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Devils in Danger

Devils in Danger

Devils in Danger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devils in Danger

Samantha Wheeler

UQP, 2021

216pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263293

Eleven-year-old Killarney thinks school is boring. She’d rather be exploring the wilderness around her Tasmanian hometown or helping her hairdresser mum. When strange things start to happen – ear-splitting screams in the dead of night and missing items found under the house – Killarney is too busy solving the mystery to do schoolwork.

Before long, she discovers the culprit: a wild Tasmanian devil, denning under the house! When rumours about dangerous devils begin spreading, Killarney is determined to protect her precious visitor. But can she convince an entire town these wild creatures are worth saving?

Being married to one who is affectionately known as a Tasmanian Devil because of his birthplace, the plight of Tasmanian Devils in recent years as they battle Devil Facial Tumour Disease has been on my radar for some time so a book which brings these little creatures into the limelight was always going to appeal. And it had me from that murderous scream in the first sentence!! With characters who are instantly recognisable, Wheeler has crafted an engaging story that keeps the reader engrossed while subtly educating them about these fascinating marsupials which despite their small size have jaws powerful enough to crush bones easily, particularly as they are now officially on the endangered list.  And while readers may not have the opportunities that Killarney has, nevertheless there are programs in place to save the Tassie Devil in various states that they can become involved with as attempts are made to re-establish the creature on the Australian mainland.

Most appropriate for independent readers, this would also be a grand read-aloud to accompany any study into Australia’s endangered species and is a worth companion to others in the series including Wombat Warrior,  Mister Cassowary ,Turtle Trackers and Smooch and Rose.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Today’s Sun

Today's Sun

Today’s Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Sun

Greg Dreisse

Puffin, 2021

16pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9781760898335

 

Dawn, the sun is yawning and it’s time to munch like “a hungry, fluffy possum.” As it rises over the horizon it is time to laugh like “a happy kookaburra.’ And as it warms, cools. fades and sleeps, there are times to hop like a kangaroo, run like an emu, snuggle like a koala, slumber like a wombat…

Using just black, white and a myriad of patterns, Greg Dreisse takes the young reader through a magical journey of the day, not only introducing them to some of Australia’s iconic wildlife but also encouraging them to note the passage of the sun and the passing of time.  There is a time for everything. And when today is done, there will be another one tomorrow.

September 15 is International Dot Day, the day celebrating creativity, courage and collaboration, inspired by The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe. 

This is the perfect book to encourage children of all ages to explore their creativity, to start their own illustration to add to the book starting by making a mark.  Just looking at the cover and exploring the number of ways Dreisse has made a dot by changing its size and fill could inspire a beginning and then a closer examination of the patterns used in the illustrations throughout will open up so many possibilities. 

Even though this is a board book with a target audience of the very young, it could be used with older students to investigate the origins, traditions and protocols of the dot artworks of First Australians, while others could explore the use of pattern to build movement, texture, and mood which the monochromatic scheme really emphasises.

A rich addition to any collection, regardless of its format and what it appears to be on the surface. 

One Potoroo

One Potoroo

One Potoroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Potoroo

Penny Jaye

Alicia Rogerson

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486314645

Two Peoples Bay on the southern coast of Western Australia, just east of Albany, and fire is bearing down fast on the last-known natural population of Ngilkat, or Gilbert’s Potoroo.

After the flames have passed leaving only ash and bones behind,  gentle hands find a tiny, burned potoroo huddling under a slab of granite; hands that are checking, caring, soothing and which pop him into a warm sack where he will be safe and secure on the journey to a new place.  A place that doesn’t smell like home but which doesn’t smell like smoke and ash either, but where he will be cared for until he can be found a new home.  A home that has granite boulders – but no pythons; a home that has melaleuca thickets – but no foxes.  A home that has deep leaf litter and truffles – but no cats.  Because this little chap is one of just a handful of his kind left on the planet, a species that was known to the Noongar people for tens of thousands of years, but was thought extinct because of the impact of introduced animals, and which had been rediscovered just 20 years earlier.

And so when his wounds have healed he finds himself once again in the sack and on the truck, this time heading to a new home in the Waychinicup National Park where there is food and protection from the predators.  And where there are others of his kind who offer the promise of life…

While we  have heard much of the plight of the koala following Black Summer, and Jackie French told us of the wombats, it is hard to grasp the extent of the destruction of all wildlife and their habitats until stories like this are put before us. Beautifully illustrated and narrated in a matter-of-fact way but with carefully chosen vocab that make the text as gentle as its subject, there is a desire to learn more about this tiny little creature, even form a cheer squad for its survival.  There is more information at the back of the book to whet the appetite but this is a story to tell and a book to promote to any child or teacher planning to investigate Australia’s endangered species, because it is our rarest mammal and the world’s most endangered marsupial. Extensive, teachers’ notes  covering science, sustainability and English are available and include suggestions for titles for related books such as Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish.

It is part of the unique story of our country, and the  courage and resilience of its inhabitants.

 

 

 

G’Day, Spot!

G'Day, Spot!

G’Day, Spot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G’Day, Spot!

Eric Hill

Puffin, 2021

18pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780241489543

Spot that loveable puppy is back in a new adventure.  This time he and his family are in Australia and it’s time for a picnic.  But there is a bit of a walk to the beach and there are many things to discover on the way -a kookaburra, a platypus, and even a kangaroo! But when they stop for a rest, Spot has disappeared! Where has he gone?

Even though it is over 40 years since our littlest readers were gifted the fun of finding Spot (and are probably reading it to their own children) , the little dog remains a firm favourite and the fun of lifting the flaps to discover his adventures never wains. So to add in an Australian element and put it in a format that is the right size and sturdiness for little hands just adds to its appeal. With the stories have sold 65 million copies in over 60 languages, no child should grow up without meeting this loveable character. 

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Diane Lucas & Ben Tyler

Emma Long

Allen & Unwin, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760525958

When a walk through the forest becomes an opportunity to learn about the secrets of what grows and lives there, and to tell and hear the stories of its past peoples, you never know how long you will be, what you will hear or what you will see.  For this forest in Kakadu in the Northern Territory contains more riches than a pirate’s treasure trove with its plant life, insects, birds and creatures, their inter-connections and the stories they bring with them. Old man Kapirigi says, “You gotta watch those birds”, (the djuwe or northern bower bird} “they’ll steal your bones out of the cave when you die.”

Combining their knowledge of and passion for the land and its stories, the authors have created a text that carries the reader along with its narrative while being laden with the most remarkable information, embedding the Kundjeyhml language in so naturally that the English equivalents seem so bland and boring in comparison. And Emma Long’s line and watercolour drawings that span full page spreads down to tiny vignettes are just sublime, highlighting just how busy even a tiny leaf can be if we take the time to look and listen. Rather than using conventional speech indicators, an avatar depicts the speaker as they point out something or tell a story and the whole just becomes an engaging read and learning experience that makes you want to go out to really embrace and inhale the nearest bit of garden you can find.  Just because we can’t get to Kakadu right now doesn’t mean we can’t learn the lessons of observation, appreciation and conservation that this book offers. There is so much more than we usually see to discover – a new world that fits in perfectly with this year’s CBCA Book Week theme. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lucas’s first book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, published over 15 years ago led the way to opening up this land to our young readers so they could begin to understand its ancient stories and those who shared them and this stunning book continues the tradition. Look for it in the CBCA 2022 Eve Pownall Notables because it certainly deserves a place there. 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Gina M. Newton

Rachel Tribout

CSIRO Publishing, 2020

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

 9781486311842

Where the Derwent River spreads out to meet the Tasman Sea on the southeastern coast of Tasmania lives Handstand,  a spotted handfish and one of just 1000 left of a species that the dinosaurs would have recognised.  A species of anglerfish, Handstand lures prey using a fleshy growth on her head, which acts like a fishing rod and lure, even including a “light” that attracts the worms and crustaceans on the deep sea floor. But even more amazing is that she has hands – pectoral fins that have adapted to allow her to walk along the seabed because without a swim bladder, she can’t swim. 

This is just some of the information contained in this remarkable book, told by Handstand herself, and introducing this highly endangered species to young readers.  Being one of the first marine fish species to be listed on the IUCN Red List , and one of just 14 species from the hundreds that used to be in the oceans (all of which are Australian). not only does Handstand raise awareness of her species for those looking to investigate a not-so-familiar endangered species, but she conveys a strong message of the need to protect and conserve both the marine environment and those that live within it. 

Presented in a way that engages the reader with Handstand’s story entwined and embedded with facts and accompanied by biologically-correct illustrations which have a childlike appeal, this book has been shortlisted for both the CBCA Even Pownall Award for Information Books for 2021 and the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature: Non fiction 2021, both accolades that are richly deserved because not only is the spotlight thrown on the future of the spotted handfish , but there is also a raised awareness of the needs of and threats to the ocean environment generally. If climate change, chemical pollution, rubbish, fishing nets and invaders like the Northern Pacific Seastar are threatening this tiny creature, then others must be at risk too. 

Extensive teachers’ notes are available and the book uses a variety of graphic techniques that students could adopt and adapt to bring their own reports to life, making it a book that as well as deserving its award nominations, definitely deserves a place in the library’s collection. 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

Gordon Winch

Stephen Pym

Catch A Star, 2021 

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9781922326232

Right from the get-go, our youngest littlies learn to recognise the iconic Australian wildlife – I’m currently making a library bag for Mr Almost-2 with an Aussie animal theme – and so this little board book from the creator of Can You Find Me? is perfect for not only consolidating their knowledge but also beginning their reading journey.  With its sturdy board book format,  lift-the-flap interactivity and repetitive, rhyming text they can discover the platypus, echidna, koala, kangaroo and possum in their familiar habitats while also being introduced to some less familiar creatures that share that same environment.

Not only does this approach start to develop those early reading behaviours that are the foundation of mastering print, but it also encourages them to look more closely at the trees and bushes around them and understand that even if they aren’t a home for something familiar, they are a home for something. And if they look carefully, they might just discover what that something is.  

There are indeed riches galore in this seemingly simple, beautifully illustrated book. 

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO's A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Andrea Wild

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

112pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486313976

Australia is a most diverse continent with a huge variety of natural wonders from its regular bushfires to jumping spiders to zombie worms and in this fascinating book designed for curious young independent readers over 100 are examined and explored. Inspired by the specimens and stories from the CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia (which is home to more than 15 000 000 natural history specimens), photographs, diagrams and easily accessible text offer the budding young scientist an introduction to the tiniest microscopic organisms to those much larger, from the familiar like joeys to the one-off magpie nest made of coathangers.  

With its alphabetical layout, contents page, and glossary it is easy to navigate and there are comprehensive teachers’ notes which guide the reader to discover how and why species get their scientific names to pressing and preserving their own plant specimens.

This is a marvellous dip-and-delve book that both teacher and student will find fascinating as they find something to accompany or satisfy their curiosity. A whole new world of discovery awaits.

Music for Tigers

Music for Tigers

Music for Tigers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music for Tigers

Michelle Kadarusman

Pajama Press, 2021

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781772781892

“The first sound I hear in the forest at the bottom of the world is Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. There’s a movement in the violin concerto that’s meant to mimic the sound of birds. When I step off the bus in the Tarkine bush, that’s exactly what I hear. An orchestra of birdsong descends like musical rain from the Tasmanian treetops.”

Shipped halfway around the world from Toronto to Tasmania to spend the summer with her mother’s eccentric Australian relatives, middle schooler and passionate violinist Louisa is prepared to be resentful. All she wants to be is a violinist, not a biologist like her mother but her mother has discovered that the family-run sanctuary is about to be destroyed and thinks Louisa needs to know more about her heritage.

Life at the family’s remote camp in the Tasmanian rainforest is intriguing, to say the least. There are pig-footed bandicoots, scary spiders, weird noises and odours in the night, and a quirky boy named Colin who cooks the most amazing meals. Not the least strange is her Uncle Ruff, with his unusual pet and veiled hints about something named Convict Rock. 

Finally, when Uncle Ruff gives Louisa her great-grandmother’s diary, she learns the truth: Convict Rock is a sanctuary established by her great-grandmother Eleanor-a sanctuary for Tasmanian tigers, Australia’s huge marsupials that were famously hunted into extinction almost a hundred years ago. Or so the world believes. Hidden in the rainforest at Convict Rock, one tiger remains. But now the sanctuary is threatened by a mining operation, and the last Tasmanian tiger must be lured deeper into the forest. The problem is, not since her great-grandmother has a member of the family been able to earn the shy tigers’ trust. 

As the summer progresses, Louisa forges unexpected connections with Colin a young lad on the autism spectrum; with the forest;  and-through Eleanor’s journal-with her great-grandmother. She begins to suspect the key to saving the tiger is her very own music. But will her plan work? Or will the enigmatic Tasmanian tiger disappear once again, this time forever? 

This is an intriguing read for independent readers who are looking for something different, and something that will stay with them long after the last page is read. The Tasmanian Tiger remains an mysterious, elusive creature which fascinates because of the sporadic “sightings” and suggestions that it may not have become extinct when the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Acknowledging the expertise of the land’s traditional owners, it is one that has the preservation of the environment at heart, but also the changing nature of people and families as they learn more about who they are.

Written for readers at the upper age limit of this blog, I, as an adult, was engrossed and I could hear myself reading it to a class of entranced listeners. 

 

Wombat

Wombat

Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombat

Christopher Cheng

Liz Duthie

Walker Books, 2021

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

9781760651374

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 addition to the Nature Storybook series,  released today,  will be a welcome addition to the collection.

Given the bushfires of last summer and now the floods of this autumn, 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.  Therefore, this story about the life of a wombat, looking at the interesting way these animals build their homes, look after their family and protect themselves from predators is very timely. From the day breaking as she snuggles down in her burrow where the tree roots mesh to marking her territory as she is a solitary creature, to having to defend herself and her little jellybean-like baby against the dingo, 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 in this narrative non fiction format that makes so much available to our young readers. 

Chris Cheng is at his best when he meshes his meticulous research with his way with words and this sits very well along Python, his other contribution to this series and his many others 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.