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Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth

Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth

Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth

Joanna Grochowicz

A & U Children’s, 2024

272pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761180590

Sir Douglas Mawson. His face is on the $A100 note; he has streets, suburbs and places named after him scattered across the country; and  the longest continuously operating station south of the Antarctic Circle bears his name.

So who is he and what did he do to deserve these honours? 

To learn that we need to go back to winter in Antarctica in 1912, just months after Amundsen and Scott have reached the South Pole, and a young Australian driven by his passion to contribute to scientific knowledge leads the Australian Antarctic Expedition intent on establishing research bases on the continent and sub-Antarctic islands to explore and chart the east Antarctic coastline  and learn from it.  As disaster befalls his team and gradually they perish, Mawson finds himself alone but is so determined to take both data and specimens back to base that he struggles on alone for 30 days, arriving just a few hours after the ship sent to retrieve the party had left..

Mawson’s remarkable tale of determination, endurance and resilience is retold in this absorbing narrative non fiction, the latest addition to this series which includes the journeys of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton . Using a range of primary and secondary sources, its polar historian author tells the stories of these early pioneers of Antarctic exploration in a way that brings them to life, with all their foibles and faults as well as courage and tenacity, engaging the reader in a way that facts and figures, bare statements and grainy photographs can’t.  

And for those for whom a 272page book might be a bit daunting, there is also Douglas Mawson in the brilliant Meet… series, so an  opportunity for all to know a little about this remarkable real here. 

My own connections to the Antarctic were outlined in my review of Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey but these are stories of real-life heroes that don’t require that sort of legacy to inspire their reading – these are for any independent reader of any age who enjoys true stories of doing the seemingly impossible, particularly in times when it is the human endeavour rather than the technological wizardry that determine success or otherwise.  Who knows – introducing a young person to this series just might be the trigger for a lifetime.

How to Save the Whole Blinkin’ Planet

How to Save the Whole Blinkin' Planet

How to Save the Whole Blinkin’ Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Save the Whole Blinkin’ Planet: A Renewable Energy Adventure!

Lee Constable

Aška

Puffin, 2024

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

9781761340826

As once again the news is dominated by political parties sprouting their particular ideologies about which energy source – renewables or nuclear – is going to be the way forward to meet the target of Net Zero by 2050 if we are to save the planet, this book reaches out to those who will be most affected to show them what they can do now, in the here and now, to make a difference.  

Speaking directly to the young independent reader, it starts by explaining how dependent the world is on electricity and how the traditional ways of generating this are leading to pollution, greenhouse gases and climate change.  The reader is invited to be an imagineer – an engineer who “likes to use powers of imagination, creativity and problem-solving to come up with wild and wonderful ideas and inventions that [will] make the whole blinkin’ world run as smoothly and safely as possible” = and join Captain Kilowatt to learn more about the problem, its causes and possible solutions with a variety of interactive devices that not only get them directly involved but also give them the science so they can make informed decisions and choices. 

Its style and format make it an engaging read that emphasises the need for the reader to be an active participant in understanding and solving the issues, with questions, quizzes and QR codes to scan to develop and consolidate knowledge. It’s a companion to How to Save the Whole Stinkin’ Planet and like that, offers our kids practical ideas that will help them make a difference, perhaps even contribute to the discussions so that they are more than just political catchphrases with an underlying motive that has little to do with actually protecting the planet. 

How to Move a Zoo

How to Move a Zoo

How to Move a Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Move a Zoo

Kate Simpson

Owen Swan

A & U Children’s, 2024

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

9781761180309

Here’s a problem for your students to solve… it’s 1916 and you need to move a zoo from its old home in Moore Park, Sydney. to its new home on the other side of the harbour.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge hasn’t been built, and the road trip is long and involves crossing five different bridges.  It’s been okay for a lot of the animals because they could be put in crates and cages and loaded onto the back of trucks, but how do you move an elephant that is too large for even the largest truck of the time?

This is the fascinating story of how Jessie the Asian elephant, a hugely popular attraction at the old venue where she had lived for 30 years,  made her way along Flinders Street, through Taylor Square to the Domain to Fort Macquarie and on to her new home at Taronga Park Zoological Gardens on Bradley’s Head, a journey that would take about 20 minutes today but so much longer back then.  In the early hours of a Sunday morning in a Sydney very different from today, anyone who was up and about, like the milkman with his horse and cart, would have been startled to see a man leading an elephant through the quiet streets and as gentle and as tame as Jessie was, it was not an easy journey for the streets, sights, sounds and smells were unfamiliar to her and she could have panicked at any time.  Crossing the harbour on a ferry was an unknown but when there is a bond between animal and human as there was between Jessie and Mr Miller, who knows what’s possible. 

While the role of elephants in today’s modern zoos is so much more important than providing amusement for a penny a ride, Jessie’s story is one that is well documented both in articles and photographs, and this beautifully illustrated narrative non fiction version is the perfect starting point for not only learning about that remarkable cross-city journey, but also delving more deeply into these fascinating creatures whose future is uncertain.  

Oceans at Night

Oceans at Night

Oceans at Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans at Night

Vanessa Pirotta 

Cindy Lane

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

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

9781486317233

For many young readers, when they pack up the buckets, spades and surfboards and head home after a day at the beach, that’s the last they think of the ocean until they visit it again.  But as the sun sets on their day, a new world starts to come alive beneath the waves and in this stunningly illustrated book the reader is introduced to just a fraction of the nightlife that emerges when dusk and darkness fall.

And believe me, it is a world that is very different from the daytime with creatures not normally seen coming to life.  How well I remember putting my brave on and with only a cyalume stick strapped to my wrist, stepping into the inky black waters off Heron Island for my first night dive.  But it was worth the fear because the world we went into was so different from that which we had dived a few hours before, even though it was the same location.  Not only was the resident moray of the bommie out and about but my enduring memory is that of the beauty of the Spanish Dancer nudibranch swimming along, skirts dancing like a flamenco dancer, brilliant colours brought to life by the light of our sticks.

11,100+ Sea Slug Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock |  Blue dragon sea slug, Green sea slug, Blue sea slug

As the world celebrates World Ocean Day and we have a particular focus on the environment that makes up 70% of our planet, this is an outstanding first look at those creatures who prefer dark to light – even those who never see light so deep do they live – and even includes the strange collection of plankton that, in certain conditions, turns the foaming waves blue and attracts sightseers whenever it is spotted. 

When I was a kid it was a television show called Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges that sparked my desire and determination to become a scuba diver, perhaps these days it is the feats of James Cameron and his Deepsea Challenge or other movies that take viewers to depths that modern technology allows. but whatever the inspiration, it is books like this that ignite the thirst for knowledge.  Written to inform the young independent reader and encompassing creatures from little penguins returning to feed their youngsters to the almost-mythical giant squid, this is one that could begin a journey that will last a lifetime.  

This Book is Full of Holes

This Book is Full of Holes

This Book is Full of Holes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Book is Full of Holes

Nora Nickum

Robert Meganck

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

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

 9781486318407

What is a hole?

Is it the place in your sock where your toe peeks through?  Is it the hollow in a gum tree where Mother Galah raises her babies? Or is it the gap in a rock formed over millennia by wave action and which now fascinates as those waves create a spectacular fountain?  Perhaps it is that mysterious place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out.

This book tells us a hole is “a hollow place. An empty space. A part of something where there is nothing at all”. And then goes on to explore and explain a wide range of holes, each with a particular purpose or story to tell in one of the quirkiest but most fascinating books that I have read in a long time.  In the past I’ve engaged students with a unit I called “Why Do I Have Seven Holes in my Head?” but never have I given a hole more than a passing thought, apart from something to mend, walk around or put something in (like tea in the hole in the cup).  Accompanied by illustrations that will make the reader LOL, not only does it explore holes in everything from the everyday to the extraordinary, it also looks at the word in our language, opening up all sorts of places and phrases to investigate.

Present and promote it to the kid who thinks a little differently, whose curiosity is never satisfied, who is looking for something absurd that becomes absorbing and you will be giving them entertainment (and education) for a long time to come. Superb.

Brown Bears

Brown Bears

Brown Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Bears

Dr Nick Crumpton

Colleen Larmour

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781529508727

Spring has arrived in Alaska, and a brown bear is waking up. She was alone when she fell asleep at the start of winter; now she is climbing out of her den with two cubs. Follow them as they discover how to survive in the wilderness, from climbing trees to catching salmon, as their mother teaches the cubs how to be bears. There is a saying about not getting between a mother and her cubs, and the confrontation between a male and the mother demonstrates this, showing that a mother’s protection of her offspring extends into the animal world as well as the human. The perfect choice for a Mother’s Day review as young readers can reflect on the other parallels between human and animal mothers!

While this story is set in Alaska, zoologist-author Nick Crumpton explains that because this species is not fussy about its diet, they are able to live in many countries, although exclusively in the northern hemisphere, opening opportunities to explore the differences in climate, seasons, habitats and inhabitants of those regions compared to Australia,  

This is another in the brilliant Nature Storybooks series that personalises the stories of particular creatures by focusing on one member of the species while providing more general facts separate to the narrative.  It is a successful technique that engages young readers because it brings the information into the child’s realm rather than being a series of disconnected facts and figures, and thus provides a solid bridge between fiction and non fiction.  

Three Dresses

Three Dresses

Three Dresses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Dresses

Wanda Gibson

UQP, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A6.99

9780702266355

Three things are vivid memories of  the childhood of author and illustrator Wanda Gibson, Nukgal Wurra woman of the Guugu Yimithirr people – the harsh life on the Hope Vale on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland; the annual two weeks holiday, the only time they got off the Mission, spent at the beach; and receiving three dresses and three pairs of undies from the Lutheran Church at Christmas time – “one to wash, one to war and one spare”.

But despite the hard life on the Mission – school in the morning, work in the afternoon, picking weeds out of cotton, pineapples and peanuts for no pay even in hot weather, – this is a story of the happy memories of those special two weeks spent with her family at the beach and the simplicity of a time shared and enjoyed just by being together,  

Taken at face value it is a joyful story of a holiday at the beach that could no doubt be contrasted to the holidays current students have at a similar location, or even the notion of being thrilled to get just three dresses a year, and even those were second-hand. However, thorough teachers notes help readers delve into the impact of  colonisation on our indigenous peoples and the various policies that governed their lives including extensive background information as well as points for investigation and discussion and classroom activities, making this a picture book to span all ages and aspects of the curriculum.  Indeed, there are links to further resources specifically for upper primary students. 

Whether it is shared as a story of the importance of a family making and sharing memories or one that opens doors to a different aspect of Australia’s history, this is one that has the potential to make a big impact. 

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seed to Sky

Pamela Freeman

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781760653750

Come to the oldest forest on Earth,…

On the oldest continent…

Where the oldest trees reach high into the sky…

And begin a journey into 00 years ago, before European settlement and the Daintree Rainforest was much larger and very different to what it is now.

In this latest on the brilliant Nature Storybooks series, which combines lyrical text with factual information amidst stunning real-life illustrations, the reader is taken on an exploration of how a seed becomes a sapling over hundreds of years and is introduced to the diversity and generations of insects, butterflies, bird, lizards, snakes and an abundance of native wildlife that will bear witness to the rise of the magnificent Bull Kauri pine…

Australia is a continent of diverse landscapes and landshapes, each with its unique flora and fauna and while the extensive teachers’ notes will lead you through an investigation of the Daintree itself, they could also serve as a model for investigating a similar situation in the students’ environment.  What vegetation is indigenous to the local area and what creatures might have witnessed its development?

When it comes to narrative non fiction that engages as it explains, this series is one of the benchmarks and this addition is no different.  

How to Measure the Ocean

How to Measure the Ocean

How to Measure the Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Measure the Ocean

Inda Ahmad Zahri

A & U Children’s, 2024

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

9781761180361

Take a young child to the beach for the first time and they are likely to be overwhelmed by the size of the ocean in front of them.  And it wouldn’t be unusual to have them ask, “How big is the ocean?”

And that’s the case for the children in this story as they try to use the traditional tools of string, scales and a bucket to find its size, weight and volume because those are the sorts of dimensions they are familiar with investigating.  But in this eye-catching book with its colourful illustrations, the reader is introduced to a range of other ways to measure from the simple counting of the oceans of the world (including the half-oceans, almost-oceans, once-oceans and oceans-in-between)  to measuring its depth to how it changes with time, temperature, terrain, the pull of the moon, the path of the wind…

But the purpose of the book isn’t just to collate a set of facts and figures about the ocean – as the author explains in a note at the back, it’s also about learning about solving other problems, looking for a formula or set of rules that can be used over and over, and learning to swap the word “ocean” for other things , even intangibles like emotions, creativity, courage, friendship…

Although it is recommended for the 4-8 years age group, it really has potential to be used with many age groups, depending on the focus. It could be used to encourage students to pose their own questions about the ocean and search for formulae or methods that might explain the answer; the maths curriculum to  have them examine something like the tidal charts and work out how they are worked out;  or it could be used in the mindfulness program because, if the ocean is vast, boundless, infinite, what else might be? 

Definitely one for the NCACL Picture Books for Older Readers database.

Some Families Change

Some Families Change

Some Families Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Families Change

Jess Galatola

Jenni Barrand

EK Books, 2024

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

9781922539670

For most children, their family is their safe haven and they expect it to be the same format/structure. arrangement that they know for ever and ever.  And, in the past, that was usually the case with perhaps the addition of a baby or the death of an elderly relative the only changes to their world. In the 50s, the term “nuclear family” was coined and it commonly consisted of two adults, a male and female, who were married, had 2.4children of their own making with the adult male being the patriarch. And sadly, for many, this remains the “norm” embedded in their social, cultural or religious value systems meaning that those who choose or have to live outside of that model can be ostracised if not condemned and the casualties are many.

Today’s lifestyles mean that this is very different from even the time when I was a child and to some kids, change can be confusing and challenging, and if the change is not a positive one, they can shoulder the responsibility and begin the “If only I…” tail-chasing blame game.  And so this book which covers scenarios including single-parent families, blended families, and the loss of a loved one, can be a reassuring guide for children experiencing such transitions using gentle verse and illustrations that clearly show a photo of any family in the class will be different to the photo of any other.  As Ms Molly said, so wisely in Heather has Two Mummies, “It doesn’t matter who makes up a family, the most important thing is that all the people in it love one another very much.”

The core Foundation Year unit of the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of the Australian Curriculum calls for children to know and understand “the people in their family, where they were born and raised, and how they are related to each other” and thus this book is an essential part of that understanding as they learn that not only are families different but also that theirs might change.