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Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Abi Cushman

Greenwillow, 2023

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

9780063234437

There are few Australian children who grow up without being introduced to Mothball, the real-life star of Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat series which not only shone a spotlight on these creatures over 20 years ago but which helped to revolutionise the publishing of stories for preschoolers. Bruce Whatley’s sublime illustrations brought to life a character that has endeared wombats as a species to generations and they are often declared as a “favourite animal”. Certainly a younger Ms 17 was delighted when she got to feed one of the many orphans raised by fellow teacher librarian Anne Graham.

 

But there is much more to this descendant of the ancient diprotodon and this “(Not So) Serious Guide” provides younger readers with a lot more information about them.  Although written for an American audience (and using a number of American terms like miles rather than kilometres and “mombat” for the joey’s mother), it provides interesting facts and details that are the main part of the narrative while there is a secondary flow between the wombat and a snake also called Joey written in speech bubbles which young readers may find amusing. 

There are a few pages at the end which offer further information about various wombat species, photos, glossary, and links to further reading (although these would be beyond the scope of the target audience) . Any book which sparks awareness of and interest in Australia’s unique wildlife which perhaps leads to greater care and protection for them as their natural habitat disappears and they become victims of rushing motorists, deserves a place in the collection and for that alone, this has earned its place. 

Don’t forget to celebrate Hairy Nosed Wombat Day – May 11, each year.

The Turtle and the Flood

The Turtle and the Flood

The Turtle and the Flood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turtle and the Flood

Jackie French

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2023

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781460762974

Myrtle the Turtle loves by the creek, swimming in the waterholes and eating the little creatures in summer, and sleeping in the dry leaves under a log in winter.  If the creek dries up she buries herself in the silt and the sand to keep cool, and if it rains and the creek flows swiftly, she swims with her strong legs and claws.

However, every now and then she notices a slight change in the water level and the air pressure on the back of her neck, and she knows that that is the signal to move to higher ground. And so she begins to walk uphill…  Like the Fire Wombat, her long-evolved instincts, “more accurate than the weather bureau” tell her disaster is coming and it is time to act.  But Myrtle is not only saving herself from the impending flood – the other creatures of the bush know that if she is on the move then they must be too.

In a country of frequent fire and flood, our wildlife is often seen as the first and most frequent casualty as so many are estimated to perish.  And the statistics can cause great distress to many, particularly our little ones, so as well as telling the story of Myrtle and how her instincts and actions are the triggers for others to act too, this is a story of reassurance that not all is doomed during disasters. While those who know Jackie’s stories for little people most commonly think “wombats”, her home in south-eastern NSW is a haven for all wildlife, including Myrtle and her companions who live in the creek that usually meanders through the space but which can become menacing…

Used with Jackie's permission...

Used with Jackie’s permission…

But there is some peace of mind in knowing that many animals can sense rain, storms and floods well ahead of the event itself and do escape.

Once again, Jackie has used her knowledge, experience and observations of her surroundings to create a story of wonder and hope, and Danny’s illustrations bring that alive symbiotically. But while Myrtle’s story will offer comfort to younger readers, older readers might want to explore further… How do creatures like Myrtle sense the changes? Do humans have the same capacity?  Is the Bureau of Meteorology our only warning system? How do our First Nations people predict the weather and what can we learn from them?  Does the land need floods in a similar way to its need of fire? And then, on another tangent, how has the impact of humans on the environment increased or reduced the likelihood of the survival of native species during such events?  Do structures like roads and fences impede their escape?

I have often said that the best picture books operate on and across many levels, they are never an end in themselves.  This is one of those.  

Where’s Little Koala?

Where's Little Koala?

Where’s Little Koala?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Little Koala?

Rhiannon Fielding

Chris Chatterton

Ladybird, 2023, 

10pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9780241620427

It is ten minutes to bedtime and Little Koala is nowhere to be seen.  Where is she hiding?

Little ones will love lifting the flaps and finding all their favourite, familiar creatures from the Land of Nod – but where is Little Koala?

This continues to be one of my favourite series for early readers, perfect for sharing and pulling the curtains on the day.  With the addition of the lift-the-flap format, they can enjoy exploring the forest and discovering all their friends are sleeping, just as they should be. Astute readers will notice the slowly darkening sky and the subtle clues of just who might be snoozing already, so all in all it is good fun as well as helping consolidate those early reading behaviours. 

Scout and the Rescue Dogs

Scout and the Rescue Dogs

Scout and the Rescue Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scout and the Rescue Dogs

Dianne Wolfer

Tony Flowers

Walker Books, 2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760655860

As the school year comes to an end at the Arcadia Boarding School for Young Ladies, Scout has only two plans for the long summer holidays – to enjoy the time with her trucker dad and to persuade him that Arcadia is not the best fit for her and she shouldn’t have to go back there.  She has only been there since her mother died from cancer and having kept that a secret from the other girls, she has found it hard to make friends.  And now her teacher has set  the class a summer project of reaching out to three others to establish stronger friendships… and , of course, two of her three assigned contacts are her greatest tormentors.

But, Dad has one last run to do before they can escape to their farm near Beechworth – a philanthropist has donated a load of dog food to be delivered to animal rescue shelters in anticipation of the increased numbers they experience over Christmas – and soon Scout’s school-based problems fade into perspective as she meets carers and dogs and even makes a new friend through Ms Lawler’s initiative, all the while facing the threat of bushfires sweeping the countryside. 

Set against the backdrop of the unprecedented fire season of 2019-2020 and travelling through south-eastern Australia through country that is so familiar to me – I’ve been to every one of the towns mentioned so many times – this was a story that kept me reading well past my bedtime and into the early hours.  Wolfer has created a character who tells the story of that dreadful time through a child’s eyes – the interminable days of smoke and ash, the concern for the native wildlife, the fear of ember attacks and worse – and while, as an adult who evacuated twice because of the imminent danger, I could cope with the memories, it may open wounds that are just beginning to have scar tissue for some readers. But, at the same time, it is a story of love,  the importance and power of memories,  friendship, the camaraderie amongst strangers as communities rally together as they do in dire times, and of hope as Scout comes to terms with her situation through her deepening relationship with her dad and her own philanthropic enterprises.  And threaded through it to lighten the mood as the real-life issues are addressed, is the greatest collection of the WORST Dad Jokes ever!!!

Burrumbuttock Hay Run

Burrumbuttock Hay Run

 

Edward the Emu 35th Anniversary Edition

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward the Emu 35th Anniversary Edition

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781460764084

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go and nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly, a bore. 

And so Edward decides he is going to be someone else entirely – he tries swimming with the seals, he spends a day lounging with the lions, and even slithers with the snakes – before realising that perhaps the thing he is best at is being himself.

This is an Australian children’s classic, first published 35 years ago, and one shared with so many classes and children in my care ever since.  The children always respond so well because apart from the storyline, its rhyme and rhythm and its glorious illustrations, it is one of the best stories ever for helping our young people understand that who they are and being that is enough.  And their turn to shine will come, even if the spotlight is on someone else right now.  Certainly, when I include a copy of it in a storybook cushion, parents buy it because they remember it as an integral part of their childhood story journey.

And there is even more fun if it is teamed with  Edwina the Emu, the sequel which follows Edward’s journey but with a focus on his mate who is also trying to find her identity.

 

Edwina the Emu

Edwina the Emu

These two stories are classic Australian children’s literature at its best – there is a message of being comfortable and confident about who you are but it is subtle and embedded first and foremost in an entertaining engaging story which has to be the primary focus of any author. No wonder they have stood the test of time and are still around to delight yet another generation.

Parcel For Koala

Parcel For Koala

Parcel For Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parcel For Koala

Shelley Knoll-Miller

Puffin, 2023

24pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781761046636

Koala and his other friends who like to sleep through the day are stuck in a tree full of squawking cockatoos who are keeping them awake.  They are tired and frazzled and just want to sleep. But then, on the back of a bouncing kangaroo, Postman arrives with a parcel.  Both Gorilla and Penguin have received parcels, so what could be in this one from Turtle? 

Knowing that in this adventure in this fabulous series for little ones, all the creatures want to do is get some sleep, young readers can have fun predicting what it might be that will help them do that.  Could it be a harp to play lullabies or a hammock to curl up in?  Perhaps some earmuffs to blot out those raucous cockies! Or is it something completely unexpected but which can be used to solve the problem anyway?

As with its predecessors, the thread of the story is presented on the endpapers helping the child to focus their thoughts on what is to come and predict what might happen, essential skills in becoming a reader.  As one who has taught littlies to read for over 50 years, to me this series is an absolute winner and should be in the hands of all those who want their children to become successful, independent readers.  It just works in building those early skills on so many levels and in so many ways. 

Find Spot: An Australian Adventure

Find Spot: An Australian Adventure

Find Spot: An Australian Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find Spot: An Australian Adventure

Eric Hill

Puffin, 2023

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

9780241618127

Spot and his mum and dad are camping near a billabong and exploring the Australian outback, its colours and creatures. As they paddle down the creek they discover all the colours that can be found in and around the billabong and meet lots of Australian animals along the way, most of them hidden under flaps for littlies to lift, but as they are exploring, Spot disappears! Where did he go?

Eric Hill’s Where’s Spot? was the first ever lift-the-flap book – and his ground-breaking innovation continues to delight and surprise readers with interactive fun. Spot has now been a trusted character in early learning for over 40 years, selling over 65 million books worldwide. And the tradition continues as young readers not only have the delight of discovering what is under the flap, but also sharing a familiar adventure with a favourite character, building their vocabulary with words like “billabong”, naming the colours that they can see and having fun identifying those creatures they already recognise – all critical skills in early reading development and affirming that they, too, will become a “real reader”. 

 

 

Banjo, the Woylie with Bounce

Banjo, the Woylie with Bounce

Banjo, the Woylie with Bounce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banjo, the Woylie with Bounce

Aleesah Darlison

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2022

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

9781760899257

For most of his short life, Banjo the woylie has stayed safe with his mum in her pouch or her nest but as he gets a little older, he ventures out at night in search of food for this little woylie likes two things above all others – mushrooms and bouncing! But there are those like foxes and feral cats who like woylies just as much and when one startles Banjo, he bounces off … only to find himself far from home and his mum with no more bounce left in him.  And it seems worse is yet to come because he is tempted by the sweet smell of fresh fruit and finds himself caught in a trap!

Before Europeans settled Australia, the woylie, also known as the brush-tailed bettong was found over much of Southern Australia but now they are classified nationally as endangered and even presumed extinct in New South Wales., mostly due to predation by foxes and feral cats.  So this addition to the Endangered Animal Series which focuses on our lesser-known indigenous creatures that are threatened, at the very least, and which includes Poppy, the Punk Turtle  and Coco, the fish with hands and Rusty the Rainbow Bird, highlights the plight of these tiny creatures  bringing their stories to younger audiences who are just beginning to understand that there is a wider world around them.

As with the others, this one also features bright, bold illustrations which  catch the eye immediately and a story written in simple but accurate vocabulary which respects the young reader’s intelligence, and which is supported by fact boxes that offer more information. Perfect for those with an interest in the natural world and who are looking to find out more. 

At the same time, its format is also the perfect model for older students to base a story and an investigation of another little-known creature of their own.  Start by asking , “What would Aleesah Darlison and Mel Mathews have needed to know before they could begin one of these books?”  An opportunity for meaningful research as well as those who prefer writing fiction and those who prefer writing non fiction and those who prefer illustrating to collaborate. 

 

 

Ruby’s Rescue

Ruby's Rescue

Ruby’s Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Rescue

Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Cheryl Hughes

Big Sky, 2023

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

9781922896292

Ruby is really keen to help the animals that have been injured in a recent bushfire, but is finding it tricky because she is confined to a wheelchair because she broke her leg when her horse threw her when it was spooked by the smoke. Pushing a wheelchair over rough ground is hard work and so she has to be satisfied with helping her mother rake leaves so that the house is more fireproof before the next fire season.  She is even more determined when she finds a possum with burned paws, and that night she gets inspiration from an unusual source…

This is a timely release as we are urged by state bushfire authorities to prepare our homes during these cooler months in preparation for the summer fire season, and in fact, it contains a checklist from the NSW Rural Fire Service to encourage families to take action.  But it also a story that demonstrates to young readers that they are not powerless and that there are things they can do to help not only in preparing their home but in caring for the wildlife that will be inevitably impacted and injured as well. 

While stories like this and The Fire Wombat bring the heart-breaking impact of fire to our attention, others like Alight: A Story of Fire and  Nature  show that it is an integral part of the life cycle of the bush and thus, even our young readers, need to be aware and ready.  

Kirra the Koala

Kirra the Koala

Kirra the Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kirra the Koala

Beverly Jatwanti

Sarah Demonteverde 

New Frontier, 2023

32pp., 9bk., RRP $A16.99

 9781922326751

Each day Ling cycles to the local koala sanctuary to help care for the orphaned and injured creatures but her attendance is threatened when her bike is damaged beyond repair and there won’t be another one till her birthday in five months.  But when the call comes that a bushfire has destroyed the local habitat she finds herself in a dilemma.  Walking to the sanctuary is not a problem but does she let a local lad keep a baby joey in exchange for a ride on his new shiny red bike? 

Kirra the Koala is the fifth book in the ‘Together We Can Change The World‘ series. A series of seven stories, covering seven continents, with seven important virtues; Love, Courage, Compassion, Kindness, Integrity, Respect and Gratitude. Each book highlights a fundamental core value, whilst simultaneously encouraging children’s responsibility towards Planet Earth. The books’ protagonists are an endangered species from each continent, including Tala the Bengal Tiger.  All author royalties go to Wildlife Vets International