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Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406399998

These days young children are very aware of the importance of plants and bees, the  deadly potential of climate change and the concept of “green” being more than just a colour in the paint palette. But what is the connection between them?

It is all explained in this beautifully illustrated picture book. In accessible text, the young reader learns that a tree isn’t just a tree standing green and shady but that it is really busy purifying the air through photosynthesis as it does, and from there they are led naturally through a timeline of the development of plants on the planet, the impact of using the remains of the ancient forests as fossil fuels, and the interaction and interdependence of plants on the planet’s health and function, as they begin to understand why “GREEN is the most important colour in the world.”

This really is the most remarkable book that explains really complex concepts in such a simple way that it should be the starting point for any study into the environment and why we need to protect what we have.  It is the basic WHY of all the what, where, who, how and all the other questions that students have that will provide context and purpose for any investigation, encapsulating and explaining such a  big idea in a way that just gives sense to so much else. No matter what the topic under investigation, if it is about the natural world, it will stem back to plants and their health and prevalence.  

Research shows that the eye distinguishes more shades of green than any other colour and certainly the view from my window has more hues than I could count, but it never ceases to suggest a sense of calm and peace, which is why so many medical facilities are painted in shades of green. This book is the beginning of understanding why this is so, and why it is so important to our lives and well-being. 

A must-have in any collection.

Evolution

Evolution

Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution

Sarah Darwin, Eva Maria Sadowski

Olga Baumert

What on Earth Books, 2023

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781912920532

Since human life emerged on this planet, people have speculated on how it all began with many communities developing creation stories to explain what they didn’t know or understand – stories that still guide life today in some places.  But in the mid 1800s, two scientists – Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – independently developed a theory known as evolution by natural selection,  and in this easily accessible, beautifully illustrated book, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin explains the theory –  what it is and how it works.

Feature spreads explain the important things that you need to know, a timeline plots the history of life on Earth., maps and charts show the Tree of Life, and extensive back matter includes a glossary, and index, a bibliography and the whole is backed by both the Natural History Museum in London and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin making it a model of authoritative presentation. As well as what has gone before, there are also sections on how humans have changed their own worlds, how evolution continues to influence adaptation and survival and a suggestion as to what the future holds, as long as we are willing to learn from the past.  

As well as being an excellent introduction to the history of life on this planet spanning 4.5 billion years, this is also an important addition to both the environment and sustainability curriculum and collection because “The better we understand evolution, the better we can protect the planet”.

 

 

Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth

Ultrawild

Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth

Steve Mushin

A & U Children’s, 2023

80pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781760292812

When the introduction to a book is entitled ” Ludicrous Ideas are Bootcamp for Brains” then you know you have something that is going to be out there and it’s going to appeal to your wild thinkers, your madcap inventors and all those other kids who dwell in the Land of What If?

This is a most unusual book in both format and content and yet it is also most intriguing.  The author himself says that he had been having “outlandish ideas” for as long as he can remember, some successful, some not-so, but he is on a mission to “crush climate change by transforming every city on Earth into a jungle (or whatever other type of ecosystem it was before humans trashed it)”.

So in a comic-like format that follows his thought processes, he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems and develops a deadly serious plan to transform cities into jungles, rewilding them into carbon-sucking mega-habitats for all species, and as fast as possible. But, as a highly-respected industrial designer, artist and inventor these are not the random machinations of a child’s wildest dreams, but serious collaborations with scientists and others who are concerned about the planet and which incorporate futuristic materials and foods, bio reactors, soil, forest ecosystems, mechanical flight, solar thermal power and working out just how fast we could actually turn roads into jungles, absorb carbon and reverse climate change. Each project has been researched and while not yet necessarily put into practice, each is theoretically possible and some are already happening,

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Underpinned by quotes from those who have gone before including 14th century philosopher William of Ockham who said that “the simplest solution is almost always the best” (Occam’s razor) this is one to inspire all those who are concerned about climate change but who want and need to do more than reduce their personal use of plastic and who can see that doing what has always been done might not work in time, let alone be successful. It validates the wacky and the wild ideas some students have and encourages them to go even further.

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Bronwyn Saunders

Andrew Plant

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486316762 

Despite being about the size of a modern rhinoceros, prehistoric Diprotodon faced many challenges from both the harsh environment and other megafauna that roamed central Australia during the Ice Age of the Pleistocene Epoch. Separated from his mother and his herd, he needs to stay safe, and find shelter, food and water in the barren landscape blasted by icy winds and dried up by drought as so much water is now stored in the ice caps.

This narrative non fiction story introduces students to these ancestors of the wombat while opening up so many other worlds to explore such as the creatures it shared the continent with and their evolution to those we know today as well as the causes and impact of the climate change that plunged the world into lower temperatures, as opposed to the warmer ones we are experiencing now.  Beautifully and accurately illustrated by Andrew Plant, it includes some brief, easily readable facts which expand the story, as well as teachers’ notes that suggest ways to explore further.

It could also be used in conjunction with both  Dippy’s Big Day Out and Dippy and the Dinosaurs  as a way to compare fiction and non fiction, contrasting the two different purposes (imagination vs information) but discovering how much they share.  What did both authors and illustrators need to know about the diprotodon and how and where it lived  to create the stories they did? Even though they are written for a similar audience, how do the language, structure and illustrations change for each format? 

Young readers have a fascination with dinosaurs and megafauna, often opening that first door into the world of non fiction for them, and this one is an ideal addition to that collection.  

Let’s Save the Great Barrier Reef

Let's Save the Great Barrier Reef

Let’s Save the Great Barrier Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Save the Great Barrier Reef

Catherine Barr

Jean Claude

Walker Books, 2023

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

9781529513615

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to a quarter of all ocean life, but it also has many other roles to play in the ecosystems of the region including protecting the Queensland coast from powerful ocean weather and waves , sheltering the communities that are spread along the shoreline.  

This, and many other reasons for its protection are presented in this picture book for young readers, each starting with the line, “Let’s save the Great Barrier Reef because… ” followed by a clear but simple explanation and accompanied by stunning illustrations that really drive home the message.  

Part of a series which includes other significant at-risk regions of the planet, the underlying, common threat to all is climate change, and while young readers might not fully understand this or perhaps feel they can do little about it, it does include a few tips about the small differences they can make which, if shared broadly, will make a big difference. 

While it will serve as an introduction to this unique location for young readers, it could also serve as the springboard for a broader investigation for more mature students.  Just starting with the phrase “Let’s save the Great Barrier Reef because… ” could initiate either deeper investigations into the reasons already provided, search for other reasons or even look at the importance and imp[act of coral reefs in general.  There are also teachers’ notes available to explore other ideas. 

A Chicken Called Hope

A Chicken Called Hope

A Chicken Called Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chicken Called Hope

Danny Parker

Tamlyn Teow

Dirt Lane Press, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780648899686

Hope the chicken is the captain of Courage, a somewhat ramshackle ship that crisscrosses the oceans of the world, relying on Hope’s blind faith that all would be well throughout its voyages. When Hope feels queasy she clucks out a tune until the feeling goes; when she feels tired she dozes in the breeze…  But when the ship develops a leak, and, as usual, Hope procrastinates about fixing it things start to deteriorate and Hope finds that hope is not enough to save the ship, and she learns a powerful lesson about being proactive. 

On the surface, this is a pleasant story that will engage young readers, particularly as they engage with the onomatopoeia as the drip, drip, dribble becomes larger and use the illustrations to tell the story that the words don’t. They might even explore the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” and how such traditional sayings can still apply to modern life. What situations can they identify that that saying could apply to? Are there other sayings that might apply to Hope’s predicament?

But, in line with the publisher’s philosophy of “tackl[ing] important social issues cleverly disguised as narratives” there is an allegory that older readers might like to tease out and not only discuss the issues it  raises but why an author might choose a picture book format to portray them, thus developing their literary understanding of the purpose and power of the picture book.  It could also be an interesting exercise in perspective – do all the readers identify the same message and if so (or otherwise), why? They might even debate whether using a form of entertainment for children is a legitimate or ethical way to portray a political message, exploring the text-to-self and text-to-world connections, as well as suggesting others they have read with a similar theme.  Food for thought that enables this book to be used across age groups.

If The World Were 100 Animals

If The World Were 100 Animals

If The World Were 100 Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If The World Were 100 Animals

Miranda Smith

Aaron Cushley

Red Shed, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780008524371

“The total number of individual animals on Earth is believed by some to be 20 000 000 000 000 000 000 or 20 quintillion or 20 billion billion.”

That’s a number that only someone like Elon Musk can visualise so this clever book makes it manageable by reducing it to just 100 animals, and dividing them into vertebrates (just 6) and invertebrates (94).  Then, like its counterpart If the World were 100 People, it uses double page spreads to investigate the characteristics of those 100 with questions such as what makes invertebrates different to invertebrates,  did you hatch from an egg and which animals are the most deadly to humans. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It’s layout with plenty of illustrations and info-filled captions make it both visually appealing and readily accessible to younger readers so they not only learn a lot but can have intriguing facts to roll out during dinnertime conversation. Fancy being able to drop a fact such as “Of all the animal species that have  lived on this planet, only 10 are still living. Ninety are extinct,”  into the chat to start a lively discussion about conservation.  Particularly relevant when it is feared that by 2050 – less than 90 years away – more than 1 000 000 species of animal that inhabit our planet today will be extinct including the polar bear, rhinoceros and gorilla because of climate change, pollution, deforestation and overfishing. 

So what are the big questions we need to ask ourselves and what action do we need to take? This is an important book that reduces the issues to a scale that the child, who will be the adult in 2050,  can cope with and understand and perhaps drive the actions that are critical.  

 

 

Egg

Egg

Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egg

Clare Atkins

Harrison Vial

UQP, 2022

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

9780702265594

In a world where climate change has finally won, something strange washes up on the eggs’ island and  they are scared. Although it looks like them, it is different and they are afraid.   What if it hatches? What if there are more of them? Most of the eggs hope the newcomer will float back to where it came from, but in case it doesn’t they roll it to the tip of the island and build a wall around it.  

But Little Egg is not afraid and climbs to the top of the wall, its shadow providing a welcome speck of shade for the stranger. And strange things begin to happen…

This is a unique picture book, one of those special ones that looks like it is for the very young but which has issues and a message that span a much wider age group.  Is it about the ultimate impact of climate change, or the fear of strangers in our midst? Racism? Having to move and being shunned rather than accepted? Rejection? Belonging? Friendship and compassion? Or all of these?  Despite its seemingly juvenile appearance, this is one that has many thought=provoking layers that raise more questions than answers , yet all the while engaging the reader as they want to know what happens!

Comprehensive teachers’ notes will help you explore the issues with students, leading to all sorts of explorations, including the historic building of walls to keep people out (or in.), perhaps even leading to reading stories such as The Trojan Horse.  Is Little Egg a modern version of that? There’s a compare, contrast and consider activity right there!

 

Water

Water

Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water

Catherine Barr

Christiane Engel

Otter-Berry, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781913074463

Water is life! Freshwater bubbles, flows and floods with the most wonderful life on Earth – and all of us rely on it to stay alive. Yet, despite about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface being water-covered,  the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water, freshwater is becoming increasingly rare because of pollution and climate change. Although the recent rains and floods in eastern Australia might suggest otherwise, it is becoming more and more difficult for people and animals to find the clean freshwater they need to survive. 

This book tells the story of freshwater around the world including the history of water, how the water cycle works, the different kinds of water and the amazing variety of wildlife that freshwater is home to. It investigates what happens to water because of climate change and global heating; the importance of clean water for health; the worldwide problem of water pollution and the devastating impact of water shortage on children’s lives and education.

Using a picture book presentation with accessible text and lively illustrations, this is designed to introduce younger readers to the need to be more thoughtful about their water use and perhaps instil lifelong habits early.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

With its subtitle Protect Freshwater to Save Life on Earth, the reader is challenged to become more aware of this precious, essential resource and to take action, to use water wisely and protect freshwater to save our planet. Like so many things, thinking locally and acting personally can have a huge impact globally if we all collaborate and co-operate.

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

Nicola Davies

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406394771

It is one minute to midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, April 21 and as the clock strikes midnight there, the reader begins an amazing journey around the world to see what is happening in other places at this precise time, whether that be having breakfast or even afternoon tea.

But this is not the more common snapshot of what people are doing at a specific time. but a glimpse at what the natural wildlife are up to, the threats they face and in some cases, what’s being done to mitigate them.  We travel to the polar bears in the Arctic; to sea turtles in India struggling to the sea after they’ve just hatched;  to kangaroos fighting both the climate and each other in Mutawintji National Park in NSW; and so on around the world as different species respond to the time zone of their environment.

The date was chosen because at that time of the year there is something exciting happening in the animal kingdom around the world, and coincidentally it was Earth Day, celebrated since 1970 “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. and act as a call to action to acknowledge that “the clock has struck and it is time to make a difference together”. Accompanied by stunning illustrations, each of which includes the two little children who are taking us on the journey so that there is a storyline rather than just a time-lapse diary, the reader is introduced to creatures like the polar bear whose plight may be familiar as the warming planet melts their icy home to the not-so familiar owl monkeys of Ecuador whose habitat is being destroyed in the search for oil.  And while it might seem impossible for a young reader in Australia to help them, nevertheless there are things that each of us can do to  daily to make a difference. So books such as these  which raise awareness in interesting, fascinating ways are perfect for helping us to think globally and act locally.  

And there is always the sideline of investigating why it’s midnight in Greenwich but midday in Sydney!