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Diary of a Rescued Wombat

Diary of a Rescued Wombat

Diary of a Rescued Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Rescued Wombat – The Untold Story

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9781460761823

Twenty years ago, a baby wombat was rescued from its burrow in southern New South Wales and began a story that not only continues today through the adventures of her granddaughter Wild Whiskers posted on Jackie’s FB page,  but which brought a whole new dimension to the stories published for preschoolers at the time. For despite Diary of a Wombat  being simple one-word captions accompanying Bruce Whatley’s adorable illustrations, those words told a story, endeared the character to the readers and left them wanting more.  And despite being simple one-word captions accompanying Bruce Whatley’s adorable illustrations, that book was loved by all ages and went on to win the Young Australian Readers’ Award (along with a host of others) for that year, an award for which I was co-coordinator but which was entirely decided by the reviews and votes of children throughout Australia.  

Since then, as well as being made into a stage presentation and having a commemorative coin minted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication, Diary of a Wombat is now a must-have staple in the collection of any new-born baby, as familiar and as loved as Grandma Hush and Poss, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and a small handful of others who have survived the test of generations. 

But what led Mothball to become such a part of Jackie French’s family and for her descendants to be as loved as she is?

In this new book, Jackie and Bruce take the reader back to where it all began, to where little Mothball was initially rescued and how she developed a love of carrots (but not so much for toilet paper) and how she learned she could train the humans she lived with to do her bidding.  In a world full of prequels and sequels, in my opinion, this is one of the best prequels ever!!!  And not just because it is charming and engaging and brings back so many memories including the beginning of a long-standing personal friendship with the author, but because of the joy and wonder and awareness that it is going to bring to another generation of children as the wombat is cited as being the most endearing of Australia’s indigenous creatures by so many.  

In her book The Fire Wombat , Jackie tells of the impact that the fires that ravaged the landscape three years ago had on the wildlife; but now our country has been devastated by floods and many wombat burrows and other habitats are under threat again.  How many other little Mothballs are there that now need our help, our care and our support?  By telling the original story in this way, so that both books go hand in hand, a new generation of readers is going to feel a similar connection to these creatures and thus ensure their safety and survival.  

The memory of Miss 6 sitting up in bed beside Miss 2 and reading Diary of a Wombat to her, one of the first she had ever read independently and was so determined to share with her little sister, is one of my most precious.  So my review copy is going to be in a special Santa Sack this Christmas, even though the girls are now 16 and 12, and it will be as warmly welcomed there as it will be by any other little (or big) reader who is given it. 

 

Two Puggles

Two Puggles

Two Puggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Puggles

Michelle Guzel

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696168

When Spike and Ducky hatched they looked exactly the same, but as they began to grow, Spike got spiky and Ducky didn’t.  And that’s not all that changes.  How can “two brothers from the same mother” be so different?

This is an intriguing story about two of Australia’s unique creatures – the echidna and the platypus – who actually have more in common than it looks.  With overtones of both Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the ugly duckling and Eastman’s Are You My Mother?, it introduces the two monotremes in an entertaining way while also offering lots of information about them so little ones can learn.  Accompanied by Andrew Plant’s (I’m-a-fan) realistic illustrations that that embed the twist in the plot that makes you think, it is a delightful story of friendship, co-operation and using your unique talents for the common good.

And just for your Monday morning entertainment…

Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

Swifty - The Super-fast Parrot

Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swifty – The Super-fast Parrot

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Astred Hicks

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315918

   

In a hollow in a Tasmanian blue gum in a Tasmanian forest, a female swift parrot lays three eggs, Even though all three hatch, only one survives the perils of the forest, and learns which nectar is the sweetest and which lerps are best. 

As the Tasmanian weather cools and winter looms, Swifty joins the few remaining parrots of her species to make the 250km flight across Bass Strait to the mainland territories of Victoria, NSW, ACT and south-east Queensland following the blossom trail.  One of only two species of parrot that migrates, Swifty’s journey takes her on a perilous 4000km round trip but even a return to Tasmania does not guarantee safety as she finds the hollow in her tree already taken and so she has to make yet another journey to one of the outlying islands to breed in safety. 

Once again. CSIRO Publishing has employed top-shelf writers and illustrators to bring young readers a story that introduces them to another of Australia’s critically endangered species, raising awareness and understanding that there are so many of these lesser-known creatures that need protection, safety and help as their habitat declines.  As well as offering tips for kids on how to spot one in their backyard, how to help protect them and how to help further, there are comprehensive teachers’ notes  to enable deeper study. 

Another one to add to your collection from this publisher dedicated to ensuring our young readers know the inhabitants of their environment, a collection that includes On the Trail of the Plains-Wanderer, SwoopAmazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity A Shorebird Flying AdventureTiny Possum and the Migrating MothsOne Potoroo  and Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

 

Out of the Pouch

Out of the Pouch

Out of the Pouch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Pouch

Laura Hamilton

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781922358431

Poppy the baby joey is learning to be independent and so her mother often nudges her out of the pouch to explore.  Poppy loves the freedom but one day she zigs and zags and zooms so much she gets lost.  Using her smarts, she doesn’t panic but asks the other creatures for help.  But Kookaburra. Koala and Echidna are too busy in their own little worlds to know where Poppy’s mother is.  Until Cockatoo comes to the rescue…

This is an Australian twist on a familiar theme that would be the perfect introduction to talking to our youngest readers about what they should do should they get lost.  An opportunity to teach them about who the safe strangers are, the importance of knowing their name, address and telephone number, and having the resilience to take a deep breath and think of the best strategy to use. 

One for the preschooler’s library…

 

On the Trail of the Plains-wanderer

On the Trail of the Plains-wanderer

On the Trail of the Plains-wanderer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Trail of the Plains-wanderer

Rohan Cleave

Julian Teh

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486314478

Far out west, on the grassy plains straddling the borders of New South Wales and Victoria, lives a little bird, the only one of its kind in the world.  With no other relatives in its family tree, and itself moving closer to extinction because its habitat is diminishing as the land is farmed, and threats like foxes and other predators constantly endangering them, it is one of the world’s rarest and most threatened species.

But on this, National Threatened Species Day (recognised on September 7 because that’s the anniversary of the death in Hobart Zoo in 1936 of the last thylacine), it is time to shine a spotlight on this little creature to make it, and its plight, more widely known.  Although the scientists have been able to start a captive-breeding program, which includes using a feather duster in an unusual way, the birds lead such secretive lives it is not an easy task.

Told in a facts-rich narrative with life-like illustrations, with further information at the back as well as teachers’ notes, this is another opportunity to highlight another seriously endangered creature that is not as well-known as others. Even if the plains wanderer is not in our particular neighbourhood, other species are and students can be encouraged to consider their ecological footprint and what they can do to help so that their awareness is raised and they realise that even an individual can make a difference so Australia’s pitiful record of species loss can be stemmed. 

Now is the time to introduce our students not only to this little bird – adults are just 15-19cm high and weigh 40-95 grams- but to other unique Australian species through books like Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity , A Shorebird Flying Adventure, Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths, One Potoroo  and Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish so that other species don’t go the way of the thylacine. 

Snakes Awake

Snakes Awake

Snakes Awake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snakes Awake

Jarrod Paine

Shannon Boland

Ford Street, 2022 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804928

Pip and her mum love to explore the bush, particularly in summer when so many creatures have woken from their winter slumbers and are out and about.  Pip’s favourite creatures are snakes, especially the red-belly black snake, but there are lots of things to know and do so she and her mum stay safe while they are exploring.

Written for younger readers so they too can heed Pip’s advice, this is a timely book to share as the weather warms up and families and animals are more active. As well as the story, it includes easy-to-read charts for both staying safe and first aid should there be the need.  Above all, it shows that while we must take care in the bush, just as we do at the beach, there is much to see and admire if we are prepared to wear our “special nature goggles”. 

 

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.