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Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Tylissa Elisara

Dylan Finney

Lothian, 2024

185pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780734421982

In the fifty-fifth burrow of Bushland Avenue in a beautiful clearing on Kangaroo Island where the arching gum trees kiss, is the home of Wurtoo, the hariy-nosed wombat. His is the one at the end with the big red trapdoor and large gold doorknob and a myriad of tunnels because he loves to extend it, so much so that it can take awhile for him to get to his front door. It even has a library where he has just four books that he cherishes – a book of fairytales that has taught him all about love; a plant encyclopedia that told him where to find his favourite muntrie berries and wattleseeds;  a cookbook which helps him make them into something delicious, and a fourth, his favourite, which had stories as old as time and in particular, a map of a most sacred place, the Forest of Dreaming. And it fuelled his dream to follow the map across the water to the mainland, climb the ancient tree to the heavens, and marry the love of his life, the sky.

But first, he needs to find the courage because right now, he can barely leave the burrow without his nerves getting the better of him, because having led such a solitary life, the thought of meeting other creatures terrified him. And so , despite being nocturnal by nature, he chooses to go out in the daytime so he can be unseen, and each day he makes a pilgrimage to the lighthouse for a picnic.Little does he know, that on this particular day his life will change forever because he inadvertently saves Kuula the koala from a bushfire, and acquires the adventure companion he didn’t know he needed.

With Kuula by his side, Wurrtoo finds the courage to leave the safety of his burrow and sets out on an epic journey to cross the island, reach the mainland and climb to the top of tallest tree in the Forest of Dreaming. But it’s fire season, and danger and strange creatures lurk behind every gum tree. To make it, the pair must face their fears together, learn the importance of friendship and discover the power of wombat wishes.

Described as an “Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh”, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated novel for independent readers by the 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara, and it is worth reading for the power of the descriptions of the landscape alone.  Immediately, the reader is transported into Wurtoo’s world, akin to Tolkien’s description of the home of Bilbo Baggins, and relate to his ambitions, desires and fears.  It is one for those readers who love adventures and quests, and with traditional First Nation stories, knowledge, food and culture woven seamlessly into the tale, it becomes one that not only engages and entertains, but helps the non-indigenous reader better understand that incredible connection to Country that exists for those who are.

There is also the underlying universal theme of building trust, facing your fears, accepting those you meet for who they are, so friendships are built on similarities rather than differences, that will speak to many readers, perhaps encouraging them to think that if Wurrtoo can do this, so can they.  

For me, the mark of a story that works, is hearing myself read it aloud to a class of students, and this one is one of those rare ones.  So with teachers’ notes available to enhance and enrich the experience, this is definitely recommended as a read-aloud for Years 3-4.  Something different, inspiring and Australian.

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Zookeeper

Aaron Becker

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781529517873

In a not-so-futuristic time, the Earth has flooded and the waters continue to rise. The only signs of humankind are the waterlogged structures they left behind. Peeking out from the deluge are the remnants of a zoo, home to rare and endangered animals like elephants. giraffes, tigers, pandas  and rhinoceroses, who have hung on and clung on despite everything. Tender-hearted NOA is a huge construction robot who has found a new mission as the caretaker of the zoo’s beleaguered inhabitants, and despite towering above them, they trust him.  Bracing for the next storm, NOA builds an ark from the wreckage around him and together they go in search of new land, only to almost perish as that anticipated storm hits while they are at sea.  But then something miraculous arrives, and NOA not only discovers sanctuary for those he has saved, but something even more profound…

 Described by the publisher as a “luminous sci-fi parable for our changing world”, the only words in this masterpiece are a quote from primatologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall,..

Only if we understand, can we care.

Only if we care, will we help.

Only if we help, shall all be saved.

But within the illustrations is a powerful story that is a parallel to the biblical story and which offers so many riches to explore, particularly by those who are so well aware of the need to protect and preserve the environment and the prospect of the impact of climate change.  So while younger readers may interpret this as a futuristic retelling of Noah and his ark, more sophisticated readers will bring all their own existing knowledge and experiences to tell their own tale as they examine the details embedded in the illustrations creating a unique, very personal story unimpeded by the text of another.  And while it may seem to be a story of gloom and doom that could be depressing, there is a twist that references the other biblical story of the Garden of Eden that offers hope that perhaps not all is lost in the post-apocalyptic world… 

Reviews of this amazing work abound and each suggests a new aspect, element or interpretation that could be explored including discovering Becker’s other work, The Tree and the River, which is a “time-lapse portrait of humankind – and our impact on the natural world”, making both of these core texts for older readers who, having asked what-if now want to consider what-next. So while most are touting it as suitable for ages 4-7, to me this is one for older readers who have an understanding of the current environmental uncertainty and who can bring that, as well as their knowledge of the biblical stories and the universal human need for hope to the table so they can really appreciate the beauty and value of Becker’s work.  

Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tearaway Coach

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2024

32oo., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760653170

1855 and travel around the goldfields of Victoria was a very different proposition to the same trip being made today.  In those days,  coaches drawn by teams of horses in the hands of experienced drivers were the way to go but they faced all sorts of dangers including rough tracks, flooded rivers, unpredictable weather and even being held up by bushrangers.

So while young Fen Wood is excited to see his mum who is in Geelong awaiting the birth of her new baby, he has some trepidations about the journey itself.  His father has paid extra for him to ride alongside the coach driver, none other than Cabbage Tree Ned, but in a time of no seatbelts and deep potholes, Fen is not so sure that this is a trip he is going to enjoy, despite the possibility of a baby brother at the end of it.  Sensing his discomfort, Ned hands Fen the reins to distract him and Fen appears worthy of the responsibility until two bushrangers appear with guns drawn in front of them…

As the author of Shearer, Drover, and Eat My Dust, among others, Neridah McMullin is fast becoming a respected name in writing narrative non fiction based on some of Australia’s most interesting and even infamous characters.  This is no exception.  With Andrew McLean’s expressive illustrations, this story takes the reader straight back into that amazing time in our history that formed such an important part of the Australian story, and as much as Fen’s journey is engaging and exciting, it also opens up another aspect of life in the times to explore.  Who isn’t fascinated by tales of bushrangers, coaches being held up, runaway horses and that goes with them?

For many of our students, the study of history produces a glazed look of who-cares, but in the hands of storytellers like McMullin who bring it alive through story, doors are opened up and suddenly times past becomes as exciting and interesting as times present.  How would they respond if they were either Fen or Cabbage Tree Ned? 

 

The Transylvanian Express

The Transylvanian Express

The Transylvanian Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solve Your Own Mystery: The Transylvanian Express

Gareth P. Jones

Louise Forshaw

Walker Books, 2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760656591

Haventry is a town where the ordinary and extraordinary collide and with ghosts, werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies and all sorts of other fantastic creatures living side by side, trouble is always brewing. Following the delivery of a mysterious letter from an unknown client, Klaus Solstang is on the Transylvania express travelling to the home of dreaded  Count Fledermaus, a vampire whose castle will be opened for an annual public event. The trouble is that a VIP, Night Mayor Franklefink, has gone missing while on the train, and one of the suspects is his arch nemesis, Bramwell Stoker.

However, Klaus Solstang is not an ordinary detective – he is a yeti and the reader becomes his assistant in solving the mystery, bestowed with special magical powers. And so this modern choose=your-own-adventure begins…

Written for independent readers, this is one of a series in which the reader is actively engaged in solving a mystery, each choice of action made offering a new permutation of the story. This feeling of being directly involved is consolidated with the narrative being written in the second person, addressing the reader encouraging them to follow the prompts and clues, identify opportunities and motives, and then choose which path to take to work out who committed the crime.  Each path leads to a different outcome so it is one of those books that keeps on giving. 

Part of a series of four that depend on the reader’s participation, it encourages a deeper interaction with the story than normal and is ideal for those who like to solve crimes and mysteries and fancy themselves as detectives..

Solve Your Own Mystery (series)

Solve Your Own Mystery (series)

Night Watch

Night Watch

Night Watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Watch

Jodi Todering

Tannya Harricks

Walker Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760655310

As Sun’s final flames linger in the sky and Dusk whispers, Tawny Frogmouth wakens and with a drumming noise, calls Moon over the horizon because together they have a journey to make.  It is time for the Night Watch.

And so, over Australia’s vast and diverse landscapes they travel, bidding goodnight to her many creatures with their babies as they settle down…

Over the years I have read and reviewed many books focusing on Australia’s unique wildlife, each special in its own way, but this lyrical, lullaby-like tale is outstanding. With its bold, oil painting illustrations that echo not only the deepening and then lightening of the night but also the strength that is required to thrive in the landscape, the  reader is taken on the same journey as Moon and Tawny Frogmouth with the words calming and gentling as both reader and those in the book settle down to sleep. It reinforces the notion that even though it might be dark, nevertheless someone or something is looking over the sleeper and dawn will come to begin another day, and with all being well, Tawny Frogmouth’ work is done for the night..

Loved it and if ever there were a must-have book to share at a baby book shower to start the little one on their 1000 books before big school,  this is it.  Timeless and one to pass on and on and on… 

 

Marvellous Vehicles

Marvellous Vehicles

Marvellous Vehicles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Vehicles

James May

Emans

Farshore, 2023

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

9780008520878

In the beginning, the only way for humans to move from one place to another was by Shanks pony – walking – but then someone somewhere sat on a log and drifted downstream and the rest, as they say, is history. Human-powered travel had begun and in this fascinating book for young readers, motoring expert James May looks at the variety of ways humans can travel from one place to another entirely using their own power.  No animals, engines, batteries, wind or other external aids – just the use of human muscles.

From the common bicycle to submarines and even vehicles that travel on both land and water, all powered by human energy, the range of conveyances is surprising and there is even an explanation about how potential and kinetic energy are used to make this happen so readers can understand the science that underpins even the wackiest of inventions and craft.

This is another in a new series called Little Experts designed to introduce 6-9 year olds to the world around them by having experts in the field share their knowledge, and even though they, themselves, may not recognise the names of the experts, nevertheless having titles about everyday things that our little ones are curious about and pitched at their level can only be a positive addition to  non fiction collections

An Amazing Australian Camping Trip

An Amazing Australian Camping Trip

An Amazing Australian Camping Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Amazing Australian Camping Trip

Jackie Hosking

Lesley Vamos

Walker Books, 2023

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

9781760654948

Having completed their Amazing Australian Road Trip, now the family is off on a camping adventure because Aunty wants to paint “a fantastical beast”.

“It eats like a fish and swims in the lakes, has fur like a dog and venom like snakes, with a bill like a duck, it also lays eggs, has a tail like a paddle and walks on four legs.”

With the 4WD loaded to the hilt and beyond, they head to country to find this amazing creature, finally setting up camp and starting to relax. And although there is lots of wildlife to discover, each with one of the attributes that Aunty has described, none has them all.  What could she be looking for?

As with its predecessor, this is a story that rollicks along in rhyme accompanied by eye-catching illustrations full of detail and humour including the mysterious animal hiding on each page waiting for the eagle-eye to spot…  While many readers will be familiar with camping, and understand the terminology as well as recognising the creatures that the family spot, for those for whom the Australian bush is a mystery there are lots of explanations of unfamiliar words as well as information about the various animals. And, also like its predecessor, it offers a lot of potential for investigation, not the least of which is the meaning and purpose of a glossary.

As summer holidays fade into the distance, this is one that will bring back so many memories for children who spent their time camping “out bush” as they giggle their way through familiar scenes and adventures – although I was a bit concerned that the copperhead snake that inhabits the cool climate region I live in is active at night – and begin to look forward to the next one. 

Loving this series which brings our country to life in such a fun way. 

 

Hunter on Holiday: A Big Trip Around Europe

Hunter on Holiday: A Big Trip Around Europe

Hunter on Holiday: A Big Trip Around Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunter on Holiday: A Big Trip Around Europe

Jessica & Stephen Parry-Valentine

Ashlee Spink

Puffin, 2023

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

9781761046926

Our bags are packed, we have passports in tow,
We’re checked in and waiting. It’s almost time to go!
Our luggage is all stowed and we do our seatbelts up quick smart,
The plane is taking off now, our trip’s about to start!

Having explored Australia in the family caravan, Hunter is now off on her first overseas adventure, this time exploring Europe and seeing the iconic sights of England, Scotland, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. As she gets on the plane with her parents, she creates her wishlist of places to visit and the things she will see, and the endpapers provide a map so the reader can track her journey both there and on a real map or globe. 

With travel at the forefront of the minds of many at this time, this is an introduction for young readers to overseas travel and the delights it might bring.  Some may have visited these places and have their own adventures to tell, while those who have actually come from each country might like to become a travel guide and suggest other places to visit and things to do. Or for those not so fortunate, they could perhaps make a list of the things that Hunter could see and do if she were to come to their town. 

Giovanni

Giovanni

Giovanni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giovanni

Crystal Corocher

Margeaux Davis

Wombat Books, 2023

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

9781761111235

In 1881, four-year-old Giovanni and his family and local villagers leave the Veneto region of Italy bound for Australia having been promised “paradise” only to find that they are in the hands of a people smuggler with a rickety boat, little food and no real concern for their safety, let alone comfort.  Eventually stranded on a beach in Noumea, they were in despair of ever reaching Australia dying in huge numbers from bad food, mosquitoes, undrinkable water and back-breaking work in the monsoon season. 

But hearing of their plight, Sir Henry Parkes, the “father of Federation” but then colonial secretary of NSW sent a boat to rescue them and 22 families eventually settled on the NSW north coast in what was to become known as New Italy and the start of the Italian migration to Australia that continues today.

Told by the great-granddaughter of Giovanni, with a concurrent Italian translation by Jada Valpato,  this is a story meticulously researched that tells of an almost-forgotten part of Australia’s migration history, making it one for both younger and older readers, particularly those of Italian heritage.  Coupled with links to resources such as the New Italy Museum, this is definitely one for the collection for both your Italian families as well as any study of Australia’s immigration history. 

 

Under the Red Shawl

Under the Red Shawl

Under the Red Shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Red Shawl

Vikki Conley

Martina Heiduczek

New Frontier, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922326829

On the day that Salim was born everyone was leaving town, looking for a safer place, and so Mama wrapped him tightly in her red shawl and, with a few precious things packed onto the donkey, joined the exodus…

Based on many stories told by children in Africa and the Middle East to the author during her work with World Vision, sadly this is more than just Salim’s story and as we watched the families fleeing Gaza, it is one that is common and continuous.  While the reasons for leaving may differ, nevertheless there are several constants regardless of the people involved – there is the love of parents for their children that protects the little ones regardless of the hardships that the adults might encounter and endure; the friendliness of strangers and the willingness to open their doors; and the belief that there is a better, safer place somewhere.

So while this is Salim’s story of a journey, it is also the story of so many – including that of many of our students.  

While there will be those with anxiety about starting a new school in the new year, or moving to another town and having to leave and then build friendships, that can be put onto perspective somewhat by imagining what it would be like to have to leave and have no idea where you’re going or what you might face.  How do you keep your dreams alive?

As with Amira’s Suitcase, Vikki Conley has brought the reality of the world of the refugee child right into the realm of more fortunate children, but has tempered it with layers of love and friendship and hope for they are the elements that connect us regardless of belief or circumstance.