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Bluey: The Decider

Bluey: The Decider

Bluey: The Decider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: The Decider

Bluey

Puffin, 2024

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761344763

State of Origin in rugby league and Bluey and Chucky are watching the footy with their families. Bluey’s family is supporting the Maroons but Chucky’s parents are on opposing teams, and Chucky is confused.  Can Bluey help him pick a side?

This is a scene that will play out in many households over the next few weeks as the real-life State of Origin unfolds, and there will be those who will be as confused as Chucky, particularly if their parents are on opposing sides because of their place of birth or their loyalties. But, as in the story, there will soon come a time when everyone can be on the same team – unless you’re like my family where some of them are green-and-gold and I am definitely with Mackenzie’s family!!!  

 

Boots

Boots

Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boots

Elizabeth Pulsford

Krista Brennan

Wombat Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781761111037

Those who know me know that I like to create things using my imagination and my amazing embroidery machine, including author kits that inspire children to write their own stories.  So when I saw a design that took me back to my school days when the class was set a task to write a story about a pair of old boots – a story I still recall writing even though it was about 65 years ago – I knew I had to make it.  Who else might discover the world of words because they were inspired by something similar?

 

Design C7574 Embroidery Library https://emblibrary.com/design/blooms-in-a-boot-c7574

Design C7574 Embroidery Library https://emblibrary.com/design/blooms-in-a-boot-c7574

Those who know me also know I believe in serendipity and so it really was no surprise when I opened my mail a day later to discover this book that so matched my memories.

In something completely different to the modern stories for children that I usually read, this one follows the journey of a pair of ordinary workboots as they sit on the shoemaker’s shelf to be purchased by a young farmhand and worn daily until he (and they) die.  Shining a light on the ups and downs of rural life in a perfect fusion of simple text and evocative illustrations, the boots are witness to the highs and lows of family, fire, flood, drought… offering an insight into a life very different from that led by the majority of today’s children.

Although I can’t recall the details of that story I wrote, it would have been quite different to this one, for this one is timeless – it could be about Grandpa’s boots or it could be about a pair purchased by a young farmhand today underlining the regular routines of rural life regardless of extraneous events, ruled by the seasons.  It is an entertaining and engaging way to focus the reader’s thinking on the differences between city and country life, as it celebrates that sense of community and connectedness that is unique to small towns and surrounds.  

Maybe this will be among the award winners in the future, but for me, and the memories it evoked, it is already a winner. 

Country

Country

Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country

Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson

Cheryl Davison

Wild Dog, 2024

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

9781742036779

Becoming more and more familiar to our younger students, and, indeed, the nation generally are the expressions of Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country.  But while they may hear the words, perhaps even recite them, what is meant by “Country”?

“Country is past, present and future.”

“Country is songs and stories, art and ceremony.”

“Country is waterholes, creeks and rivers.”

In a series of seemingly simple statements, superbly illustrated by Walbunja, Ngarigo woman Cheryl Davison, the complex concept of Country demonstrate that, to Australia’s indigenous peoples, Country is more than the physical landscape and landshapes – it is the emotional, spiritual, cultural connections to the past, present and future that govern their lives in a way that non-indigenous people rarely understand, let alone feel.  And that when Country is cared for, respected, even revered, then its people are too.

Released in time for National Reconciliation Week, 2024 (May 27-June 3) this is an ideal book for helping all ages to begin to understand the deeper meanings behind the words, each unpacking the statements at a level that they can grasp.  So while Kindergarten might read the final statement as just being environmentally based, older readers can delve deeper into considering what it might mean to be emotionally, spiritually and culturally healthy and how they can have that in their lives.

As more and more titles are released to shine a light on the positives of being an indigenous person so the understanding between cultures is developed, and “Now more than ever, we need to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation.” This is the perfect one to begin the journey with our youngest readers and to continue it with those with a little more awareness.   

 

 

 

Three Dresses

Three Dresses

Three Dresses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Dresses

Wanda Gibson

UQP, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A6.99

9780702266355

Three things are vivid memories of  the childhood of author and illustrator Wanda Gibson, Nukgal Wurra woman of the Guugu Yimithirr people – the harsh life on the Hope Vale on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland; the annual two weeks holiday, the only time they got off the Mission, spent at the beach; and receiving three dresses and three pairs of undies from the Lutheran Church at Christmas time – “one to wash, one to war and one spare”.

But despite the hard life on the Mission – school in the morning, work in the afternoon, picking weeds out of cotton, pineapples and peanuts for no pay even in hot weather, – this is a story of the happy memories of those special two weeks spent with her family at the beach and the simplicity of a time shared and enjoyed just by being together,  

Taken at face value it is a joyful story of a holiday at the beach that could no doubt be contrasted to the holidays current students have at a similar location, or even the notion of being thrilled to get just three dresses a year, and even those were second-hand. However, thorough teachers notes help readers delve into the impact of  colonisation on our indigenous peoples and the various policies that governed their lives including extensive background information as well as points for investigation and discussion and classroom activities, making this a picture book to span all ages and aspects of the curriculum.  Indeed, there are links to further resources specifically for upper primary students. 

Whether it is shared as a story of the importance of a family making and sharing memories or one that opens doors to a different aspect of Australia’s history, this is one that has the potential to make a big impact. 

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seed to Sky

Pamela Freeman

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760653750

Come to the oldest forest on Earth,…

On the oldest continent…

Where the oldest trees reach high into the sky…

And begin a journey into 00 years ago, before European settlement and the Daintree Rainforest was much larger and very different to what it is now.

In this latest on the brilliant Nature Storybooks series, which combines lyrical text with factual information amidst stunning real-life illustrations, the reader is taken on an exploration of how a seed becomes a sapling over hundreds of years and is introduced to the diversity and generations of insects, butterflies, bird, lizards, snakes and an abundance of native wildlife that will bear witness to the rise of the magnificent Bull Kauri pine…

Australia is a continent of diverse landscapes and landshapes, each with its unique flora and fauna and while the extensive teachers’ notes will lead you through an investigation of the Daintree itself, they could also serve as a model for investigating a similar situation in the students’ environment.  What vegetation is indigenous to the local area and what creatures might have witnessed its development?

When it comes to narrative non fiction that engages as it explains, this series is one of the benchmarks and this addition is no different.  

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buffalemu

Paul de Guingand

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2023

3pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922833761

“Out East of Oodnadatta, where the elder animals meet, 

On past the towns, beyond the downs, and endless fields of wheat…'”

the band of old animal mates (Chewy the one-eyed red ‘roo, Smokey the wombat, Johnno the crow, Roosta the three-legged dingo, Sad-Eyes the ancient goanna) have gathered  together because they heard that their mate Aggie the emu is feeling upset and unhappy, and so like good mates do, they resolve to do what they can to help her.

‘We’ll go sort it out, with a chinwag, a yarn, have a chat. We’ll head up the creek, hear out her deep thinking, and figure out where her head’s at.’

For three days and nights, they head out to find her  – “They’d arrive when they got there, no sooner, no later; that’s how things should be in the bush” – and discover that Aggie is having an identity crisis.  To her, she doesn’t seem like a real bird with her long, thin wobbly legs and she feels she would be much better if she were strong with four legs, like a buffalo.  ‘I’d be Buffalemu!’, she says.

But no matter what her friends say, she is not comforted and begins a long walk of her own – one that takes her to the edge of a town and there she discovers that she not only fits in just as she is, but has a special place in the scheme of things.

Accompanied by appealing illustrations that really portray the sense of place of this story, this is one that young readers will enjoy as they not only identify the Australian fauna that they already know, but also begin to understand that no matter what we look like, our age or our impediments, who we are as we are is enough.  Many stories are written in rhyme, often contrived, that adds little to the story but the rhythm of this one carries the story along at pace and the choice of language is familiar but used so well. Common phrases like ‘barking up the wrong gum tree’ and ‘flown the coop” are embedded seamlessly but then you have stunners like this…

“Now Sad-Eyes , the ancient goanna, sat high on a pile of stones.

So old, they day, that the dreamtime could be seen written deep in her bones”.

Surely, for those who have never seen the weathered, wrinkled skin of this creature for themselves, there is an instant image of patience and wisdom, knowledge and understanding. What a model to use for aspiring young writers looking to develop their vocabulary! 

Stories about Australia’s unique wildlife abound, and the concept of being yourself is a common trope for this age group to explore, but the combination of the two in this one is a winner. 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Tylissa Elisara

Dylan Finney

Lothian, 2024

185pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780734421982

In the fifty-fifth burrow of Bushland Avenue in a beautiful clearing on Kangaroo Island where the arching gum trees kiss, is the home of Wurtoo, the hariy-nosed wombat. His is the one at the end with the big red trapdoor and large gold doorknob and a myriad of tunnels because he loves to extend it, so much so that it can take awhile for him to get to his front door. It even has a library where he has just four books that he cherishes – a book of fairytales that has taught him all about love; a plant encyclopedia that told him where to find his favourite muntrie berries and wattleseeds;  a cookbook which helps him make them into something delicious, and a fourth, his favourite, which had stories as old as time and in particular, a map of a most sacred place, the Forest of Dreaming. And it fuelled his dream to follow the map across the water to the mainland, climb the ancient tree to the heavens, and marry the love of his life, the sky.

But first, he needs to find the courage because right now, he can barely leave the burrow without his nerves getting the better of him, because having led such a solitary life, the thought of meeting other creatures terrified him. And so , despite being nocturnal by nature, he chooses to go out in the daytime so he can be unseen, and each day he makes a pilgrimage to the lighthouse for a picnic.Little does he know, that on this particular day his life will change forever because he inadvertently saves Kuula the koala from a bushfire, and acquires the adventure companion he didn’t know he needed.

With Kuula by his side, Wurrtoo finds the courage to leave the safety of his burrow and sets out on an epic journey to cross the island, reach the mainland and climb to the top of tallest tree in the Forest of Dreaming. But it’s fire season, and danger and strange creatures lurk behind every gum tree. To make it, the pair must face their fears together, learn the importance of friendship and discover the power of wombat wishes.

Described as an “Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh”, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated novel for independent readers by the 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara, and it is worth reading for the power of the descriptions of the landscape alone.  Immediately, the reader is transported into Wurtoo’s world, akin to Tolkien’s description of the home of Bilbo Baggins, and relate to his ambitions, desires and fears.  It is one for those readers who love adventures and quests, and with traditional First Nation stories, knowledge, food and culture woven seamlessly into the tale, it becomes one that not only engages and entertains, but helps the non-indigenous reader better understand that incredible connection to Country that exists for those who are.

There is also the underlying universal theme of building trust, facing your fears, accepting those you meet for who they are, so friendships are built on similarities rather than differences, that will speak to many readers, perhaps encouraging them to think that if Wurrtoo can do this, so can they.  

For me, the mark of a story that works, is hearing myself read it aloud to a class of students, and this one is one of those rare ones.  So with teachers’ notes available to enhance and enrich the experience, this is definitely recommended as a read-aloud for Years 3-4.  Something different, inspiring and Australian.

Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tearaway Coach

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2024

32oo., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760653170

1855 and travel around the goldfields of Victoria was a very different proposition to the same trip being made today.  In those days,  coaches drawn by teams of horses in the hands of experienced drivers were the way to go but they faced all sorts of dangers including rough tracks, flooded rivers, unpredictable weather and even being held up by bushrangers.

So while young Fen Wood is excited to see his mum who is in Geelong awaiting the birth of her new baby, he has some trepidations about the journey itself.  His father has paid extra for him to ride alongside the coach driver, none other than Cabbage Tree Ned, but in a time of no seatbelts and deep potholes, Fen is not so sure that this is a trip he is going to enjoy, despite the possibility of a baby brother at the end of it.  Sensing his discomfort, Ned hands Fen the reins to distract him and Fen appears worthy of the responsibility until two bushrangers appear with guns drawn in front of them…

As the author of Shearer, Drover, and Eat My Dust, among others, Neridah McMullin is fast becoming a respected name in writing narrative non fiction based on some of Australia’s most interesting and even infamous characters.  This is no exception.  With Andrew McLean’s expressive illustrations, this story takes the reader straight back into that amazing time in our history that formed such an important part of the Australian story, and as much as Fen’s journey is engaging and exciting, it also opens up another aspect of life in the times to explore.  Who isn’t fascinated by tales of bushrangers, coaches being held up, runaway horses and that goes with them?

For many of our students, the study of history produces a glazed look of who-cares, but in the hands of storytellers like McMullin who bring it alive through story, doors are opened up and suddenly times past becomes as exciting and interesting as times present.  How would they respond if they were either Fen or Cabbage Tree Ned? 

 

Miimi and Buwaarr, Mother and Baby

Miimi and Buwaarr, Mother and Baby

Miimi and Buwaarr, Mother and Baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miimi and Buwaarr, Mother and Baby

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2024

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733343018

Being your miimi (mother) is the most precious gift life can give.

When you were born you opened my heart as wide as the ocean.

There is no stronger bond than that between mother and child and using a palette as soft and gentle as the accompanying text,  Gumbaynggir storyteller, artist and designer Melissa Greenwood, has created an ode between mother and newborn that tells the baby of the connections to their family, totems, language and environment both past and present and how they can draw on the characteristics  to guide and protect them through their journey through life. 

While it is a story that echoes the feeling between any mother and newborn. it is expressed in a way that shows the long, strong connections to family, land and culture that reach far into the past of First Nations families.

While it is written in a combination of English and Gumbaynggirr  with a full Gumbaynggirr translation included, at the end, it is nevertheless one that could be in any language spoken in the world, so universal is it message. And as children learn their mother language-its meaning, its rhythm, its expression, its nuances -whatever it is, through listening to it, there is much that they absorb during these personal, precious moments beyond that expression of love. Therefore, these sort of lullabies have a unique place in language learning and should not only be among the gifts given to any new mother but also be the first in the baby’s library, regardless of their heritage..

Tree

Tree

Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree

Claire Saxby

Jess Racklyeft

A & U Children, 2024

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761069505

On a misty mountain morning, just like the one outside my window this morning, the tree stands tall in the forest, high above those that surround it , “older than those who find it, younger than the land it grows from.”

From its roots that gather food and the tiny, feathery threads that connect it to other trees to the tips of it top leaves that reach for the sun and give dappled shade from it, the tree brims with life – both its own and those who seek shelter and food from it.

Known as “the forest giant” as they can soar to a height of more than 100 metres, and sometimes living up to 300 years old, this is the story of a mountain ashEucalyptus regnans – native to the forests of Tasmania and Victoria, born from a seed the size of a pinhead but uniquely designed to be able to push its way through the ash of a bushfire and begin its rapid growth that helps regenerate the scorched land below. 

Just like Iceberg this is another incredible offering from this team of author and illustrator, one that brings to life the life of something so ordinary yet extraordinary  in words and pictures (including an amazing three-page spread) in a way that should be used as a role model for students tasked with research-and-report writing.  Compare “In the layered litter, a a scaly thrush flicks. A lyrebird scritch-scratches. Slaters curl, beetles burrow and centipedes scurry.” to  something like “At the bottom of the tree lots of birds and animals live among the dropped leaves and twigs.” It is the lyricism of Saxby’s language that shines through in all her books and in this case, Racklyeft’s watercolour illustrations put the reader right in with those little inhabitants.

But whether the tree is a magnificent mountain ash, or a humble backyard specimen, this is one that will spark awareness of the value that any tree adds to both the landscape and life itself, and thus needs protection rather than destruction.