Show Us Where You Live, Humpback
Greystone Books, 2021
40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
As the “humpback highway” gathers momentum and more and more of our young readers have the privilege of seeing these majestic creatures, this is a timely release of the story of a humpback whale and her calf and how they bond and learn, grow and change and how that process parallels the development of the child. Both baby and calf have mothers who keep them safe and nurture them, while other natural-instinct behaviours also mirror each other such as blowing bubbles and blowing a plume, shouting and singing and frolicking in water.
Beautifully illustrated, this is a charming story of two not normally viewed together, answering the child’s questions as well as offering a new wondrous perspective of these magnificent mammals.
Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish
Gina M. Newton
CSIRO Publishing, 2020
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
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.
The Great Barrier Reef
Flying Eye Books, 2021
88pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99
Covering nearly 400,000 square kilometres, the incredible ecosystem that is the Great Barrier Reef is not only one of the natural wonders of the world, but is the only one large enough to be distinguishable from outer space. And given its location in the Coral Sea just off the coast of Queensland, it is one that every Australian child knows about from a young age.
Thus this new release from Flying Eye Books, a publisher which specialises in non fiction for younger, independent readers will be a great addition to the collection as it explores this enchanting place, its animal inhabitants, and the peoples who have embraced it as a centerpiece of their cultures. Readers learn about how the reef came to be, its place in the world, and most importantly, what we can all do to help ensure that the Great Barrier Reef will be around for future generations to discover! Dramatic, biologically correct illustrations accompany easily accessible text making it the perfect companion for Everest, the other in this series about the world’s natural phenomena.
Freaky, Funky Fish
Debra Kempf Shumaker
A & U Children, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans, and within them live 15% of all the creatures that live on the planet including more than 32 000 species of fish.
Fish have fins and gills and tails. All fish swim and most have scales…
But not every fish is the same. There are zappers, stingers, singers, shakers; dancers, and a whole host of others with strange characteristics that enable them to survive, and in this engaging book for curious, independent readers, Debra Kempf Shumaker has written an intriguing rhyming text which focuses on the traits of some of the weirdest fish that dwell there, rating each on the freaky/funky scale. The slimy hagfish scores 5/5 on the freaky scale while the snotty parrotfish gets 5/5 om the funky scale.
However, this is so much more than a story that rhymes – from the front cover to the endpapers and every page in between, there are hundreds of illustrations of those fish and loads of information about them, all brought together in a most imaginative layout that not only engages the reader but satisfies their curiosity and encourages them to explore further.
Ideal for helping little ones explore the new worlds of beneath the waves.
The Silly Seabed Song
32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
Jelly flubber! Wobbly gong!
It’s the Silly Seabed Song!
As the Rock Oysters sing their final song of the evening, and all the sea creatures sing and dance along, all little Turtle Hatchling Fred wants to do is sleep. But how can he with all this laughing and giggling and NOISE??? It seems everyone who lives under the water has come to join in and the result of this “lullaby” is just a cacophony. Or is it?
As well as introducing them to a range of creatures that dwell in the ocean that they are probably not familiar with, there is also the challenges to find a range of them as they frolic with the party-goers amongst the seaweed and sand. There’s a new little person coming to our family soon and this will be the perfect bedtime story for a proud grandfather to read!!
Coco, the Fish with Hands
32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
Deep in the estuary where the river meets the sea of the Derwent River in Tasmania lives one of the most endangered species in Australia – the tiny spotted handfish, so named because they use their “hands” to walk along the sand and silt of the sea floor rather than using their fins to swim. So endangered that it is the first marine fish in the world to be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
It is Spring when we first meet Coco and it is a busy time for her because she needs to find a sea squirt that will be safe to lay her eggs and she only has a few weeks in which to do so, find a mate and then guard them until they hatch. And even then they are not safe because even though she can lay 80-250 eggs each year, there are still only about 3000 spotted handfish in the wild in the world – all in that remote river in Tasmania! Existing since the time of the dinosaurs, yet now threatened by invasive seastars, pollution and climate change, Coco and her babies have more than hungry fish to worry about.
This is the first in a multi-book series that will introduce our youngest readers to some of Australia’s most vulnerable wildlife, particularly those that are scarcely known. And with her usual gift for words, Aleesah Darlison has crafted a story that is full of information (and supported with fact boxes) while being entertaining in itself. Coupled with illustrations that are visually appealing whilst still being biologically correct, this is a fascinating introduction not only to this little-known creature but also to the power of print in non fiction. So many of our littlest readers are fascinated with the unusual world around them (talk to my friend’s little person about pangolins) yet there is not yet a lot that reaches down to their level of literacy so they can access it for themselves. 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. Given there is another book on the same subject shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for 2021 this will be an excellent addition to the collection to satisfy the curiosity of those clamouring to know more.
The Tale of the Whale
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
‘Where land becomes sky
and the sky becomes sea,
I first saw the whale and
the whale first saw me …’
Imagine going for a ride on the back of a humpback whale and seeing all the sights beneath the waves – mountains and valleys carpeted in colour and full of intriguing creatures. “An ocean in motion, a bright, busy land..”
But this is no romantic joyride – the whale has a reason for taking the child (and the reader) on this journey. Because when its tummy rumbles and he opens his mouth wide, and half of the ocean is swallowed inside, it is not packed with krill and other whale delights but with rubbish, particularly plastics, thoughtlessly tossed away by humans and now inside his tummy where he tries to digest it in vain. That then causes the child to look with new eyes at the creatures he had seen – the turtle tangled in a plastic bag; the seagull with the six-pack ring around its neck… the sea is really just plastic soup.
Even though our students are becoming more and more aware of the issue of plastic being disposed in the ocean through stories such as these and teachers using them to raise awareness in carefully constructed units, the problem continues to grow causing phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, solutions begin with awareness and this lyrical and sensitively illustrated story is a must-have addition to your collection that supports these investigations. If just one child teaches their adult to think before they throw, then that is a win.
Teachers’ notes supporting the environmental aspects of the story are available.
The Way of the Weedy Sea Dragon
CSIRO Publishing, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99
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?
Allen & Unwin, 2021
24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
It is the final freeze of the bitter Antarctic winter, the aurora borealis dances across the sky in a wonderland of wispy colour and movement, and, as morning looms in the pale light an iceberg shears off the face of a glacier and sets sail in those cold waters. But this is not an empty place, nor a quiet place – for in the water below, the skies above and even on the berg itself, there is life. Life that is dependent on other life, as the eternal cycle of food and prey plays out.
This is the most stunning book complete with huge foldout pages that brings the frozen world of the southern continent to life in a way seldom seen. To the daughter of the first female journalist to ever visit the ice back in 1968, it is not an unknown world but to many of our students it will be and they will be astonished at the abundance of life and the connections between the species that exist. In this country of increasingly hot summers where climate change is leaving its mark on the scorched,, burnt landscape, it is hard to imagine how in such a cold climate even small changes can have any impact let alone a significant one. But as the year turns, the “ocean, sky, snow and ice minute greens and giant blues dance a delicate dance” life blossoms and fades in an intricate, harmonic melody that embraces all. What happens there impacts here.
Saxby’s poetic text and Racklyeft’s illustrations are matched in a dance as integral to each other as the life surrounding the iceberg bringing a new world of wonderment to young readers, one that will open eyes and minds and hearts in a way that will inspire them to know it and protect it in the same way my mum did since her childhood when she stood on the wharf at Bluff and watched the explorers’ ship sail South.
You know that it if has Claire Saxby’s name on it, it will be extraordinary and this is no different.