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Unreal

Unreal

Unreal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unreal: Can you tell the fact from the fake?

Kate Simpson

Leila Rudge

A & U Children’s, 2024

64pp., hbk. RRP $A29.99

9781761180347

There’s been a mix-up at the Museum – some of the displays from the Myths and Legends exhibit have snuck into the Natural History wing.
We have to sort it out, but how can we tell fact from fiction? Animal from apparition? Megafauna from monster?

Oh my goodness!  If ever there were a book written to go straight into the teacher librarian’s toolkit, this is it.  Right here, in these 64 pages with their intriguing illustrations and fascinating snippets of information is your information literacy program for a term, if not a year!  And it is one that is going to grab even the most reluctant readers who are yet to discover the magic between the covers of a book.  

Beginning with a brief introduction of how to identify fact from fake by answering these questions…

  • Who is providing me with this information?
  • Do they have evidence for their claims?
  • Why are they telling me this?
  • How recent is the information?
  • Do other sources agree?

the reader is presented with five or six samples with a picture accompanied by a smidgen of fact and they have to determine creature or plant which is real and belongs in the Natural History section and which need to be returned to Myths and Legends.  Topics covered include weird and wonderful  things like Into the Deep, Cryptids, Bioluminescence and Animal Mash-ups among many more, and all will send the reader to the shelves and/or the internet to discover the truth (or otherwise) of the claims made, all the while honing their information literacy skills, as well as employing their critical analysis as they interpret and evaluate what they are reading.  Because each double-page spread provides a new challenge, the same skills are applied in a new context each time so they become embedded in the reader’s thinking.  They will become naturally more critical of what they are seeing, hearing or being told so are more likely to handle this world of fake news. artificial intelligence, scams and phishing better.     What more could you want?

Well, IMO, it is the perfect model for each to create a similar page for their peers to investigate, drawing on a wide range of topics from the real world and marrying them to the gamut of people and creatures that populate the stories of the world’s peoples so there is a feast of learning going on, beyond practising their skills in context.  

Definitely one for the toolbox of every teacher librarian.  

The Garden at the End of the World

The Garden at the End of the World

The Garden at the End of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden at the End of the World

Cassy Polimeni

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2023

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

9780702265693

In the forest at the end of their garden, Isla and her mother hunt for herbs, forage for fungi and listen to the trees.  It is their peaceful and happy place. and they appreciate all that it gives them.  One day, when Isla finds a beautiful and strange seed which she wants to keep, her mother tells her about the garden at the end of the world… “At the end of the world is an island covered in ice. On the island is a mountain. Inside the mountain is a vault. And inside the vault are millions of seeds…” 

These are not magic seeds like those that grew Jack’s beanstalk, they are ordinary seeds collected from plants around the world but because of the cold of the environment, they are able to survive for hundreds of years ensuring that children of the future will be able to grown and eat the foods that already exist. There are seeds from all over the globe, from White Eagle corn from the Cherokee nation, to kangaroo grass from Australia, all being carefully stored and nurtured, safe from the impact and influence of the outside world.  The concept sparks Isla’s imagination and so she carefully wraps her seeds in foil and she and her mother begin a life-changing journey to the Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Today’s children have an awareness of the state of the planet. climate change and its environmental future like no previous generation, and so this story provides not only information about this remarkable facility but also a beacon of hope.  Despite the stories of doom and gloom that they hear every other day, and the discussions and investigations they have and do about climate change and conservation, here is proof that something significant is being done by those who can, and that is has potential for good for everyone.  While much of their focus might be on preserving the world’s wildlife, without food there is nothing and so this shines a spotlight on protecting the vegetation – perhaps even inspiring some future botanists. Embedding both the information and the message in a story about a mother and daughter, rather than a facts-and-figures non fiction book, opens this initiative to a wider, younger audience who can build on what they now know generating both practical and philosophical change. Maybe it will be their children who benefit from the special seeds Isla delivers.   Worthy of its status as a CBCA Notable Book of the Year, 2024.

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra

Cassy Polimeni

Hykie Breeze

UWAP, 2024

92pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760802899

Life is a tad tough for Ella right now = her family has just moved house and, as she unpacks,  she’s finding it hard to let go of her old room and its familiarity, particularly her BFF Viv living next door.  No matter how hard her dad tries to make things fun, the constant rain and mess are really getting her down.  So when the rain does stop, she takes the opportunity to go outside into the fresh air and open space.  

Outside the garden seems full of promise for the future, but when she hears a strange crick-crick sound it’s seems the future is here.  What could be making that noise?  Bending down, by her gumboot she sees a tiny frog, no bigger than her thumb and it seems to be wanting her to follow it.  And so she does – and finds herself in the midst of something so special she is entranced.  For in front of her is an abandoned, overgrown pond full of an amazing variety of frogs, all calling to each other and creating her private frog orchestra.  

And when she starts at her new school, Ella learns that protecting the local frogs is a major focus of her classmates and she discovers so much more about the species as her new friend Mai shows her the school’s frog bog.  With her new knowledge and respect, Ella is devastated to discover her neighbour’s yard being dug up and her frogs have disappeared… 

This is a new series for newly independent readers that not only has characters that they will resonate with – so many will recognise the anxiety and other emotions that come with moving house and starting a new school – but which also has an original storyline that offers new insight into a common curriculum focus.  Who knew that frogs have a homing instinct that means they can find their way home because they know just where they belong?

As well as being one of the most common species investigated when it comes to learning about life cycles, frogs are also an indicator species, demonstrating that the local environment is healthy, although sadly, in Australia alone, there are more than 40 species listed as endangered or vulnerable.  Thus, building awareness of their importance through an engaging story, including instructions for building their own frog pond in their backyard, young students can begin to appreciate that while Ella’s frog orchestra  may be the turning point in her new life, they have a critical role in the bigger picture.  

An excellent story to springboard to greater investigations. 

Spiro

Spiro

Spiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiro

Anna McGregor

Scribble, 2024

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

9781761381010

Spiro is hungry and he’s not fussy whether it is a juicy fly, a scrumptious moth or a crunchy stink bug that he has for dinner.  But whatever it is, he has to spin a web to catch it.  Although Spiro is good at spinning webs, he is not so good at choosing things to anchor it to, and so time and time again, he sees his snack trapped but then escaping!  But Spiro is nothing if not persistent, and just tweaks his plans and tries again.  Will he get his much-needed meal or will  he himself in danger of becoming something else’s lunch?

At the beginning of this book is a message- “Perseverance weaves the web that catches the lucky break” – offering an indication of the author’s intention to demonstrate that determination and persistence are critical for success because not everything works on the first attempt, and young readers will certainly have plenty of stories to share about times when their plans have gone awry and they have either given up or tried again.  They will spot the faults in Spiro’s design, all of which add to the humour,  and will be not only hoping that he gets something to eat soon, but that he escapes the beady eye of Mrs Bird.

But it is also a useful springboard into an investigation of these creatures, and a quick scan of SCIS shows that apart from Jeannie Baker’s classic One Hungry Spider, Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider or the traditional tale of Little Miss Muffet, there are few picture books with spiders as the main protagonist that serve the purpose as well.  Because for all that these creatures might send shivers down the spine of some, they are one of Mother Nature’s marvels and there is much to learn about them.  Teachers’ notes offer some suggestions, and there could also be a lively discussion about why Anna McGregor has chosen to make Spiro hot pink! There are also a number of videos online that show spiders spinning their webs, an exercise in maths and precision that always fascinates.

As with Anemone is Not the Enemy, on the surface this seems like a picture book with much of the action in the stunning illustrations that will entertain for the length of time it takes to read it, but with some astute questions it can provide an insight into spiders, food chains, food-gathering techniques, and so  much more, spanning the entire curriculum.

 

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Rob Lloyd Jones

Wazza Pink

Usborne, 2024

16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781805312185

This is a board book with just 16 pages, but in those 16 pages the reader is taken on the most remarkable journey along a river that is the world’s largest drainage system and which, because of the forests through which it flows, has been called “the lungs of the earth”. 

Through remarkable illustrations that leap off the page and a lift-the-flap format that make it interactive and thus more engaging, the reader is introduced to the Amazon’s flora and fauna in the canopy, along the river, in the jungle and on the ground as well as some of the peoples who have lived there for over 10 000 years. 

But this is not a mere travel guide and neither does it tell the entire story for there is so much more to be discovered.  Its purpose is to begin raising awareness of this remarkable, crucial landscape that is critical to the health of the planet. but as we are told, “While you’re read this book thousands more trees have been cut down [and] at this rate, the Amazon rainforest will be gone.” And so will its ability to counteract some of the pollution that is pumped into the planet’s atmosphere each day.

Part of the Extreme Planet series which includes Journey to the Earth’s Core, in which young readers are introduced to some of the amazing habitats of Earth and their inhabitants, in a way that is accessible to them through both format and text, it inspires a desire to know more as the narrative directly embraces the reader as their boots “squelch on the rotting woods and fallen leaves” and insects scurry through the gloom because so little sunlight reaches the forest floor. But beware – bright and colourful as they may be, some are deadly… Use this link to see for yourself.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

And for those who do want to know more, there are the usual Quicklinks which are such a unique and integral part of this publisher’s presentations. Perhaps students could use what they learn and the format of the book to develop a wall display to help raise the awareness of their peers. 

One thing is for certain – by the time they have read this book, the word “Amazon” will be so much more than a large online shopping mall.  

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine a Time

Penny Harrison

Jennifer Goldsmith

New Frontier, 2024

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

9781922326966

Remember the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty about a princess who at her christening, was cursed by an evil fairy who hadn’t been invited? She would prick her finger when she was older and died, but this was mitigated by another fairy to sleeping for a hundred years before being awakened by a handsome prince.  And while she slept, so did everything around her except for Mother Nature and the land around the palace was once more returned to its natural beauty.

Its origins are unclear but there are elements of it in a number of European stories from medieval times, all with that theme of everything stopping and Mother Nature reclaiming what is hers.  Although this new release doesn’t have the elements of the princess being awakened by the handsome prince, it does invite the reader to imagine time stopping, all travel and transport halted and people slowing down to just breathe and be in the moment.  

Imagine a time when all the world stops,
when all of the clocks no longer tick-tock.
and all of the maps are starting to fade,
as the need to be somewhere drifts far away.

While no one falls asleep for 100 years, they do take the time to let go of all that drives them forward incessantly to the next thing as if the current time is not enough or of no consequence, and soak in what is available for free if only they had time to see and appreciate it.

With a gentle, rhythmic rhyming text that encourages a slowing of the mind and delicate watercolour images, this is one that should be shared regularly as we encourage our young children to listen to the sounds of night falling, or watch the clouds make magical shapes, or wonder at the beauty of the colours around them. or… 

Living where I do I am blessed to be surrounded by Mother Nature at her finest but what about the city kids who seemed to live a life of such hustle and bustle that there is no time to stop and dream and wonder?  It’s a theme that has been addressed before in stories like The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts, In My Garden by Kate Mayes, and The Concrete Garden by Bob Graham, among others, but it is clearly one that needs to be returned to often.  The clocks don’t have to stop for ever, not even for an hour, but what about taking five minutes outside right now just to fill the senses and daydream.  The feeling of calm will last a lot longer.

Plantabulous!

Plantabulous!

Plantabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantabulous! More A to Z of Australian Plants

Catherine Clowes

Rachel Gyan

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486317202

When it comes to native Australian flora, students can generally recognise those they see often like the wattle and the waratah, and even some of the eucalypts but with more than 24 000 species -some that survive fire; some that can combat air pollution and even some that are venomous – there is such a diversity that  even the Australian National Botanic Gardens, dedicated to maintaining  a scientific collection of Australia’s native plants, only has about 4,600 species which represents around a fifth of those known.  

Somehow, the author of this book has managed to select 26 to explore in detail in this new book designed to build awareness not only of the diversity but also the role that each plays in the environment.  Each has true-to-life illustrations,  fascinating facts and other information as well as a pronunciation guide so readers can dip and delve as they choose.  There’s a glossary that is tremendous for getting both the tongue and the brain around some of the common words associated with plant life like “germinate”, “photosynthesis”  and the differences between “petals” “sepals” and “tepals”, as well as a map of the various ecoregions found across the continent.  

More for the older, independent reader seeking more detailed information, rather than a beginners’ guide, nevertheless, it is easily readable and definitely has a place of the shelf for any burgeoning botanist, and worth seeking out the first in the series. Plantastic

Plantastic!

Plantastic!

 

 

Superhero Animals

Superhero Animals

Superhero Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superhero Animals

Chris Packham

Anders Frang

Farshore. 2024

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

9780755504657

What links whales, earthworms, dogs and wasps?  How does whale poo make the underwater world go round? Why are tiny ants so mighty? What makes bats heroes of the night? 

Each of the 9 000 000 species of animal, plant and fungi that humans share this planet with has a special role in ensuring that the world’s ecosystems keep working and stay healthy. whether that’s pollinating plants, fertilising the oceans or cleaning the soil or the myriad of other tasks that they work together to do.  And in this new addition to the Little Experts series, readers are introduced to some of these superhero creatures on which we all rely. 

In the introduction, the reader is reminded that they can make a difference – one person, in one community, on our one planet, so while some creatures , like the tiger shark and the vulture seem quite exotic and out of our everyday realm,  others like bees, wasps, bats and frogs are much more familiar and for these, there are challenges to take up to understand them better, protect them and share what we know so others do too. 

 Little Experts is a series designed to introduce 6-9 year olds to the world around them by having experts in the field share their knowledge in easily accessible explanations accompanied by rich illustrations, , and even though they, themselves, may not recognise the names of the experts who are mostly UK based,  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. 

 

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.  

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.