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Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Ocean

Lian Tanner

Jonathan Bentley

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760633691

Ella lived in the red-dirt country
where the earth was as dry as old bones
and it hadn’t rained 
for years
and years
and years.

One night, Ella dreamt of the ocean… and the image mesmerises her and she wants to know more. So she asks her dad,  her mum and Ben the farmhand, and while each has a distant memory to share it is viewed through the lens of the cracked red earth, the dust of the dry, dry, plains and the hungry hungry cows.  Her Gran hasn’t seen the ocean but dreamt about it once – ‘it picked me up and carried me from one side of sleep to the other and I have never forgotten it’- and so she sets about making Ella’s dream come true.

This is an uplifting story that will resonate with so many children from the front cover of the red-roofed house surrounded by vast dry, red, rain-starved land and gaunt gum trees to the family melancholy of hard work and no relief to the power of just a small break in routine to restore faith and hope.  You do not have to venture too far from the city to see the impact that this interminable drought is having on the land, and just as it sucks the life out of the land, so it has the people. Like Ella’s family, that impact is not as visible but is in their body language, their words and their perspective and while we city folk might pay some attention to their plight it is not long before we go back to our own lives, having put a few dollars in a tin or bought a more expensive bottle of milk.  Stories like Ella’s  and images like Bentley’s bring the reality home and depending where you live, will either help the children understand that they are not alone in this plight or perhaps inspire them to do something that might be ‘the trip to the ocean’ that turns a family around for a little while longer.  Or perhaps look a little closer to home. maybe the local nursing home, and think about what they can do to disrupt the routine of same-same boredom to put a light into someone’s life.

So often any unit of work about weather and its causes focuses on the scientific rather than the human, and Ella’s Ocean works to redress this, as readers are almost compelled to think about the what-if. and the what-can-I-do.  Another one of those great picture books that can work across all age groups.

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall

Orchard Books, 2019

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

9780316362382

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. As the seasons pass and the waves rise and fall, outside, the wind blows; inside, the lighthouse keeper writes, and the rhythms of his life unfold. But change is on the horizon…

Whatever the season, whatever the weather, the lighthouse keeper must keep the light going to warn ships of the dangers nearby. and this stunning book by Australian illustrator Sophie Blackall takes the reader back to a time in history when men lived on these far-flung beacons, isolated from civilisation and charged with keeping the ships and their sailors safe, regardless of whatever might befall them.  Set on a lighthouse on the tip of Newfoundland, the story unfolds of the loneliness and the joy of a typical lighthouse keeper who has a duty above all else. 

In 2016, Blackall was  awarded the Caldecott  Medal, the first Australian to receive if for her work on Finding Winnie  and now, in 2019, she has won it again for Hello Lighthouse. “Masterful ink and watercolor illustrations illuminate the story of a lighthouse and the family inside. Stunning images of the lighthouse in all kinds of weather alternate with views of intimate interior detail and circular motifs. Blackall’s skill with composition, line and close attention to detail have created an exquisite book. “

But apart from the quality of the illustrations, this is a book that will resonate with so many who are familiar with lighthouses as there are over 350 of them dotted around our coastline. While there are no longer any manned, nevertheless they still hold an appeal and this journey back into another time because regardless of its position, life was pretty much the same for all those who tended the beacons.  

Something very different that deserves a place in any collection. 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Katie Daynes

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2019

14pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474953030

As the days go by and the calendar inexorably creeps towards the cooler months of the year, young students will start to notice that there is a change in the weather, the clothes they wear and the things they do.  Now there is football on television rather than cricket; they’re looking for a beanie rather than a sunhat and scruffling through the leaves is much more fun than crunching over dry, prickly grass.

So what causes these changes? This new lift-the-flap book from Usborne is another one in their excellent series that helps little ones understand the world around them using the interactivity of lifting the flap to find answers. Each question uses the simple language that children do – What are rainbows made of? How hot is the sun? – and the answers are just as direct, satisfying their immediate need. Grouped together under the headings Where, What, When, Why, How, Which, and Yes or No. finding the particular question is easy and the pictorial flaps make searching for the answer fun.  At the end, readers are challenged to offer explanations for some simple questions using what they have learned and there are even instructions for making their own water cycle using a ziplock bag! And, as is usual with these sorts of Usborne titles, there are Quicklinks to resources that provide more information for those who want to know more.

 As well as being ideal for early childhood, this is also a role model for older students as a presentation tool. Whatever the overall topic, each can pose a question that intrigues them (perfect for helping them develop the skill of asking questions rather than just answering them), find the answer and then collaborate to produce a text that covers a gamut of sub-topics so that the task is manageable, is engaging and is owned by them.

 

All Right Already!

All Right Already!

All Right Already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Right Already!

Jory John

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9780008330033

Bear and Duck are neighbours – but two more different would be hard to find.  Bear is huge, slow and somewhat grouchy; Duck small, energetic and always looking for fun. Told in dialogue with each character having their own font that cleverly echoes their nature, each story focuses on a conflict between the two as Bear wants one thing – usually a quiet life – while Duck wants the opposite. And it is the same in this latest addition to this series for very young readers…

It has snowed overnight and Duck wants to make the most of the fun it offers while Bear wants to stay in his cosy warm house. Even after Duck coaxes him out he is a reluctant participant in the games and when he starts to sneeze, Duck bundles him back inside (where he wanted to be all the time) and assumes the role of nurse.  But Bear is not particularly grateful and when Duck begins to sneeze too and heads for her home, it remains to be seen whether Bear will step up and nurse her.

Apart from being a charming story that young readers will enjoy, there is much it offers for the development of early reading behaviours for them as well.  Firstly, being a series, it is an opportunity for the adult to ask the child what they remember and know about the characters already so their thoughts are already set to the contrasting characteristics of each.  When Duck goes to Bear’s house, full of excitement and anticipation, what sort of reception is she likely to get?  There is also the opportunity to explore the concept of dialogue as the whole story is told in conversation with Duck’s voice in a different, lighter font to that of Bear’s. It offers lots of things to chat about such as why it snows and why most Australian children won’t wake to a snowy morning; how we need to protect ourselves from catching a cold and how we can keep from spreading the one we have, and also the things we can do to make a friendship solid and sustainable.  While bedtime stories should always be about the bond and the connections between reader and listener, there are subtle ways that these concepts about print can be shared so that the young one engages even further with the story and becomes even more determined to become an independent reader.

 

 

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Peter Macinnis

NLA Publishing, 2019

248pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642279347

Anyone who knows Peter Macinnis, either personally or through his writing, knows that he is passionate about connecting young children with science and this latest contribution to the education of our students sits perfectly alongside his Australian Backyard Explorer and Australian Backyard Naturalist

In it, Macinnis takes the reader on a journey from explaining what earth science is and the earliest beginnings of the planet to the current debate about climate change, stopping along the way to investigate and explain all sorts of things which affect the development, health and performance of the planet like how rain is formed, the various types of rocks that lie beneath our feet, the impact of the currents on life and a zillion other things like why humidity is a critical factor in bushfire season, all tailored to helping young scientists understand what is happening in their own backyard.  It’s not “out there”, it’s right in front of them.  

Using his incessantly curious mind, he ferrets out all sorts of unknown facts and curiosities and then writes about them in a way that makes them so easily readable by his young target audience while giving them all the information they need yet not overloading them with too much detail. He leaves the door open for further investigation from more specialised sources.  The book is richly illustrated with photos, many of his own, diagrams and charts and there are projects to undertake, sections that delve more deeply into a topic, and ‘ologists’ to investigate and inspire.  

But for all the facts and figures and photos, there shines through a deep and abiding respect for this planet and an acute awareness that we must do more to protect it, and it is through young people having the knowledge and understanding about how it works that is likely to make the most difference.  Even though it has a global perspective, readers are inspired to “think global, act local” and examine what it is they can do to make their part of the world a better place for all, such as making a frog pond and keeping a seasonal diary.

If you add one non fiction book to your collection  this year, then this should be it – and if you don’t have the previous two then track them down through the NLA Bookshop.

Teachers’ notes are now available.

Nominated for the 2019 Educational Publishing Awards from the Australian Publishers Association.

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Mark Carthew

Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594225

With the wind howling, branches swishing and all sorts of scary noises, Marigold Mouse is terrified and decides the safest place for her on this wild, stormy night is under her bed.  But she puts her brave on to let her neighbour Marvin in because he is just as frightened as she is and sometimes it’s better to be scared together. But when there is a bump, thump, boom at the door, will they be brave enough to answer it?

Stormy nights can be very frightening for little ones, so  this story that acknowledges their fears but also shows them how to be brave is perfect for sharing and reassuring them, particularly at this time when storms are common.  The third in this series about the mouse friends, the rhyme and rhythm carry the story along at the pace of the storm while the illustrations capture all the emotions of two fearful little creatures.

A great kickstarter for investigating storms, their noises and the things that frighten us.

 

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Summer

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2018

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

9780143783749

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!

Summer in Australia is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that is very much a family time and this story, as bright as the season it’s about, celebrates this.  With his family involved in all sorts of activities – so many of them familiar to the young readers who will enjoy this – it’s an opportunity to not only get excited about all the outdoor free fun that summer offers, but also for the adult reader to reminisce about happy childhood memories from their own summers. Perhaps even recreate them. 

Backyard cricket, wheelbarrow races, cooling off under the sprinkler, sharing fun with friends at the local swimming pool, ice-cream o’clock. extended bedtimes as the long summer nights laze on as the barbecue smokes in the background, holidays at the beach amidst crowds of people with the same idea  – what could be more iconic than that?

Use it to kickstart an investigation into the seasons, or spend the last week of the year creating a mural of all the activities students are planning to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

At a time when money is often tight because of the Christmas splurge and screens seem to soak up so much time, this is the perfect book to celebrate the season and make memories to last through both winter and adulthood!

 

 

 

Puddle Hunters

Puddle Hunters

Puddle Hunters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puddle Hunters

Kirsty Murray

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760296742

Who doesn’t love splashing and sploshing in puddles after rain.  Even grown men do! 

So after the rain stops, Ruby and Banjo and Mum go up the street, and into the park, over the bridge and down to the riverflats where the puddles lie waiting… So much fun for free and nothing a hot bath won’t fix when the fun is finished.

This is a lovely story about puddle-sploshing for young readers that will have them watching the sky for big, fat, grey rain clouds and reaching for their gumboots. Perhaps those who do get to enjoy the puddles can do a special rain dance for those who haven’t seen rain for so long, maybe never, as this drought continues.

A good way to start a conversation about where the rain comes from and why we need it.