Boats: Fast & Slow

Boats: Fast & Slow

Boats: Fast & Slow









Boats: Fast & Slow

Iris Volant

Jarom Vogel

Flying Eye, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $27.99


A boat is defined as “any vessel that is able to carry people across water” regardless of their size, propulsion, or the water body they are used on.  Since the earliest days of human history, particularly since people settled rather than roamed, boats have had a significant role in the exploration and development of this planet. 

From early rafts of woven reeds and animal skins to canoes carved from logs to the introduction of steam power and with a few stops to explore famous boats like the HMS Beagle and the Titanic, this book introduces young readers to this mode of transportation, highlighting how important it is to everyday life.  Extensively illustrated with short, informative passages of text, young readers can follow the journey of development and begin to consider what Australia, an island continent, might have been like without the invention of floating safely on water.  As they read about the role of boats, they will also learn that there are other significant names apart from those of Endeavour and The First Fleet, perhaps sparking their own investigations into all things nautical including boating sports, lighthouses, shipwrecks, military craft through the ages and so on.  Those with a scientific bent might like to investigate how those huge ocean liners can stay afloat.

Like its predecessor, Horses Wild and Tame, this is a dip and delve book designed to introduce young readers to the importance of some things in the development of civilisation that they might not have thought about or have taken for granted. It is what I call a pebble-in-the-pond book because its core subject can spark the reader into exploring an entire circle of different aspects of the topic leading to diverse and different discoveries depending on their particular interest.  Using a focus question such as Why have boats been important to human development? it is perfect for getting young students to learn to pose their own questions to answer while developing information literacy skills that have context and meaning for them personally and covering every facet of the curriculum. 

A worthwhile addition to the library’s collection or for any child fascinated by water craft, what they can do, and the people associated with them.

Splat the Fake Fact

Splat the Fake Fact!

Splat the Fake Fact









Splat the Fake Fact

Adam Frost

Gemma Correll

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


When it comes to free reading choices, young boys, particularly, tend to go for the non fiction titles about sharks, dinosaurs, motor vehicles and the Guinness Book of Records. They are fascinated by the world of the weird and wonderful that they can pore over and learn so much from in discussions with their friends as they examine the pictures even if they can’t read the text yet. They are laying their foundations of the basic concepts of information literacy but their interest is driven by the illustration rather than a need for specific information.

Splat the Fake Fact takes this interest up a notch, encouraging the reader to actually think about what they are being told, discover the correct answer through some research and then do something about it.  On every page there are incredible, hilarious, unlikely facts that are completely true… and one fact that isn’t!  The reader is invited to find the imposter fact and reveal it before it goes out into the world – and then take some action like scribbling on them, lasering them, drawing silly hats or crossing them out.While that might not be the recommended action for a community library book, nevertheless the combination of humour and cartoon presentation will engage young readers into understanding that not everything they read is true; that there is real “fake news” and the need to verify what they see and hear through some basic research.

While this would make an ideal read for that young person moving on to independent reading and research, it could also have a place in information literacy levels with each page being a jump start for an aspect of the information literacy process.  Starting with “What do we already know?” and “What more do we need to know?” and “Where could we find that information?” students can be led on that journey of lifelong learning, developing those core concepts in a way that connects to the interests of the age group.  

While many teachers like to use websites like Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus to have students to learn to test what they are reading and evaluate the validity of it, Splat the Fake Fact is a  few steps before this with its accessible language, funky illustrations, and graphic layout.  Each fake fact is identified, often in another crazy puzzle that requires more learning to decipher, but more complete explanations are given at the end of the book.  

Some students might even like to use the puzzles as models to create their own fake facts, setting up a weekly challenge for library users to investigate, learning to use the library’s resources as they do.

What looks like a book that might be used as a child’s Christmas stocking stuffer, might just be the best investment you make in your library collection this year!!!


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


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.




How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering











How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering

DK Children’s, 2018

320pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


As soon as our little ones begin their formal education in preschool (or its equivalent) they start to engage with STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – as they participate in all sorts of activities that have one of these critical areas as their foundation.  And, as is normal with inquisitive minds, questions beget answers which just pose more questions so in this one volume, DK have tried to address the key areas of early science and not only provide some answers but also offer things to try that will open up new worlds.

Beginning with an introductory section which looks at how science works and how to work scientifically by making an observation, forming an hypotheses, carrying out an experiment, collecting data, analysing the results and then repeating the experiment to test the validity of the results it then takes readers through the main facets of science -life, matter, energy, forces, and Earth & Space. Using the typical DK layout of small pieces of information, clarity of language in the explanation and  hundreds of easily-understood diagrams which serve as models for how students can showcase their own work,, this becomes a ready reference book for budding young scientists that will support learning, answer questions and inspire more.  

As usual, there is an informative glossary for those needing a quick explanation and a comprehensive index so desired topics are found easily. 

Perfect for both the home and school libraries. 

What are Stars?

What are Stars?

What are Stars?









What are Stars?

Katie Daynes

Marta Alvarez Miguens

Usborne, 2017

12pp., board book., RRP $A19.99


As soon as children are old enough to see the night sky and the stars, they have questions about them…

What are stars?

Can I visit a star?

How many stars are there?

Which star is the nearest?

Are all stars the same?

These, and others, are answered in this lift-the-flap book especially designed to answer the questions of  very young readers.  With several flaps on each page to lift, they can discover so much about the worlds that are revealed after the sun sets, the curtains are drawn and the lights turned off.

Driven by providing answers to questions, it is a great introduction to the inquiry process and information literacy as the child learns to seek answers, searching for them in different places and  discovering that often, answers lead to even more questions.

Young readers will delight in learning new things and sharing their developing knowledge. 



LEGO Animal Atlas

Lego Animal Atlas

Lego Animal Atlas










LEGO Animal Atlas

Rona Skene

DK, 2018

78pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


No matter which part of the planet you live in, there will be fascinating and unique creatures to see and learn about.  From the blue-ringed octopus of Australia to guanaco of South America to the addax of Africa each continent and each habitat within that continent is populated with wildlife, familiar and not-so. In this new book from master children’s publishers DK, young readers are not only introduced  to these creatures but are also provided with the Lego blocks to start constructing some of them.

Beginning with building instructions for a mini giraffe, panda, penguin and kangaroo for which the blocks are provided, suggestions are then made for making body parts like noses, eyes, teeth and beaks using the reader’s own collection of bricks. And if the reader doesn’t have them, they are encouraged to use their imaginations to substitute what they do have.   There are tips on how and what to build with the emphasis on the fun of building rather than a perfect product. 

Readers are then introduced to the world’s major habitats and continents and the unique species of each.  As well as the clear photos and tips and tricks that will inspire building there is also a ‘model map’ with  a colour-coded key designating the different bricks used for each habitat.  So as well as making the unique creatures of Australasia, for instance, these can also be placed on a map base to show where they are found. 

Of course it wouldn’t be DK without lots of tidbits of interesting information about the creatures backed up with a comprehensive glossary and index which support the child’s information literacy development.  Learning is definitely fun! Because there are no step by step instructions for making the creatures apart from those for the giraffe, panda, penguin and kangaroo, just the clear photos and some suggestions for the trickier bits, challenging children to create their own instructions for a particular model using step-by-step photos using those initial instructions as an example would provide an authentic learning experience that would definitely stretch their skills, demonstrate their knowledge and be fun!

This would be a wonderful addition to those with makerspaces but because of the small parts provided it is only suitable for those over 6. 

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest










Stripes in the Forest

Aleesah Darlinson

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2016

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


Stripes in the forest, stealth in the shadows.

The last female thylacine tracks through the forests of Tasmania, lands this top predator once owned and roamed at will.  But now she watches the strange creatures who are invading the land with their firesticks as they hunt and kill, not caring about the impact they are having on the environment and its creatures.  She finds a mate and pups are born, but life becomes ever more precarious.  Will she be the last of her kind?

The fate of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger)  has been an enigma since the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after protection was finally granted in a bid to save them from extinction.  Did the pups in this story survive?  Were there more to be born? Even today, there are questions being asked and talk of genetic resurrection.

Darlinson brings to light the possible story of the final female in this story for younger readers who want to know more about this intriguing creature while McGrath’s illustrations help them imagine a different Tasmania, one that is full of menace and fear as European settlement continues to encroach on the indigenous inhabitants.

While Australia has lost 27 mammal, seven frog and 24 bird species to extinction since the first European settlement in 1788, and another 506 species are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened, the thylacine is the one that has captured the imagination and is the perfect introduction to investigating the concept of extinction and human impact on the environment. Unlike the dinosaurs which were wiped out by a natural disaster, extinction and endangerment is now linked directly to human habitation so using Stripes in the Forest as a starting point to ask why the men were intent on shooting every thylacine they saw and then investigating what happens to both fauna and flora when such an important part of the food chain is gone can be  a key part in creating awareness of the need to nurture our environment for our youngest readers.  A perfect example of using fiction to lead into an investigation that will go way beyond just the initial reading of the story.

Experience has shown that there is great interest in the thylacine but not a lot written for younger readers so this is a must-have for the collection.

Teachers’ notes fitting the Australian Curriculum can be found here


Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest










Bird Builds a Nest

Martin Jenkins

Richard Jones

Walker Books, 2018

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


It’s time for Bird to build a nest, but before she can begin she needs to find some food to give her the energy for the hard work ahead.  But the first worm she finds is very large and juicy, and no matter how hard she pulls, she is not strong enough to pull it from the ground because it is pulling back.  When she finally does get something in her tummy, she sets off to look for twigs – but some are too heavy or too long and she can’t carry them.  

And so the story continues until her nest is built with successes and failures as she goes – and each one explained in simple language to teach young readers the very basics of the physics of forces. Physics is a hard topic to understand because so much of it is invisible and requires the sort of abstract thinking that little ones are not able to do readily, so starting with a context such as this and using simple language is a brilliant idea.  The story is followed by an experiment using ping pong balls and modelling clay but no explanation is given to clarify the results.  

While the illustrations mirror the text to provide a greater understanding, they are in a muted, retro palette that may not catch the eye or interest of young readers.  Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing as part of the early childhood STEM curriculum simply because it makes the tricky concepts of force and pushing and pulling so explicit.  However, it might be worth having some props on hand so the children can try things for themselves as they learn that size and weight do matter. 

This is a companion to Fox in the Night which examines the phenomenon of light.  Putting physics into the everyday world of the young reader through stories about common events is a wonderful way to pique and satisfy their curiosity, encourage them to explore further and ask more questions and seek their answers. 

While not directly related to this book, there are several video clips available that will help explain the concepts as well as TLF resources  R10729 and L7879 available via Scootle

100 scientists who made history

100 scientists who made history

100 scientists who made history










100 scientists who made history

Andrea Mills & Stella Caldwell

DK, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Throughout history there have been so many perceptive pioneers, brilliant biologists, medical masterminds, clever chemists, phenomenal physicists, incredible innovators and other scientific superstars who have challenged the known to change our lives that to choose just 100 of them must have been a taxing task. 

Nevertheless, in this brand new release from DK, the achievements of people as diverse as Aristotle, Alexander Fleming, Louis Pasteur, Ernest Rutherford, Alan Turing and Edwin Hubble are all described in typical DK format with it characteristic layout, top-quality photography, bite-sized information and accessible language.  But there is so much (and so many more). Although not being of a scientific bent, while many of the names of those in the clear contents pages were familiar, there were as many that were not, and sadly many of those not were women.

But the authors have included many women in the lists – who knew that Hildegard of Bingen, aka the singing nun, born in 1098 could have had such an impact on medical treatments through her study of and writing about the medicinal uses of plants?  Or that of five of those credited with having such an influence on the development of computing, three were women? Or that Mary Somerville correctly predicted the existence of the planet Neptune in the early 19th century and that there were many 19th century astronomers who were female?

This is a wonderful book for everyone – not only because it will introduce a new generation to those who discovered so much of what we take for granted today – they didn’t make history because they became famous, they made the history we look back on so we can move forward-  but also to inspire – “If them, why not me?”  Challenge your students to find another scientist who could have been included and have them develop a page for them using the DK format as a model.

I know a budding scientist who needs this book!

Women in Science

Women in Science

Women in Science











Women in Science

Jen Green

DK, 2018

64pp., hbk,, RRP $A14.99


More and more as news coverage reports scientific breakthroughs, it is a woman who is the face of the science rather than the stereotypical man in a white coat.  Women leading scientific discoveries is not a new phenomenon, as this new DK publication demonstrates with its introductory section about scientists of ancient times, but at last it is becoming understood and accepted that science is not “bizniz bilong men”.

Written especially for young readers who are verging on independence or who have made that journey, this book links the achievements of just a handful of women who have made significant contributions to their field of study.  Familiar and unfamiliar names are included as well as a brief introduction to just some of the fields that come under the science umbrella, encouraging the reader to perhaps be the next big name. There is a quiz to spark further investigations as well as the characteristic DK attention to detail in the layout and supporting clues and cues. 

As well as introducing young readers to the work of these remarkable women, there is scope for it to be the springboard as they answer the questions, “Who would you add? Why?’