Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather












Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Tania McCartney

NLA, 2020

68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


According to my Facebook memories, 12 months ago it was snowing heavily here in the Snowy Mountains while there were 95 bushfires raging in the north of NSW, and we, ourselves, were evacuated just a few weeks later because of fires that had ignited here. The talk and news were constantly about the “worst drought in memory”, the heat and the continual and spreading threat of those fires.  And just as we thought that it would never end and we were doomed to breathing smoke-laden air forever, the rains came and places devastated by flames were now threatened with floods!

Regardless of the time of year, the weather in Australia is always a reliable topic of conversation and now two of my favourite creators have teamed together to offer an explanation for the phenomena for our younger readers.  Beginning with an explanation of whatever is weather, their combined writing and drawing talents have been used to explore the various elements of the weather, particularly in Australia so there is a greater understanding of the why, where, when and how of that which has such a bearing on our lives so that it is more than listening to the brief forecast on television or the BOM site. or being fascinated by the rain radars.  Living in the bush as I do, my favourite pages were Bush Forecasting that explain some of the behaviours and characteristics that we have come to notice and learn as the weather changes. Black cockatoos are always a welcome sign here.

Both Stephanie and Tania have drawn deeply on the resources of the National Library of Australia (luckily for them, it’s in their neighbourhood) and being a NLA publication the support materials for further exploration are very detailed. Even moreso though, is the module written to support the book as part of the NLA’s digital classroom   Aligned with the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography), and Science for Year 4, 5 and 6 students, it adopts an inquiry-based learning approach to develop students’ understanding of geographical and scientific processes relating to weather, environments, people and systems.

What more could you want?

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)















The Ocean


Puffin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for 80 years, Puffin introduces our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in this new series of non fiction titles, the perfect size and format for little hands. Voiced by Puffin Little and speaking directly to the reader in a narrative style which ensures engagement, there is much to carry interest and open up new fields to explore.  The contents page and glossary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned.

Joining the first collection of three are Little Explorer Ocean,  Little Scientist Robotics and Little Historian The ANZACs offering  a variety of topics to tempt a diverse range of interests for those who prefer non fiction and are looking for something that will satisfy their curiosity but not overwhelm with detail. They are ideal for answering those questions that are a step beyond initial curiosity offering enough information using accessible language that respects their existing knowledge and skills. Young readers will appreciate this series because there has clearly been a lot of thought put into addressing their unique needs as emerging readers as well as tapping into subjects that appeal. 

When Allen Lane first established Puffin 80 years ago with a dream of establishing a publishing house devoted to children’s literature, he began by publishing four non fiction titles for children who had been evacuated to the country to keep them safe from German bombing and invasion – War on Land, War at Sea, War in the Air and On the Farm – so it seems fitting that the dream has turned full circle and this anniversary year has been marked by this no-frills non fiction series for little ones. 


















Jackie Kerin

Annie White

Ford Street, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.95


Victoria, Australia in the 1850s and the word of the discovery of gold is spreading around the world. Among the tens of thousands of everyday fold who flock to the goldfields are two young English brothers and another two from Canada.  They decide to team up but they soon discover that despite the rumours, the streets are not lined with gold and nor is it just lying around to be picked up.

Searching for gold is hard work for little reward as you battle the elements, the environment, the crowds, the thieves, the law -and Ma Kilduff’s advice doesn’t really make things easier.  Still they persevere until one day…

This is the “inside story” of the discovery of the first large nugget to be discovered in Victoria, the  Blanche Barkly, taking the reader through the harsh, hard life that the goldfields afforded yet was accepted because of gold fever.  However as well as the story itself, in the final few pages the reader is taken on a journey that provides even more detail beginning with the impact that the goldrush and subsequent discovery of the Blanche Barkly had on the Dja Dja Wurrung, the traditional owners of the land., giving an interesting and original perspective that could be explored further in any curriculum studies of the topic.  Teaching notes are available but this lends itself to investigating  lines of inquiry such as…

  • How did the quest for gold impact the traditional owners of the land on which it took place?
  • How did it affect the environment?
  • Why did the government initially try to keep the discovery of gold a secret and did they make the right decision?
  • As the world’s second largest gold producer in 2020, what lessons have been learned  and what has changed  since the first discoveries? What differences would Ma Kilduff notice?
  • What has been the legacy of the goldrush 170 years on?

Alternatively, students could put themselves in the shoes of one of the characters from Ma Kilduff to Queen Victoria and research and retell the story from that personal perspective. Even just asking, “What did the author and illustrator need to know to produce this book?” would lead to some interesting investigations.

Hopefully the days of “This is Year 5 so it’s gold” and the meaningless study of facts and figures have disappeared so having s book as rich as this in offering different ways to learn about a critical part of Australia’s history is as precious as the metal itself. 



All The Science You Need To Know By Age 7

All The Science You Need To Know By Age 7

All The Science You Need To Know By Age 7












All The Science You Need To Know By Age 7

Katie Daynes

Stefano Tognetti

Usborne, 2020

80pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Little people always have lots of questions about the world around them – it’s how they find out how it works.  Often the answers to those questions lie in quite profound science and relate to topics like plants. animals, materials, time., weather, forces and energy, all of which are gathered together with others in this single volume that provides the basic answers beginning with the premise that a scientist is one “who studies the world around us”  and therefore anyone can be one using their powers of observation and some simple tools.

Author Katie Daynes is a specialist in answering questions about science for young people and so you can be assured that the information in the book is pitched at just the right level and offered in a format that is accessible and appealing. As well as the colour-coded sections there are also a glossary and an index, both supporting early information literacy skills as students learn to navigate non fiction texts efficiently and effectively. And, as is common with publications from Usborne, there  are curated quicklinks which provide further information to support further questions.

As National Science Week gets underway this is an ideal text to capitalise on children’s natural curiosity, demystify what science is and open up a whole new world at the same time.  Perhaps an interest piqued today will be the knowledge that defeats a pandemic tomorrow. 

That’s Not My Narwhal

That’s Not My Narwhal

That’s Not My Narwhal









That’s Not My Narwhal

Fiona Watt

Usborne, 2020

10pp., board book. RRP $A14.99


A little board book in this popular series that encourages children to explore both language through its repetitive text and their sense of touch through its textured patches actually has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience as students get ready to enjoy the 2020 Book Week theme of Curious Creatures, Wild Minds. 

This almost mythical creature, which actually lives in the cold waters of Greenland, Canada, and Russia is rapidly becoming the “creature-du-jour” with young readers looking for something more exotic than the unicorn which has become a bit ho-hum.  So even though this book in this popular series explores why none of the five narwhals depicted is the reader’s narwhal, the question that begs to be answered is, “What IS a narwhal?”, a question that could spark an interesting investigation and perhaps lead to a presentation entitled This is My Narwhal satisfying the Critical and Creative Thinking outcomes of the Inquiry strand, as they pose questions to identify, explore and organise information and ideas. 

I love discovering books written for littlies that have application across the ages and this is surely one of them, and a most timely release. 

Scientists who changed the world (series)

Scientists who changed the world

Scientists who changed the world







Scientists who changed the world(series)

Charles Darwin


Rachel Carson


Sir Isaac Newton


Anita Grey

EK Books, 2020

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

It could be said that never before in the lives of our young students, has science been at the forefront as it is at the moment.  Every night on the news and in other programs they have access to, science is featured along with the obligatory white-coated scientist as there are reports of progress in the race to a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, the disease keeping them trapped inside. The importance of research, testing, trials and all the other vocabulary associated with the discipline is becoming a natural part of their vocabulary and there would be more than one little one who now has aspirations of finding that one thing that will save mankind.

So this new series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and so if immunology and epidemiology don’t appeal, then there are endless other facets that might. The first three in the series introduce us to a physicist, a marine biologist and an anthropologist, all of whom changed the world’s thinking with their discoveries .

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to each including not just their discoveries but also their early life that influenced the paths they took. With at least three more in the series planned (Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Stephen Hawking) this is a series that will be a most useful addition to the library’s collection because of its modern presentation and timely release as children return to the classroom with big dreams of adding their names to the list of world-changers.


Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff










Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

National Geographic Kids, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


They are the things we see and use every day and which are so familiar we take little notice of them -cameras. mobile phones, rulers,  toilets and even common customs like shaking hands, table manners and saying gesundheit. But each has a backstory about its invention or development and in this intriguing little book from NatGeo Kids, each is explained.  With hand-shaking now discouraged, what are the origins of this practice anyway? With toilet paper now a nightly news item, what is the story behind its development and the invention of the toilet?  

Using its customary bold, colourful design, with stunning photos, and jam-packed with awesome facts, there are 10 chapters each with related inventions to keep young minds entertained and educated for a long time.  Perhaps, if students are no longer in the physical space known as school, it could serve as a role model for their own investigation of something common. Perhaps a future edition might have concepts such as social distancing and self-isolation – what do these mean, what do they look like and why were they imposed?

While the book answers many questions, it has the potential to pose so many more, each of which could be a research topic for kids needing something to do, and with self-choice essential it will engage them while putting into practice all those information literacy skills! 


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


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. 




Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed










Cat Science Unleashed

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Matthew Rakola 

National Geographic Kids, 2019

80pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


 This is part of the NatGeo Kids Hands-On Science series and complements their website aimed at 6-12 year olds.  But rather than just facts and figures about cats that can be found in any book about them, this encourages the reader to participate in  22 safe and cat-friendly activities that let  them work alongside their cat to discover what makes it tick.

They can learn the effects of catnip  and why it can see so well in the dark; how it balances so well and always land on its feet as wells as toys to make.  Each activity is paired with step-by-step instructions, clear and interesting scientific explanations, and cool photographs shot specifically for this book. Hands-on activities and fun information for budding scientists prompt further learning and offer a behind-the-scenes look at current feline research.

Using a magazine format with lots of photos and diagrams as well as information in accessible chunks, it is divided into four chapters, each accompanied by relevant explanations and activities. There is also a glossary, an index, and other extra information to help students build their information literacy skills as they learn to navigate non fiction texts. 

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.

Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered

Brain-fizzing Facts:  Awesome Science Questions Answered

Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered










Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered

Dr Emily Grossman

Alice Bowsher

Bloomsbury, 2019

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Children make sense of their world by asking questions, often starting with “why”.  This was the case for the author as a young child and in this collection she has gathered together some of the wacky questions that little ones ask such as “Why is your elbow called your funny bone? How could you escape the grip of a crocodile’s jaw? Which animal can breathe through its bottom? And how do these things all link together? “

But the difference with this book from others that are just a Q & A, is that the reader is urged to try to answer themselves before they read the answers, and if they can’t explain it, then try to select from the information provided.  And, all the while, they are being reassured that getting it wrong is not a problem -in fact the most important scientific discoveries come from wrong answers and investigations into why is it so. Heavily illustrated with cartoon-like characters and bite-size chunks of information that speak directly to the audience, the presentation will appeal to both genders who are curious independent readers wanting to know more. 

While young children have no trouble asking endless questions, once they start school something happens and they see their role as one of only answering those posed by others.  So the emphasis on asking questions and even providing space for the reader to do just that is welcome, as we try to teach students to be both critical and creative thinkers.  

One for the Christmas stocking, or even better as the foundation for a STEM display in the new year as students are encouraged to develop their information literacy skills  in meaningful research, authentic to their interests and needs.