Archives

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

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.

 

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Sally Fawcett

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335415

As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new.  All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps.  As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future.  But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.

This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.

Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment.  This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.

This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”;  “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional.  Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.

Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.

Extensive teaching notes are available.

History Mysteries: Lasseter’s Gold

Lasseter's Gold

Lasseter’s Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lasseter’s Gold

Mark Greenwood

Puffin, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309321

In the 1930s as the Great Depression held Australia in its grip and people desperately wanted something to hope for, Harold Lasseter walked into the office of the president of the Australian Workers’ Union with a tale to tell that remains one of Australia’s greatest mysteries to this day.

He told Mr Bailey of a magnificent gold reef  that in 1897 he had discovered in the harsh, inhospitable and inaccessible country that is the desert lands where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet.  But he lacked the money, manpower and equipment to return to it to exploit it although if the AWU were to back him…

Historian and author Mark Greenwood has taken his fascination with this subject that he first wrote about in The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef and turned it into another episode in this wonderful History Mysteries series, bringing the story of Harold Lasseter and his legendary reef to yet another generation of readers.  Was Lasseter genuine – or a conman? Where are the three hills that look like “ladies wearing sunbonnets”, “a group of Dickens women in Dombey and Sons”?,  Is there still a rich reef of gold waiting to be discovered – even explorer Dick Smith won’t divulge what he discovered!  If it is there, should it be explored and exploited or should the mystery be forever consigned to Australian folklore?

Accompanied by archival photos, a timeline, links to further information and references to his friendship with Lasseter’s son Bob who believes his father’s story and has made several expeditions to reveal the truth, this is just the sort of tale that will grip young readers encouraging them to look backwards as well as forwards and discover the stories of this country.

 

The Red Book

The Red Book

The Red Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Red Book

Beck & Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733334856

How can a book with a purple cover and yellow binding be called The Red Book?  Easy, when it comes from the talented duo of Beck and Matt Stanton who have already played with our children’s minds in Did You Take the B from My _ook? and This is a Ball.

Using their characteristic statement/comment format and working on the premise that Barney the lobster is red and that he only ever wears red clothes, we are persuaded to believe that Fergus the Frog is red too.  And because roses are red then Rose the penguin must also be red. Even with the usual straight line of childhood logic, this is going to provoke argument and laughter from little ones who judge with their eyes rather than thought processes and who will be wanting to prove they know their colours no matter what the adult says.

But as with the other two, even though this is written to be shared with the very young reader, it has a wider perspective.  While there is a comprehensive teaching guide available, it would be a perfect introduction to syllogism which are conclusions based on a major premise such as the familiar “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Therefore Socrates is mortal.” However sometimes these become fallacies such as “All roses are red; the penguin is called Rose; therefore Rose the penguin is red” and teasing out the truth can be challenging!

Whether you use this book to entertain your little one at bedtime or as a teaching text for something grander, nevertheless the listeners will have great fun with it – and that’s what reading is all about.

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Prue & Kerry Mason

Tom Jellett

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922244635

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.

 

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFL Factivity

Michael Panckridge

Puffin, 2017

48pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143785330

ANZAC Day has come and gone and so that means it’s officially time to be indoors more often than not and watching footy on telly is a sanctioned activity.  

For those who follow AFL this bright colourful, carefully constructed factivity book is the ideal accompaniment as fans of all ages can test their knowledge, learn new things and participate in some brain-tingling activities that focus on their favourite sport.  Some of the activities are challenging, such as writing a player profile for the back of the Crunchy Crispies cereal pack; others will require some research while there are also the usual word searches and the like.  However, it can also be used as a teaching resource as many of the activities can be made open-ended, having students apply the challenges to a sport of their choosing or to have them create a similar challenge for their chosen sport.Developing your own crossword involves a lot more than just completing one.

Hooking kids into learning by engaging them with their passion is a surefire way of getting them to learn-by-stealth so even the most reluctant readers can find something that will help them understand reading does have a purpose, it can be fun and it IS for them.  A double sheet of stickers at the end could add to the motivation!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781877505928

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!

 

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.

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee...Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Renee Price

Anil Tortop

Create It Kids, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780992345754

High in a very tall tree Digby Fixit hears an unusual and very noisy noise.  Being a lover of music he scrambles down the tree to discover who is making it. Perhaps it is one of his very-bestest friends.  Is it Stanley strumming his guitar? Or Sophie tooting her kazoo? Perhaps it is Freda on the piano or Theo thumping his drum.  Maybe it is Wilfred on his double bass or Tarquin tapping the sticks.  No.  None of these and the noise was still noisy.  So using his trust noise-o-meter he followed its lead and found…

Written in rhyming verse to echo the passing of time and the rhythm of the music, author Renee Price has used her early childhood teaching and music educator experience to bring an engaging tale to young readers, introducing them to a variety of common instruments and their sounds along the way. Full of energy, fun and colour, readers are taken on a journey that will have them showing you their knowledge of the movements and sounds associated with the various instruments and then wanting to join in the jam session at the end- which they can do because there is a recording of the song that can be downloaded via the QR code provided.  They will also recognise that final sound that brings the music to an end – but not the fun.

Illustrator Anil Tortop has also hit the mark with her illustrations – each set on a background of a bold, solid colour and capturing such a wide range of action and emotion in clever, unfussy strokes that even include an intrigued cat. And, as with many characters, Digby now has his own website so the fun can continue.

An original storyline that teaches children a little about musical instruments (a change from Peter and the Wolf),  a little about the passage of time and a lot about curiosity, friendship and fun will be a welcome addition to home and library collections.