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The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

The Periodic Table Book

The Periodic Table Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

Tom Jackson

DK, 2017

208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241240434

Watch any quiz show on television and there is bound to be a question about the Periodic Table, that, odd-shaped mysterious, multi-coloured chart that decorates the walls of science classrooms and labs and which to many, including me, remains a mystery even after it is studied and memorised.

The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table

However, in this bright, brand-new publication from DK (Dorling Kindersley) those new to the wonders of chemistry are able to understand it better through the use of clear explanations and thousands of photographs and diagrams, starting with an explanation of just what an element is. “Everything in nature, from the mountains and the oceans to the air we breathe and food we eat are made up of simple substances called elements… The elements are rarely found in their pure form.  Mostly, they are combined with each other to make compounds, which make up substances around us. To find out more about the elements, we need to take a good look at the periodic table …it shows the key information for each element, grouping them into similar types. With this information we can use the elements to make the things we need. Every element has its own story of where it comes from, what it can do, and how we use it.”

So it’s a bit like baking a cake – you put some butter, sugar, eggs and flour in particular proportions together and the chemical reaction amongst them when heat is applied leads to a cake we can eat, rather than four separate ingredients that are not so palatable.  Or. as my son the chef keeps telling me, “It’s about how the ingredients work together that produces the dish.”

Using the stunning DK layout of photos, bite-sized chunks of text and white space that is their signature style, it begins with an explanation of what elements are (that even I can understand), through to ancient ideas about alchemy, a very clear explanation of inside an atom (I do remember that it was a New Zealander, Sir Ernest Rutherford who first split it but never understood what that meant or its impact),so the reader is taken on a  on a visual tour of the 118 chemical elements of the periodic table, from argon to zinc. It explores the naturally occurring elements, as well as the man-made ones, and explains their properties and atomic structures. Each has a ready-reference summary of its atomic structure, physical and chemical properties, and the compounds it occurs more frequently in, as well as photographs of it in its raw state, its origins and uses (who knew that sodium was a key element of both mummification and fireworks) so that everything begins to make sense. There is even one of those charts tucked into a pocket at the back, perfect for the bedroom wall, the toilet door or the classroom.

While I have managed to reach a senior age without knowing too much about chemistry, it is very different for today’s students as so many new technological developments, medical breakthroughs and as-yet-unknown jobs rely on a knowledge and understanding of chemistry, the elements that make up this world and others, and how and why that periodic table is what it is.  With STEM being the primary focus of so many curricula, this is a must-have for both the beginner and experienced junior scientist.  Instead of just memorising “Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie” or “Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous, Naughty Margret Always Sighs, Please Stop Clowning Around” or singing The Periodic Table Song students will understand the basis of chemistry as a subject and see the relevance of it to their own world.

Perhaps if I came from an era of where it was more than reciting so the chanting was accompanied by explanation, connection and understanding, I would be a better cook today.  No, perhaps not!

 

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Anya Klauss

Usborne, 2016

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

9781409596738

What do Demeter and Persephone, Finn MacCool and the fish of Maui all have in common?  Well, they are included in this collection of stories from around the world beautifully illustrated by Anya Klauss.

In times long past before the truth was known, many of the things like the sun’s passage across the sky or the formation of the land were a mystery to those observing them so they made up stories to explain the particular phenomenon.  Even though they came from far-flung places and diverse peoples. their common thread was to explain the seemingly inexplicable so that the world made sense to them. Whether it involved giants, mythical beings and creatures, magic or sorcery, each story sought to demystify and through their telling through generations across thousands of years they have endured, even though science may have intervened to expose the truth.

As well as being a wonderful introduction to these sorts of stories and embracing a range of cultures, such myths can also be the entry point into scientific investigations for young and not-so-young scientists.  If Maui did not fish the North Island of New Zealand out of the sea, how did it get there? If the changing of the seasons are not caused by Demeter’s love and loss, how are they formed?  A great way to link literature and science and start our students on their own quests.

 

The Story of Australia

The Story of Australia

The Story of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Australia

Robert Lewis / National Museum of Australia

Random House Australia, 2017

416pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99

9780857983145

The National Museum of Australia is home to one of the richest collections of objects, photographs, artefacts and other items that document the history of this country from the times of our earliest indigenous people through European exploration, settlement and expansion and on into the 21st century. Drawing on these riches, Robert Lewis has traced the story of Australia in a way that is accessible to young independent readers wanting to begin to understand their heritage.

Filled with photographs, charts and other illustrations, it gives an overview offering  explanations of key events and the people behind them which encourage the young historian to delve deeper, explore further and perhaps even make a plan to visit the museum itself to see the actual objects. 

This would make a great reference work to have on the home shelves as children start their formal study of the nation’s history but it also perfect for the library’s collection to help answer quick questions and show that history is about story not just facts and figures.

 

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Katie Daynes

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2017

16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781409598985

 

From the time they are born children are innately curious  and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world.  As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers.  Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.

Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish.  Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who,  how and yes or no.  Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps.  Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?”  Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations.  Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.  

Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.

Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions.  With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.

It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.

This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.  

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

Simon Holland

Various illustrators

Bloomsbury, 2016

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781408881958

Long before J.K. Rowling introduced us to basilisks, blast-ended skrewts and bow-truckles, literature was alive with fantastic creatures stretching way back into the mythology of ancient civilisations.  “Mythology is a place where we can meet all kinds of beings, from human-like spirits to hybrids formed from two or more different animals.”

From giants to griffins, Cerberus to Pegasus this luxuriously illustrated book introduces  a menagerie of sixteen fantastic creatures and explains their origins and their powers.  With the illustrations being done by a variety of artists and a myriad of techniques used, this is a lavish visual feast that has the reader delving into each creature’s story and learning the background of those things that inhabit so many favourite books and films and may even take them on a journey through the mythologies of storytellers, perhaps even investigate why they populate history in the way they do. 

This is a must-have in any school library collection to satisfy the fascination with fantasy and those which inhabit that world that shows no signs of abating.

 

In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways

In Focus

In Focus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways

Libby Walden

Little Tiger Press, 2016

26pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781848575059

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.

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Gina Newton

NLA Publishing, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642278883

Australia’s island geography means that our environment supports an amazing variety of unique wildlife many of which most Australians have never heard of let alone seen.  

But in this amazing, full-colour book the reader is introduced to a whole world of tree-dwelling kangaroos, a frog that looks like a turtle and birds that like blue as it spans 55 national parks and the habitats they embrace – woodlands and grasslands, forests, rainforests, arid zones, mountains, wetlands and waterways, coasts, oceans and islands. There is also a chapter devoted to the vast array of minibeasts that are found all over the nation.

Beautifully laid out with full-colour photographs, maps and diagrams, each habitat section opens with photographs of the featured national parks and a description of the habitat. Each animal has its own page, which has a stunning colour photograph of the species, a map of its distribution range, its conservation status and scientific information about the species. The information is divided into the following sections: ‘Fast Facts’ gives you all the vital statistics, such as size, lifespan and number of young; ‘Where Does It Live?’ tells you where in Australia you can find the species and provides details about its home; ‘What’s Its Life Like?’ tells you a bit about how the animal moves, behaves, eats and has young; and ‘Interesting Info’ has quirky and fascinating facts.

As well as providing easily accessible information about each creature, each page could serve as a role model for student reports when they undertake the ubiquitous investigation into our wildlife while offering some alternatives to the usual cast of kangaroos, koalas, platypus, echidnas and wombats.  With over 700 national parks covering 28 000 000 hectares of country and accounting for almost 4% of the land mass, it also offers scope for investigating why national parks exist, what they contribute to our ecological well-being and may even become the young person’s travel guide for the future.  

A superb addition to either the school or home library.

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Very First Book of Our World

Matthew Oldham

Lee Cosgrove

Usborne, 2016

12pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474917896

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!

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Felicity Brooks

Nikki Dyson

Usborne, 2016

480pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781474924481

This new release from Usborne, who are masters at putting together quality education resources, comes in perfect time for sharing with parents who are looking for something special for the Christmas stocking for that between-group who are a little old for toys but not quite ready for all the trappings of being a young adult.  Grandparents will LOVE it as a suggestion!

With so many thesauri and dictionaries on the market for this age group, there has to be a point of difference to make a new one stand out and having seen and used so many over my 40+ years of teaching, it’s hard to think what that might be.  However, Usborne have discovered it – scattered throughout the 480 pages amongst the 6000+ words are text boxes with all sorts of information about the words including spelling tips, word families, word origins and so on- each of which helps the child build their vocabulary and their knowledge of how words and English work so they can build on what they know to be even more proficient.  There are explanations about the s/z conflict in British and American English as well as things like the t/-ed endings and who uses which.  (Australian standards use ‘t’ but either is acceptable where there is a choice and the context and meaning is not changed).

There is a comprehensive “how to” introductory section which explains the features and layout of the book including how to use a dictionary generally, the different word classes such as nouns, adjectives and verbs and links to further explanations, activities and games for both the dictionary and the thesaurus which will extend the user’s knowledge and skills even further.In between the dictionary and thesaurus sections are pages about how to make plurals, and prefixes and suffixes, all serving to make this more than just a word finder. The plentiful, colourful illustrations are really useful and would serve someone learning English for the first time very well, particularly older students who prefer something a little more grown-up than basic alphabet books.

If you are looking for a new class set of this sort of reference text for the library, this one really deserves serious consideration – in the meantime, this copy will find its way to Miss Almost-Year-5.  It will be the perfect present for her.

 

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Maths Dictionary

Judith de Klerk

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

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

9781740333412

Maths has always been a critical subject that is embedded in every aspect of life, not just a regular timeslot in the class timetable..  It is receiving an even greater focus as the buzzword of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sweeps across the curriculum.  Mastery of it is built on a spiral where one thing leads to another and another and another and if a basic is missed it can be difficult to fill the gap and the foundation can become shaky.

It is also, arguably, the subject that perplexes parents the most if it is sent home as a homework task because there is a perception that the way things are done now are not methods they are familiar with and the end result is frustration and a feeling of failure for both child and parent. The temptation to convince themselves they are no good at maths is so easy.

How much easier things would be if students had access to a maths dictionary in the same way they have access to a word dictionary; if they had access to a ready reference where they could look up a particular term and discover just what it is.  For example, what’s a scalene triangle and how is it different from an isosceles or equilateral one? If the problem tells the solver to ‘deduct’, what does that mean?  And what on earth is a “mixed number”?

This new publication from Dorling Kindersley is set out like a dictionary with clear definitions and diagrams and should be a must in every home and desk or tote tray.  While it doesn’t share particular processes, it does explain over 400 terms used in primary school mathematics and thus offers invaluable support to both children and parents in their quest to understand and master basic concepts, because not everything is possible on the calculator.  You need to have an idea of what you’re doing so you know the calculator is telling you the truth.  And it’s much quicker to access it than searching the Internet.

Definitely a publication to let teachers, parents and students know about.