Whoever labelled the magic that happens when you turn on a light switch “electrickery” nailed it, in my opinion. Never one to understand the phenomenon, even I, as a ‘more mature’ adult learned something from this new book from Usborne, So if I can, your students certainly will.
The source of our energy is a hot topic right now as the switch to renewables becomes more necessary and urgent, and so, more than ever, understanding how it works and where it comes from is becoming a part of even the primary school curriculum. So starting with the basics of what electricity actually is the reader is led step by step through diagrams, explanations and lift-the-flap discoveries to understand how electricity is naturally generated to being able to harness it and even look at future sources, some quite unexpected. And there are the usual Quicklinks to support further investigation.
Living in a town whose history is steeped in the building of the original Snowy Hydro project and whose future is closely tied to Snowy 2.0, this was a must-read for me and IMO, an essential part of your non fiction collection.
Hot on the heels of the successful launch of the junior version of her autobiography comes the latest two in this series for young, newly independent readers.
As with the others, they feature themes that are likely to be familiar to the audience – getting a puppy, and having to put the greater good before your own desires – and encouraging the reader to consider what they would do in a similar circumstance. Part of learning to win is learning to lose, and it is refreshing to have plots where the main character, who in real life we all seem to expect to win all the time, actually faces difficulties and defeat and has to handle that. It is also refreshing to read stories where, even for champions, success doesn’t come easily – there is a lot of trial and error and practice that has to be endured, and not just with sport. So many children who find something like learning to read comes easy naturally expect things like maths or music will also require little effort and when faced with a challenge either turn away or label themselves as “no good at that”.
As sports stars come and go, much in the same way as new waves of young readers discover they can read by themselves, series like this also come and go and are very popular and useful at their time. Students discover that those they admire most face similar dilemmas and choices as they do, making them more real and, at the same time, showing them that they do have power to determine things for themselves. And with their subject matter and format carefully designed for those emerging readers, regardless of the celebrity on the masthead, they also show them that they can read independently, that reading is something they can master and enjoy and that it will open a whole variety of new worlds and pathways. So this is another important addition to your Stepping Stone collection with application and attraction beyond just those who like tennis.
The mountains they’ll climb, the dreams they’ll pursue.
These little feet, so tiny and new.
In the classic tradition of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, this is a story of a mother imagining the journeys ahead of her newborn, the adventures they will have and the love and joy they will know. If you’re looking for a gift to celebrate the birth of a newborn for new parents, this is it.
Rats, in general, do not have a good reputation for being friendly and kind, and The Ratbags are no exception. Their goal in life is to make trouble and to look for naughty things to do. They dream of mayhem and believe rules are for losers. Except for one – Jigsaw. He got his name because he does not fit in, like a puzzle piece that won’t squeeze into place no matter how much you twist and turn it. Jigsaw likes both rules and humans so he doesn’t fit in with the other rats and they shun him.
In their fourth adventure in this series, The ratbags are on holiday on the trash-filled Scum Island, where everything is just how the ratbags like it – terrible! Even cats are kept in line by a high-flying falcon, who puts on a show for the ratbags! But when Cracker is carried away to the falcon’s lair, Jigsaw starts to worry… is the pesky falcon a feathery friend or foe? One thing’s for sure, with the ratbags in town, the holiday is packed with action, danger and VERY bad manners.
In previous reviews I have focused on the popularity of characters and subjects that make adults squirm and their power to appeal to reluctant readers as well as the attraction of a format that is text-light, illustration-heavy but has a quality story that focuses on familiar elements of friendship, standing your ground against peer pressure and being yourself , and this has been proven by a request from a young lad asking if I had the latest one yet. Not known for his affinity for reading, this was a surprise and one I took pleasure in satisfying (as did my contact at Penguin Random House). Who knows where this series might take this newly-independent reader as he explores the wide world of stories in print.
Maybe this will be the way forward for one of your students to…
When you are born, you make up a song It doesn’t rhyme, and it isn’t long A song of everything you hold dear It’s your own tune, it’s loud and clear
And your whole world is in it…
One of the favourite units my Kindy kids loved to explore was one based on A. A. Milne’s poem, The End. They loved to discover how much they had grown and changed and learned since they had been born and feel the sense of empowerment and excitement of being in charge of what was to come next.
When I was One, I had just begun.When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever
So I think I’ll be six now Forever and ever.
This new release is the perfect complement to that showing how the child has grown, building on the song of their life as they mature, learn and do more things, and meet more people, each of whom contributes something to the lyrics, loud or soft. Likened to a tiny stream at birth, it grows stronger and bigger as does the child, meandering this way and that as new people and experiences occur, until it becomes one with the river flowing ever onward. The key difference between Milne’s poem and this, though, is that the poem focuses on the child exclusively while this has the suggestion that there is much more to the child’s song that their own melody – that it started before they were born, will gather momentum during their lifetime and rather than reaching a crescendo at the end, will continue on afterwards. So it adds to that reflection and appreciation of where they have come from by speculating and anticipating what might come next.
One for the collection and toolbox of any teacher working with little ones who need reassurance that they are unique, that there are brighter days coming and that they have much to offer and contribute not only to their song but to the orchestra playing it.
There are few Australian children who grow up without being introduced to Mothball, the real-life star of Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat series which not only shone a spotlight on these creatures over 20 years ago but which helped to revolutionise the publishing of stories for preschoolers. Bruce Whatley’s sublime illustrations brought to life a character that has endeared wombats as a species to generations and they are often declared as a “favourite animal”. Certainly a younger Ms 17 was delighted when she got to feed one of the many orphans raised by fellow teacher librarian Anne Graham.
But there is much more to this descendant of the ancient diprotodon and this “(Not So) Serious Guide” provides younger readers with a lot more information about them. Although written for an American audience (and using a number of American terms like miles rather than kilometres and “mombat” for the joey’s mother), it provides interesting facts and details that are the main part of the narrative while there is a secondary flow between the wombat and a snake also called Joey written in speech bubbles which young readers may find amusing.
There are a few pages at the end which offer further information about various wombat species, photos, glossary, and links to further reading (although these would be beyond the scope of the target audience) . Any book which sparks awareness of and interest in Australia’s unique wildlife which perhaps leads to greater care and protection for them as their natural habitat disappears and they become victims of rushing motorists, deserves a place in the collection and for that alone, this has earned its place.
Despite being about the size of a modern rhinoceros, prehistoric Diprotodon faced many challenges from both the harsh environment and other megafauna that roamed central Australia during the Ice Age of the Pleistocene Epoch. Separated from his mother and his herd, he needs to stay safe, and find shelter, food and water in the barren landscape blasted by icy winds and dried up by drought as so much water is now stored in the ice caps.
This narrative non fiction story introduces students to these ancestors of the wombat while opening up so many other worlds to explore such as the creatures it shared the continent with and their evolution to those we know today as well as the causes and impact of the climate change that plunged the world into lower temperatures, as opposed to the warmer ones we are experiencing now. Beautifully and accurately illustrated by Andrew Plant, it includes some brief, easily readable facts which expand the story, as well as teachers’ notes that suggest ways to explore further.
It could also be used in conjunction with both Dippy’s Big Day Out and Dippy and the Dinosaurs as a way to compare fiction and non fiction, contrasting the two different purposes (imagination vs information) but discovering how much they share. What did both authors and illustrators need to know about the diprotodon and how and where it lived to create the stories they did? Even though they are written for a similar audience, how do the language, structure and illustrations change for each format?
Young readers have a fascination with dinosaurs and megafauna, often opening that first door into the world of non fiction for them, and this one is an ideal addition to that collection.
One of the common complaints from kindergarten teachers is that new-to-big-school children often demonstrate little resilience – the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again, solving the problem through trial and error. And they need to develop special lessons and programs to teach this to compensate for the helicopter parenting where all the child’s potential problems have been eliminated in advance by over-zealous adults and thus the child hasn’t had the opportunity to learn to cope with setbacks and sadness. So this book would seem to have been written especially for them to aid in those lessons.
Addressed directly to the child reader, it offers ways to encourage them to be adventurous and learn something new; be brave and do something tricky; be strong and don’t give up. Using examples from the animal kingdom, this book motivates little ones to try new things, build their confidence and become resilient in all aspects of life. If you’re too short to reach, ask someone to help; if something doesn’t go as you expected, try again; if you’re afraid, take the first step…. The cute and relatable cast of children work together and support each other, showing that there is always help around, especially when venturing into the unknown.
With anxiety levels apparently at an all0time high amongst our children, one of the kindest and most powerful things we can do is help them develop the belief in themselves and the strategies they need to face new situations so these simple suggestions provide an excellent starting point for that.
When Harvey and his mum go for a walk in their favourite park, they are invited to walk with indigenous Elder Uncle Boris and learn about the wonders of the Cammeraygal (North Sydney) land on which they are treading. From the healing powers of the leaf of the tologurã (lemon myrtle ), to the wildlife near the waterfall and even seeing a large canoe tree, mother and son see and learn things that they have passed by many times but have taken for granted. Harvey has already astonished his mum by reciting the Acknowledgement of Country that he has learned at school, and now both of them develop not only a new insight into the significance of their surroundings but also experience a sense of calm and tranquility as they view the landscape with new eyes and absorb its significance..
Based on a phrase in the final line of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future – this is the fourth in this brilliant series designed to teach both children and adults a little more of the meaning behind those now-familiar words of the Acknowledgement of Country. Using people and symbols that are important to them (these are explained on the verso page). the authors have crafted a simple but significant story that will encourage young (and not-so) readers to start to look at their surroundings through a different lens. Who walked this Country before I did? What did they know about it that I could learn?
As with the previous titles, this starts with a visual glossary of indigenous words for the familiar items featured in the story, and given that October 22-29 marks the inaugural Aboriginal Languages Week in NSW, it would seem appropriate to compare the words of the Cammeraygal people for things such as fire, snake, wallaby, frog and so forth to the words used by local peoples, perhaps even starting to construct your own visual glossary.
In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country or even just take a walk through their neighbourhood, they do so with a new knowledge of and respect for all that has gone before.
Children are not very old before they start asking questions about their bodies – what it can do, what makes it work, why it looks the way it does, how it grows and why it changes.
In this new release most of their questions are answered and with a cast of comical bugs to guide readers, activities to try at home, and links to further resources online so they can explore further, it is pitched at just the right level for those asking those initial questions.
A peek inside…
Covering topics such as the outside of the boy, the inside, breathing, blood circulation, as well as an emphasis on staying healthy – “Your body belongs to YOU. It’s your job to look after it and be kind to it, throughout your life” – . it will satisfy the normal curiosity of young readers while enabling those with more questions to learn more if they choose. As is usual with Usborne publications, this is another quality resource that has a place in any library – home or school.