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Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

Swifty - The Super-fast Parrot

Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Astred Hicks

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315918

   

In a hollow in a Tasmanian blue gum in a Tasmanian forest, a female swift parrot lays three eggs, Even though all three hatch, only one survives the perils of the forest, and learns which nectar is the sweetest and which lerps are best. 

As the Tasmanian weather cools and winter looms, Swifty joins the few remaining parrots of her species to make the 250km flight across Bass Strait to the mainland territories of Victoria, NSW, ACT and south-east Queensland following the blossom trail.  One of only two species of parrot that migrates, Swifty’s journey takes her on a perilous 4000km round trip but even a return to Tasmania does not guarantee safety as she finds the hollow in her tree already taken and so she has to make yet another journey to one of the outlying islands to breed in safety. 

Once again. CSIRO Publishing has employed top-shelf writers and illustrators to bring young readers a story that introduces them to another of Australia’s critically endangered species, raising awareness and understanding that there are so many of these lesser-known creatures that need protection, safety and help as their habitat declines.  As well as offering tips for kids on how to spot one in their backyard, how to help protect them and how to help further, there are comprehensive teachers’ notes  to enable deeper study. 

Another one to add to your collection from this publisher dedicated to ensuring our young readers know the inhabitants of their environment, a collection that includes On the Trail of the Plains-Wanderer, SwoopAmazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity A Shorebird Flying AdventureTiny Possum and the Migrating MothsOne Potoroo  and Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

 

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Tania McCartney

NLA, 2020

68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279637

According to my Facebook memories, 12 months ago it was snowing heavily here in the Snowy Mountains while there were 95 bushfires raging in the north of NSW, and we, ourselves, were evacuated just a few weeks later because of fires that had ignited here. The talk and news were constantly about the “worst drought in memory”, the heat and the continual and spreading threat of those fires.  And just as we thought that it would never end and we were doomed to breathing smoke-laden air forever, the rains came and places devastated by flames were now threatened with floods!

Regardless of the time of year, the weather in Australia is always a reliable topic of conversation and now two of my favourite creators have teamed together to offer an explanation for the phenomena for our younger readers.  Beginning with an explanation of whatever is weather, their combined writing and drawing talents have been used to explore the various elements of the weather, particularly in Australia so there is a greater understanding of the why, where, when and how of that which has such a bearing on our lives so that it is more than listening to the brief forecast on television or the BOM site. or being fascinated by the rain radars.  Living in the bush as I do, my favourite pages were Bush Forecasting that explain some of the behaviours and characteristics that we have come to notice and learn as the weather changes. Black cockatoos are always a welcome sign here.

Both Stephanie and Tania have drawn deeply on the resources of the National Library of Australia (luckily for them, it’s in their neighbourhood) and being a NLA publication the support materials for further exploration are very detailed. Even moreso though, is the module written to support the book as part of the NLA’s digital classroom   Aligned with the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography), and Science for Year 4, 5 and 6 students, it adopts an inquiry-based learning approach to develop students’ understanding of geographical and scientific processes relating to weather, environments, people and systems.

What more could you want?

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA, 2020

132pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279521

December 1914, times are tough, war has broken out in Europe and 15 year old Will Hutchinson joins his father, two mates and six camels on and expedition to the South Australian desert outback to search for gold. But water rather than gold becomes their main concern as the harsh conditions become real, and in desperation the men leave Will to babysit the pack camels while they search for water.

But Will is not content to just sit and wait and so he too, goes off to find water. But he finds so much more – the opal fields of Coober Pedy owe their discovery to his courage, cool head and self-belief.

This is the fifth in the Heritage Heroes series that tells  the “true stories from Australia’s past featuring ordinary children and young people who have achieved amazing things against the odds”. As well as the narrative itself, Will’s story is interspersed with double-page spreads about the topics in each chapter such as riding the Ghan, the Afghans, the camels and surviving in the desert, all of which draw on the full resources from the National Library of Australia  to bring them to life and give them authenticity. There are also pages about the future of Will and the three men (Will came to a tragic end at 21), maps and details about the stories behind the story so readers can explore further.  Thus as well as an entertaining read for independent readers about a real person they can relate to, there is also a glimpse into a past that few know about. There is a reason that the main street of Coober Pedy is called Hutchison Street and the memorials that stand beside the Stuart Highway in South Australia and at Glengyle Station in Queensland.    Teachers’ notes will be available .

This is a series well worth highlighting in your collection so our young students not only learn the intriguing stories of this country’s past but can also be inspired by ordinary kids doing extraordinary things so perhaps they too can become a hero of the future. 

Trouble in the Surf

Trouble in the Surf

Trouble in the Surf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble in the Surf

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Briony Stewart

National Library of Australia, 2019

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

9780642279460

Summer. 1907. Two boys take the tram to Bondi Beach and change history.

Charlie Smith and his cousin Rupert Swallow beg Charlie’s mother to allow them to go to the beach and with her warning of “no shenanigans” ringing in their ears, but quickly forgotten, they set off.  It’s a glorious day and the boys are soon in the water with Charlie floating way out past the breakers watching the seagulls and vowing that one day he will fly like them. But when it comes to heading back into shore, they realise how far out they are and they are in trouble.  And this is 1907 with no such thing as red and yellow flags and highly trained and well-equipped lifesavers on the beach…

The rescue that then took place, performed by bystanders on the beach, became the catalyst for awareness and change – seven weeks later on 21 February 1907 the Bondi lifesaving club was formed, the foundation of the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales officially promulgated in October that year and the nucleus of what we now know as Surf Lifesaving Australia. It was the work of the surf bathers on the beach and Nurse Sadie Sweeney that demonstrated that there needed to be and could be a way to help those who got into difficulty in the surf and after the formation of the Bondi club, clubs were also formed at other Sydney beaches, eventually becoming the familiar and vital service we have today.  

But to add a twist to the story, Charlie was Charles Kingsford Smith who realised his dream of being able to fly like those seagulls, and changed to path of aviation in both Australia and the world.

With summer coming and record temperatures already meaning our beaches are the place to be for so many, this is a timely publication with its story of how those red and yellow flags came to be and its strong message of surf safety, particularly of being able to recognise a rip and what to do if one is caught in it.  (Sadly, there has already been one drowning this season because of not knowing this,) We don’t learn who Charlie is until the very end, so we are able to focus on the boys’ predicament and the actions of those who saved them – the story is clearly about the event rather than the characters – and the fact that he went on to be famous is almost incidental. 

The author, Dr Stephanie Owen Reeder  must have her own desk at the NLA  in Canberra because she has built up an impressive body of work using their resources to tell our history in a way that is interesting, accessible and engaging for our younger students.  Briony Stewart’s illustrations takes us back to the fashions and culture on 1907 prompting discussions about the “neck-to-knees” as well as why the majority of those in them are male. And as usually with NLA publications, there is further information at the back for readers to learn more and follow up. And while Rupert Swallow’s story is largely unknown, there is always that of Charlie’s to explore…

Available to order from Storybook Cushions

Available to order from Storybook Cushions

 

 

 

Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Story Time Stars

Story Time Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Stephanie Owen Reeder

National Library of Australia, 2019

148pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279408

Years ago, when Jackie French was asked by one of my students about how she created her characters, she told the class that the most important thing was to create someone that the reader cared enough about to want to know what happens to them. For without that emotional investment in the character, they won’t bother turning the pages till the end of the story.

So what is it that makes a character in a story so memorable that often as adults, we remember our childhood favourites, even to the point that we pass on those stories to our own children? Why they resonate with us is as individual as the characters themselves, but in this fabulous book, Dr Reeder has collected together some of the most well-known characters from Australian children’s literature, characters that have resonated with so many that we instantly know who they are and are transported back to those childhood memories with love and affection and a warm feeling of well-being. 

Whether it’s Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Mulga Bill, Grug, Koala Lou, Leonie, the Paw, or even the more recent Mr Huff, each is gathered here in chronological order to tell their stories, share their debuts, successes and encores so that we can not only get to know our favourites a little better, but also discover new ones waiting to be friends too. And perhaps consider who we might add to the collection.

Coinciding with the launch of the new NLA exhibition, Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature  presented in conjunction with  the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, this is another addition to the preservation of the creation and history of children’s literature in Australia and complements the  books, manuscripts, illustrations and ephemera from the NLA’s extensive collections alongside significant loans of the exhibition, which is free and open until February 9, 2020. A must-see and a must-buy for anyone with a love of Australia’s favourite storytime characters.  Most definitely Australia: Story Country.

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Bill Baillie

Bill Baillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Ellis Rowan

NLA Publishing, 2018

104pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279200

In the harsh, hot Western Australian desert, several hundred miles inland from Perth lies the town of Goongarrie, where, at the turn of last century, Tabitha, a painter, came to paint the wonders of the landscape and its inhabitants.  Despite its remoteness there were people there and each day they brought her “curious plants and queer beasts” to examine and paint.  

Among those “queer beasts” was a little creature – naked, five inches (12.5 cm) long at most, long legs with a strange eyelet mouth that had been attached to a teat in its mother’s pouch before she was killed in the sharp teeth of a deadly trap. Looking like he had given up and decided to die, it felt the warm, comforting hands of Tabitha around him and in that moment both were determined that he would live.  Bill Baillie’s life and adventures with this itinerant painter had begun!

And what a life it was – becoming famous and known as ‘Master Bill Baillie of Goongarrie” he travelled everywhere with Tabitha for the rest of his life, his energy unbounded, his curiosity unsated,  especially at night time which was his day, and his love for her unequalled. Getting into precarious situations, dodging a host of bilby enemies who wanted to eat him and travelling on trains and boats and wagons from Perth to Melbourne, Bill Baillie was Tabitha’s constant companion until his inevitable, sad death in her arms just two years later. 

“Tabitha’ is actually Ellis Rowan herself who was determined “to find and paint every wildflower on the continent”, and she initially wrote this story in 1908 at a time when having a native creature for a pet was considered a curiosity rather than a concern.  Using remarkable skill that keeps the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about these almost mythical creatures, Stephanie Owen Reeder has abridged the original using more accessible vocabulary and shorter chapters while omitting none of the drama of this curious relationship.  Rowan’s descriptions of the environment as viewed through the eyes of a painter are exquisite and the reader is transported to that vast lonely landscape with its brilliant colours and on-the-surface desolation brought to life.  Many of the original illustrations by Rowan and Hans Praetorius have been left in while others from the NLA’s collection of bilby paintings have also been included.

As is usual with NLA publications, the story is complemented by  several pages of further information, all based on the library’s relevant collections including the Rowan collection itself.  

Bilbies are an endearing but endangered species brought to our attention as the Australian symbol of Easter to raise awareness of the damage done to the environment by the introduced wild rabbits so the release of the charming story is fitting, with Easter on the horizon.

 

 

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA Publishing

136pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279156

What better way to share Australia Day than a look back to a significant part of our past when travelling circuses were a major source of entertainment, particularly in rural areas, and that of the Wirth Brothers was one of the most well known.  

Focusing on May Wirth, who as a seven-year-old growing up in poverty in Bundaberg in 1901, was given away to Marizles  Martin an equestrienne and a sister of the Wirth brothers. With big dreams and a desire to become the greatest bareback rider in the world, she transformed her ability for acrobatics into being able to perform them on horseback, even able to perform a Charleston as her horse moved around the ring!  Determined, resilient and tenacious she worked hard for perfection eventually performing for King George V and Queen Mary.  The Queen of the Circus was performing for the Kings and Queen of England.  Her dreams had come true!

Laced with photos and posters from the collection of the National Library of Australia, this new addition to the author’s Heritage Heroes series follows Miss May’s journey and introduces the reader to characters and times gone by which were so important to the shaping of this nation.  At a time when most young women were not encouraged to be more than a decorative appendage to men, May was a role model for an alternative lifestyle and she was a champion of women’s rights and suffrage and in 1964 she was one of just three Australians to ever be inducted into the American Circus Hall of Fame.

In 2016 Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony  won the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, and my prediction is that Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus will be amongst the awards this year.  But whether it is or not, this is an inspirational read that celebrates an Australian of the past, a heroine unknown to many in an entertainment unfamiliar to many in this age of screens, that adds yet another layer to this country’s history. 

For those wanting more…Wirth’s Circus Home Movies , Wirth’s Circus Archive, May Wirth  and of course, the collection at the National Library of Australia detailed in the acknowledgements.