Archives

Peregrines in the City

Peregrines in the City

Peregrines in the City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrines in the City

Andrew Kelly & Sue Lawson

Dean A. Jones

Wild Dog, 2022

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

9781742036519

Since 1991, from August to November, a pair of peregrine falcons has nested on the ledges of the building at 367 Collins Street, Melbourne, the current pair have been there since 2017.

In this new release, the story of one couple is told from the time they prepare their nest, lay and incubate their eggs, and care for the eyases until their first flight. With stunning, accurate  illustrations that are like photographs, it describes how these birds have adapted to life in the ever-growing city as it encroaches on to the wild countryside.  While it uses easily accessible text for young readers, it also respects their intelligence by using the correct terminology such as “tiercel” (male) and ‘eyas’ (a baby that has not yet flown) as well as other phrases that acknowledge that these are raptors, birds of prey, and there is a life cycle being carried out.

Comprehensive teachers’ notes designed to help students understand what is happening are linked to a YouTube channel, but even better is a YouTube search for “367 Collins falcons 2022” which brings up live videos of the current pair with their nest of four eggs, which includes a live stream. There are four eggs this season, laid on August 30 so due to hatch in mid-October.

 

The timing of the release of this book is perfect for young readers to be introduced to a species that often fascinates them because of the bird being a raptor and the fastest in the world, and with both print and video, it is a perfect way of showing what is happening as it happens while offering the extra information that static print can provide.  As you watch a train pass below the Yarra River far below, the female is carefully snuggling in to ensure all four eggs are protected and warm, oblivious to it being Grand Final Day … A real case of “watch this space”! 

Backyard Buddies

Backyard Buddies

Backyard Buddies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Buddies

Andy Geppert

Lothian, 2022

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

9780734421470

There are lots of creatures and critters that live in our backyards that fascinate our young readers – things like butterflies, spiders, blue-tongue lizards and even pet rocks.  So this “somewhat factual introduction to the hoppy, crawly, wriggly, buzzy,[and] fluttery ” that little ones are likely to see will be a welcome addition to help answer their questions.  

Beginning with the front endpage offering a contents list that relies on the reader recognising the shape of the creature they want to investigate (encouraging visual acuity), each has its own double-page spread that has lots of pictures including visual cues about when to see it and whether it is safe to touch or not as well as an easily readable description.

Butterflies are like moths – just fancier.

They fly around during the daytime to show off their pretty, colourful wings. This is probably why moths prefer to only come out at night.

As well as offering our youngest readers an understanding that books can be about real things so their questions can be answered, thus introducing the concept of non fiction, like its predecessor Backyard Birdies , it could even inspire the young backyard naturalist to be more aware of their surroundings, perhaps starting a chart to record their observations and  beginning to develop their skills in data gathering, mapping and interpretation! To help parents and teachers encourage this exploration of the immediate environment, there are teachers’ notes that suggest activities that go beyond the pages to investigating life cycles, adaptation and even how humans interact with the creatures.  Even though they might have the ‘don’t touch” symbol, does that make them an enemy to be killed? Or does everything have a place? Scope for a range of ages… 

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Andy Fackrell

Ford Street, 2022

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696007

Have you heard of a flamboyance of flamingos?  Perhaps a bloat of hippos or even an implausibility of gnus?

Wilbur is on a journey through his local zoo, visiting his favourite animals and discovering the wonderful words that describe groups of them.

Written in rhyme with a repetitive refrain, it is an entertaining way for students to investigate some of the more outrageous nouns, as they develop their vocabulary and perhaps even speculate on how the groups got their labels.  They might even investigate the noun associated with their favourite creature to create an extra page for the book, including illustrations that offer  similar extra information as the originals.   Teachers’ notes offer other suggestions for using this book in the English strand.

However, Fackrell has intended this to be more than a romp through a zoo to build vocabulary.  He is a strong supporter of The Lion’s Share, a fund backed by the United Nation’s Development Programme – its mentor David Attenborough –and its work protecting our most vulnerable wildlife groups. Thus, each spread features a supporting cast of unnamed species, all biologically correct to the ecosystem. For instance, in the Andes, alongside the Flamboyance of Flamingos there is a Knot of endangered, Lake Titicaca Water Frogs.

The endpapers of the hardback version are a definitive and fun reference source with a world map of all known collective nouns  drawn on the inside front, with the matching animal names on the inside back.

To learn more about the book’s creation, there is a Q & A with Andy Fackrell here. 

At the Pond

At the Pond

At the Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Pond

David Elliot

Amy Schimler-Safford

Candlewick Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536205985

The red-winged blackbird spreads his tail
and sings his hello morning song;
he has sung it since the bright
and misty world began.

When the soft pink of the dawn sun starts peeking over the pond, a new day has begun for all the animals who live in it and around its watery edges. The friendly duck family, the mysterious water striders, and the busy beaver are a few of the many fascinating and familiar animals included in this glowing poetic tribute to the lively ecosystem of the pond.

Pairing poems with pictures, this is an introduction to the animals and plants that call the pond home, and while they may not all be those that young Australian readers are familiar with, it sets up the opportunity to investigate what a local pond might have and would look like. Do we even call them ponds?  Or are they dams and billabongs? 

This is another invitation to look more closely at the world around us, especially those parts we tend to take for granted, to extend vocabulary and writing skills to describe it in poetry or depict it in artworks, or if that isn’t a strength, create a brief factual description using those included as a model.   

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the White Ibis

Phillip Gwynne

Liz Anelli

Puffin. 2022

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

9781760897949

The ‘chorus” of this song would seem to sum up this bird’s reputation…

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate

But, in fact, the white ibis – Threskiornis molucca – has  a more dignified tale to tell. That of being related to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt and to Thoth, the god of science, writing, magic and the moon; that of being the farmers’ friend as their long beaks aerate the soil as they dig for troublesome insects like locusts; that of once living in the wetlands but driven to being of scavenger of the cities because of human habitation overtaking theirs. 

There was much derision when Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe suggested the white ibis to be the mascot for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane but this intriguing book by Phillip Gwynne with its detailed illustrations from Liz Anelli  shows the bird in a completely different light, offering a different side to its common image. Certainly, the final message of “reduce, reuse, recycle’ or we might all become bin chickens is confronting but is a definite heads up to make us think about why there is just so much waste to enable these birds to thrive in the urban environment. 

According to the  National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study

  • Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion each year.
  • Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain – this wastage equals about 312kg per person, equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
  • The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers in excess of 25 million hectares, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.

(Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2022)

Thus, this book could be the springboard to students  investigating food waste and its management in both our schools and our homes making it so much more that a plea from a bird for some dignity and respectability. Even young readers can create visual representations of what 312kg  or one in five bags of groceries look like. And that notion of it being the Olympic mascot could be more beneficial than first considered… 

Kind

Kind

Kind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kind

Jess McGeachin

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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

9781761066047

The publisher’s description of this book as a ” beautiful ode to the wonders of our natural world” is spot on.

In this book you’ll find

Many kinds of things

Some have slippery scales

Some have feathered wings

But kind is more than type

Kind is how you care

For creatures that you meet

And places that we share. 

There have been a plethora of books in the last couple of years that encourage us to take greater notice of our immediate surroundings, particularly as that has been where we have been confined to, and implore us to take greater care of where we step, what we see and how we act.  Leaving a shell on the beach means a lot to the little creature who seeks shelter beneath; not stepping on an ant means  even more to the ant! So this is another reminder to take the time to acknowledge,  appreciate and applaud Mother Nature, to remember that the real seven wonders of the world are at our fingertips.

But it is her final verse that really has great impact if we are to continue to be healthy and happy individuals who have the compassion, empathy, strength and energy to be kind to everyone and everything else. 

The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stuff of Stars

Marion Dane Bauer

Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2022

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

9781536223583

Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was . . . nothing. But then . . . BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us.

In a poetic text, Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer takes readers from the trillionth of a second when our universe was born to the singularities that became each one of us, while vivid illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Ekua Holmes capture the void before the Big Bang and the ensuing life that burst across galaxies.

A seamless blend of science and art, this 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner reveals the composition of our world and beyond—and how we are all the stuff of stars.

Sometimes you just have to use the publisher’s blurb because there are no better words or ways to describe a book.  

But as well as the beauty of this book itself, it also offers an opportunity to compare and contrast how the same phenomenon  can be viewed through different lenses and portrayed in very different ways, sparking not only a discussion about different literary devices but also how one’s purpose and platform can colour and construe our perceptions of the same event, and the implications for that in everyday life. 

 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasmanian Devil

Claire Saxby

Max Hamilton

Walker, 2022

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

9781760652418

Anyone who has ever heard the screech of a Tasmanian Devil split the night will know why these creatures, which once roamed mainland Australia but are now found only in Tasmania, have been so-named.  The largest living carnivorous marsupial in the world, , they live a solitary life as adults but will occasionally share carrion if it is large enough and the feasting is accompanied by blood-curdling cries as each tries to assert dominance.

Endangered because of the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). which is contagious and kills them within 3-6 months of the lesions appearing, this new addition to the wonderful Nature Storybook series, a narrative non fiction series which introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world, is ideal for bringing these creatures into the realm of our young readers.  It traces the development of two young devils known as imps (or joeys or pups) as they become more and more independent showcasing different elements of the habitat, behaviours, and day to day life of one of Australia’s most famous marsupials.

Saxby, also the author of Big Red KangarooEmu Koala, Dingo,  Kookaburra and  Great White Shark, again brings her ability to create pictures with her words to create magic on the tongue, ensuring this is as much an engaging, entertaining story as much as it is educational.  

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Ted Kooser & Connie Wanek

Richard Jones

Walker Books, 2022

72pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781529507072

There have been a number of books reviewed on this site over the last couple of years like The Secret Signs of Nature that have encouraged young readers to explore their immediate environment with  critical, sensitive eyes to discover the detail hiding in the big picture. 

But what if, as well as their senses and science brain, they also took their imagination out to play? And what they saw really did become a clown on the top of the hill, up on one leg, juggling a pie, rather than just a winter tree with a long-vacated squirrel’s nest on the end of a branch? 

The subtitle of the US version of this book by former US poet laureate Ted Kooser and and poet Connie Wanek is ” Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech” and while a bit dull, nevertheless, it sums up this stunning collection of blank verse poems perfectly.  By letting their imaginations out to play, and using similes and metaphors and other literary devices beloved of English teachers, a thunderstorm becomes something that has become lost in the dark of the house, not wanting to wake us but crashing into walls as they stumble about, occasionally striking a match to see their way; tadpoles become commas making them “the liveliest of all punctuation” ; and a book is transformed into a sandwich with all sorts of goodness between its folded pitta covers!

 Organized by the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth and accompanied by distinctive, sparse illustrations that interpret the words but which don’t interfere with the picture created by the reader this is an intriguing anthology to dip and delve into, for letting the imagination roam free, wander, and stay healthy. So while we understand that a fire has no stomach, is “never full, never satisfied” and thus must never be set dree, it is an entirely different story for our imaginations.

 

The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Signs of Nature: How to Uncover Hidden Clues in the Sky, Water, Plants, Animals and Weather

Craig Caudill & Steve Backshall

Carrie Shyrock

Magic Cat, 2022

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

9781913520380

Since the world really started to focus on climate change, and particularly since the lockdowns of the pandemic which meant that often the only outdoors we could visit were our own backyard, there have been many books for children encouraging them to be much more observant. to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them, to be aware of not only the little creatures but also the ordinariness of the habitats the live in and to take greater care.

This book, co-authored by a BAFTA winning naturalist, takes that ability to be observant several steps forward and shows the reader what can be learnt from Nature, by noticing and interpreting everyday signs and signals that not only enrich the experience but help predict what might be happening.  Apart from using their senses more acutely, young readers are encouraged to read the weather by understanding rainbows, observing cloud patterns, predict wind direction and use a compass before they set off into their environment and then each section introduces them to some of the secrets of that place whether it be the ocean or a puddle, the woodlands or a desert or even how a farm paddock! 

Although predominantly using the landscapes of the United Kingdom, the reader and the two young adventurers are taken across the globe as there are many principles to discover that are universal – looking at the shape of the moon and the various visible stars or examining tree stumps can all reveal stories regardless of where you are.- and the reader is urged to be constantly curious, to be present in the moment, to be familiar with the environment so changes are noticed, to study what they observe and ask questions, and then use their learning to teach others.  So, having spotted a huddle of sheep in a paddock, they can surmise that it is likely to rain soon and predict the direction the wind is coming from be looking at the land’s topography. Or stomping through a puddle can tell the person who comes after you, which direction you were travelling…

With such a focus on environment and sustainability both in the curriculum and literature, this is an important book that can empower young readers even more, encouraging them to go  outside and see what they can learn right now!