Archives

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2022

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

9780734421364

Just as Earth’s atmosphere has five major zones –  troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere – so do it’s oceans-sunlight, twilight, midnight, the abyss, and the trenches – and within each live very different creatures, each adapted to the particular light, depth and temperature of the water they live in.  

“Evolution is the process of a living thing changing over millions of years to survive better in their environment and ensure their species continues” and in this stunning book by Sami Bayly, known to many of our younger readers as the creator of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly AnimalsThe Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature, we are taken on a voyage far below the sparkling surface to discover what lives there and why they are the way they are. 

In her special diving suit Sami takes the reader to the various layers, acting as a narrator interacting with the inhabitants in speech-bubble conversations while short fact boxes are scattered like bubbles to explain various phenomena that she encounters – sadly, including plastic bags in the very depths  of the darkness. 

In the first few weeks of this year, I reviewed a number of books  that focused on the origins of this planet and those that share it, and this is another to add to that collection.  With such an emphasis on environment and sustainability in our everyday lives,  if we are to have any hope of children growing up with a desire to protect what they have then they need to understand it and how it works – what they can’t see as well as what they can. Sami Bayly has made a significant contribution to both that collection and to that knowledge, and this is no exception – it’s a fascinating read even if the underwater world is not your scene.

(A category search of this blog for ‘environment and sustainability” will offer many suggestions to grow their knowledge).

 

 

A Is for Australian Reefs

A Is for Australian Reefs

A Is for Australian Reefs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Is for Australian Reefs

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781760652258

Like fortress walls, Australia is ringed by a series of reefs – among them, the Great Barrier Reef, The Great Southern Reef, Ninglaoo Reed and Montgomery Reef.  The reefs themselves are diverse formations and within them is the greatest diversity of life waiting to be explored.  So in this stunning new book, Frané Lessac takes the young reader on an alphabetical journey to meet some of those inhabitants. 

As with her other books such as A is for Australian Animals, this is a factastic tour  combining an overarching statements with more detailed information placed among her original illustrations, making it not only visually appealing but also easily accessible to readers of varying abilities.  So while we can get an overview of what a mollusc is, we then mean individuals like the giant clam, the cuttlefish, and the giant triton which eats the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish. 

As one holiday period finishes and another looms, and Australians are travelling in their own backyards more and more, this is one to share so that children will not only be more aware of what’s in the waters they are likely to swim in, but be more inclined to protect them. 

Rockpooling With Pup

Rockpooling With Pup

Rockpooling With Pup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockpooling With Pup

Kevin Brophy

Jules Ober

Ford Street, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922696137

There is a fascinating world waiting to be discovered in the pools left in the rocks by the retreating tide – creatures and plant that are so dependent on that regular movement of water to survive that they can live nowhere else.  But it takes a keen eye to spot them, and when Mia and her pup go exploring they see more than they expected because while they find a blue-ringed octopus, where are her rings?

Once again, Jules Ober has put her amazing modelling skills to use setting miniatures of Mia and Pup against incredible photographs of that fascinating world, which, when married with the text, introduce the reader to the many creatures that they might not otherwise know. 

It is no secret that I grew up by the beach at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica – and the only rules we had were to come home when it got dark or when the tide was on the flood. So I spent my childhood leaping amongst the rockpools, queen of all I could see, and something I still do whenever I get the chance, and so this book really resonated with me.  So many memories.  

My happy place

My happy place

Many of our students will have done the same thing in recent weeks as school holidays will have seen them at the beach even though the water is a little cool to swim, and this is the perfect book to help them not only recall those happy times but also learn a little about what they saw. 

Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny the Shark

Surviving the Wild 3

Remy Lai

Allen & Unwin, 2022

112pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9781761065460

Usually Sunny the whitetip shark is a fierce predator, cruising the ocean with a shoal of pilot fish friends, looking for food. However, when she mistakes a plastic ring for food and it gets wrapped around her fins making  it tricky to hunt her life is in danger.   

For despite their willingness to help her, even following whale songs to try and find food while being terrified of the presence of any boat, Sunny is cranky and snappy – emotions provoked by fear rather than anger. So will she be able to break free by herself, and find food before winter sets in, or will she need to accept her friends’ help?

This is the third in this new graphic novel series  designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it.  The new NSW English syllabus, particularly, requires students to be able to “to express opinions about texts and issues… both objectively and subjectively”, so as well as empathising with Sunny whose problems may be similar to those they are facing,  they also learn about the perils of things like pollution, the dangers of plastics for wildlife and why we all need to be responsible consumers as well as disposers. Being in the shoes of the main character – this one inspired by a true story about another shark, Destiny, who was found in similar circumstances – helps them be more engaged and understand the situation better, hopefully inspiring them to become not only more aware but more active in environmental protection. 

Hallmarks of quality literature include having characters and a plot which are engaging and interesting for the students, offering layers and levels of complexity that are revealed with multiple readings and which enrich discussion and challenge perceptions, thinking and attitudes.  Add to this the appeal of a graphic novel format and this is another winner for this talented creator. 

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

Sam Hume

DK Publishing, 2022

224pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241546321

It is no secret that I have long been a fan of the non fiction produced by DK Publishing as a source for non fiction for young readers, and this latest one in a series which includes Nature’s TreasuresDinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life, and The Mysteries of the Universe is no exception. 

This time the reader is taken an enthralling journey through the aquatic world that spans  the deepest, widest ocean to the tiniest puddle. Each page, with its stunning illustrations and easily accessible text introduces amazing animals, ingenious plants, and much more  within the categories of deep ocean, shallow seas, wetlands, rivers lakes and ponds, covering s diversity of watery habitats that each houses its unique lifeforms, some familiar, many not-so. It also includes a timeline of life moving from water to land, as conversely, land back to water, while the index is in the form of a visual guide that allows the browser to follow up on what piques their interest visually.

It is a fascinating dip-and -delve book that offers an entree that will satisfy the taste buds of the generally curious while encouraging those with a deeper interest to go in search of the main course. DK editors know what young readers are interested in and they know how to present it so that the imagination is captured while the information is shared and that’s a winning combination, in my opinion.                             

Stardiving

Stardiving

Stardiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stardiving

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696021

In the sunlit waters, baby Fluke is content to swim languidly among the rest of the sperm whale pod, occasionally rising to the surface to breathe. But as he does so, he is joined by a pod of dolphins who leap and cavort far above the surface, teasing him to join them.

“Come up and see the sky”, they say to which Fluke says he can see the sun.  “The sun’s great, but have you seen the stars?” 

And Fluke begins to wonder and daydream…until he is given some advice from Cachalot, the great bull whale, that sends him on a journey of discovery that teaches him more than he can have imagined.

Put Andrew Plant’s name on the cover of a book and I’m there! Whether it’s The Poppy, Sparkor any of the others that I’ve read and reviewed over the years, I know I will be in for a beautifully illustrated, lyrically written story that will reach deep. Of them all, Stardiving  has gone the deepest as Fluke learns as much about himself as he does about the stars that are in his own environment, without even having to learn to leap and leave his natural habitat.  As Fluke discovers the stars that twinkle and shine far below in the ocean’s depths, a place where the dolphins can’t ever go, he begins to understand what Cachalot means when he says, “You are not even yourself yet. Why do you want to be something else?”  That, like the ocean, he has hidden depths yet to explore…

Plant’s stunning illustrations take the reader into an unknown world, one inaccessible to most humans. one that even television images from deep-diving submersibles can’t portray accurately as the calm and serenity and the being-in-the-moment-ness has to be experienced; yet one that, for all its mystery, is as deserving and needy of preservation as the shallower waters above because what happens on top impacts what happens beneath.  Just as our personal experiences shape who we are, as they did for Fluke – a theme to explore in itself – so too is the ocean an integrated, holistic environment.  And while Plant doesn’t touch on pollution, habitat destruction and so forth, it is there in his dedication, reminding the reader that this story has as many layers as the ocean itself.

To all the eco-warriors who faced down the whalers; to the scientists who study and advocate for our oceans; to the kids who fight the scourge of plastic…

Extensive teachers’ notes which include an introduction to the creatures that Fluke sees, enable this book to become a journey of discovery for the reader as much as it was for the baby whale. 

 

Oceans of Plastic: Understanding and Solving a Pollution Problem

Oceans of Plastic

Oceans of Plastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans of Plastic:  Understanding and Solving a Pollution Problem

Tracey Gray

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

120oo., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486312573 

Take a look into the night sky.  If you’re lucky enough to live where there is no light pollution, as we do, you will see so many stars you will never count them.  Yet it’s now estimated that there are more pieces of plastic in the ocean than visible stars in the Milky Way!

THAT is the sort of analogy that might make the general public begin to appreciate why the movement to ban single-use plastics is gathering such momentum, but in this new book for upper primary+, readers learn how ocean systems and swirling currents bring plastics together into massive ocean garbage patches. It also uncovers the floating world of the ‘plastisphere’ – a mini community of microbes living on ocean plastics – and explains how plastic breaks up, not down, and can even end up on their dinner plate! 

But how did this revolutionary new material first invented in 1869 to free manufacturing from the constraints of natural materials and then its exponential explosion following World War II become such a problem, and why IS it a problem?

In easily-accessible text with lots of diagrams and photos, the reader is taken on a journey that covers everything from why the oceans are important, what the plastic pollution does and how we can make a difference, There are such simple, everyday changes that we can each make such as having a refillable drink bottle or nude food in our lunchboxes (as kids, our sandwiches were always wrapped in paper, not cling wrap) that collectively will make such a difference.  Now that single-use plastic bags are now banned Australia-wide with NSW finally coming on board on June 1 this year, it seems that the issue is now being recognised for the crisis it is.

This book gives our students the knowledge and understanding that they need, not only to argue with nay-sayers and justify their arguments, but also to move the changes forward.  Using the suggestions for individual change, what could be done at the school level so that our oceans have a fighting chance to keep everyone healthy? 

A must-have for any school that has the protection of the environment within its curriculum.

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Reef

Paul Venzo & Prue Francis

Cate James 

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315314 

Most Australians, even our youngest and newest, are familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches over 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space. But even longer and more accessible to most is the Great Southern Reef , a fringe of interconnected underwater systems that span 8000km from the NSW/Queensland border, around Tasmania and its islands, along our great southern coastline and up to Kalbarri in Western Australia.  

First defined as an entity just six years ago in 2016, it has already been identified by Mission Blue  as a Hope Spot, a biodiversity hotspot critical to the health of the world’s ocean environments, particularly because of its forests of giant kelp, Ecklonia radiata, that offer shelter and food for more than 4000 species of invertebrates, countless fish species such as the weedy sea dragon, the WA rock lobster and the blacktip abalone, and many seaweeds, most unique to the reef, which offer carbon storage to offset climate change as well as potential for a plastic-free world of the future. 

But despite 70% of us living within 50km of it, its existence is little known and so this beautifully illustrated, informative book is an essential step in teaching our young students (and hopefully the adults in their lives) not only about its existence and inhabitants but also its importance.  After a storm thrashes the coastline, Frankie and Sam join Professor Seaweed in a walk along the beach to see what has been washed up overnight.  Together they find many things and not only does Professor Seaweed explain what they are but she also demonstrates the need to leave the beach as we find it, to be careful when delving into rockpools, and the significance of the saying, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Kill nothing but time.” However, she does encourage the children (and the reader) to collect any rubbish that will also have been washed up as their contribution to helping the beach and its creatures stay pristine and healthy.

Even for those of us who do not live within that 50km of the reef, or the ocean, it is a destination that naturally attracts millions every year, so this is the perfect book to introduce our children to the existence of the reef itself and their role in protecting it.  Teachers notes  linked to the Australian Curriculum are available to help you do this. 

Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim, Shark, Swim

Dom Conlon

Anastasia Izlesou

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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

9781486316045

The sun shines down on the West Australian ocean, highlighting the shape of a blacktip reef shark just below the surface.  But when a boat drops a net the shark knows he has to “open a tunnel of bubbles and swim, Shark, SWIM.”

And off he goes, on a trip around the world searching for the place he calls home, meeting other sharks and sea creatures during the journey, some friendly and others, not-so. 

While blacktips do not normally migrate as this one does, it offers an opportunity for readers to meet various species of sharks around the world, sharks which , as the apex predators, keep the ocean waters in balance by helping maintain the diversity rather than the dominance of one creature. With lyrical text and arresting illustrations, young readers can learn to respect the creatures of the deep and unknown rather than fearing them because their only knowledge is sensational news stories, scary movies and sinister music.  Building knowledge through information rather than imagination develops understanding much more effectively. 

Accompanied by comprehensive teachers’ notes for Years 2-5 that will build an even greater understanding of the planet’s different marine habitats, their inhabitants and their particular characteristics, this is a book that celebrates the natural world and encourages students to delve deeper than the surface.  Makes me wish I was still allowed to dive – so many of my hours have passed well below the sun’s sparkle and I miss it.

 

 

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

Prof Anuk Tola

Anja Sušanj

Flying Eye Books, 2020

34pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

 9781911171874

At the School of Merology (SoM), Professor Anuk Tola (aka Anja Sušanj has been studying the lives, habits and habitats of merpeople for many years in an attempt to be able to communicate with them and those studies have revealed that

  • The word “mermaid” is a misnomer because there is more than just one gender, their societies are large and varied, and each is a unique individual
  • Merpeople are “a highly complex, curious, social, fierce, intelligent and incredibly secretive” species and what little is known has taken hundreds of years to glean
  • Because the ocean is changing so are the merpeople and they and the merologists (those who study merpeople) have to find new ways to work together. 

In the meantime, she has gathered all that is currently known into this highly informative book, a companion to The Secret Lives of Dragons   and  The Secret Lives of Unicorns. Beginning with a section entitled  “What is a merperson?” the reader is introduced to the species, visits the various kingdoms in the world’s oceans and learns about their beliefs, language and so forth. But perhaps the most important section is the final one which examines how and why the oceans are changing , how that is affecting them and what we, as humans, can do to protect both them and their environment. 

Mermaids (and unicorns) continue to be a source of fascination for many, particularly young girls, and this is a really imaginative way to introduce them to the concept of ocean conservation as well as non fiction generally, . To build a complete world in this way, albeit one based on a fantasy, is a clever way to make the reader stop and think about what might live between the waves and pause before they chuck their plastic bag in the water or let their balloons go into the sky.  Somehow it gives a whole new slant on this year’s CBCA Book week theme, “Dreaming with eyes open…”