Archives

Wombat

Wombat

Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombat

Christopher Cheng

Liz Duthie

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653873

Known as the “bulldozers of the bush” wombats may look soft and cuddly, but they are determined and tough, with sharp teeth that never stop growing, limbs that they use to shovel dirt like bulldozers, and bony bottoms they use to defend their burrows. They can live for years without drinking water, getting all of their moisture from the plants they eat — and they deposit their cube-shaped poop on rocks or stumps as a warning to other wombats.

But even though they can be destructive, ornery and bite the unwary really hard, wombats still rank high among children’s favourite Australian animals. So this  new paperback addition to the Nature Storybook series, which introduces young readers to the natural world by focusing on the daily life of one creature while expanding its activities with factual information about those in a format known as ‘faction’ or ‘narrative non fiction’ will be a welcome addition to the collection.

Given recent bushfires and floods, the plight of Australia’s native creatures has never been so precarious or prominent as young readers begin to understand the impact of these natural disasters on habitat and food supplies.  And with May 11th being Hairy-Nosed Wombat Day the timing is perfect for sharing this charming story.

Wombat Day

Wombat Day

Beginning deep underground, “where dirt and tree roots mesh”, the story follows Wombat’s days from daybreak as she snuggles down in her burrow to sleep through the bright, hot day to marking her territory as she is a solitary creature, to having to defend herself and her little jellybean-like baby against the dingo. Again, Cheng has crafted the most compelling story, accompanied not only by stunning illustrations from Duthie, but also lots of wombat facts as imagination and information sit comfortably side by side. 

Chris Cheng is at his best when he meshes his meticulous research with his way with words and this sits very well alongside  Python, his other contribution to this series, and his many other stories for children, my personal, long-term, yet-to-be-beaten favourite being One Child

A must-have for any collection that meets the needs of any children with a liking for or an interest in these unique creatures.  

And if you would like to get your students started on writing faction, beginning with a wombat focus, then From Fact to Faction(e:update 011, 2012) written by me is available to Primary English Teachers’ Association Australia members.

 

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Reef

Paul Venzo & Prue Francis

Cate James 

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315314 

Most Australians, even our youngest and newest, are familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches over 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space. But even longer and more accessible to most is the Great Southern Reef , a fringe of interconnected underwater systems that span 8000km from the NSW/Queensland border, around Tasmania and its islands, along our great southern coastline and up to Kalbarri in Western Australia.  

First defined as an entity just six years ago in 2016, it has already been identified by Mission Blue  as a Hope Spot, a biodiversity hotspot critical to the health of the world’s ocean environments, particularly because of its forests of giant kelp, Ecklonia radiata, that offer shelter and food for more than 4000 species of invertebrates, countless fish species such as the weedy sea dragon, the WA rock lobster and the blacktip abalone, and many seaweeds, most unique to the reef, which offer carbon storage to offset climate change as well as potential for a plastic-free world of the future. 

But despite 70% of us living within 50km of it, its existence is little known and so this beautifully illustrated, informative book is an essential step in teaching our young students (and hopefully the adults in their lives) not only about its existence and inhabitants but also its importance.  After a storm thrashes the coastline, Frankie and Sam join Professor Seaweed in a walk along the beach to see what has been washed up overnight.  Together they find many things and not only does Professor Seaweed explain what they are but she also demonstrates the need to leave the beach as we find it, to be careful when delving into rockpools, and the significance of the saying, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Kill nothing but time.” However, she does encourage the children (and the reader) to collect any rubbish that will also have been washed up as their contribution to helping the beach and its creatures stay pristine and healthy.

Even for those of us who do not live within that 50km of the reef, or the ocean, it is a destination that naturally attracts millions every year, so this is the perfect book to introduce our children to the existence of the reef itself and their role in protecting it.  Teachers notes  linked to the Australian Curriculum are available to help you do this. 

Wild Australian Life

Wild Australian Life

Wild Australian Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Australian Life

Leonard Cronin

Chris Nixon

A & U Children’s, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760637224

Over the years there have been many books published about Australia’s wildlife so for  yet another one to stand out  means there has to be a significant point of difference – and this one has it.  Rather than glossy photos and repeated facts, Wild Australian Life investigates how the creatures with which we share this continent have evolved and adapted so they can survive and thrive in the particular habitats in which they are found. 

Beginning with the classification of the Animal Kingdom, not an unusual start,  it demonstrates how the red kangaroo fits into the descending groups until it is recognised as a species of its own.  Its shows how the diminishing  characteristics of kingdom>phylum>class>order>family>genus> species is a logical sequence and that allows the reader to trace any creature through such a taxonomy and understand just how and why they fit where they do.  Then depending on where the reader’s interest lies, they can choose which of the traces and tracks they want to investigate to learn more about what they might not be able to see without the secret “key.”  For example, if feathers take their fancy they can turn to the specified page and learn about birds generally, and then, more specifically, how their feathers, beaks and feet allow them to manage their lives in their particular environment. The shape of the beak of a bird offers a lot of information about the lifestyle and diet of the bird if you know what you’re looking at.

For independent readers who want to know more about the why and how, rather than just the what, this is a fascinating dip-and-delve book that puts the power of discovery into their hands as they choose their interest – or just follow it through as they choose. 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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

9781761065064

Welcome, children!
Nangga! Nangga! Yakarti!
Tonight will be our Ceremony.

Our family gathers as the fire burns.
The smoke rises up as we take it in turns . . .
Then clapsticks tap – one, two, three –
but a stick is missing! Where could it be?

Joyful and full of fun, Ceremony invites young readers to celebrate the rich traditions of dance, family, community and caring for Country from the world’s oldest continuous culture, helping them to better understand what is meant when they recite the Acknowledgement of Country or hear the Welcome to Country. 

While there are over 350 First Nations groups in Australia, each with different languages and customs, this particular one is from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. 

Using stunning illustration and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages)  the preparations for and the ceremony itself highlight that Adnyamathanha  society is divided into two moieties. membership passed on from mother to child and your father must be the opposite moeity, and that your moeity determines all the important aspects of life including who can be married, special knowledge possessed and relationships  with others.  It is an exciting time for the children as they get ready and while the story is carried along in rhyme, it is also full of humour and surprises.  

Like its predecessor, Somebody’s Land  Ceremony is designed to teach young children and families about Australia’s First Nations history and it has done this very well.  A must-have. .

 

The Echidna Near My Place

The Echidna Near My Place

The Echidna Near My Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Echidna Near My Place

Sue Whiting

Cate James

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760652401

Whenever Nana and Child walk through the scrubby paddock at the end of their street, they look for the echidna – that curious, spiky creatures that waddles like its feet are on backwards.  They see if often, almost as if it knows them, and, as they watch it carefully, they learn about its habitat and habits.

This is the latest addition to the Nature Storybooks series, one of my favourites for young readers as it combines a narrative story with a factual account so they learn so much more about the fascinating creatures that inhabit their world, particularly Australia.  

Just as Searching for Cicadas celebrated the relationship between grandfather and grandchild, this one also focuses on the special bond, this time with grandma as they walk through the paddock almost daily and each time they see the echidna they learn something new. For although the short-beaked echidna (the only species found here, the other three are in Papua New Guinea) is common in many parts of Australia   – we often see them waddling along our road or through our bush block here in the Snowy Mountains – nevertheless, they are shy and well-camouflaged so not so easy to find if you’re not looking.  But for all that they might be common, they are also just one of two monotremes – egg-laying mammals – found on the planet, the other being the platypus. Teaching notes to learn even more are available. 

So even though we make sure our old, gentle cavoodle is inside when they come, and they uproot pot plants seeking shelter because their sensitive snouts smell her anyway,  we will continue to enjoy their company whenever they come to visit – just like Nana and Child. 

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow the Koala

Remy Lai

A&U Children’s, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761065453

It is time for Rainbow the Koala to become more independent and so, after a year of being nurtured and comforted and provided for, he has to say goodbye to his mother and venture off on his own- find a new tree, seek his own food and generally be the adult he was destined to be.  But it’s not easy – for starters,  it’s not just a matter of climbing the nearest tree and calling it his.  It has to be the right species and unoccupied and with the way land is being cleared for humans and the drying landscape making them less nutritious,  there are not so many of the just-rights available.  Waterholes made by humans can be treacherous, dogs are not always the koala’s best friend and the smell of smoke on the air is a signal for alarm…

This is the first in a new graphic novel series called Surviving the Wild designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it.  The new NSW English syllabus, particularly, requires students to be able to “to express opinions about texts and issues… both objectively and subjectively”, so as well as empathising with Rainbow as they, too, face having to step out of their comfort zone to navigate the new world of school; meeting new people who, like Kookaburra, may not be as friendly as they expect, and having to solve problems for themselves, they also learn about the perils of things like habitat destruction, climate change, drought…  Being in the shoes of the main character, in this case a koala which automatically has inbuilt appeal,  helps them be more engaged and understand the situation better, hopefully inspiring them to become not only more aware but more active in environmental protection.  Inspired by the devastating bushfires of the 2019.2020 summer in which it’s estimated over one billion creatures were lost, there are extra pages explaining the origins of Rainbow’s predicament as well as ways that the reader can help by making simple, everyday changes. 

Hallmarks of quality literature include having characters and a plot which are engaging and interesting for the students, offering layers and levels of complexity that are revealed with multiple readings and which enrich discussion and challenge perceptions, thinking and attitudes.  This certainly does that and young readers will look forward to Star the Elephant which is already published and Sunny the Shark due in August. 

 

 

 

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Canberra

Krys Saclier

Cathy Wilcox

Wild Dog, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036120

About this time of the year excitement begins to ramp up as students anticipate their school excursion to the national capital, Canberra – perhaps even moreso as there is a federal election due and government, its purpose, politics and people become a curriculum focus.  And so it is with the Mount Mayhem Primary School students, as readers are reunited with Farrel, Kira and Jack who introduced them to the mysteries of Australia’s preferential voting system in Vote 4 Me

Written in a diary format, the class has been divided into three groups – the Menzies, the Gillards, and the Holts, names worth investigating in themselves – and each visits a number of Canberra’s attractions including

Using Wilcox’s signature cartoon characters overlaid on to photographs of each location, this is a thumbnail tour of what to see in this city that makes it unique as the nation’s capital – having spent 30years living and teaching there, each was familiar so it became a trip down memory lane.

Thus the quiz at the end was rather easy but what wasn’t included is that under PACER, (Parliament and Civics Education Rebate) those students who come from more than 150km (calculated by road using the “most favourable” routes) can have their costs subsidised provided their visit includes an educational tour of Parliament House and where possible, an immersive learning program with the Parliamentary Education Office, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House, and the Australian War Memorial.

Any excursion sparks excitement as it is a break from the ordinary routine of things and IMO, those who come to Canberra should also include a trip to the top of Telstra Tower (although it is temporarily closed for refurbishment) or Mt Ainslie so the layout of this planned city with Walter Burley Griffin‘s vision of the National Triangle and the lake at its heart can be clearly seen.

Teachers beyond the realm of Canberra cannot be expected to know their way around this city nor the must-see destinations or even the fun recreational places like Commonwealth Park and other playgrounds  (my favourite is Boundless Park in the centre built for all ages and abilities)  on offer where kids can just romp and play so this book offers a valuable introduction so the itinerary can be planned so everyone gets the most from it. While there are teachers’ notes to accompany the book itself. hopefully the links in this review will add a little more to the physical experience. 

Emergency Emergency

Emergency Emergency

Emergency! Emergency!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency! Emergency!

Rhiân Williams

Tom Jellett

Wild Dog, 2022

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

9781742036106

Sadly, our youngest readers are becoming all too familiar with emergency vehicles as they rush around the cities and the countryside in these times of floods and fire and other devastating events.  For many, it is the sight of those familiar uniforms that bring relief and hope as well as help.

In this rhyming story with its bold, colourful pictures, young readers discover that there are many more vehicles in the fleet beyond the usual fire trucks, police cars and ambulances as they are introduced to jet skis, helicopters, water bombers, drones and even the RFDS as each plays a unique role in particular situations from clifftop rescues to getting people off their rooftops.  

However, as entertaining and engaging as the book is, it is the teachers’ notes that really add extra value as they guide both parents and teachers through raising the issues of “what if” with their young children including keeping themselves and their pets safe; the role of 000 and when to use it; knowing what to do in case of a fire, being lost, and other critical situations they might find themselves; and preparing for a disaster.  Simple things like knowing your name, address and phone number to tell a police officer, or having a password that must be said if a stranger talks to you can be life-saving but can also be neglected as we hope they’re never needed. While the story itself touches on calling 000 it is these additional activities that open up essential conversations in a non-threatening scenario that add depth and make this book a valuable addition to a family’s safety preparations. Even moreso because its focus is on the familiar vehicles and people that we see in Australia. 

Hopefully, like learning CPR, there is never a need for them to use their knowledge but as the saying goes, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761044366

Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.”