In 2017, Gordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington presented our youngest readers with an introduction to some of this country’s native fauna and flora in the hauntingly beautiful Can You Find Me?. Now they have teamed up again to delve closely into what might be living in the garden with this new counting book that is as stunning as the first.
Beginning with some of the larger creatures such as the blue-tongued lizard and kookaburras, young readers are enticed to look more and more closely at the illustrations to discover just what might be hiding amongst the trees, bushes, flowers and leaves, culminating in a challenge to find all of them in the final spread. As well as the introduction to iconic creatures and enabling the reader to practise their counting skills, like the first book, it encourages them to look more closely at their environment and see it with new eyes, to appreciate it more and perhaps even preserve it more carefully.
A counting book that does so much more than help little ones count.
While Pender is playing in the bush near his home, he hears a gunshot and to his dismay he discovers a mother kangaroo taking her last breath. But as her eyes glaze, he notices movement in her pouch and Pender finds himself with no choice but to take care of the baby joey he names Brindabella. With his artistic, somewhat reclusive father, they raise Brindabella and even though Pender knows she will one day need to return to the bush he puts that way to the back of his mind, until the day her natural instincts become too much for her and Brindabella leaves…
With the narrative switching between Pender and Brindabella’s perspectives, this is a sensitively written novel for young independent readers that explores the relationship between people and animals. Why do Pertelote the chook, Billy-Bob the dog and Ricky the cat stay with Pender and his father while Brindabella has a compelling need to leave? Confronting, even emotional in parts, Dubosarsky brings the Australian bush alive so all the senses are engaged and the reader is there with Pender, opening opportunities for lots of sensory responses that confirm, compare and contrast Pender’s home with that of the reader themselves.
Shortlisted for the 2019 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, this is a story that I know Miss 8 is going to adore particularly because she loves to roam our bush block and we have our own share of Brindabellas, but for those not as fortunate, there are teachers’ notes and activities that will help to bring it into the realm of city kids. Download them from the home site.
New to the realm of supportive novels for newly independent readers is this title from graphic designer cum author Kylie Howarth.
Using the popular superhero theme as its foundation, this is a series with a difference because as well as being entertaining, it also teaches those young readers about the ocean environment and its inhabitants. Bodhi’s parents are right into the underwater world – his dad is a marine biologist and his mum an underwater photographer – and they travel the world together to explore what really happens beneath the surface. But Bodhi isn’t into this world as much as they are, preferring dry land but then he discovers he has magical powers…
Each book is set in a different oceanic environment where Fish Kid befriends an amazing marine creature. As he bonds with his new animal friend, he discovers a new fish power. Every chapter contains a rollicking fiction romp (with illustrations to match) plus a focused nonfiction animal fact box (with more realistic illustrations). In this, his family are in the Galapagos Islands and he finds himself stuck on the boat with the captain’s daughter Emely, who likes to play pranks on him, although the innocent looking green smoothie with its secret ingredients would make even the reader have the same reaction as Bodhi.
Full of action, adventure and humour, and all the techniques proven perfect for supporting those transitioning to longer novels, this series also includes fact boxes about the various creatures encountered and draws on the author’s personal knowledge of the world under the waves enriching the reader’s understanding and awakening an awareness to protect it.
Although I haven’t dived the Galapagos Islands, this book took me right back to my experiences on the Great Barrier Reef and for that, this is one destined for Miss 8 so she can share the wonder her grandmother, grandfather and father still have. Perhaps she, too, will be tempted like Bodhi.
On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”. Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.
But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to. Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous. And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.
As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall. They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over. But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”
By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works to examine them in closer detail.
In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.
She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.
“Where the mist swallows mountains and winds whisper through ancient trees, myths and legends are born. There are forests here where no one has trod and creatures run free in endless rain and deep, dark bush.”
And among those creatures is a mother thylacine who is trying to show her young pup how to survive. But while she and her offspring might be at the top of the natural food chain, there is one that is even mightier. One that has guns and traps and the motivation of a government bounty. One that outsmarts both mother and young and takes them to a different forest – not one of trees and the scents of fern and pine and thick, dark sanctuary but to one made of concrete and steel exposed to the harsh daylight and hot summer sun. The mother fades away and only the pup is left, until she, too, no longer is. The last of her kind that is known. But perhaps in that secret place where the mist still swallows the mountains and the winds whisper though the ancient trees, there is a sound…
From her bush studio in her Tasmanian home, Christina Booth produces the most amazing work, particularly the stories that she writes and illustrates herself. From the charming Purinina, A Devil’s Tale which tells the story of a young Tasmanian Devil growing up to the beautiful Welcome Home with its focus on whales long gone from Tasmanian shores, to this evocative, haunting tale of the last thylacine she puts young and not-so-young readers in touch with the stories of some of Australia’s most amazing creatures which have suffered so significantly at the hand of humans and in the name of progress and prosperity.
With its dark palette that echoes the darkness of the deep bush of undiscovered Tasmania to the stark whiteness echoing the harsh conditions of Hobart Zoo, the reader is taken on a visual and verbal journey that is so intertwined it is like poetry. But despite the fate of the main character and that of the thylacine as a species being known, nevertheless there is a story of hope for now we think and do differently, and perhaps somewhere in the depths of that untrodden bush there is the possibility…
This is a must-have addition to support any curriculum study that has sustainability and the plight of our planet’s creatures as its focus.
It is clear from recent global actions by young students that the environmental state of the planet is one of their greatest concerns and with World Environment Day being the recent focus of many school activities, this is a timely publication that demonstrates that even our youngest students have the power to do something and make a difference.
Its focus is on waste disposal and its mission is “to save the whole stinkin’ planet by getting [readers] skilled up and clues in on all things waste” and for them to spread this message widely and so the book guides them through each stage of how to do this as they become Waste Warriors complete with name, ID and a Garbology Lab Book. Filled with a mix of facts, statistics and strategies, the text speaks directly to the reader encouraging and supporting them with practical ways they can deal with waste in their lives so they can make a difference on a personal scale. Having the reader understand what happens to the things they dispose of and that landfill is for storing waste not treating it with the real possibility that one day it will be full, is powerful knowledge that motivates them to doing better. Starting with focused personal questions about the last thing they threw away and what happened to it, it builds up to getting the community involved and knowledgeable.
Many schools have a Green Team who try to ensure that the school’s environment is the best it can be, and this is the ideal handbook for them to follow to tackle one of a school’s biggest problems – the production of waste. While many recycle paper and even have compost bins, it is having the knowledge and understanding of why this is done and what happens if it isn’t that becomes empowering and greater results are likely.
A school library should have many copies of this book in its collection and in the hands of a dedicated team who can guide the school and broader community’s journey towards a better, cleaner future. While climate change and air pollution are big picture concepts for which immediate change is hard to see, waste management is something we can all tackle and see the results of our efforts. Perhaps the cost imposed by council of removing the waste from the school could be investigated and as this drops, the savings could go towards something the school needs such as playground equipment; or for those who choose not to use plastic bottle recycling rewards for themselves, the school could have a collection point with the money going towards that overall goal.
When students strike to bring attention to the state of the planet, there are many loud voices saying they should be in school “learning something” (as though they haven’t learned about the environment and democracy to be doing what they are doing) so by adopting a pro-active, aggressive waste management program they could not only demonstrate what they have learned but also teach others!
“Aboriginal oral history tells of hundreds of Dream Roads criss-crossing the Australian continent which were made by Ancestral Beings during their travels at the beginning of the Dreamtime. It also tells of a vast freshwater lake at the top of Australia and stories about ancestors like the Anta Moola sisters. There is also scientific evidence to suggest that 36 000 years ago there was a large freshwater lake at the top of Australia. Scientist called it the Lake of Carpentaria…and it was also known as Balanorga, the big water.”
Written at a time when there was very little indigenous literature for young readers available, the series was and is a valuable addition to the resources supporting studies of Aboriginal cultures, providing young readers with an insight into the life and lands of northern Australia 30 000 years ago
Feel the rhythm of the music, from your heart down to your feet.
Enjoy the movements of melodies, as clapsticks keep a strong beat.
This is my culture. This is me.
Beginning with preparing for a corroboree with the relationships between the land and the body art to the way stories and beliefs and practices are passed from older to younger, helping both indigenous and non-indigenous children understand the connection to country that is such an integral part of Aboriginal culture.
Beautifully written and illustrated, My Culture and Me is a heartfelt and stirring story of cherishing and sustaining Indigenous cultures, although there is relevance and applicability to all cultures whatever they may be, especially if the message of his dedication is read in its broadest terms…
To my children…and the children of Australia. You are the next generation of our Dreaming Circles, Everything that we do should look after this country, so it continues to look after our future generations.
An important addition to your indigenous literature collection and curriculum.
George loves Sundays because that’s the day he goes on an excursion with his grandfather. Today they go to the Museum of Wildlife but instead of stopping to look at the dinosaurs, whales and other wondrous creatures, Grandad takes him to Insect World. Immediately George is captivated and can think of nothing else on his way home. He even dreams about them! Next day, he arms himself with a host of bug collecting equipment and once he gets the knack of catching them, it’s not long before he has his own collection all lined up in jars in his treehouse. But Grandad is not as excited to see them as George anticipates. In fact, he is the opposite – and George learns the role that bugs play in keeping the environment healthy and flourishing. Clever Grandad also has a solution…
To many, bugs and minibeasts are things to be afraid of and are stomped on, sprayed or otherwise disposed of without thought to their purpose or place in nature’s hierarchy. Certainly, anything with eight legs or more can expect doom inside my house. But as George learns, they do have a vital role in the ecology and so this is an excellent book to introduce young readers to this and help them develop a healthy appreciation and respect for them from the get-go.
Based on his own childhood memories of his relationship with his grandfather and their time together in the garden, this is one that can have wide appeal because no matter what sort of garden we have access to, even if it’s just a hoop of grass on the playground, it is amazing the diversity of wildlife that exists there and the learning that can springboard from that. Perhaps the playground will be transformed in the same way George’s garden was. Then, if investigating minibeasts doesn’t appeal, there is always the relationship the child has with an older person, grandfather or other, and the memories they share and will share with their children.
Griffiths says that this is his first foray into actually creating the story to go with his illustrations and that he found it quite difficult, but the end result is so rich and so relatable for every young reader that he should be ecstatic about the result. It’s certainly taken this grown-up to a happy, nostalgic place and hopefully I can provide my grandchildren with some memories too.
Holly the honeybee is the dancing star of her hive: she waggles, she wiggles, and she waggles again. But is there a secret message in Holly’s waggle dance? And could it help the bees survive through a long, hot summer?
The understanding of the importance of bees in our environment and their current plight, particularly during this drought, is becoming more and more widespread, and this is the most stunning book to help little children learn what about these creatures. While it focuses on Holly’s dance that leads the bees to the source of the nectar for their honey, it also offers an opportunity to talk about their critical role in the pollination of plants, without which we would have much less food to choose from.
Adding to the reality of the book are the remarkable illustrations from Stephen Pym and you can read how much work went into designing Holly so she was an accurate yet appealing interpretation here. The Australian bush is brought to life and readers may have fun identifying familiar species.
A peek inside…
To add to the authenticity, there is a page with more information about Holly so adults can easily answer the questions young readers will have.
A must-have addition to any collection that focuses on the environment and its sustainability.