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The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly Within

Natalie, Layla and Scarlett Drake

Annabel Cutler

Little Steps. 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781925839982

Inspired after finding a milkweed bush full of Monarch caterpillars and taking them home to watch their development, this is a beautifully illustrated story that follows the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly from the adult playing with its friends and eventually laying eggs to one of those eggs hatching and eventually emerging as a butterfly to start the cycle again.

But rather than being a factual narration of steps, the butterflies have been personified as the author’s children and the focus is on their having the courage to take the next step in their lives. In fact Guillaume Apollinaire’s oft-quoted poem is included in the dedication offering encouragement to others to take the next step in their lives, something that is very relevant as a new school year begins. 

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

Whether you choose to use this book to inspire students to have the confidence to greet the new adventures ahead with confidence or as an example of biological metamorphosis, or even as an example of personification to satisfy the English curriculum, it is a worthwhile addition to the collection. 

 

Australian Backyard Naturalist

Australian Backyard Naturalist

Australian Backyard Naturalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Naturalist

Peter Macinnis

Amazon, 2021

212pp., pbk., RRP $A40.00

9798495706415

Anyone who knows Peter Macinnis, either personally or through his writing, knows that he is passionate about connecting young children with science and in this re-creation and complete update of this 2012 award winner he combines his skills in science, history and teaching to bring the reader’s backyard beasties alive and accessible. 

In his words, “Here you will meet springtails, pseudoscorpions, onychophorans, leeches, ticks, engaging spiders, mummified lizards. giant worms, some curious plants and even a few rocks. You will learn new ways of catching animals, keeping strange pets that will frighten adults, different ways of looking at them and more. You don’t need a microscope for this, but if you have one, you will have a great deal more fun from this book.”… “The science you find here is stuff that young people can see and do in the class, and then take home and do again and again—and improve on. They can share the methods—and the wonder—with parents, grandparents and neighbours.”

While on the surface this appears to be a book for older readers, it is one for all children who have an interest in what is living and growing literally in their own backyard and Peter has regularly shared photos of his preschool grandchildren exploring their curiosity. While he can probably answer their questions on the spot or suggest activities that will lead them further, this book is a must-have for any adults with curious littlies but not Peter’s expertise and knowledge. They ask a question and the adult can show them how to find the answer in a book!

And if you want to inspire their curiosity, start by marking a square metre of lawn, give them a magnifying glass and challenge them to count all the living things they can see! 

Demonstrating that the backyard is more than a stretch of grass to play on, the following chapters are included showing the diversity of life at our fingertips…

  1. Mammals (bats, possums, and how to use teeth to identify skulls, platypuses {OK, not common in backyards, but interesting}, nesting boxes, making a mammal-friendly backyard);
  2. Birds (spotting, identifying by appearance, habit, nest and song, attracting birds, problems with feeding, curious bird facts, how to observe birds and their behaviour);
  3. Amphibians and reptiles (information on attracting, observing, handling and what can be handled, curious facts, a bit about snakes and their venom, the art of catching small skinks, making a frog pond)
  4. Spiders (observing, keeping, spider relatives and more);
  5. Butterflies and moths (what to look for);
  6. Flies and mosquitoes (includes keeping and breeding flies and mosquitoes);
  7. Ants and ant lions (how to wrangle ant lions and other stuff);
  8. Other stingers, biters and nasties (wasps, bees, millipedes, centipedes and more);
  9. Leaf litter animals (all the stuff we never see);
  10. Snails slugs and their relatives (including the art of keeping them);
  11. Earthworms and leeches (including a leech barometer);
  12. Other insects (crickets, grasshoppers, stick insects, mantises and more);
  13. New chapter: Plants Finding out about plants, looking at prickles, roots and leaves, plant cells and stomates.
  14. Making your own equipment (there is specific stuff scattered through the book, like how to make and use a butterfly net (in the butterflies chapter), but this chapter has all the general stuff, like a high humidity jar, a Berlese funnel for catching really tiny life forms, a pooter and a fly trap that can also catch yabbies and fish). For this edition, I added hand lenses and assorted microscopes.

As well as being an historian, scientist and teacher, Peter is also a wordsmith and so his writing is entertaining and accessible and the multitude of photographs, diagrams and other illustrations this is a book for anyone who wants to explore and anyone who needs to explain.  This is my review of the original which demonstrates in greater detail how Peter not only educates the reader but engages them so they want to know more and discover further. 

If this is not in your collection, if you have a child with even a smidge of curiosity and interest, it should be.  

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Goes Berserk

Robert Favretto

Janice Bowles

Ford Street, 2021 

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

9781925804867

When Boris the huntsman spider crawls along the wall looking for a blowfly for dinner, he has no idea the chaos his appearance will cause.  And will he get out of this alive? (Not if he’s in my house!)

This is an hilarious story that will resonate with kids and adults alike as Boris tries to elude his potential killers. Told in rhyme, it rollicks along as all the family members, particularly Dad, try to dispatch Boris to somewhere else, and both actions and scenes (including Dad in his jocks) will be very familiar. Or maybe not to those who are braver than me and mine.

IMO, anything with more than two legs  has too many (unless it’s my cavoodle), particularly things that bite and leave me swollen and itchy and so Boris and his relatives have no place in my house – half a can of fly spray is my weapon of choice, but Dad didn’t try that.  Clearly, kinder than me. 

Whatever your opinion of the place of spiders and other creepy-crawlies in your life, this is a LOL story that will appeal to all from the author of Morphing Murphy and there are teachers notes’ available for those who want to investigate spiders  and fears more closely. 

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.