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Three Dancing Frogs

Three Dancing Frogs

Three Dancing Frogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Dancing Frogs

Leigh Hardingham

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier , 2020

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

9781921928819

From high in the hollow of a tree, the owl watches the strange activity below.  The animal orchestra is gathering, a stage and seating are being set up and tickets are being sold.  What is happening? From far and wide the animals gather – possums, geckos, bilbies beetles…everyone is ready in anticipation.

And then onto the stage come three little frogs, dressed in their tutus and ready to put on a show they have been practising for a long time.  In the moonlight they entrance their audience, but in the distance thunder is rumbling… will it end the show before it is finished?

Told in rhyme with a rhythm that echoes the nature of the frogs’ performance (reflecting the author’s singer-songwriter background), this is a feel-good story that is just right for drawing the curtains on a rambunctious day.  The illustrations are just as soft and gentle with lots of detail to discover with each reading, bringing a serenity that will settle the most fractious.  And should there be a storm rolling around then they will gain comfort and calm by knowing the frogs danced through it without fear.

It opens up lots of possibilities to not only explore the bush creatures but also the instruments of the orchestra and the world of dance.  With fruit bats on flutes, a spider on a harp, the violin, the cello and the viola, and a big bass drum, the child could listen to the sounds they make and suggest the sort of music that the frogs are dancing to and then make up their own movements. Or follow up with an introduction to   Swan Lake with this clip.  Or this one. While this was not the inspiration for the story, it is too good a match not to share!

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Carole Wilkinson

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2020

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

9781742034935

Imagine being so inspired by a book that you change your entire life’s plans and instead of becoming a doctor like your father and grandfather, you opt for a life of adventure on the high seas.  The young Matthew Flinders was so taken with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe that he decided that a maritime life was the one for him so at the age of 16 he joined the British Royal Navy.

Although England was at war with the French in those days, and Flinders had a taste of conflict early on, Flinders was more interested in exploration and following the lead of his hero, Captain James Cook. The rest, as they say, is history.  From his meeting with surgeon George Bass on HMS Reliance on their way to New South Wales; their adventures in Tom Thumb; their discovery of Bass Strait; the eventual circumnavigation of the land he named Australia in Investigator and his ultimate imprisonment by the French on Mauritius accused of being a spy his achievements are all told in this easily read biography for young readers that offers an introduction to the courage and determination of another era as well as to the man who played such a significant role in the development of this country.

But beyond just offering a history lesson, it also opens up the opportunity for discussing what a comparable journey might look like today.  What are the great unknowns that wait to be explored in 2021 and who, at an age not much more than they are now, would have the courage to say goodbye to family, friends and comfort to pursue their dreams? If Flinders was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, which stories are those that inspire today’s youngsters so much so that lives are consciously changed because of them? Whose story would they like to be a part of?

The adventures and exploits of Matthew Flinders have been the subject of many books over the years and while our students should know of them, by putting them in Flinders’ shoes and connecting what he did to their lives is a most effective way to develop that sense of awe and appreciation that is often lacking around historical studies.

As well as the detailed maps and timeline included, teachers’ notes are available.

The Angel of Waterloo

The Angel of Waterloo

The Angel of Waterloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angel of Waterloo

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2020

422pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781460757918

Henrietta Bartlett, known to everyone as Hen, is working alongside her surgeon father amongst the hellfire and brimstone that is the battlefield of Waterloo.  Circumstances lead to an unexpected and untimely marriage to one of her patients, an event that not only changes her life forever but leads to changing many lives of generations not yet even born.  For on that battlefield a dream of living where it is acceptable to be a female working in medicine is born, and from there to the newly-established colony of New South Wales where anything seems possible, we have the prequel to the fabulous, meticulously-researched, partly-autobiographical Matilda saga 

And this is my Christmas gift to you- hours and hours of put-your-feet-up reading into the world of Australia’s past through the stories of the generations of a family of strong women to acknowledge all the work you, as teachers, have done to keep our kids moving forward during such a difficult year. Hen herself kept me engrossed  with no room for mundane stuff like feeding the family and cleaning the house (the joys of retirement) and re-reading the series itself took care of many confined-to-home Covid hours.  It truly is Jackie French at her best.  

Merry Christmas and happy reading!!!

 

 

Bluey: Verandah Santa

Bluey: Verandah Santa

Bluey: Verandah Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Verandah Santa

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040610

Bluey is a six-year-old blue heeler pup who loves to play. Along with her friends and family, Bluey enjoys exploring the world and using her imagination to turn everyday life into an amazing adventure which resonates with the young readers and viewers.  In this story, it’s Christmas Eve and Bluey, Bingo and Muffin decide to play a game called Verandah Santa! Just because their house doesn’t have a chimney, doesn’t mean Santa won’t come. What will Santa bring them? As well as having lots of fun, Bluey also learns a valuable lesson about what being good means and why it is not just about getting presents. 

Bluey has been a phenomenal success since airing on ABC KIDS in October 2018 and is the winner of an International Emmy for Most Outstanding Children’s Programme.  As well as helping our youngest readers learn some of life’s lasting lessons, the link between screen and media is a critical one as they learn about the value of being able to take their time with print, examine the illustrations and read it again and again whenever they want – all critical concepts about print.

 To accompany the storybook, there is also a sticker activity book which encourages little ones to actively engage with the story rather than just being passive listeners.

Perfect for Christmas stockings.

Little Lon

Little Lon

Little Lon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lon

Andrew Kelly

Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

Wild Dog, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742035970

In the heart of Melbourne is a narrow street running between Spring Street and Spencer Street known as Little Lonsdale Street. In an area originally built from gold rush money, “Little Lon” was a dark, dingy place hidden from the elegant homes, shops and hotels of the main streets surrounding it, but it was home to many, and even if they were poor and not so flash as their nearby neighbours, immigrants newly arrived and those down on their luck, it was a thriving, energetic place, a melting pot of cultures and customs and colours that made it unique.

In this exquisitely illustrated book, the reader is taken back in time to that time when families created lives very different to today’s, where the only place to play was on the street so kids made friends with everyone; where Saturday night was a dip at the local pool to wash away the weekday grime; and on Sundays you dropped your roast and veg into a shop on the way to church and it was cooked ready for you to collect on your way home!

Drawing on the memories of one of the children, Marie Hayes, Andrew Kelly shows the 2020 reader a different life in a different time where everyone was accepted for her they were and valued for what they added to the community.  

Children’s lives have not always been rush, rush, rush, screen-driven hives of activity and this will be a valuable addition to that collection that takes them back in time to discover how things have changed and to consider whether it is a time to envy. Extensive teachers’ notes are available.

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2020

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

 9781760652272

Surrounding Australia’s coast are thousands of kilometres of coral reefs, and within those reefs lives a vast variety of creatures.  In this beautifully illustrated picture book, young children are invited to count some of them while learning about them at the same time. This is more than just a 1 2 3 counting book where the reader matches the numeral to the number of items on the page – it also offers tidbits of information that the adult can share with them encouraging both curiosity and awareness of the life beneath the waves.

Beginning with  one giant whale shark  and counting all the way to twelve tired seahorses, it could also become a sort of almanac that the child with an interest in the ocean’s creatures could complete over a lifetime, marking the creatures off as they discover them. Even as a scuba diver in times past, there are those like the dugongs and whale sharks I’m still waiting to cross off!!! But it has been an adventure of a lifetime in the making.

But even for those not inclined to go beneath the surface, nevertheless this is a fascinating introduction to that unique environment, a worthy companion to all the other fantastic books that Frané Lessac has gifted our little ones throughout her career.

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Me The Money

Sue Lawson

Karen Tayleur

Wild Dog, 2020

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

9781742035895

 

For hundreds of years goods and services have been exchanged for money, and “cash is king” was an oft-used slogan. But since the advent of ubiquitous digital devices and particularly the outbreak of the pandemic, how we now pay for those same goods and services has changed dramatically.  Payment has become almost invisible as we tap-and-go, use afterpay and seemingly go to a machine in a wall that dispenses money on the insertion of a card.  Will there soon come a day when our little people will never know the thrill of tinkling coins in their pocket or the smell and feel of a crisp new note? Already the excitement of finding a threepence or even a sixpence in the Christmas pudding seems to be a memory reserved for us oldies!

Much of Australia’s history and heritage is told in our currency and this wonderful book collects it up and packages it in an accessible read for young independent readers who want and need to know more about this thing that makes the world go round, that seems to be the driving force behind every decision that governs their lives right down to how well their school library is resourced. Going back to the days before European arrival when First Nations followed trade routes along sacred paths and songlines where knowledge and stories were traded as much as goods and goodies,  the story of Australia’s currency has been traced through to the recent introduction of New Generation banknotes that are almost indestructible and counterfeit-proof, providing a solid foundation for  a fascinating investigation of this essential part of our lives.  

Using the resources of the Royal Australian Mint , this book uses clear, sharp illustrations of our notes and coins which are clearly labelled to explain their different features and icons as well as the stories of some of those featured on them.  There are defined rules for the production of our banknotes and those who can be featured on them so this book also serves as a springboard for students to design a range of new notes, investigating and justifying their design choices.  

An understanding of money, how it is earned and spent, budgeted and used is an essential life skill that we can and must teach children from an early age, even if it seems like our transactions for goods and services are seamless and almost magical these days. Using this book as an introduction and a springboard to all sorts of investigations would be a logical starting point.

 

 

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Tania McCartney

NLA, 2020

68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279637

According to my Facebook memories, 12 months ago it was snowing heavily here in the Snowy Mountains while there were 95 bushfires raging in the north of NSW, and we, ourselves, were evacuated just a few weeks later because of fires that had ignited here. The talk and news were constantly about the “worst drought in memory”, the heat and the continual and spreading threat of those fires.  And just as we thought that it would never end and we were doomed to breathing smoke-laden air forever, the rains came and places devastated by flames were now threatened with floods!

Regardless of the time of year, the weather in Australia is always a reliable topic of conversation and now two of my favourite creators have teamed together to offer an explanation for the phenomena for our younger readers.  Beginning with an explanation of whatever is weather, their combined writing and drawing talents have been used to explore the various elements of the weather, particularly in Australia so there is a greater understanding of the why, where, when and how of that which has such a bearing on our lives so that it is more than listening to the brief forecast on television or the BOM site. or being fascinated by the rain radars.  Living in the bush as I do, my favourite pages were Bush Forecasting that explain some of the behaviours and characteristics that we have come to notice and learn as the weather changes. Black cockatoos are always a welcome sign here.

Both Stephanie and Tania have drawn deeply on the resources of the National Library of Australia (luckily for them, it’s in their neighbourhood) and being a NLA publication the support materials for further exploration are very detailed. Even moreso though, is the module written to support the book as part of the NLA’s digital classroom   Aligned with the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography), and Science for Year 4, 5 and 6 students, it adopts an inquiry-based learning approach to develop students’ understanding of geographical and scientific processes relating to weather, environments, people and systems.

What more could you want?

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Gina Newton

Tiffanee Daley

Ford Street, 2020

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

9781925804577

Combat Wombat, Wildlife Warrior of the Bush is fast asleep when he is woken by the other creatures, wanting to play. But there is no time to play because Combat Wombat’s super-sensitive nose, ears and paws have picked up some unmistakable signals – there is a bushfire on its way.  Quickly organising  his friends to be in charge of certain elements of safety, Combat Wombat leads them to Billabong Island where they will be safe.  Even though there are significant obstacles on the way he uses his special talents to overcome these until he gets to the river’s edge.  All the others can get across the water, but wombats are not built for leaping, flying or swimming.  Can he trust Bingo Dingo to get him there safely?

This is a story for younger readers that puts the plight of wildlife during a bushfire firmly in focus, particularly relevant given the events of last summer.  By using their special talents and working together, the creatures keep themselves safe, a lesson that goes beyond this particular situation. Much of the story is told in the artwork which is unique and Tiffanee Daley has shared her technique in this video.

Teachers’ notes offer a variety of ideas about how to use this book in the classroom with little ones but I believe they will enjoy it just for its own sake. I did.

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fire Wombat

Jackie French 

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781460759332

A curl of smoke appears on the horizon, gradually getting bigger, blacker and more ominous as it comes closer.  The parched earth burns and day becomes night as the ash-thick air envelops all before it and beneath it. 

Nowhere above the ground is safe for anything with two legs or four, but this is not the animals’ first fire and Wombat knows where to go and what to do. And when it is finally safe to emerge, the landscape is unlike the one they had left… grey, charred, burnt, devoid of both food and water. But a primeval instinct drives Wombat and she pushes on and on, seeking the liquid that would mean life…

Written about a little wombat that stumbled onto her Araluen Valley property and then collapsed, this is Jackie French’s own story of resilience and hope amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 when she and those she loves were surrounded by four fires and the future looked bleak, if not dire. It is a story about how when things seem to be at their worst, basic human nature, kindness and goodness prevails and we look out for those who are in worse circumstances, including our precious but often helpless wildlife. Even though what is done initially may not solve the problem, it is something that can lead to something else and something else… Like the Fire Wombat, we just need to keep searching until we find what we need.

It is a story that  embraces all the age groups – on the surface it is a story for little ones about a little wombat whose basic instinct is preservation and which perseveres to find what it needs; but it is also for older students who can consider the sort of assistance that is required and what they can do; maybe even what they can do to prevent fires of the future. The teachers’ notes which I wrote span all these aspects offering another avenue for our students to heal from that awful summer.  Pandemic or not, there are still many wounds to tend to.

No matter at what level you read this beautiful story – along the lines, between them or beyond them – you  will acknowledge that Jackie French is indeed a master storyteller, and her words have been enriched and enhanced by Danny Snell’s sensitive artwork.

And the rainbow after the rain, the dawn after the dark? Jackie has just shared that the Fire Wombat now has a baby of her own, “black as charcoal, fat and bouncing” . She glimpsed them in the valley three weeks ago and Fire Wombat is fat and happy too!