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Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Karen Romano Young

Angela Hsieh

What On Earth Books, 2022

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

9781913750527

Antarctica is one of the most isolated and harshest environments on the planet, often referred to as “the final frontier”. 

From her harbourside home in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, as a young girl in the 1930s my mum would watch the ships head southwards to the ice, literally the next stop after they left the safety of the port of Bluff.  And she began to dream. In 1968, after years of dedication and hard work, she broke the “petticoat ban” and she too, joined those sailing south from Bluff – on a converted fishing trawler that was the precursor to the luxury liners of today, as Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered Antarctic tourism and she became the first female journalist to go south.

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

Fifty+ years on and it is so different – or at least the getting there is, and the presence of women is no longer a novelty and the issue of where they might go to the toilet no longer a primary barrier!

Today, in the southern summer, tourist trips leave regularly for the ice, although most often it is via South America to the Antarctic Peninsula as the crossing of the Drake Passage is usually only about two days while scientists are there all year round and women work alongside the men.  So, this new book provides an up-to-date view of this isolated continent in a narrative that draws on the author’s own experiences as well as extensive research and interviews with scientists, combining a unique personal perspective with up-to-date information about the land and its inhabitants, the investigations being undertaken and the discoveries being made such as studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet. There is still so much to learn and do and the book’s scope offers many opportunities for students’ interest-driven investigations.

While most of its readers probably won’t have the wherewithal to afford a trip on one of the many ships that have made it a bucket-list destination, perhaps this book will inspire them to take another route under the Australian Antarctic program and dare to dream – just as my mum did all those years ago! For that truly was “Dreaming with eyes open…” 

 

 

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Jackie Kerin

Milly Formby

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

978148631449

 

A few weeks ago we found ourselves at an international airport, which might not seem unusual except we we had no luggage, tickets or boarding passes, we weren’t intending to fly anywhere and our feet were firmly planted in the sand of Shoalhaven Heads in the Illawarra District of Australia’s East Coast.

 

But this was not your usual airport where planes take off for faraway destinations – it’s actually an important bird migration destination on the East-Asian Australasian Flyway  that extends from Arctic Russia and North America to New Zealand and is used by over 50 million migratory waterbirds.  Twice a year, 36 species of migratory shorebird fly annually to Australia and New Zealand for their non-breeding, or overwintering, season, and then return to breed in the northern hemisphere above the Arctic Circle.

So the release of this book for review was very timely, particularly as it also coincides with an opportunity to follow illustrator Milly Formby’s microlight adventure around Australia to raise awareness for migratory shorebirds in May–November 2022, complete with all sorts of support resources including the teachers’ notes downloadable from the book’s home page..

While we might be learning about the amazing migratory journeys of species like the humpback whale  and other creatures, they are able to stop, rest and feed on their journey.  How can a red-necked stint which weighs about the same as a piece of toast fly 500km without stopping – that’s the distance from Sydney to Perth and then another 1000km out to sea?  Who are these amazing birds, who can’t land on the water because they don’t have webbed feet, and what do they do to prepare for their amazing journeys? How do they find their way across both ocean and continent covering up to 12 000km in nine days like E7, the bar-trailed godwit which was fitted with a tracker to record the first world bird record for the longest non-stop flight?

In this absorbing book, the reader is taken on a trip to the Arctic tundra and back to discover the life and lifestyles of these wanderers in a format that is engaging, accessible and which opens up a whole new world to wonder about.  With books like this and The Great Southern Reef  we can introduce our students to the amazing world that is right on their doorstep, perhaps opening up new interests and dreams. For Milly Formby has a dream to fly her microlight to Siberia and back to follow the birds, the first step being that  Wing Threads adventure of flying around Australia. A real-life example of “Dreaming with Eyes Open.” 

Milly's Journey

Milly’s Journey

 

 

Then to enrich the experience, as well as being involved in  Milly’s adventure, track down a copy of the movie Fly Away Home, the remarkable story of saving Canada geese by training them to follow an ultralight, based on the real-life experience of Bill Lishman.

What a world has opened up for me because I found myself at that unknown airport!  And my feet haven’t even left the ground!

 

 

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Sally M. Walker

Matthew Trueman

Candlewick Press, 2022

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

9781536203561

one minuscule speck
grows into the universe
a mind-boggling birth

Defined as a traditional Japanese three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count which often focuses on images from nature, haiku emphasises simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression making it an effective way to get students to focus on the essence of an object and then use succinct, descriptive vocabulary to portray it so every word has to work hard. 

In this stunning union of poetry, art and science, haiku is used to explore the universe through a lunar eclipse, beyond the orbiting planets, and into glowing galaxies and twinkling constellations out to Ultima Thule, the most extreme limit of the journey which “longs for a visitor with coal and a carrot”, and all accompanied by the most imaginative illustrations that are almost photo-like so that not only does the reader learn about the vast beauty of space but they are left in wonder and awe of its magnificence. The minimal text structure of haiku means just the nucleus of the phenomenon is offered as a teaser, leaving the reader with a tempting taste to learn more…

the Eagle landed

one giant leap for mankind

footprints in the dust

Some of this is offered in the comprehensive, well-researched final pages which explore such topics as constellations and astronomers, the birth of the universe, stars, the solar system, moons and eclipses, asteroids, meteors, and comets, but the whole offers an opportunity for students to engage in their own interest-driven investigation with the challenge of summarising their findings in their own haiku and artwork. 

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Whale

Hannah Gold

Levi Pinfold

HarperCollins, 2022

320pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008412944

Rio is lost – both physically and emotionally.  

He has been sent from London to Los Angeles to stay with his grandmother while his mother is in hospital trying to recover from her chronic mental illness. But the tiny, quiet seaside town of Ocean Grove is so different from busy London; and so is his grandmother’s house – so much bigger than their tiny city flat, especially when he is to sleep in his mother’s childhood bedroom.

As if that weren’t enough, not only does he scarcely know his grandmother who is all shiny jumpsuits, sharp elbows and hard angles and whose hugs are not the deep, warm snuggly type he is used to, but he believes that if he had just tried harder and done more he could have prevented his mother’s downward slide into the psychiatric hospital.  At first,  Rio shuts everyone and everything out, unable to do anything but think about his mother and fears for her safety if he is not there.  After all, he’s been her carer for most of his 11 years. He is consumed by guilt if he relaxes or has fun, or even feels at peace. He is fixated of fixing here, despite being so far away, and when he discovers her childhood sketches of a grey whale named White Beak he hatches a plan that will surely save her, one made even more possible when he at last makes a friend in Marina who is passionate about the whales that migrate past Ocean Beach each year and whose dad happens to own a whale-watching business.  

After his own incredible encounter with White Beak, Rio is even more determined but then the reports of her being sighted as she journey s south to the lagoons of Mexico stop. Rio is determined to find her  because White Beak and his mother become one and the same person in his mind, and he and Marina hatch an audacious plan…

As with Gold’s debut novel, The Last Bear  this is a story  that stays in the mind long after the final page has been turned, and as with that story, it is a journey of discovery for the child as much as the focus animal. Rio is so used to being the grown-up, the responsible one, that he has to learn to forge relationships with his grandmother, Marina and her father and to be able to trust others to have his mother’s interests at heart, accepting that he can’t fix everything by himself. But the parallel story about the life and times of the world’s whales, whatever species, and the perils they face as their habitat is threatened is equally important.  It could easily have been set in coastal New South Wales about the humpback highway.  

This is one for independent readers who are seeking a well-written story that has substance and authenticity, but it would also make an excellent class read-aloud.  

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Sue Whiting

Walker, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760653590

When the special phone rings in the middle of a storm, a phone that is a secret landline of the Adventurologists Guild and only meant to be answered by qualified members of that group, Pearly Woe is sent into a panic,  Her parents are members, she is not, but they should have been home hours ago and it keeps ringing – MOOOO, MOOOO, MOOOO. Should she answer it and break the rules or does she use her initiative and pick it up because such non-stop ringing is so unusual?

For despite being able to speak 27 languages, including some animal tongues,  Pearly Woe is one of the world’s greatest worriers and her over-active imagination creates a dozen different scenarios for even the most common situation. But when she does finally lift the receiver, hearing her mother’s voice does not bring her comfort – instead the strange message with its cryptic clues set off a chain of events that even Pearly’s imagination couldn’t have conjured.  Pearly’s parents have been kidnapped by Emmeline Woods, who is not the nice character she portrays on screen, and who demands that Pearly hand over Pig, her pet pig  whom she talks to all the time to ease her anxiety.  Alarm bells are ringing loudly already but seeing Woods shoot Pig with a tranquiliser gun  galvanises Pearly into mounting a rescue mission that sees her in the icy wastes of Antarctica and having to confront her worries, fears and imagination in ways the she would not have dreamed possible. 

This is a fast-paced, intriguing adventure for young, independent readers who are beginning to want some depth to the stories they read and the characters they meet.  While there are subtle environmental messages embedded in the story, it is Pearly’s anxiety and self-doubt that many will relate to personally, while others will cheer her on to believe in herself and overcome those fears.  It can be amazing how our love and concern for those who are most precious can spur us to do things we never though we would be capable of… even if we can’t speak 27 languages to help us out.

To me, the mark of a quality story is if I can hear myself reading it aloud to a class, and this is definitely one of those. 

  

Women Who Led the Way

The Women Who Led the Way

Women Who Led the Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Led the Way

Mick Manning

Brita Granstrom

Otter-Barry Books, 2022

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

9781913074432

“From Aud the Deep-Minded, an early voyager to Iceland, and Sacagawea who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition across the USA, to Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest, this book shows the incredible courage, determination and power of women explorers over the last 1200 years. These women have led the way exploring lands, oceans, mountains, skies and space, but have also made pioneering discoveries in the fields of science, nature, archaeology, ecology and more. The lives of these women, told as personal stories, are an inspiration to us all.”

As I looked back over the increasing number of reviews for books that showcase women who have changed the world in some way, none of them have focused on female explorers breaking through that traditionally male domain peppered with names like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Abel Tasman, James Cook, Robert Falcon Scott and Edmund Hillary. (Even the Australian Museum’s Trailblazer collection is predominantly men.)

In fact, when I looked through the contents page, there were only three names of more than 30 that were familiar, yet here are the stories of women who broke new ground in so many areas including being the first to cycle round the world, the first black woman into space,  the first to look into space and discover eight comets…  One wonders why they are not household names like their male counterparts.

However, apart from a brief mention of Nancy Bird Walton, there were no Australian names suggesting that perhaps there have been so many women to choose from that Australia’s heroes were overshadowed.  Where are Kay Cottee, Jessica Watson, Emily Creaghe, Lady Jane Franklin, Jade Hameister, Robyn Davidson,.. even my own mum, Dorothy Braxton, the first female journalist to travel to Antarctica and the first female to set foot on some of its hallowed places in 1968 (although, to be fair, she was a Kiwi through and through)?

Dorothy Braxton, Scott's Cross. Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton, Scott’s Memorial. Antarctica, 1968

So, as well as learning about these trailblazers, the book needs an Australian companion so we can set students the challenge of not only researching someone suitable and retelling their story in the same format as the book – brief personal accounts and which include an inspirational quote – but also pitching for their contribution to be included. Obviously, such a book can only have limited entries so students would have to argue why the contribution of their selection changed the world while the rest of the class would take on the role of the editor choosing.

Alternatively, it could be ties to this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Dreaming With Eyes Open and students could write about why, in the future, they would be included in such a collection.  What will be their legacy? 

Books like this, apart from always introducing the reader to new heroes, open up so many more possibilities that can make each of us an explorer in our own way.  

 

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

Nicola Davies

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406394771

It is one minute to midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, April 21 and as the clock strikes midnight there, the reader begins an amazing journey around the world to see what is happening in other places at this precise time, whether that be having breakfast or even afternoon tea.

But this is not the more common snapshot of what people are doing at a specific time. but a glimpse at what the natural wildlife are up to, the threats they face and in some cases, what’s being done to mitigate them.  We travel to the polar bears in the Arctic; to sea turtles in India struggling to the sea after they’ve just hatched;  to kangaroos fighting both the climate and each other in Mutawintji National Park in NSW; and so on around the world as different species respond to the time zone of their environment.

The date was chosen because at that time of the year there is something exciting happening in the animal kingdom around the world, and coincidentally it was Earth Day, celebrated since 1970 “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. and act as a call to action to acknowledge that “the clock has struck and it is time to make a difference together”. Accompanied by stunning illustrations, each of which includes the two little children who are taking us on the journey so that there is a storyline rather than just a time-lapse diary, the reader is introduced to creatures like the polar bear whose plight may be familiar as the warming planet melts their icy home to the not-so familiar owl monkeys of Ecuador whose habitat is being destroyed in the search for oil.  And while it might seem impossible for a young reader in Australia to help them, nevertheless there are things that each of us can do to  daily to make a difference. So books such as these  which raise awareness in interesting, fascinating ways are perfect for helping us to think globally and act locally.  

And there is always the sideline of investigating why it’s midnight in Greenwich but midday in Sydney!

Seal Child

Seal Child

Seal Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seal Child

Robert Vescio

Anna Pignataro

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326294

Life was both predictable and peaceful on the island and the little girl played happily, safely on the sand as all around her life went on.  But then, the storm hit. And there was nothing and nobody left – except for an abandoned boat and a lost baby seal.  Together they huddled in the boat sailing over the ocean with its perils lurking, giving and seeking comfort and confidence from each other as they sought sanctuary.  But when the pup’s mother eventually finds it, the little girl is left alone once more… will her story have a happy ending too?

Superbly illustrated by Anna Pignataro who captures the many moods of the ocean in an amazing mix of watercolour hues, moods which reflect those of the little girl as she moves through fear, comfort, hope, resignation, loneliness, anticipation and a host of other emotions as the days drift by, there is nevertheless an underlying sense that there will be that happy ending as the  image of the polka dot cloth from the beach illustration appears as a blanket, a scarf and a sail like a symbol of hope and a connection between then and the future.   She describes the processes involved in her illustrations here.

Nearly all the reviews I discovered for this book just offered the publisher’s blurb, accepting the recommendation for “3-6 years” at face value, but anyone who is familiar with Vescio’s writing knows that this is more than a story about a little girl and a seal pup finding solace in each other while lost at sea – the storm in the child’s life could be a real wind-and-rain, lightning-and-thunder storm, but it could also be any number of events that disrupt the routine of what our children expect – fire, floods, pandemic, death, divorce; the seal could be a favourite toy, a pet, an imaginary friend… And while there is an underlying message for the child to ride the waves to a safe haven, and that fear and uncertainty are a natural part of the voyage,  and it’s OK to seek comfort wherever we may find it, there is also a message to parents to be patient while the child navigates the trip and to have faith that they will emerge into their arms safely again.

So, as usual, much to think about and consider, and definitely for a broader audience than our youngest readers.

 

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Canberra

Krys Saclier

Cathy Wilcox

Wild Dog, 2022

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

9781742036120

About this time of the year excitement begins to ramp up as students anticipate their school excursion to the national capital, Canberra – perhaps even moreso as there is a federal election due and government, its purpose, politics and people become a curriculum focus.  And so it is with the Mount Mayhem Primary School students, as readers are reunited with Farrel, Kira and Jack who introduced them to the mysteries of Australia’s preferential voting system in Vote 4 Me

Written in a diary format, the class has been divided into three groups – the Menzies, the Gillards, and the Holts, names worth investigating in themselves – and each visits a number of Canberra’s attractions including

Using Wilcox’s signature cartoon characters overlaid on to photographs of each location, this is a thumbnail tour of what to see in this city that makes it unique as the nation’s capital – having spent 30years living and teaching there, each was familiar so it became a trip down memory lane.

Thus the quiz at the end was rather easy but what wasn’t included is that under PACER, (Parliament and Civics Education Rebate) those students who come from more than 150km (calculated by road using the “most favourable” routes) can have their costs subsidised provided their visit includes an educational tour of Parliament House and where possible, an immersive learning program with the Parliamentary Education Office, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House, and the Australian War Memorial.

Any excursion sparks excitement as it is a break from the ordinary routine of things and IMO, those who come to Canberra should also include a trip to the top of Telstra Tower (although it is temporarily closed for refurbishment) or Mt Ainslie so the layout of this planned city with Walter Burley Griffin‘s vision of the National Triangle and the lake at its heart can be clearly seen.

Teachers beyond the realm of Canberra cannot be expected to know their way around this city nor the must-see destinations or even the fun recreational places like Commonwealth Park and other playgrounds  (my favourite is Boundless Park in the centre built for all ages and abilities)  on offer where kids can just romp and play so this book offers a valuable introduction so the itinerary can be planned so everyone gets the most from it. While there are teachers’ notes to accompany the book itself. hopefully the links in this review will add a little more to the physical experience. 

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

Jackie Hosking

Lesley Vamos

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653842

We’re travelling from Melbourne on a birthday trip west, our aunty is sixty and we’re off on a quest

She’s keen for a picnic and fancies a view, a cake and a loud “Happy Birthday to You!”

So off they go with their 4WD loaded to the hilt, the most magnificent birthday cake taking pride of place on the roof rack.  But despite circumnavigating the country, including Tasmania, and visiting significant scenic and cultural attractions  in each state and territory, Aunty cannot find the perfect picnic spot until…

In my review of Ancient Wonders  I suggested that families could use it as an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard, and here it has been laid out already.  Iconic destinations such as The Twelve Apostles, Coober Pedy, Port Arthur, Kakadu, Uluru, Canberra and others have all been included in this itinerary and as well as the ongoing story of Aunty’s objections (and the very fitting ending), there are also factual notes about the significance of each.  The maps on the endpages summarise the journey so well – and any adult sharing  the story will empathise. 

So the challenge to set students, having the model in front of them, is to create a new itinerary that the family could try foe when Aunty is 65!  Differentiate the task by setting it up as either Australia-wide, state-wide or even just town-wide… what places would be perfect for a picnic celebration and why?  Even though our national borders are opening up, there is still so much to see and do in our own country.  By sharing their plans, students may discover new places in their own back yard! 

To me, the best picture books are those that set the reader up for further journeys (both literally and figuratively), that have layers for them to explore and build their understandings on, those that educate as well as entertain.  This is definitely one of those and an essential addition to any collection focused on Australia’s geography.