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The Amazing A-Z Thing

The Amazing A-Z Thing

The Amazing A-Z Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing A to Z Thing

Sally Morgan

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2014

hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781921894190

Anteater had something amazing to show her friends, so she invited Bilby to have a look.  “It will make you gasp in astonishment”. She said.  But Bilby was too busy resting.  “Show Chuditch,” he said.  So Anteater did, telling Chuditch that she has something that will make her squeal with happiness.  But Chuditch was too busy smiling at herself in the water.  “Show Dingo,” she said.  And so it goes on with Anteater visiting all the animals of the alphabet, each time appealing to a different emotion but always getting the same response. Everyone was too busy until Anteater decided to look at it herself and began to gasp and giggle and hoot and laugh and shout and dance.

This book is a masterful merging of two extraordinary talents – the storytelling of Sally Morgan who takes the concept of an alphabet book to a whole new level and the artistry of Bronwyn Bancroft whose traditional indigenous illustrations add such colour and character.

The very best picture books are those that have many layers and which, even though they might have an apparent target audience, have the capacity to be used across the ages.  This book is one of those.  As well as reinforcing the letters and order of the alphabet, and exploring the gamut of emotions, not the least of which is perseverance, the reader is also introduced to a host of Australian creatures, familiar and not-so.  Who knew that a chuditch was a quoll from Western Australia or that Velvet Worms existed when Australia was part of Gondwana and they’re not really worms at all? And there are another 24 creatures to investigate.  And that’s just the text.  Bancroft’s use of colour and pattern, shape and line provide a whole new tangent to explore.

Anteater may have an amazing thing – but this is an amazing book.

The Hairy -Nosed Wombats Find A New Home

The Hairy -Nosed Wombats Find A New Home

The Hairy -Nosed Wombats Find A New Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hairy-Nosed Wombats Find A New Home

Jackie French

Sue deGennaro

HarperCollins Australia, 2014

hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.99

9780732295486

Not so long ago, there were only 176 Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats left in the entire world! And because their home was at risk of flood and fire meaning they would be gone forever, they had to find a new home.  But where would that home be?  The one they had was just right (except for the threat of flood and fire) and it was going to be tricky to find one that had tasty grass and was safe and secure enough for them to have babies. So five brave wombats went on a wondrous wombat adventure to find that new home…

Rarer than the giant panda, the northern hairy-nosed wombat has been critically endangered for many years, with their numbers dropping to just 35 ten years ago when drought crippled much of Australia, even though they were in a protected, secluded and exclusive environment.  When the rains did come, their numbers had increased to 176 by 2010 but fire and flood still threatened their special home and so a new one had to be found again. This is the story of their plight, their move and the joy of a baby being seen in March 2011 and it is Jackie French displaying two of her passions – storytelling based on detailed research and wombats. Even though the wombats’ plight is pared down to its basic thread, she has woven a wonderful account that introduces the very youngest reader to the predicament of these creatures and shows that species can be saved by providing a safe place to live with good food and water.  (The full story underpinning the events is provided at the end.)  It’s an introduction to how we all need to share our planet and that our lives are so much richer when we do.

Jackie’s words are powerful, but they are made even moreso by Sue deGennaro who has translated them into the most divine pictures using a whimsy which brings the characters to life – why wouldn’t a hairy-nosed wombat have a magnificent moustache and be delighted when the girls arrive? And why wouldn’t they arrive in a bus with all the modern accoutrements to setting up home?  Or parachute in to a ready-made environment?  Using watercolour to draw the wombats and collage to dress them (the story of that is told too) Ms deGennaro has created the perfect accompaniment that kept Miss 3 and Miss 7 totally engaged and wanting to know more. It went from a first-read to a favourite immediately and each time we shared this story, there was more to see and each time we understood a little bit more of what it all meant. And the freezing cold day gave us the perfect excuse to stay indoors and draw and dress our own wombats! Miss 7 even remembered that when she was just Miss 4, she got to snuggle a baby wombat because a close friend raises orphans for a wildlife foundation.   and the week before she and I had been making pouches for the new orphans who sadly, continue to arrive.

Released in time for Hairy Nosed Wombat Day on May 11, Jackie is donating the proceeds of this book to enable further research. However, in alignment with the theme of the book that we can all make a difference, there are a range of resources for schools available (even a recipe for hairy-nose truffles).

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lone Pine

 

Lone Pine

Lone Pine

Lone Pine

Lone Pine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Pine

Susie Brown & Margaret Warner

Sebastian Ciaffaglione

Little Hare, 2014 (First World War centenary edition)

hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.95

9781742978703

In 1915, on a Turkish hillside a lone pine stood in a barren wasteland above a fierce battle being waged between the Turks and ANZACs, a conflict that has become part of Australia’s history and identity. 

In 1934, a sapling grown from that lone pine was planted in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia’s national capital.

In 2014, that tree still stands tall in beautiful, lush surroundings in memory and recognition of the events of 1915.

In 2015, it will be a focal point of the centenary of those events.

Lone Pine is the true story of that journey.  From a soldier looking for his brother, a mother mourning the loss of her son, a gardener understanding both the significance and the vision, a Duke performing a ceremonial duty we learn of how a tiny pine cone from that solitary tree has become such a symbol in our commemorations.  Told in simple prose against a backdrop of muted but magnificent artistry which you can view on the artist’s website , the story is both moving and haunting.  The soldier’s mother plants three seeds but only two saplings survive, just like her sons; fierce storms batter the sapling the day it is planted at the AWM, just as war clouds started rumbling around Europe once again; it survives to stand tall and strong despite the storms it has to weather, just as our hope for peace does. The continuity of life through the pine tree echoes the seasons and cycles of human life.

Jointly written by a teacher librarian and a teacher, there is a real understanding of how to engage the target audience and tell a true story that is not just a recount of an historical event. Accompanying the story are notes about the events it depicts including more information about the tree itself which  reinforce the theme of the renewal and continuity of life.  As well as the sapling planted at the AWM, its twin was planted as a memorial to the fallen brother in Inverell, and even though this has since been removed because of disease, its son lives on at Inverell High School, planted by the fallen soldier’s nephew.  Two trees propagated from the pine at the AWM were taken to the Gallipoli Peninsula and planted there by a group of ANZACs in 1990.

There is much more about the tree and its descendants at the Australian War Memorial and teaching notes are available that will take the students well beyond the story of a remarkable tree. For those who have access to the NSW school magazine Touchdown, the April 2013 teaching guide also has activities to support the story.

With the centenary of both World War I and ANZAC Day drawing closer, the resurgence of the significance of ANZAC Day in the understanding of our young, and a pilgrimage to the Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove becoming a must-do, life-changing event, the story of the lone pine deserves to be better known, and this wonderful book HAS to be a part of any school library’s ANZAC collection. Its quality was acknowledged when it was listed as a Notable Book in the 2013 CBCA awards – not a common feat for first-time authors!

 

A peek inside

A peek inside…

Another look...

Another look…

 

Christina’s Matilda

Christina's Matilda

Christina’s Matilda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christina’s Matilda

Edel Wignell

Elizabeth Botté

IP Kidz, 2011

hbk 9781921479878 RRP $A26.00

ebk 9781921479885 RRP $A8.00

With Australia Day almost upon us, what better opportunity to review this fascinating title by Edel Wignell focussing on the story behind the story of our unofficial anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’?  As Wignell asks, ?  As Wignell asks, why is Paterson’s role in the creation of this song so well-known when that of Christina Macpherson is almost unknown, even though it is just as vital?  Wignell then tells us the story of Macpherson, beginning with an encounter with bushranger Daniel ‘Mad’ Morgan at the family home of Peechelbar in Victoria, her childhood in a large wealthy Melbourne household, and her eventual meeting with A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson at the home of her brother on a station on the Diamantina River about 128km from Winton, Queensland. Evenings were a time for entertainment – Paterson sharing his poetry and Macpherson playing the piano, including a tune called “Craigielee” that she had heard at the Warrnambool Races some time before and which had stuck in her mind.  Paterson was well aware of the plight of many shearers displaced by the Great Shearers’ Strike in 1894 and the stories accompanying the hardships they endured, and it wasn’t long before he penned the words of  ‘Waltzing Matilda’ to fit the tune. Wignell then traces the story of the song through to its place in the Australian identity today, including the work of Richard Magoffin who relentlessly tracked the song’s origins, eventually being able to identify Christina’s contribution in 1983.

The story is accompanied by a variety of illustrations including paintings and drawings, maps, photos, posters and programs, letters and sheet music, each adding to the authenticity of the story and providing insight into the times that inspired the lyrics and the history of the song.  Perhaps the most interesting is a facsimile of an extract from a letter from Christina which explains how the song came to be. Each sepia page is bordered with exquisite line drawings by Elizabeth Botté which enrich and enhance the story. 

While it is written in a style and language accessible to a newly independent reader, its use of primary sources to support the text would be a great way to introduce the importance of these sorts of sources to support research and provide evidence, an integral element of the historical skills strands of the Australian History Curriculum for Year 7.   

This is a resource that needs to be on library shelves and a story that needs to be known by everyone old enough to sing the song!

 

Baby Bilby’s Question

Baby Bilby's Question

Baby Bilby’s Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Bilby’s Question

Sally Morgan

Adele Jaunn

Little Hare, 2012.

hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781921714856.

Remember when you asked your mum how much she loved you, she said, ‘I’ll love you to the moon and back?’ In this gorgeous book by Sally Morgan and Adele Jaunn, Baby Bilby asks his dad the same question and the response is a unique exploration of Australian fauna and the amazing feats they might perform. ‘I will love you until a crow catches a falling star’, is just an example. Whether it’s kangaroo kissing a koala or a platypus playing with a porpoise, the effect is the same – there is a feeling that this little baby bilby will be loved forever, and there’s a certain reassurance about that.

This book works on so many levels – the story, the message, the humour, the illustrations and the rhythm of the language make it a brilliant read-aloud while, at the same time it introduces the child to some of the amazing animals that are part of our landscape and culture. Slightly older readers might like to invent their own responses and draw these, while the alliteration could provide an introduction to this grammatical feature for those just a bit older again.

But, above all, there’s this warm, snuggly, secure feeling of being loved.

I will love this book until an echidna eats an eggplant!

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Town Possum, Outback Possum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Yvonne Morrison

Heath McKenzie

Little Hare, 2011.

Hbk,

9781921541476

Jacko the Possum is very content curled up in the hollow of the eucalypt beside a cool pond, deep in the country. Watching the sunset is enough entertainment for him.  Even when his peace is disturbed by his cousin Jessica from the city, he is unperturbed.  But after three days, Jessica is bored and persuades Jacko to join her in the city, and, in the tradition of ‘Town Mouse, Country Mouse’, both find that there is no place like home.

However, there is much more to this story than an Australian version of an old tale, and its richness can be explored through themes like friendship, what makes a home, similarities and differences and subtle questions such as “Do we all enjoy the same sorts of things?  Is there something wrong with us if we like something our friends don’t?” or  “When was the last time a possum kept you awake all night until you took drastic action?  What would that be like from the possum’s perspective?”

The verse format will appeal to the younger readers because it gives the story a rhyme and a rhythm, and the humour of Jacko’s encounters in the city will delight everyone, while Heath McKenzie’s  illustrations are the perfect accompaniment.

And if I haven’t yet convinced you that this is a must-have on the library’s shelves, then there are teaching notes available.

Others in the series are

The Cocky who Cried Dingo

The Cocky who Cried Dingo

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

 

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

Yvonne Morrison

Heath McKenzie

Little  Hare

hbk; RRP $24.95

9781921541421

 

“In the back of beyond, underneath the hot sun,

lived a huge flock of parrots, who loved to have fun.

They would scratch in the dirt, and splash in the creek,

Sing raucous songs and then dance beak-to-beak.”

 

And among them was a handsome and arrogant young cockatoo who was not yet ready to go to sleep.  He liked to play tricks, and if you are familiar with the traditional tale of The Boy who cried Wolf, you can predict the storyline of this Australian version.  But what happens when the real dingo comes?  Are the other parrots sick of his tricks and do they ignore him?  Does Cocky escape with a valuable lesson learned?

The rhyme and rhythm of this story have it bouncing along and young listeners and readers will join in with the chorus in delight, shouting out for help.  They will be on edge as it reaches its climax and shiver when they see those fierce dingo teeth.  It can spark discussion about telling the truth and be the perfect forerunner to Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? a free unit of work based on the original tale available from the National Digital Learning Resources Network (ID# R11580).

The pairing of Morrison and McKenzie is perfect – the colourful, whimsical illustrations are just right to build the tension but not overwhelm with fear.  A must for any school library collection which supports a values curriculum.

Others in the series are

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Three Wallabies Gruff

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Town Possum, Outback Possum

The Emu that Laid the Golden Egg

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

Yvonne Morrison

Heath McKenzie

Little Hare, 2012

hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781921894008

 

A long time ago, amid hills dry and brown

A flock of wild emus moved into town

They were hoping to find something wholesome to eat

So they set up their base at the end of Main Street …

Because of the drought, these emus weren’t fussy so they tried everything that looked like food, even cans of soft drink carelessly thrown away.  But Emma decided she wanted a big, fat juicy, black beetle and when it escaped her snapping beak she set off on its tail and trail.  The beetle escapes but Emma found something else instead … some kernels of corn in a creek. 

“It was strange-looking corn, oddly heavy and bright

And before long her stomach no longer felt right”.

The rest of this hilarious story is about what happens to Emma, creating a uniquely Australian version of Aesop’s classic The Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Poor Emma!  She falls victim to Nasty Ned and Pongo Pete who decide rather than stealing a golden egg from the nest every day, it would be much easier to kidnap the bird.  And to use that time-honoured cliché, you’ll have to read the story to find out what happens.  But it is a tale that has to be told.  Miss 6 and I loved it!!

Yvonne Morrison and Heath McKenzie have teamed up previously to write other Australian parodies of legendary tales such as The Cocky who Cried “Dingo”, and “Town Possum, Outback Possum” and their magic and chemistry just keep getting better.  This is my favourite so far.  I love the use of the word “flummoxed” and the other superb vocabulary that has been woven into the rhyme – just fabulous for extending young minds, and their own writing.  How much richer and engaging is “The pair hoisted Emma on top of their nag” than “They lifted Emma onto their horse”? Perfect picture books are those where the text and illustrations enhance each other into a seamless whole, and the Morrison-McKenzie combo achieves this brilliantly.

On the surface, it is just a rollicking good yarn but there are so many themes that could be explored such as the impact of drought on our native creatures; littering and unexpected consequences (and this could be compared with sea creatures swallowing plastic or the bears scavenging rubbish bins in Canada); greed and honesty- the list goes on.  Even though its primary audience is younger children, this is definitely a picture book for older students as well as they can compare the original to the parody and all the literary avenues that that opens up. But, better still, have the students put their Nasty Ned and Pongo Pete hats on to devise a plan to kidnap an emu!  Think of the creative and imaginative thinking such a task would produce. 

This books fits into the Australian National Curriculum on so many levels, it’s a must-have.

Others in the series are

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Three Wallabies Gruff

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Town Possum, Outback Possum

 

Colour for Curlews

 

Colour for Curlews

Colour for Curlews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour for Curlews

Renée Treml

Random House, 2013

hbk., RRP SA19.95

9781742759234

Ebook  978174759234

Two somewhat drab but curious curlews find an artist’s brush and some paint, and run off with yellow, red and blue.  It’s not long before they are no longer drab.  Then Bowerbird gets busy with the blue paint, and Brolga with the red and suddenly this trend has gone viral!  So many colours and so much fun, and off they go to show their friends.  Then along comes the very tired wombat from Renee’s first book and puts his body down for a nap, right where the paints have all merged into a brown puddle.  But those curious curlews that caused him so much grief in that first book come back … and they have paint brushes!!!

Ms Treml seems to have her finger on just what makes a great picture book for younger readers.  Rhythmic, rhyming text, colour, humour, fun, an ending that leaves room for the imagination and some tidbits about the birds is the bonus and could lead to an interesting investigation of why birds have colours, and how there were so many variations from just three tubes of paint.

Living where I do, I see a range of beautifully coloured birds every day – they have certainly dipped into a paint palette as rich as Ms Treml’s imagination!

 

One Very Tired Wombat

 

One Very Tired Wombat

One Very Tired Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Very Tired Wombat

Renée Treml

Random House, 2012

hbk., RRP $A$19.95

9781742755786

Ebook 9781742749013

“1 very tired wombat, settles down to sleep.  The morning is calm and silent; wombat doesn’t hear a peep.”  Until … 2 curious curlews, 3 furtive frogmouths, and a host of other birds come by and disturb the peace.  Until there is one feather too many…

Written and illustrated by an artist with an amazing eye for detail and the ability to be accurate yet quirky at the same time, the unique illustrations are what set this book apart from others about creatures trying to sleep; from others about wombats; and from others that have a counting pattern embedded in them.  The illustrations are “created using a scratchboards covered in white clay. The shape of each animal is then blocked out in black ink and, when this is dry, Renée uses a craft knife to scratch in features such as faces, fur and feathers”.  It’s very much the grown-up version of scratching illustrations into a coloured card covered in thick, black wax crayon.

The result is a unique picture book that works on every level, including offering tidbits of information about all the native birds featured in the story.  Something different for your new year’s book display.