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Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

British Library

Pavilion. 2016

56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781911216001

Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community.  Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light.  Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.

From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old,  the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in.  There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.

While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.  

Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today.  The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!

It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section.  Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!

This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.

Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Star Wars Galactic Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Tim McDonagh

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

80pp., hbk.,  RRP $A39.99

9781405279987

While Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel told the story of the original three Star Wars movie, this magnificent tome is for the aficionado who want to know more and understand more.  In full colour and measuring 37cm x 27cm, huge double-page spreads cover everything from Endor and Naboo to Tatooine and Yavin 4, at the same time spanning the epic stories, the strange creatures and the glorious vistas of the galaxy of long ago and far, far away.

It contains everything a fan wants to know about the worlds and creatures of the Star Wars universe. Facts about planets and characters are woven into complex, brand-new illustrations that will keep them  busy for hours.

Your Star Wars fans will love this.

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Rhonda Gowler Greene

Daniel Kirk

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781408881668

Over by the dirt pile all the heavy machinery is lined up ready for another hard days’ work on the construction site.   Bulldozers, diggers, loaders, graders – they are all there in this charming counting rhyme that will hold appeal for preschoolers.  Using onomatopoeia and lots of movement, little ones will be encouraged to join in as the machines work and don’t stop till night falls and it is time to rest.  They will love counting each of the baby machines and anticipating how many there will be next.

Each machine has a mama or papa surrounded by all the little ones learning what to do, a pictorial metaphor for our own little ones as they, too, are dependent on their parents as role models.  “Children learn what they live” is so well demonstrated! Readers will enjoy thinking about the job each machine does and how they all have a special task to do while they work together to get the job done. They can examine the specialist role of each machine and how it is specially designed for its role and perhaps start laying the foundations of an engineering interest.

Bright, colourful and charming, this will fit very well in the Santa sack!

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Dinosaurs

Simon Chapman

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408194614

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!

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.

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Ben Faulks

Ben Cort

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408867204

 

Watch out for muddy puddles!

Because you never really know…

What there might be lurking

down in the depths below.

As south-eastern Australia picks itself up from another weather event and hopefully heeds the message about the dangers of floodwaters, do we ever stop to warn our children about what might lie in the depths of muddy puddles? Because underneath that calm surface that just asks to be splashed all over from a massive jump in your best boots there could be all sorts of strange things – long-lost footballs, lonely socks and underwater kings or maybe hungry crocodiles, angry pirates or kissing frogs!  Frozen ones can be treacherous too and there are some that will spin you round and round like a washing machine or plunge you deep down through the planet, tumbling past the sandstone, the fossils and the granite. But the worst one of all is the one that is home to the BIG BAD rubber ducky.

A funny and fantastic romp in rhyme through puddles and the imagination from Mr Bloom from CBeebies that will charm the boots of our youngest readers who will be itching to tell you what they think might be at the bottom of a muddy puddle!  Great inspiration for a class mural!!

Watch the trailer, have fun with the activities and investigate where the puddles go when the sun shines.  A perfect introduction to some basic science.

 

The Arty Book

The Arty Book

The Arty Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arty Book

Nikalas Catlow & David Sinden

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781408870662

 

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia. The study commenced in 2004 with two cohorts – families with 4-5 year old children and families with 0-1 year old infants. Among its findings is that many children under 12 are spending a third of their waking hours in front of a screen of some sort and this is having, and will continue to have, ramifications on their physical, social and emotional well-being.  Experts say that there are two keys ways of reducing this amount – being a role model so not being on a screen all the time ourselves, and making sure that other activities have priority so that screen time is restricted to what little time might be left over in the day.

With the school holidays happening or fast approaching in Australia, The Arty Book could be part of the solution to providing alternatives to endless television or computer gaming. 

While it is somewhat similar to the activity books of old that we remember, this one is much more upmarket, interactive and appealing to an older audience.  It’s key character is a cartoon-like character called Arty with quirky curly hair and distinctive red glasses and users are invited to participate in all sorts of activities to make Arty unique so their own creativity is to the fore.  This is not a colour-in-the-lines or connect-the-dots book.  They can change Arty to what they want him to look like as they are presented with just his trademark glasses; make Arty badges; even use their feet to make  Footprint Arty.  Each page has a new suggestion that encourages them to customise the Arty artworks so they are imaginative and personal . They also take the child into new areas of art they might not have explored before so there is scope for new explorations like collage and spatter painting, 

Parents and grandparents who are looking for something engaging that will be more appealing than a screen would love to know about this book – especially if the school library were to host an after-holidays display of Arty drawings seeking the most imaginative, original and unique as the centrepiece of a collection of art-technique books and a Makerspace challenge to create a 3D Arty. There might even be a storyfest with Arty, based on one of the drawings, as the central character!  A great opportunity to embrace so many areas of the curriculum.  

From little things…

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.

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Jon Woodcock

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00

9781740333405

Way back when, in the dawning of the age of home computers which were huge and clumsy in comparison to today’s mini-marvels; which ran on cassette tapes; had green or amber font on a black screen and had no facility to display graphics, if you wanted to play a game you bought a book of instructions and carefully tapped the commands in, one keystroke at a time. It was the realm of the real computer nerd and if you were patient and precise, eventually you got to play the most basic of games.

Fast forward 30+ years and now our kids have computers in their pockets, on their wrists and even in their clothes.  And with the increased focus on science, technology, engineering and maths once again the red-hot buzzword in schools is ‘coding’ as students learn not to program a clumsy turtle that only went backwards, forwards and sideways, but to create and develop their own games to play, some in the hope that theirs will be even bigger than Pokémon Go!  

But no longer do they have to sit in solitary confinement painstakingly tap, tap, tapping. These days, the most commonly used development tool is Scratch™ https://scratch.mit.edu/, a free program which “helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century”, and Dorling Kindersley have produced what might be the beginners’ bible in learning how to create a computer game.  Not for them the single volume, monochrome “pamphlet” that crossed your eyes just looking at it – this is a beautifully presented, full colour, step-by-step guide presented in the typical DK layout that is so user-friendly.  Beginning with an introduction that describes what makes a good game, the types of games and how coding works, it moves on to introducing Scratch, accessing it and then straight into making a basic game, eventually moving on to more and more complex tasks and challenges.    

Fifteen years ago I went to computer classes and tried very hard to make a cow jump over the moon using a program Macromedia Flash™.  Night after night it absorbed me until I gave up in defeat and despair – clearly I just didn’t have the brain for it.  So to test out Computer Coding Games for Kids I read through the introductory chapters, accessed Scratch™ and had a go at the first project – Star Hunter, “a fast-paced underwater treasure hunt.”  In just seven quick steps I had a cat that followed my mouse all around the screen and was ready to build the next part of the game. WINNER!  If I can do it, anyone can! So when the curriculum requires students to have a basic knowledge of coding, this has to be the go-to book for teachers and students.  Even the most confirmed luddite will succeed and the students will be having such fun as they read and follow instructions and learn without realising it that ‘coding’ will become a key part of the school day!   

In fact this book was going to be a donation to a school library I know but I think I will keep it because I can see hours of fun ahead for Miss 10 and Miss 5 and me on the wintery days yet to come for us and even those when it’s too hot to go outside.  Who knows, we may be the creators of the next Pokémon Go!

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – City

9780241237052

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – Star Wars

9780241232578

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

Kit including hbk book and LEGO pieces, RRP $A39.99

An unusual review today but one deliberately chosen to alert you to a new series of books published by Dorling Kindersley and released here through Penguin.  Given the buzzword of the moment in school libraries is ‘makerspaces’ and there are constant requests to the forums I belong to for ideas about activities that can be offered, especially those which enhance the library experience as well as the design, make, appraise process, this series offers a wide-ranging solution.

While we are all familiar with the regular box of Lego bricks and paper instructions for making what’s inside (instructions which always get damaged or lost), the instructions for these creations come in a hardcover book with the LEGO pieces in a separate container which can be opened out to form the foundation of the adventures. They are enclosed in a sturdy slipcase which makes for easy storage. The box also has a pictorial list of its contents so putting them back should be easy. 

Each comes with a mini-figure and a vehicle related to the theme – City has a fireman and a firetruck while Star Wars has a rebel pilot and Y-Wing Starfighter – and the makers are encouraged to build them from the supplied bricks following the very clear, full-colour numbered instructions.  Then, within the book there are suggestions for building further adventures using their own bricks to create their own story.  Each is divided into chapters with clear pictures of the models that could be built to enhance the telling although instructions are not given because builders might not have the precise bricks used.  For example, in City which features Ed the firefighter there are clear pictures to build the fire station environment as well as suggestions for uniform lockers, a town map and a tool bench.  Each chapter then features a cityscape with a range of related suggestions for getting the imagination and creativity into top gear.

For those new to LEGO there is a pictorial ‘glossary’ identifying terminology with examples so budding builders can hunt through their existing LEGO collection to find the sorts of pieces they will need, as well as five pre-build checks which would make a handy poster to display in the makerspace.

  1. Organise your bricks into colours and types
  2. Be creative and substitute other bricks if you don’t have the exact one in the plan
  3. Research what you want to build by finding pictures on it in books or online
  4. Have fun and if something isn’t what you thought it would be, change it to something else
  5. Make a model stable to house the creations

While each of the books in the series would be perfect for an individual LEGO fan, their appeal for the library collection is that there are plenty of ideas and opportunities for groups of builders to collaborate and negotiate to build an entire scene that could then be photographed and used as an individual story stimulus, allowing each to create and achieve at their own level.

Whether your library or school has an existing LEGO collection or is just starting to acquire one, this series is an excellent starting point to giving its place in the makerspace and the curriculum focus and purpose, not just for the thinking and building processes involved but also those essential people skills of collaborating, negotiating, making suggestions tactfully, offering feedback and being a team member.   

A peek inside...

A peek inside…