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Storm Whale

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Whale

Sarah Brennan

Jane Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760293642

Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …

Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves  crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury.  In fact they are delighting in it.  But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.  

Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,

Far from the cradling ocean swell,

Far from the peace of the ocean deep

Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.

Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,

Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…

Dark as a demon, dull of eye

Waiting in silence to drift…or die

All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin.  But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate.  Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on.  Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…

Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times.  While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant.  This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.   

The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.  

A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.

Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things!

Animal Activity

Animal Activity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things

Isabel Thomas

Nikalas Catlow

Bloomsbury, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408870068

It’s not often a book comes with a warning that it will self-destruct or a header about how to wreck it.  But that is what will eventually happen to this one if the budding mini-Attenborough in your midst makes the most of it.  

Full of fascinating facts about the natural world, it contains all sorts of make-and-do activities which require cutting, folding and pasting so that eventually while there might not be much of the book left, the reader will have their own jungle of plants and menagerie of bugs, fish, dinosaurs and a whole lot of other creatures. There is even a checklist to determine whether something is living or not (or ever has) to help the beginner start their exploration of the world around them…

  1. Does it move?
  2. Does it eat?
  3. Does it respire?
  4. Does it poop?
  5. Is it sensitive?
  6. Does it grow?
  7. Does it reproduce?

With winter closing in and the outdoors not the most appealing place to be, this would be the perfect alternative to screen-watching as little minds and fingers are kept busy following instructions and learning to be more observant of and careful in their environment.  

 

 

Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Little One, Dream

Sally Morgan

Ambelin Kwaymullina

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078868

“When Moon shines and earth breathes a breath of deepest night dream, little one, dream into the peace of a wonderful world.”

As the first fingers of light of the rising sun bring new life to a new day, the creatures begin to stir and go about their business.  The bird soars, the koala climbs, the dolphin glides – right through the day till the moon comes again and the lizards settle down to dream.

Written with the lyrical notes of a lullaby this is a soothing, gentle tale of lives not seen by busy, rushing people as the day passes through its phases.  Creatures of the skies, land and water have their own rhythm that has nothing to do with school or work or sports training or music practice – they are in peace and harmony with the world that surrounds them, suggesting a sense of routine and calm  that we might well envy, perhaps be persuaded to observe.

Sally Morgan has a gift for selecting words and putting them together in a way that reaches the soul and demands we take time to breathe, relax and reflect.  Accompanied by bright, stunning, striking illustrations that are in direct contrast to the gentle vocabulary, rhythm and repetition of the text, just as nature’s lives are in contrast to that of humans, this is the perfect bedtime story to draw the curtains on the day, to slow the heart and take little ones off to Dreamland.

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

What's Where on Earth? Atlas

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

DK London, 2017

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241228371

 

This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.

Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife.  Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.  

Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat.  While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.

Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away.  Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015!  Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to. 

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781877505928

Just after midnight on November 14, 2016 the earth under the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island started to shudder and shake.  Once again an earthquake was reshaping the landscape as immovable forces fought for supremacy 15 000 metres below the surface – not just a regular shake that Kiwis are used to, this one was 7.8 on the Richter scale meaning widespread movement and damage.

Fast asleep in their paddock in the Clarence Valley on this bright moonlit night were two cows and a calf, who soon found themselves the subject of news footage around the world as the shaking and quaking split their sleep and their surroundings asunder and left them stranded on an island two metres high and 80 metres from where they started. 

Told in rhyme, Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too tells the story of the three animals and how they were rescued, a story that will fascinate young readers.  Imagine if the chair or the carpet they are sitting on suddenly moved and fell away and they were left stranded so high they couldn’t get down! 

While there were many stories of the quake and its impact on the landscape and the people, just as there are about recent devastating weather events in Australia, we sometimes forget about the impact on the wildlife that such phenomena have. The destruction of their habitat, their dislocation from familiar food sources, their deaths and injuries are often overlooked as the human drama plays out.  There was concern that the seal colony at Ohau Point (where I had been with my grandchildren exactly a year earlier) had been destroyed and with the seabed being lifted 5.5metres in places, also concern for the marine life off the coast.

So bringing this true story to life in a picture book that will endure much longer than a short television news clip not only tells the story of the cows but also puts a focus on other creatures who endure the trauma as humans do.  What happened to the sealife, the birds, the kangaroos and all the other creatures during Cyclone Debbie and the resulting floods?  How do they survive during devastating bushfires?  What can be done to save them, help them, and restore their habitats?  What are their needs? Even Kindergarten students can start investigations along those lines, giving meaning and purpose to the ubiquitous studies of Australia’s wildlife so they go beyond mere recognition.  

 While Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too might appear to have a limited audience and timeframe, used as a springboard it could be the beginning of something much greater. And that’s without even going down the path of the cause of earthquakes and how such events give us the landscapes and landshapes we are familiar with, or considering what’s in that floodwater they want to play in!

 

Florette

Florette

Florette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florette

Anna Walker

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079414

For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.

Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle.  There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs.  There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away.  No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.  

But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it.  It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment.  But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest.  But the forest is closed.  And then Mae spots something that changes things…

Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.  

Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does.  Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring…   Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…

A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list. 

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034

 

Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is Rain

All I want for Christmas is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

Cori Brooke

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059717

It is a sight so familiar to many Australian children.  Brown, cracked, dried earth as far as the eye can see, and even if it could see further, the landscape wouldn’t change. Drought.  The farmer’s curse is this sunburnt country where it can be a long time between drinks for the land and paddocks are empty as livestock is trucked off to the saleyards because it costs more to feed them than they are worth. 

It takes its toll on farmers and their families and in a desperate bid to change things, Jane takes the long shiny train into her nearest town because Santa is coming and he is the one person who can grant children’s wishes.  Standing in the queue in the hot sun, patiently waiting her turn, Jane has only one request from Santa.  “My wish is for rain.”

Set against a backdrop of the most stunning and powerful illustrations that depict the desolation of the Australian landscape in drought, this story-in-rhyme brings alive the reality of summer and Christmas for so many and gives the reader pause to think about what life can be like at this time for our country cousins and what are the true gifts that we can hope for.  While we cling to the English traditions of our ancestors with snow-clad scenes, hot dinners and Santas in red furry suits, there are those who see an entirely different side to this festive time that may not be so joyful. An excellent opportunity for the children to express their interpretation of an Australian Christmas in art and perhaps a change from the more traditional pictures and crafts.

I wish it had been available in 2002 when the news was dominated by the dreadful drought gripping so much of the country and my library’s focus was on gathering gifts for the children of Charleville. It would have been the perfect starter to show the people behind the landscapes of the news in a way that spoke directly to my students.  But, in the meantime, it’s winging its way to Wales to show some children there what Christmas can be like for the children here.

 Another worthy addition to Australia: Story Country.

Gifts for Charlevile

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth

Animasaurus

Animasaurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth 

Tracey Turner

Harriet Russell

Bloomsbury, 2016

96pp. hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781408884850

While we are all familiar with the incredible dinosaurs, icthyosaurs and pterosaurs that inhabited our planet long before we did, this book focuses on the other megafauna that was here before humans evolved, tracing their evolution from the ancient to its modern counterpart.  

From the gigantopithecus to the orangutan, the dunkleosteus to the bull shark, the quetzalcaotlus to the wandering albatross, the reader can see the transition from the unknown to the more familiar.  Uncluttered interpretations of the ancient creatures based on what has been learned from fossils are compared to photos of the modern relatives making the transition even clearer.  Each double spread has a habitat map and some basic facts as well as tidbits of interesting information to encourage the reader to learn more, perhaps even trace the lineage of their own favourite creature.  There is a timeline, a glossary and an index at the back which not only help with navigating the book but also serve as an introduction to the features of a non fiction book for younger readers.

We know books about dinosaurs only linger on the shelf for a short time before being borrowed by an enthusiastic reader – this book will lead them into a whole new world of exploration.

illuminature

illuminature

illuminature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

illuminature

Rachel Williams

Carnovsky

Wide-Eyed, 2016

64pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781847808868

“Nature never stops.  With every tick of the clock, an animal wakes up and goes in search of food. The sky might be dark when the creature first stirs; night-time is ruled by the nocturnal animals.  During the light of day diurnal animals like to hunt.  And as the world welcomes dawn, or bids farewell to the day at dusk, crepuscular creatures appear.”

And in this most amazing book the reader gets to discover what’s out and about at the various times of the planet’s rotation.  Firstly you select a destination from amongst ten different habitats which include such diversity as the Simpson Desert, the Weddell and Ross Seas of Antarctica, the rainforest of the Congo, the Andes Mountains, even the Ganges River basin. From the observation deck what appears to be a jumble of colour slowly exposes itself as the outlines of a number of creatures, but when you then use the special multi-coloured lens which is supplied, and peer through the different colours a whole new world emerges! The red lens exposes the daytime creatures, the blue lens those who prefer a darker environment while the green lens illuminates the plant life of the region.  Then to make the experience even better, there is a double-page spread that identifies each creature with some brief information about it.  There are 180 different creatures to discover throughout the book, 18 for each region!

This is not a ready reference book packed full of information about the world’s habitats and their inhabitants. There are countless other resources that do that.  This is an introduction to the boundless wonders of nature, its diversity and difference that reveals itself with the passage of time and which will leave the reader with a feeling of awe and perhaps a greater awareness of just what might be living in or dependent on the environment as they go stomping through it.  It truly does illuminate Nature.

Have a sneak peek at what’s on offer for The Simpson Desert.  (image from Let Them Be Small)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Or check out the YouTube trailer…