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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. 

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2021

200pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760879013

When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

Now, in this third adventure, Amber is tired of being hunted, and sick of being afraid. Maybe she can escape her destiny and live a normal life, like a normal girl.  But two new villains are on the prowl, and when other people’s lives are on the line, will Amber hide … or will she rise?

This is an intriguing series aimed at those newly independent readers who are discovering the worlds to which their new skills can take them but who still need a little support with shorter chapters and some illustrations. Anh Do is arguably one of the most popular authors for this age group at this time and he knows how to come up with something original, appealing and pitch it at just the right level. This is perfect for those who are at the top end of the readership for this blog and also for those who are a little older and who are still developing their skills because to be reading something by Anh Do, a favourite of their peers, is a huge boost to their self-esteem and self-belief.  They can be a reader and they can belong. 

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Fly Free: Skydragon 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2021

200pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760876425

When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

This is the second in this new series from the prolific, talented and very popular Anh Do, aimed at those who are straddling that invisible divide between needing the support of short chapters and illustrations and reading complex novels.   There is the familiar background of school but also the twist of the legacy of that glowing purple ball that opens up all sorts of possibilities for adventure, and this time Amber is on the run. What will happen when she and the Firefighter finally come face to face?. At the top end of the readership for this blog, but one for the more independent 8 year-olds to aspire to. 

A Way with Wild Things

A Way with Wild Things

A Way with Wild Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Way with Wild Things

Larissa Theule

Sara Palacios

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526628565

Poppy Ann Fields liked bugs.  In fact she liked them much more than she liked people and she much preferred letting the ants march over her or watching the spider spin her web than mixing with humans.   At any social occasion she kept in the background, often dressed in patterns that allowed her to blend in with the background so she could scarcely be seen.  Even when Grandma Phyllis turned 100 and all the family and friends were there to celebrate , she stayed well out of the limelight until a dragonfly landed on the top of the birthday cake, its wings shimmering in the light of the candles.  Then she found her voice, one she didn’t know she had and her life changed…

When I read this story it reminded me so much of a friend’s granddaughter who lost her mum at a very early age and who was so much more at home in the world of wildlife than people. For a little one she was like a mini David Attenborough (her hero) and knew so much more about the natural world than any of us adults who were “loud” and “scary” and “not nearly as nice” as the Goliath stick insect who was her particular pet.  (We don’t need to mention Frankie the snake who travelled entwined in her ponytail.)

So even though we don’t necessarily see them,  (and young readers will have fun trying to spot Poppy in the illustrations) there are lots of Poppies and Ks in the world, children for whom the limelight and the spotlight are too bright  and who are often overlooked or even unseen.  But regardless of how shy they might be, sometimes it is nice to be acknowledged and while we shouldn’t be looking for ways to  make them the focus, if we can defer to their special knowledge or interest (of any subject) in authentic ways, that can sometimes give them that warm glow that tells them we know they are there and we respect who they are and what they know.  Perhaps they, like Poppy, will also gain enough confidence to bloom like a wildflower, rather than always blending in with the background.  At the very least, sharing this story with younger readers will let them know that we know they are there – they are not invisible because someone has seen them and cares enough to have written a story about them.

 

Bee Detectives

Bee Detectives

Bee Detectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Detectives

Vanessa Ryan-Rendall

Brenna Quinlan

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486313396

When Olivia and Hamish are woken by the scream of a chainsaw coming from their local park and see what looks like a cloud of smoke rising, they are very concerned that there is a fire.  But they soon discover that what they thought was smoke is a cloud of insects disturbed when their tree home fell.

With the help of the specialist Bee Team, they learn that the insects are Native Social Stingless Bees and because the hive contains the bees’ babies it needs to be rescued.  That evening, when the last of the bees is safely in the temporary hive, Hamish and Olivia are invited to take it into their backyard so they can learn about these bees and how they are essential to the well-being of the environment.  The children take on the challenge and they, and the reader, learn not only about the bees’ importance but also about the many other native bees that live in the garden, usually unnoticed.

While the plight of bees globally is gradually being recognised as becoming critical, most young readers associate them with the fluffy black and yellow bumblebees of their storybooks, not realising that Australia alone has over 1700 species of native bees, each of which needs protection.  With a special section giving the reader more information about these species, particularly those mentioned in the story, and tips on how to attract them to the suburban garden, this is an important publication to help young students develop their awareness of the role bees have and understand how they can promote their well-being. Using a story format accompanied by charming illustrations that also put the bees under a magnifying glass so they can be more than squiggles on a page means that this has the potential to be used as a springboard to an intriguing investigation as students start to identify the various species and search for them in their own surroundings.  As well as extensive teaching notes to assist this, students might also consider establishing a bee hotel to encourage the bees to stay.

 

Float or Sink?

Float or Sink?

Float or Sink?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Float or Sink?

Kylie Covark

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781925804621

There is a stick in the creek bobbing along

Rolling on, light but strong.

What do you think?

Float or sink?

Most will answer “float” because who hasn’t whiled away some time putting sticks into the water and watching them start their journey to the unknown?

But what if there are those who see the stick as their personal raft, and climb onboard like a ladybug, a flea, a fly, a gnat, even a slug! Will the stick survive?  And is there danger lurking as it floats along, oblivious to its passengers and its surrounds?

The rhythmical text and the bold bright illustrations carry this story along as smoothly as the river current, encouraging young readers to make predictions about what will happen as they bring their scientific knowledge to the fore. So much potential for investigation of all sorts of things and lots of fun, but first and foremost a charming story. 

 

 

Skydragon: Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skydragon 1

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2020

232pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760876364

When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

This is a brand new series from the prolific and talented Anh Do, aimed at those who are straddling that invisible divide between needing the support of short chapters and illustrations and reading complex novels.   There is the familiar background of school but also the twist of the legacy of that glowing purple ball that opens up all sorts of possibilities for adventure. At the top end of the readership for this blog, but one for the more independent 8 year-olds to aspire to. 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2019

24pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9780141338484

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…”  So begins one of the most well-known stories written for children in the modern era.  First published in 1969, who doesn’t know this classic story of the hatching of that little egg, and the caterpillar’s journey through a an orchard of fruits throughout the week, an un-caterpillar feast on Saturday and culminating in a massive stomach ache?  So big, in fact, that the little caterpillar has to eat through a nice green leaf to ease it and then goes to sleep for another week, snug in a cocoon until he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

With an engaging character, bright pictures created in Carle’s signature collage style, cut and cutout pages that promise new things when they are turned, counting and predicting and reading along, and a most satisfying ending, this book has endured to become a classic, one that should be on the bottom shelf, your read-aloud basket and your teaching toolkit. Being a larger board book edition, it is designed to stand up to the constant reading it will have as it is passed along and around families, sparking and creating memories of times spent together. A classic that needs to be kept alive for generations, despite screens and other distractions. 

Nit Boy

Nit Boy

Nit Boy

 

Nit Boy

Tristan Bancks

Heath McKenzie

Puffin, 2020

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760896300

Lewis Snow has the worst case of nits in world history. Everyone wants him to shave his head. But Lewis thinks of his nits as pets. He’s determined to keep his hair and his nits, whatever it takes.

Ned lives on Lewis’s head. He’s the first-ever jumping nit. His dad wants Ned to help nits take over the world. But Ned likes it on Lewis’s head. Ned’s vegan and hates the taste of human blood.

In the tradition of a number of other authors who have captured the imagination of boys of a certain age who like stories that are about bodily functions that are not normally the subject of polite, adult conversation, Bancks and McKenzie have developed a cast of characters and crafted tales that fit the criteria perfectly.  Who hasn’t started feeling itchy and anxious the minute a case of nits is confirmed in a classroom?  Starting with his explanation that nits are just the unhatched form of head lice, Bancks will capture the interest and imagination of that cohort who delight in seeing others squirm and will not only have them  reading from beginning to end and demanding more, but also starting a cult following of the series among their peers.

We know Bancks is a gifted author with unputdownable stories like Detention, Two Wolves and The Fall to his credit  so for all its wacky premise, there will be a quality story at the heart of this book and when combined with the talent of McKenzie that this will be a hit series with its intended audience.  The bonus is that there are two books in one in this release so readers will not have to wait for the next episode.

Do You Love Bugs?

Do You Love Bugs?

Do You Love Bugs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Bugs?

Matt Robertson

Bloomsbury, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526609519

From an early age many children develop a fear of bugs – perhaps it’s because of their imagining the feel of all those legs crawling over them, or they are warned about being the target of the creature’s defence system.  So in this book with its accessible text, quirky illustrations and engaging layout, Matt Robertson attempts to show that the minibeasts that inhabit both the indoors and outdoors are actually beneficial and essential to both our planet and our well-being. 

Bees, worms, stick insects, grasshoppers, snails, butterflies and moths, ants beetles, even spiders are all put under the microscope and shown through the lens of being critical to the environment and its health.  Robertson has used a clever technique of portraying the critters in cartoon-like style so that they have personality and are not a scary exact likeness, and that coupled with fun facts like snails being deaf and bees communicating by dancing brings each species into focus in a gentle way.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Before sharing the book, young readers might even like to identify the bugs on the colourful endpapers setting them up ready to learn more about those they know.

Much as I appreciate this approach and the value that bugs add, I’m still not convinced about the usefulness of spiders and flies yet…