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Found You, Little Wombat!

Found You, Little Wombat!

Found You, Little Wombat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found You, Little Wombat!

Angela McAllister

Charles Fuge

Walker, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653491

Little Wombat loves playing hide-and-seek with his friends, even though he doesn’t understand all the rules of the game. So when it’s his turn to look, he hides again, then calls out “Two, TEN” and opens his eyes. So Rabbit and Koala suggest he counts 10 flowers and searches for them. But Little Wombat doesn’t count the pink blossoms beside him, he wanders far away, over the hill, looking for yellow ones. Suddenly, he realises that he’s all alone. But that he can depend on his friends and his mum coming to the rescue.

Little Wombat and his friends are becoming favourites with our youngest readers as their stories so often relate to the sorts of things that they, too, like to do.   Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned ga me of hide-and-seek or splashing in puddles? So with easy read-along text and endearing, engaging illustrations this is one they will return to again  and again. 

 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasmanian Devil

Claire Saxby

Max Hamilton

Walker, 2022

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

9781760652418

Anyone who has ever heard the screech of a Tasmanian Devil split the night will know why these creatures, which once roamed mainland Australia but are now found only in Tasmania, have been so-named.  The largest living carnivorous marsupial in the world, , they live a solitary life as adults but will occasionally share carrion if it is large enough and the feasting is accompanied by blood-curdling cries as each tries to assert dominance.

Endangered because of the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). which is contagious and kills them within 3-6 months of the lesions appearing, this new addition to the wonderful Nature Storybook series, a narrative non fiction series which introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world, is ideal for bringing these creatures into the realm of our young readers.  It traces the development of two young devils known as imps (or joeys or pups) as they become more and more independent showcasing different elements of the habitat, behaviours, and day to day life of one of Australia’s most famous marsupials.

Saxby, also the author of Big Red KangarooEmu Koala, Dingo,  Kookaburra and  Great White Shark, again brings her ability to create pictures with her words to create magic on the tongue, ensuring this is as much an engaging, entertaining story as much as it is educational.  

 

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Me Out of Here!

Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes

Pauline Deeves

Brent Wilson

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526993

The publisher’s blurb for this fascinating book reads … “

Full of crims, crooks and rascally runaways, this fun and light-hearted non-fiction title is a colourful celebration of our convict past Meet the convicts behind Australia’s most rascally, dastardly prison escapes. Gifted geniuses or total goofballs? You be the judge! Featuring Moondyne Joe, Mary Bryant, and a guy who put on a kangaroo skin and hopped away (literally), this fun and engaging collection brings our country’s early colonial past to life.”

And, indeed, it is a ‘fun and engaging’ read for older students who want to know the stories behind the stories of some of those whose names have become a familiar part of our history, 

But, IMO, the ‘fun and engaging’ is found in the stories surrounding the stories behind the stories, which reflect that author’s experience as a teacher librarian and an understanding of not only how students like to read but what they want to know.  

To begin, each person’s story is told as a narrative, some in the first person, and as well as their story, there is also a short explanation of what happened to them after their exploits – whether their escape was successful,  they were caught and punished or…  There are also two pages of Fun Facts after each chapter that expand on the circumstances of the time. For example Mary Bryant ‘s story is followed by information about female convicts and alerts the reader to other stories that could be followed, while others include explanations of vocabulary and other tidbits that add colour and interest. There are the usual glossary and index as well as suggestions for further research that offer other child-friendly books to explore.

Each chapter is set on bold background colours with lots of cartoon-like illustrations that will appeal widely.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

All in all, this is an intriguing book that will add insight and understanding into our past in a way that is not the usual dry recounts full of facts and figures.

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ming and Flo Fight for the Future

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460760208

When Ming Qong put up her hand in Mr Boors’ history class and asked him why they only ever learned about men in history, never girls, she had no idea the chain of events that she was about to set off.

Suddenly the class was silent and still, as though frozen in the moment, except for a strange, almost ethereal woman dressed in purple sitting in the window sill -someone Ming feels she knows but doesn’t.  The woman introduces herself as Herstory, the sister of History, a woman passionate about the part women have played alongside men as the centuries have rolled past and as frustrated as Ming that those stories have not been told because “men wrote the history books and they mostly wrote them to please kings or generals or male politicians.” Even though the women’s stories are there in letters, diaries and even old newspapers waiting to be discovered, the past was always viewed through a male lens. and then she offers Ming a way to travel back to the past for just 42 days, to see it for herself (even though it wouldn’t always be pleasant, pretty or comfortable) and be part of it although she, herself, would not be seen or heard and she couldn’t change anything that happened.

Ming is eager to accept, to be a girl who changed the world, and suddenly she is Flo Watson and she has what she wished for  It’s 1898, she’s scratching a living alongside her mother on a farm in the middle of nowhere and a severe drought, anxiously awaiting the return of her father with his drunken, violent temper and handy fists.  But that life changes when Ma dies of a snakebite and she finds herself living with wealthy Aunt McTavish in Sydney who believes in women having the vote, financial and legal independence, racial equality and universal education for children and who puts her time, money and energy where her mouth is. 

Ming, as Flo, sees, hears and engages in much as she works by her aunt’s side as they work with Louisa Lawson (mother of Henry whose later writings would be one of the windows to this world) and the Suffragist Society seeking signatures on a petition that will eventually see the entire continent united, yet it is something apparently insignificant that is actually the world changer…

Those familiar with Jackie French’s meticulously researched historical fiction know that she has been telling herstory in her stories such as The Matilda Saga for years, but this new series The Girls Who Changed the World focuses particularly on the stories of girls of the readers’ age.  (And, in fact, the final pages leave Ming and Tuan on a cliffhanger in the battlefields of World War I. )

However, the significance of this particular story at this particular time cannot go unnoticed given the results of the recent federal election and other recent events. For while Ming believes that what happened in the past explains the present, and we know that Australia became a federation in 1901 those original divisions, parochialism and desire for autonomy quickly became apparent during the response to the COVID 19 pandemic; and while women did, indeed, get the vote, the wave of female voters voting for women candidates in the federal election shows that there is still much about women’s lives and status that needs to be addressed and changed.

While the groundwork was laid by the likes of Louisa Lawson and Aunt McTavish, who were those who carried it forward, who continue to do so and who might be dreaming with their eyes open to take it even further?  Seems to me that there might be scope for each of our students to investigate and write a story to add to this one…

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.