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Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Kate Gardner

Heidi Smith   

HarperCollins US, 2019

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

9780062741615

Spiders are creepy.
Porcupines are scary.
Bats are ugly.

Or are they . . .

This captivating book invites you to look beyond your first impressions at these awe-inspiring animals in the wild. On each page is an exquisite pencil illustration of a common creature that usually inspires an emotion in the viewer accompanied by a one word description that fits that emotion.  But when you turn the page, there is an equally exquisite but different picture of the same creature, this time with a few lines about its uniqueness that shows a completely different side to it. 

For example, sharks, particularly the great white, can shivers up the spines of those who like to swim in the ocean yet without them at the top of the food chain, the entire marine ecosystem would collapse.  Similarly, bats eat many insects – up to 8000 mosquitoes in a night – thus controlling the populations.

Something a little different to encourage us to look beyond the first impression and the reputation…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Lift-the-Flap Engineering

Lift-the-Flap Engineering

Lift-the-Flap Engineering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-Flap Engineering

Rose Hall

Lee Cosgrove

Usborne, 2018

16pp., hbk, RRP $A19.99

9781474943659

“Engineering is not just about engines.  Engineering means designing, testing and making all kinds of useful things .  To do this, engineers use mathematics, science, and -above all- their imaginations.”

Engineers work in teams to solve puzzles, whether the puzzle is big or small.  They follow a series of steps including 

  • asking questions to ensure they understand the problem
  • imagining possible solutions  by letting their brains go wild 
  • making detailed designs of their ideas
  • making models to test their ideas
  • having  the final version built and checking it carefully.

Not so long ago primary students had “art and craft” lessons in which they usually followed a set of instructions to create a cookie-cutter model of something their teacher had decided would be appropriate for the current theme or unit of work.  Then, in the 80s with the launch of the National Profiles, technology became a recognised key learning area and the strand of “design, make and appraise” gave students more freedom to imagine solutions to set problems and actually trial their thoughts,  In those days, engineering was still viewed as a subject for university level.  But with the advance of computers and computing and inventions like the internet came a realisation that university was too late to start that sort of thinking and now we have a real focus on “STEM subjects” – science, maths, engineering and technology – and with it, a growing understanding of how integrated all the disciplines are.  They are no and can not be stand-alone slots in a timetable. And now, with the rise of “makerspaces”, even our youngest children are involved in engineering on a daily basis.

While this is a “lift-the-flap” book it is a sophisticated one like others in the Usborne collection, providing explanations and answers in an interactive format that engages the reader and offers easy-to understand text within a myriad of diagrams.  Things typically associated with engineering like aircraft, rockets and robots are explored but so are more everyday things like bicycles,    solar panels and sounds.

Highly recommended for your STEM collection. 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Peter Macinnis

NLA Publishing, 2019

248pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642279347

Anyone who knows Peter Macinnis, either personally or through his writing, knows that he is passionate about connecting young children with science and this latest contribution to the education of our students sits perfectly alongside his Australian Backyard Explorer and Australian Backyard Naturalist

In it, Macinnis takes the reader on a journey from explaining what earth science is and the earliest beginnings of the planet to the current debate about climate change, stopping along the way to investigate and explain all sorts of things which affect the development, health and performance of the planet like how rain is formed, the various types of rocks that lie beneath our feet, the impact of the currents on life and a zillion other things like why humidity is a critical factor in bushfire season, all tailored to helping young scientists understand what is happening in their own backyard.  It’s not “out there”, it’s right in front of them.  

Using his incessantly curious mind, he ferrets out all sorts of unknown facts and curiosities and then writes about them in a way that makes them so easily readable by his young target audience while giving them all the information they need yet not overloading them with too much detail. He leaves the door open for further investigation from more specialised sources.  The book is richly illustrated with photos, many of his own, diagrams and charts and there are projects to undertake, sections that delve more deeply into a topic, and ‘ologists’ to investigate and inspire.  

But for all the facts and figures and photos, there shines through a deep and abiding respect for this planet and an acute awareness that we must do more to protect it, and it is through young people having the knowledge and understanding about how it works that is likely to make the most difference.  Even though it has a global perspective, readers are inspired to “think global, act local” and examine what it is they can do to make their part of the world a better place for all, such as making a frog pond and keeping a seasonal diary.

If you add one non fiction book to your collection  this year, then this should be it – and if you don’t have the previous two then track them down through the NLA Bookshop.

Teachers’ notes are now available.

Australian Birds

Australian Birds

Australian Birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Birds

Matt Chun

Little Hare, 2018

36pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760502003

It took millions of years of isolation and a diverse range of habitats for Australian birds to evolve the way they did. The result is many of the world’s most striking and beautiful birds, including some that are stranger than fiction. In Australian Birds,  artist Matt Chun showcases 16 remarkable species that have captured the imagination of the world. 

This is a beautifully crafted book, superbly illustrated with great attention to detail and colour, which is the perfect introduction to Australia’s unique birdlife. Each of the birds featured is one that will be well-known to many of our students because it will be a part of their environment, but at the same time, will be new to others who live in a different part of the country.  Living in the bush as I do, I’m privileged to see lots of varieties on a daily basis, whether it’s the little finches who have just raised a family in their little nest in the honeysuckle outside my window, to the magpie family who bring their babies down to feed and learn each year, the cheeky crimson rosellas who delight in splashing in the birdbaths we have around or the raucous kookaburras who are better than any alarm clock.

Children will delight in telling you which ones they already recognise, while it would serve as a wonderful resource to start identifying,  spotting and tallying the species and numbers of birds found in your school playground throughout the various seasons and investigate ways that it could be made more bird friendly, perhaps even being involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count in October this year.  

 

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Dippy's Big Day Out

Dippy’s Big Day Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9781460754061

All Dippy wants to do is fill his tummy and find a soft place to sleep.  But it seems that that is a bit tricky when you are a diprotodon, a kind of giant wombat the size of a rhinoceros!   No matter what he does or where he lies down, it seems Dippy is doomed to be hungry and wide awake.  Beds that are nests, snacks that attack, it’s a bit bewildering until…

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have developed an idea from Ben Smith Whatley and teamed up once again to introduce young readers to the world of megafauna, huge creatures that evolved from the dinosaurs and roamed Australia up until about 50 000 years ago. Not surprisingly, given her well-known love of wombats, Jackie has focused this story on their ancestors, the diprotodon, but even though this initially appears to be a story for the very young, it opens up so many areas to explore that it could be for any age.

Combining minimal text with illustrations that contain so much action, this is a great introduction to the genre of ‘faction” where a fictional story is based on so much fact that the lines are blurred and it becomes an information text as much as a imaginary one, meeting many of the Australian Curriculum outcomes in the process. Whatley has painted a very different Australia to that which we are used to, which has to spark questions about climate change and what happened to these ginormous creatures. And are there lessons we can learn because we no longer have diprotodons in our landscape? Is its descendant, the wombat, likely to follow in its footsteps? Put May 11 aside to celebrate Hairy Nosed Wombat Day as a focus for endangered and extinct species!

Given the fascination that young children have for dinosaurs, it is surprising that there are so few stories, or even resources, about these other prehistoric beasts and so, this is a must-have in any collection.

Excellent teachers’ notes (written by me) exploring the riches of this book are available both on the publishers’ website  and their Teachers Hub , demonstrating that what might be considered a book for preschoolers actually has a much wider application, making it a model of its genre..

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

Britta Teckentrup

Big Picture Press, 2018

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

9781787410763

As summer draws on, it is likely that many of our young readers will have either been fishing or will have eaten fish or perhaps seen them “in the flesh” over the past few months. While those who have caught them in rivers, lakes or the sea may be able to identify the species of their catch, with over 33,600 described species in the world, fish are the most diverse creatures  than any other group of vertebrates found in aquatic environments all over the world. 

“Big or small, spiny or flat, spiky or blobby, bright or exactly the same colour as the sand”, fish have inhabited the planet for about 420 million years, and in this richly illustrated, informative book from Britta Teckentrup, young readers can investigate all things fishy from the biological characteristics of fish to their evolution to what lives where. Focused on providing initial answers to a variety of questions it is a broad-ranging text that will  satisfy the reader’s curiosity and perhaps inspire them to investigate further. With information in manageable chunks and accessible language it is an ideal starter text for the independent reader, and with invitations to search for things, including the rarely seen but most common fish on the planet, the bristlemouth, they are encouraged to read and look carefully.  Ideal for those with an interest in these amazing creatures.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

Alice James

Usborne, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474942997

Did you know that out of 30 million emails sent in the time it takes to tread this line, 20 million of them will be spam?

That a champion mathlete can add ten 10-digit numbers in their head in 13 seconds?

The first computer game for two players was based on playing tennis and was created over 60 years ago?

These are just some of the interesting facts that are shared and explained in this fascinating new book from Usborne that is so easy to explore, navigate and read.

Way back when, in a time when I did not teach maths well and avoided it if I could, I was presented with a class of eight-year-olds who were as turned off the subject as I was.  In the days when text books and workbooks were the norm and the curriculum comprised going through said books which were cheaply produced, unattractive and unappealing, it was no wonder that those for whom maths was a mystery were not enthused to participate.  However, I was a successful “language arts” teacher and so in the interests of my students, I had to invigorate my interest and so I examined what I did well in my whole language classroom and translate it into a whole maths classroom.  By the end of the year, we were all thriving, I’d written many articles about my approach and even had several book contracts lined up!

The secret was to show the kids how maths related to their everyday lives, in both overt and obscure ways so that it became apparent that it permeates everything we do.  We started with a focus question of “What would we do without numbers?” and delved into the history of number and so on, and things just flew from there. This book, 100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding would have been a godsend in those days as even though its focus is computing and coding, there is enough in it to build a lesson a day for almost an entire school year and that doesn’t include the offshoot investigations that would take you off on a tangent! I can envisage those eight-year-olds of 30 years ago pouring over it!

There are often queries to teacher librarian forums about how to engage with the maths teachers to show that the library offers them something, and the usual answers of teaching the Dewey Decimal System pop up, but imagine the interest there would be if you shared a fact a day and invited explorations as part of your library displays!  Those who see libraries as being about books and reading and therefore not for them would be engaged and their learning could go off in any direction, while not even realising they are engaging with reading, books and information literacy.  Sort of like hiding vegetables in cakes.

Don’t buy this book and hide it away in the 004 section.  Buy it and use it as the basis to turn students’ attitudes towards maths, computing and coding into something positive!

Everest

Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everest

Sangma Francis

Lisk Feng

Flying Eye, 2019

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781911171430

It is the highest spot on planet Earth, known to many as the roof of the world and the ultimate challenge for mountain-climbing adventurers. It is Mount Everest.

Mount Everest is undoubtedly the most famous mountain on Earth. Hundreds of people clamber to its summit every year, following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, hoping to experience Earth’s highest peak. But there is so much more to this mountain than the people who climb it.

In this new release, readers travel back to the mountain’s ancient origins as 50 million years ago the two tectonic plates that we now know as India and Europe collided forcing the land upwards and creating the Himalaya (a Sanskrit word meaning “home of snow”), the biggest mountain range on the planet, one which is still rising at up to 10mm a year. Known to the Tibetans as Chomolungma or “Mother Goddess of the World”,  to the neighbouring Nepalese as Sagarmatha or “Goddess of the Sky” and in English as Everest after Sir George Everest who was head of the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1865, this magnificent mountain rises 29029 feet (8848 metres) into the heavens between Tibet on the northern side and Nepal on the southern.

The author covers a wide range of topics from how to measure a mountain- it’s all done with triangles – to the flora and fauna that live at its various altitudes, to the sacred stories, myths and legends that have built up over the years.  Of course, being a New Zealander I was very interested in seeing if Sir Edmund Hillary was given credit for being the first to conquer the peak in in 1953 and even though the attempts to the top are seen through a British lens, with Sir John Hunt getting a greater focus as leader of the whole expedition, there is a special section dedicated to that final push on May 29th as Hillary and Tensing Norgay finally conquered that which had been tantalising many for so long – and still does as thousands make their way to Base Camp each year.

Perhaps because Sir Edmund became a friend of my mother’s and once took her down Aoraki (Mt Cook in New Zealand) on the back of a skidoo so she could be home in time for my birthday, Everest has always held a fascination for me.  So this book, which is perfect for younger readers wanting to know more, took me to aspects of the mountain that I didn’t know – as it will for those independent researchers who are looking for a starting point to discover this unique landmark. 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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

 9781925594249

Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.

 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hodge Podge Lodge

Priscilla Lamont

New Frontier, 2018

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925594287

The Pigwigs who live at Hodge Podge Lodge are obsessed with acquiring new things.  Pa Pigwig loves to order items online; Ma Pigwig is always shopping; Master Pigwig spends all his money on junk food and Little Miss Pigwig collects all sorts of bits and pieces.  But with new stuff comes packaging – paper, string, tape, plastic wrap, boxes, bottles… the list is endless and sadly the Pigwigs did not do not get rid of it. They just drop it wherever they like and it piles up.  So one day when a big wind sweeps in, it all ends up in the nearby woods proving disastrous for the creatures that live there…

While we are gradually becoming aware of the impact of plastic bags on out marine life, there are still so many other issues with the careless disposal of all sorts of waste that we must acknowledge and this book helps us think about this.  A box might be a nice house for a mouse until the rain collapses it; fishing line can tangle around legs and beaks; paper can blind if it’s flying around… So this is an excellent story that really highlights the message about the amount of rubbish we generate and what happens to it, particularly at this time of gift-giving and summer holidays, in a way that even youngest readers can understand.

Reduce, reuse, recycle are the new 3Rs that we need to continually introduce and reinforce with our youngsters and Little Miss Pigwig’s examples and solutions just might be the inspiration for a cleaner 2019 in your family and your school.