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A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Patch from Scratch

Megan Forward

Penguin Viking 2016

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

9780670078295

Living a country life in the city is an appealing prospect for many.  Picking fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden bed instead of the supermarket shelves; having your own chooks to provide fresh eggs; recycling waste instead of sending it to landfill – all these things appeal to Jesse and his family and so they design, plan and develop their own patch from scratch.

Told from Jesse’s perspective, the story chronicles what would seem to be a real-life experience that shows all the aspects of creating an edible garden in a suburban backyard.  From Lewis’ desire to grow beans like Jack of beanstalk fame, to Jesse’s dream of fresh strawberries and even Mum’s longing for chooks each step is documented in text and illustrations that show what needs to be done in a way that draws the reader in and shows them that they can do it too.  In fact, once they start it’s amazing how many people become involved as seeds, seedlings and advice are shared and suddenly chores like weeding and watering become fun. Jesse starts a plant diary for his strawberries as he patiently waits for them to ripen.  But why are there five not six? And what is happening to the tomatoes and lettuce, leaving holes in them? How can the patch be saved from the robbers? 

As well as being so informative, particularly as more and more schools are developing kitchen gardens to supply the canteen, there are lots of other issues raised that will kickstart lots of investigations that should give greater understanding for the future of our planet.  Why are bees critical?  If pesticides wipe out bugs, what will the birds eat? How did people manage when there were no supermarkets? What happens to supermarket food when it is not bought? What are the essential elements that need to be included in the design of a chicken coop?

To round off the story, there is some really useful information and suggestions for finding out more as well as a flowchart of how the patch from scratch works. There is also a lot of information on the author’s page for the book and at the Kitchen Garden Foundation which supports this concept in schools.

Identified as a CBCA 2017 Book of the Year Notable and with sustainability being one of the cross curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum this is an essential addition to both the home and school library as we look to a better, healthier future 

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Country

Aunty Joy Murphy

Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog, 2016

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

9781922244871

“Aboriginal communities across Australia have boundaries that are defined by waterways and mountains.  To cross these boundaries or enter community country you need permission from the neighbouring community.  Each community has its own way of welcoming to country”.  

This is the acknowledgement of the ancestors and traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People, the first people who occupied the Melbourne area prior to European colonisation  extending north of the Great Dividing Ranges, east to Mt Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and west to Werribee River. 

Through the voice of Joy Murphy Wandin AO, Senior Aboriginal Elder of the people, it tells the story of the people whose name comes from Wurun, the River White Gum and Djeri, the grub that lives within the tree; each sentence being brought to life in the stunning illustrations of Lisa Kennedy a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania. Combining words in Wolwurrung Nguiu, the traditional language and English, it demonstrates the deep connection between the people and the land they occupy, their love and respect for it and their desire that this be also respected by those who visit.  

“We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum.  If you accept a leaf and we hope you do, it means you are welcome to everything, from the tops of the trees to the roots of the earth.  But you must only take from this land what you can give back.”

Despite being a relatively recent addition to our formal ceremonies, we are now used to each beginning with the Welcome to Country of the traditional indigenous inhabitants of the land on which the ceremony takes place.  This book is an essential addition to our understanding of not just the Welcome itself but also to that enduring, deep-seated connection of the people to their lands and how it is such an integral part of who they are and their heritage.

Although not shortlisted for the CBCA Awards, 2017 it was recognised as a Notable Book.  While this is an essential addition to every school library in the Wurundjeri district, it is also an important acquisition to every school library because while the words of their local indigenous peoples’ Welcome to Country may differ, the sentiment and acknowledgment of ancestry and heritage is common.  Students could be encouraged to discover just what their local greeting is and use the activities described in the teaching notes 

Remarkable.

 

 

The Earth Book

The Earth Book

The Earth Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Book

Jonathan Litton

Thomas Hegbrook

Little Tiger Press, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781848575240

 

“In the vastness of space lies a tiny sphere that orbits an ordinary middle-aged star in a quiet backwater of the Milky Way.  It’s one of billions of trillions of worlds, yet it is the only one that we know supports life… let’s go on a voyage of discovery to the four corners of the globe.”

Beginning with the beginning of the planet’s existence and told in a narrative style suitable for the newly independent reader who likes to read non fiction rather than dipping and delving for specific information, this is a beautifully illustrated book that takes the reader on a journey through physical earth, life on earth, the regions of the earth and the human planet.  

With its retro colour palette, diagrams and pictures it reminds me very much of a similar book I used to pore over 60 years ago and which I still have, such was its importance to my understanding of the world.  While today’s youngsters have television and the Internet to take them on similar journeys, nevertheless there is comfort and security in having something on hand that can be referred to over and over on demand; that gives enough information to satisfy a curiosity while also being a springboard to seeking further understanding if that is required.  

However, the illustrations are not as clear as might be expected for a ready reference resource of this type and being unpaged, and lacking a contents page and an index make its use more a personal one than an essential element of a library’s collection.  It is one to recommend to parents who are looking to boost their for home libraries so their children can start to understand what this planet is and how it works. It may become as loved as mine did and decades on form part of a collection of adored childhood reads. 

As world events and personal dramas seem to envelop us, books like this tend to put mankind and indeed Earth into perspective in the scheme of things and we are left with a wonder and an awe of this ‘third rock from the sun” as well as a sense of hope that despite everything and everyone, this place will endure for our lifetime and that of several lifetimes to come. 

 

A Canadian Year – Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada's Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canadian Year -Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

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

9781925335439

Continuing this fabulous series which includes A Kiwi Year , An Aussie Year and a host of others, young children are introduced to the children of Canada.  There is Chloe, who speaks both French and English; Oki who is Inuit, Ava who is of Chinese heritage; Liam of Scottish heritage and Noah whose dream is to place ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks – kids just like those found in every classroom in Australia but whose lives are subtly different because of their geographic location.  Whoever heard of it being -30° in January and instead of being at the beach kids are skiing, skating and sledding?  And as we currently shiver through early winter and another Big Wet, it’s hard to imagine there are children on summer vacation for two months, kayaking, salmon fishing in the ocean, swimming, camping in the wilderness and visiting Santa’s Summer House just outside Toronto.  If nothing else, and there is SO much more, students will learn about the seasons being somewhat different in the northern hemisphere.

Offered as vignettes for each month, young children learn that there are places beyond their immediate horizons and there are kids who do things that are a bit different but overall, despite the timeframe, they enjoy and do the same things as kids everywhere so there is more that binds than divides. 

Intercultural understanding is a mandated part of the Australian Curriculum so that students “understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture” and this series is the perfect way to start this with young children whose concepts of the world are just developing. 

As usual, there is the is a double-page spread featuring intriguing facts and figures which just invite comparisons with Australia – if ‘Canada” comes from ‘kanata’ meaning village, where does “Australia” come from? If Canada is the world’s second-largest country, what is the largest?  What’s the difference between large as in area and large as in population? While teachers’ notes are available, the children themselves will generate enough questions to drive their own investigations. 

Why not use it as a model for a class calendar, highlighting the important events of each child’s life in each month visually exploring the unity and the diversity and promoting an important bond of belonging and acceptance so that lives and heritage are celebrated.  Create a wall display for each month and invite the children to contribute to it, and then compare what is happening with other children in other parts of the world using this series as the key resource.

Do not lick this book

Do not lick this book

Do not lick this book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not lick this book

Idan Ben-Barak

Julian Frost

Linnea Rundgren

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760293055

 

This seems like a strange title for a book, even given that we know little ones like to explore their world using their mouths, but it achieves its purpose – to make you venture beyond the covers.  And when you do, you are introduced to a whole new world – one that contains Min and millions of her microbe friends.  You are encouraged to place your finger on the spot and pick her up and take her on a journey around your body – your teeth, your clothes, even your belly button.  With the aid of electron microscope images, we are introduced to her relatives Rae the streptococcus, Dennis the fungus and Jake the corynebacterium and all the while there is the message of keeping clean to keep healthy.  Min herself is an E.coli and while she can live happily in your intestines, she spreads easily and with dire consequences of hands are not washed regularly.

While antiseptic manufacturers would have us believe that we need to live in a sterile world and they can assist with this, the truth is it is impossible to rid the world of its germs, helpful or harmful, and this is a fun introduction to that that we cannot see.  Young scientists will love it and will delight in sharing their new knowledge with the adults in their world while  those who are reluctant to wash their hands, clean their teeth and change their clothes might think again.  

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook

 

 

 

 

 

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook

Camping

9781783422593

Dangers and Emergencies

9781783422999

Knots

9781783422982

Maps and Navigation

9781783423002

Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99

 

Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls

Bonnier,2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781786960122

Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  

 

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780571329731

Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine.  Sound familiar? Probably.  But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know.  She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin.  They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!

How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently  the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.

Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them.  Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.

Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.

As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina.  “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

A Kiwi Year

A Kiwi Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99

9781925335446

On the surface there don’t appear to be many difference between Australian kids and their Kiwi cousins apart from the fact the we Kiwis “talk funny”.  But as five Kiwi kids – Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia – show us as they journey through their year, there are subtle distinctions, enough to make their lives special and unique.

As well as different vocabulary like ‘tramping’ not ‘bushwalking’ and ‘jandals’ not ‘thongs’ Kiwi kids love rugby not rugby league or Australian Rules and are familiar with a very different range of flora and fauna.  Maori culture and the influence of our Pacific Island neighbours is very strong with official places and concepts being in both languages. Maoritanga is a mandatory part of the school curriculum.  The land is younger and much more mountainous and so winter is more severe with more opportunities to participate in snow sports, but summer sees us at the beach and playing cricket, even if we still remember that infamous underarm bowling incident.  

But like Australia, ANZAC Day is sacred and we remember those who put the NZ in the word, and with the European forefathers of both country being predominantly from the United Kingdom many of the annual festivals are the same.  But there are some that are unique that celebrate our heritage and landscape bringing a richness to our lives and our culture that is unique.

So many times I’ve heard Australians say they don’t want to go to New Zealand because it would be just like Australia in miniature, but once having been there, change their tune and marvel at just how different it is. Tania and Tina have ferreted out those things that make this country and its people unique and bring them to life through the eyes of the children, celebrating them in such a special way that this book will be handed on to my grandchildren (whose dad is also a Kiwi) so they can understand where they come from – and why Grandma is just a tad different at times!  LOL.

Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things!

Animal Activity

Animal Activity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things

Isabel Thomas

Nikalas Catlow

Bloomsbury, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408870068

It’s not often a book comes with a warning that it will self-destruct or a header about how to wreck it.  But that is what will eventually happen to this one if the budding mini-Attenborough in your midst makes the most of it.  

Full of fascinating facts about the natural world, it contains all sorts of make-and-do activities which require cutting, folding and pasting so that eventually while there might not be much of the book left, the reader will have their own jungle of plants and menagerie of bugs, fish, dinosaurs and a whole lot of other creatures. There is even a checklist to determine whether something is living or not (or ever has) to help the beginner start their exploration of the world around them…

  1. Does it move?
  2. Does it eat?
  3. Does it respire?
  4. Does it poop?
  5. Is it sensitive?
  6. Does it grow?
  7. Does it reproduce?

With winter closing in and the outdoors not the most appealing place to be, this would be the perfect alternative to screen-watching as little minds and fingers are kept busy following instructions and learning to be more observant of and careful in their environment.  

 

 

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781925266863

Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and psyche.  Even though we know they are a necessary part of the life cycle of the indigenous flora, we still brace ourselves each summer hoping that we won’t be affected by one that season.  When they do strike though, news reports are cluttered with statistics of acreage burnt, homes and buildings destroyed, and too often, lives lost.  Seldom do we hear of the wildlife that is caught up in them, those that can’t clamber into a car and head to safety, although occasionally there are tragic photos of fields of dead sheep or heart-warming ones of a firey giving a koala a drink from his water bottle.  

In this book, based on real events that emerged from the tragic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, we are taken to Tarnpirr Farm in Narbethong in north-east Victoria where trainer Alan Evett tried desperately to save the horses in his care. With expensive thoroughbreds to save, Evett had no choice but to set retired favourite Fabish and the seven young horses he led free from their paddock to fend for themselves while he cared for those he hustled into the stables.  All around the fire raged, Evett working tirelessly on spot fires and keeping the horse calm, while outside…

Thankfully, the fire dragon passed over the top of the building even though it ate everything else in its path and when morning came, Evett emerged to a scene of utter desolation.   Although he had saved the life of the racehorses. Evett feared he would never see his old mate Fabish again.  Climbing into an old ute that had somehow escaped too, he drove out through the paddocks to be met by more devastation and disaster.  Standing in the smoke-filled ruins of what had been his landscape and livelihood he mourned for Fabish and the yearlings until…

Together McMullin and McLean have brought to life not only the story of Fabish and all the other horses like him, but also the sights, sounds and the smells of a fire that once experienced can never be forgotten. Through carefully chosen vocabulary and evocative pictures the reader is drawn into the story hoping for a good outcome. The fire dragon is indiscriminate when it attacks and young children are often caught up in it just as grown-ups are, and their questions are often about the animals and how they survived.  In the aftermath when adults are busy doing the adult things they must, the children are often left wondering and so to have an uplifting story like this that not only demonstrates the determination and courage of those like Alan Evett who put their charges’ welfare before their own but also has a happy ending can go some way to alleviate their fear that everything is destroyed.

Sensitive in its approach, even those children who can remember the fires will relate to it although some discretion might be needed if there have been recent fires in your area because even though it is heart-warming we must be conscious of the memories it might evoke. For those who want to know more, Fabish was honoured a year later at the Healesville Picnic Races  and while Evett died not long after, his heroic story and that of Fabish are becoming more widely known as this book is shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA Eve Pownall Award.

A story for horse lovers as well as those exploring the impact of bushfires on the landscape.  

Fabish and his yearlings, picture courtesy Racing Victoria Ltd.

Fabish and his yearlings