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Fiona The Hippo

Fiona The Hippo

Fiona The Hippo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona The Hippo

Richard Cowdrey

Zonderkidz, 2018

30pp., board book, RRP $A13.99

9780310766360

On January 24, 2017 a baby hippo was born six weeks premature at Cincinnati Zoo, the first born there for 75 years.  With a birth weight of just 13kg compared to the normal 25-54 kg she was cared for by zoo staff with the help of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, being bottle fed with milk from her mother supplemented by baby formula.  Named after the Shrek heroine, Fiona had to be strong enough to learn to walk and swim and so she was kept separate from both her parents Bibi and Henry as well as the other zoo animals. Even though she was not expected to live, Fiona showed remarkable resilience and by the time she was six months old she was her expected weight and able to join her parents and the other zoo animals.

In this endearing book, Richard Cowdrey has retold Fiona’s early days with humour and stunning illustrations, repeatedly referring to her tenacity with the phrase, “I’ve got this!”  As well as introducing her to an even wider audience than the Internet sensation she became, there is also a thread of courage, determination and perseverance that might inspire others, including adults, facing difficulties to keep going, one step at a time.

Today is her second birthday – no doubt she is there ready to blow out her candles.

 

 

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

It's a Story, Rory!

It’s a Story, Rory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

Frances Watts

David Legge

HarperCollins, 2018 

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

9780733335938

 

Hey, Milly, why are we on this blank page?’

‘It won’t be blank for long. We’re going to be in a STORY, Rory!’

Rory the fox is puzzled because he has never been in a story before and he’s not even sure how one works. Luckily his friend Milly the chook knows a  little bit more and with the  helpful voice of the narrator explaining how stories work, they have an adventure that will  entertain as much as it educates.

This is a brilliant companion to the fabulous Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, the CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2008. In that, Parsley Rabbit explained all the parts of a book to young readers, and in this new one, Watts and Legge have teamed up again to talk young readers through the structure of a story.  Explaining the role and purpose of the narrator, the characters, the plot, and the setting; discussing the need for description (which can be achieved with words or pictures or both combined); creating an event which engages the reader and to which the characters should react; building anticipation; introducing the concept of genre to determine how the story will proceed; and drawing the story to a conclusion which satisfies both the characters and the reader are all done as Rory’s and Millie’s adventure unfolds on the pages. 

Illustrator Legge has said, “The line between writer and illustrator was well and truly blurred to the point where I’m not sure where some of the ideas for both words and pictures came from,” and this is very evident as the link between the text and pictures and the narrator’s explanation and the characters’ adventure is seamless. Whereas Parsley Rabbit focused on the child as a consumer of stories making it easier for them to navigate their way around a physical book, this one concentrates on the child as the creator of stories, helping them move from the blank page to something that has all the essential elements that engage a reader. For those who want to read the story behind this story, Frances and David discuss it here

As both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I can envisage having this book as the basis for my entire writing program for a class for a year, satisfying nearly every outcome of the English strand of the Australian Curriculum.  Imagine giving every child a blank page and inviting them to either draw an original character or describe one (depending on their preference for words or pictures) and then passing that page on to either have words or a picture added.  That’s the start of a collaboration that could go on and on as the characters become real as the other elements are explored. Further teaching notes are available

If there is one book that you are going to add to your teaching toolbox this year, this should be it.  Ask for it in your Christmas stocking!

 

 

 

 

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tales of Mr Walker

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2018 

192pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780143793076

On a beautiful autumn day, Mr Walker sat in the back seat of the car feeling very excited because he was going to be the Guide Dog ambassador of a park.  Even though he didn’t know what “ambassador” meant, he loved parks, especially rolling in the dirt and playing fetch with sticks.  

So he was really confused when the car stopped outside a tall building, and when he got out his paws slipped and slid on tile floors instead of gripping the grass he was expecting.  Turns out Mr Walker was going to be the ambassador for the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. Because of his larger-than-life personality it had been decided that he would be better meeting and greeting the hotel’s guests, including important people and celebrities and raising awareness of Guide Dogs Australia

Written in a chatty narrative that will appeal to all those who love stories about dogs, especially true ones, this book contains four illustrated stories about Mr Walker’s adventures at the hotel -where he still remains lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian oak bed.

  

All royalties from the sales of the book are being donated to Guide Dogs Victoria

Billie

Billie

Billie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billie

Nicole Godwin

Demelsa Haughton

Tusk Books, 2018

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

9780994531414

Billie the dolphin loves the wildness of surfing the ocean’s waves -for her there is no greater thrill.  And so she sets off to find the most enormous wave that she can, one that will make her happy, safe and free.  But in her search for that one wonderful wave, she encounters more than she expected as she finds fellow marine creatures entangled in the human detritus and pollution of the ocean.  Fishing lines, plastic bags, nets, noise… all are modern-day hazards that have to be navigated as the ocean’s creatures go about their daily lives.  Billie helps to free as many as she can, but when she herself is caught in a net and her new friends come to rescue her, she finds something that is even better than surfing the enormous waves.

The Canberra author of Ella has made it her mission to be a voice for those creatures of the wild who don’t have their own voice to bring attention to the destruction of their habitat.  Many young  readers will be familiar with the sight of dolphins surfing the waves and develop a fascination for these beautiful, intelligent creatures from a young age.  But they are unaware of the issues that dolphins face as the human world encroaches more and more on their environment and so it is books like this that carry a critical message of conservation as well as a charming story that inspire them to action.  Rather like the little wave that forms and is then apparently lost in the vast ocean, but in fact becomes part of a larger wave, so the voices of authors like Godwin and illustrators like Haughton who has created such vivid images become bigger and bigger and louder and louder as both Ella and Billie are shared with our young students as part of the sustainability perspective of the Australian Curriculum.

The final double spread explains more about the issues that Billie encountered on her journey, and part of this includes this statemet, “One of the saddest parts of my journey was not being able to help my friends in the dolphin park. They belong in the wild, not in tanks.” This has the potential to become a formal debate on the role of places like SeaWorld and other venues where dolphins are held in captivity, perhaps even extending to the roles of zoos, in the understanding and conservation of the planet’s fauna.  So while this appears to be a picture book for the very young, it has scope to be used with a much wider, older audience.

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Mouth of the Wolf

Michael Morpurgo

Barroux

Egmont, 2018

160pp., hbk, RRP $29.99

9781405285261

In the village of Le Pouget, in the Languedoc region of south west France, Francis Cammaerts is resting after the celebrations for his 90th birthday come to a close.  As dusk turns to dark and the church bell strikes midnight, he thinks of those who have been a part of his journey to this ripe old age – those who raised him, supported him and had so much to do with the man he became.  And from those reminiscences comes a story of determination, danger, courage and heroism that would have gone untold if not for Morpurgo’s pen and Barroux’s brush.

One of two sons born during the Great War, Francis grows up to be a teacher while his brother Pieter is a burgeoning actor,  But when World War II breaks out, the brothers take very different paths. Frances believes war is futile and barbaric, that people should not descend to the level of the fascists and that only education and pacifism are the “way forward for humanity”. Pieter, however, believes that pacifism will not stop Hitler, that the cruelty of fascism had to be confronted and so he becomes a Sergeant Navigator in the RAF.  While he eventually goes to join a bomber squadron in Cornwall, Francis goes to Lincolnshire to work on a farm having justified his beliefs to a tribunal.  

But when Pieter is killed returning from an air raid over France and a bomb dropped by a German plane kills the family on the next farm including including baby Bessie, Francis begins to rethink his decision, particularly as he now has a wife and the birth of his own child is imminent.  He talks to Harry, his mentor from his teaching days – a conversation that changes his life forever as it leads him into the silent world of the secret agent working with the Resistance in France…

As with Flamingo BoyMorpurgo shines a light on the real story of war and its impact on ordinary people by taking an unusual perspective and telling the story through that.  This is not a tale of derring-do embellished with action scenes and special effects -although it could be that in the hands of another – but a quiet tale of remembrance and reflection, of the impact of the legacy of others on a particular life, when that life itself has left its own legacy.  Morpurgo has said, ” This book may read like fiction. But it is not. That is because it does not need to be.” It is the story of his own uncles.

Generously illustrated using family photographs which are included at the back of the book as well as biographical details of those who had such a profound impact within the story, Morpurgo has produced a story that not only tells yet another untold story of the war but one which has shaped his life too.  

One for independent readers  wanting something different, compelling and utterly readable. 

Play This Book

Play This Book

Play This Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play This Book

Jessica Young

Daniel Wiseman

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781681195063

Seven instruments sit alone on a stage –  guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trombone, drum, maracas and cymbals – waiting to be played so there can be a show.  But without the reader lending a hand, there can be no band.  And so how to play each instrument and the sound it makes becomes the focus of this interactive book featuring lots of different children introducing each instrument. By the end of the story, all the instruments have been tested and are brought together in a grand cacophony of sound appreciated by the audience.

This is a wonderful opportunity to acquaint young readers with some common musical instruments and the invitation for them to “play” them will be irresistible.  Interactive in a similar fashion to the Hervé Tullet books like Press Here, this one will engage very young readers as they return to it again and again. 

The importance of music in a child’s life cannot be underestimated and is encapsulated in this infographic from The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra  and this research from the University of Canberra so Play this Book would be an important addition to your early music teaching resources. A natural follow-on would be Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf supported by Energy in the Air: Sounds of the Orchestra  To round out the experience, Birdsong by Ellie Sandall gives the children the opportunity to make their own music by using their voices and their bodies!

 

 

As is proclaimed in another classic, “Let the wild rumpus start!”

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.)

 

 

 

Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Horse

Vivian French

Catherine Rayner

Walker Books, 2018

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

 9781406349948

It is very daunting meeting Catherine’s friend Shannon for the first time – because Shannon is a horse, a very big horse.  But slowly and gently Catherine manages the meeting showing the little boy that even though Shannon appears huge, she’s actually very gentle and with an apple and some grooming she is very friendly.  But when Catherine suggests that he ride Shannon, does he have the courage?

Part of the Nature Storybook series which includes Dingo, Koala, and Python this new addition looks at a more domesticated animal, one that is familiar to so many of our students but which can appear formidable up close because of its size.  But in the company of an experienced person and armed with the information in both the narrative and the sub-text, like the boy in the story little ones will have more confidence facing their concerns and discovering one of the gentle joys of life – plodding along on the back of a horse. The story is based on the illustrator and her own horse and the detailed watercolour illustrations not only echo her familiarity with these animals but also mirror the child’s anxiety so the reader understands it. 

Those readers who are already familiar with horses will enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences when the book is shared, but it could also serve as a model for discussing the dos and don’ts of dealing with other domestic pets that may seem somewhat scary to start with.  It will also show that such concerns are common, not babyish, but they can be overcome by learning more.