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Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Me Out of Here!

Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes

Pauline Deeves

Brent Wilson

A & U Children’s, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760526993

The publisher’s blurb for this fascinating book reads … “

Full of crims, crooks and rascally runaways, this fun and light-hearted non-fiction title is a colourful celebration of our convict past Meet the convicts behind Australia’s most rascally, dastardly prison escapes. Gifted geniuses or total goofballs? You be the judge! Featuring Moondyne Joe, Mary Bryant, and a guy who put on a kangaroo skin and hopped away (literally), this fun and engaging collection brings our country’s early colonial past to life.”

And, indeed, it is a ‘fun and engaging’ read for older students who want to know the stories behind the stories of some of those whose names have become a familiar part of our history, 

But, IMO, the ‘fun and engaging’ is found in the stories surrounding the stories behind the stories, which reflect that author’s experience as a teacher librarian and an understanding of not only how students like to read but what they want to know.  

To begin, each person’s story is told as a narrative, some in the first person, and as well as their story, there is also a short explanation of what happened to them after their exploits – whether their escape was successful,  they were caught and punished or…  There are also two pages of Fun Facts after each chapter that expand on the circumstances of the time. For example Mary Bryant ‘s story is followed by information about female convicts and alerts the reader to other stories that could be followed, while others include explanations of vocabulary and other tidbits that add colour and interest. There are the usual glossary and index as well as suggestions for further research that offer other child-friendly books to explore.

Each chapter is set on bold background colours with lots of cartoon-like illustrations that will appeal widely.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

All in all, this is an intriguing book that will add insight and understanding into our past in a way that is not the usual dry recounts full of facts and figures.

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

Jenny Jacoby

Vicky Barker

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A27.99

9781486316632 

Not so long ago, the word ‘stem’ referred to the major vertical shoot of a plant that bears buds and shoots with leaves and with roots at its lower end to anchor it. (It had other meanings too, but that’s the one with which primary school kids were most familiar.)  Now though, in schools  it more commonly refers to the interdisciplinary approach to teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, thus bringing these topics and their vocabulary into the realm of even our youngest students.

So words like ‘hypothesis’, ‘viscosity’ and even ‘yangchuanosaurus”  now roll off tongues as a matter of course, and concepts such as inertia, electromagnetism and bioluminescence sit alongside the more traditional ones of the primary classroom like photosynthesis, evaporation and metamorphosis. But sometimes such words are easier to say than understand so this encyclopedia explains 100 words that are common to young scientists, arranged in alphabetical order and each with its own page so there is space for illustrations and text so the meaning and the concept’s application is clear.  To make it even easier, there is a contents page, an both an index and glossary so navigation is simple if the reader is looking for a specific term.  

But as well as being a ready reference in itself, it just begs to be a model for students to build their own definitions and explanations.  Imagine the power of a Word Wall that has more than just vocabulary, one that is built and added to at point of need, written and illustrated by the students themselves. Maybe even extending the Word Wall to a display of working models so that as well as the science there are also the technology, engineering, and maths aspects that can be exploited.  And who wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Lego Masters and try to explain the STEM as well as the story? 

Books like this that actively engage readers in building on them are essential tools in the kits of teachers, libraries of schools and bookshelves of families.  This one is a must-have. 

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

Kate McCabe

Nicole Berlach

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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

9781486313471 

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…”

The opening sentence in one of the most popular children’s books ever written, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  

But do butterflies really grow up by eating apples and pears and chocolate cakes?  Or is there something more to their story?  

The Butterfly and the Ants tells the story of Blue, a member of the Lycaenidae species of butterfly that is found around the world – a species that comprises about 25% of the world’s butterflies but which is unique because it is dependent on the special relationship the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises have with the ants that look after them. So while we are familiar with the basic life cycle of the butterfly, this adds not only another element but also a lot more detail about how that tiny egg emerges to be a beautiful gossamer-wing butterfly, usually with a touch of blue. 

It introduces the reader to the concept of symbiosis setting up the potential to investigate which other creatures live in such relationships and underlining the need for children to understand that even if they take or move just one thing from an environment, it can have far -reaching effects.  

This is a book for those who want to know more than the basics,  that explains the process in clear and accessible detail that respects their intelligence – as all those from CSIRO Publishing do. There are teachers’ notes available that not only have a focus on the science but also help expand vocabulary and encourage students to use the “real” language, as well as to be more observant.   Other elements support the information literacy process as they are encouraged to read the notes at the back, use the glossary and so on. 

Built by Animals

Built by Animals

Built by Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Built by Animals

Christiane Dorion

Yeji Yun

Wide Eyed, 2022

77pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780711265684

In my region, one of Australia’s greatest construction ventures, the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme, which has been described as “one of the civil engineering wonders of the modern world, the Snowy Scheme consists of nine power stations, 16 major dams, 80 kilometres of aqueducts and 145 kilometres of interconnected tunnels” was constructed in post-war Australia and now its expansion is well underway.  As they bore through 27km of earth to connect Tantangara to Talbingo one wonders how they can do this successfully both holding the water back in the dams in the first place and then join them without the tunnels collapsing.  Perhaps, as they did their designs, the architects and engineers looked to Mother Nature, specifically the dam-building techniques of beavers and the underground architecture of ants for ideas and solutions.

Perhaps they were inspired by a book such as this which looks closely at the best architects, designers and builders of the animal and plant worlds and how they build amazing structures  how they create super-strong materials and find clever ways to keep warm or cool, all with very limited tools.  Divided into five sections – construction, materials, shapes, energy, and water – a representative of each species not only explains what, how and why they do what they do but shows how this is being translated into human-made structures so that our buildings of the future are more efficient and more environmentally friendly.  Whether it’s the white, curved, shell of the desert snail giving insight into cooling without air-conditioning or the way the shimmering feathers of the peacock’s tail reflect light, or even the Australian thorny devil’s unique drinking habits, each double page spread is introduced by a new creature telling their own story to the reader in simple, direct language that just makes for fascinating but easy-to-understand reading.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

This is the latest of a number of books by this author including Invented by Animals  that would not only complement the theme of this year’s reviews of how the world began and developed, but also any STEM curriculum focus as Dorion sees her role as “inspiring children to explore the complex systems of the world we live in and to take positive actions towards a sustainable future.” By allowing the creatures themselves to give the explanations not only does she reach the reader but offers a new way of approaching what could be a not-so-fascinating topic.  Certainly, until I picked up Built By Animals I never drew any sort of correlation between what is happening less than 100km away with the ants who build their burrows in the driveway!

A must-have for all your curious builders, particularly those who frequent the Lego wall or the makerspace.

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

Ben Hoare

Dorling Kindersley, 2018

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

9780241334393

There comes a time in almost every child’s life when they want to know more about the creatures they share this planet with, and this fascinating animal encyclopedia with a twist showcases more than 100 animals in close-up detail. Arranged from biggest to smallest, the wildlife of the world is revealed with stunning photography and gorgeous illustrations while the easy-to-read storybook descriptions will delight newly independent readers.  Not only will they  discover amazing animal facts, such as why the humpback whale blows a bubble ring around a shoal of fish and how the plodding pangolin protects itself from predators, as well as some of the stories and myths surrounding their other favourite beasts.

With the usual navigation tools including a visual guide, this modern bestiary lets them find the animals of interest independently as well as uncovering new favourites along the way. From lions and butterflies to sharks and spiders there’s an animal for everyone in this celebration of the animal kingdom. Every animal is shown both photographically and illustrated, and children will love poring over the detailed images. The index is packed with reference information, including the size and location of each species, and a tree of life shows how the animal groups are connected.

With foil on the cover, gilded edges, and a ribbon for keeping your place, it is also  thick and heavy which is often the primary criteria for a certain age group.  Definitely worth the investment. 

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.  

 

The History of Everywhere: All the Stuff That You Never Knew Happened at the Same Time

The History of Everywhere: All the Stuff That You Never Knew Happened at the Same Time

The History of Everywhere: All the Stuff That You Never Knew Happened at the Same Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The History of Everywhere: All the Stuff That You Never Knew Happened at the Same Time

Philip Parker

Liz Kay

Walker, 2021

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

 9781406391213

“History can seem a confusing and complex subject.  Civilisations rise and fall and the connections between them can be hard to understand.”

So in this innovative book, there is an attempt to show what has happening all over the world in any one period from the ancient civilisations to the modern world at the end of the 20th century. It shows that woolly mammoths were still around when the Egyptians built their pyramids and that Leonardo Da Vinci lived at the same time as Henry VIII and the Aztecs,

Divided into broad periods of history starting with 4000-1000BC double spreads have a background map of the world and superimposed on this are brief paragraphs about what was happening where at the time. There is a brief description about life during the time in general, and a key event is given more detail, encouraging budding historians to find out more and consider how that shaped the world overall.  Expanding on this are special “Focus on…” pages which take a closer look at those events or eras that had a major influence on the world such as Greece, Rome, China, Aztecs, Japan, Mughal India and so forth.  

Today’s events are also addressed, inviting readers to contemplate how events such as the development of smart phones and social media, the GFC, the environmental crisis and even the current pandemic will be viewed by the historians of the future.  How has the internet impacted on how the world’s peoples are so connected now and how has that shaped our lives, particularly the government policies that tend to drive so many decisions?  

If books like Ancient Wonders, and BANG   have sparked an interest in where we have come from and how we re who we are because of that, then this is the perfect introduction to encourage students to take a closer look via a format that is visually appealing and easily accessible. 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Explorer

Australian Backyard Explorer

Australian Backyard Explorer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Explorer

Peter Macinnis

Amazon, 2021

180pp., pbk., RRP $A40.00

9798481595085

When your students are introduced to those who opened up this country to others, do their investigations focus on those of the 18th and 19th centuries who trekked into areas they thought were unknown , in search of whatever they could find to make them (or their sponsors) more money? 

Or do they go beyond the usual familiar names and discover the indigenous people who first trod the “native roads” and guided those following?  Do they meet the women and the teenagers who also forged paths?  Do they consider how those people whose names we know found their way, collected food and water, found shelter, coped with the weather, measured distance and all the other issues and problems that needed to be addressed as they made their way into unknown and inhospitable territory? 

Originally published by the National Library of Australia in 2009, Australian Backyard Explorer won the 2010 CBCA  Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, this work combines history with science and technology to give readers an insight into who the ‘explorers’ of Australia were, what they did and how they did it.  This is the 2021 updated version that takes the reader further as the author has delved deeper into the stories behind the stories, but like the original still has Peter’s gift for winkling out long-lost information and uncovering deep dark secrets that bring the people and the text to life.  Chapters are arranged according to issues rather than specific people, beginning with “Who were the explorers?” and there are all sorts of devices to engage the reader including projects that they can undertake to test a theory or see how something works for themselves.  (A list of these is provided for easier navigation.) There are also all the illustrations of the original from the vast collection of the National Library of Australia.

For example, Chapter 9 is devoted to staying alive and although Ernest Giles believed that this involved being able “to take, and make, an observation now and again, mend a watch, kill or cure a horse as the times may require, make a pack saddle, and understand something of astronomy, geology and mineralogy” we learn about how repairs were made; the disasters which befell expeditions and the need to stay calm and collected in their face; how to get help in a time long before personal safety beacons and mobile phones were invented; and how accidents and illnesses were treated without the aid of a helicopter and medivac team. 

This unique approach means that students will really engage with this country’s past, will understand  the courage and determination it took to travel beyond city limits and perhaps put themselves in the shoes of those who have gone before as they try to solve the problems for themselves. They will be active investigators rather than passive consumers of facts, figures, dates and distances. The imaginative teacher could devise an inquiry unit using any of the chapter headings as the exploratory question and then let the students have at it… 

This is a must-have book to ensure that what can so often become ho-hum become engaging and exciting.                                                      

 

 

 

Earth is Big

Earth is Big

Earth is Big

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth is Big

Steve Tomecek

Marcos Farina

What On Earth Books, 2021 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781912920334

Even though Earth is our home and for most of our history it was the only place we knew existed.  But once scientists began to study outer space, they discovered that our planet is just one of many in the universe and despite it seeming big to us, it is really very tiny compared to the rest of space.

Nevertheless, our planet is quite different from the rest of the known worlds in the solar system because over billions of years different processes have moulded and shaped it like no other. And to understand it better those scientists began to compare it with the rest of the universe resulting in this informative, very readable book that introduces us to our big, small, heavy, light, cold, hot, wet, dry, fast, slow, round, jagged planet as well as the language and tools of measurement in a most meaningful way.

Using easy-to-read diagrams, charts, timelines and other infographics, comparisons connect together a broad range of familiar subjects  including animals, space, rocks and minerals to STEAM topics such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and measurement helping the reader understand concepts like how big is big and how old is old so they begin to grasp how important  measurement  is to our perception of things and how comparison permeates nearly everything we do.  For example, soap bubbles are some of the roundest objects in the universe or that when it comes to population, humans are vastly outnumbered by chickens!

This is an important stand-alone book for any teacher wanting to show the importance and application of measurement to our everyday lives but it is also a really valuable adjunct if you are following the Ancient Worlds  , BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began  investigative series. Again it offers students information and opportunities to explore and explain, show and share those areas that fascinate them most. It has all the critical elements of a quality information book including a glossary, index, links to other sources and so on as well as offering a model of how to present what could be dry, boring facts and figures in an engaging way. 

 

The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Lives of Dragons

Prof Zoya Agnis

Alexander Utkin

Flying Eye, 2021

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781838740474

“Deep in the cold mountains of a distant land, there was once a magnificent kingdom of dragons. The songs of dragon families echoed across its peaks, and priceless treasures were hoarded in its caves. But what happened to this kingdom?” 

From stories like The Paper Bag Princess to the drama of Smaug’s arrival in the opening scenes of The Hobbit, both before and beyond, dragons have been a common entry to the world of fantasy for our young readers, sparking the imagination to go on wondrous adventures. For some, just being engrossed in the particular story is enough, but for others, there is a desire to know more and for them, this book is the answer.

It contains everything a curious mind wants to know to become an expert Drackenosopher just like the esteemed author, Zoya Agnis.  Through clever illustrations and readily accessible text, they can learn to identify the different dragon families, name the most fearsome dragon slayers, the bravest of Drackenosophy scholars and everything else there is to know about the beautiful dragons that we share our planet with.

About 20 years ago, there was another series of books like this (this series also includes The Secret Lives of Mermaids  and The Secret Lives of Unicorns) and it became the perfect vehicle for transitioning young readers into the world of non fiction as we took a topic they were fascinated by and started exploring information books.  In fact they came up with the slogan, Fiction = Imagination; Non Fiction = Information, something I have used in many instances since then. This would serve the same purpose. 

Whenever I make a storybook cushion or a journal or author kit featuring a dragon, I know I will only have it for a short time, such is the popularity of these fantastic beasts. Adults and children snap them up immediately, such is the fascination with and popularity of this creature.  So this is the perfect book to be the centrepiece of a display and promotion featuring fantasy promising to take readers on magical adventures. A must-have if you have fantasy lovers amongst your readers.