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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

9780642279255

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.

 

 

 

When I’m Older

When I'm Older

When I’m Older

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m Older

Isa & Neil Flory

Somak Chaudhary

Allen & Unwin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760296322

Speculating about what a little one might become when they are older is a perennial topic, but if you are a lump of blue clay then the possibilities are endless.

I can be a head, I can be a bed, I can be a crocodile playing dead!.

From the creator of The Short Giraffeand using rhyme and rhythm which will capture the ear of the very young listener, this is a clever story that can spark conversations as, in so many ways, very young children are just like the lump of clay waiting to be moulded by nurture and nature.  The use of clay as the starting point is very clever as not only is it flexible, pliable and malleable into shapes depending on whose hands are on it, it can also be returned to its original form, to its core of who/what it is and in this case, being happy with that.

Clay also makes the illustrations so credible as this strange lump changes so readily and have a Gumby-like character (for those of us old enough to remember him.)


 

It also offers little ones the opportunity to get some hands-on experience and mould their own clay/plasticene/playdough into their dreams for the future, perhaps even making a rhyming sequence like one from the book as an introduction to playing with the sounds of our language. (ACELA1438, ACELA1439, ACELT1785, ACELT1579 & ACELT1580) 

Who would have thought such a seemingly simple book would have me quoting Australian Curriculum outcomes?????  But it shows that this is more than just for preschoolers – imagine its power for those learning English as a new language or even producing a stop-go animation of a group or class book!  

Picture books are for everyone!

Grandpa’s Space Adventure

Grandpa's Space Adventure

Grandpa’s Space Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa’s Space Adventure

Paul Newman

Tom Jellett

Viking, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143785569

“I’m afraid of the dark… But Grandpa says there’s nothing to be afraid of, so tonight we’ll be camping out.”

Grandpa is the ultimate grandpa for understanding little ones’ fears and ever since he taught his grandson to swim , you can sense that the bond has been growing and it’s time for the next big adventure.

He says that if you don’t have the dark you wouldn’t be able to see the stars, the planets or the moon and, snuggled into their tent, he launches into the most hilarious tale of the time he and his dog Rover went to the moon.  Building their rocket ship in the backyard (which meant Grandma couldn’t hang out her washing for weeks) there follows the most jaw-dropping adventure based on wicked puns which will tickle the adult reader’s fancy and make the young listener LOL. Everything from launch boxes and cooking unidentified frying objects not only make this funny but they distract the young boy from his fears as night falls and darkness creeps over the land.  

The tone for the book is set from the outset with the covers  showing the planets and constellations with their unique names; the endpapers with the phases of the moon just inviting questions about why it changes shape; to Jellett’s illustrations which add so much zing to the text  and you just know it is going to be a firm favourite in no time.  Grandpa’s solution to not getting burned when they undertake their trip to the sun is just perfect and you know that there is going to be much love and many tall tales to come (next one is about going on safari) as Newman and Jellett explore the very common fears of little people and exploit the special bond between grandfather and grandson to dispel them.  

Just perfect for sharing and encouraging young readers to share their fears and understand that they are not alone with them.  

 

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297824

“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji

Want to Play Trucks?

Want to Play Trucks?

Want to Play Trucks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Play Trucks?

Ann Stott

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406378238

Almost every morning Jack and Alex play together in the sandpit at the playground while their mothers have a chat.  They enjoy playing together, Jack with the trucks, particularly those that are big and can wreck things,  and Alex with his doll, who has a pink, sparkly dress. When Jack suggests they play trucks, Alex counters with playing dolls that drive trucks. And this is a happy compromise until Jack chooses a crane and tells Alex that dolls with tutus can’t drive cranes.

But this is not an argument about gender, although as it escalates it seems it is – Jack has a much more pragmatic perspective which Alex quickly solves and they are soon playing happily again until they hear the sound of the ice cream truck.

Time and again over the 45+ years I’ve been in education I’ve seen children squabble and adults intervening because they have imposed their beliefs and perspectives on what they think is the problem, when it is really a much more simple issue such as in this story. Rather than letting the children sort it for themselves and learning all sorts of critical social skills as they do, the adults are too prone to step in looking for peace above all else.  In my opinion, it is what is going on in the background that is as important as the foreground in this story, as the mothers continue to chat, nurse Alex’s baby sister when she wakes up and go with the boys to get ice cream, ignoring the boys’ conflict, if indeed they notice it. Graham also has lots of other characters passing by going about their lives with no reference to what is happening in the sandpit – there is no notice taken of the boys’ different ethnicity, their preference for particular toys or their minor squabble.  Life is what it is and is as it is. And therefore the boys are left to work things out for themselves,learning in their particular microcosm how to negotiate, compromise, change, accept, include… all those vital attributes that will help them navigate their expanding world.

While this book appears to be about challenging gender stereotypes because of the boys’ choice of toys, to me that is just the hook on which the broader issue of how kids deal with, negotiate and celebrate difference and diversity has been hung on.    Sharing this with little ones will open up opportunities for them to not only share their stories but to learn their own strategies as they are challenged by new situations. 

Won’t be surprised to see this nominated for awards in the future.

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Rina A. Foti

Dave Atze

Big Sky Publishing. 2018

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

9781925675344

When Cat spies mouse, he grabs him and tells him he is going to gobble her up.  But being a feisty mouse, she disagrees and asks, “Why would you do that?” And so begins a back-and-forth conversation about the fairness of bigger being allowed to eat smaller because “that’s the way it is”. Mouse, who must be terrified, nevertheless has courage and tries to convince Cat that it would be better to be friends, but Cat is not interested until along comes D-O-G!

Told entirely in conversation with different coloured text identifying each speaker, this is a charming story about assumed power invested by size – just because you’re bigger doesn’t make you in charge – and it will promote discussion about whether being little means giving in or having rights. Is Cat (or Dog) a bully? Mouse’s arguing against the status quo is very reminiscent of little ones who feel injustice keenly but who don’t quite know how to get something sorted, although they are determined to win and make their own world fairer. Having the courage to speak up for change is a big lesson in assertiveness, and while parents might end the conversation with “Because I said so!” it is nevertheless a sign that their little one is maturing and gaining independence. 

The illustrations are divine – set on a white background, all the emotions and feelings are contained in the animals’ body language and facial expressions that even without being able to read the words for themselves, very young readers will still be able to work out the story and participate in that crucial pre-reading behaviour.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity – this is a thought-provoking read that we can all take heed of, regardless of our age!

 

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moth: An Evolution Story

Isabel Thomas

Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408889756

In a clean, fresh world, a shiny cocoon wriggles and jiggles and a moth with salt-and-pepper wings emerges. But there is no time to languish – as daylight emerges, it must fly to the nearby trees with their lichen-covered branches where its colouring camouflages it from its predators – birds, bats and cats!

But some moths are born with charcoal wings, easy prey as their colouring makes them stand out . While they become food for hungry birds and their chicks, the speckled, freckled ones are safe in their disguise and the next night they lay eggs of their own, and their babies will be just like their parents.

But then the world began to change and coal-burning factories and steam-driven trains changed it to a dirty, dark place full of pollution which stained the clouds, and darkened the branches where the speckled, freckled ones rested. And they became the vulnerable ones while their charcoal friends were safe.  So gradually, they changed and it was the dark-winged variety that was common and the salt-and-pepper ones became rare.

However, as people realised the harm they were doing, slowly the world began to change again – not quite as clean as before but so much better.  And a miracle happened…

Encapsulated in this beautifully illustrated book is the story of the peppered moth, an example of natural selection and the theory behind process of evolution – creatures changing themselves to adapt to and survive in their changing environments. With its explanation of the moth’s story and extrapolating from that to all creatures including humans, this is the perfect introduction to Darwin’s theories and the impact of human intervention on the environment.  Throughout though, there is hope – that we are not doomed as many would have us believe, but that we are changing and we must adapt to that change whilst doing all that we can to assist Mother Nature by keeping our planet pure and pristine because try as we might, not all creatures can adapt as readily and quickly as the moth does and the list of species, both fauna and flora, that have become extinct continues to grow.

A must in any library in a school that has students and staff concerned about the environment – what might be living in the playground that could use a bit of positive human intervention?

Ori’s Clean-Up

Ori's Clean-Up

Ori’s Clean-Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ori’s Clean-Up

Anne Helen Donnelly

Self-published, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A20

9780646984131

Ori the Octopus loves his home but he hates it when his friends leave rubbish everywhere.  They are quite willing to help him clean up when he asks but within a week it’s just as bad as it was!  So this time as they clean up again they  think of ways they can recycle and reuse their rubbish so that they are not only making it easier for themselves, but also helping the environment.

This easy-to-read story with its repetitive action sequences and bright, bold pictures is primarily for early childhood, showing our youngest students that they are never too young to make a difference, although my experience is that once they are aware of the possibilities, it is the very young who are most diligent and bad habits and laziness are more likely to be those who are older.  Nevertheless, providing information and  instilling good habits from an early age can only be a good thing as we become more and more aware of the problem of waste and litter, particularly with the removal of single-use items in the spotlight.

Perfect for preschool, especially if there is a discussion about what might happen if Ori’s friends don’t clean up and this is extended into speculation about the playground, their bedrooms or their homes.

Backyard

Backyard

Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard

Ananda Braxton-Smith

Lizzy Newcomb

Black Dog, 2018

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

 9781925381177

Dusk “in this city that is like other cities” and a “sleep-moony child and s star-eyed dog” sit on the back step of their home and watch and listen to the sights and sounds of night falling.  For the back yard is home to other animals apart from them and just taking the time to listen and look can reveal an astounding array of inhabitants that are otherwise often invisible…

While television programs may make us think that nature happens on the vast plains of Africa or the hidden depths of the ocean, in Backyard author and illustrator using poetic descriptive text and exquisite, lifelike illustrations, have brought to life a suburban backyard, exposing critters and creatures that so cleverly hide amongst the plants and bushes, showing that the marvels and miracles are so much closer than we realise. And while our own backyards might not have the particular species shown, that just sets up investigations into what creatures are there; why they are different from those in the book; the influence and impact of day and night; what conditions are needed to protect those that are and encourage more…the possibilities are so many!

But even if scientific investigations are not for you and yours, this is a lyrical lullaby that would serve as a perfect bedtime story as it is so calming and peaceful, encouraging the child to sit and listen and dream and gradually pull the curtains on their day. 

(For those of you wanting to use this as a springboard for a series of lessons that explore your playground or the students’ backyard, a great non fiction companion would be The Australian Backyard Naturalist  by Peter Macinnis who combines his deep skills in science, history and teaching to produce resources for Australian teachers and children.)