Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth
96pp. hbk., RRP $A26.99
While we are all familiar with the incredible dinosaurs, icthyosaurs and pterosaurs that inhabited our planet long before we did, this book focuses on the other megafauna that was here before humans evolved, tracing their evolution from the ancient to its modern counterpart.
From the gigantopithecus to the orangutan, the dunkleosteus to the bull shark, the quetzalcaotlus to the wandering albatross, the reader can see the transition from the unknown to the more familiar. Uncluttered interpretations of the ancient creatures based on what has been learned from fossils are compared to photos of the modern relatives making the transition even clearer. Each double spread has a habitat map and some basic facts as well as tidbits of interesting information to encourage the reader to learn more, perhaps even trace the lineage of their own favourite creature. There is a timeline, a glossary and an index at the back which not only help with navigating the book but also serve as an introduction to the features of a non fiction book for younger readers.
We know books about dinosaurs only linger on the shelf for a short time before being borrowed by an enthusiastic reader – this book will lead them into a whole new world of exploration.
“Nature never stops. With every tick of the clock, an animal wakes up and goes in search of food. The sky might be dark when the creature first stirs; night-time is ruled by the nocturnal animals. During the light of day diurnal animals like to hunt. And as the world welcomes dawn, or bids farewell to the day at dusk, crepuscular creatures appear.”
And in this most amazing book the reader gets to discover what’s out and about at the various times of the planet’s rotation. Firstly you select a destination from amongst ten different habitats which include such diversity as the Simpson Desert, the Weddell and Ross Seas of Antarctica, the rainforest of the Congo, the Andes Mountains, even the Ganges River basin. From the observation deck what appears to be a jumble of colour slowly exposes itself as the outlines of a number of creatures, but when you then use the special multi-coloured lens which is supplied, and peer through the different colours a whole new world emerges! The red lens exposes the daytime creatures, the blue lens those who prefer a darker environment while the green lens illuminates the plant life of the region. Then to make the experience even better, there is a double-page spread that identifies each creature with some brief information about it. There are 180 different creatures to discover throughout the book, 18 for each region!
This is not a ready reference book packed full of information about the world’s habitats and their inhabitants. There are countless other resources that do that. This is an introduction to the boundless wonders of nature, its diversity and difference that reveals itself with the passage of time and which will leave the reader with a feeling of awe and perhaps a greater awareness of just what might be living in or dependent on the environment as they go stomping through it. It truly does illuminate Nature.
Have a sneak peek at what’s on offer for The Simpson Desert. (image from Let Them Be Small)
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!
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.
In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways
Little Tiger Press, 2016
26pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
Twenty years ago one of the most popular series of books in my library featured the cutaway illustrations of Stephen Beisty as the children were fascinated by being able to look beneath the outside of things to see what lay concealed and how these things worked. In this fascinating book compiled by Libby Walden, ten illustrators have placed ten everyday subjects under the microscope to uncover what lies beneath their surface and produced 101 fascinating pictures that are familiar to children and which will fascinate them for hours.
Using the broad headings of Oceans, Home, Earth and Space, Landmarks, Nature, Everyday Objects, Buildings, Fruit and Vegetables, Animals and transport, they can explore the workings of everything from a shark to the Statue of Liberty to the inside of a banana in close-ups, cross-sections and cutaways. They can even discover how their toilet works!
Even though the book nominally has 26 pages, each opens out to a double spread giving each topic six pages of fascinating information. On the exterior of the gatefold is an illustration of a number of objects and then by opening it, the interior of each object is exposed, a clever design technique that adds to the notion of peeking inside. Because the captions are brief and sometimes technical this is more suited to the independent reader who can use it as a starter to find out more, but nevertheless would still be good in the hands of an adult and child who is curious and just wants a simple explanation.
Another example of why and how we can keep our print collections vibrant and interesting. A perfect adjunct for those with a makerspace in the library.
Orson loves to make things and he is always tinkering and experimenting. His latest idea is the most ambitious yet, but what does it take to build your very own planet? Can it be made with
A cup full of rocks
A dash of water
A sprinkling of metal
A lot of nothingness
A big bang …
BOOM! He has it – a tiny planet with rings around it, right there in his bedroom! But it seems that BUILDING a planet is the easy bit; taking care of it is a different thing altogether. Over time, Orson realises that his planet needs to be free and that sometimes you have to let go of the things that you love the most …
This is a quirky story that will appeal to the dreamers as Orson realises his dream after a lot of reading and research. Those with an innate need to invent and make will empathise with Orson’s need as well as his dilemma when he realises what he must do. But there is a deeper message here. When Orson tries to keep his planet happy by taking it to the movies but it doesn’t respond, he undertakes even more reading to find out what it really needed – thereby posing a big question for the reader. What DOES our planet need to keep it happy? What can we do to make sure that it is?
With its deceptively simple text and storyline and charming pictures, this book has the potential to spark an important investigation into all aspects of the environment and its sustainability.
Perhaps this is the time and place to have a disclaimer that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan. Not just for her wonderful way with words and her exquisite illustrations but because no matter how often the topic of a text has been presented before, she always finds a way to present it in a unique way that totally engages her audience and makes them want to keep turning the pages.
A prime example is This is Captain Cook in which the story of the explorer is presented in a way like no other that not only entertains but educates and is likely to have teachers and students begging to do a similar production. Australian Kids Through the Yearslooks at Australian history through the perspective of children’s lives of the times and An Aussie Year is the perfect accompaniment to Harmony Day and all those other times we celebrate the diversity of the children in our care and in our classes.
So it is no wonder I was excited to receive her latest book Australia: Illustrated.
Again, there have been many books that try to explore and explain what it is that makes this country unique; what it is that encapsulates the Australian identity; and what it is that deserves our attention and pride. So why another one? What is its point of difference that will make it stand out and demand to be on shelves in libraries, classes and homes?
“Big, beautiful, and diverse” are the words McCartney uses to describe Australia, and they are the very words that could describe this book. It is big and it is fat (criteria important to some of our junior readers); it is beautiful with colour, iconic illustrations and few words; and it’s diverse with its focus on a range of topics that don’t usually feature in these sorts of texts. Each page is a vibrant explosion of colour and movement that celebrate our places and people in quirky ways like the Sydney Opera House portrayed as being made of chook feathers and little people running around trying to catch the chooks to get their feathers!
Beginning with an overview of the country as a whole, focusing on everything from our native and endangered animals to bush tucker, iconic foods, sports, weather and precious rocks, even our particular brand of English, it then moves on to examine each state and territory and their unique entities and emblems. And yes, both Tasmania and the ACT feature as prominently as the bigger states. But this is not a whole lot of facts and figures accompanying the sorts of staid photos seen on calendars for tourists… each page is just bursting with cartoon-like illustrations and few-word captions. It is peopled with children – many modelled on those whom McCartney knows and who unwrap the miscellany of heritage that makes us so every child will find themselves somewhere -and so it is not too serious her love of words and zany humour is everywhere. Just check out the page featuring the Snowy Mountains in NSW!
Readers will adore looking at places they have been to or things they are familiar with – listen for the chorus of “I’ve been there”” when they see the BIG page – as well finding places and things they want to do or try. Astute teachers might ask why a particular person or item has been included as well as seeking suggestions for things the students would include if they were to design a page or add to an existing one. (They would have to research their suggestion so they could defend its inclusion.)
This is a superb book for examining the Australian identity and answering “What makes me Australian?” It works for all ages because of its format, including those who are learning English for the first time. it would have suited this year’s CBCA Book Week theme Australia: Story Country perfectly as every illustration has a story behind it just waiting for the children to discover it. Younger students can just look at the pictures and use those to work out the words while older students may well be attracted to a particular illustration and want to find out more.
For those of you in and around Canberra there is a launch of the book at Harry Hartog’s in Woden on Saturday the 5th of November at 11am but for those who can’t get to that, there is a virtual launch with all sorts of activities from 24th to 31st of October
Definitely one for the collection and one to promote to your teaching colleagues.
One of the wonderful things about working with our youngest readers is watching them emerge like The Very Hungry Caterpillar from their self-centred world focused on their immediate family and surrounds into creatures who not only realise that there is a larger world around them but want to explore it oand take it on head on. So this large-format board book is the perfect starting place to help Miss 5 and all those like her to start to learn about this planet they live on, how it works, how it is shaped and who they share it with.
Beginning with a personalised explanation of night and day and how it and the seasons differ in different places, young readers them learn about the features and creatures of deserts, rainforests, polar regions mountains, rivers, coast, oceans and even under their feet. There are pages about wild weather (very appropriate right now) and volcanoes and earthquakes are explained in lanuage and diagrams that they understand.
Apart from answering their questions at a level that is accessible to them, My Very First Book of Our World also starts to develop their information literacy skills as they start to realise that books contain information as well as stories and books can offer them the explanations they are seeking so it makes sense to them. As they see pictures of new worlds and unfamiliar places and creatures, their world continues to expand as they demand to know more and more.
As well as being a useful addition to the non fiction collection for early readers, with Christmas coming and parents and grandparents looking for suggestions for Christmas stockings, this is one to share with them. Miss 5 will find it in her stocking!