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Women Who Led the Way

The Women Who Led the Way

Women Who Led the Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Led the Way

Mick Manning

Brita Granstrom

Otter-Barry Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781913074432

“From Aud the Deep-Minded, an early voyager to Iceland, and Sacagawea who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition across the USA, to Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest, this book shows the incredible courage, determination and power of women explorers over the last 1200 years. These women have led the way exploring lands, oceans, mountains, skies and space, but have also made pioneering discoveries in the fields of science, nature, archaeology, ecology and more. The lives of these women, told as personal stories, are an inspiration to us all.”

As I looked back over the increasing number of reviews for books that showcase women who have changed the world in some way, none of them have focused on female explorers breaking through that traditionally male domain peppered with names like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Abel Tasman, James Cook, Robert Falcon Scott and Edmund Hillary. (Even the Australian Museum’s Trailblazer collection is predominantly men.)

In fact, when I looked through the contents page, there were only three names of more than 30 that were familiar, yet here are the stories of women who broke new ground in so many areas including being the first to cycle round the world, the first black woman into space,  the first to look into space and discover eight comets…  One wonders why they are not household names like their male counterparts.

However, apart from a brief mention of Nancy Bird Walton, there were no Australian names suggesting that perhaps there have been so many women to choose from that Australia’s heroes were overshadowed.  Where are Kay Cottee, Jessica Watson, Emily Creaghe, Lady Jane Franklin, Jade Hameister, Robyn Davidson,.. even my own mum, Dorothy Braxton, the first female journalist to travel to Antarctica and the first female to set foot on some of its hallowed places in 1968 (although, to be fair, she was a Kiwi through and through)?

Dorothy Braxton, Scott's Cross. Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton, Scott’s Memorial. Antarctica, 1968

So, as well as learning about these trailblazers, the book needs an Australian companion so we can set students the challenge of not only researching someone suitable and retelling their story in the same format as the book – brief personal accounts and which include an inspirational quote – but also pitching for their contribution to be included. Obviously, such a book can only have limited entries so students would have to argue why the contribution of their selection changed the world while the rest of the class would take on the role of the editor choosing.

Alternatively, it could be ties to this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Dreaming With Eyes Open and students could write about why, in the future, they would be included in such a collection.  What will be their legacy? 

Books like this, apart from always introducing the reader to new heroes, open up so many more possibilities that can make each of us an explorer in our own way.  

 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci's Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Jake Williams

Pavilion, 2022

96pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781843654988

Whether you’re looking into art, architecture, engineering, mathematics, music or just about anything else, the name of Leonardo da Vinci keeps cropping up. Born in 1452 in a small town in Tuscany Italy, more than 550 years later his inventions and discoveries live on being the foundations of many of the things we take for granted.  Known now as a polymath – someone whose knowledge spans many different areas and subjects – he was responsible for so much more than the Mona Lisa

This new book written to introduce the man , his talent, skill and world to young readers who are as curious as he was, is a fascinating read that follows his life, his discoveries and their continuing impact in a way that is easily accessible and full of illustrations. Through his passion for sketching and note-taking that left a legacy of “wild ideas, futuristic inventions, fearsome creatures and beautiful works of art”, the author has pulled together an authoritative, engaging biography not just of the man but his contribution to his society and ours.

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing At The Border

Joanna Ho

Teresa Martinez

HarperCollins US, 2022

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

9780062994547

“Feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another, Yo-Yo Ma played a solo accompanied by an orchestra of wind and water.” 

On April 13.2019, on the  US banks of the Rio Grande he played a piece of music hundreds of years old to an audience on the opposite banks in Mexico to show that building bridges is so much better than building walls.  

But this is more than just a story of one man playing a cello alone to be heard by a few – this is the story of a renowned cellist, himself a blend of cultures as he was born to Chinese parents in France and raised in the US. Because his fingers were too small for a double bass, as a little child he chose the cello – and its particular blend of international origins is woven into both the story and the music.  And from its strings comes the music dancing ‘over rocks and rivers and walls into the sky”, born in Germany 300 years before, lost,  then found in Spain, and renewed in the US to unite those who had once been one but who were now separated…

Connecting cultures and countries through music was Yo-Yo Ma’s ambition when he began the Bach Project in 2018, reviving the rare cello solos which “create the sound of harmonising melodies on one instrument” there was as much symbolism as there was entertainment on that day in 2019 when the people of two nations momentarily joined together again, in defiance of the rhetoric and actions of the then POTUS. And in Johanna Ho‘s text, which is as lyrical as the music itself, we discover that there were many more than just two nations involved in making it happen. 

Greek Myths

Greek Myths

Greek Myths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Myths

Jean Menzies

Katie Ponder

DK, 2020

160pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241397459

Even though the ancient Greek civilisation stretched across the Mediterranean, all parts share the same gods and heroes, their way of understanding the world around them and explaining to those less educated how things worked. The gods and goddesses who forged the Earth and set rules for all others to follow were such an integral part of their lives that they were integrated into daily life through their stories, their arts and even referenced in their law.  To this day, thousands of years since they ruled the known world at the time, these stories are known and their heroes recognised. 

In this impressive, weighty tome whose physical appearance belies its accessibility to its target audience of young independent readers, the stories are retold in modern easy-to-understand language accompanied by lots of illustrations.  They are organised under headings of The Beginning, The Olympian Gods, Humans and the Gods, and Heroes and there is also a section that explains more about the role of the myths in Greek life.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As with all DK publications for young readers, there are the usual supports for young readers such as an easy-to-navigate contents page, glossary and index, but, importantly, for this one, there is also a pronunciation guide so little tongues can master those tricky names.  Imagine not only being able to say “tyrannosaurus rex” but also ‘Chimaera’ and ‘Eurydice’ and even ‘Penelope’ (which was what I was to be called except my mum knew people couldn’t pronounce it!)   Perfect for dropping at the family dinner table and all because the child found this amazing book in the school library collection!

If your curriculum includes a unit focusing on superheroes, this is a must-have… how do today’s heroes match up and will they still be around in 1000 years? 

Arthur: The Always King

Arthur: The Always King

Arthur: The Always King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur: The Always King

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Chris Riddell

Walker, 2022

240pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781406378436

Some time in the late 5th to early 6th century. an obscure Celtic leader called Arthur fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons but it would seem, that anything about him beyond that is open to conjecture among historians as the debate rages on the legitimacy of the historical treatises that document his deeds.

However, despite that, hundreds and hundreds of stories and poems have been written about him, covering each stage of his life from his magical conception at Tintagel, his childhood with older brother Kay in the west of England, his pulling of Excalibur, the sword from the stone, being crowned king of England at age 15 and his formation of the Knights of the Round Table.  And although these appear to be just the inventions of medieval writers, they are as popular today as they were 800 years ago. 

In this extensive collection of the stories focusing on Arthur, author Kevin Crossley -Holland says he has shaped it ‘to tell one story illustrating each stage of Arthur’s dream of a Golden Age such as the world had never seen before, and the idea behind it.” So all the familiar names and characters  like Sir Lancelot, Sir Kay, Sir Galahad, Guinevere and Merlin are featured in these eleven stories as once again, Arthur’s life at Camelot is played out for another generation, each with a “strong moral sense of what’s right, what’s wrong, and how we’re all part of it.” 

Described as “the definitive retelling of the legends of King Arthur” this is a lavishly illustrated book that is suitable for both independent readers, and those wishing to share both the stories and their insight into medieval life that they offer. There is a reason that there have been so many tales that have sprung up about King Arthur, and they they have endured for centuries – this is an opportunity to continue both the legend and the legacy. 

 

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life

Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan

Angela Rizza & Daniel Long

DK, 2021

224pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241491621

Usually, when you flick through a book about dinosaurs you see familiar names like triceratops, stegosaurus, diplodocus and of course, tyrannosaurus rex.  So imagine how excited your dinosaur fans will be when they see names like araucarioxylon, plioplatecarpus and pachycephalosaurus and the fun they will have not only getting their tongues around the names and showing them off to friends, but finding out what these creatures were!

Starting at the beginning of life on earth, the reader is taken on a journey through the development of life starting with the forms that developed in water and then moving on to the plants and animals that moved onto land. Whether they’re scary fish, gigantic insects or the largest dinosaur or their descendants, this is a fascinating expedition that culminates in the emergence of the earliest humans.

For decades DK have had the best reputation for delivering quality non fiction for young readers and this is no exception.  As well as building on the interest that might have been sparked through studies of how the Earth began, it also moves the reader on to a bit more detail than your usual texts for this age group with each topic having a double-paged spread with lifelike illustrations with photos and then a thorough set of support pages including a diagram of the Tree of Life so it’s easy to see where everything fits in, a pronunciation guide, a glossary, and a visual index.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

This is one that will be treasured by those with an interest in life on this planet, particularly if they also have access to the new children’s version of  On The Origin of Species so they can see how it all fits together. (It will also be loved by those who want to borrow the heaviest book in the library…) 

 

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

Dr Temisa Seraphini

Sophie Robin

Flying Eye, 2021 

64pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781838740504

Every parent, or grandparent, of a young girl up to about 9 will be aware of the fascination that unicorns continue to hold, their mystique never waning. Thus this is the perfect book for those who want to find out more about who and what they really are, where they live and the various species of them.  For not all unicorns are the same with short hair and rainbow manes.

This exposé by the equally mysterious Dr Temisa Seraphina (who may or may not be the expert behind The Secret Lives of Dragons  and The Secret Lives of Mermaidsreveals everything about this magical creature from its origins and evolution to the truth about the myths and tall tales.  It shows how they are so rarely seen these days because the world is no longer what it used to be, and encourages today’s believers to think about the present day environment and what they might be able to do to improve it so unicorns can once again roam as freely as they used to.

As with the others in the series, taking a fantasy subject and treating in a factual way, just as any non fiction text on any other species, is an intriguing way of not only feeding the child’s thirst for knowledge about the particular creature but also to the concept of non fiction itself, bridging the gap between imagination and information in an absorbing way.  

About 20 years ago, a collection of books known as the Ology series which focused on a range of fantasy and not-so creatures in a similar way, began appearing, offering the newly independent readers of the time an insight into the lives and times of creatures like dragons, wizards, ghosts and others and it was the lucky looker who found one on the shelves. I predict this new series (and hopefully there are more) will be just as popular when this new generation is introduced to it, and what better way to transition from fiction to non fiction, both as reader and teacher.  

 

On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Origin of Species

Sabrina Radeva & Charles Darwin

Puffin, 2022

56pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780141388519

On The Origin of Species has been the definitive explanation of the theory of evolution since it was first published in 1859. 

Pulling together Charles Darwin’s observations from his travels around the world and his groundbreaking – and controversial – explanation of how species form, develop and change over hundreds of thousands of years, On The Origin of Species is as relevant and important now as it ever was.

So, this first ever picture-book retelling of  Darwin’s work  through stylish illustrations and a simple, easy-to-understand text brings evolution to the younger generation. Interspersed with relevant quotes from Darwin himself, and accompanied by many illustrations, this is a sample explanation demonstrating its ease of access…

“For most of human history, many people believed that everything in the world was created all at once. They thought that plants. animals. and people were always the same as they were now. But there were a few clever and curious scientists [such as Georges-Louis de Buffon and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck] who challenged this idea… ” But it was the travels and studies of Charles Darwin whose work and theories have endured. “In his book, Darwin explains that species are groups of living things that look alike and can have babies together,  But even if they belong to the same species, no two animals are exactly the same.”  

Even for those who have different beliefs about life’s first beginnings, this is a must-have in the school library’s collection if we are to provide students with a variety of viewpoints, and it is the perfect adjunct to those books that I’ve reviewed so far this year that may have created a curiosity about this planet and its inhabitants…

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began

Australian Backyard Naturalist 

Earth is Big

We are One: How the World Adds Up

Australian Backyard Explorer

The History of Everywhere

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Atlas of Amazing Migrations

Ouch! Tales of Gravity

The Same But Different

It also helps them understand all those books that have the “same but different” theme – having explored this work, they will understand the why that underpins the message. It encourages them to develop their own powers of observation and thus the discoveries they make so as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes , the endpapers also offer an immediate challenge. As well as the narrative, the book also includes an appendix (unusual in a primary-school text), a glossary and other elements that underpin the development of information literacy skills. 

 While, for some, this book may raise more questions than it answers, it is nevertheless an important addition to the library’s collection as we cater for those with a deep-seated curiosity about where they have come from. 

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Eagle in the Snow

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Foreman

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

780008134174

November, 1940. Coventry has been bombed by the Germans and Barney and his mother have been left with nothing so they are on the train to London on their way to family and shelter in Cornwall.   But just as a neatly-dressed stranger enters their compartment, a lone Messerschmitt 109 begins strafing the train.  The engine driver makes a desperate dash to an upcoming tunnel, eventually stopping the train safely inside. 

But Barney is terrified of darkness and with no lights he can feel his panic rising.  The stranger has a box of matches but there are just five in it, and so, to distract Barney he lights one and begins to tell him a story…

There are two taglines on the front cover of this book, the first being “One moment that could have saved the world from war.”  And that is the story that the stranger tells Barney and his Ma.  An extraordinary tale based on the true story of Henry James Tandey, VC, DCM, MM, the most highly decorated private in the British Army in World War I, Morpurgo wrote the story after hearing of Tandey’s exploits and, like most of his stories, was compelled to  write it so that the unimaginable courage shown by those who have gone before becomes real for those of us who come after.

Which leads to the second tagline, this one from Jackie French- “Brilliant. Historical fiction at its most magnificent.” Because if there is an historical fiction novel with either Jackie French’s or Michael Morpurgo’s name on it then you know that not only are you in for a meticulously researched, intriguing read but that you will be changed for having read. And so it is  with this story.  Tagged as “the man who could have stopped World War II” Tandey’s story is woven into a narrative that reaches deep into the soul of anyone with direct ties to the carnage of the 39-45 conflict and makes them wonder how their own life might have been different if their father/uncle/brother/friend had not had to spend their youth in the hell that was Europe at the time. 

But this is not a facts-and-figures biography, although there is a brief synopsis of Tandey’s life included as a postscript – Morpurgo has taken the facts as they are known and woven them into a narrative that is as compelling for the reader as it is for Barney and his Ma.  Is there ever a time when doing the right thing could be the worst mistake you ever made?

This is a story for independent readers who enjoy real historical fiction (as opposed to a story set in another time) and who are ready to be entertained and educated at the same time.  It’s an easy read technically, but I, for one, wanted to know more and so new avenues have been opened for me to explore.  Not the least of which is once again, considering how my dad’s experiences as a POW in Stalag VIIIB and being force-marched across Poland as part of the German’s human shield shaped him and consequently, me.