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My Australia

My Australia

My Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Australia

Julie Murphy

Garry Fleming

NLA Publishing, 2018

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

9780642279163

Over a century ago Dorothea Mackellar wrote her iconic poem My Country and shared the beauty of Australia’s diverse landscape as she wrote about the amazing contrasts that make it unique.  Now Julie Murphy has used a similar theme to share her interpretation of its remarkable environments and habitats from the “wild wind-carved mountains” to the “white salty foam.” 

But this version is not a collection of words to be memorised and analysed and trotted out in response to literature assignments – this is a journey around and across this country that is lavishly illustrated in almost photo-like style by wildlife artist Garry Flemming, making it both an audial and visual celebration of what is on offer.  Followed by several pages with easily-readable explanations of each of the biomes in the stories, which themselves are accompanied by photos held by the National Library of Australia, this book would not only be the perfect souvenir for the traveller but also opens up the country for those who have not yet travelled.

The final words can be the beginning of something as magnificent as this country.

Here in my country I’ll live and roam

My spirit sings here – this is my home.

But home for me is very different to the home of my family and my friends – we stretch from mountains to cities to seaside and the views from our windows are vastly different, and where we live shapes how we live.

Young children tend to see the world immediately around them as indicative of what the whole world is like, so this would be a perfect kickstart to broadening their horizons through teaming up with schools in a totally different landscape perhaps through a Travelling Teddy exchange or a Through My Window art collaboration, both of which not only connect the kids but help them to look closely at their own environment so they can share it with others elsewhere.  Where we live also shapes how we live and what we consider to be normal routines so comparing and contrasting things such as school and leisure time activities can also open doors and minds to difference. My Australia expands to become Our Australia.

 

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

9781406355130

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

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Bill Baillie

Bill Baillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Ellis Rowan

NLA Publishing, 2018

104pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279200

In the harsh, hot Western Australian desert, several hundred miles inland from Perth lies the town of Goongarrie, where, at the turn of last century, Tabitha, a painter, came to paint the wonders of the landscape and its inhabitants.  Despite its remoteness there were people there and each day they brought her “curious plants and queer beasts” to examine and paint.  

Among those “queer beasts” was a little creature – naked, five inches (12.5 cm) long at most, long legs with a strange eyelet mouth that had been attached to a teat in its mother’s pouch before she was killed in the sharp teeth of a deadly trap. Looking like he had given up and decided to die, it felt the warm, comforting hands of Tabitha around him and in that moment both were determined that he would live.  Bill Baillie’s life and adventures with this itinerant painter had begun!

And what a life it was – becoming famous and known as ‘Master Bill Baillie of Goongarrie” he travelled everywhere with Tabitha for the rest of his life, his energy unbounded, his curiosity unsated,  especially at night time which was his day, and his love for her unequalled. Getting into precarious situations, dodging a host of bilby enemies who wanted to eat him and travelling on trains and boats and wagons from Perth to Melbourne, Bill Baillie was Tabitha’s constant companion until his inevitable, sad death in her arms just two years later. 

“Tabitha’ is actually Ellis Rowan herself who was determined “to find and paint every wildflower on the continent”, and she initially wrote this story in 1908 at a time when having a native creature for a pet was considered a curiosity rather than a concern.  Using remarkable skill that keeps the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about these almost mythical creatures, Stephanie Owen Reeder has abridged the original using more accessible vocabulary and shorter chapters while omitting none of the drama of this curious relationship.  Rowan’s descriptions of the environment as viewed through the eyes of a painter are exquisite and the reader is transported to that vast lonely landscape with its brilliant colours and on-the-surface desolation brought to life.  Many of the original illustrations by Rowan and Hans Praetorius have been left in while others from the NLA’s collection of bilby paintings have also been included.

As is usual with NLA publications, the story is complemented by  several pages of further information, all based on the library’s relevant collections including the Rowan collection itself.  

Bilbies are an endearing but endangered species brought to our attention as the Australian symbol of Easter to raise awareness of the damage done to the environment by the introduced wild rabbits so the release of the charming story is fitting, with Easter on the horizon.

 

 

Dingo

Dingo

Dingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dingo

Clare Saxby

Tannya Harricks

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381283

Australia’s high country, nestled amongst the ginormous boulders and gum trees, as the sun sets and the pinks and purples of dusk steal across the landscape, Dingo lies waiting, pointed ears twitching and tawny eyes flashing.  Around her, her pups and her pack still sleep as she watches and waits as hunting time draws near.  Here in the cool mountain regions she will hunt now and tomorrow at dawn, rather than through the night like her desert and hot-climate cousins. While she will eat insects, eggs and some plants she needs meat to maintain her energy as she may roam as much as 40 kilometres  in an evening. But possums climb, wombats burrow and kangaroos are too large so the pickings can be lean on snow-covered winter plains.

But she is smart and determined and her nose tells her that there is dinner nearby – rabbits! With her superb night vision it’s not long before there is tucker for her pups.  But it is not enough for them all so back into the darkening forest she goes, this time with her mate…

This is a new addition to the narrative non-fiction Nature Storybook series that opens the world of Australia’s fauna to young readers by telling the story of one creature and accompanying it with facts about the species in general.  Despite dingoes making their homes in many of Australia’s habitats, including the harshest, and having been here sometime between 5000 and 18000 years ago, generally there is little junior literature about them for those who want to know more.  Books about koalas, kangaroos and wombats abound, but dingoes seem to have missed the spotlight somewhat so this beautifully told and sublimely illustrated book is a welcome addition to the collection.

Saxby, also the author of Koala , brings her ability to create pictures with her words – not for her “the sun is setting”, rather it’s “the low-slung sun” – to create magic on the tongue, while Harricks has captured the colours and the contours of the mountain environment in oils with her bold strokes – I was immediately in a landscape that is so familiar.

A peek inside…

Koala is among the 2018 CBCA Notables; it would not surprise me to see this one there next year.

Gladys Goes to War

Gladys Goes to War

Gladys Goes to War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gladys Goes to War

Glyn Harper

Jenny Cooper

Picture Puffin, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143507208

Auckland, New Zealand in the very early 20th century when girls were still supposed to be seen and not heard, despite having had voting rights since 1893 – still very much an English colonial mentality where they busied themselves with music, needlework and other “feminine” tasks.  However, unlike her sisters, Gladys was not good at such things, preferring instead to spend her time under the bonnet of her brothers’ cars and those of their friends.  

“No one will want to marry a mechanic” her mother told her, echoing the feelings and the culture of the times.  But her mother was wrong and in 1912 she met and married William Henning who taught her to drive and then set up a car sales business in Auckland. Being competent and comfortable in this “men’s world” meant that it was no surprise that when her husband and brothers enlisted when World War I broke out that Gladys wanted to go too.  But her efforts were met with the typical chauvinistic response of the times …”If you want to help the war effort, you should stay at home and knit socks and balaclavas.”

But they had underestimated Gladys’s determination and in 1916 with the assistance of the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood she was reunited with her husband in Egypt becoming an ambulance driver, and when he was sent to France she went to England.  But again male-dominated bureaucracy determined her place was in the hospital scrubbing floors not driving ambulances.  Until one evening, there was a shortage of drivers…

This is the story of just one of the many women who played an active part in World War I as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and so much more, rather than being the stereotype wife/mother/ sister/ daughter who ‘kept the home fires burning’.  Despite their important contribution throughout history, so many women have been written out of it and when a request through a local network for a book for younger readers about World War I from a female perspective there was a paucity of replies.  Yet there are so many stories that could be told from both New Zealand and Australia.

Gladys was a pioneer in so many fields – in 1927, having survived both the war and Spanish flu, she and her friend Stella Christie became the first women to transverse Australia east to west and north to south in a car – and so bringing her wartime service to light is just the beginning of the stories that could be told about this remarkable woman.  But as well as her personal chronicle, this could be a springboard for having students investigate and retell the stories of other women whose contributions have been overshadowed by those of their male counterparts.  Searching the Australian War Memorial’s site for “women in war” is a good starting point.

But even if Gladys’s story is just shared as a standalone, it is a sound representation of #nevertheless,shepersisted 

 

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

ABC Mindful Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Mindful Me

Christiane Engel

Quarto US, 2018

36pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781633225107

“Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment” and in this book the creator takes a journey through the alphabet stopping at each letter to link it to an activity or concept that will enable younger readers to be more in touch with the here and now and where they are.  

From Awareness to Zen children are encouraged to learn about being physically, mentally and emotionally healthy as they learn how to limit and manage stress and anxiety through rhyming text and bold pictures which feature a diversity of children.  There are also instructions to make some of the suggestions like a thankfulness tree and a mandala.

With mindfulness such a part of the curriculum these days, this could  almost be the basis of a semester’s program as each child creates their own book showing what the concept for each letter means for them.

The Things That I LOVE about TREES

The Things That I LOVE about TREES

The Things That I LOVE about TREES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things That I LOVE about TREES

Chris Butterworth

Charlotte Voake

Walker Books, 2018

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A24.99

9781406349405

There is much to love about trees – apart from their life-giving oxygen.  The In spring they are pretty with their new green leaves and buds like beads; in summer they are so shady and the sound of the wind in their leaves is like the swish of the sea; in autumn they are so colourful; and in winter when their branches are bare you can lean on the trunk and look up to the sky.

This early readers’ non fiction book traces a plum tree through its seasonal changes combining a narrative with facts about trees and beautiful water-colour illustrations.  Even though it is English, Australian trees follow a similar cycle and it is the perfect time to start an individual or class tree diary selecting a deciduous playground tree and using photographs and texts to trace its changes as the seasons change and learn not only what the changes happen and why but also to discover that their is beauty in all its aspects, even those bare winter branches.  The author has placed an emphasis on exploring how the changes can engage all the senses so this is also an opportunity to challenge students to engage theirs – to become more observant and notice detail, perhaps even to branch into creating similes and metaphors.

Comparisons could also be made with a eucalypt or other evergreen to discover if they really do stay the same throughout the year or whether, they too, have their own cycle of change including tracking the creatures that seek shelter in them, perhaps even setting up investigations into other life cycles and interdependence.  

Trees really are the perfect plants and there are so many things to love about them.

 

Rescue & Jessica: A life-changing friendship

Rescue & Jessica

Rescue & Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue & Jessica

Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Scott Magoon

Candlewick Press, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763696047

Rescue thought he would grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog – after all, that’s what his family does.  However, his handler thinks he would be better as an assistance dog and Rescue is worried that he wouldn’t be any good at that.  He did not want to let anyone down.

Meanwhile, Jessica has had to have one of her legs amputated and will need either a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair to be mobile.  This is not what she thought her life would be like and she worried about whether she will be able to manage the changes.  And then she and Rescue are teamed up…

Based on the true story of a young woman injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, just five years ago, this is a story of how Jessica and Rescue manage the unexpected changes in their lives and how they rescued each other.  Five years on, it is not only a tribute to assistance dogs the world over,  it also highlights the struggles of those who survive these disastrous events and continue to cope long after the headlines have moved on – in this case, more than 260.  

As well as the personal story of Jessica and Rescue, it also highlights the resilience, the perseverance, and the continuing hard work that it takes to go forward from such a life-changing event including those that do not make world headlines. The cause of Jessica’s unhealthy legs is not disclosed within the story and so there are many children who, sadly, can relate to the realisation that life as they know it has changed and life as they had dreamed is irrevocably altered.   Divorce, family break-ups,illness,  car accidents, deaths… these (and more) are part of the fabric of our students’ lives that they may be dealing with in silence and while they might not require an assistance dog, we need to be mindful of their struggles. Sharing this story and discussing Jessica’s feelings of despair and hope, taking one step at a time, one day at a time may help them progress just a little further.

 

 

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2012

26pp., board book, RRP $A14.99

9780733330513

As soon as they are old enough to notice the difference between day and night, perhaps even before that when they first ask “Why is the sky blue?”, little people have questions about space.  This board book with its rhyming text, provides the first introduction to that mysterious world beyond our planet.

Designed to help little ones become more observant, such as looking at the changing phases of the moon, it also encourages their imagination as they think about what it might be like to land on the moon.

Perfect for preschoolers with questions!

See Inside Space

See Inside Space

See Inside Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Inside Space

Katie Daynes

Peter Allen

Usborne, 2008

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

9780746087596

The publisher’s blurb describes this best…”A flap book of astronomical proportions, packed with facts and information about the stars, planets and the universe. Fabulous double-page topics show our solar system, the Milky Way, how scientists think the universe was created and the latest space travel technology. Over 50 flaps reveal fascinating facts about the universe and there’s a little book of star maps tucked in a pocket at the back of the book. Includes internet links to websites with the latest space information, games and photos.”

But even though it is a flap book (in board book format to accommodate this and ensure its durability), this  is a book for older children who have an interest in topics like the Big Bang, the history of space discovery and space travel. While there have been advances in the 10 years since it was first published, nevertheless it serves as a sound introductory title to this fascinating place with its basic information (albeit in small font so readers need to be independent) and its myriad of flaps to lift and its stunning double page spreads that open out to reveal so much more. And if that is not enough, there is also the customary weblinks page to take those who want to know more on even greater adventures. 

This is one of those books that will encourage young readers, particularly boys, to collaborate and share their discoveries, an activity not well recognised yet for its importance and potential on the reading journey.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…