Archives

Where in the Wild

Where in the Wild

Where in the Wild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where in the Wild

Poppy Bishop

Jonny Lambert

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848699557

Inspired by Theodore Roosevelt saying, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will”, this book takes the young reader on a journey through the world’s key habitats and introduces them to some of the creatures that live within them. 

From rivers to jungles, the savannah, the desert, woodlands and the frozen extremes, familiar and not-so creatures make an appearance in colourful artwork and rhyming text. Using a double-page spread for each, the two-verse rhyme begins with an introduction to the habitat and then an inhabitant “speaks” to the reader about itself.  The rest of the pages are filled with a collage of flora and fauna, each with  a clever cutout featuring a creature that  lives in the featured habitat but which can adapt to the succeeding one to entice the reader to keep turning, reading and learning. Some of these cutouts have text which encourages closer observation of the illustrations, making the reader engage more through this interactivity.  The final message about habitat destruction and the need to protect what is left is very clear and ties in well with the initial quote. 

Often, books from the northern hemisphere tend to feature the creatures with which children from that part of the world are familiar but this one spans the globe, although, thankfully, the polar region is confined to the Arctic so there is not the confusion of polar bears and penguins on the same page.  

As well as being a comprehensive introduction to the world’s habitats so young readers can learn that there is more to this planet than their immediate surroundings, its strong conservation message can also lead to inquiries about the inhabitants of their local area and their protection and promotion; the impact of humans through the destruction of habitat, particularly deforestation;  the life cycles, needs and adaptation of creatures as their habitats change (such as described in Moth); and even individual responsibility and actions that could be taken to preserve what we have left. 

With the drought in eastern Australia drawing our attention to the land beyond the city environs, this is a great opportunity to have a look at the broader world and how it copes or doesn’t, and this would be an excellent introductory text. 

Bonkers About Beetles

Bonkers About Beetles

Bonkers About Beetles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonkers About Beetles

Owen Davey

Flying Eye Books, 2018

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

9781911171485

The fourth book in Owen Davey’s series about the creatures on our planet focuses on the 400 000 different species of beetles which are found all over the world with the exception of Antarctica.

As with Mad About Monkeys, Smart About Sharks, and  Crazy About Cats  young, independent readers can use the clear layout, short paragraphs and accessible language to discover more about these insects.  Although it is illustrated with pictures and diagrams rather than photographs, nevertheless these are clear and easy to understand, with all sorts of amazing information. 

While several species are put in the spotlight including fireflies and their strange luminescence, and the common, much-loved seven-spot ladybird, Davey covers all sorts of aspects of the beetles’ lives ranging from their camouflage to their place in mythology to their contribution to ecosystems, the impact of human activity and their conservation. There are even instructions for building a bug hotel which could make for interesting on the spot observations and investigations in the school playground.

Even though the retro, subdued palette might not appeal at first, this is an excellent series for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with those things that inhabit our planet.

 

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gum Family Finds Home

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2018

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

9780642279255

The Gums – Mum, Dad, Leaf and Nut – are a family of koalas who live in a eucalyptus tree which is perfect for them as a food source, but not much else.  The open nature of the branches means they have little shelter when it rains and on days when the branches are whipped about by the wind, it is just plain dangerous.  Reluctantly, because it means leaving all they know especially their dear friend Kooka, they decide to find a safer home – one that is rock solid.  Armed with a checklist of must-haves including safe, dry, strong, food, shelter, views, friendly neighbours, water, rocks… Dad hooks up the caravan and off they go leaving their cackling, buzzing, windy, rainy home far behind.

And so begins an adventure that takes them and the reader on a journey around Australia’s iconic geological formations – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Karlu Karlu, the Bungle Bungle Range, Katherine and its Butterfly Gorge, the Glasshouse and Blue Mountains, the wonders of Tasmania and the Twelve Apostles of Victoria, and across the Nullabor to Wave Rock and The Pinnacles. Is there any place that will fulfil their requirements?

Let me declare that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan – I love the way that she can write the most engaging stories while weaving in all sorts of information that just beg the reader to explore further.  And this is no exception.  Together with Christina Booth’s unique illustrations which seamlessly combine her artwork with photographs of the focus landscape, this story introduces young readers to Australia’s distinctive, ancient geographical features formed up to 3000 million years ago, encouraging them to wonder about the what, where, why and the how of them. Each place that the Gum family visits has its origins explained in notes and photos in the final pages, each of which is part of the National Library‘s collection. 

The story cries out for students to discover more about the land they live in, perhaps setting up a challenge where partners investigate one of the landforms that the Gum family visit, post a series of clues based on their findings and invite their peers to work out where it is.  (I did this some years ago using pictures from landscape calendars but it could also be done effectively as a slideshow or other digital app.)  They might even investigate other landshapes and landscapes choosing one of these instead…

Great Sandy Desert Tanami Desert Great Victoria Desert Gibson Desert Simpson Desert
Sturt Desert Mt Kosciuszko Mt Bogong Mt Bimberi Mt Bartle Frere
Mt Ossa Mt Zeil Mt Woodroffe Mt Meharry Great Diving Range
Australian Alps Murray River Murrumbidgee River Darling River Lachlan River
Franklin River Cooper Creek Goulburn River Gascoyne River Lake Eyre
Uluru Twelve Apostles Devils Marbles Three Sisters Bungle Bungles
Coorong Flinders Island Fraser Island Heron Island Melville Island
Grampians Great Barrier Reef Jenolan Caves Kakadu Kangaroo Island
Katherine Gorge Lake Mungo Lake Pedder Nullabor Plain Wave Rock
Flinders Ranges Wilpena Pound Kangaroo Island Kings Canyon Kata Juta
Wallaman Falls Lake Argyle Lake Eucumbene Lake Gordon Mt Townsend
Finke River Yilgam Lakes Gulaga Mt Augustus Menindee Lakes

Others might prefer to investigate the formation of the land generally – there are a number of excellent resources available via Scootle and GeoScience Australia or even reading the opening chapter of Michener’s Hawaii while others may prefer to examine, compare and contrast the creation stories of our indigenous peoples and other first nations.  

Younger students could map the Gum family’s travels trying to plot a journey that doesn’t double back on itself too often, learning how to interpret and create maps as they do while even younger ones might like to think about the requirements the Gum family needed for a safe home and compare those to those needed by a wombat or a dugong or other species that they are interested in.  

I’ve often said that the best picture books are those that entertain and educate and this has to be up there with the very best of those. 

Tania has decorated the bookshop at the National Library in Canberra and has written about the book and its purpose here, she talks more about the creation of the book and offers some goodies here. and more teaching ideas  covering AC English, Science and HASS are available here.  

 

The (temproary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

The (temporary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297824

“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moth: An Evolution Story

Isabel Thomas

Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781408889756

In a clean, fresh world, a shiny cocoon wriggles and jiggles and a moth with salt-and-pepper wings emerges. But there is no time to languish – as daylight emerges, it must fly to the nearby trees with their lichen-covered branches where its colouring camouflages it from its predators – birds, bats and cats!

But some moths are born with charcoal wings, easy prey as their colouring makes them stand out . While they become food for hungry birds and their chicks, the speckled, freckled ones are safe in their disguise and the next night they lay eggs of their own, and their babies will be just like their parents.

But then the world began to change and coal-burning factories and steam-driven trains changed it to a dirty, dark place full of pollution which stained the clouds, and darkened the branches where the speckled, freckled ones rested. And they became the vulnerable ones while their charcoal friends were safe.  So gradually, they changed and it was the dark-winged variety that was common and the salt-and-pepper ones became rare.

However, as people realised the harm they were doing, slowly the world began to change again – not quite as clean as before but so much better.  And a miracle happened…

Encapsulated in this beautifully illustrated book is the story of the peppered moth, an example of natural selection and the theory behind process of evolution – creatures changing themselves to adapt to and survive in their changing environments. With its explanation of the moth’s story and extrapolating from that to all creatures including humans, this is the perfect introduction to Darwin’s theories and the impact of human intervention on the environment.  Throughout though, there is hope – that we are not doomed as many would have us believe, but that we are changing and we must adapt to that change whilst doing all that we can to assist Mother Nature by keeping our planet pure and pristine because try as we might, not all creatures can adapt as readily and quickly as the moth does and the list of species, both fauna and flora, that have become extinct continues to grow.

A must in any library in a school that has students and staff concerned about the environment – what might be living in the playground that could use a bit of positive human intervention?

Ori’s Clean-Up

Ori's Clean-Up

Ori’s Clean-Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ori’s Clean-Up

Anne Helen Donnelly

Self-published, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A20

9780646984131

Ori the Octopus loves his home but he hates it when his friends leave rubbish everywhere.  They are quite willing to help him clean up when he asks but within a week it’s just as bad as it was!  So this time as they clean up again they  think of ways they can recycle and reuse their rubbish so that they are not only making it easier for themselves, but also helping the environment.

This easy-to-read story with its repetitive action sequences and bright, bold pictures is primarily for early childhood, showing our youngest students that they are never too young to make a difference, although my experience is that once they are aware of the possibilities, it is the very young who are most diligent and bad habits and laziness are more likely to be those who are older.  Nevertheless, providing information and  instilling good habits from an early age can only be a good thing as we become more and more aware of the problem of waste and litter, particularly with the removal of single-use items in the spotlight.

Perfect for preschool, especially if there is a discussion about what might happen if Ori’s friends don’t clean up and this is extended into speculation about the playground, their bedrooms or their homes.

Backyard

Backyard

Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard

Ananda Braxton-Smith

Lizzy Newcomb

Black Dog, 2018

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

 9781925381177

Dusk “in this city that is like other cities” and a “sleep-moony child and s star-eyed dog” sit on the back step of their home and watch and listen to the sights and sounds of night falling.  For the back yard is home to other animals apart from them and just taking the time to listen and look can reveal an astounding array of inhabitants that are otherwise often invisible…

While television programs may make us think that nature happens on the vast plains of Africa or the hidden depths of the ocean, in Backyard author and illustrator using poetic descriptive text and exquisite, lifelike illustrations, have brought to life a suburban backyard, exposing critters and creatures that so cleverly hide amongst the plants and bushes, showing that the marvels and miracles are so much closer than we realise. And while our own backyards might not have the particular species shown, that just sets up investigations into what creatures are there; why they are different from those in the book; the influence and impact of day and night; what conditions are needed to protect those that are and encourage more…the possibilities are so many!

But even if scientific investigations are not for you and yours, this is a lyrical lullaby that would serve as a perfect bedtime story as it is so calming and peaceful, encouraging the child to sit and listen and dream and gradually pull the curtains on their day. 

(For those of you wanting to use this as a springboard for a series of lessons that explore your playground or the students’ backyard, a great non fiction companion would be The Australian Backyard Naturalist  by Peter Macinnis who combines his deep skills in science, history and teaching to produce resources for Australian teachers and children.)

 

 

 

Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Into the White - Scott's Antarctic Odyssey

Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Joanna Grochowicz

A&U Children’s, 2017

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760293659

In the early 1930s, living in the southernmost port in New Zealand, a young girl watched through her bedroom window at ships departing from the wharf heading south for Antarctica.  They fired her imagination and inspired her to learn all she could about this unknown continent and her personal hero, Robert Falcon Scott, vowing that one day she would follow in his footsteps.  This she did in 1968, becoming the first female journalist to go South and while she didn’t get to the South Pole like her hero, she did get to visit his memorial.

Dorothy Braxton - Scott's Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton – Scott’s Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica, 1968

Her love of the Antarctic was passed on to me, her daughter, and by the age of 10 I had already read The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a member of Scott’s final expedition. One of my earliest writing memories was deciding to write my interpretation of that expedition, and an enlightened teacher allowing me to skip all the other lessons for the day as he realised I was gripped, on a mission and interruption would have been disastrous.  He even lent me his fountain pen so I didn’t have to keep dipping a nib into the inkwell and blotching my missive.  While that essay has disappeared somewhere in the last 57 years, I still remember the comment he wrote – “This is the best essay on this topic I’ve read from a child of your age, ever!”  Although my passion for the ice in general waned as other interests took over, my mum’s remained and the stories of Scott were common conversation in our household for many years.

So to see a new book emerge focusing on the events of 1910-1913 that would bring the story to a new generation, the great grandchildren of my mum, was exciting and I knew I had to read and review it, so other children could learn about real-life derring-do just over a century ago and Miss 7 and Miss 12 could have a better understanding of what had shaped them, the legacy that has been left and be inspired to create and chase their own dreams.

Told in present-tense narrative that makes the reader feel part of the adventure, rather than an observer of facts or the consumer of a diary, it follows the journey of the Terra Nova from Dunedin’s Port Chalmers through the wild Southern Ocean and then the expedition to one of the last unconquered destinations that lured men like Robert Falcon Scott and his crew as they battled not only the extraordinarily difficult conditions with just ponies, dogs and wooden sleds but also time as they strove to be the first, knowing that Norwegian Roald Amundsen was on a similar mission coming from the other side of the Ross Ice Shelf.

The routes to the South Pole taken by Scott (green) and Amundsen (red), 1911–1912.

The routes to the South Pole taken by Scott (green) and Amundsen (red), 1911–1912.

Even though the outcome is known before reading starts -“If you’re into happy endings, you’d better look elsewhere. This story does not end well” – nevertheless the reader hopes against hope that history will be rewritten and that this band of men who so willingly followed another into the deepest of unknown territories, who never gave up on themselves or each other, would pull off a miracle like the recent rescues from that cave in Thailand.

A finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards 2018  this is one for those who like their superheroes to have been alive and real; who like to delve into a time gone by when the world was very different and who like real-life adventure.  But my copy is for two little girls who know and loved their own superhero, one who had a dream and followed it and inspired them to follow theirs. 

 

Hello to You, Moon

Hello to You, Moon

Hello to You, Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello to You, Moon

Sally Morgan

Sonny & Biddy

Little Hare, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99   

9781760125462

When little people draw the curtains on the day, snuggle down and close their eyes, little do they know that a whole different world is waking up. 

From the fading of the light  through to the twinkling black and on until the dawning of the new day, as the constellations shift across the heavens and Moon completes its journey for another night, across the world nocturnal creatures are getting on with their lives, each paying homage to that timeless orb that will outlast and outlive them as it has done for generations of their forbears. From the kangaroo coughing at the moon at dusk in an Australian desert, to the jungles of Asia where sun-bears snuffle and grunt and to the still silence of the extra-long Antarctic night where penguins scurry and honk, the planet is populated by species that prefer the cool light of the moon to the bright heat of the sun. And while not all of them are strictly nocturnal, nevertheless all respond to the moon through movement and sound that little ones will like to mimic. 

Stunningly illustrated in the details, textures and colours of the night, and building as a counting story, author and illustrators have brought the after-dark to life introducing the youngest readers to the nocturnal world in a way that will make them want to learn more about what else is up and about while they sleep and why they choose dark over light.  It may also encourage curiosity about the Moon – why does it change shape; where does it go in the daytime; why can we sometimes see it in the day and not at night – but my favourite activity is to get them to listen to the sounds of night falling and imagine those things that are tucking themselves in for the night as they are and those things that are waking and greeting their new ‘day’.  

Formal  teaching notes are available.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…