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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…”

 

The Claw

The Claw

The Claw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Claw

Karen Witt

Aaron Pocock

Little Steps, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922358103

‘Clive was charming, friendly and chipper, and on each side of his body, he boasted a nipper.’

He had many friends in the mudflats and played with them during the day although there were occasions when he had to defend himself.  and during one fight he not only lost a nipper but also his confidence.  He felt that because he was not whole and perfect like the others he had no place among them and despite their efforts to entice him out, he spent the day hiding in the weeds 

Mud crabs are born to be BIG and STRONG

But with only one nipper, I don’t belong.

But when his friends are captured by Mr Beerbellio a greedy fisherman, who is intent on crab sandwiches regardless of the storm raging, Clive is forced to set his self-pity aside to help his friends.

While the premise of this story of lacking confidence because of being different is common, interpreting it in this way is new and young readers will enjoy predicting if and how Clive can be a hero, and particularly what might happen in the future given the twist in the end.  The illustrations are the highlight bring Clive and his environment, and particularly Mr Beerbellio to life with their clever choice of colour and use of shading producing a 3D effect. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as resonating with those readers who might also be lacking confidence because they believe they don’t meet the demands of the invisible, anonymous body police, this is also an opportunity to examine the behaviour of those like Mr Beerbellio and consider whether it’s right to take more than you need. Many will have been fishing for all sorts of species over summer and may have been frustrated by bag limits, but what is their purpose?  A gentle way to introduce the concept of sustainability even to our youngest readers. 

 

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034

 

Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!

 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2021

128pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780734420046

Natural history illustrator Sami Bayly, the mastermind behind two of the most intriguing non fiction titles that have got young boys, particularly, reading recently – The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly  Animals has produced another outstanding offering that will have readers as intrigued as its predecessors did and the phenomenon of young lads grouped together poring over the pages during lunchtimes in the library will return.

Bayly has collected stories of 60 peculiar pairs – plant and animal species that rely on each other for their survival – and over half of them call Australia home.  Whether parasitic or symbiotic; teeny -tiny like the Heath’s Tick and the Mountain Pygmy Possum or large like the Ocean Sunfish and the Laysan Albatross; land-bound like the Stinking Corpse Lily and the Liana Vine or water-dwelling like the Spotted Handfish and Sea Squirt; plant-plant, animal-animal or plant-animal Bayly has brought together a fascinating group of creatures whose relationships need to explored. 

The book has a built-in ribbon bookmark and serendipitously mine fell open on the entry about the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon and the Garden Wolf Spider. One of the reasons we bought a home where we did in Canberra was its proximity to the proposed Gungahlin shopping centre, making access to facilities more convenient as we aged.  But then the site was discovered to be the only habitat of the Earless Dragon in Australia and so the whole precinct was moved to preserve its home.  Like all the other entries in the book, its relationship with the spider is explained as well as other facts and figures that just make for a fascinating read in language that is accessible to all. We learn new terms like mutualism and commensalism )which describe the type of relationship) -the sorts of words youngsters like to offer at the dinner table to baffle their elders – as well as critical information such as the environmental status. As usual, the illustrations are very realistic , each pair having a full colour double-page spread. 

While my review copy will be going to the same little lad as I gave the others to because they have been the springboard to his becoming an independent reader within months of beginning, he will have to wait until I’ve finished reading about pairs that I didn’t even know existed let alone that I wanted to know more about them!

Look for this one in the shortlists and winners’ circles. 

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shark Caller

Zillah Bethel

Usborne, 2021

368pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474966849

Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller like her waspapi Siringen. 

“I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways,” she begs him for the hundredth thousandth taim but he refuses, telling her she knows why he will not. 

Instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing’s island. At first, the girls are too angry to share their secrets and become friends. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, they must journey together to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all… and it’s not a great white.

Papua New Guinea is just as a mysterious land now as it was when I lived there 50 years ago, steeped in history, legends and traditions going back to the earliest civilisations and when the author moved from there to the UK (and had to wear three jumpers even in summer) she was peppered with so many questions about her life there that she wrote this book to help answer them.  And in doing so, she has woven an intriguing tale of adventure, friendship, forgiveness and bravery with such a real-life background that I was taken back to the days when I was there with all sorts of memories that I thought were forgotten, including the pidgin phrases.  

Even though physically it is at the upper end of the readership for this blog, competent independent readers of all ages will immerse themselves in the story which, even though it has such a diverse backdrop, still has a universal theme threaded through it. For those interested in finding out more there are the usual Usborne Quicklinks, as well as a most informative note from the author and some questions for book clubs that delve deeper.  One for those who are ready to venture into something a little different.  

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great White Shark

Claire Saxby

Cindy Lane

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760651848

Open the cover of this latest in the Nature Storybooks series, and there, swimming right at you, is a great white shark. 

But those piercing eyes and sharp white teeth are not looking for you.

The great white shark swims on. Her tail sways side-to-side; her fins keep her balanced. She travels the fast lane where she can, cruising invisible seaways towards warmer waters as her pup grow inside her and where they will thrive in where there are plenty of fish.

Claire Saxby’s name is synonymous with this series, known for crafting intriguing stories based on meticulous research that personify the focus creature so it comes alive for the reader. And given the emotions that this apex predator evokes whenever its name is spoken, this is going to attract and captivate a wide range of young readers. When she catches a young fur seal and an unwary turtle. it is viewed as her needing a feed to sustain herself and her babies rather than an act of cruelty or menace – it is the cycle of life. 

As the story unfolds to the birth of the young who must immediately fend for themselves because their mother swims on in her relentless quest, leaving on the endpages as she came, it is accompanied, as usual, by short pieces of information that explain her behaviour in factual terms and these are brought together at the end is a brief piece about great white sharks in general. 

The illustrations are stunning, particularly the depiction of the water and its colours and moods and I was immediately reminded of the beginning of The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp whose autistic mind knows that “the top can be green or blue depending on the sky, that the waves crash white but in the depths where no sunlight reaches it is black as the darkest night”.  Illustrator Cindy Lane says she “loves to make her own paints with materials she finds in nature, and collects waters from all over the world to use in her paintings. Seawaters from across Australia were used in Great White Shark” and while this is  her first picture book, hopefully there will be many more.

Sharks of all kinds fascinate young readers and this one is going to be a favourite so enriching its exploration with the teachers’ notes  is a must.

 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Beryl Young

Sakika Kikuchi

Greystone Books, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781771645737 

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.