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Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa's Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Belinda Murrell

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143783688

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. So when teacher librarian Mrs Neill launches a student newspaper inviting all the students to submit articles for the first edition, they are very excited.    But each has different interests and therefore different ideas of the focus of their story so whose idea will be adopted? And what happens when naughty puppies and tropical weather and unco-operative shopkeepers interfere with their plans? Being a junior journalist is not as easy as it sounds.

This is the second in this new series by Belinda Murrell, aimed at the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them for a while.  Writing modern stories for this tween-age group who are on the cusp of becoming young women with all that that entails is difficult because there is a fine line between what to include so the older girl remains interested and what to leave out so that the younger girl who is reading at this level is not turned away. In this series, Murrell has nailed it with just the right balance.  There is action aplenty, a healthy relationship with the boys in the story, Cici’s fashion interests to add the touch of glamour and a main character who could be almost any girl who picks up the book.  This and its predecessor The Beach Shack Cafe      will be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack this year!

When I was this age I read The Pen and Pencil Girls   by Clare Mallory, a book which had such an influence on my writing as a child that I tracked a copy down and bought it a few years ago. Move forward a couple of decades and the Junior Journalists club was the most popular and sustainable one  that operated in my school library, and now we have Cub Reporters to inspire another generation.  Offering kids an authentic outlet for their writing, their illustrating and their photography is a winner for getting those who have a passion for these things involved in school life while perhaps moving them on to a higher level of expertise. Let this book be the one to kickstart a program in your library. 

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Building?

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

ABC Books, 2017

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733334153

Every day on his way home from school Little Davey Durak watches the old milk bar on the corner being demolished, another victim of the ever-encroaching city inexorably guzzling all in its path. And every day Bruce the Builder would say hello to Davey as he carefully pulled the building apart and put the pieces in the skip, their final resting place.  

One afternoon, Davey asks Bruce for some wood -something he begins to do each day.  Sometimes it is a long piece and sometimes, short or chunky or thin.  But no matter how often Bruce asks what Davey is building, Davey doesn’t tell.  Bruce has heaps of ideas about what it could be but Davey keeps his secret.  Until the day Bruce helps him heave the old milkbar sign home…

Set against a backdrop of a city built like no other, one that could only be constructed in the mind of Stephen Michael King, Daddo has created a story that has many layers to it.  Young readers will have fun trying to predict what it is that Davey is building while others will relate to their neighbourhood slowly but surely changing as “progress” comes to town.  Others might like to investigate how the collage effect of the main characters superimposed on the landscape adds to the image of the layering of the landscape and how, in reality, everything is an imposition on the original.  And there might also be discussions about why King has chosen to depict the modern city using everyday objects in new ways while thinking about how they themselves might recycle or upcycle instead of throwing out. 

So many conversation starters – Is progress always good?  How do Bruce and Davey represent the past and the present? How has the children’s community changed over time? Has this been for the best?  Perhaps that could even inspire a local history project with interviews with long-term residents and a photographic journey or perhaps the children could create a record of their community as it is now so that future generations can do a compare and contrast. 

Teachers’ notes are available but all of that is wasted if it is not built on a solid, engaging, entertaining story – and this is certainly that.

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bag and a Bird

Pamela Allen

Viking, 2017

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

9780143783909

John and his mother decided to have a picnic in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.  The long walk from Kirribilli across the Harbour Bridge to the Gardens was all part of the adventure and there was something special about seeing everyone else rushing while they were relaxing.  

Nevertheless, when they finally arrived they were hungry and John pulled his sandwiches out of a plastic bag.  Surrounded by curious, hungry ibises John is more interested in the way they snaffle his last sandwich when a teasing wind blows his bag onto the ground not realising that he is setting off a chain of events that is unlikely to end well…

Master storyteller Pamela Allen’s message in this story could not be clearer.  Clean Up Australia   estimate that about 1 trillion bags are used and discarded world-wide every year and in Australia alone over 10 million new bags are being used every day. These either end up in landfill or in the waterways, taking 400-1000 years to break down depending on their exposure to light. The story of the ibis is just one story of hundreds that must happen every day to our fauna, without such a good ending.

With plastic bags banned in some jurisdictions and about to be in others, nevertheless even those which replace them can be just as toxic to our wildlife so this is the perfect book to develop awareness and to begin investigations into their use, their disposal and the litter issues that we seem to be drowning in ourselves.  While many schools have student-led litter patrols which focus on the immediate environment, A Bag and a Bird highlights what can happen further afield, particularly bringing the message home with her choice of setting and illustrations of sights very familiar to even those who don’t live in Sydney.

Not just a cracking story, this book has the potential to change attitudes and actions – can we ask for more from 32 pages? A book for all ages. 

 

A is for Australian Animals: A factastic tour

A is for Australian Animals

A is for Australian Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A is for Australian Animals: A Factastic Tour

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $SA24.99

9781925381009

Australia is full of the most amazing animals on the planet! What animal has six thumbs? What animal produces square poo? What animal is made up of 95 per cent water and is highly venomous? 

There have been many books, including alphabet books, published about Australian fauna over the years that one wonders what a new one could add to the collection.  Renowned author and illustrator Frané Lessac has found the answer in this fabulous new publication described as a FACTASTIC tour of our unique wildlife.

While the familiar candidates like the kangaroo and koala are there, she has also included many not so well-known creatures like the Irukandji Jellyfish, the Hopping Mouse, the Ulysses Butterfly and the Velvet Gecko. Beautifully setting each in its own natural environment with a brief introductory caption, she has also scattered bite-sized facts about each for those who want to know more.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Even more....

Even more….

Stunning in its presentation, thorough in its research this is a must-have modern approach to a perennial topic that can not only assist young children in their search for knowledge about this country’s amazing fauna but also offers a model for how they could present their own information when they do their own investigations.  After all, it is one that is done in the early childhood years in almost every school so why not challenge the class to develop their own factastic tour? 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O'Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Julia Cooper

Daryl Dickson

Exisle, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925335637

On the very day that he took his first steps out of his mother’s pouch, the little kangaroo is separated from her as two large black marauding dogs race through the clearing, scattering them to shelter.  The joey cannot keep up with his mum so he hides, found hours later by the O’Melon family who live in a valley in the rainforest and who care for injured and orphaned native creatures.  They all him Paddy O’Melon, their Irish kangaroo.

Wrapped in a pillowcase pouch and bottle-fed a special milk mixture, Paddy not only survives but thrives. He spends more and more time in the garden as he grows meeting and making friends with the other creatures that the O’Melons have rescued.  Eventually, all his time is spent outdoors and the family tell him that when he is old enough he can return to the wild and live with his own kind.  But just what is his “own kind”? When he introduces himself as Paddy O’Melon the Irish kangaroo, he is met with sniggers and giggles and no one is able to help him.  The best advice he can get is to find the cassowary who knows everything and everyone…

This is a charming story with echoes of Are You My Mother? but with much more depth and interest.  Written by a highly regarded naturalist, who has since passed away, it not only introduces the reader to the unfamiliar and unique creatures of Far North Queensland but carries a lot of information about them in both the text and the stunning illustrations, but never intruding into the story of Paddy’s quest.  

While many are familiar with kangaroos and wallabies,  few know about their cousins the pademelons who inhabit the northern rainforests  In an effort to spread the word about the species of her home region, Cooper has deliberately included the more unusual and suggests that readers can go here for more information about them. There are also Teachers’ Notes available and royalties are being donated to further the conservation of the area.

Apart from just being a good story, this book also introduces us to more of Australia’s wonderful wildlife, perhaps setting up an investigation that compares and contrasts those of the FNQ region to those in the students’ region.

Koala

Koala

Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala

Claire Saxby

Julie Vivas

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781925126396

 

When Little Koala climbs up the branch for dinner he gets a nasty surprise when instead of feeding him, his mother’s pouch is closed and she gives him a cuff around the ear.  He is no longer welcome as she is pregnant again and it is time for him to become independent.  Koalas not only live solitary lives but they are also territorial so the search for his own home among the gum trees is not easy.  When he thinks he has found a safe place to sleep he is woken by a thunderous roar and pushed out of the tree by another older male but he must find another resting place quickly because he is unsafe on land.

Bushfire-ravaged country, storms, snakes and food options limited make finding a new home challenging – is there a safe place for him?

Koala is a perfect book for not only teaching young readers about one of our iconic faunal symbols but also introducing them to the concept of non fiction.  Like Python , it crosses the boundaries between imagination and information by bringing real life to life through story. Even though the story of Koala only took place in Saxby’s imagination, it is so well-researched and accurately portrayed by Vivas’s lifelike illustrations that it could have happened, and, as we read, we get both information and insight into these extraordinary creatures.  Vivas has portrayed the key physical attributes of the koala accurately so its need for two thumbs and strong sharp claws are evident but she has also given him emotions as he is kicked out and faces going it alone. As well as the details embedded in the story there are also additional facts included in a different font so the distinction between story and information is clear and this is referred to in the simplified index, itself a great teaching tool.

Young children always have questions about their world and this concept of “faction” is the perfect way to help them learn more before they are able to read independently.  Finding non fiction that is accessible to young readers and answers questions as well as generating more is difficult in early childhood, but this certainly meets all the criteria to spark a range of investigations, not the least of which could be comparing the koala’s age of independence with that of the child as well as a variety of family structures. 

An important addition to any primary library collection.

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings: Strange and Possibly True Australian Stories

Stella Tarakson

Richard Morden

Random House Australia, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925324969 

Australia really is a ‘story country” and the tales, tall and true that have been collected in this volume prove just how rich and diverse this nation is.  Even our unofficial national anthem focuses on a ghost so why wouldn’t there be a wealth of stories about mythical creatures, mysterious locations, haunted places, UFO sightings, bizarre disappearances and strange happenings?

 

From bunyips and yowies to Azaria Chamberlain and the disappearance  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, this is a collection that will absorb the lover of the weird, wonderful and utterly mysterious, some familiar and others not-so. Ostensibly for those 10 and over, its clear format, short chapters and abundant illustrations will appeal to any independent reader who is interested in finding out more about the strange and unusual that this country has on offer.   

As well as the stories themselves, there are pages with extra information and some of the sources the author used for her research are included for those who wish to investigate further.  

Identified as a Notable Book in the 2017 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, I know a couple of young readers who are going to be having to do scissors-paper-rock to see who reads this one first.

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Country

Aunty Joy Murphy

Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog, 2016

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

9781922244871

“Aboriginal communities across Australia have boundaries that are defined by waterways and mountains.  To cross these boundaries or enter community country you need permission from the neighbouring community.  Each community has its own way of welcoming to country”.  

This is the acknowledgement of the ancestors and traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People, the first people who occupied the Melbourne area prior to European colonisation  extending north of the Great Dividing Ranges, east to Mt Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and west to Werribee River. 

Through the voice of Joy Murphy Wandin AO, Senior Aboriginal Elder of the people, it tells the story of the people whose name comes from Wurun, the River White Gum and Djeri, the grub that lives within the tree; each sentence being brought to life in the stunning illustrations of Lisa Kennedy a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania. Combining words in Wolwurrung Nguiu, the traditional language and English, it demonstrates the deep connection between the people and the land they occupy, their love and respect for it and their desire that this be also respected by those who visit.  

“We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum.  If you accept a leaf and we hope you do, it means you are welcome to everything, from the tops of the trees to the roots of the earth.  But you must only take from this land what you can give back.”

Despite being a relatively recent addition to our formal ceremonies, we are now used to each beginning with the Welcome to Country of the traditional indigenous inhabitants of the land on which the ceremony takes place.  This book is an essential addition to our understanding of not just the Welcome itself but also to that enduring, deep-seated connection of the people to their lands and how it is such an integral part of who they are and their heritage.

Although not shortlisted for the CBCA Awards, 2017 it was recognised as a Notable Book.  While this is an essential addition to every school library in the Wurundjeri district, it is also an important acquisition to every school library because while the words of their local indigenous peoples’ Welcome to Country may differ, the sentiment and acknowledgment of ancestry and heritage is common.  Students could be encouraged to discover just what their local greeting is and use the activities described in the teaching notes 

Remarkable.