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Secrets of the Saltmarsh

Secrets of the Saltmarsh

Secrets of the Saltmarsh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets of the Saltmarsh

Claire Saxby

Alicia Rogerson

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486317141

Where the land meets the sea is a fringe that is sometimes sea and sometimes land – depending on the tides – one of the most unique environments of the planet. For thousands of years First Nations people have harvested the rich seasonal food resources they offer and they support countless  life cycles from that of  tiny bacteria to large migratory birds, each dependent on each other and the land, ocean, water, wind, sunlight and seasons, at the same time as they store up to four time more carbon than ordinary forests.

While they have often been drained to provide more room for human housing, slowly we are learning more about how critical they are to the planet’s health and this new book for younger readers by a master pf narrative non fiction starts to raise awareness from an early age.  From the front endpaper featuring just some of the birds that can be found to the final one featuring fingerling fish, the book is a masterpiece of introducing this special, little-known environment.  Written in the first person, each double page spread focus on either one of the elements that is so crucial to the saltmarsh or the creatures that live within it and how they contribute to wellbeing, and, like the inhabitants of the marsh, there is a symbiotic relationship between Saxby’s lyrical text and Rogerson’s illustrations.

Perhaps I was drawn to this book because I have just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, a novel in which the environment plays such a significant part in the story, and, to my knowledge, there have been few books on this biome for young readers despite its diversity and importance.  Nevertheless, like The Great Southern Reef, this is an environmental phenomenon that is accessible to so many of our students and thus one that greater awareness will build an appreciation for.

A must-have in any collection focusing on environmental biodiversity.  Teachers’ Notes are available.

 

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2023

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733343001

Gaagal (ocean) is our special place,

we love to swim in the waves.

We’ll catch some yamaarr (fish),

eat, dance and play games.

Is there anything more iconic than the sights and sounds of little ones running down the beach to dip their toes in the cool waters of the ocean on a hot summer’s day, carefree and careless?

It’s a scene that has been and will be repeated for decades and decades as the sun beats down and the waves invite. But, after reading this lyrical ode to the ocean, perhaps this summer our children might stop and consider the privilege they are enjoying, maybe even offer a word of appreciation…

But first, before walking on Country, we talk to the land

and het her know that we re here to play.

We are grateful for what she has to offer,

we promise to take care of her during our stay. 

Woven among the stunning artwork that is so evocative of the experience if you take the time to look at it, is a description of something that has been done over and over and over – dancing over the hot yellow sand, gathering bush fruits and collecting pipis in the tide zone, keeping an eye out for sharks and knowing when it is safe to swim, watching the whales and dolphins twist and turn in their own special water dance, collecting shells, dodging crabs, building a fire to make lunch and sheltering from sunburn all taking on a bit of extra magic as the children play but all the while having that connection that keeps them aware of how lucky they are. “We say, ‘Yaarri yarraang gaagal, darrundang, Goodbye ocean and than you,,, until next time.'”. Each thing has its own particular and unique place in the landscape and landshape that is so much more than just for the delight and amusement of the human intruders. 

As with Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth, there are indigenous words scattered throughout,  and the full text is included in both English and Gumbaynggir in the final pages, adding to the resources for preserving and revitalising First Nations languages.  

This is another of a number of brilliant new books that help our children understand the significance of that now-familiar Acknowledgement of Country, perhaps even inspiring them to develop their own connections as another summer looms and they too, “must go down to the seas again”. 

Who’s the Gang on Our Street?

Who's the Gang on Our Street?

Who’s the Gang on Our Street?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s the Gang on Our Street?

Susanne Gervay

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922896810

There are lots of gangs on our street – a rock and roll gang with spiky hair; a soccer gang with bright uniforms; a billycart gang who race down the hill; a music gang, a dancing gang, an acrobat gang… so many gangs that I don’t belong to but I could if I wanted to!  Because I have funky-punky hair, I love to move and play; I can fly faster than any human can run; I can hang upside down and twist and turn better than anyone… 

This is a jaunty, unusual introduction to one of Australia’s most iconic birds, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, and, as if to prove Gervay’s point about their versatility, there is a gang of them investigating a newly-fallen tree outside my window as I write.  They’re hanging upside down on the food feeder chains, looking for bugs in the newly peeling bark, while there is always one standing guard… and their distinctive squaark always lets us know when they are in the neighbourhood.

But for all that I see these birds almost every day once the mountain weather starts to warm up, there is still a lot in this new book that I hadn’t noticed, such as the fact that they always use their left leg like a human hand, so I will be observing them with fresh eyes this summer. 

Narrative non fiction has overtaken the traditional facts-and-figures books that used to be the core of the library’s non fiction collection and between them, Gervay and Bevington have produced something that is unique, fun and very appealing bringing this Australian icon right into the realm of the reader.  A short quiz encourages the reader to explore the fun facts that are included and ensures that these birds that bring so much joy through their antics (even though these are provoked by the eternal search for food) will become favourites for a new generation.  

 

  

A First Book of Dinosaurs

A First Book of Dinosaurs

A First Book of Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A First Book of Dinosaurs

Simon Mole

Matt Hunt

Walker Books, 2023

80pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781406396096

It was an era that lasted about 180 million years over 66 million years ago and yet it still fascinates old and young alike, so much so that books about dinosaurs – fact or fiction – are regularly published for an eager audience. This one, written for an adult to share with a younger reader is one of the latest. 

Bold, contemporary illustrations and short poems with vivid language introduce young readers to this world of “eat or be eaten” . Divided into the chapters of ‘Meet the Dinosaurs, Eat or be Eaten, Dinosaur Families and The End. OR is it?’, each dinosaur or theme has its own double page spread with lively, unique graphics and a short poem, often in the voice of the dinosaur itself. Some like brachiosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex will be familiar but others such as halszkaraptor and therizinosaurus will be new so the pronunciation guide is handy, and although the descriptions – using a variety of poetry styles – are brief, there is enough information to inspire further research for those who want to know more, as well as offering an opportunity for older students to compare Mole’s style with the more traditional fact-and-figures books. 

Something new and unique to share about something old and common.

Butterfly Girl

Butterfly Girl

Butterfly Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Girl

Ashling Kwok

Arielle Li

EK Books, 2023

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

9781922539564

When she lived in the country, Olivia had plenty of space for her Butterfly Garden and each day she was surrounded by all sorts of butterflies, content in her own company and theirs.  But when they move from the country cottage to an apartment in the grey city, there are no butterflies to be seen.  Even though she waited and waited, sang to them and danced and whirled and twirled as she had done to attract them in her old home, none came. 

So she decided to plant a little garden on her balcony so she could offer the butterflies the things they liked, but still none came.  Despite the little bright spot in her corner, the buildings around remained grey and bleak, seemingly only being populated by pigeons. And she still had no friends.  She sang louder, danced faster and coloured her world… Then,  one day she saw something amazing- and it wasn’t a butterfly.  Before long, she not only had butterflies but more friends than she could ever had wished for.

Moving house, whether it is across town or state, or from country to city, can be daunting for little ones, and the fear of having no friends is common.  So much so that it is theme in many books for young readers.  So this new story, well timed for those for whom a move to a new town or new school is on the horizon as year’s end nears, is one not only of reassurance but also suggests a pathway forward.  Olivia’s need for her butterfly friends and her creating of her balcony garden to attract them leads to the building of a community that crosses age and cultural borders and creates the connections that we all need.  Even if you live in a crowded apartment building you can still be isolated and lonely. There are instructions for building a butterfly garden in a small space, but even if that’s not a practical answer, it is the message of how reaching out to those with similar interests can bring untold rewards. 

 

 

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombats Are Pretty Weird

Abi Cushman

Greenwillow, 2023

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

9780063234437

There are few Australian children who grow up without being introduced to Mothball, the real-life star of Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat series which not only shone a spotlight on these creatures over 20 years ago but which helped to revolutionise the publishing of stories for preschoolers. Bruce Whatley’s sublime illustrations brought to life a character that has endeared wombats as a species to generations and they are often declared as a “favourite animal”. Certainly a younger Ms 17 was delighted when she got to feed one of the many orphans raised by fellow teacher librarian Anne Graham.

 

But there is much more to this descendant of the ancient diprotodon and this “(Not So) Serious Guide” provides younger readers with a lot more information about them.  Although written for an American audience (and using a number of American terms like miles rather than kilometres and “mombat” for the joey’s mother), it provides interesting facts and details that are the main part of the narrative while there is a secondary flow between the wombat and a snake also called Joey written in speech bubbles which young readers may find amusing. 

There are a few pages at the end which offer further information about various wombat species, photos, glossary, and links to further reading (although these would be beyond the scope of the target audience) . Any book which sparks awareness of and interest in Australia’s unique wildlife which perhaps leads to greater care and protection for them as their natural habitat disappears and they become victims of rushing motorists, deserves a place in the collection and for that alone, this has earned its place. 

Don’t forget to celebrate Hairy Nosed Wombat Day – May 11, each year.

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey

Bronwyn Saunders

Andrew Plant

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486316762 

Despite being about the size of a modern rhinoceros, prehistoric Diprotodon faced many challenges from both the harsh environment and other megafauna that roamed central Australia during the Ice Age of the Pleistocene Epoch. Separated from his mother and his herd, he needs to stay safe, and find shelter, food and water in the barren landscape blasted by icy winds and dried up by drought as so much water is now stored in the ice caps.

This narrative non fiction story introduces students to these ancestors of the wombat while opening up so many other worlds to explore such as the creatures it shared the continent with and their evolution to those we know today as well as the causes and impact of the climate change that plunged the world into lower temperatures, as opposed to the warmer ones we are experiencing now.  Beautifully and accurately illustrated by Andrew Plant, it includes some brief, easily readable facts which expand the story, as well as teachers’ notes that suggest ways to explore further.

It could also be used in conjunction with both  Dippy’s Big Day Out and Dippy and the Dinosaurs  as a way to compare fiction and non fiction, contrasting the two different purposes (imagination vs information) but discovering how much they share.  What did both authors and illustrators need to know about the diprotodon and how and where it lived  to create the stories they did? Even though they are written for a similar audience, how do the language, structure and illustrations change for each format? 

Young readers have a fascination with dinosaurs and megafauna, often opening that first door into the world of non fiction for them, and this one is an ideal addition to that collection.  

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

A & U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761065071

When Harvey and his mum go for a walk in their favourite park, they are invited to walk with indigenous Elder Uncle Boris and learn about the wonders of the Cammeraygal (North Sydney) land on which they are treading.  From the healing powers of the leaf of the tologurã (lemon myrtle ), to the wildlife near the waterfall and even seeing a large canoe tree,  mother and son see and learn things that they have passed by many times but have taken for granted.  Harvey has already astonished his mum by reciting the Acknowledgement of Country that he has learned at school, and now both of them develop not only a new insight into the significance of their surroundings but also experience a sense of calm and tranquility as they view the landscape with new eyes and absorb its significance..

Based on a phrase in the final line of the Uluru Statement from the HeartWe invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future – this is the fourth in this brilliant series designed to teach both children and adults a little more of the meaning behind those now-familiar words of the Acknowledgement of Country.  Using people and symbols that are important to them (these are explained on the verso page). the authors have crafted a simple but significant story that will encourage young (and not-so) readers to start to look at their surroundings through a different lens.  Who walked this Country before I did?  What did they know about it that I could learn?

As with the previous titles, this starts with a visual glossary of indigenous words for the familiar items featured in the story, and given that October 22-29 marks the inaugural Aboriginal Languages Week in NSW,  it would seem appropriate to compare the words of the Cammeraygal people for things such as fire, snake, wallaby, frog and so forth to the words used by local peoples, perhaps even starting to construct your own visual glossary.

In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country or even just take a walk through their neighbourhood, they do so with a new knowledge of and respect for all that has gone before.

Nightsong

Nightsong

Nightsong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightsong

Sally Soweol Han

UQP, 2023

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

9780702266188

Lewis has been in the noise of the city all day and he is really looking forward to the peace and quiet of his country home.  But on the way home, the bus gets a puncture and they are stranded.  Straight away the adults start to chatter-chatter-chatter so Lewis moves away and as he climbs into a field a whole new world of sound and songs opens up to him…

Anyone who, like me, lives in the country, will empathise with Lewis in his desire to escape the noise and busyness of the city.  Han has used a clever technique of using speech bubbles and words in the illustrations to convey all the sounds in this story, and this emphasises the continual and constant cacophony that we are surrounded by every day, particularly if you live in the city.  So not only is the peace of the countryside so different, it is very welcoming and restful.  And sometimes, even then, it is not until we are forced to listen do we actually hear, as Lewis does.

In her book,  Tiny Wonders, the focus was on the greyness of the city where everybody is too busy to stop and look at the colours in the cracks and crevices, and this is similar as we seem to be so busy making our own noise we don’t hear the songs that nature provides us with. 

Mem Fox once said that reading a story at bedtime is like “drawing the curtains on the day” and this story offers an additional element to that.  By taking the time and having our children listen to the sounds of night falling – the natural sounds of Mother Nature closing some things down while others awake to start their new day – can be very calming and soporific.  What sounds can be heard? What is making the noise?  Why are some creatures waking up when others are going to sleep?  All questions that can be explored in the morning…

 

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Samantha Tidy

Rachel Gyan

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486316083

Imagine if, in the course of your daily work, you discovered something so significant that only a handful of people were ever allowed to know where you had been and even they were sworn to secrecy.  

This is the story of the discovery of the Wollemi pine, a tree that can grow to over 40 metres tall but whose existence was unknown until just 30 years ago, when Ranger David Noble found a clutch of them growing in a deep gorge in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. A tree so old that it dates back to the dinosaur period and so rare that there were less than 100 in existence at the time.  No wonder its location remains a secret so that sightseers can’t traipse in and bring in diseases on their shoes, damage the site and perhaps wipe out those remaining so it is gone forever.

Sadly, though, humans aren’t the only threat to this ancient species and this is the story not just of the tree but the remarkable efforts that were made to protect the grove and the gorge during one of NSW infamous fire seasons, for surely, something that has descended from a family of trees going back 200 million years, and has survived ice, fire and the passing of many generations deserves to be saved no matter what.

This is another remarkable publication from CSIRO Publishing shining the spotlight on yet another unique Australian creature so that our youngest readers can start to build their awareness and knowledge or the amazing things we share this landscape with, and hopefully, with that knowledge and awareness, become its protectors.  Introducing Mia, the schoolgirl daughter of botanist Kate, brings the story right into their realm and when Mia suggests that her class plant a seedling to help conserve the Wollemi, they might be inspired to do the same thing as they explore the story further through the teachers’ notes