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Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Kate Simpson

Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99  

9781760637019

It is 1914 and war has broken out in Europe and because of its ties to England, Australia is mobilising. On one of the ships leaving port is Sister Alice Ross-King who is not going for the adventure like so many of the men, but because her passion was nursing and her country needed her.

She thought she was ready but as the entry in her diary for April 29th, 2015, just four days after the Gallipoli debacle, shows, they were not… “I shall never forget the shock when we saw the men arrive covered in blood, most of them with half their uniform shot or torn away. They kept coming, seven at a time.  Soon all our beds were full and new ones were being brought in and put in every available corner…”

Written by Alice’s great-granddaughter and taken from the actual diaries of Australia’s most decorated woman, this remarkable book, a seamless weaving of text, diary entries and illustrations, offers an extraordinary insight into life during World War I for those at the front line. It begins as a love story but when her fiance is killed, Alice has to find a way to carry on despite her grief, to put her duty before her personal loss and feelings. 

As we are unable to commemorate Alice and all our other men and women in familiar ANZAC Day activities this year, sharing this story and others like it, is one way we can take ourselves back in time to remember just how it was we have arrived at where we are, and perhaps put any current hardships into perspective.  Perhaps older students could research the stories of one of their family members, trace their family tree and write the diary that that person might have written as their contribution to honoring those who have gone before in the absence of traditional tributes.

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury 2020 

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

9781408899298

Many of our students now know the name of Greta Thunberg,  but do they know the names of the women on whose shoulders she stands?  With its very visual, colourful layout, this is one of a series from a creator whose own name is synonymous with women who changed the world, and introduces just a handful of the women who have made it their mission to respect and protect the planet.

Young readers are introduced to people such as  Isatou Ceesay  whose recycling of plastic waste into beautiful objects became the beginning of the ban on single-use plastics;. Jane Goodall’s whose work with chimpanzsees is legendary; Anita Roddick and The Body Shop who highlighted the need for fair trade and cruelty-free products;  Wangari Maathai who recognised the dangers of devastating deforestation and planted seeds of change and the two Aboriginal women Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield who led the campaign to stop the building of a nuclear waste dump near their desert home of Woomera in South Australia. 

Offering inspiration and evidence that even small things can lead to large outcomes with the most ordinary people doing extraordinary things, it also challenges the reader to consider how they will speak up for the planet. Perhaps these women will become as well-known as today’s activists, but what is more important than their names is the work they did and why we, as a planet, are so much better for that.

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

Jackie French

Angus $ Robertson, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460757727

 

Butter O’Bryan lives in a Very Small Castle with his father and three aunts – Aunt Elephant, Aunt Cake and Aunt Peculiar. These aren’t their real names, of course, just as Butter’s father isn’t really called ‘Pongo’.

And even though Butter is only twelve years old, and the grandson of one of Australia’s most successful Jam Kings, he is very aware of the hardship many people are experiencing.

Butter has been told there are ghosts at the nearby isolated Howlers Beach, but are there? And how can the children Butter plays cricket with on the beach simply vanish? Who are these children and why do they refuse his help?

The Ghost of Howlers Beach just sounds like one of those old-fashioned Secret Seven or Famous Five stories that generations have enjoyed for years, and in a way, it is. But this one has the unique Jackie French touch of magic, and rather than being a contemporary novel as those adventures were, this one takes the independent reader back to The Depression of the 1930s when the ramifications of World War I were still very evident and the realities of being unemployed, or worse, being a woman without a man but with a family, or even worse, being an indigenous person, are brought to light. With a light hand and intriguing characters, French brings to life life in the “susso camps” ; the great divide between the haves and the have-nots and the ever-present threat of diseases like polio before vaccines were available.

Read against the backdrop of today’s coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide economic collapse, it is very clear how far we have come in less than 100 years in both health, economic and social support and perhaps put things in perspective.

The subtitle to this novel is The Butter O’Bryan Mysteries, #1 and with the cast of characters now set hopefully more will follow quickly as we not only enjoy a good, meaty story but one that teaches us about a time not that long ago but eerily familiar all the same.

The timing of its release is remarkable (set long before the current virus was even heard of) and while there are comparisons that can be made between now and then, knowing that its setting and background are based on reality there is a sense of optimism that current times will pass and we will come out of the other side. Perhaps changed, but definitely intact.

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Azaria: A True History

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780648568407

On a cool August night 40 years ago, in the shadow of Uluru, a mother laid her baby to sleep in a tent while she and her husband and her other two children sat under the stars outside – and unknowingly began a scandal that even today, still divides opinion. For that baby was Azaria Chamberlain and before the night was over, a story that made world headlines had begun.  Because when the mother heard a rustling in the tent she turned and saw a dingo making off with the baby and called out… sparking one of the most controversial episodes in modern Australian history.

For despite the baby’s jumpsuit being found by the Anangu trackers the very next day, people had not heard of a dingo taking a baby before and so the rumours and gossip started. Fuelled by media reports of a baby with an unconventional name, a family from a different religion and a mother in such deep grief she couldn’t cry, everyone had an opinion and so the story of Azaria Chamberlain captured the world’s imagination.  It would be 32 years before the truth was known and even then, many didn’t believe it. Still don’t.

At first when I received this book I wondered why this story would need to be known by our young readers, many of whom would have parents too young to remember the events. But as I read it it became clear – just as Uluru is “ten times bigger underground than it is above”, the message that we must look further and deeper for the truth than the surface headlines is very powerful, particularly in these days of fake news and deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of facts. Azaria’s story, widely identified as Australia’s first modern trial-by-media, is just the vehicle that carries the more important concept that our older students need to bring to their research.  Look at sources for purpose, perspective, accuracy and  authority before accepting them  and relying on them as truth; that everyone brings something to a situation depending on their beliefs, values, attitudes and motives and that the truth can soon be lost under a myriad of layers.

The story of Azaria became “like a fairytale from long ago , with a wolf in the forest, a cruel king and angry townsfolk” and just like fairytales, a kernel of truth gets overlaid with embellishments and changes with every new teller. However in this beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers who now, more than ever, need to learn about the need to be critical thinkers and to not take things on face value Coote has demonstrated the evidence of every character in a story having its own perspective – even the dingo, often now maligned and vilified by humans, was just doing what dingoes do.

For those of you wanting to demonstrate why our students need to walk the extra mile, this would be the perfect introduction. 

 

 

 

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House on the Mountain

Ella Holcombe

David Cox

Allen & Unwin,2019

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

9781760636968

 

There is a fire coming, and we need to move quickly. Mum and Dad start packing bags, grabbing woollen blankets, the first-aid kit, torches, and then the photo albums. Dad puts Ruby on her lead and ties her up near the back door. My chest feels hollow, like a birdcage.

At first, it was just another hot day as  summer days can be in Victoria, with the heat lingering well into the night. But this hot day turns out to be like no other… For this is February 7, 2009 – a day that is forever etched in Australia’s history as Black Saturday. Over 400 fires took 173 lives and left thousands homeless.  

And sadly, it could have been any one of a number of deadly days of this past summer as fires again tore through the landscape, on a much larger scale devastating homes and lives in every state on an unprecedented scale.  In this particular story, the author draws on much of her personal experience of 10 years ago to tell of the fear, the anguish, the devastation, the unknown but she has changed the ending of one of family tragedy – she knows that story too well – to one of hope and continuity and renewal. 

But this could be the story of so many of our students this year – those who have witnessed the fires first-hand, those who have had to evacuate, those for whom there is no home to go back to; those for whom life is going to be topsy-turvy and very different for a long time to come.  But while it is a bleak story to begin with, one that will stir memories for many, it is that message of connection and continuity, that one day (that might seem too far away just yet) their children may play on land they once called home that can offer succour and strength to try one more day.  And it may be the catalyst for some to open up about their experiences and begin to share and process what they can.

Even if students have not been able to return to their own schools, nevertheless it is the routines of school that are the constants in students’ lives right now so anything we, as teachers, can read, understand and do to support them is so important. Used sensitively at this time, this could be an important part of the help we offer. 

 

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA, 2020

132pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279521

December 1914, times are tough, war has broken out in Europe and 15 year old Will Hutchinson joins his father, two mates and six camels on and expedition to the South Australian desert outback to search for gold. But water rather than gold becomes their main concern as the harsh conditions become real, and in desperation the men leave Will to babysit the pack camels while they search for water.

But Will is not content to just sit and wait and so he too, goes off to find water. But he finds so much more – the opal fields of Coober Pedy owe their discovery to his courage, cool head and self-belief.

This is the fifth in the Heritage Heroes series that tells  the “true stories from Australia’s past featuring ordinary children and young people who have achieved amazing things against the odds”. As well as the narrative itself, Will’s story is interspersed with double-page spreads about the topics in each chapter such as riding the Ghan, the Afghans, the camels and surviving in the desert, all of which draw on the full resources from the National Library of Australia  to bring them to life and give them authenticity. There are also pages about the future of Will and the three men (Will came to a tragic end at 21), maps and details about the stories behind the story so readers can explore further.  Thus as well as an entertaining read for independent readers about a real person they can relate to, there is also a glimpse into a past that few know about. There is a reason that the main street of Coober Pedy is called Hutchison Street and the memorials that stand beside the Stuart Highway in South Australia and at Glengyle Station in Queensland.    Teachers’ notes will be available .

This is a series well worth highlighting in your collection so our young students not only learn the intriguing stories of this country’s past but can also be inspired by ordinary kids doing extraordinary things so perhaps they too can become a hero of the future. 

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner

Don't Read This Book Before Dinner

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner

Anna Claybourne 

National Geographic Kids, 2019

144pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781426334511

“If you love to be grossed out, grab a seat at the table to revel in some of the most repulsive and downright disgusting true stories from around the globe.

From wretched rodents and beastly bugs to putrid plants and muck-filled moats, step right in to find out more about the icky, sticky world around you. Gloriously gross stories of decaying delicacies, foul fashion, horrible history, awful animals, and more are paired with eye-popping pictures, fun facts, and hilarious quizzes in this fun book. Topics go way beyond food to include art, plants, animals, fashion, pop culture, medicine, the human body, and beyond. It’s a hot mess to digest, but it’s sure to leave kids disgusted and delighted…”

Using an appealing double-page spread format to explore all things gross, Nat Geo Kids  is designed to appeal to the 6-12 year olds keen to find out more about their world and what is in it.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

This particular edition is one that is likely to appeal to young boys and while there are those adults who don’t think this sort of thing is “real reading” (in the same way comics were disdained in their day), in my opinion anything that encourages them to hone their literacy skills is to be commended, particularly when it has the quality that you know is associated with Nat Geo Kids.  To add to the experience and spread their horizons wider, there is also the Australian version of their website which has unique topical local content such as What is a Bushfire?

There are often queries to TL networks about what are the best magazine subscriptions to continue as popularity tends to wane, and for the primary school age group, Nat Geo Kids is always near the top of the list proving it has stood the test of time as an investment.  With such a focus on the environment well beyond the curriculum, it just make sense to make it available to our students.

The First Christmas

The First Christmas

The First Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Christmas

Jess Racklyeft

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143796909

A long time ago, in a country far away, a star shone in the night sky and a baby boy was born . . .

In this new release of this age-old story, illustrator Jess Racklyeft has captured the Christian version in her unique style that has led to her being included in the CBCA Notable Picture Book of the Year two years running. Modern in design and detailed with vignettes that highlight the joy and wonder of the occasion, this is a distinctive interpretation that can be shared over and over with new tings to discover and discuss. For those who know the story, the text is hardly required because the illustrations tell it themselves; for those for whom it is new, the text gently complements the artwork making it easily understood by even the youngest listener. 

A worthy addition to the Christmas Countdown collection.  

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

My Folks Grew Up in the '80s

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

Beck & Robin Feiner

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733339417

To those of us of a certain vintage, the 80s don’t seem all that long ago but to today’s generation they really are the olden days – the days of their parents’ childhood when technology was just starting to emerge and become part of everyone’s everyday life, rather than that of industry or business.  In this light-hearted lookback, today’s kids are introduced to telephones that never left the house; movies that had to be hired from and returned to a store; music that was carried on the shoulder and clothes and hairstyles that will hopefully never return. 

In the colours and style of the era, students like Miss 8 and Miss 13 can look at life when their parents were the same age, and wonder at how they coped in times before the Age of Instant Gratification. But even though it could be a little tongue-in-cheek, it could also be the kickstart to investigating the development of the things that are taken for granted today as well as the impact of technology on lives and lifestyles. And to be honest, if this were Miss 8 and Miss 13, they wouldn’t have to go far to discover working examples of most of the things mentioned in the book! Just because their grandfather is a Luddite….

 

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

Jackie French & Virginia Hooker

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9781460750025

Just over 25 years ago, then-Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered a speech in which he told Australians “our destiny [is] as a nation in Asia and the Pacific” much to the horror of those who saw us as irrevocably tied to Britain and causing shockwaves which reverberated across all facets of the nation. Now, in November 2019 Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to being part of RCEP, the world’s largest trade deal centering on the key Asian nations. Yet, in this new book written by Australia’s leading writer of historical fiction for young people and social historian Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker, our ties to Asia go back 200 000 000 years when we are part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland and homo sapiens walk out of Africa, travel around and through the lands now known as Asia and eventually establishing the first known indigenous populations in Lake Mungo, NSW 40 000 years ago. Our connections to our neighbours are so much more and so much older than speeches of political leaders seeking new economic directions.

And it is those connections which set this beautifully illustrated book apart, making it unique in the cacophony of books about the history of the region. Accompanying the timeline of major events that have shaped the geographical, political and economic landscapes, French introduces the social perspective through superbly evocative poems telling the stories of two children of each era making this a personal story that shows the thread of connectivity of the people down through the ages.

From the rock art of Timor-Leste …”We carved a face upon the rock to say, “I’m here. I’m me.”‘ to the modern day “Kita semma, all of us, we stride towards tomorrow” the common bonds of seeking identity, dignity, recognition and connection are woven into something unique, beautiful and personal.  It is not a litany of transient, petty power-seeking but a story of the determination and resilience of humans culminating in a collection of ways that the reader can continue the journey forwards. 

IMO, with its emphasis on our connectivity despite our diversity, this book should be at the core of your resources for the Asia and Australia cross-curriculum priority for all ages and stages. either as an introduction or a springboard. It seems to capture all the essential elements of understanding that that CCP embodies.

Teachers’ notes are available. and don’t be surprised to see it in all the awards’ lists in 2020.