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Vanishing

Vanishing

Vanishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanishing

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227444

Once, creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered this empty land. They had horns and wings, scales and feathers. They lived in vibrant forests, desert plains and icy tundras. But where are they now?

This is an evocative picture book, lyrically written and sublimely illustrated, that introduces young children to a host of the creatures that have inhabited this planet over the millennia but which have now disappeared, often because of the impact of humans on their habitat or a desire to own what they offered.  But this book goes further than the extinction of its creatures for it warns that humans with their cities and all that they consume will also disappear.

“The humans learned about their past.  But they didn’t learn  enough from it.” 

But there is also hope that perhaps once the humans have gone, the creatures will emerge again. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The recent criticism against the students who chose to display their anger through a national strike about the inaction of governments and corporates towards climate change really angered me. Rather than asking themselves why the students felt compelled to take this action, those self-styled “social commentators” and politicians just demonstrated their ignorance about what our students are concerned about, what they are learning in schools through curricula that they, the politicians, have put in place, and the emphasis placed on transferring what has been learned into action. As well as ignorance, they also showed their arrogance in thinking that they know better and are the only ones with “solutions” to fix things.  

The publication of Vanishing at this time is very timely and it should be an essential element of any study focusing on sustainability of the landscape so that, regardless of their age, they can “learn  enough from it”.  Enough for them to continue asking questions, to examine their own beliefs and practices, to encourage others to think about the then as well as the now, to take the action they did and to maintain it until the changes are stopped if not reversed, and to not give into a future of doom and gloom.  To show those who were of a similar mindset when they were students, that there are more important things than those that they now worship, particularly in a country that is among those with the worst rate of animal species extinction in the world.

A comparison of the front and back end-pages should be enough to pique the interest but further teaching notes are available here.

Midnight at the Library

Midnight at the Library

Midnight at the Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight at the Library

Ursula Dubosarsky

Ron Brooks

NLA Publishing, 2018

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279316

A long time ago a boy looked out of a window and wondered about the world. And as he thought and wondered, his head filled with words and they came out of his head, down his arm, into his hand and into his fingers and onto the page… Over time and place that little book was opened and loved, given and taken, closed and lost, found and forgotten as it journeyed until it is now waiting to be discovered in a library.

In this beautifully written and stunningly illustrated story by the familiar team of Dubosarsky and Brooks, young readers are introduced to the concept of a book and its critical place in society as the purveyor of stories that tell us about who and what has gone before, the roots of who we are as a nation and indeed, as people.  And just as this little book lives on in the library to tell its seekers its stories, young readers can imagine what story they could write today to be discovered and revered years and generations hence. 

As well as telling the story of the book, Dubosarsky and Brooks also celebrate the importance of libraries as the safe havens of the written word, a concept also explored on the final pages as some of the books, as magical as that in the story,  that are available to be explored at the National Library of Australia are highlighted.

Apart from just being a wonderful read, the potential to use this book across the curriculum is almost endless as students consider the role of the written word, the history of its communication, the changes in format, the types of books and stories on offer and the need for a common set of symbols, syntax and semantics to make our message understood regardless of the language we speak.

Formal teachers’ notes are available but for me, this has so much more potential than just satisfying some AC outcomes. It’s all wrapped up in the universal wonder of story.

 

 

 

 

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonam and the Silence

Eddie Ayres

Ronak Taher

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293666

When Sonam turns seven, she is deemed no longer a child and her big brother orders her to cover her hair and begin to work. But the streets of Kabul and its market are too loud and scary for Sonam, the cacophony making a storm in her head and so she runs.  As she runs, she hears a strange sound and follows it, finding an old man with milky eyes and a curved spine in a garden of mulberry and pomegranate trees.  In his arms he is cradling a rubat, making music that Sonam has never heard before because in Taliban Afghanistan music has been banned.  

The music captures Sonam’s heart and each day she visits the old man, learning to play the rubat that he has given her – the one he played as a child.  But when her brother hears her humming and investigates further, he takes Sonam’s rubat forbidding her to sing or play again.  And as the noise builds in her head again, and the roar of gunfire and rockets is so close, she becomes withdrawn and her heart shrinks.  Until one day, she knows she just has to go back to the pomegranate garden…

This is “a lyrical fable-like story by the well-known musician, author and broadcaster Eddie Ayres, about the irrepressible power of music.” Based on his own experiences in Afghanistan and a young girl he knew there, he challenges the reader to think what a world without music would be like, particularly as it is often the key connection between peoples with no other common language. But as Sonam discovers, even if there is no audible external sound, there is still music.  

Illustrated by Iranian-Australian visual artist Ronak Taher using sombre colours and many layers and textures, which offer uplifting features like Sonam floating above the noise and chaos of the city, this is a thought-provoking story about how other children live in other parts of the world, and, indeed, how some of those in our classes have lived. While music has now been allowed in Afghanistan, the six years that the silence reigned must have been devastating for those for whom music is as essential as food. Readers are challenged to consider what their life would be like if something they held dear was banned, and if others prevented them from indulging in it because of the dangers such behaviour could invite.  Ayres suggest an Australia without sport, but what about a country without books? As with no music, how would the stories be told and continued?

As Christmas draws closer and the hype escalates, this is a book to share and consider those whose lives are very different and for whom joy comes from something other than a brightly wrapped present. 

Mamie

Mamie

Mamie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamie

Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9781460755860

On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

Alison Lloyd

Terry Denton

Puffin Books, 2018

304pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143788669

 

“The story of Australia starts with a piece of land that went for a swim. About 200 million years ago it floated away from Africa. Very   very   slowly.  It was home to dinosaurs and giant animals, then the first Australians showed up.  And for a long time this wild and wonderful land was a mystery to the rest of the world.  Until the English decided it would make the best jail ever.”

When you read a blurb like that on the back of a book, you know you have got something somewhat different from the usual collection of Australian history books populating your 994 section, and indeed, different it is.  Spanning that time when the ancient continents split till Federation in 1901, this book tells the history of this continent in a quirky way with a narrative that speaks to the reader in short chapters with engaging headings and lots of the sorts of illustrations that are so uniquely Terry Denton.  It tells stories that are unfamiliar, challenges some long-held beliefs, and explores that which helped shaped 2018 Australia in a way that not only captures the imagination but makes the reader want to delve deeper.

Imagine, for instance, starting a study of the crossing of the Blue Mountains, with the sentence, “In 1813, three British gentlemen, Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth, took four of their servants and four of their dogs out for a long mountain walk.” Or exploring the whaling industry under the title “How Australia got stinking rich”. 

So many of our students groan at the thought of studying history, seeing it as having no relevance to their personal lives, and having been exposed to the “If it’s Year 5, it’s the Gold Rush” version of the curriculum, dry, dull and done-to-death. But if that same topic was embedded in a geological study of the formation of the gold, as alluded to in All that Glitters is Gold and followed up with the meaning of “golden soil and wealth for toil” it may well spark greater interest. 

Why is gold so valued that people left all they knew and loved in a quest to find it? Why did the NSW government try to hide Edmund Hargreaves’ discovery? How was the Australian 2018 way of life shaped by those who were grubbing in the dirt 160 years ago?

This book is excellent for being the appetiser for the main meal – offering tasty tidbits that tantalise the tongue and make the reader want to indulge further.  It’s a way of serving our history to our students which, in the hands of a skilful cook or even a dedicated diner, will open new worlds and new understandings that shows the broad spread of what has gone before. 

To add to the experience, there is a wealth of support materials available on the author’s website.

I Went Trick-or-Treating

I Went Trick-or-Treating

I Went Trick-or-Treating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Went Trick-or-Treating

Paul Howard

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

97814088922886

I went trick-or-treating and I scared… a naughty, warty toad, a sliding, gliding ghost, a howling, growling wolf and some super silly skeletons…

When a brother and sister go trick-or-treating, they compete to see who can scare the creepiest creatures. As they try to remember each hair-raising encounter, everything escalates – until they get the biggest fright of all! 

Young children love the rhythm of repetitive, cumulative text and the challenge of trying to remember all the items in a list, so this is the perfect book for those who enjoy Hallowe’en and the custom of trick or treating. If participation is the sign of an engaged audience then this will be right up there. Along with the well-chosen language that rhymes and slips off the tongue because of its alliteration, the bright bold pictures are just perfect for the age group and the sibling rivalry will resonate with most! even talking about what scares them will add to the experience.

As the event continues to gather momentum in Australia, it is also an opportunity to look past “the Americanisation” and explore its origins dating back to pagan times then All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day. Each of the symbols in the story and those associated with this time of year has an interesting story behind it, so this is a chance to help our young readers pose questions and then try to discover the answers.  While some schools do not like students delving into the paranormal, this is a great opportunity to indulge in all the crafts that are associated with this topic as students seek different ways to display their new knowledge. So much more than candy and fancy dress!

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers

Allison Paterson

Big Sky, 2018

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

9781925675788

As the centenary of the silencing of the guns of World War I approaches, and once again our attention turns to remembering Gallipoli, the Western Front and all those who have been part of our armed services in whatever capacity, this new book from the author of ANZAC Sons explores the concept of commemoration – what it is, how we do it and why it is so important.

There would be few towns in Australia that do not have a war memorial, one that becomes the focal point for commemorations on April 25 and November 11 each year. But many of our young students do not realise the significance of this place so this book which explains the background of conflict, the history and meaning of ANZAC Day, the significance of the elements of the ceremonies,  and the role of Australia service people in war and peace since they were first called to support the “mother country” in 1914 with simple accessible text, coloured photos, and an appealing layout will be a wonderful addition to your library’s collection.

With a Table of Contents, glossary, index and bibliography it is a wonderful model for those learning about using the cues and clues to find the information they want, but what set this book apart are the frequent quotes about its various topics that have been collected from children who are the age of its target audience, offering their own insights into what these events mean for them. There are also questions to ponder and activities to do, all in all making this a superb contribution to the collection that has been produced over the last few years to commemorate what was arguably, the making of this nation.

Boats: Fast & Slow

Boats: Fast & Slow

Boats: Fast & Slow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boats: Fast & Slow

Iris Volant

Jarom Vogel

Flying Eye, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $27.99

9781911171522

A boat is defined as “any vessel that is able to carry people across water” regardless of their size, propulsion, or the water body they are used on.  Since the earliest days of human history, particularly since people settled rather than roamed, boats have had a significant role in the exploration and development of this planet. 

From early rafts of woven reeds and animal skins to canoes carved from logs to the introduction of steam power and with a few stops to explore famous boats like the HMS Beagle and the Titanic, this book introduces young readers to this mode of transportation, highlighting how important it is to everyday life.  Extensively illustrated with short, informative passages of text, young readers can follow the journey of development and begin to consider what Australia, an island continent, might have been like without the invention of floating safely on water.  As they read about the role of boats, they will also learn that there are other significant names apart from those of Endeavour and The First Fleet, perhaps sparking their own investigations into all things nautical including boating sports, lighthouses, shipwrecks, military craft through the ages and so on.  Those with a scientific bent might like to investigate how those huge ocean liners can stay afloat.

Like its predecessor, Horses Wild and Tame, this is a dip and delve book designed to introduce young readers to the importance of some things in the development of civilisation that they might not have thought about or have taken for granted. It is what I call a pebble-in-the-pond book because its core subject can spark the reader into exploring an entire circle of different aspects of the topic leading to diverse and different discoveries depending on their particular interest.  Using a focus question such as Why have boats been important to human development? it is perfect for getting young students to learn to pose their own questions to answer while developing information literacy skills that have context and meaning for them personally and covering every facet of the curriculum. 

A worthwhile addition to the library’s collection or for any child fascinated by water craft, what they can do, and the people associated with them.

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Mark Sperring

Ed Eaves

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408873991

Meet Norman the Brave:
He’s in need of some knaves
to help him get ready for royal parades.

It’s amazing just how much work there is to do to get ready for a royal parade – not just catching his horse and squeezing him into his armour, but darning his socks and ironing pants as well!  And if that’s not enough, there are dragons and bandits and brigands to ward off on the way to the parade ground!!!  But there’s a catch – and it may not be the job for you.  In which case…

This is a rollicking rhyme through medieval times that is full of fun and humour that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  The text is superbly set off by the bright. bold pictures which are packed full of detail and fun, but sadly Norman’s behaviour may well resonate with some.  He is the Queen Bee while his knaves are just his drones and his treatment of them is unbecoming but common.  

So if the little ones decide that being a knave for a knight is not for them, they can speculate on what it might be like to work for a …

Fun and funny!

 

 

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Pamela Freeman

Sophie Beer

Lothian Children’s, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9780734418456

What do these women have in common  -Mary Reibey, Tarenore, Mary Lee, Nellie Melba, Edith Cowan, Tilly Aston, Rose Quong, Elizabeth Kenny, Annette Kellerman, Lores Bonney, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and Ruby Payne-Scott?

Some of the more familiar names may provide a clue, but all of them are Australian women who have made a significant contribution to the national or international stage and all feature in this new book written by Pamela Freeman, known for her passion for keeping women’s stories alive. With at least one representative from each state or territory, except the ACT, these women are “the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.” 

Designed for younger readers who are just learning about those who have gone before, each has a brief biography written in easily accessible language that outlines their reason for being in the book and a full-page portrait.  Links to further information for each one are provided in a user-friendly way on the final pages so that those who wish to explore further can, while those in the ACT might like to investigate which of the women from that territory have made a difference and should have been included. 

There is a growing body of work that not only introduces our students to the women who have shaped this country but also challenges our girls to consider what their story will be. This is no exception and the author admits that choosing just 12 was difficult. But it is refreshing to see some new names amongst those dozen. Teachers’ resources are available