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Vanishing

Vanishing

Vanishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanishing

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227444

Once, creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered this empty land. They had horns and wings, scales and feathers. They lived in vibrant forests, desert plains and icy tundras. But where are they now?

This is an evocative picture book, lyrically written and sublimely illustrated, that introduces young children to a host of the creatures that have inhabited this planet over the millennia but which have now disappeared, often because of the impact of humans on their habitat or a desire to own what they offered.  But this book goes further than the extinction of its creatures for it warns that humans with their cities and all that they consume will also disappear.

“The humans learned about their past.  But they didn’t learn  enough from it.” 

But there is also hope that perhaps once the humans have gone, the creatures will emerge again. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The recent criticism against the students who chose to display their anger through a national strike about the inaction of governments and corporates towards climate change really angered me. Rather than asking themselves why the students felt compelled to take this action, those self-styled “social commentators” and politicians just demonstrated their ignorance about what our students are concerned about, what they are learning in schools through curricula that they, the politicians, have put in place, and the emphasis placed on transferring what has been learned into action. As well as ignorance, they also showed their arrogance in thinking that they know better and are the only ones with “solutions” to fix things.  

The publication of Vanishing at this time is very timely and it should be an essential element of any study focusing on sustainability of the landscape so that, regardless of their age, they can “learn  enough from it”.  Enough for them to continue asking questions, to examine their own beliefs and practices, to encourage others to think about the then as well as the now, to take the action they did and to maintain it until the changes are stopped if not reversed, and to not give into a future of doom and gloom.  To show those who were of a similar mindset when they were students, that there are more important things than those that they now worship, particularly in a country that is among those with the worst rate of animal species extinction in the world.

A comparison of the front and back end-pages should be enough to pique the interest but further teaching notes are available here.

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Southern Cross

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381016

Nighttime in Australia and amongst the billions of stars that shine each night is the iconic Southern Cross constellation that is so symbolic of this country. With its four bright stars of Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis, Gamma Crucis, and Delta Crucis and the not-so-bright Epsilon Crucis it hovers in the skies of the southern hemisphere all year round, providing a sort of security blanket for those who live under it.

But what do those who do live under it, do at nighttime? This superbly illustrated book by the creator of A is for Australian Animals: A factastic tour explores Australia after dark, showing what its people do once the sun has sunk in the west.  From the penguin parade at Phillip Island, to watching the Aurora Australis in Tasmania to being one of the many thousands who attend the annual Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, we are out and about making the most of the sunless hours, much of it provided by Mother Nature herself.

Each double-page spread focuses on a different part of the country combining a simple lyrical sentence with a few pertinent facts about the phenomenon being observed.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as being a beautiful book about our country and its lifestyle, it begs for children to discover why there is night and day, share their stories about what they do after dark, especially if there are attractions unique to their area, and, of course, investigate the Southern Cross, its features and its impact on our lives such as being on the flag. 

Frané Lessac always creates extraordinary from ordinary and this is no different. 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925335880

“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..

 

Mamie

Mamie

Mamie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamie

Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9781460755860

On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Awesome Book of Space

Adam Frost

Bloomsbury, 2018 

112pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408896501

Did you know that if you were an ancient Egyptian then your understanding of the sun’s journey across the sky would focus on a giant dung beetle called  Khepri who dug the sun out of the underworld in the East at dawn, rolled it across the sky and then pushed it back into the underworld in the evening? But if you were an Aztec you would know that there had been four suns before this one, which is called Tonatiuh, and without human sacrifices, it would refuse to move across the sky and all the crops would fail.

On the other hand, did you know that just one space suit (used on the ISS only about 25 times each) costs 40 times more than the top-of-the-line Rolls Royce car; or what would happen if you fell into a black hole?

These are the sorts of things covered in this intriguing book about space that is perfect for young readers who like to dig and delve and have their information presented in a graphic format rather than lots of text making it  accessible to readers at all levels of development.  Ranging across the sort of subjects that young readers like to ask questions about or surprise their parents with at the dinner table, this book answers questions like 

  • How many pairs of pants you’d need to pack to live in a space station for a year?
  • What the weather is like on Neptune?
  • How many tonnes of litter humans have left on the moon?

Written in the conversational tone of Splat the Fake Fact, young readers are invited to guess or research the answers to some of the articles such as which of a range of creatures has not made it into space, so that it becomes an interactive experience rather than just a passive reading one.  And with the range of topics covered, it offers a taster for everyone providing the boost to do some further research if the imagination is gripped, not just about space itself but also physics, geology, and a host of STEM topics. Just how many explanations did earlier civilisations have for the sun’s journey across the sky and how do they compare with what we know to be the case now that science has solved its mystery? 

Not only would this be a valuable addition to a library collection to inspire space enthusiasts, but it’s also the right size and price for popping in the Christmas stocking.   

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

It's a Story, Rory!

It’s a Story, Rory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

Frances Watts

David Legge

HarperCollins, 2018 

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

9780733335938

 

Hey, Milly, why are we on this blank page?’

‘It won’t be blank for long. We’re going to be in a STORY, Rory!’

Rory the fox is puzzled because he has never been in a story before and he’s not even sure how one works. Luckily his friend Milly the chook knows a  little bit more and with the  helpful voice of the narrator explaining how stories work, they have an adventure that will  entertain as much as it educates.

This is a brilliant companion to the fabulous Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, the CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2008. In that, Parsley Rabbit explained all the parts of a book to young readers, and in this new one, Watts and Legge have teamed up again to talk young readers through the structure of a story.  Explaining the role and purpose of the narrator, the characters, the plot, and the setting; discussing the need for description (which can be achieved with words or pictures or both combined); creating an event which engages the reader and to which the characters should react; building anticipation; introducing the concept of genre to determine how the story will proceed; and drawing the story to a conclusion which satisfies both the characters and the reader are all done as Rory’s and Millie’s adventure unfolds on the pages. 

Illustrator Legge has said, “The line between writer and illustrator was well and truly blurred to the point where I’m not sure where some of the ideas for both words and pictures came from,” and this is very evident as the link between the text and pictures and the narrator’s explanation and the characters’ adventure is seamless. Whereas Parsley Rabbit focused on the child as a consumer of stories making it easier for them to navigate their way around a physical book, this one concentrates on the child as the creator of stories, helping them move from the blank page to something that has all the essential elements that engage a reader. For those who want to read the story behind this story, Frances and David discuss it here

As both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I can envisage having this book as the basis for my entire writing program for a class for a year, satisfying nearly every outcome of the English strand of the Australian Curriculum.  Imagine giving every child a blank page and inviting them to either draw an original character or describe one (depending on their preference for words or pictures) and then passing that page on to either have words or a picture added.  That’s the start of a collaboration that could go on and on as the characters become real as the other elements are explored. Further teaching notes are available

If there is one book that you are going to add to your teaching toolbox this year, this should be it.  Ask for it in your Christmas stocking!

 

 

 

 

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tales of Mr Walker

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2018 

192pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780143793076

On a beautiful autumn day, Mr Walker sat in the back seat of the car feeling very excited because he was going to be the Guide Dog ambassador of a park.  Even though he didn’t know what “ambassador” meant, he loved parks, especially rolling in the dirt and playing fetch with sticks.  

So he was really confused when the car stopped outside a tall building, and when he got out his paws slipped and slid on tile floors instead of gripping the grass he was expecting.  Turns out Mr Walker was going to be the ambassador for the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. Because of his larger-than-life personality it had been decided that he would be better meeting and greeting the hotel’s guests, including important people and celebrities and raising awareness of Guide Dogs Australia

Written in a chatty narrative that will appeal to all those who love stories about dogs, especially true ones, this book contains four illustrated stories about Mr Walker’s adventures at the hotel -where he still remains lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian oak bed.

  

All royalties from the sales of the book are being donated to Guide Dogs Victoria

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Upside-Down History of Down Under

Alison Lloyd

Terry Denton

Puffin Books, 2018

304pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143788669

 

“The story of Australia starts with a piece of land that went for a swim. About 200 million years ago it floated away from Africa. Very   very   slowly.  It was home to dinosaurs and giant animals, then the first Australians showed up.  And for a long time this wild and wonderful land was a mystery to the rest of the world.  Until the English decided it would make the best jail ever.”

When you read a blurb like that on the back of a book, you know you have got something somewhat different from the usual collection of Australian history books populating your 994 section, and indeed, different it is.  Spanning that time when the ancient continents split till Federation in 1901, this book tells the history of this continent in a quirky way with a narrative that speaks to the reader in short chapters with engaging headings and lots of the sorts of illustrations that are so uniquely Terry Denton.  It tells stories that are unfamiliar, challenges some long-held beliefs, and explores that which helped shaped 2018 Australia in a way that not only captures the imagination but makes the reader want to delve deeper.

Imagine, for instance, starting a study of the crossing of the Blue Mountains, with the sentence, “In 1813, three British gentlemen, Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth, took four of their servants and four of their dogs out for a long mountain walk.” Or exploring the whaling industry under the title “How Australia got stinking rich”. 

So many of our students groan at the thought of studying history, seeing it as having no relevance to their personal lives, and having been exposed to the “If it’s Year 5, it’s the Gold Rush” version of the curriculum, dry, dull and done-to-death. But if that same topic was embedded in a geological study of the formation of the gold, as alluded to in All that Glitters is Gold and followed up with the meaning of “golden soil and wealth for toil” it may well spark greater interest. 

Why is gold so valued that people left all they knew and loved in a quest to find it? Why did the NSW government try to hide Edmund Hargreaves’ discovery? How was the Australian 2018 way of life shaped by those who were grubbing in the dirt 160 years ago?

This book is excellent for being the appetiser for the main meal – offering tasty tidbits that tantalise the tongue and make the reader want to indulge further.  It’s a way of serving our history to our students which, in the hands of a skilful cook or even a dedicated diner, will open new worlds and new understandings that shows the broad spread of what has gone before. 

To add to the experience, there is a wealth of support materials available on the author’s website.

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

Elizabeth Dowsett & Arie Kaplan

DK, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241320037

Since 2006 when it first released its Batman-themed sets, LEGO, a contraction of leg godt which means “play well” in Danish, have offered fans construction sets related to the popular superheroes so they can learn to read and follow instructions and develop their fine motor skills as they make the intricate models from the movies, then use their imagination to build new stories and adventures with their creations.

 This visual guide to the minifigures, vehicles and sets of the Superhero world offers lots of background information about the characters culminating in a behind-the-scenes chapter which features concept art and an interview with the LEGO DC Super Heroes creative team.

Like its predecessors that have been linked to popular movies and characters, this is a book that will have young fans poring over it, talking about what they are discovering, wanting to learn more and reading to do so- engaging in all those behaviours that show that print offers them something and that reading for pleasure is a worthwhile thing to do.  Guaranteed to hook young reluctant readers, appeal to more independent fans and even offer suggestions for the Christmas stocking as each model has details of its release date, set number, and the number of pieces and minifigures that come with it. There is even a Yellow Lantern Batman included!

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book - Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

David Goldblatt & Johnny Acton

DK, 2018

400pp., hbk., RRP $39.99

9780241332856

With the northern hemisphere competitions gathering momentum, and the Australian A-League beginning and garnering more attention because of Usain Bolt’s participation, this book about the most popular sport in the world written to include the latest information from the 2018 FIFA World Cup is likely to become a much-loved, much-discussed addition to your collection as your young soccer fans pore over it. 

Beginning with a section on the origins of football which go back into ancient times and how it is now a global sport – about 250 million people play it regularly and if footballers were a nation, it would be the 4th most populous on Earth – it continues with comprehensive chapters about how the game is played; teamwork; the individual skills and how to master them; and then individual guides to the various nations who play; the World Cup and world records. There is an outline of Australia’s national achievements, each team in the A-league and even names those players who were eligible to play for Australia but who chose other teams instead. It really is 400 pages crammed with information for both the novice and the aficionado, regardless of which side of the boundary line you are on. 

However, while the Women’s World Cup has its own double spread, the book’s focus is predominantly on the male game with even the gender-neutral sections like How the Game is Played featuring male characters and champions.  

With illustrations, maps, charts, diagrams and easily readable text, this is one that will be a communal read in the library, turning reluctant readers into real readers, as well as one that will fit snugly into a Christmas stocking.