Archives

The Last Dragon

The Last Dragon

The Last Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Dragon

Charles Massy

Mandy Ford

NLA Publishing, 2021

44pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780642279729

 

Beneath the western mountains, on the open plains of the high Monaro where the skies are blue and big, there lived a little dragon lizard.

Timpo is the smartest, best-disguised lizard in Narrawallee, the Big Grass Country. Wolfie the spider is his good friend, but there are no other dragon lizards and he is lonely for his own kind. 

Timpo and Wolfie embark on a journey to discover if Timpo is indeed the last dragon left in the valley. Through a landscape of grassland, granite boulders, shiny snow gums, and shady creeks they search, encountering new friends but also facing grave danger. Wolfie must return home with her spiderlings, but Timpo trudges on … will he ever find another dragon lizard? 

Who could resist requesting, reading and reviewing a book that is set pretty much on my doorstep, on a farm just a little south-east of my home?  And I am so glad I did because not only did I learn about a little creature that is highly endangered, I read a touching story of determination and courage, of survival and an amazing conservation effort.  With artwork that is amazing in its detail, this is a story written by a local farmer on whose property the little creature was found, one who is highly qualified and recognised in the field of regenerative landscape management so that you know that what you’re reading is not only authoritative but inspirational – there can be co-existence between humans, domestic animals and creatures of the wild. 

More for independent readers, as well as Timpo’s story there is a double-page spread of simple facts accompanied by a photo and then Massy’s story of the history of the earless dragon lizard and how it is being protected on his farm at Severn Park, about 15km from Berridale. If your curriculum focus is Australia’s at-risk species and you are looking for something different, something with a positive story then this is a must for your collection.

And if you remember my writing about the little Kindy kid who taught me about pangolins, well now I’m going to return the favour and teach him about one that lives about 10 minutes from his front door!!! Xander, this is for you. 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Julie Murphy

Ben Clifford

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486314621

High in the snowy mountains of the Australian Alps an amazing story of life plays out each year, one that was thought to have long since ended but a chance discovery at Mt Hotham in 1966 gave hope.

The story of the  mountain pygmy possum and its relationship with the migration of the bogong moth is told in this beautifully illustrated book, bringing to life the tiny creature’s dependence on them for food.  In the warmer months, the moths migrate to the mountains where the pygmy possum gorges on them to build up the fat reserves it needs to survive in its little nest deep beneath the winter snows.  But as urbanisation expands, climate changes and droughts hit. many moths do not make it to their mountain homes (there has been a 99.5% decline in populations in five years and it is now on the IUCN red List) meaning there is less food for the possum.  With only 2500 left in three isolated populations in the alps, this could lead to those earlier fears coming true.

As with One Potoroo, once again CSIRO Publishing have brought the plight of one of our lesser-known endangered species to light in a picture book that will have broad appeal.  Apart from the information embedded in the story, there are extra pages that give much more insight into the possum’s life and habitat and how we can help.. Something as simple as turning off excess lights or drawing the curtains if your home is part of the moths’ migratory path can mean they won’t get distracted and can fly on.  

Clifford’s illustrations are works of art in themselves – their detail is exquisite offering much to explore – and the whole really offers food for thought, not just for those who live in this region but also those who enjoys its winter snows.  If there is a tiny pygmy possum surviving the winter beneath their feet, what else might there be? And what else might be living in other habitats that we take for granted? As usual. there re comprehensive teachers’ notes directly linked to the Australian Curriculum to support its use in the classroom.

Superb!

 

Tala the Bengal Tiger

Tala the Bengal Tiger

Tala the Bengal Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tala the Bengal Tiger

Beverly Tatwahi

Sunita Chawdhary

Little Steps, 2021

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

9781912678433

Despite it putting fear into the hearts of others, whenever Veera heard the roar of the Bengal tigers at night or found their pawprints around the village she felt comforted rather than scared. On the day she was born her mother spotted a tiger cub through the window and saw it as a sign, one that has guided Veera as she grew up and launched her own Save the Tigers campaign.  And one day the strange connection between the two comes into its own.

This is the second book in the Together We Can Change the World Series,  seven stories, covering seven continents, with seven important virtues: Love, Courage, Compassion, Respect, Kindness, Integrity and Gratitude. Each book highlights a fundamental core value, whilst simultaneously encouraging children’s responsibility towards Planet Earth. The books’ protagonists are an endangered or threatened species from each continent, the first being Pedro the Puerto Rican Parrot and the third Wanda the Whale. All author royalties go to Wildlife Vets International.

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

Andrew Kelly

Dean A. Jones

Wild Dog, 2021

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

 9781742036281

For generations the little penguins have left their island home to hunt for the shoals of small fish in the rich waters of the bay and the mouth of the river.  And when they have had their fill they risk their lives navigating the rip   and the shipping to go back to their burrows on their island home.  The island has all they need to build their burrows but it is getting crowded and the young males are finding it tricky to find a place that is safe and that will attract a young female. But there is nowhere suitable to build a burrow on the bay.

And then changes start to happen to their feeding grounds – huge machinery is dumping rocks into the sea to build a breakwater to protect the boats and the beach, and over time the sand and silt build up in the cracks and crevices. Sometimes the penguins rest on the rocks but they always return home.  Until one day, one little penguin decides to stay…

Much is written about the impact on wildlife when humans change the landscape and it’s usually negative so to read a positive story is unusual.  For this is the story of how the penguin colony at St Kilda, Victoria emerged and is continuing to grow. While they still have to deal with the hazards of dogs, cats, ferrets, stoats, human vandals, plastic pollution, boat strikes, boat propellers, oil spills, the fragmentation and loss of habitat and climate change, nevertheless because of the conservation practices in place they have shown that it is possible for native wildlife to live side by side with humans. Using just one little penguin as its focus personalises the story and brings it into the realm of the young reader, so they are more able to relate to it and understand the situation.  

Told by the Yarra Riverkeeper and beautifully illustrated this is an uplifting story that shows that the relationship between humans and the natural world can be a positive one, as well as demonstrating how that world adapts to deal with issues such as overcrowding. But charming as it is as a standalone story, it is one that has enormous potential to be a springboard into further investigations both of the penguins (with comprehensive teachers’ notes) and then human impact generally.  If you “can’t stop progress” how can it be managed through environmental impact studies, local support groups and so forth?  Is there a development happening in the readers’ community that might be having a wider impact than is immediately visible?  The opportunity to “act locally, think globally” is very apparent and this book can fulfil the purpose of the author. “Let us walk gently together.”

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

Lisa Nicol

Puffin, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761041556

In the dead of night, the full moon blazing and with their mum double-dosed on sleepy-time tea, 12 year-old Sal (who can talk to birds and animals) and 8 year-old Roy (who’s ready for the apocalypse) quietly climb into a 1975 VW Kombi campervan already filled with an adolescent African elephant and driven by 14 year-old Bartholomew (who is yet to get his drivers’ licence),  This unusual crew, accompanied by Hector the kakapo, set off on a strange expedition which the reader is warned about in the prologue, deep into the Animal Kingdom.  

Despite its quirkiness, there is much the independent reader will relate to in this story including being in single-parent families where the remaining parent is barely coping; the small-minded community members of a small town whose slogan is “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”; the feeling that animals are more trust-worthy and reliable than adults; and the desire to save the entire animal kingdom from the ravages humans inflict on it.

Nicol has a proven record of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary through her amazing imagination and her desire to empower the children who are her heroes through books like Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Dr Boogaloo and the Girl who Lost her Laughter  but still embodying those critical themes of family, friendship, self-belief and loyalty throughout.

Whether this is a read-alone or a read-together, it will appeal to those ready to take flight on an extraordinary adventure, accept strange things really do happen and just enjoy the ride. 

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.

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Aleesah Darlinson

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760899233

 In the Mary River in South-East Queensland lives a creature found nowhere else in the world- one only identified in 1994 and already facing extinction. The Mary River turtle, Elusor macrurus,  is a new genus and species of freshwater turtle affectionately known as the punk turtle because the slow-moving water of the river allows green algae to grow all over it. 

 

But that’s not Poppy’s only unique feature – as well as breathing normally on the water’s surface, she can also breathe through her bottom! Plip! Plop! Parp!  However, despite her ancestors being in the river for millions of years Poppy and her relations now face many threats, mostly from the impact of humans and these are explored for young readers in the second in this series that investigates lesser-known endangered species. Combining the author’s ability to pitch the text perfectly for the intended audience with the same big, bright, bold illustration style of Coco, the Fish with Hands, young readers have a story that entertains and educates them. Simple but accurate vocabulary which respects their intelligence and knowledge, a large font, engaging illustrations and attractive layout, with a page summarising the key points as the finale make for a combination that will be a winner with readers and teachers alike.

Perfect for those like my little friend Xander who is fascinated by the world around him, prefers non fiction over fiction and has almost mastered reading independently.   And for his parents who will share it with him and spur his quest to learn more. As it did for me!. 

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.

 

 

 

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. 

 

Noa and the Little Elephant

Noa and the Little Elephant

Noa and the Little Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noa and the Little Elephant

Michael Foreman

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008413279

Noa loves to watch the elephants play in the water near his small village in East Africa. One day tragedy strikes and the baby is left all alone, his mother killed by poachers.  When Noa and his village adopt the lonely orphan, a beautiful friendship is born. Until one stormy night when Noa may need his friend to save him too…

Who doesn’t love a story about baby elephants?  In this one, in association with Tusk, the African wildlife conservation charity, the plight of elephants is highlighted as, despite the efforts of government rangers and the global ban on trading ivory, their tusks make them prized targets of poachers.  Foreman’s sensitive text and gentle illustrations make this a compelling story to read and share and give hope that there will still be elephants for our little ones to see in the future.

And just for your ooh-aah enjoyment…