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One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Lone Swallow

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326195

Florence, Italy , around 1805 and as night falls a lone swallow leaves her babies and flies across the city, with the single sole purpose of finding her mate who has not returned.

But it is not the courage and determination of the swallow in her mission that is the hallmark of this story, but the beautiful, lyrical description of her journey accompanied by the exquisite, soft illustrations that are the perfect match. 

For most of us, night comes in each day almost unnoticed in its regularity and sameness, unless there is a stunning sunset or storm to catch the eye. But in this simple story, Fenton and Swan, creators of other sensitive stories like Scrufflenut, turn the reader’s focus to the sights and sounds of nightfall, not just in Florence on this night but their own backyard. What are the sights, sounds, smells and colours that they hear as night falls across their home?  If they were like the swallow and could have a bird’s-eye view what would attract their attention as dusk and then night settles across the city? Is it a swift or lingering event?  Why? Would it be different if we were in a city, the bush, by the sea? Would it have been different in another time? Given this is set in 1805, what is noticeably missing if it were set today?  Perhaps this could inspire an individual, group or class poem focusing on how Fenton has made the ordinary extraordinary through her word choices and phrasing, and with illustrations that, like those of Swan, become an integral part of the tale told.

A perfect opportunity to encourage our students to take a close look at their environment and engage all their senses. 

Code Name Bananas

Code Name Bananas

Code Name Bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Code Name Bananas

David Walliams

HarperCollins, 2020

480pp., pbk. RRP $A22.99

9780008454296

London in 1940, at the height of the Blitz where the city was continually bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II.  Eleven-year-old Eric has lost both his parents and bereft, bewildered and alone the only place he feels any happiness is at London Zoo.  There, he has befriended one of the zoos oldest inhabitants, Gertrude the Gorilla, who loves to show off for the crowds, in exchange for a banana or two.

Eric, who has sticky-out ears that have earned him the nickname “wingnut” hates school and every day as soon as the bell rings, he detours to the zoo here his great-uncle Sid. a zoo keeper, would smuggle him in for free (provided he knew that day’s secret password)  as Eric liked nothing better than working alongside him with the animals. But his grandmother, with whom he now lives, does not like him spending his time at the zoo and after a particularly nasty argument, Eric runs away and joins Sid. As the bombs rain down, it is clear that the zoo is not safe and they must rescue Gertrude. So the three go on the run. But while hiding out at the seaside they uncover a top-secret Nazi plot…

This is David Walliams at his best.  Unlike his recent offerings , this is a not a collection of short stories but a full adventure that will keep the reader absorbed for hours.  Despite its length, it is an easy read with many illustrations and format techniques that make it easily accessible to the newly independent reader.  Walliams take the reader on a journey to another world, one that actually happened, and introduces them to a time of daily fear where just waking up each morning was not guaranteed, and the bombs were not discriminatory.  It was a dangerous for Eric and all the other children who had not been evacuated as it was for the adults. But with typical Walliams humour the reality is softened somewhat so it becomes manageable.

Given current events where certain sections are placed into stay-at-home lockdown as COVID raises its head, it puts that experience into some sort of perspective showing our children that even though they can’t go out to play or visit their friends, the experience, while harrowing, could be much worse.  The theme for the CBCA Book Week 2021 is Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and while that may seem an opportunity to explore the fictional world of science fiction and fantasy, it is also an opportunity to explore the world of children in times gone by and this book, is perfect for that, either as a read-aloud, read-alone or read-along. 

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.

Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lion –  A Long Way Home

Saroo Brierly

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2020

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

9780143795094

Born in Khandwa, India, in 1986 at the age of just 5, Saroo Brierley was separated from his brother at a train station and, not knowing his family name or where he was from, he managed to survive for weeks on the streets of Calcutta before finally being taken to an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian family. Even though he was happy growing up in Tasmania, he always wondered about his long-lost family and the story of his search for them has become an award-winning movie based on the adult version of his autobiography.

This incredible story of love, resilience and hope has been exquisitely illustrated by Bruce Whatley in a version for younger readers that will intrigue and inspire as they are touched by his need to discover his roots and what happened, particularly to his older brother whom he was with.  In its own way, it will be the story of many of the children in our care who have two families and who want to know and love both. They might not have the geographical journey that Saroo has to navigate, but  there is the emotional one they have to negotiate as they discover where and how they fit in.  There is the powerful realisation that it is possible to love and be loved by more than one, and that each significant relationship we form will influence our lives and characters.

It also opens up a window to the world beyond their own bubble so they begin to understand that not all children share the life they do, and that poverty and homelessness are real for Australian children as well as India and other countries.

Comprehensive teachers’ notes are available.

For those who want to read further, there is also the co-release of Lioness, by Sue Brierly, Saroo’s adoptive mother.

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make A Bird

Meg McKinlay

Matt Ottley

Walker, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781925381894

“To make a bird you will need a lot of very tiny bones.  They will be smaller than you imagine, some so tiny they are barely there, And they will be hollow, these hundreds of bones – so light that when they rest in your palm you will hardly feel them.”

So begins a haunting, almost ethereal, picture book that takes the reader through the process of how a bird is made – particularly timely for me as I watch our resident Father and Mother Magpie patiently raise this season’s twins.  Like them, the girl is also patient and extremely careful as she patiently adds all the other elements like the feathers (saving the longest for the wings and the tail) and a heart that will beat sure and steady to carry the bird across oceans and continents at the end of a long winter, eyes, beak , claws and a song to sing.  But just the physical stuff is not enough – it is having the courage to let go of what you have made so it can find its place in the world that is the final piece of the jigsaw.

This is a stunning book, beautifully illustrated in a soft, calming palette that emphasises the care and the patience needed to create anything, and it could be an allegory for any creative process.  First you have to have the mechanical, physical elements and the know-how of how they fit together, but it is having the faith to let others see and test your creation and offer feedback that takes it from being an object to something more. Just as the little girl sets her bird free to explore the wild blue yonder so that it can truly reach its potential as a bird, so have McKinlay and Ottley set their creations off into the unknown to be explored, accepted, appreciated or not.  Just as we encourage our kids to take what they know and be brave enough to transform it and test it in new situations.   Just as we raise our own children and our students the best we know how, we have to give them that ultimate freedom of independence and making their own way in the world.  Are we able to relinquish our control and just let go?

This is a story that can work on many levels for many ages.  It can help a little person understand how birds can defy gravity and fly even when they cannot  but it can also work on that allegorical level of knowing you have done all you can and taking that leap of faith. Comprehensive teachers’ notes demonstrate how it can be used across the ages, stages and curriculum.

It would not surprise me to see this among the award winners in the future. 

Tree Beings

Tree Beings

Tree Beings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Beings

Raymond Huber

Sandra Severgnini

EK Books, 2020

96pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781925820539

Look closely at the cover of this book.  Look closely at the bark of the tree and the gaps and spaces in between the branches and roots.  For there you will start to discover the purpose of this book, its importance to the planet and why so many people are passionate about their preservation, particularly those whose stories are told within. 

More than 30% of the planet is covered with forest providing clean air, pure water, shelter and employment for both people and animals but the rate of deforestation and degradation is alarming and changing the planet irrevocably.  With a foreword by Dr Jane Goodall , and a focus on four big ideas…

  • Trees give life to the planet.
  • Trees can help save us from climate change.
  • Trees are like beings.
  • Trees need our help and protection.

our children will learn about the value of trees and how essential they are to the healthy life and biodiversity of the planet. As well as understanding how trees give the Earth life, how they ‘talk’ and why they are our best allies in the fight to slow down climate change, readers will meet some of those who have devoted their lives to bringing attention to the plight of the forests and their preservation, the eccentric British professor who travelled the world for seventy years telling people how trees can save us. Written for independent readers in a style that draws them in and keeps them reading, and beautifully illustrated with diagrams, vignettes, close-ups all botanically correct, this is a stunning book that will be eye-opening to many. Trees are so much more than a home for a bird.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

And for those who want more, there is this clip from Gardening Australia that opens up even more understanding.

In a world where students are so aware of climate change, where they have seen the destruction of our bush from the Summer of Fire, where “environment” and “sustainability” are words that even our youngest know and understand and want to act on, this is a book for all ages that will offer yet another avenue of awareness that will allow them to make a difference. Maybe they will be inspired like the 9-year-old-boy who has a plan to plant a trillion trees to save the planet and start their own project!

 

 

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 Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

Sally Gardner

Lydia Carry

Zephyr, 2020

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781838935672

Since the days of the Vikings, the Tindims have lived on Rubbish Island, recycling debris salvaged from sunken pirate ships and galleons. They have always lived in secret, caring for the creatures of the sea and helping messages in bottles to find the right tides. But now as plastic threatens to overwhelm their island home, the Tindims make contact with children for the first time ever to show them how to turn rubbish into treasure…

Join Skittle, her furry pet Pinch, her parents, Admiral Bonnet, Mug, Jug, Brew, Captain Spoons,  Granny Gull and Barnacle Bow on  Rubbish Island where they seem to find a use for every piece of rubbish that the ‘Long Legs’ throw into the water. For years they have lived by their motto: ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’.  Wander through its warren of underwater rooms, including a toothbrush library and a hospital for sick fish, climb its terraces overlooking the sea and scale Rubbish Mountain. Set sail with them on their first ocean adventure as they show keen young human ecologists how to help protect our planet for the future.

There was recently a discussion on an education forum about teachers having younger readers who are newly independent and who have outgrown the levelled basal readers that are usually offered the age group.  The consensus was that these readers should not have their opportunities stifled by stories with controlled vocabulary and contrived sentence structure just because of their age and a convenient label, and that while they still needed some support with shorter chapters, larger fonts and illustrations which not only broke up the text but also helped clarify it, there were plenty of these sorts of books that offered such a platform, built on a solid, quality storyline. This series, is one of those.

It is modern in appearance and focuses on a theme that is close to the heart and minds of its target audience, that of making this world a better place by thinking globally and acting locally. There are not a lot of things that our youngest readers have the power to improve or change, but being environmentally conscious is one of them so this book which inspires them to be more aware is certainly within their realm. Reminiscent of the classic series The Borrowers by Mary Norton, it may even inspire them to expand their horizons and read that collection.

The first in this series, it is one that should appeal to those who are ready to test the next stepping stones of their reading journey.

 

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! 

 

The Battle

The Battle

The Battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle

Ashling Kwok

Cara King

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820409

 

It is Edward’s first day at knight school and  to protect from the battles he expects to face, he puts on his full suit of armour. Sitting in the back of the Great Hall surrounded by unfriendly creatures , he is mortified when the king asks him to tell the others about himself. Even though at home he likes to fight giants and ogres, here at knight school he seems to be surrounded by them and he is not so brave. And when one sits beside him on the bench as he starts to eat his lunch, things are r-e-a-l-l-y scary…

It is that time of the year again when the prospect of Big School is looming closer and closer and some of our little ones are getting really apprehensive, particularly this year where, in some places, the opportunity for orientation visits and becoming familiar with people and places has not been allowed. So stories like these that not only show that fears are shared but they can be overcome are welcome as they offer such reassurance. Cleverly illustrated showing the ogres and dragons as ordinary boys and girls and the concept of the physical armour holding him back in the same way that mental armour does, Edward comes to some new understandings and discovers this school-thing isn’t as frightening after all.

However you are connecting with your preschoolers this year, include this story in your repertoire for an added dose of confidence.