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The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

Kate McCabe

Nicole Berlach

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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

9781486313471 

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…”

The opening sentence in one of the most popular children’s books ever written, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  

But do butterflies really grow up by eating apples and pears and chocolate cakes?  Or is there something more to their story?  

The Butterfly and the Ants tells the story of Blue, a member of the Lycaenidae species of butterfly that is found around the world – a species that comprises about 25% of the world’s butterflies but which is unique because it is dependent on the special relationship the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises have with the ants that look after them. So while we are familiar with the basic life cycle of the butterfly, this adds not only another element but also a lot more detail about how that tiny egg emerges to be a beautiful gossamer-wing butterfly, usually with a touch of blue. 

It introduces the reader to the concept of symbiosis setting up the potential to investigate which other creatures live in such relationships and underlining the need for children to understand that even if they take or move just one thing from an environment, it can have far -reaching effects.  

This is a book for those who want to know more than the basics,  that explains the process in clear and accessible detail that respects their intelligence – as all those from CSIRO Publishing do. There are teachers’ notes available that not only have a focus on the science but also help expand vocabulary and encourage students to use the “real” language, as well as to be more observant.   Other elements support the information literacy process as they are encouraged to read the notes at the back, use the glossary and so on. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2022

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

9780241553503

There are two phrases that, when seen on the cover of a book for littlies, guarantee an engaging and enjoyable read that will help them understand both the world around them and the power of books.  They are “the Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Eric Carle” . And while we sadly lost Carle to kidney failure almost a year ago, his work lives on in books like this whose tantalising , colourful, familiar illustrations entice children to open them and discover what’s inside.

This one encourages them to look up, look under, look inside  and look closely to discover the minibeasts that live in their world so that they will appreciate both the bugs and the environment as being their home.  Its lift-the-flap format ensures there are lots of surprises and of course there is always the challenge of finding that elusive very hungry caterpillar on each page.  

If you missed celebrating The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day earlier this year on March 20, perhaps May 23, the first anniversary of his death, could be the day to celebrate the life and legacy of this man who has touched so many lives since we first met the VHC in June 1969! 

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Anh Do

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781761065606

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?

In this fourth episode in this series, Amber discovers that she cannot see the familiar purple glow that indicates the presence of insects. She has become used to summoning her insect friends and transforming into Skydragon at the first sign of danger, but now her powers are gone, and she’s just back to being just Amber again. Will she be able to get her powers back in time to help new friends defeat an old enemy?

Put a new Anh Do title on the New releases table and there is soon a list of reserves as children wait their turn to borrow it.  But put one from a really popular series and you are likely to be mobbed!!  Anh Do continues to be one of the most requested authors for those who are independent readers – he is one of a handful who needs nothing more than his name as the author to be a surefire hit.  So offer your students this new release and stand back and watch the negotiating and bargaining to be the first to read it… 

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Starts with a Bee

Jennie Weber

Quarto, 2022

34pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780711270336

Slowly, slowly we are beginning to understand how critical bees are to our survival, and yet how endangered they are becoming, so any book for young readers that helps them understand the crucial role that bees play has to be an important addition to any collection. 

Using rhyming text and delicate illustration the reader is taken on a journey through the seasons from winter to autumn showing how a garden is pollinated and thus blooms to be beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables bringing both joy and food to our lives, culminating in a magnificent three-page spread summarising the essential elements of the process.  As well, it shows how bees work together with each other and other insects creating an interdependent eco-system which we must protect. 

Although created by an English illustrator who believes ” if people are amazed by the natural world, then they will be less likely to destroy it.” so that there is a “English country garden” feel to it, many of the plants featured are very familiar to young Australian readers, making it’s message as important here as it is anywhere.  It is an ideal complement to books like Holly, the Honeybee Dancing Star  and Bee Detectives (with its focus on Australian species) , all with their strong message of not just conservation but how simple it is for even our youngest readers to ensure their safety and survival. 

 

 

 

A Good Place

A Good Place

A Good Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Place

Lucy Cousins

Walker, 2022 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99 

9781529501254

Bee, Beetle, Ladybird and Dragonfly are each looking for a new home.  They each want something different – Bee wants some beautiful flowers;  Beetle some dead wood; Ladybird some leaves and Dragonfly is looking for a pond – but just when they think they have found what they want, it proves to be not-so-perfect after all.  And then Butterfly comes to the rescue…

 A story for our youngest readers, with illustrations that look like their own, this is one that will appeal as it introduces them to the concept of each creature having different needs – it’s not a one-size-fits-all world.  It also alerts them to the diversity they will find in their own gardens, perhaps even encouraging them to plant one even if it’s just a pot on the balcony. But as well as the diversity, there is also the opportunity to look at the similarities of the four friends – the first illustration clearly shows the common characteristics of insects – perhaps starting them on their first investigation into the classification of the world’s creatures in general, and minibeasts in particular. 

Bright, colourful and engaging, for all its seeming simplicity, Cousins demonstrates that we can learn from picture books if we delve more deeply..

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.