Archive | June 2022

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent












Antarctica The Melting Continent

Karen Romano Young

Angela Hsieh

What On Earth Books, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Antarctica is one of the most isolated and harshest environments on the planet, often referred to as “the final frontier”. 

From her harbourside home in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, as a young girl in the 1930s my mum would watch the ships head southwards to the ice, literally the next stop after they left the safety of the port of Bluff.  And she began to dream. In 1968, after years of dedication and hard work, she broke the “petticoat ban” and she too, joined those sailing south from Bluff – on a converted fishing trawler that was the precursor to the luxury liners of today, as Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered Antarctic tourism and she became the first female journalist to go south.

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

Fifty+ years on and it is so different – or at least the getting there is, and the presence of women is no longer a novelty and the issue of where they might go to the toilet no longer a primary barrier!

Today, in the southern summer, tourist trips leave regularly for the ice, although most often it is via South America to the Antarctic Peninsula as the crossing of the Drake Passage is usually only about two days while scientists are there all year round and women work alongside the men.  So, this new book provides an up-to-date view of this isolated continent in a narrative that draws on the author’s own experiences as well as extensive research and interviews with scientists, combining a unique personal perspective with up-to-date information about the land and its inhabitants, the investigations being undertaken and the discoveries being made such as studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet. There is still so much to learn and do and the book’s scope offers many opportunities for students’ interest-driven investigations.

While most of its readers probably won’t have the wherewithal to afford a trip on one of the many ships that have made it a bucket-list destination, perhaps this book will inspire them to take another route under the Australian Antarctic program and dare to dream – just as my mum did all those years ago! For that truly was “Dreaming with eyes open…” 



I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I'm a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe











I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

Dr Eve M. Vavagiakis

Ilze Lemesis

MIT Kids Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Somewhere, back in the hazy days of high school in the 60s, I learned about protons, electrons and neutrons but, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in science and physics was an absolute mystery.  Now, even having read this book it still is, but there is bound to be a budding young physicist who can get their head round the existence and purpose of these mysterious particles of matter that are the smallest known.

According to the publisher’s blurb, “Before you finish reading this sentence, trillions upon trillions of neutrinos will have passed through your body” and according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a neutrino is  an “elementary subatomic particle with no electric charge, very little mass, and 1/2 unit of spin. Neutrinos belong to the family of particles called leptons, which are not subject to the strong force. Rather, neutrinos are subject to the weak force that underlies certain processes of radioactive decay.”

So to have someone who is not only smart enough to understand the scientific definition but then distil that into an accessible poem the explains the phenomenon (and further explain it in prose as well), and another person to also understand it and be able to interpret it in illustrations is a phenomenon in itself.  Nevertheless, that’s what has been done in this book and there will be budding young cosmologists whose brains can travel to places that are a mystery to me. And if they want to know more, then have them listen to this conversation with the author. 


Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin


Cara and Silverthief


Ellis and Pathseeker


Mira and Flameteller


Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken











Cranky Chicken


Cranky Chicken Party Animals


Katherine Battersby

Lothian, 2021-2022

104pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99


In the first book, the reader is introduced to Cranky Chicken. Everything about Chicken is cranky. Cranky eyes, cranky eyebrows, super-sharp cranky beak, even cranky scratchy feet. And everything makes Chicken cranky. The sun is too bright, the dirt is too dirty…

By why is Cranky Chicken so angry? Could she be lonely? So what happens when a very cheerful worm named Speedy, who just wants to be friends, comes along? Could it be the end of the worm or a new start for Cranky Chicken?

In the second episode , Cranky Chicken is super hungry and the crank-O-meter is on high. What can Speedy the worm do to help? How about … a yummy snack? A day at the beach? An unsurprising party? It’s party time for Cranky and Speedy, two Best Feathered Friends!

This is a new series about mismatched friends who bring joy, companionship and a new perspective to each other’s lives for newly independent readers who are dipping their toes into the graphic novel format and are able to follow a story that is based on speech between the characters rather than having lots of extra descriptive test or illustration.  The action is carried in the conversation and captions in separate but connected stories that demonstrate that there are many ways to be a friend, particularly accepting each other for who they are as they are what is offered as friendship for all that it is. 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth










Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Miimi Marraal, she created us,
you and me …

Using a palette as soft and gentle as the accompanying text,  Gumbaynggir storyteller, artist and designer Melissa Greenwood, has created an ode between mother and newborn that tells the baby of the deep connections of First Nations Peoples have to Miimi Marraal (Mother Earth) from the moment of conception. While it is a story that echoes the feeling between any mother and newborn. it is expressed in a way that shows the long, strong threads of family that reach far into the past of First Nations families and, indeed, Greenwood says it was “channelled through my beautiful Nanny” and “inspired by my late great grandmother… and my own beautiful mother”, thus spanning five generations into “this life we will weave”. And, as well as that strong female thread, there is another equally strong one that ties them to the land on which they live and the need for its protection, thus from birth the baby is learning about their cultural heritage and tradition that is so important to our First Nations peoples..

Children learn their mother language, whatever it is, through listening to it.  They learn its meaning, its rhythm, its expression, its nuances from the first words that they hear. So while the baby may not yet understand the words that its mother is sharing, there is much that they are absorbing during these personal, precious moments. Therefore, these sort of lullabies have a unique place in language learning and should not only be among the gifts given to any new mother but also be the first in the baby’s library. 


At the Pond

At the Pond

At the Pond











At the Pond

David Elliot

Amy Schimler-Safford

Candlewick Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


The red-winged blackbird spreads his tail
and sings his hello morning song;
he has sung it since the bright
and misty world began.

When the soft pink of the dawn sun starts peeking over the pond, a new day has begun for all the animals who live in it and around its watery edges. The friendly duck family, the mysterious water striders, and the busy beaver are a few of the many fascinating and familiar animals included in this glowing poetic tribute to the lively ecosystem of the pond.

Pairing poems with pictures, this is an introduction to the animals and plants that call the pond home, and while they may not all be those that young Australian readers are familiar with, it sets up the opportunity to investigate what a local pond might have and would look like. Do we even call them ponds?  Or are they dams and billabongs? 

This is another invitation to look more closely at the world around us, especially those parts we tend to take for granted, to extend vocabulary and writing skills to describe it in poetry or depict it in artworks, or if that isn’t a strength, create a brief factual description using those included as a model.   

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World











Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Rebecca Schiller

Sophie Beer

Walker Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


In the USA school students are walking out of school to protest the lack of gun control laws; in Australia, they walked out of school in 2021 to protest the lack of action on climate change… The names of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists are as well-known to them as those of their favourite singers and movie stars as the mantle of protest moves from its traditional university setting to the classroom.  

But who are they inspired by? On whose shoulders do they stand? 

Defining an activist as one who uses their knowledge, skills and energy to make the world a better place by protecting human rights, ending prejudice and inequality and protecting the planet from harmful human activities so all its creatures are safe, this book introduces young readers to 20 people who have made a significant contribution to changing the world – some names familiar, others not-so – including Sonita Alizdeh; Rachel Carson; Favio Chavez; Mahatma Gandhi; Jane Goodall; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr; Nelson Mandela; Wangari Maathai; Aditya Mukarji; Emmeline Pankhurst; Autumn Peltier; Boyan Slat; Gareth Thomas; Harriet Tubman; William Wilberforce; Ai Weiwei Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as well as both Yousafzai and Thunberg.

Each person has a double-page spread that includes an outline of what they have achieved, the core motivation for their actions, the particular powers that they employed, as well as a significant quote to inspire the readers to continue their work.  There is also an activity suggested so that this can be done so the reader begins to realise that no one is too small to make a difference. For example, they are encouraged to build their public speaking powers so when they have something important to say they can speak out with confidence as Mahatma Gandhi did, or perhaps create something that will solve a problem as Boyan Slat did when he was confronted with an ocean of plastic rather than marine creatures on his first scuba diving trip.

Conservative, right-wing, middle-aged men in suits (and those who follow them) condemned those children who left their classrooms to protest – they should have stayed there to study and learn –  yet it could be strongly argued that those same children were actually putting their learning into practice, determined to make the world a better place for themselves and others, because “there is more to life than increasing its speed” as Gandhi said.  By introducing our students to those who have gone before, and those who are already forging a new path, through books such as this,  Children Who Changed the World , and others, perhaps we can plant the seeds that will grow the future.  Encourage each to “dream with their eyes open.” 


A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure











A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Jackie Kerin

Milly Formby

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99



A few weeks ago we found ourselves at an international airport, which might not seem unusual except we we had no luggage, tickets or boarding passes, we weren’t intending to fly anywhere and our feet were firmly planted in the sand of Shoalhaven Heads in the Illawarra District of Australia’s East Coast.


But this was not your usual airport where planes take off for faraway destinations – it’s actually an important bird migration destination on the East-Asian Australasian Flyway  that extends from Arctic Russia and North America to New Zealand and is used by over 50 million migratory waterbirds.  Twice a year, 36 species of migratory shorebird fly annually to Australia and New Zealand for their non-breeding, or overwintering, season, and then return to breed in the northern hemisphere above the Arctic Circle.

So the release of this book for review was very timely, particularly as it also coincides with an opportunity to follow illustrator Milly Formby’s microlight adventure around Australia to raise awareness for migratory shorebirds in May–November 2022, complete with all sorts of support resources including the teachers’ notes downloadable from the book’s home page..

While we might be learning about the amazing migratory journeys of species like the humpback whale  and other creatures, they are able to stop, rest and feed on their journey.  How can a red-necked stint which weighs about the same as a piece of toast fly 500km without stopping – that’s the distance from Sydney to Perth and then another 1000km out to sea?  Who are these amazing birds, who can’t land on the water because they don’t have webbed feet, and what do they do to prepare for their amazing journeys? How do they find their way across both ocean and continent covering up to 12 000km in nine days like E7, the bar-trailed godwit which was fitted with a tracker to record the first world bird record for the longest non-stop flight?

In this absorbing book, the reader is taken on a trip to the Arctic tundra and back to discover the life and lifestyles of these wanderers in a format that is engaging, accessible and which opens up a whole new world to wonder about.  With books like this and The Great Southern Reef  we can introduce our students to the amazing world that is right on their doorstep, perhaps opening up new interests and dreams. For Milly Formby has a dream to fly her microlight to Siberia and back to follow the birds, the first step being that  Wing Threads adventure of flying around Australia. A real-life example of “Dreaming with Eyes Open.” 

Milly's Journey

Milly’s Journey



Then to enrich the experience, as well as being involved in  Milly’s adventure, track down a copy of the movie Fly Away Home, the remarkable story of saving Canada geese by training them to follow an ultralight, based on the real-life experience of Bill Lishman.

What a world has opened up for me because I found myself at that unknown airport!  And my feet haven’t even left the ground!



Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis











Song of the White Ibis

Phillip Gwynne

Liz Anelli

Puffin. 2022

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


The ‘chorus” of this song would seem to sum up this bird’s reputation…

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate

But, in fact, the white ibis – Threskiornis molucca – has  a more dignified tale to tell. That of being related to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt and to Thoth, the god of science, writing, magic and the moon; that of being the farmers’ friend as their long beaks aerate the soil as they dig for troublesome insects like locusts; that of once living in the wetlands but driven to being of scavenger of the cities because of human habitation overtaking theirs. 

There was much derision when Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe suggested the white ibis to be the mascot for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane but this intriguing book by Phillip Gwynne with its detailed illustrations from Liz Anelli  shows the bird in a completely different light, offering a different side to its common image. Certainly, the final message of “reduce, reuse, recycle’ or we might all become bin chickens is confronting but is a definite heads up to make us think about why there is just so much waste to enable these birds to thrive in the urban environment. 

According to the  National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study

  • Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion each year.
  • Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain – this wastage equals about 312kg per person, equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
  • The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers in excess of 25 million hectares, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.

(Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2022)

Thus, this book could be the springboard to students  investigating food waste and its management in both our schools and our homes making it so much more that a plea from a bird for some dignity and respectability. Even young readers can create visual representations of what 312kg  or one in five bags of groceries look like. And that notion of it being the Olympic mascot could be more beneficial than first considered… 

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku












Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Sally M. Walker

Matthew Trueman

Candlewick Press, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


one minuscule speck
grows into the universe
a mind-boggling birth

Defined as a traditional Japanese three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count which often focuses on images from nature, haiku emphasises simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression making it an effective way to get students to focus on the essence of an object and then use succinct, descriptive vocabulary to portray it so every word has to work hard. 

In this stunning union of poetry, art and science, haiku is used to explore the universe through a lunar eclipse, beyond the orbiting planets, and into glowing galaxies and twinkling constellations out to Ultima Thule, the most extreme limit of the journey which “longs for a visitor with coal and a carrot”, and all accompanied by the most imaginative illustrations that are almost photo-like so that not only does the reader learn about the vast beauty of space but they are left in wonder and awe of its magnificence. The minimal text structure of haiku means just the nucleus of the phenomenon is offered as a teaser, leaving the reader with a tempting taste to learn more…

the Eagle landed

one giant leap for mankind

footprints in the dust

Some of this is offered in the comprehensive, well-researched final pages which explore such topics as constellations and astronomers, the birth of the universe, stars, the solar system, moons and eclipses, asteroids, meteors, and comets, but the whole offers an opportunity for students to engage in their own interest-driven investigation with the challenge of summarising their findings in their own haiku and artwork.