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The Very Hard Book

The Very Hard Book

The Very Hard Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hard Book

Idan Ben-Barak

Philip Bunting

A&U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526221

Can you make up a joke that makes you laugh? Sit in an empty room?  Or be somewhere else for a minute?

At first, this book with its short sentences, large font and intriguingly ‘simple’ pictures looks like one of those fun ones that engage young children in the joy of reading through the power of the absurd,  And, indeed, it is just that – but a closer look, as well as the diagram on the final endpaper, show that it is so much more.

Because once again, the author of the very popular Do Not Lick This Book has put his scientific brain to work to create an introduction to the world beyond the words, this time about thinking about thinking. The act of thinking about thinking is known as metacognition and forms the basis of all critical thought. It is also a concept that comes easily to children whose inquisitive nature makes them able to engage in abstract questions and open-ended thinking without the constraints, learning and lenses that the adult brain automatically imposes.

Bunting, who teamed up with Ben-Barak to create We Go Way Back has very cleverly used characters that resemble dendrites , the brain cell’s message receptors, to further emphasise the confusion and complexity of the tasks that seem so simple on the surface.  

Some years ago when science made it possible for specialists to really start delving into how people learn, and people like Bob Sylwester, Renate and Geoffrey Caine  Eric Jensen and Robin Fogarty  began to interpret what this looked like in the classroom providing the foundations for the pedagogies we now use, students were encouraged to think about their thinking, to know how their brains worked and apply that to their learning.  And they were engaged and fascinated as they learned about “the magic trees of the mind” . Even though this might not be such a focus now, nevertheless this would be an excellent introduction to get them to start thinking about thinking and stretching and growing their brains beyond the screen and someone else’s imagination. 

For surely, if our students are to become critical thinkers, they must first know how and why they think and the influences that play on that. 

 

You Are 25% Banana

You Are 25% Banana

You Are 25% Banana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are 25% Banana

Susie Brooks

Josy Bloggs

Farshore, 2022

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

9781405299084

With an intriguing title that is as eye-catching as the cover, this will capture the imagination of any casual browser, and once opened, so will the contents. 

Using both bold fonts and illustrations, this is a fascinating early introduction to genetics that explains how humans are related to every other living thing on the planet, including bananas; that our closest relatives are chimpanzees with a 99% match; yet while our “recipe” is the same as 99.9% of everyone else on the planet now or ever, it is the 0.1% that makes us unique.  Only identical twins have the same recipe!

One of the most common activities in early childhood classes is to graph hair and eye colour, or map heights and so this book goes a long way to helping children understand why they have the colouring or the build that they do.  Learning this at an early age might help alleviate the body image issues that still plague our kids, particularly as they get older, helping them accept their red hair and freckles more readily and even celebrate their differences rather than their lack of conformity to some media-driven, arbitrary, preferred look.  

For older students, it could help them understand the stupidity and futility of racism, particularly if they also watch the pioneering documentary Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes,  Whether our beliefs about human development are based on Glasser’s Basic Needs theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or any other theory, the need for love and belonging is common, and physical acceptance is high – so the more we can understand the importance and influence of our genetic makeup from an early age, the more likely we are to value ourselves and others.  Therefore, this is an important book to start the conversation, even if we don’t like bananas! 

 

 

I Want My Potty!

I Want My Potty!

I Want My Potty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Want My Potty!

Tony Ross

Andersen Press, 2022

20pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9780862649654

“Nappies are YUUECH!” said the Little Princess. “There must be something better!” At first, the Little Princess thinks the royal potty is even worse, but she soon learns to love it… even if it isn’t always there when she needs it! 

Originally published in 1986, this is an hilarious  classic for young readers who are grappling with potty training – even princesses have to learn and even princesses have accidents.

It is the first in the series about this engaging, feisty young princess that can lay the foundation for a collection of entertaining reads that they can relate to and enjoy again and again.   – 

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Poo?

Daisy Bird

Marianna Coppo

Andersen Press, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781839132285

The two baby mice are fascinated by poo and even though their dad tells them it is an off-limits conversation while on their zoo trip, they can’t help themselves.  As they walk to the zoo, they see lots of different people and their imaginations run wild as they picture the sort of poo the person would do – but once they get there, there’s no stopping their fantasies.  “Chameleons do sneaky, camouflage poo.  They can hide it anywhere they want to!” 

But the greatest insight is when Father Mouse takes them to meet the Pookeeper…

While this is an hilarious story in rhyme that will have young readers laughing out loud that might have them imagining what sort of poo those around them would do, this story also has a serious side.. It shows that going to the toilet is an everyday occurrence for everybody and everything and is a necessary part of being healthy, sparking conversations about the digestive system and how it works. .  By normalising it in this way, the stigma that has been attached to getting rid of body waste for centuries as though it is something nasty and naughty may be diminished so that if there is a change in the habit or the product, it can be addressed without embarrassment.  It may also minimise the advent of toilet humour that seems to grip young boys and often lasts into adulthood.  

A fun read with a serious side. 

Poo. Spew and Other Gross things Animals Do!

Poo. Spew and Other Gross things Animals Do!

Poo. Spew and Other Gross things Animals Do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poo. Spew and Other Gross things Animals Do!

Nicole Gill & Romane Cristescu

Rachel Tribout

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

92pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486314867 

Talking about natural bodily functions and secretions can make some laugh, some squirm with embarrassment and others instantly curious.  

So this book that looks at not just poo, but also spew, snot and all the other gross things animals do to survive and thrive is going to get a mixed reaction, initially, but hopefully lead to students understanding that these are all signs of a body working well and they will begin to appreciate them for what they are. Whether it’s to use poo to build a nest, leaving stinky secretions to find a mate, or oozing slime to deter a predator, the animals and their habits featured in this book are  not only fascinating but help us understand how our own bodies work.  

Using a conversational style text directed at the reader, full-colour photos and illustrations and an appealing layout designed for independent readers, it respects their curiosity and  intelligence by providing straightforward explanations of why bodies excrete various waste products but then extend on this to show how we learn about them from those substances, how they use them in their own daily survival and that of others as well as weird and wonderful facts like the Chines soft-shelled turtle that wees out its mouth or the origins of kopi luwak, a traditional Indonesian drink lie in coffee beans that have first “passed through the digestive system of the Asian palm civet cat.” Interspersed are introductions to some of the scientists who earn their living be investigating these sorts of things so we know more about them and ourselves.  But which of your students is sitting in class dreaming of immersing themselves in the wee, poo and rotting hairy skin of the elephant seals of Macquarie Island as Dr Jenny Scott does? 

Comprehensive teachers’ notes   are available offering discussion points and activities covering Science, English and Sustainability -the English one is focused on vocabulary building – to make this an even more valuable addition to the library’s collection.  

Anyone who thinks that print non fiction is dead because “everything is on the Internet” hasn’t discovered CSIRO Publishing’s catalog!!

 

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Joanna Ho

Dung Ho

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780063057753

The little boy is just like any other little boy in a bedroom that could be anyone’s  with a train tack on the floor of his bedroom and s solar system above his bed. But when his friend Kurt draws a pictures of his friends. and drew the little boy with two straight lines for eyes, he is devastated.  It had never occurred to him that he was any different to his class mates.  When he tells his Baba, his Baba is very wise and tells him, “Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars.  The comets and constellations show you their secrets, and your eyes can foresee the future,  Just like mine.”

And for the first time the little boy realises that his eyes are not only like his baba’s but also his old and wise agong’s and his baby brother Di-Di’s.  And he begins to understand…  as he discovers that his eyes are a mirror of those of the those whom he so adores and admires, both past and present, he realises that his eyes are powerful and visionary too. “My eyes shine like sunlit rays that break through dark and doubt, They lift their sights on paths of flight that soar above the clouds.  My eyes gaze into space and glimpse trails of light inviting my into impossibilities.”  His eyes are so much more than their shape, and a depiction in a picture. 

Like its predecessor, Eyes that Kiss in the Corners, this is a story of awareness, acknowledgement and empowerment written in the most poetic language that we are coming to associate with this  author’s writing, and accompanied by glorious pictures that are so full of colour and detail and upward movement that the reader is as uplifted as the little boy . 

Rather than just being a parallel to Eyes the Kiss, this book builds on that and together would make the most powerful foundation for this year’s Harmony Day celebrations. 

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. 

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Joanna Ho

Dung Ho

HarperCollins US, 2021

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

9780062915627

“Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl.

Not me.

I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

This is the stunning story of a young Asian girl who notices that her eyes are a different shape from those of her friends, but they are the same shape as her Mama’s, her Amah’s and her little sister’s,  All their eyes ” crinkle into crescent moons and sparkle like stars. Gold flecks dance and twirl while stories whirl in their oolong pools, carrying tales of the past and hope for the future.” And her own eyes “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down”. Through her lashes which “curve like the swords of warriors” she sees kingdoms in the clouds and because they are just like those of the most important women in her life, they are hers and they are beautiful. 

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul and nowhere is that made more explicit  in the exquisite language and beautiful illustrations of this story of discovery, revelation and self-empowerment. While we are familiar with mapping the differences in eye colour amongst students, seldom do we ask them to look at shape; while we are familiar with examining the mechanics of how the eyes work, seldom do we consider their origins, their legacy and their vision. 

This is such an original story, with such exotic, poetic language that it scarcely needs the illustrations, yet one that will resonate with so many of our students. While there are activities available, this is one that can be so easily enriched with the use of just a mirror and one that will be remembered for so much more. 

Flummox: How to Make a Pet Monster 2

Flummox: How to Make a Pet Monster 2

Flummox: How to Make a Pet Monster 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flummox: How to Make a Pet Monster 2

Lili Wilkinson

Dustin Spence

Albert Street, 2021 

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760877392

After Artie discovered The Bigge Boke of Fetching Monsters in the attic of the spooky old house where he now lives with his mum, her new partner, and his step-sister and creating Hodgepodge who is now his best friend,  Willow decides that she wants to create her own monster so she, too can have a best friend.  

But things don’t always going according to plan beginning with Arabella Rose, the girl next door, coming to stay for the day, seemingly thwarting the opportunity to make a monster.  Immediately Willow takes a dislike to her  but the trouble really starts when she creates a monster using the fairy charm from Arabella Rose’s bracelet…

This is the second in this series, written for emerging independent readers with all the supports they need including lots of illustrations and other visual features.  Each character is credible so readers will engage with them and there is lots of humour and action to keep them reading. 

What is a Virus?

What is a Virus?

What is a Virus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Virus?

Katie Daynes

Kirsti Beautyman

Usborne, 2021

14pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781474991513

If there is one word that children of today know as well as their name it is “virus”. So much of their lives have been affected by this tiny, invisible thing that has had such huge impact.  But what is a virus? Using the successful Lift-the-Flap Q&A format of others in this series, readers can investigate just what a virus is, discovering that there are many more than just COVID 19! They also learn the importance of the rules like social distancing, washing their hands and other personal hygiene issues, important because if they understand the why about the what they are more likely to comply. it also alleviates some of the fear that their imaginations can conjure up.

In the past we have been teaching our littlies about why they need to eat well, sleep long and play hard to have a healthy body and preventing illness has been a peripheral, but things have changed and this is an important addition to the collection so they can better understand this thing that is going to shadow their lives for a long time to come.