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A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A First Book of the Sea

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2018 

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406368956

With evocative blank verse poems and stunning watercolour illustrations, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton take the young reader on an amazing journey to the sea, under it and beyond it in this new anthology that is the third and final in the series.  Beginning with First to See the Sea the reader is immediately engaged because who has not wanted to be the first to see that elusive glimpse of blue as the coast draws nearer and the air sharpens?  

Encapsulating the most common experiences of the ordinary beach-goer in short poems – paddling, building sandcastles,  catching waves, fishing, gathering pebbles, being mesmerised by the lighthouse flashing its warnings- the net is cast wider and wider and explores the creatures beneath the endless waves and in the ocean’s depths from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Those for whom the sea is home, for whom it is their livelihood or an adventure to be conquered, all are featured in words that are as informative as they are picturesque.  And the stunning fold-out of the humpback whale with instructions for singing a whale song is just superb.

If you buy just one poetry anthology this year, this should be it – there is a poem for every day to spark the imagination and the wonderment of the magic that covers more than two-thirds of this planet. As one born and raised by the ocean and a dream to return, this is one book that is staying in my personal collection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a Mermaid?

Candy Gourlay

Francesca Chessa

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

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

 9781910959121

It has been suggested that the origin of mermaids comes from sailors mistaking ‘sea-cows’ or dugongs for these fanciful creatures and letting their imaginations and desires fill in the gaps.  But not so for Benji, who, with his sister Bel spots a dugong on the beach.  He knows exactly what it is but dugong disagrees, insisting she is not an “it”, but is, indeed, a mermaid – a beautiful mermaid.

She shows the children her tail, which Benji insists is a dugong’s tail; sings to them which hurts Benji’s ears;  and even demonstrated how gracefully she could swim in the sea.  While Bel wishes she, too, could be a mermaid, Benji refuses to give up his criticism, adamant to prove the creature is a dugong. But when he calls her a “sea cow”, she is very hurt and Benji suddenly realises how sharp and cruel his words and attitude have been. Can he make amends?

The word ‘dugong’ comes from the Malay for mermaid as 17th and 18th European sailors saw them or the first time in South East Asian waters  and while this story is set in the Philippines, they are also found in warm Australian waters too.  So, as well as being a story about the power of words and how hurtful they can be even when that is not the intention, this is also a story that puts a focus on these elusive, endangered creatures more closely related to elephants than cows. Young children could create a comparison between mermaids and dugongs while older students might investigate their habits and habitats more fully, perhaps even getting involved in Project Seagrass

The sustainability of the environment and its inhabitants is an important part of the primary curriculum and this is the perfect introduction to a less familiar endangered species that could be added to those already studied. 

 

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2018 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763665968

Just before the family leaves on a holiday at the beach, they bury their beloved dog.  As Sascha grieves and dusk falls, she takes her bucket to the ocean’s edge to collect stones to take home to cover the bare mound that is her dog’s grave.  Among those she picks up is one that is particularly bright and shiny and as she looks up to the stars she begins to wonder and trace the stone’s journey to its resting place on the shore.  From a meteor that hurls itself to Earth in the time of the dinosaurs to being picked up by Sascha and eventually placed on her dog’s grave,  it has a long and fascinating history that reveals itself in a series of stunning illustrations in this wordless text, traveling through time and across lands. 

But, perhaps most important of all, although Sascha continues to miss her dog terribly, she begins to understand that nothing is truly lost – everything, even a stone and a dog, has a history and a legacy and is but one piece in the jigsaw that is both our own and the planet’s story.  We are more than what is happening to us in the moment – all that has gone before has shaped us and what we do now will change us for the future. 

Described by one reviewer as the “young person’s Shaun Tan”, this story has so many layers to explore and ponder with each visit – Becker’s decision to not add text means the reader has to impose their own making for a wonderful opportunity to reflect and consider and wonder. Against the background of the muted palette, the gold of the stone stands out like a thread weaving its way through a carpet, just as our own individual stories while being but one strand of a much larger tale, nevertheless stand out for us.

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Sea

Alison Lester & Jane Godwin

Children from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Affirm Press, 2018

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

9781925584745

Let’s go down to The Silver Sea,
Come on, I’ll hold your hand…

Take a journey with two little children as they explore what is beneath the waves in this magical adventure created by young people at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with  Australian authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin.

Inspired by a multi-storey aquarium that was once part of the RCH environment, and created during a series of drawing workshops with the young patients, this is a stunning collaboration that features the rhythmical lullaby-like text of Lester and Godwin and the distinctive artwork of children that can never be replicated by adults.   From splashing with the dolphins and seals in the waves to deep down in the indigo depths and back home again through diving shearwaters, the vast array of sealife is brought to life through the eyes and hands of the children.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little ones will be inspired to create their own images of what they might see if they were able to go on an adventure like the children in the story. while older readers might like to investigate some of the creatures that they encounter.  There is nothing quite so entrancing as seeing a leafy sea dragon in amongst the seaweed – an enduring memory of my scuba diving days – and wanting to know more about them!

All proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, making an extra reason for ensuring this utterly charming story is in your collection.  

 

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Papa Sky

Jane Jolly

Sally Heinrich

MidnightSun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925227291

Way up high in the cloud forests where the earth meets the sky, Papa Sky is having fun taking handfuls of clouds, shaping them into beautiful sculptures and then, with a puff, sending them east and west across the lands.  All day he is does it. making amazing lifelike images to drift across the big blue for cloud-dreamers to watch and imagine. 

But that night he is so tired that while he is sleeping a wind blows him down, down, down through the forest where he lands with a thump and a bump startling the inquisitive creatures below.  But while they are fascinated by their unexpected visitor, they know that he must return to his home for “Without him, we are nothing.” And so, from the smallest, and the quietest to the most secretive they work together to try to get Papa Sky back where he belongs.  Can they do it?  Will be once again be the maker of cloud-shapes and fabulous figures?

From the first endpaper to the last, this is a beautiful story stunningly illustrated with a palette as gentle as the text making it a seamless match of words and pictures that is unique. High over some of the worlds tropical and subtropical regions where there is persistent moisture that continually rises in the heat, rainforest canopies mingle with the clouds making for a mysterious setting just waiting for someone with the imagination of Jane Jolly and the talent of Sally Heinrich to weave something magical, almost a modern legend that could be shared with children when they ask where the clouds come from and start to see the ever-changing shapes. 

Australia has its own cloud forests beyond Cairns, as does New Zealand so students could investigate what creatures would be there to help Papa Sky if he had fallen there, and, using the back endpaper as a model, present their discoveries. A new way to studying the perennial “creatures of the rainforest” topic! Or perhaps pose the question, “If Papa Sky doesn’t make the clouds, where do they come from?” and male a mural on cloud-shaped paper of the suggestions and then investigate and create an explanation. Or maybe just take them outside on a “partly cloudy” day and let them experience the joy of just lying back and watching the clouds and wondering

This book deserves its place among the CBCA Notables for 2018.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lego Animal Atlas

Lego Animal Atlas

Lego Animal Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lego Animal Atlas

Rona Skene

DK, 2018

78pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241316573

No matter which part of the planet you live in, there will be fascinating and unique creatures to see and learn about.  From the blue-ringed octopus of Australia to guanaco of South America to the addax of Africa each continent and each habitat within that continent is populated with wildlife, familiar and not-so. In this new book from master children’s publishers DK< young readers are not only introduced  to these creatures but are also provided with the Lego blocks to start constructing some of them.

Beginning with building instructions for a mini giraffe, panda, penguin and kangaroo for which the blocks are provided, suggestions are then made for making body parts like noses, eyes, teeth and beaks using the reader’s own collection of bricks. And if the reader doesn’t have them, they are encouraged to use their imaginations to substitute what they do have.   There are tips on how and what to build with the emphasis on the fun of building rather than a perfect product. 

Readers are then introduced to the world’s major habitats and continents and the unique species of each.  As well as the clear photos and tips and tricks that will inspire building there is also a ‘model map’ with  a colour-coded key designating the different bricks used for each habitat.  So as well as making the unique creatures of Australasia, for instance, these can also be placed on a map base to show where they are found. 

Of course it wouldn’t be DK without lots of tidbits of interesting information about the creatures backed up with a comprehensive glossary and index which support the child’s information literacy development.  Learning is definitely fun! Because there are no step by step instructions for making the creatures apart from those for the giraffe, panda, penguin and kangaroo, just the clear photos and some suggestions for the trickier bits, challenging children to create their own instructions for a particular model using step-by-step photos using those initial instructions as an example would provide an authentic learning experience that would definitely stretch their skills, demonstrate their knowledge and be fun!

This would be a wonderful addition to those with makerspaces but because of the small parts provided it is only suitable for those over 6. 

The Bacteria Book

The Bacteria Book

The Bacteria Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bacteria Book

Steve Mould

DK, 2018

72pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780241316580

As winter approaches and with it, the cold and flu season with all its accompanying warnings of washing your hands, sneezing into your elbow and staying home if you’re sick, the timing of the publication of this new release from DK is perfect.  While we are so conscious of not spreading disease, just what are these baddies that are so tiny that we can’t see them but fear them anyway? And are they all bad?

Steve Mould (!) takes young readers into the world of microbiology and introduces the bacteria, viruses, and other germs and microbes that are all around, and how they keep us and our world running.

Bacteria and their microbial mates viruses, fungi, algae, and protozoa are the most important living organisms on Earth, and 99 per cent of them are helpful, not harmful. Without bacteria, there would be no bread or cheese, and our bodies wouldn’t be able to work how we need them to. Using the iconic DK style of photos, captions, small blocks of text, a glossary for the big words and an index to discover a particular interest, young readers can discover this almost-invisible world through explanations which use the technical language but in a way that young readers can easily grasp the meaning.  

From discovering bacteria’s superpowers – they are magnetic, electric, sticky and and able to dissolve other creatures – to learning that half of all people have little creatures that live in their eyelashes and walk around on their eyelids at night, this is a book that will fascinate young minds and may even initiate some dinner conversation!

Perfect for raising awareness and understanding, Display it with a microscope and other paraphernalia and listen to the conversations begin!

 

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stripes in the Forest

Aleesah Darlinson

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2016

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

9781925275711

Stripes in the forest, stealth in the shadows.

The last female thylacine tracks through the forests of Tasmania, lands this top predator once owned and roamed at will.  But now she watches the strange creatures who are invading the land with their firesticks as they hunt and kill, not caring about the impact they are having on the environment and its creatures.  She finds a mate and pups are born, but life becomes ever more precarious.  Will she be the last of her kind?

The fate of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger)  has been an enigma since the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after protection was finally granted in a bid to save them from extinction.  Did the pups in this story survive?  Were there more to be born? Even today, there are questions being asked and talk of genetic resurrection.

Darlinson brings to light the possible story of the final female in this story for younger readers who want to know more about this intriguing creature while McGrath’s illustrations help them imagine a different Tasmania, one that is full of menace and fear as European settlement continues to encroach on the indigenous inhabitants.

While Australia has lost 27 mammal, seven frog and 24 bird species to extinction since the first European settlement in 1788, and another 506 species are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened, the thylacine is the one that has captured the imagination and is the perfect introduction to investigating the concept of extinction and human impact on the environment. Unlike the dinosaurs which were wiped out by a natural disaster, extinction and endangerment is now linked directly to human habitation so using Stripes in the Forest as a starting point to ask why the men were intent on shooting every thylacine they saw and then investigating what happens to both fauna and flora when such an important part of the food chain is gone can be  a key part in creating awareness of the need to nurture our environment for our youngest readers.  A perfect example of using fiction to lead into an investigation that will go way beyond just the initial reading of the story.

Experience has shown that there is great interest in the thylacine but not a lot written for younger readers so this is a must-have for the collection.

Teachers’ notes fitting the Australian Curriculum can be found here

 

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandcastle

Philip Bunting

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760295387

Rae loves the beach and wants to build a sandcastle, one of those magnificent ones you see in books with towers, ramparts, a moat and even a dragon to guard it!  With the help of his grandfather, he does just that. But while they eat their fish and chips, the inexorable tide moves closer and closer and Rae is worried that the fortifications will not be enough to keep out the sea.  Sadly, they don’t but Rae learns an amazing lesson about the nature of things…

In the author’s dedication he says, “You, me, this book, your breakfast…we’re all made from tiny particles, stuff that has been around since the beginning of time.  We’re only borrowing these particles from the enormous universe that made them.  Once we’re done with them, the bits that make us will go on to lead many new existences on Earth, and beyond.” So while, on the surface, this could be just a pleasant story about a boy and his grandfather at the beach doing something and experiencing the consequences that so many young readers will resonate with, it could also be an introduction to lessons about matter and atoms and stuff, another one of those topics that little ones find tricky to understand because they can’t see the individual components.

But for me, I found beauty in the words as a way of helping a child cope with the grief of losing a family member or pet – that no matter how a disease might have crept through their body and ultimately stolen it, as the sea does a sandcastle, the person still exists as memories and that a little part of them lives on in each person they touched and influenced in some way.  Very philosophical for so early in the morning but a mark of a quality storyteller whose work can touch the reader in many, often unintended, ways.

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Builds a Nest

Martin Jenkins

Richard Jones

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406355130

It’s time for Bird to build a nest, but before she can begin she needs to find some food to give her the energy for the hard work ahead.  But the first worm she finds is very large and juicy, and no matter how hard she pulls, she is not strong enough to pull it from the ground because it is pulling back.  When she finally does get something in her tummy, she sets off to look for twigs – but some are too heavy or too long and she can’t carry them.  

And so the story continues until her nest is built with successes and failures as she goes – and each one explained in simple language to teach young readers the very basics of the physics of forces. Physics is a hard topic to understand because so much of it is invisible and requires the sort of abstract thinking that little ones are not able to do readily, so starting with a context such as this and using simple language is a brilliant idea.  The story is followed by an experiment using ping pong balls and modelling clay but no explanation is given to clarify the results.  

While the illustrations mirror the text to provide a greater understanding, they are in a muted, retro palette that may not catch the eye or interest of young readers.  Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing as part of the early childhood STEM curriculum simply because it makes the tricky concepts of force and pushing and pulling so explicit.  However, it might be worth having some props on hand so the children can try things for themselves as they learn that size and weight do matter. 

This is a companion to Fox in the Night which examines the phenomenon of light.  Putting physics into the everyday world of the young reader through stories about common events is a wonderful way to pique and satisfy their curiosity, encourage them to explore further and ask more questions and seek their answers. 

While not directly related to this book, there are several video clips available that will help explain the concepts as well as TLF resources  R10729 and L7879 available via Scootle