What animal has no bones but can move, has no lungs but can breathe and has no eyes but can see?
And it continues with a fascinating exploration and explanation of the humble worm, creature so familiar that we pay it little attention but one which is vital to the health of the planet because it is Nature’s recycler. Yet, while we are probably most familiar with the garden worm that inhabits healthy soil, compost heaps and worm farms, there are, in fact, about 20 000 species of worms (1 000 of them native to Australia) ranging from a roundworm smaller than a pinhead to the giant earthworms of Gippsland, Victoria.
With its accessible text and stunning photographs, this is a companion to The Frog Book introducing young independent readers to some of the less exotic creatures around us but which have such a vital role to play in establishing and maintaining a robust and sustainable environment. Old as I am now, I can still recall my primary school investigation into these creatures and learning two words which my 6-year-old self would insert into adult conversations with glee – ‘hermaphodrite’ and ‘invertebrate’. And jaws would drop when I could explain their meaning – read the book to find out if you don’t know.
With its strong emphasis on the worm’s role as nature’s recycling machine, it offers instructions about both composting and building a worm farm, both projects that can easily be done at school actively involving students in protecting and promoting these little wonders.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, our kids looked forward to summer barbecues because it meant they were going to be bombarded by those shimmering green and gold beetles with the sharp little feet that clung to skin and clothes. And rather than being afraid or squealing in surprise, they knew they were Santa’s special messengers and if they whispered what they wanted for Christmas, the beetle would take the request straight back to Santa.
But now those kids want to share that Christmas ritual with their kids and there are fewer and fewer beetles to be seen! There are no tell-tale dead patches in the grass where the grubs have eaten the roots, they aren’t high in the gum trees either and they’re not even buzzing around the street lamps like they used to do. Where have they all gone?
In this beautifully illustrated book that brought back so many memories of Christmases past, the author/illustrator speculates on what might have happened to them. Could it be the changing weather? The drought? The floods? The loss of habitat? Scientists don’t know for sure yet and have initiated the Christmas Beetle Count for sightings and photos to be shared but before students get involved in that there are really useful notes at the back of the book as well as teachers’ notes that can help them become junior scientists and help solve the mystery.
After all, what’s Christmas in Australia without Christmas beetles and how will Santa ever know just what to leave underneath the tree?
When she lived in the country, Olivia had plenty of space for her Butterfly Garden and each day she was surrounded by all sorts of butterflies, content in her own company and theirs. But when they move from the country cottage to an apartment in the grey city, there are no butterflies to be seen. Even though she waited and waited, sang to them and danced and whirled and twirled as she had done to attract them in her old home, none came.
So she decided to plant a little garden on her balcony so she could offer the butterflies the things they liked, but still none came. Despite the little bright spot in her corner, the buildings around remained grey and bleak, seemingly only being populated by pigeons. And she still had no friends. She sang louder, danced faster and coloured her world… Then, one day she saw something amazing- and it wasn’t a butterfly. Before long, she not only had butterflies but more friends than she could ever had wished for.
Moving house, whether it is across town or state, or from country to city, can be daunting for little ones, and the fear of having no friends is common. So much so that it is theme in many books for young readers. So this new story, well timed for those for whom a move to a new town or new school is on the horizon as year’s end nears, is one not only of reassurance but also suggests a pathway forward. Olivia’s need for her butterfly friends and her creating of her balcony garden to attract them leads to the building of a community that crosses age and cultural borders and creates the connections that we all need. Even if you live in a crowded apartment building you can still be isolated and lonely. There are instructions for building a butterfly garden in a small space, but even if that’s not a practical answer, it is the message of how reaching out to those with similar interests can bring untold rewards.
Early morning, and all the critters in the garden are awake and going about their usual regular routines. Beatrice the bee, Lenny the lizard, Sienna the spider – they each have their daily chores that keep them busy. But then the children arrive to play and like most kids, they don’t even see all the little inhabitants in their homes and at their work, let alone the destruction they cause as they play…
With vivid illustrations that take the reader to eye level in the garden in a way they seldom get to see in reality, this is a story-in-rhyme that not only raises awareness of the diversity and busy-ness of the garden’s inhabitants but also teaches them that is the work of these creatures that make it as stunning as it is so it is a pleasant place to play.
One to encourage young readers to be more aware of their surroundings and their impact on it, as well as leaving them in awe and wonder of all that goes on when they aren’t there.
At Harriet’s place it’s her brother Fred’s job to walk Walter the dog, and her sister Sa;;y’s job to look after the chooks. Harriet’s job was to take care of the nine-hundred-and-eighty-three worms that live in in the big green box in a shady corner of the garden. Each day she fed them different scraps and waste that the family generated but after a whole week it seemed that they did nothing but eat and wriggle. And then Harriet spotted the tap at the back of the big green box and discovered something quite magical…
There have been some outstanding books helping our young readers understand how they, themselves, can contribute to looking after the environment released recently, and this is one of them. Back in the days of the dinosaurs when I was at school the only thing we learned about worms was that they were hermaphrodites (something I can still recall all these years on) but nothing about how essential they are to keeping the planet healthy and balanced, even helping to reduce methane gas production which is such a contributor to climate change. By writing an engaging story that will appeal to young readers as it takes the reader through worms’ menu through the days of the week (a much healthier version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar) with a nod to alliteration as well as some essential worm facts and their foodie likes and dislikes, this is narrative non fiction that will inspire our children to investigate having their own worm farm either at home or at school, as well as understanding the concept of composting and generally giving Mother Nature a helping hand.
Ready-made farms are readily available and many councils offer rebates on their initial cost, although it is easy enough to build one, while there is plenty of advice and information available to ensure the farm is healthy and active. Teachers’ notes linked to the Australian Curriculum also offer insight and information to help not only appreciate the story but also inspire the students to be more pro-active about being involved so they too, can feel they are contributing,
When you live high up in an apartment in the city, it can be easy to take things like your food and clothing for granted, but take a trip to your grandparents in the suburbs and your eyes can be opened and your thinking changed entirely!
For even though young city kids might now know that bees are important, in this intriguing book they learn not only of the bees’ critical role in the survival of the planet as they flit from flower to flower, but also all the other pollinators who carry the precious gold dust – appropriate that it is gold, in the scheme of things – from plant to plant, not only providing food for humans but also for their own kind so that the cycle can continue on. So, just as pollination itself is essential to the survival of the world’s ecosystems, so it is essential that we protect the pollinators. As the child learns, something as simple as placing a bright-coloured flower in a pot on a balcony can contribute.
Linked to the Science strand of the Australian Curriculum, particularly the Biological Sciences understanding that “Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves ” as well as being used in conjunction with Bee Detectives, Plantastic,The Butterfly and the Antsand Wonderful Wasps,this is an excellent foundation for helping our youngest readers understand a concept that many adults wouldn’t believe they could even pronounce!
Extra notes and some suggestions at the end of the story offer further information as well as some ideas for the best plants to put in a “Pollinators Paradise” if the school were to go down the path of creating a special, year-round garden to attract and protect the local pollinators. Imagine the investigations that would spark…
After spending so many years underground as nymphs, the warm winds have brought the cicadas to the surface and they are ready to get together to make their music, the loudest insects on the planer and the sound of summer evenings in Australia for so many.
Yellow Monday, Black Prince, Green Grocer, Orange Drummer, Brown Bunyip, Floury Baker, Razor Grinder… all the males are pumping out their own particular song to try to attract a mate and begin the cycle again. Even their rock star names suggest something special- which other insects have such tags?
Written in rhyme, this is a fascinating book that brings the songs of the cicadas to life in what to some humans is just a cacophony because it can be up to 120 dB at close range (approaching the pain threshold of the human ear), or so high in pitch that the noise is beyond the range of our hearing but which is unique to each species so that they only attract the females of the same species.
So as well as being entertaining it is also educational and combined with a book such as Searching for Cicadas could open up a whole new world of investigation for the young reader as they not only discover new things about this ubiquitous creature but perhaps the world of music too. Which is their favourite genre? And if they were a cicada, what would their name be?
Simon was shy at the best if times, and luckily for him, being a stick insect meant he could change colours to match his surroundings and hide from those around him. That was until the day he stayed the glowing pink of the rose he had been resting on! He was certain that all the other bugs who were gathering for the Spring Fest would laugh at him and the thought terrified him, so when a friendly beetle told him that there would be a magic gypsy moth who would help him, Simon set off in search of this saviour. But as well as eventually finding her, he also discovered something much more important…
Told in rhyme, this theme of who you are as you are is enough is a common one in literature for young children but it is one that they need to hear again and again in all sorts of situations so they learn that it is okay to be pink or purple, or straight or bent, or spotty or striped or whatever… That no one really looks twice at your differences because they’re too busy involved in whatever else is going on, and if someone does make a nasty comment, then they are not worth your time. For some, this is not something easily accepted and body image can become a major issue in the future so perhaps they can have fun imagining what it would be like to be able to change colour like Simon and how that would change who they are inside.
As little ones face the challenges of new places, new schools, new people at this time of the year, this is one to help them overcome any anxieties they might have.
As Little Mayfly is born in the depths of the lake, moving upwards through the water she greets the sun who is rising over a new day.
“Hello”, she says, ” you are amazing. You light up this world as soon as you wake up. Who are you?”
Sun tells her but when it learns that Little Mayfly only lives for one day and when it’s journey is over so will be her life, it has no words because it knows just how brief a day is. But to Little Mayfly, a day is a lifetime and there is so much to see and do, and even though she learns that she is going to miss out on things like the tadpole turning to a frog and the flowers booming., she remains cheerful and optimistic, determined to make the most of the time she does have.
Tagged as “an uplifting story about the power of positivity and making the most of every day” this is an enchanting story from a leading Chinese author that not only introduces young readers to the passage of time and encourages them to make the most of their time, it also helps them start to see the world through a different lens – an abstract concept that is tricky for little ones. It is like that saying that not stepping on the ant makes a huge difference to the ant, if not the walker. If we only have one day, do we spend it in despair or delight?
Even though the reader longs for a happier miraculous ending as the sun gradually sinks in the west, the inevitable happens and so this is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of life cycles the tadpole’s is illustrated in the story but in a joyful way – and so the focus becomes not the inescapable but what can be done in the time we have. Definitely one for the mindfulness collection and to inspire positive mental health.
The first line asks, “What do you know about wasps?” My answer can be summed up in two sentences …They sting. I avoid them because of a childhood allergic reaction that almost killed me.”
Who knew that there are so many other species apart from the “we’re everywhere” European wasps? That there are over 12 000 “we-have-always-been-here” species found in Australia and they are as critical to our survival because of the work they do as their cousins, the bees.
Beginning with a visual introduction on the endpapers, this beautifully illustrated book introduces the reader to some of the native wasps that thrive in our native gardens and bushlands, the work they do in sustaining both the flora and fauna while maintaining a healthy respect and difference for a creature that can sting and sting again, although unlike the common European wasp, many indigenous species are not aggressive unless provoked.
As summer comes on, and our bushland springs to life with its floral beauty, the wasps will be active again and so this is a beautiful book for younger readers to start to learn more, both from the factual information in the final pages and from the activities suggested in the thorough teaching notes. While there has been an emphasis on protecting and nurturing bees in the environment lately with gardens being established and even bee hotels installed, perhaps it is time to expand the focus and consider what could be done to ensure the preservation of our wasp species as well. Among them, Katrina Germein, Suzanne Houghton and CSIRO Publishing have provided the perfect starting point. (And I know a lot more than when I started!)