No matter your choice of religion or lack of it, the story of the flood caused by rain for 40 days and 40 nights and how Noah, his family and a collection of animals survived it by living on the Ark transcends them all and has almost become part of the folklore children are expected to know.
This sturdy board book, the perfect size for little hands is a great introduction to this ageless story with its bright pictures and simple text. Religion and story aside, it is also a great story to start a myriad of investigations taking the learner on a journey of their fancy. They could investigate questions such as
Where did Noah live?
How big was the Ark?
How long is 40 days?
Why did he take two of each creature?
What makes rain?
What is a rainbow?
Geography, length, time, reproduction, family trees, weather, light and colour, history, can all be explored through this one story and each would lead to a better understanding of the world around them, something they strive to do. Such a rich story will be read over and over with something new to be discovered each time .Even if this board book version isn’t the one for your students seek out a version that is appropriate for your students, surround it with a myriad of questions and let them loose!
Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things
64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
It’s not often a book comes with a warning that it will self-destruct or a header about how to wreck it. But that is what will eventually happen to this one if the budding mini-Attenborough in your midst makes the most of it.
Full of fascinating facts about the natural world, it contains all sorts of make-and-do activities which require cutting, folding and pasting so that eventually while there might not be much of the book left, the reader will have their own jungle of plants and menagerie of bugs, fish, dinosaurs and a whole lot of other creatures. There is even a checklist to determine whether something is living or not (or ever has) to help the beginner start their exploration of the world around them…
Does it move?
Does it eat?
Does it respire?
Does it poop?
Is it sensitive?
Does it grow?
Does it reproduce?
With winter closing in and the outdoors not the most appealing place to be, this would be the perfect alternative to screen-watching as little minds and fingers are kept busy following instructions and learning to be more observant of and careful in their environment.
Jim is learning how to swim but when it is time to move up from the baby pool to the middle-sized pool, he is not so sure that he is ready. he’s concerned about its depth so his mother tells him that it would not even reach the knees of a stegosaurus. This sparks a chain reaction of how deep would a … be and each time mum is able to explain it in terms of how many dinosaurs it would take to reach the surface. And when she explains the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean would need 587 brachiosauruses standing on each other’s head, Jim finally feels he is ready to cope.
This is a unique story that combines the love of dinosaurs that so many little ones have with their natural apprehension of venturing into something they are unsure of. Clearly Ben Kitchen has done his homework on dinosaur dimensions and there are two pages explaining the key features of those that are mentioned, including some that young readers may not be familiar with. While more or less anatomically correct, the illustrations are still whimsical and fun and readers will gain courage from them rather than fear.
Something completely different for the younger reader. Perhaps even an opportunity to go outside and measure things to compare them with the dinosaurs to bring the imagination to reality.
Young children are always fascinated with their bodies and how they work and this new publication from DK is the perfect starting point for those who are ready to delve a little deeper. Divided into nine sections, each dealing with a different but related phenomenon of the body, with bite-sized chunks of information in accessible text interspersed with colourful informative diagrams and photos, this is would be an ideal addition to the family reference library ready to consult when questions are asked as well as the school library collection. Having it out on display so students can leaf through it as they wait will spark lots of curiosity and a desire to find out more. The perfect introduction to the role of the encyclopedia as a starting point to finding out a little and sparking the desire to go to a more specialised book to find out more.
DK have been at the forefront of introducing non fiction to young readers for decades and this is no exception.
Forty years ago when most of the world was dancing to Saturday Night Fever George Lucas created a collection of characters who lived “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. Star Wars was launched and Hans Solo, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2D2,, Eowks and Darth Vader became part of our vocabulary and light sabres and X-wings were in everyone’s home!
Fast forward to 2017 and Star Wars has more fans now than then and it holds the Guinness Book of records record for the most successful film merchandising franchise ever. So on this, the 40th Star Wars day, this visual encyclopedia will be greeted with enthusiasm from fans new and old.
The publisher describes it best…
“Covering more than 2500 characters, creatures, planets, vehicles, Droids, weapons, technology and more from the Star Wars universe, this visual tour is the ultimate compendium for the epic saga and beyond.
With a full history of the galactic politics, the Jedi Council, and the Empire, Star wars: The Visual Dictionary walks fans through the entire timeline of Star Wars. Galleries of images and information on every page, including lightsabers, languages, clothing and more are showcased with fascinating facts and trivia…Discover the food, architecture, transportation and more from this galaxy far, far away. Each section of the book focuses on different topics to dedicate special attention and detail to every part of the universe, no matter how small. From the planets in the outer rim to Padme’s bridal wear, nothing is missed.
A celebration of all things Star Wars, this visual museum is the perfect addition to any fan’s bookshelf.”
Given that I couldn’t keep the books on the shelves in my primary library two years ago, this would also be a great addition to a library’s shelves too.
Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere. It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world. Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!
But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter. He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly. When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.
Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…
This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do. As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue. But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage. From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.
Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration. Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.
I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story. A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.
Those of us of a certain vintage will remember a film from a few decades ago called Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines(or if not the film, at least the earworm of its title tune). The subtitle was How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and the film focused on a fictional 1910 competition, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offered £10,000 (about $A2 000 000 today) to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain was “number one in the air”. Set less than a decade after the Wright brothers made that famous first flight at Kittyhawk in 1903 it offered a look at those early days of aviation and the costs and risks involved for those who live in an era when air travel is taken for granted.
But while the focus of flight was centred overseas, Australia was producing its own heroes who were also thinking about how humans could fly – people like Dr William Bland whose drawings of an Atomic Ship were displayed in the Crystal Palace in London in 1854 and Lawrence Hargrave who experimented with box kites to investigate the concept of wings in 1894 and whose work led to that iconic flight of Orville and Wilbur.
When we think of Australian aviation heroes we tend to think of Charles Kingsford Smith, Bert Hinkler and perhaps Nancy Bird Walton but in this book the experiments and exploits of a number of other great aviators are brought to life adding to our incredible story of innovation and invention. Written by authors who bought their own vintage aeroplane in 2000 and wanted to know its history, it brings to life the lives of those pioneers through imagined diary entries, easily written facts and numerous archival photos and illustrations in a way that makes them accessible to young readers with a thirst to know more. Fascinating reads within themselves, each story makes the reader want to investigate further – why were the long-distance, record-breaking flights so important to Australia? Why were women not allowed to fly until 1927 and who broke the barriers? Who is Deborah Wardley and why do girls owe so much to her? There are so many more heroes than the ten covered in this collection – offering students the opportunity to add another chapter to the timeline, or to investigate flight itself, including how the technical difficulties were understood and overcome without the aid of computers.
The best non fiction doesn’t tell us all the answers – it poses questions that make us want to investigate further. Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines certainly does that. Could well be among those nominated for the CBCA awards next year.
The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements
208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00
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
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!
Just after midnight on November 14, 2016 the earth under the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island started to shudder and shake. Once again an earthquake was reshaping the landscape as immovable forces fought for supremacy 15 000 metres below the surface – not just a regular shake that Kiwis are used to, this one was 7.8 on the Richter scale meaning widespread movement and damage.
Fast asleep in their paddock in the Clarence Valley on this bright moonlit night were two cows and a calf, who soon found themselves the subject of news footage around the world as the shaking and quaking split their sleep and their surroundings asunder and left them stranded on an island two metres high and 80 metres from where they started.
Told in rhyme, Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too tells the story of the three animals and how they were rescued, a story that will fascinate young readers. Imagine if the chair or the carpet they are sitting on suddenly moved and fell away and they were left stranded so high they couldn’t get down!
While there were many stories of the quake and its impact on the landscape and the people, just as there are about recent devastating weather events in Australia, we sometimes forget about the impact on the wildlife that such phenomena have. The destruction of their habitat, their dislocation from familiar food sources, their deaths and injuries are often overlooked as the human drama plays out. There was concern that the seal colony at Ohau Point (where I had been with my grandchildren exactly a year earlier) had been destroyed and with the seabed being lifted 5.5metres in places, also concern for the marine life off the coast.
So bringing this true story to life in a picture book that will endure much longer than a short television news clip not only tells the story of the cows but also puts a focus on other creatures who endure the trauma as humans do. What happened to the sealife, the birds, the kangaroos and all the other creatures during Cyclone Debbie and the resulting floods? How do they survive during devastating bushfires? What can be done to save them, help them, and restore their habitats? What are their needs? Even Kindergarten students can start investigations along those lines, giving meaning and purpose to the ubiquitous studies of Australia’s wildlife so they go beyond mere recognition.
While Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too might appear to have a limited audience and timeframe, used as a springboard it could be the beginning of something much greater. And that’s without even going down the path of the cause of earthquakes and how such events give us the landscapes and landshapes we are familiar with, or considering what’s in that floodwater they want to play in!
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.