Archives

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…

 

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. 

 

Fourteen Wolves

Fourteen Wolves

Fourteen Wolves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

Catherine Barr

Jenni Desmond

Bloomsbury, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9871526607492

If a writer or a movie-maker wants to add eerie, sinister atmosphere to a story, then the howl of the wolf is guaranteed to send shivers up the spine.  For the wolf has its own kind of magic, one that springs from fairytales and legends, from history and mythology going back to the story of Romulus and Remus  and even today, in a wolf-less Australia, wolves are the older boy’s dinosaur in the same way a dolphin is the older girl’s unicorn. 

So this true story about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in the USA will fascinate many.  Once, wolf packs  roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, but the loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of the United States by the early 1900s, leading to their being declared endangered.  In the Yellowstone National Park, as in many other areas, the ecosystem started to collapse. Enormous herds of elk swarmed the plains, bears starved, rabbit families shrunk and birds flew away to new homes. Plants vanished, trees withered and rivers meandered.

But in 1995, Yellowstone was designated one of three areas where these creatures would be reintroduced under careful supervision and management and this is the story of that homecoming.  Examining the landscape without the wolf as the primary predator, to the tracking and capturing of the first wolf and its mates to return, their reestablishment and the recovery of the landscape, this is a story that not only tracks the first 14 wolves but also demonstrates the important role that  all species have in the protection and survival of the planet.  Even where there is conflict between humans and predators it is critical that we learn to live alongside each other.

Written for independent readers as a narrative rather than a collection of facts and figures, this is one to suggest to those who want to know more about the creature that has captured their imagination and teamed with this information from the US National Park Service, you will be offering them a fascinating learning experience that could inspire them to even further investigation such as the story and impact of the eradication of the Tasmanian Tiger. Engrossing. 

The Way of the Weedy Sea Dragon

The Way of the Weedy Sea Dragon

The Way of the Weedy Sea Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way of the Weedy Sea Dragon

Anne Morgan

Lois Bury

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781486313952

Down in the seaweed and kelp forests of Australia’s southern coasts dwells a creature that looks like it has come straight from the pen of one of our children’s book illustrators.  With its colourful spots and bars, long snout and tail and dingly-dangly camouflage bits it revives any loss in the belief of dragons.  The little weedy sea dragon (and its cousins the leafy sea dragon and the ruby seadragon from WA) are among the fascinating creatures that live in this new world  of under the water and to have had the privilege of watching their graceful mating dance remains one of my most precious scuba-diving memories.

In this stunning book, not only is the reader introduced to this intriguing inhabitant of the ocean but also to the reason that these sorts of non fiction titles must remain an essential element of the school library collection.  “Everything” may be “available on the Internet” but who would know to investigate weedy sea dragons if you don’t know they exist? You don’t know what you don’t know.  Alongside Bury’s delicate illustrations, Anne Morgan has crafted a text as graceful as the dragons’ dance and accompanied it with further information that whets the appetite and supports the development of those critical information literacy skills. As well, there are extensive teaching notes  for Yr 2-6 that focus on Science, English and Media Arts, leading the reader to consider how individual characteristics help species survive and thrive.

A must-have that will lead young non fiction readers into their own new world. If there are dragons in the oceans, what else might be there?

 

 

 

Dugong Magic

Dugong Magic

Dugong Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dugong Magic

Deborah Kelly

Lisa Stewart

Lothian Children’s, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780734419965 |

In the warm waters of a shallow bay, a dugong calf is born…and as she learns to swim and eat and pull up the seagrasses of her diet, she learns the stories of long ago, the legends of mermaids. She learns the dangers of reef predators and what to do when they are near, but nothing can teach her about the dangers posed by the humans who treat her home as their personal playground…

With illustrations and a colour palette as soft and gentle as the underwater world. this is a wonderful introduction to one of our least-known creatures that is so mysterious and in need of protection.  As well as the fact page at the end, it has a strong environmental message, offering a new topic on which to kickstart an investigation into our impact on the environment with comprehensive teachers’ notes available to assist with this.  With winter knocking on the door, this might not be the time we are thinking about the ocean and its creatures, but that just means there is more time to think and act before next summer.  Maybe the dugongs will be able to tell their young of the stories and legends, because of the consideration of our young, and maybe dugongs won’t be just part of the stories and legends we tell.

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt

Jennifer Bell

Alice Lickens

Walker Books, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781406388459

Daughter of world famous botanists who were killed on a flower-collecting expedition in Australia, 8-year-old Agnes now lives with her uncle who doesn’t understand her and certainly doesn’t understand her need or demand for a pet.  For although she now lives in a flat on the 26th floor of an apartment block in a big grey city, she has her parents’ love for the outdoors and being with the creatures in the local park is her favourite thing to do. So when she discovers a mysterious creature on her bed – one who informs her he is an elephant shrew, Rhynchocyn petersi,  Attie (short for “Attenborough”) a field agent for SPEARS (the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species), she has no idea of the adventures that lie ahead Operation Honeyhunt sends them to the Atlantic forest, on a mission to save an endangered, dance-loving bee named Elton. Will Agnes pass the test and become a full SPEARS agent? 

This is a new series for newly independent readers who have an interest in the environment and its preservation, as they can put themselves in the story as they venture into foreign places on important missions.  Avid readers are always looking for new series while those who are more reluctant will appreciate the short chapters and many illustrations. Both will enjoy having a meaty, meaningful story to engross them as they transition from set basal readers to novels.