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Australian Backyard Explorer

Australian Backyard Explorer

Australian Backyard Explorer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Explorer

Peter Macinnis

Amazon, 2021

180pp., pbk., RRP $A40.00

9798481595085

When your students are introduced to those who opened up this country to others, do their investigations focus on those of the 18th and 19th centuries who trekked into areas they thought were unknown , in search of whatever they could find to make them (or their sponsors) more money? 

Or do they go beyond the usual familiar names and discover the indigenous people who first trod the “native roads” and guided those following?  Do they meet the women and the teenagers who also forged paths?  Do they consider how those people whose names we know found their way, collected food and water, found shelter, coped with the weather, measured distance and all the other issues and problems that needed to be addressed as they made their way into unknown and inhospitable territory? 

Originally published by the National Library of Australia in 2009, Australian Backyard Explorer won the 2010 CBCA  Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, this work combines history with science and technology to give readers an insight into who the ‘explorers’ of Australia were, what they did and how they did it.  This is the 2021 updated version that takes the reader further as the author has delved deeper into the stories behind the stories, but like the original still has Peter’s gift for winkling out long-lost information and uncovering deep dark secrets that bring the people and the text to life.  Chapters are arranged according to issues rather than specific people, beginning with “Who were the explorers?” and there are all sorts of devices to engage the reader including projects that they can undertake to test a theory or see how something works for themselves.  (A list of these is provided for easier navigation.) There are also all the illustrations of the original from the vast collection of the National Library of Australia.

For example, Chapter 9 is devoted to staying alive and although Ernest Giles believed that this involved being able “to take, and make, an observation now and again, mend a watch, kill or cure a horse as the times may require, make a pack saddle, and understand something of astronomy, geology and mineralogy” we learn about how repairs were made; the disasters which befell expeditions and the need to stay calm and collected in their face; how to get help in a time long before personal safety beacons and mobile phones were invented; and how accidents and illnesses were treated without the aid of a helicopter and medivac team. 

This unique approach means that students will really engage with this country’s past, will understand  the courage and determination it took to travel beyond city limits and perhaps put themselves in the shoes of those who have gone before as they try to solve the problems for themselves. They will be active investigators rather than passive consumers of facts, figures, dates and distances. The imaginative teacher could devise an inquiry unit using any of the chapter headings as the exploratory question and then let the students have at it… 

This is a must-have book to ensure that what can so often become ho-hum become engaging and exciting.                                                      

 

 

 

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Mark Greenwood

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781760652241

Our country is calling…

There could be no more fitting way to start a new year’s reading journey than with this stunning journey around our ancient land visiting natural wonders that date back 2.5 billion years!

From the front endpage that maps out the route to the wonders gathered in the book – Lark Quarry, Undara Lava Tubes, Lightning Ridge, Great Ocean Road, Cradle Mountain, Franklin River, Naracoorte, Lake Mungo, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Devils Marbles, Kakadu, Wolfe Creek, Bungle Bungles, Zebedee Springs – to the final one that maps adventures still to undertake we are taken on an expedition in an old tour bus that both explores and explains a handful of the features that make Australia unique. 

Each double page spread introduces a ‘new’ phenomenon in a fascinating way that makes this book so readable.

History hunter Mark Greenwood is in his element with this topic as he combines both geology and geography beginning with  a basic statement such as “Our country had a fiery past” and “Lost worlds are found in our country” which not only set the scene for the basis of the visit but create a deeper appreciation of why our First Nations people feel such a connection to Country. Then there is a broad explanation with language reminiscent of a tourist brochure as well as a brief, fact-filled paragraph about the origins of the particular beauty.  And all set against a backdrop of Frané Lessac’s stunning artwork! 

At a time when travel remains so tricky, this is a book that is a must-have in both the home and school library.  For the family, it is an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard; while in the school setting, a class could go on a new journey every few weeks!  Set teams to investigate each location in greater detail to introduce it to their peers on a year-long journey that not only explores the feature in greater depth but also helps them understand the origins of the planet’s topography and the interplay between it and the environment, again strengthening that understanding of connection to Country. The historians can delve into the land before time, scientists can dig into geology, paleontology and all the other ologies; the mathematicians can plot timelines, distances, routes…; the artists can produce posters and brochures; the storytellers can dig into the legends and retell them (or invent a new one); the environmentalists can examine the interaction between landscape, habitat and inhabitants… there is something for everyone to show and share their strengths. 

Here are some useful links to start – making yourself familiar with what’s available through Geoscience Australia could be your best move this year…

Table of Geological Periods

Geoscience Australia – Education resources

Geoscience Australia classroom resources 

Australia through Time  (map)

Australia Through Time (poster)

Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia    this is a book with each chapter available separately

Australia: an ancient land (teacher notes)

And the best news is that this is just the  first book in the Our Country series which will takes readers on even more  journeys across Australia to discover  both our unique geology and geography! A whole year’s worth of lessons sorted!! If ever there were a book that deserved the tag Australia: Story Country or even Dreaming with your eyes open – this is it. 

 

An Aussie Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Night Before Christmas

 

An Aussie Night Before Christmas (10th Anniversary edition)

Yvonne Morrison

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic Press, 2015

32pp., hbk.,

9781760157487

 

Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.

We’d left on the table some tucker and beer,

Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here…

So begins this iconic salute to Christmas in Australia drawing on the familiar sights and sounds of a night that is usually so hot and it’s hard to sleep because it’s still daylight outside, never mind ‘dreams of pavlova’ dancing around heads.  And when there’s a ruckus outside that needs to be investigated, who would be surprised that it’s Santa in a rusty ute pulled by eight mighty kangaroos? Kangaroos called Kylie, Kirsty, Shazza and Shane, Kipper and Skipper, Bazza and Wayne?  

There are many stories that put the Aussie spin on Christmas, but this is such a rollicking good yarn, funny and engaging that it’s no wonder this is a 10th anniversary edition and it is popping up all over the Internet in full, although the YouTube version loses some of its charm with the American accent and the change from ‘beer’ to ‘root beer’.  Australian Santas drink real beer!

Accompanied by the distinctive illustrations of Kilmeny Niland, this is the perfect story to read to the little ones before they settle down, and the perfect story to end our Christmas Countdown.

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic, 2008

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99

9781741690972

‘Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

There is much to do before Santa makes his once-a-year flight…chooks to feed, breakfast to have, a walk with his missus, the news to read, pressies to wrap and the ‘roos to sort out. “The koalas won’t help me, they’re too flamin’ slow.” 

Putting iconic Australian sayings and slang to the familiar rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem, Kilmeny Niland uses her artistic talent to portray a DownUnder day before Christmas through stunning illustrations that capture a very different picture of Santa than the traditional one our children are so familiar with.  

Before sharing it, children might like to speculate on what it is that Aussie Santa does in preparation – perhaps a surf, perhaps a nap, perhaps prawns and a beer – whatever they predict they will delight in Niland’s interpretation that might dispel their snowy North Pole images forever. And a must for any collection of Australian Christmas stories you might be sending to children overseas.

The Aussie ABC Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

The Aussie ABC Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

Nancy Bevington

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594256

In 1788 when the first wave of immigrants from the northern hemisphere came to Australia, they brought with them the celebrations and their associated traditions as they tried to settle into what was a land that was so different from what they knew, it was beyond their imagination.  Subsequent waves of immigrants have done the same thing and so now, 230 years later, so much of what we see and do at Christmas is still rooted in those wintery northern customs and people still strive to create a winter wonderland in their homes.

Slowly though, there are some uniquely Australian twists that are becoming more widespread and artist Nancy Bevington has captured these in this beautifully illustrated alphabet book.  There are B for beach, I for icecream and P for pavlova, and for those things like gifts, reindeer and Santa which are more universal, each illustration is quirkily Australian.  I can’t decide if my favourite is the emu putting the star at the top of the tree or the kookaburras laughing with joy. 

Young readers will delight in seeing so much that is familiar while those sharing this with them will love the humour in each picture. A treat for an Aussie Christmas stocking this year, and while it might be too late for this year as school is all but over, it would be perfect to stimulate a class display (or library display with each class contributing a letter) for next year, perhaps the reveal of each letter being part of the Christmas Countdown. 

Peppa’s Australian Christmas

 

 

 

 

Peppa's Australian Christmas

Peppa’s Australian Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Australian Christmas

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2021

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

9780241519240

When Peppa and her family land in Australia for Christmas, Mr and Mrs Kangaroo are surprised to see them – clearly there has been a communication breakdown – but nevertheless they all pile into the Kangaroos’ Kombi and head for the beach.  This is a surprise for Peppa because she is used to a cold Christmas and so are all the activities which are so different to what she is used to.  Santa surfing in on a surfboard is something to behold!

Even though the day is far removed from what Peppa is used to, young readers will recognise and relate to it as we experience summer – although perhaps like Kylie Kangaroo they yearn for snow!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Feast

The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Australian Feast

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Feast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Feast

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2021 

12pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9780241489536

We all know of The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s liking for food and the foods on the menu of his first feast, but what would be on the table if he came to an Australian feast? Particularly one designed for a picnic on the beach?

Very young Australian fans of the VHC will delight in this exclusive release written just for them as they lift the flaps on iconic treats searching for their little hero.  Interactive, a familiar character, vivid illustrations in Carle’s recognisable style and rhyming text make this a terrific addition to this collection as young readers discover another adventure.  Is their favourite food mentioned?  What would be in their beach picnic basket?  (And who’s the ladybird? Could that be another story from the master storyteller?)

An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree

An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree

Jackie Hosking

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Walker Books, 2021

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

9781760652715

From his lofty watch post, Possum is drawn to the sight of a distant tree covered in sparkling trinkets. A Christmas Tree, according to Kookaburra. So begins a quest in which Possum and his crafty crew of helpers try very hard to decorate their very own Christmas gum tree from Bowerbird’s treasure trove. But it’s not as easy as you might think.

There is something about Christmas books that celebrate the Australian experience that make them stay in my mind moreso than any of the other classics.  Over all the years that I have done a Christmas Countdown both with my class and my family, and in more recent times, on this blog, there are a handful that truly encapsulate what it is to have Christmas in this country, and this new offering is now one of those.  

While we know that many of our Christmas traditions have their origins in northern hemisphere customs were brought here by those earliest European settlers so they could still feel the connection to their own origins, (and the concept of a Christmas tree stretches back to pagan times)   and continue to be perpetuated slowly, slowly we are building a set of uniquely Australian customs and this story is an important contributor to that.  How much family fun could there be in doing what the animals did and decorate a branch of a gum tree with things found in nature?  May be easier to say than do for those in the city, but for those who can take a drive in the bush there are plenty of fallen branches to gather and keen eyes will soon find a store of decorations as rich as any bowerbird’s collection.  

Hosking’s rhyming text is superbly supported by Eckstrom’s illustrations which capture our unique flora and fauna in a fun-filled way that befits the joy of working together to create a spectacular centrepiece.  Young readers will delight in identifying those they recognise and meeting those they don’t but for me, the essence of this book, is the co-operation and collaboration. A couple of years ago when S & S came they were disappointed that my usual masterpiece wasn’t waiting for them (but to be fair I’d had a heart attack and was recovering from heart surgery) but this year a new activity will be born. Grandad can find a suitable branch from the thousands on our bush block and we will all spend a couple of hours using what we can find to make it our own.  Maybe in years to come that will be the norm in the family and the tree will have so much more meaning for coming generations. . 

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

 

 

 

 

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

John Williamson

Mitch Vane

Puffin, 2017

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

9780143507178

Christmas in Australia – time for families to get together and of, course, the perfect family photo for posterity.  But getting everyone together at the same time is not as easy as it sounds. And given the separations of the last few Christmases and the reunions taking place for many this year. family photographs will be high on the agenda so both the book and the song will echo in the minds of many.

This is an hilarious, rollicking tune, probably known to every Australian school student, brought to life in picture book format through the talents of Mitch Vane.  As families gather together as the big day draws closer, no doubt its scenarios will be played out in real life in many backyards and children will be heard singing the song.

A must-have in any Christmas collection and for sending overseas to those who want to know about a summer Christmas as well.

Bluey: Christmas Swim

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Christmas Swim

Bluey: Christmas Swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Christmas Swim

Bluey

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761041204

It’s Christmas Day and it’s the perfect weather for a family swim! Bartlebee is Bluey’s new toy – how will he cope with his first Heeler Christmas? He finds them a bit rough and ready and wants to go home but a few words from Aunt Frisky, also new to the family, reassures him. 

Based on the television episode of the same name, this is another adaptation of the adventures of these much-loved characters that will appeal to our youngest readers and help them understand that there is fun and joy in books as they meet characters with whom they are familiar and to whom they can return time and again, unlike their fleeting screen counterparts.

They are also more likely to be familiar with the fun and games of Bluey’s family as they celebrate in the typical Australian style, sparking conversations about how different places celebrate differently and how in some countries, the landscape is covered with ice and snow rather than the sunshine we are used to. 

Bluey is always a favourite and this is one to add to the collection.