Archives

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 Build a Home

How to Build a Home

How to Build a Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Build a Home

George Clarke

Robert Sae-Heng

Farshore, 2024

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

9780008587895

At a time when some of our students are living in less-than-ideal conditions and the term “housing crisis” seems to be mentioned incessantly, houses and homes are receiving more attention than usual.  And it’s not just the lifestyle programs with their innovative construction techniques and fancy interior design that are featuring – it’s the provision of one of the basic needs of human beings -shelter. And because it is a basic human requirement there are homes all around the world, each different from each other is shape, size, construction and materials, yet all providing for that same purpose. 

In this new addition to the Little Experts series, architect George Clarke examines the who, what, and how of construction of a home in this modern time providing an introductory insight into the processes involved from design to the build to the completed product, demonstrating why it is a more complex task than it appears and why there is no magic wand to the problem of not enough for everyone. But there is hope as forward-thinkers  explore new materials like the fibre from mushrooms or the seed pods of the cacao tree and even consider new technologies that might automatically adjust the room temperature by measuring body heat. 

As well as the basic explanation of home building, readers are invited to “think like an architect” and redesign their own bedrooms, offering all sorts of scope to plan and design model homes using anything from old shoeboxes to Lego or letting the imagination go wild with dreams that may become reality.  Why not have a toilet that analyses the products it collects for potential illnesses? Or a window that changes the ‘view’ to whatever will calm and relax the viewer at the time? In the past, and even now for some, the size of the home was a status symbol that announced the owner’s level of prosperity to the world and the power they wielded – in the past some countries introduced chimney and window taxes as revenue raisers – and today fewer and fewer young people envisage owning their own homes because of the cost.  Perhaps, after reading this, our young people will consider the purpose of the home and  there will be a shift in thinking to value more environmentally friendly dwellings that just do their job of providing shelter and something more than a tent in winter won’t just be a pipedream. 

This is another in this excellent series which looks at the ordinary and discovers the extraordinary.  

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.  

Magic Counting

Magic Counting

Magic Counting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Counting

Nabeel Khan

Tete Garcia

Scribble Books, 2024

22pp., board book, RRP $A24.99

9781922585400

For generations of kids, maths has been taught as discrete strands of number, space, and measurement with little or no connection between the strands, and more often than not it is taught at a certain time each day making it appear to be a standalone subject with little or no connection to the real world, and generations of kids, particularly girls, have grown up believing that apart from being able to count and perform basic operations, it is a subject that bears little relation to their everyday lives and that it lives in the “too-hard basket”. Whether these attitudes are because of the heavy reliance on textbooks to teach it, or the ease of writing curriculum documents based on those apparently separate areas (although the Australia Curriculum now has algebra, statistics and probability included) , or teachers having the same perceptions as their students, is debatable but the outcome seems to be the same – it is a subject set apart from all others even though it has been called “the queen of sciences”. 

Forty years ago when given a class who, at the age of just 8, perceived themselves as already failing at maths because they had been streamed into the bottom group, it was clear to me that there had to be a different approach than the typical traditional textbook they had been following, and so, having had so much success teaching littlies to read with a ‘whole language classroom’ I decided to try a whole-maths classroom, with the outcome being a complete turnaround in attitude and achievement, as well as the publication of many articles in the then-authoritative Classroom magazine, as well as Maths About Me, Maths About My Year and the Eureka Maths program (all for Longman Cheshire.) My basic premise was that maths was everywhere and if we could show students how it connected to and actually drove their lives so they could see its purpose and relevance, they would be more willing to embrace it and invest their time and energy in learning how to understand and use the concepts and processes.

Which is all a long-winded way of explaining why I was so excited to have this new book arrive for review.  In it, visual artist Nabeel Khan explores the connections between shapes and numbers and the world in a way that reaches out to both the beginner and the experienced learners. Beginning with the number one – One earth turning, where countless creatures live – the reader then opens the flap=page to discover the circle, its properties and its place in nature and  its connections the spiritual beliefs of the world’s peoples, continuing the exploration for each number to ten, Khan builds on his belief that children learn more effectively if we begin from “a place of playfulness, curiosity, and tangible connection to their environment” so that maths is seen as a connected whole from the get-go. “We can find numbers and shapes everywhere: in the natural world, in art and architecture, in symbolism, and in the sky above us.”

Back in those delightful days when we were allowed to use our imaginations to teach, one of the favourite activities was to explore a maths trail where students would investigate the shapes, numbers, measurements and all the other things in the environment, whether that was around the school, around the shopping centre or even a national institution like the Australian War Memorial. Sometimes they followed trails that others had set, but often they made up their own; sometimes that had to find the correct term for a pattern of bricks and sometimes they just had to add the numbers on their letterbox but either way it provided authentic fun learning across all aspects of the discipline and all ages of the student body. Maybe this book will inspire a similar way to discover the magic as they look more closely at the maths in the world around them.

Needless to say, this is a book that has captured my interest and one that I believe, should not only be in the library’s collection but in each teacher’s toolbox because it has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we teach and understand this vital topic.  

 

  

 

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!

 

 

How Families Are Made

How Families Are Made

How Families Are Made

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Families Are Made

Dr Amir Khan

Donough O’Malley

Farshore, 2024

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

9780008520885

No matter what the size or shape of your family – mum, dad and siblings; two mums; two dads; foster parents; single parent; several  generations – each person in the family started out the same way – “a group of special cells, and these were created when an egg was fertilised by a sperm.” 

Not so long ago when a parent was asked the inevitable “Where did I come from?”, the answer was to do with a stork or the cabbage patch; more recently seminal texts like Where Did I Come From? and What’s Happening to Me? caused outrage when they appeared on library shelves in primary schools, and just weeks ago a Sydney council tried to ban a book about same-sex parents from its shelves. So while the question remains as old as humanity, responses to it are gradually veering more and more towards the truth and reality, and in this new addition to the Little Experts series, the facts about reproduction, gestation and birth are given in both accessible text and clear illustrations while acknowledging that diversity in family structure and that “family” is much more than a coupling of male and female.  It includes a glossary that explains terms like “foster parents”, “gender identity” and “transitioning” in the same way it does “embryo” and “zygote”, thus normalising their meaning and use for all children.  

Despite the world, in general, having come a long way in acknowledging and accepting different family structures and the right for children to know the truth of their origins, including their biological beginnings, there are still those who find such topics too sensitive to discuss and so books like these must be in any school library collection.  Yes, there will be those who giggle or blush but that, in itself, is part of their maturing and IMO, the more information young people have the more likely they are to develop respectful relationships with those around them.  

Written by a qualified GP, well-known on television in the UK, and presented in such an objective manner amongst a collection of books that covers everything from vehicles powered by humans to superhero animals, it presents this topic as as natural and ordinary and everyday as it should be.  However, there will be those for whom the matter-of-factness may clash with their school’s beliefs or ethics about the provision of such information, so, for them, a preview may be wise.  

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. 

 

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Anthony Browne

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781529509588

Even though he has more than 50 books to his credit, when one thinks about award-winning creator Anthony Browne’s works, most often it is his connection to primates that feature in so many, particularly the stories about Willy the chimp, that come to mind most readily.  Even his website depicts one as a signature image. As he himself says,  “I am fascinated by them and the contrast they represent – their huge strength and gentleness. They’re thought of as being very fierce creatures and they’re not.” Perhaps it was that very contrast that inspired this book about words and their antonyms.

So it is really no surprise that in this latest addition, designed to teach very young readers about opposites, that he has chosen to use primates to illustrate the words. From gorillas to chimpanzees, white-faced capuchins to orangutans,  each capturing the unique facial features and expressions, little ones can develop their vocabulary in the most charming way.  

With the question on one page – and the same wording is used repeatedly so the reader will learn to ask it for themselves, and the answer on the next, there is plenty of time to predict the answer before it is revealed so there is a sense of empowerment as they make their way through it, as well as the sheer enjoyment of being engaged with such a text. 

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.