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How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Was That Built?

Roma Agrawal

Katie Hickey

Bloomsbury, 2021

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781526603654

From the time our earliest ancestors sought shelter in caves and discovered their limitations, humans have been building structures, each seemingly grander than its predecessors as challenges such as height, length, shape, and strength are overcome and physical impediments such as being underwater, underground, on ice and even in space are conquered.

There is something comfortable and comforting in being enclosed -perhaps it stems from the confines of the womb – and from the early childhood days of making a cubby with a sheet over chairs (itself having evolved to purchased indoor tents) to building towers from toothpicks and peas to bridges “strong enough to hold a toy car” from paper, our junior engineers have evolved to become those making the creations that dominate the modern landscape. While some, like the pyramids , Stonehenge and other ancient temples  have endured across centuries, this book focuses on more modern structures which have solved the problems like how to build high, long, strong and so forth, explaining with explanations and illustrations how the obstacle has been overcome in both general and specific circumstances. 

For example, in the section How to Build Across, the mechanics and physics of various bridge designs are demonstrated and then the construction of Te Matau Ā Pohe, a bridge across the Hatea River at Whangarei, New Zealand that needs to be able to lift quickly to allow essential boat traffic to pass, is explored, showing how the engineers drew on the Māori legend of Maui fishing the North Island from the sea with his hen matai, a magical fish hook, to create the lift mechanism.

Although more for those in Year 5/6+, this is an intriguing book for readers who want to take the basic “design, make, appraise” of STEM to its next level or who have a fascination with structures and aspirations to be structural engineers themselves.  For those just intrigued by big buildings, it is equally fascinating as they learn the whys, whats and hows of their favourites. 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2021

128pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780734420046

Natural history illustrator Sami Bayly, the mastermind behind two of the most intriguing non fiction titles that have got young boys, particularly, reading recently – The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly  Animals has produced another outstanding offering that will have readers as intrigued as its predecessors did and the phenomenon of young lads grouped together poring over the pages during lunchtimes in the library will return.

Bayly has collected stories of 60 peculiar pairs – plant and animal species that rely on each other for their survival – and over half of them call Australia home.  Whether parasitic or symbiotic; teeny -tiny like the Heath’s Tick and the Mountain Pygmy Possum or large like the Ocean Sunfish and the Laysan Albatross; land-bound like the Stinking Corpse Lily and the Liana Vine or water-dwelling like the Spotted Handfish and Sea Squirt; plant-plant, animal-animal or plant-animal Bayly has brought together a fascinating group of creatures whose relationships need to explored. 

The book has a built-in ribbon bookmark and serendipitously mine fell open on the entry about the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon and the Garden Wolf Spider. One of the reasons we bought a home where we did in Canberra was its proximity to the proposed Gungahlin shopping centre, making access to facilities more convenient as we aged.  But then the site was discovered to be the only habitat of the Earless Dragon in Australia and so the whole precinct was moved to preserve its home.  Like all the other entries in the book, its relationship with the spider is explained as well as other facts and figures that just make for a fascinating read in language that is accessible to all. We learn new terms like mutualism and commensalism )which describe the type of relationship) -the sorts of words youngsters like to offer at the dinner table to baffle their elders – as well as critical information such as the environmental status. As usual, the illustrations are very realistic , each pair having a full colour double-page spread. 

While my review copy will be going to the same little lad as I gave the others to because they have been the springboard to his becoming an independent reader within months of beginning, he will have to wait until I’ve finished reading about pairs that I didn’t even know existed let alone that I wanted to know more about them!

Look for this one in the shortlists and winners’ circles. 

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

Andrew Kelly

Dean A. Jones

Wild Dog, 2021

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

 9781742036281

For generations the little penguins have left their island home to hunt for the shoals of small fish in the rich waters of the bay and the mouth of the river.  And when they have had their fill they risk their lives navigating the rip   and the shipping to go back to their burrows on their island home.  The island has all they need to build their burrows but it is getting crowded and the young males are finding it tricky to find a place that is safe and that will attract a young female. But there is nowhere suitable to build a burrow on the bay.

And then changes start to happen to their feeding grounds – huge machinery is dumping rocks into the sea to build a breakwater to protect the boats and the beach, and over time the sand and silt build up in the cracks and crevices. Sometimes the penguins rest on the rocks but they always return home.  Until one day, one little penguin decides to stay…

Much is written about the impact on wildlife when humans change the landscape and it’s usually negative so to read a positive story is unusual.  For this is the story of how the penguin colony at St Kilda, Victoria emerged and is continuing to grow. While they still have to deal with the hazards of dogs, cats, ferrets, stoats, human vandals, plastic pollution, boat strikes, boat propellers, oil spills, the fragmentation and loss of habitat and climate change, nevertheless because of the conservation practices in place they have shown that it is possible for native wildlife to live side by side with humans. Using just one little penguin as its focus personalises the story and brings it into the realm of the young reader, so they are more able to relate to it and understand the situation.  

Told by the Yarra Riverkeeper and beautifully illustrated this is an uplifting story that shows that the relationship between humans and the natural world can be a positive one, as well as demonstrating how that world adapts to deal with issues such as overcrowding. But charming as it is as a standalone story, it is one that has enormous potential to be a springboard into further investigations both of the penguins (with comprehensive teachers’ notes) and then human impact generally.  If you “can’t stop progress” how can it be managed through environmental impact studies, local support groups and so forth?  Is there a development happening in the readers’ community that might be having a wider impact than is immediately visible?  The opportunity to “act locally, think globally” is very apparent and this book can fulfil the purpose of the author. “Let us walk gently together.”

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

Lisa Nicol

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761041556

In the dead of night, the full moon blazing and with their mum double-dosed on sleepy-time tea, 12 year-old Sal (who can talk to birds and animals) and 8 year-old Roy (who’s ready for the apocalypse) quietly climb into a 1975 VW Kombi campervan already filled with an adolescent African elephant and driven by 14 year-old Bartholomew (who is yet to get his drivers’ licence),  This unusual crew, accompanied by Hector the kakapo, set off on a strange expedition which the reader is warned about in the prologue, deep into the Animal Kingdom.  

Despite its quirkiness, there is much the independent reader will relate to in this story including being in single-parent families where the remaining parent is barely coping; the small-minded community members of a small town whose slogan is “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”; the feeling that animals are more trust-worthy and reliable than adults; and the desire to save the entire animal kingdom from the ravages humans inflict on it.

Nicol has a proven record of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary through her amazing imagination and her desire to empower the children who are her heroes through books like Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Dr Boogaloo and the Girl who Lost her Laughter  but still embodying those critical themes of family, friendship, self-belief and loyalty throughout.

Whether this is a read-alone or a read-together, it will appeal to those ready to take flight on an extraordinary adventure, accept strange things really do happen and just enjoy the ride. 

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

Dr Emily Grossman

Alice Bowsher

Bloomsbury, 2021

256pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526602435

Just because kids get older doesn’t mean their questions about the world around them stop and in this new book, a sequel to Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered  TV science expert Dr Emily Grossman answers incredible and important questions about our natural world such as why some animals do square-shaped poos and which direction a dog is likely to face while weeing,  as well as serious stuff like what climate change and wildlife loss are actually doing to our planet and what can be done to help.

Covering a diverse range of key science topics, from human biology and animals and plants to the weather and space, Dr Emily shows readers why Earth is so weird and wonderfully great yet still faces its biggest challenge.   Through clear, sensitive explanations, and a format that will engage the most reluctant reader, the reader can find out what is actually happening to our Earth and what this means for both humans and wildlife – and how they, as individuals, can make changes that will help. 

Like its predecessor, this is designed to inspire the scientist in the reader and encourage them to go beyond the information provided to investigate and discover deeper answers for themselves. 

The Camping Trip

The Camping Trip

The Camping Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Camping Trip

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2021 

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

9781761040092

Henry’s greatest delight is finding out about things, particularly the animal world, from his Big Book of Animals.  Even when he is outside amongst nature, he uses his book to discover new things about the creatures he sees.   But on a camping trip in the bush with his dads, brother and best friend Ruby and her family, Henry discovers his book is missing! How will he learn about all the fantastic things he finds and sees on the trip without it? At first he sulks and misses out because he doesn’t have his book to consult but then he discovers there are other ways to learn. 

This is the final in this series which includes The Inside Day, Noisy Tom Super-Me and The Thank You Present  developed in collaboration with Smiling Mind, Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation in the pre-emptive mental health space. Like its predecessors it includes activities to engage the child after the book is read, in this case inviting them to explore nature using all their senses.  There is also a three-minute Nature Sounds meditation written especially for 3-6 year olds available on their free app.

The mental health of our little ones who have been deprived of their friends’ company at such a crucial time of their socialisation development is finally being recognised with NSW now allowing a “friends bubble” and so any guidance that enables parents to keep their little ones emotionally okay as well as physically safe is to be welcomed.  The suggestions for the senses scavenger hunt outdoors when picnics are making a huge comeback is perfect and so this is a title that parents need to be made aware of. That the stories features a two-dad family, the norm for many of our students these days, is an added bonus. 

Devils in Danger

Devils in Danger

Devils in Danger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devils in Danger

Samantha Wheeler

UQP, 2021

216pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263293

Eleven-year-old Killarney thinks school is boring. She’d rather be exploring the wilderness around her Tasmanian hometown or helping her hairdresser mum. When strange things start to happen – ear-splitting screams in the dead of night and missing items found under the house – Killarney is too busy solving the mystery to do schoolwork.

Before long, she discovers the culprit: a wild Tasmanian devil, denning under the house! When rumours about dangerous devils begin spreading, Killarney is determined to protect her precious visitor. But can she convince an entire town these wild creatures are worth saving?

Being married to one who is affectionately known as a Tasmanian Devil because of his birthplace, the plight of Tasmanian Devils in recent years as they battle Devil Facial Tumour Disease has been on my radar for some time so a book which brings these little creatures into the limelight was always going to appeal. And it had me from that murderous scream in the first sentence!! With characters who are instantly recognisable, Wheeler has crafted an engaging story that keeps the reader engrossed while subtly educating them about these fascinating marsupials which despite their small size have jaws powerful enough to crush bones easily, particularly as they are now officially on the endangered list.  And while readers may not have the opportunities that Killarney has, nevertheless there are programs in place to save the Tassie Devil in various states that they can become involved with as attempts are made to re-establish the creature on the Australian mainland.

Most appropriate for independent readers, this would also be a grand read-aloud to accompany any study into Australia’s endangered species and is a worth companion to others in the series including Wombat Warrior,  Mister Cassowary ,Turtle Trackers and Smooch and Rose.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy, the Punk Turtle

Aleesah Darlinson

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760899233

 In the Mary River in South-East Queensland lives a creature found nowhere else in the world- one only identified in 1994 and already facing extinction. The Mary River turtle, Elusor macrurus,  is a new genus and species of freshwater turtle affectionately known as the punk turtle because the slow-moving water of the river allows green algae to grow all over it. 

 

But that’s not Poppy’s only unique feature – as well as breathing normally on the water’s surface, she can also breathe through her bottom! Plip! Plop! Parp!  However, despite her ancestors being in the river for millions of years Poppy and her relations now face many threats, mostly from the impact of humans and these are explored for young readers in the second in this series that investigates lesser-known endangered species. Combining the author’s ability to pitch the text perfectly for the intended audience with the same big, bright, bold illustration style of Coco, the Fish with Hands, young readers have a story that entertains and educates them. Simple but accurate vocabulary which respects their intelligence and knowledge, a large font, engaging illustrations and attractive layout, with a page summarising the key points as the finale make for a combination that will be a winner with readers and teachers alike.

Perfect for those like my little friend Xander who is fascinated by the world around him, prefers non fiction over fiction and has almost mastered reading independently.   And for his parents who will share it with him and spur his quest to learn more. As it did for me!. 

I Wonder

I Wonder

I Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wonder

Allison Paterson

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2021

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

9781922488466

The little boat loves being towed along the frothy edge of the waves and bobbing in the rock pool. But one day he is left behind and for weeks he lies alone in the sand dunes. Then one day a potato chip packet is blown into him and he thinks he has found company at last.  But a seagull declares the packet as rubbish, the wind picks it up and blows it into the sea and the little boat wonders if it is rubbish too. Over time it is joined by a takeaway cup and a plastic bag who add ‘litter’ and ‘waste’ to its vocabulary before they, too are blown into the sea. Gradually the little boat becomes surrounded by debris as it falls apart as abandoned as the things that surround it. 

Until one day a little boy comes along…

Inspired by an early morning walk on the beach and the litter that was left on the foreshore after a community family event the evening before. the author  simply wondered ‘why? ‘ and so this story of a forgotten toy grew as a focal point for young readers to think about what happens to the garbage that is left behind on the beach. There are no beach elves that come to clean it up so where does it end up?  And what could be done to prevent it being there in the first place? 

The issue of the amount of plastic, particularly, that ends up in our oceans and landfill is gaining greater awareness so this is a timely story that starts to build that awareness in young people and offers them a few tips as to what they can do with teachers’ notes (linked to the Australian Curriculum) available to assist this. With warmer weather coming and visits to the beach on the horizon, there is lots of scope for children to learn how small steps impact on the greater good (another timely lesson right now) and even if they can’t go on on a rubbish-collection walk there is plenty of scope to detail alternatives to plastics. 

Stories like this with illustrations that cleverly bring even a potato chip packet to life and which have extra details which enrich and enhance the text (check out the fishing line around the seagull’s leg),  are a powerful way to deliver important messages to our youngest readers so they can start their good habits early, learn that small things can lead to bigger things (positive or negative) within the realms of enjoyable entertainment.