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Mama Ocean

Mama Ocean

Mama Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama Ocean

Jane Jolly

Sally Heinrich

Midnight Sun, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227659

On the surface the ocean was a silver mirror, but deep below, Mama Ocean rose from the seabed and called her children to her for she was sad, distressed and unwell. To cheer her up all the creatures brought her gifts of the amazing things they had found swirling in the currents – bags, straws, bottles, cans. toys, nets, all manner of things that were shiny and bright. But nothing helped Mama Ocean to cheer up and start feeling well again.  As she gasped for breath, the creatures realised that all the finery they thought was pretty was fake and it was what was killing her.  And they hatched a plan, one that had extraordinary consequences…

This is the companion story to Papa Sky, and it is equally as powerful and poignant with its message about the plight of the planet. Visually stunning with so much of the message conveyed in the illustrations, the reader cannot fail to understand what Jolly and Heinrich are trying to say and portray. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

If COVID-19 was the circuit breaker that the planet needed then it is stop-you-in-your-tracks stories like this that will hopefully persuade all of us to look at the ocean through a new lens, not as something sparkling that stretches forever and thus just a vast dumping ground, but something that is vital to the health of the planet and its inhabitants, whether we live by the sea or not.  Teaching notes are available.

That’s Not My Narwhal

That’s Not My Narwhal

That’s Not My Narwhal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Not My Narwhal

Fiona Watt

Usborne, 2020

10pp., board book. RRP $A14.99

9781474972109

A little board book in this popular series that encourages children to explore both language through its repetitive text and their sense of touch through its textured patches actually has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience as students get ready to enjoy the 2020 Book Week theme of Curious Creatures, Wild Minds. 

This almost mythical creature, which actually lives in the cold waters of Greenland, Canada, and Russia is rapidly becoming the “creature-du-jour” with young readers looking for something more exotic than the unicorn which has become a bit ho-hum.  So even though this book in this popular series explores why none of the five narwhals depicted is the reader’s narwhal, the question that begs to be answered is, “What IS a narwhal?”, a question that could spark an interesting investigation and perhaps lead to a presentation entitled This is My Narwhal satisfying the Critical and Creative Thinking outcomes of the Inquiry strand, as they pose questions to identify, explore and organise information and ideas. 

I love discovering books written for littlies that have application across the ages and this is surely one of them, and a most timely release. 

Little White Fish (series)

Little White Fish (series)

Little White Fish (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little White Fish (series)

Little White Fish under the Ocean

9781922326102

Little White Fish and his Daddy

9781922326034

Guido Van Genechten

Catch A Star, 2019

board book, 16pp., RRP $A12.99

Originally published in Belgium and The Netherlands in 2004, and well-known throughout Europe, the Little White Fish series is now available to tiny Australian readers. With bright illustrations set against a black background they are immediately eye-catching and appealing and with simple, repetitive text about familiar situations, our very youngest readers will be able to listen to each and then be able to tell themselves about Little White Fish’s adventures – the precursor to “real” reading.

In Little White Fish under the Ocean, the reader is taken on adventure to the depths of the sea, down to where no sunlight reaches and it is pitch  black, because Little White Fish wants to know just how deep it is.  Little White Fish and his Daddy has a familiar theme of the the various undersea creatures comparing the merits of their fathers, reminding me of the popular kids’ song My Dad’s Better Than Your Dad from Colin Buchanan that was always sung with great gusto by my students.

Two more from a publisher that understands that even the littlest people need entertaining stories in a format that is the right size for little hands and can withstand the enthusiasm of those hands. 

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Puffin Books, 2020

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760897970

It would seem that the song Baby Shark is the most popular tune our littlest ones have engaged with for a long time, (or the most annoying for the adults in their lives.)

However you view it, this clever rewriting of it which introduces the audience to the sharks seen in Australian waters is quite ingenious. 

Using the same bright illustrative style as the video, but changing the text to phrases such as funny shark, scary shark, even silly shark, young readers are taken on an underwater adventure with some other ocean-dwellers to discover which of these fascinating creatures can be found around our shores. Each double-page spread features a different shark with one side having the song lyrics and the other, a basic fact file.

Our youngest readers will engage with this from the get-go, learning not only about a most-maligned creature but also that information books can be as much fun as a screen. They might even be encouraged to create their own dance moves, just as in the original!

Not surprisingly, as a scuba diver from way back and having had my own adventures with these creatures, I loved it but beware of the ear-worm!

 

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.

Fish Kid and the Mega Manta Ray

Fish Kid and the Mega Manta Ray

Fish Kid and the Mega Manta Ray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Kid and the Mega Manta Ray

Kylie Howarth

Walker Books, 2020 

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760651138

In this sequel to Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja,  Fish Kid is holidaying at Ningaloo and keen to show his friend Emely not only the reef but also his secret superhero-like powers. But things don’t go according to plan and he is torn between obeying his parents and using his powers or becoming shark bait.

With Bodhi’s parents being underwater specialists – his dad is a marine biologist and his mum an underwater photographer  – discovering what is under the surface is just what the family does, and the author has carefully woven all sorts of interesting information about the creatures there into the story so that is as educational as it is entertaining.  Every chapter contains a rollicking fiction romp (with illustrations to match) plus a focused nonfiction animal fact box (with more realistic illustrations). 

This is a series that will appeal to newly independent readers still needing a bit of textural support and with each episode featuring a different part of the oceanic world and its inhabitants, the scope for unique and interesting adventures is broad. There is already a new addition in the pipeline. 

 

Jelly-Boy

Jelly-Boy

Jelly-Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jelly-Boy

Nicole Godwin

Christopher Nielsen

Walker, 2020

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

9781760651237

The little jellyfish has fallen in love with a big and strong jellyfish, and even though her family didn’t like him because they had seen his type before and declared them dangerous, the little jellyfish is besotted and can’t let go.  But Jelly-Boy is not what she thinks.  Her family is right and while trouble continues to find him, she follows.  Will she escape his clutches before it is too late?

Nicole Godwin, author of both Ella and Billie, has made it her mission to be the voice for those creatures who don’t have their own, and in this new release she has taken on the cause of our ocean creatures and the pollution of their habitat, particularly by plastic bags. Even being caught in the propeller of a boat’s motor does not destroy Jelly-Boy as he floats on carried by the currents and in one dramatic double-page spread the reader is shown just how lethal these items can be.  In a fact page we learn that each year over 1 000 000 seabirds and 100 000 sea creatures die from eating them or becoming entangled in them.

The message in this story is very clear – by reviewing, reducing, reusing and recycling our use of plastics, each one of us, including the young readers that this is intended to teach, can make a difference to help prevent great islands of plastic waste that can be seen from space from forming in our oceans. By writing the story from the perspective of a love-struck jellyfish so it entertains as well as educates,  Godwin raises awareness without being didactic and Nielsen’s illustrations are perfect because the reader seems to be in on Jelly-Boy’s ‘secret” identity before the main character! You can hear them willing her to know and understand the danger before she is entangled in it herself.

A must-have   addition to any unit focusing on the environment, its threats and sustainability – such a hot topic that even our little ones understand it from a young age.

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Place for an Octopus

Claire Zorn

UQP, 2019

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

978070226260 

At that special time when the ocean pauses its ceaseless movement, a little one goes for a walk to explore the mysterious water worlds in the cracks and crannies in the rocks that have been left behind by the retreating tide. Rockpools reveal all sorts of secrets and there, hiding behind the seaweed is an octopus!

Long. curly arms/legs, suction caps and a blobby head, perhaps a little afraid and definitely looking lonely,hungry, wet and cold. Imagine the fun it could have if the little took it home, fed it, bathed, it, made it comfy and snug, an interesting friend that could play games or even ride the roller-coaster…  Or could it?

With its intriguing front cover and stunning illustrations, the author’s first foray into illustration, indeed picture books, this is a story that will resonate with every child, indeed adult, who has wandered among the rockpools and been mesmerised by the life within them, and determined to take a creature home with them.  How many show-and-share sessions have we seen starfish and shells and other creatures carefully preserved in buckets of sea water, but so far away from their home they can never see it again? The message that the rockpool is the perfect place for the octopus, and all the other rockpool creatures, is very strong, despite the adventures we humans might think it would like.  Thus, this is a timely story to share and discuss as summer holidays loom and visits to the beach and rockpools are anticipated. No matter the temptation we need to take only photographs, leave only footprints whether that is the rockpool or the desert.  

Zorn says, “I wanted to engage with the child’s love of the absurd by placing the octopus in all sorts of silly scenarios…[but] I also sought to create an exercise in empathy where the child is able to identify the octopus’s feelings about the situation it finds itself in.”  She succeeded.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa's Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780241405024

When Peppa wins a colouring competition, nobody can believe the prize is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef! Peppa and her family head to Australia to explore the wonders of the reef with Kylie Kangaroo and marine biologist Mummy Kangaroo. There are so many incredible creatures to find in their underwater adventure.

With its usual mix of entertainment and education, this is another brilliantly coloured addition to the Peppa Pig series that is so appealing to our youngest readers. Years ago I was somewhat sceptical about these sorts of books that were clearly spin-offs from movies and television but after seeing the joy of a little boy who suddenly discovered The Wiggles among the titles on the shelves of Kmart and demanding that his mother buy it for him (if she didn’t, I would have) I realised their power and importance in discovering the joy of reading. 

To discover favourite and familiar characters in books not only sets up expectations and anticipation but also encourages the child to bring what they already know to the text, to test what they expect and what happens against that prior knowledge and understand that books can be better because you can enjoy them at your own pace, flick back and forth and return to them time and again is a critical step in the learning journey.

Creators and publishers have also realised this and the quality of the stories has increased exponentially so it’s worth capitalising on the appeal and giving our little ones a headstart.  Being a successful reader is as much about having a positive attitude as it is about the skills involved. 

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Don't Worry, Little Crab

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Chris Haughton

Walker Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406385519

In the rockpool above the sea, live two crabs: Big Crab and Little Crab. Today, they’re going for a dip in the sea. “This is going to be so great!” says Little Crab as they go tic-a-tac, tic-a-tac over the rocks, splish splash, splish splash across the pools and squelch, squelch, squelch through the slimy, slippery seaweed. “I can go ANYWHERE”, says Little Crab.

But when he reaches the sea and sees the size of the ocean waves, he is somewhat daunted and very reluctant to take that final leap.  Will he find the courage?

The illustration style  is very distinctive and it tells as much of the story as the text does, about a little one finding the courage to face their uncertainty. This is a common theme in children’s picture books, this time inspired by the creator’s observations of crabs and their human-like way of moving. and the way they braced for the impact of a wave but then went about their business once it frothed away. In fact, the story of the story’s evolution gives a real insight into where authors get their ideas and how they are shaped, so it is worth sharing that too. It wasn’t so much the message that came first, but thinking about what was in front of him and working from that! Perhaps a lesson for budding writers about being observant and curious and working backwards!