Archive | June 2021

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton's Endurance:  An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Joanna Grochowicz

Allen & Unwin, 2021 

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526092

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest and victory over Sir Robert Falcon Scott. the fascination with Antarctic exploration was not over. Irishman Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott’s original expedition in 1901-1904, turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. 

Thus, in August 1914, Shackleton and his men set sail for Antarctica, where they plan to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. But in January 1915, his ship, the Endurance, becomes locked in pack ice, slowly being crushed before the shore parties could be landed and, later, sinking without a trace. With no help available, to survive, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men must undertake a trial even more extreme than their planned crossing of the frozen continent. Their aim is to make it home against tremendous odds, with only lifeboats to cross the heavy seas of the South Atlantic. And so the crew camped on the sea ice until it disintegrated, and eventually launched the lifeboats aiming for South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles (1,330 km). As well as the ice and the ocean their constant companions were hunger, exhaustion, and uncertainty but  Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills drive them on.

This is an extraordinary tale of leadership, courage and teamwork made all the more remarkable because it is a true story, and while at the upper end of the readership for this blog, a story that will entice and engage those who crave these sorts of real-life adventures.  Told using narrative non-fiction the reader becomes one of the characters experiencing the events as the meticulously researched historical facts are woven into a compelling story.

A companion to Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey a journey which inspired my own mother throughout her life and led her to become the first female journalist to visit the ice , and Amundsen’s Way,  this is the third in this trilogy of tales from that Age of Antarctic Exploration that take the reader back into a world of curiosity and faith, courage, determination and resilience, well before technology made such exploits “safe”.  

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Diane Lucas & Ben Tyler

Emma Long

Allen & Unwin, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760525958

When a walk through the forest becomes an opportunity to learn about the secrets of what grows and lives there, and to tell and hear the stories of its past peoples, you never know how long you will be, what you will hear or what you will see.  For this forest in Kakadu in the Northern Territory contains more riches than a pirate’s treasure trove with its plant life, insects, birds and creatures, their inter-connections and the stories they bring with them. Old man Kapirigi says, “You gotta watch those birds”, (the djuwe or northern bower bird} “they’ll steal your bones out of the cave when you die.”

Combining their knowledge of and passion for the land and its stories, the authors have created a text that carries the reader along with its narrative while being laden with the most remarkable information, embedding the Kundjeyhml language in so naturally that the English equivalents seem so bland and boring in comparison. And Emma Long’s line and watercolour drawings that span full page spreads down to tiny vignettes are just sublime, highlighting just how busy even a tiny leaf can be if we take the time to look and listen. Rather than using conventional speech indicators, an avatar depicts the speaker as they point out something or tell a story and the whole just becomes an engaging read and learning experience that makes you want to go out to really embrace and inhale the nearest bit of garden you can find.  Just because we can’t get to Kakadu right now doesn’t mean we can’t learn the lessons of observation, appreciation and conservation that this book offers. There is so much more than we usually see to discover – a new world that fits in perfectly with this year’s CBCA Book Week theme. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lucas’s first book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, published over 15 years ago led the way to opening up this land to our young readers so they could begin to understand its ancient stories and those who shared them and this stunning book continues the tradition. Look for it in the CBCA 2022 Eve Pownall Notables because it certainly deserves a place there. 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Gina M. Newton

Rachel Tribout

CSIRO Publishing, 2020

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

 9781486311842

Where the Derwent River spreads out to meet the Tasman Sea on the southeastern coast of Tasmania lives Handstand,  a spotted handfish and one of just 1000 left of a species that the dinosaurs would have recognised.  A species of anglerfish, Handstand lures prey using a fleshy growth on her head, which acts like a fishing rod and lure, even including a “light” that attracts the worms and crustaceans on the deep sea floor. But even more amazing is that she has hands – pectoral fins that have adapted to allow her to walk along the seabed because without a swim bladder, she can’t swim. 

This is just some of the information contained in this remarkable book, told by Handstand herself, and introducing this highly endangered species to young readers.  Being one of the first marine fish species to be listed on the IUCN Red List , and one of just 14 species from the hundreds that used to be in the oceans (all of which are Australian). not only does Handstand raise awareness of her species for those looking to investigate a not-so-familiar endangered species, but she conveys a strong message of the need to protect and conserve both the marine environment and those that live within it. 

Presented in a way that engages the reader with Handstand’s story entwined and embedded with facts and accompanied by biologically-correct illustrations which have a childlike appeal, this book has been shortlisted for both the CBCA Even Pownall Award for Information Books for 2021 and the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature: Non fiction 2021, both accolades that are richly deserved because not only is the spotlight thrown on the future of the spotted handfish , but there is also a raised awareness of the needs of and threats to the ocean environment generally. If climate change, chemical pollution, rubbish, fishing nets and invaders like the Northern Pacific Seastar are threatening this tiny creature, then others must be at risk too. 

Extensive teachers’ notes are available and the book uses a variety of graphic techniques that students could adopt and adapt to bring their own reports to life, making it a book that as well as deserving its award nominations, definitely deserves a place in the library’s collection. 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

Gordon Winch

Stephen Pym

Catch A Star, 2021 

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9781922326232

Right from the get-go, our youngest littlies learn to recognise the iconic Australian wildlife – I’m currently making a library bag for Mr Almost-2 with an Aussie animal theme – and so this little board book from the creator of Can You Find Me? is perfect for not only consolidating their knowledge but also beginning their reading journey.  With its sturdy board book format,  lift-the-flap interactivity and repetitive, rhyming text they can discover the platypus, echidna, koala, kangaroo and possum in their familiar habitats while also being introduced to some less familiar creatures that share that same environment.

Not only does this approach start to develop those early reading behaviours that are the foundation of mastering print, but it also encourages them to look more closely at the trees and bushes around them and understand that even if they aren’t a home for something familiar, they are a home for something. And if they look carefully, they might just discover what that something is.  

There are indeed riches galore in this seemingly simple, beautifully illustrated book. 

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Anna Zobel

Puffin, 2021

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760896096

When her travelling spell at Witchcraft School went wrong, Gem landed in an unfamiliar, empty, seemingly derelict cottage, outside a strange, colourful town beside the sea, a long way from the school on top of snow-covered mountains where she had begun.  But not only was this somewhere she didn’t know, it was a century on from the time she had been in! Telling herself she is not frightened just confused, Gem stepped out to discover just what has happened.

Meanwhile, everyone in Ellsworth Pining thought  Gem was  their new village witch, even when Gem tried to correct them.  

Now in the second in this new series for young independent readers, Little Gem is settling into her life at Ellsworth Pining with the help of Ghost Henry and her other friends. Everyone is preparing for the Midsummer Festival and Little Gem is in charge of the special effects for the Midsummer Play. But when Little Gem’s magic starts to go wrong and she receives several mysterious letters, Gem is worried that the festival is going to be a disaster! Will Little Gem be able to work out who is sending the letters and regain her confidence before opening night?

For those who enjoy a bit of magic mixed in with reality, and who have enjoyed series like Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch.,  this has  all the scaffolding needed to support them including plenty of line illustrations.  The pace is just right with time for readers to engage with the characters such as Henry, the resident housekeeping ghost, Renzo, who helps his postman dad in the holidays, Amira, who now has a pet dragon, and Mrs Silva, who runs the local café, learn who they are but not get too bogged down in minute detail, a skill that those who write for children have to perfect to retain their audience’s attention.  By doing that well, the young reader can then absorb some of the messages from the situations and circumstances Gem find herself in such as  taking responsibility , and learning from your mistakes, even if that puts you in an awkward place, and understanding and reaching out to those  who feel different and find things difficult. 

Whether a read-aloud or a read-alone, this is a way to introduce young readers to mysteries and set them off on a new reading journey.

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326218

Mr Bat is largely content with his life, doing what he likes when he likes.  But one evening when flying above the local park, he discovers hats and decides that he needs one NOW!  His attempts to steal one from the adults is unsuccessful but a sleeping baby is a different story.  Yet, while he is proud of himself and thinks he is the grandest thing around, others are not so impressed…

This is a fun story for young readers about the impact their actions can have on others.  Even though taking the hat made Mr Bat feel good, how did the theft affect the baby? Starting these conversations starts the ripple-in-the-pond effect of our actions and helps develop the concepts of compassion and empathy, starting to move them away from their egocentric, self-centred world to understand and acknowledge the feelings of others.  

Even though this message is embedded in the story, on the surface it is bright and funny with a twist in the end that will offer lots of scope for predicting what might come next and what might happen when it does. 

Noa and the Little Elephant

Noa and the Little Elephant

Noa and the Little Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noa and the Little Elephant

Michael Foreman

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008413279

Noa loves to watch the elephants play in the water near his small village in East Africa. One day tragedy strikes and the baby is left all alone, his mother killed by poachers.  When Noa and his village adopt the lonely orphan, a beautiful friendship is born. Until one stormy night when Noa may need his friend to save him too…

Who doesn’t love a story about baby elephants?  In this one, in association with Tusk, the African wildlife conservation charity, the plight of elephants is highlighted as, despite the efforts of government rangers and the global ban on trading ivory, their tusks make them prized targets of poachers.  Foreman’s sensitive text and gentle illustrations make this a compelling story to read and share and give hope that there will still be elephants for our little ones to see in the future.

And just for your ooh-aah enjoyment…

 

Where the Heart Is

Where the Heart Is

Where the Heart Is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Heart Is

Irma Gold

Susannah Crispe

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820874

In 2011, a Magellanic penguin, washed up on an island village beach just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, near Joao’s home.  Joao rescued him, cleaned him up and cared for him for months knowing that he would have to set him free eventually.  But for that first year they did almost everything together, until there came a time when even Dindim felt the call of the wild and knew he had to leave…

This is the beautiful story of that rescue, the friendship  and the remarkable events that followed, even after Dindim left for the cold waters of his native Patagonia. With its gentle text and pictures, it celebrates friendship and the power of the words, “If you love something, set it free.”

Teachers’ notes for K-2 are available to help young readers understand the broader aspects of Dindim’s plight.

 

 

 

 

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Barrier Reef

Helen Scales

Lisk Feng

Flying Eye Books, 2021

88pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781912497812

Covering nearly 400,000 square kilometres, the incredible ecosystem that is the Great Barrier Reef is not only one of the natural wonders of the world, but is the only one large enough to be distinguishable from outer space. And given its location in the Coral Sea just off the coast of Queensland, it is one that every Australian child knows about from a young age.

Thus this new release from Flying Eye Books, a publisher which specialises in non fiction for younger, independent readers will be a great addition to the collection as it explores this enchanting place, its animal inhabitants, and the peoples who have embraced it as a centerpiece of their cultures. Readers learn about how the reef came to be, its place in the world, and  most importantly, what we can all do to help ensure that the Great Barrier Reef will be around for future generations to discover!  Dramatic, biologically correct illustrations accompany easily accessible text making it the perfect companion for Everest, the other in this series about the world’s natural phenomena.  

 

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO's A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Andrea Wild

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

112pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486313976

Australia is a most diverse continent with a huge variety of natural wonders from its regular bushfires to jumping spiders to zombie worms and in this fascinating book designed for curious young independent readers over 100 are examined and explored. Inspired by the specimens and stories from the CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia (which is home to more than 15 000 000 natural history specimens), photographs, diagrams and easily accessible text offer the budding young scientist an introduction to the tiniest microscopic organisms to those much larger, from the familiar like joeys to the one-off magpie nest made of coathangers.  

With its alphabetical layout, contents page, and glossary it is easy to navigate and there are comprehensive teachers’ notes which guide the reader to discover how and why species get their scientific names to pressing and preserving their own plant specimens.

This is a marvellous dip-and-delve book that both teacher and student will find fascinating as they find something to accompany or satisfy their curiosity. A whole new world of discovery awaits.