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Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the White Ibis

Phillip Gwynne

Liz Anelli

Puffin. 2022

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

9781760897949

The ‘chorus” of this song would seem to sum up this bird’s reputation…

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate

But, in fact, the white ibis – Threskiornis molucca – has  a more dignified tale to tell. That of being related to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt and to Thoth, the god of science, writing, magic and the moon; that of being the farmers’ friend as their long beaks aerate the soil as they dig for troublesome insects like locusts; that of once living in the wetlands but driven to being of scavenger of the cities because of human habitation overtaking theirs. 

There was much derision when Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe suggested the white ibis to be the mascot for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane but this intriguing book by Phillip Gwynne with its detailed illustrations from Liz Anelli  shows the bird in a completely different light, offering a different side to its common image. Certainly, the final message of “reduce, reuse, recycle’ or we might all become bin chickens is confronting but is a definite heads up to make us think about why there is just so much waste to enable these birds to thrive in the urban environment. 

According to the  National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study

  • Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion each year.
  • Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain – this wastage equals about 312kg per person, equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
  • The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers in excess of 25 million hectares, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.

(Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2022)

Thus, this book could be the springboard to students  investigating food waste and its management in both our schools and our homes making it so much more that a plea from a bird for some dignity and respectability. Even young readers can create visual representations of what 312kg  or one in five bags of groceries look like. And that notion of it being the Olympic mascot could be more beneficial than first considered… 

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.  

 

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.

 

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. 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Little Wombat's Easter Surprise

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Charles Fuge

Walker, 2022 

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760654269

Little Wombat is busy collecting eggs on his Easter hunt when he sees Rabbit hop by wearing a special Easter Bunny costume. It’s such a good costume that the tail and nose won’t come even off – but wait, is that really Rabbit? Or is it his new friend, Bilby?

In 1991,  the Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia (RFA) developed and registered the Easter Bilby campaign  to raise awareness of the damage rabbits do to native wildlife, and to raise money with royalties from Easter Bilby sales to fund research programs. In 1993, Haigh’s Chocolates in Adelaide stopped making chocolate Easter bunnies and made the first Easter Bilby, donating part of the proceeds to RFA.  More recently the Easter Bilbies have been made by Fyna Foods sold under the brands of Australian Bush Friends and Pink Lady and have been stocked by national chains and other independent stores. 

Aligned to this, in 1999 the  Save the Bilby Fund was established in 1999 to raise money and awareness to help stop the steady decline of bilbies. The fund helps support bilby conservation initiatives including a breeding program and a “bilby fence” creating a predator-free zone in Western Queensland. 

Dedicated to Tim Faulkner and his work with Aussie Ark ,Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise shines a new light on the both the plight of the bilby and the reasons behind Australia having such a unique interpretation of the familiar Easter Bunny both for the young audience and their parents who share it because they will be too young to remember the circumstances.  As in Swim, Little Wombat, SwimLittle Wombat tries to mimic the actions of his new friends Bilby and Easter Bunny only to discover he has his own unique talents that come in very handy for building friendships and having fun.

As well as being a fresh story about Easter in Australia, and helping children understand that we each have special abilities that we can use for the good of others, it is a great way to introduce another Australian species, sadly also endangered, and raising awareness (and perhaps money) that there are many who need our help.  

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kookaburra

Clare Saxby

Tannya Harricks

Walker Books, 2020

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

9781760651060

Dawn, and in a line on a limb, Kookaburra and her family greet the rising sun with their distinctive call, harsh at times but more melodious than any alarm clock.  After welcoming the daylight hours, they go their separate ways in search of food, using their keen eyesight to spot even the most elusive snack.  But it is nesting season and after being presented with a delicious morsel by her lifelong mate, they go in search of a new tree hollow in which to lay their eggs.  But despite looking at a lot of new real estate, they return to their old home even though they have to defend it and the surrounding territory from intruders. And as the shadows grow longer and dusk falls, once again there is a line on a limb and that familiar sound bids the world goodnight.

There is no more iconic sound of the Australian bush than the laugh of the kookaburra – even though it varies according to circumstance and season and is never actually directed at something amusing – and in this addition to the narrative non-fiction Nature Storybook series that opens the world of Australia’s fauna to young readers by telling the story of one creature and accompanying it with facts about the species in general, Saxby and Harricks have captured both the sound, sight and antics of this stunning bird perfectly. 

Saxby, also the author of Big Red KangarooEmu Koala  and Dingo (also illustrated by Harricks) brings her ability to create pictures with her words to create magic on the tongue, while Harricks has captured the colours and the contours of the bush in oils with her bold strokes and beautiful palette. We are blessed to live in a place where we see a range of Australian birds in their natural habitat every day but despite the magpie family’s loyalty, the brilliant colours of the crimson rosellas and the mad antics of the galahs and cockatoos, it is always the call of the kookaburra that brings the widest smile.   While trees with hollows are becoming harder to find, particularly after the Black Summer bushfires, hopefully there will always be a home in the bush near us for them. 

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Aleesah Darlison

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781760899240

It is the dry season in the northern reaches of Australia, a tough time for tiny Gouldian Finches like Rusty who watches the waterhole shrink knowing that, like all finches, he needs to drink several times a day. But Rusty is lucky, for he has met Olive and after an energetic courtship dance during which he displays displays the magnificent colours that belie his name – a bright green back, yellow belly, a purple breast and black face (although Olive is the rarer red-faced version)  – together they build a nest in a hollow tree and get ready to raise their young, adding to the population of these endangered birds. It is hard work feeding six always-hungry mouths but it’s made easier because each baby, although naked and blind, has a colourful pattern on its mouth so its parents can see it in the dark of the hollow.

But even more dire than the shrinking water hole which means that Rusty and Olive have to fly further and further to find the insects and seeds to feed their babies, is the fire that is roaring across the countryside…

This is the third in this series about Australia’s lesser-known endangered species  and like its predecessors,  Poppy, the Punk Turtle  and Coco, the fish with hands both author and artist have created a perfect text attractive and accessible to its intended audience of young readers with a curiosity about the natural world around them. The colour and simplicity of the illustrations catch the eye immediately (as would a Gouldian Finch) and the story written in simple but accurate vocabulary which respects their intelligence, supported by fact boxes, is ideal for introducing young readers to a world beyond their own.

This is an essential collection of stories for any parent or teacher wanting to expand their child’s horizons so they understand that there are many creatures in the environment that need both help and protection from us, and we have a responsibility to them all, no matter how small or obscure.