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


“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


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


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


“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. 

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use












Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Richard Haynes

Stephanie Laberis

Candlewick Press, 2021

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


Move over, humans! We’re not the only creatures who can invent and use tools to keep ourselves fed, warm, safe, healthy, comfortable—even entertained. Thanks to the careful observations of biologists working in the field, we now know that elephants use sunscreen, long-tailed macaques floss their teeth, assassin bugs use bait to lure their prey, orangutans make pillows, and crows will go sledding just for fun.

Defining a tool as “any functional object, fashioned or found, that is not part of the user”, the reader is taken on a fascinating tour around the world examining creatures that use tools including the boxer crab and bottlenose dolphin of our region to the African elephant and even the bald eagle. For thousands of years, humans believed that only they were intelligent enough to invent and use tools but since the 1960s, particularly, scientists specialising in observing animal behaviour have proven this to be a fallacy as they the many ways that the animal kingdom uses and adapts common objects to meet their needs in their quest for survival.

Those uses include health and healing, defence, hunting, harvesting and eating, and comfort and joy and the book has been divided into these sections, with examples of each. So while the elephant uses straw, grass, mud, and sometimes vomit to protect itself from the burning rays of the sun, the orangutan uses large tropical leaves like umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain.

With large and small realistic illustrations, some with a touch of whimsy, to support the readily accessible text, this is one for independent readers fascinated by our natural world and who want to know more about a topic they may not have even thought about.  To support their reading there is a map, glossary, bibliography, and index so as well as the content, they can also learn how to navigate a print non fiction text. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?












What Do You Do to Celebrate?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2021 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


In every corner of the globe,
as years begin and end,
there are many ways to celebrate
with family and friends.

Thanksgiving in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November heralds the beginning of a season of celebrations around the world, as calendars draw to a close and preparations for a new year begin.  No matter where in the world you live, there is something to mark the passing of time and in this book created by the team behind What do you call your grandma? and What do you call your Grandpa?  the reader is taken on a journey around the globe to share significant celebrations with other children. Whether it’s skating to mass each morning in Caracas Venezuela, waiting for the littlest camel of the Three Wise Kings to bring treats on Epiphany or just visiting the displays in the shop windows of Sydney, children around the world share those end-of-year traditions.

Each double page spread is vibrantly illustrated with a description of the festival in rhyme, and further explanation offered in the final pages. While some of the experiences may be familiar, so many are not but the joy is that it is likely to touch the heart of at least one of our students and at last they are seeing themselves and their culture in a book shared by their peers.  Beyond that important connection, the power of this book lies in its final verse…

So many traditions to mark the year.

What about you – what brings you cheer?

Presents, dancing or is it cake?

What do you do to celebrate?

This sets up the perfect opportunity for our students to investigate and share those things that they do in their homes offering the opportunity for the perfect end-of year activity that goes beyond the more common Christmas Around the World. It acknowledges the different ways our families celebrate this time, builds connections and understanding and provides an authentic vehicle to put all those information literacy skills into practice. 

Climate Action

Climate Action

Climate Action










Climate Action

Seymour Simon

HarperCollins, 2021

48pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


With the world’s leaders, governments and focus on climate change as the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is in full swing in Glasgow, Scotland, this will be a timely addition to your collection about this topic.

It provides an introduction not only to the dramatic effects of climate change, but to the solutions. It shows how our behaviour and actions have led us to this point, how the children  around the world are dealing with extreme storms, wildfires, and sea level rise, and demonstrates what scientists, youth activists, and ordinary citizens are doing to protect their communities.

Divided into eight sections for easy browsing and with over fifty photographs, captions, charts, and graphs, this nonfiction book is ideal to share in the classroom and to answer the questions of our children who are so concerned for their future. It also includes a glossary to supplement the text, author’s note, and index  making it easy to navigate and support the locating aspect of the information literacy process


Everything Under the Sun

Everything Under the Sun

Everything Under the Sun











Everything Under the Sun

Molly Oldfield

Ladybird, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


Subtitled A curious question for every day of the year this remarkable book that started life as a podcast based on questions submitted by children, contains 366 curious questions such as How much bamboo can a giant panda eat?  Do aliens exist?  What we would do if we didn’t have a prime minister?  Why do hammerhead sharks have such strange-shaped heads?

Subdivided into questions for each month of the year it not only offers answers to the questions that kids ask that invariably stump the adults around them, but it gives the child all sorts of information that can be dropped into the dinner-table conversation to take it on a new path.  It is also one that groups will pore over as they try to outdo each other with their new knowledge.

But my favourite part is the scope it offers for developing information literacy.  It could either be used as a stimulus offering teachers a ready-made question to be investigated and answered by students and their answers compared to that in the book or it could be a model for students to ask and answer their own questions to develop their own month of curious questions.  That way they have purpose for learning, can seek help with the particular part of the information literacy process they actually need, can answer the question “how did you find out?” so they can reflect on their learning, and then share both their product and their process by creating a display for the library that includes this book, encyclopedia and other reference and non fiction titles. 

If the information literacy process is new to you click here and choose ‘present’ to learn more. 


Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies










Backyard Birdies

Andy Geppert

Lothian Children’s, 2021 

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Can your children tell the difference between a beach chicken (seagull) and a bin chicken (white ibis) ?

Or a roof chicken (pigeon)  and a chicken chicken (chicken)?

In this introduction to the birds commonly seen in Australian backyards, including large inflatable flamingoes and swans, Andy Geppert mixes a few basic facts with a lot of humour to make for an enjoyable read for young children who will just be noticing the differences between the species.  Clever illustrations and funny text combine to make this the most unusual field guide but one which will pique little ones’ curiosity and have them trying to identify the birds that they see.   They could even make a chart and mark each one off as it is spotted from their window, beginning their skills in data gathering, mapping and interpretation!   It’s the simple things….

Big Quiz Book: 1001 Brain Busting Trivia Questions

Big Quiz Book:1001 Brain Busting Trivia Questions

Big Quiz Book: 1001 Brain Busting Trivia Questions











Big Quiz Book: 1001 Brain Busting Trivia Questions

National Geographic Kids, 2021

304pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Twenty years ago, while hanging out the washing, I had an idea for a quiz for students in Year 5 and 6 that would be about Australia and Australians and be made freely available online so students all over Australia could participate to develop their information literacy, their digital literacy and communication skills.  The Quizzard of Oz was a huge success both online and off when I eventually offered it on CD so schools weren’t tied to my timeframe of marking 150 quizzes each Monday night!  

When the name and concept were hijacked and patented by an app company, the quiz eventually morphed into Backpack Bear (because I didn’t have the means to fight a legal battle) and to this day, students are demonstrating their love of these sorts of trivia contests by eagerly competing.  

So this new publication from the ever-popular NatGeoKids  is the perfect addition to any teacher’s or family’s collection if they want to tap into this fascination.  Arranged in 9 categories (covering geography, history, creatures, science and technology, space, sport, music and the arts and food) there are 69 separate quizzes of multiple choice or true-false questions (including answers and a lot of fun facts) as well as a monster tie-breaker. While participants might guess at the answers, there is also scope to investigate them thoroughly and perhaps discover a whole lot more about the topic at the same time. 

Properly credited, the questions could become the basis of a new quiz set by a teacher to occupy students during this time of lockdown, encouraging both the student and their family to get involved in the research,  or for those what-do-I-do-when-I’m-finished? moments as an alternative to the ‘read a book” answer.  I know from my experience the hours it can take to build quizzes with questions so to have 1001 on tap would be very welcome.   And a link to the Nat Geo Kids’ website would be a bonus as there are even more quality activities there.  Suddenly, staying at home is looking very entertaining!