic, ancient Lake Mungo – on and on through double spreads of both history and geography, life and landscape, finally spilling into the sea through its newly re-opened mouth, welcoming  the birdlife back but still feeding and watering everything on its winding, wandering journey.

On the River is a celebration of this remarkable river system that is so critical to the well-being of such a huge part of this arid continent. In so many ways it brings life and livings to the people on its shores as well as the creatures within.  So important that for many years the Primary English Teachers Association hosted the Special Forever project in conjunction with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority which encouraged the children of the schools on and near the river to explore its significance to their lives through prose, poetry and illustration, the best of which were published annually and distributed to schools.  Often the project was the focus of the curriculum for the school for the year.  While Special Forever is no longer happening, many of the units of work that evolved from it are available via Scootle including River Highways (R11373), A Sense of Place R11374, A Sense of Time R11379 and a host of other resources that would be the perfect accompaniment to this wonderful book.

Because this river is so important to this nation’s history and geography, On the River belongs in every library collection – not just those of those who live on the river.  It is a book that needed to be written and Roland Harvey the perfect person to do it.

A superb addition to Australia: Story Country for all the stories it has to tell – and even more to add if you invite your students to tell theirs.

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Kate and Jol Temple

Jon Foye

Allen & Unwin, 2016

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760291938

 

It all starts in History Week when Jimmy Cook discovers three things…

  1. Captain Cook was the greatest explorer that ever lived.
  2. Captain Cook is his great grandfather 32 times removed
  3. Third grade is going to be the best year of his life.

He also discovers that he and said Captain Cook have three things in common…

  1. They share the same name
  2. They are both great explorers
  3. They both look good in a tricorn hat.

Discovering these things is almost as good as the escape of the class’s pet ambystona mexicanum (axolotl) and helps the younger James Cook discover there is more to history than that discovered so far on yawn.com.  His interest wanes fractionally when Ms Fennel insists that each student keeps a diary of Cook.  Jimmy is having none of this “sitting down with a fluffy purple pen and drawing rainbows that smile and flowers with tears.”  Diaries are definitely girl things and Captain James Cook would never have done that as he bravely explored the high seas, but he changes his mind when Ms Fennel points out that a ‘boy diary’ is called a log, and Captain James most definitely kept one of those. 

So for the next six weeks Jimmy Cook keeps a log, starting with a note of the weather and an inventory of his pockets, as all logs do. He shares his excitement at having to dress as Captain Cook and his bitter disappointment when he discovers that the local museum does not have HM Bark Endeavour but just an old nail.  But it his discovery that Cook died a violent death in Hawaii, a land surely still inhabited by savages who need to be tamed that provide the impetus for him to get to Hawaii himself, and the discovery that a cereal company is offering an all-expenses paid trip there to the person who collects the most coupons could be his means to get there.

This is a rollicking, fast-moving story full of typical Year 3 thoughts and humour that will carry the reader along, eager to discover whether Jimmy beats his rival Alice Toolie in the coupon collection stakes and whether he does make it to Hawaii to tame the savage beasts who killed his hero and great grandfather (32x removed).  With the diary entries keeping chapters short and interspersed with graphics that could have been drawn by Jimmy himself, it has broad appeal for younger readers who will see themselves in the story somewhere.  It has its serious moments, particularly when Jimmy does work experience as a Town Crier helping Bernie the homeless man sell The Big Deal, but all in all, it’s an engaging read that will inspire our younger boys to keep reading. 

They can discover more on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkrpS5olcA and look forward to Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot.