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The Tale of the Whale

The Tale of the Whale

The Tale of the Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tale of the Whale

Karen Swann

Padmacandra

UQP, 2021

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

9780702263262

‘Where land becomes sky

and the sky becomes sea,

I first saw the whale and

the whale first saw me …’

Imagine going for a ride on the back of a humpback whale and seeing all the sights beneath the waves – mountains and valleys carpeted in colour and full of intriguing creatures. “An ocean in motion, a bright, busy land..”

But this is no romantic joyride – the whale has a reason for taking the child (and the reader) on this journey. Because when its tummy rumbles and he opens his mouth wide, and half of the ocean is swallowed inside, it is not packed with krill and other whale delights but with rubbish, particularly plastics, thoughtlessly tossed away by humans and now inside his tummy where he tries to digest it in vain.  That then causes the child to look with new eyes at the creatures he had seen – the turtle tangled in a plastic bag; the seagull with the six-pack ring around its neck… the sea is really just plastic soup.

Even though our students are becoming more and more aware of the issue of plastic being disposed in the ocean through stories such as these and teachers using them to raise awareness in carefully constructed units, the problem continues to grow causing phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, solutions begin with awareness and this lyrical and sensitively illustrated story is a must-have addition to your collection that supports these investigations. If just one child teaches their adult to think before they throw, then that is a win. 

Teachers’ notes supporting the environmental aspects of the story are available.

  

Dinosaur Questions & Answers

Dinosaur Questions & Answers

Dinosaur Questions & Answers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Questions & Answers

The Natural History Museum

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

64pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781486315161

If you’re as old as the dinosaurs themselves, and even if you’re not, if you have had anything to do with young children you will know that the fascination for dinosaurs is universal and endless.  I wish I had the proverbial dollar for every time I have been told that a child is obsessed with dinosaurs and asked what did I have that was new.

So this new publication from CSIRO Publishing which targets those just beginning to discover these creatures and who have so many questions about them is perfect.  Tackling 50 most commonly asked questions such as ‘Which dinosaurs had the biggest teeth?’ and ‘Why did some dinosaurs have such short arms /’, both question and answers are in straight-forward language, give just the right amount of information and are accompanied by clear, colourful illustrations ensuring the young reader’s inquisitiveness is satisfied while demonstrating the power of books to seek the information we want. 

Many of our youngest readers will be experts on this subject before they come to school and even though according to formal tests they can’t yet read, they will have cut their teeth on this subject and know more about reading (and dinosaurs) than we give them credit for.  So this could serve as an excellent model to let this group create their own Q&A book to not only show off their own knowledge but to learn from their peers, empowering them in a way that few formal lessons could do.  It could offer a pathway into the information literacy process for them – what do I already know, what do I want to know, where can I find out, how can I share what I’ve discovered – and inspire them to investigate further. 

Bee Detectives

Bee Detectives

Bee Detectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Detectives

Vanessa Ryan-Rendall

Brenna Quinlan

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486313396

When Olivia and Hamish are woken by the scream of a chainsaw coming from their local park and see what looks like a cloud of smoke rising, they are very concerned that there is a fire.  But they soon discover that what they thought was smoke is a cloud of insects disturbed when their tree home fell.

With the help of the specialist Bee Team, they learn that the insects are Native Social Stingless Bees and because the hive contains the bees’ babies it needs to be rescued.  That evening, when the last of the bees is safely in the temporary hive, Hamish and Olivia are invited to take it into their backyard so they can learn about these bees and how they are essential to the well-being of the environment.  The children take on the challenge and they, and the reader, learn not only about the bees’ importance but also about the many other native bees that live in the garden, usually unnoticed.

While the plight of bees globally is gradually being recognised as becoming critical, most young readers associate them with the fluffy black and yellow bumblebees of their storybooks, not realising that Australia alone has over 1700 species of native bees, each of which needs protection.  With a special section giving the reader more information about these species, particularly those mentioned in the story, and tips on how to attract them to the suburban garden, this is an important publication to help young students develop their awareness of the role bees have and understand how they can promote their well-being. Using a story format accompanied by charming illustrations that also put the bees under a magnifying glass so they can be more than squiggles on a page means that this has the potential to be used as a springboard to an intriguing investigation as students start to identify the various species and search for them in their own surroundings.  As well as extensive teaching notes to assist this, students might also consider establishing a bee hotel to encourage the bees to stay.

 

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear and Rat

Christopher Cheng

Stephen Michael King

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760896287

Bear and Rat are the very best of friends, there for each other no matter what.  But even though Bear has proven his devotion to his friend, Rat is feeling concerned about the future.

“Bear,” said Rat, “I’ve been wondering. Will we always hold hands like this, even when we are old and wrinkly…and tottering up this hill?”

“Of course we will,” said Bear. “As long as you hold mine when my fur turns grey and starts to fall out.”

But something is clearly troubling Rat because despite all Bear’s reassurance she still feels unsettled and unsure, until she finally asks, “What if I have to leave and go somewhere you can’t come?” And Bear offers her the perfect answer, one that comforts and assures her that no matter what, they will be together one way or another forever.

This has been one of the most difficult books for me to read and review because even though it is the most delicate love story, it is based on a real story and sadly, because the author and his wife have been friends of mine for years, I knew its truth and its outcome.  Also, having experienced my own Bear and Rat episodes twice in 18 months, it was all the more poignant, and to be honest, it took me some time to put on my big girl pants and read it. 

But often our children need the sort of reassurance that Rat does – that regardless of what they do or say or experience, someone will be there for them through everything because real love is unconditional and enduring. Chris has captured this special, incredible relationship perfectly because he has lived it and Stephen’s illustrations with their gentle palette and lines are the perfect accompaniment, suggesting he too, knows what it is to love in this way.  And as a reader, with tissues in hand, so do I. 

A remarkable picture book that shows that regardless of what else we might have, to have that sort of love of another is everything.  

Paws

Paws

Paws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2021

252pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99

9781760652685

As Year 6 moves along  Alex has one goal – to make a friend, preferably Jared and the other popular kids, who won’t be mean to him when he starts secondary school. Because this is not easy when you are autistic and have super sensory awareness when sights and sounds, particularly overwhelm your brain, he has developed a plan to achieve this.  It has three components – to be an expert at the computer game Orbs World; to run fast enough so his relay team, which includes Jared, can go to the district competition and for his beloved cockapoo Kevin to win a trophy at the upcoming dog show, Paws. However, when his expectations and plans start to go awry, he pins all his hopes on Kevin being successful… 

Based on her own son’s experience when the family adopted a spoodle, the author has created an engaging story that will engage the reader from start to finish.  Told by Alex himself so that we discover how he thinks, what he does to help himself and why, this is a rare insight into the world of the autistic child and the challenges they encounter just dealing with everyday situations we take for granted.  Unlike the neurotypical brain that comes with ‘templates” for responses to situations, autistic brains are wired differently and Alex’s story shows how they have to build these responses from scratch, learning through mirroring and masking experiencing hard emotional lessons and confusing rejection as they do. Human behaviour being what it is, even his mum and brother can’t always match his need for consistency, and the one constant in Alex’s life is the unconditional love and sensitivity of Kevin.  The bond between them is critical to his well-being.

While it is intended for independent readers, it would also make an excellent class read-aloud particularly for any class that has a child like Alex. If we are to develop empathetic, compassionate children then they need to understand the challenges that others endure, and this does that perfectly in a story that you can’t put down.

Dandy and Dazza

Dandy and Dazza

Dandy and Dazza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dandy and Dazza

Mike Dumbleton

Brett Curzon

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781921928826

Dandy was a best-in-show sort of hound while Dazza was a rough-and-tumble sort of mongrel.  As dogs go, they couldn’t be more different.  One liked five-star food, the other old bones found in the rubbish bin;  one liked peace and quiet; the other barked and went crazy; one walked demurely to the park in a fur-lined coat and leg-warmers; the other pulled and strained at the leash covered in the mud and muck from rolling in puddles on the way… 

Could two such different temperaments ever get along?

From the title to the endpages to  the text itself, you just know that this is going to be a book of contrasts that brings so much fun to the reader. And it doesn’t disappoint.  How will two  such polar opposites be able to share the park together?  This is a story that will appeal to young readers, especially those with dogs because no doubt they will recognise their own pooches in the pictures and the antics.  The bright, brilliant  illustrations catch the eye and the roll-off-the-tongue text will make this a favourite while sparking discussions about how opposites attract and despite our differences, friendship is still possible..  

Dream Big, Little Mole

Dream Big, Little Mole

Dream Big, Little Mole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Big, Little Mole

Tom Percival

Christine Pym

Bloomsbury, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408892824

 

Little Mole looks on with envy at the birds soaring through the sky, the ducks swimming, the grasshopper leaping and the squirrely climbing.

“I wish I could do that,” she said with a sigh.  Wise Owl hears her and tells her that rather than envying the others, she should just be herself.  But when Little Mole decides her talent is digging and sets out to dig the biggest hole in the world, it seems that everything just turns to disaster – or does it?

This is a gentle story-in-rhyme for young readers that demonstrates the meaning of clouds having silver linings.  Although it appears that her digging only upsets Fox and Hedgehog and Rabbit and she decides to give up, a meeting with Otter spurs her on and the ending is most unexpected. Perhaps Little Mole’s talent is more important than digging the biggest hole in the world.

 

 

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song for Everyone

Lucy Morris

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526631121

From a tiny window, too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight, came a delicate tune.
A melody, a song, a sound so sweet which drifted on the breeze to the lanes and streets below. …

Day after day, the song is heard through the town. making the old feel young and comforting the lonely. It fills the whole town with joy and kindness. No one knows who sings the song, but they know it is good.  Until one day, the music stops. Can the town work together to save the song for everyone?

This is a gentle story that shows how it is the little things that can shape our day and our well-being. With the music being depicted as whirls and swirls of tiny flowers and leaves small enough to get into everyone’s ears and heart, yet its origins not revealed till the climax of the story+, young readers can predict not only who or what is offering this gift to the town but also what has happened to make it stop.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It also shows that music is a universal language and begin an investigation into its various genres and what they think would be the one tune that everyone would like to hear. How does music affect our mood? What mind pictures does it create ? Is there, indeed, a song for everyone?

The Wind in the Willows Graphic Novel

The Wind in the Willows Graphic Novel

The Wind in the Willows Graphic Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wind in the Willows Graphic Novel

Russell Punter & Kenneth Grahame

Xavier Bonet

Usborne, 2021 

104pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781474968867

In 1908 British author brought children the story of Mole, Rat and Badger and their efforts to reform the friendly but conceited and mischievous Mr Toad of Toad Hall who is fascinated by the latest fads, particularly motorcars.  But Toad is not the best of drivers and after many mishaps, finds himself in prison for 20 years for stealing a car.  Even though he eventually escapes, during his absence his magnificent Toad Hall has been overtaken by weasels and stoats, and it becomes a battle to get it back.

Now, over 100 years on, it has been interpreted in graphic novel format to appeal to a new generation of readers,  offering them an introduction to this classic story which has delighted so many before.  This is the latest in this series which includes The Wizard of Oz  and The Three Musketeers which opens up a new world of literature from past generations, inspiring independent readers to seek out the original versions. It is fast-paced and funny and has all the ingredients that have enabled it to endure for so long.

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mo and Crow

Jo Kasch

Jonathan Bentley

A & U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760631758

Mo lives in a little house high on a hill, protected by a thick stone wall that is stronger than both the wind and the rain.  It keep out everything that Mo wants kept out and that is exactly how he wanted it.  The outside world was not welcome in Mo’s world.

But one day he hears a tap-tap-tap on his wall and even though he whistles loudly and pulls hit hat down over his ears, the noise continued.  Tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity until suddenly a crow pushes a stone out of the wall and pops its head through the hole.  Mo tells the crow to go and fills the breach, but next day the crow is back.  Each is as stubborn and persistent as the other, so who will wins this war of wills?

On the surface this is a charming story about a man and a bird each determined to get their own way, but for the more astute reader it is also an allegory for the walls we each build around ourselves to protect our innermost personal thoughts and feelings.   While one might speculate on what has happened to Mo to make him choose to live in such isolation, we might also reflect on those things that we, as individuals, hold deep and refuse to share.  Is there any truth in the old adage, “A problem shared is a problem halved”?

Bentley’s bold illustrations bring to life this clever story about breaking down barriers and discovering the joys that a strong friendship can bring.