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Storm Whale

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Whale

Sarah Brennan

Jane Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760293642

Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …

Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves  crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury.  In fact they are delighting in it.  But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.  

Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,

Far from the cradling ocean swell,

Far from the peace of the ocean deep

Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.

Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,

Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…

Dark as a demon, dull of eye

Waiting in silence to drift…or die

All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin.  But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate.  Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on.  Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…

Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times.  While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant.  This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.   

The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.  

A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.

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.  

 

 

Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Little One, Dream

Sally Morgan

Ambelin Kwaymullina

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078868

“When Moon shines and earth breathes a breath of deepest night dream, little one, dream into the peace of a wonderful world.”

As the first fingers of light of the rising sun bring new life to a new day, the creatures begin to stir and go about their business.  The bird soars, the koala climbs, the dolphin glides – right through the day till the moon comes again and the lizards settle down to dream.

Written with the lyrical notes of a lullaby this is a soothing, gentle tale of lives not seen by busy, rushing people as the day passes through its phases.  Creatures of the skies, land and water have their own rhythm that has nothing to do with school or work or sports training or music practice – they are in peace and harmony with the world that surrounds them, suggesting a sense of routine and calm  that we might well envy, perhaps be persuaded to observe.

Sally Morgan has a gift for selecting words and putting them together in a way that reaches the soul and demands we take time to breathe, relax and reflect.  Accompanied by bright, stunning, striking illustrations that are in direct contrast to the gentle vocabulary, rhythm and repetition of the text, just as nature’s lives are in contrast to that of humans, this is the perfect bedtime story to draw the curtains on the day, to slow the heart and take little ones off to Dreamland.

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

What's Where on Earth? Atlas

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

DK London, 2017

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241228371

 

This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.

Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife.  Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.  

Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat.  While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.

Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away.  Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015!  Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to. 

 

The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

The Periodic Table Book

The Periodic Table Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

Tom Jackson

DK, 2017

208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241240434

Watch any quiz show on television and there is bound to be a question about the Periodic Table, that, odd-shaped mysterious, multi-coloured chart that decorates the walls of science classrooms and labs and which to many, including me, remains a mystery even after it is studied and memorised.

The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table

However, in this bright, brand-new publication from DK (Dorling Kindersley) those new to the wonders of chemistry are able to understand it better through the use of clear explanations and thousands of photographs and diagrams, starting with an explanation of just what an element is. “Everything in nature, from the mountains and the oceans to the air we breathe and food we eat are made up of simple substances called elements… The elements are rarely found in their pure form.  Mostly, they are combined with each other to make compounds, which make up substances around us. To find out more about the elements, we need to take a good look at the periodic table …it shows the key information for each element, grouping them into similar types. With this information we can use the elements to make the things we need. Every element has its own story of where it comes from, what it can do, and how we use it.”

So it’s a bit like baking a cake – you put some butter, sugar, eggs and flour in particular proportions together and the chemical reaction amongst them when heat is applied leads to a cake we can eat, rather than four separate ingredients that are not so palatable.  Or. as my son the chef keeps telling me, “It’s about how the ingredients work together that produces the dish.”

Using the stunning DK layout of photos, bite-sized chunks of text and white space that is their signature style, it begins with an explanation of what elements are (that even I can understand), through to ancient ideas about alchemy, a very clear explanation of inside an atom (I do remember that it was a New Zealander, Sir Ernest Rutherford who first split it but never understood what that meant or its impact),so the reader is taken on a  on a visual tour of the 118 chemical elements of the periodic table, from argon to zinc. It explores the naturally occurring elements, as well as the man-made ones, and explains their properties and atomic structures. Each has a ready-reference summary of its atomic structure, physical and chemical properties, and the compounds it occurs more frequently in, as well as photographs of it in its raw state, its origins and uses (who knew that sodium was a key element of both mummification and fireworks) so that everything begins to make sense. There is even one of those charts tucked into a pocket at the back, perfect for the bedroom wall, the toilet door or the classroom.

While I have managed to reach a senior age without knowing too much about chemistry, it is very different for today’s students as so many new technological developments, medical breakthroughs and as-yet-unknown jobs rely on a knowledge and understanding of chemistry, the elements that make up this world and others, and how and why that periodic table is what it is.  With STEM being the primary focus of so many curricula, this is a must-have for both the beginner and experienced junior scientist.  Instead of just memorising “Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie” or “Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous, Naughty Margret Always Sighs, Please Stop Clowning Around” or singing The Periodic Table Song students will understand the basis of chemistry as a subject and see the relevance of it to their own world.

Perhaps if I came from an era of where it was more than reciting so the chanting was accompanied by explanation, connection and understanding, I would be a better cook today.  No, perhaps not!

 

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Anya Klauss

Usborne, 2016

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

9781409596738

What do Demeter and Persephone, Finn MacCool and the fish of Maui all have in common?  Well, they are included in this collection of stories from around the world beautifully illustrated by Anya Klauss.

In times long past before the truth was known, many of the things like the sun’s passage across the sky or the formation of the land were a mystery to those observing them so they made up stories to explain the particular phenomenon.  Even though they came from far-flung places and diverse peoples. their common thread was to explain the seemingly inexplicable so that the world made sense to them. Whether it involved giants, mythical beings and creatures, magic or sorcery, each story sought to demystify and through their telling through generations across thousands of years they have endured, even though science may have intervened to expose the truth.

As well as being a wonderful introduction to these sorts of stories and embracing a range of cultures, such myths can also be the entry point into scientific investigations for young and not-so-young scientists.  If Maui did not fish the North Island of New Zealand out of the sea, how did it get there? If the changing of the seasons are not caused by Demeter’s love and loss, how are they formed?  A great way to link literature and science and start our students on their own quests.

 

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Pool Secrets

Narelle Oliver

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922179357

“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash.  Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”

For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment  is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again.  You just have to take the time to look.

In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats.  The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts  waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide. 

My seaside home...

My seaside home…

As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made.  Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.  

Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.

Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.

Vale Narelle.  You gave us so much and we are indebted to you.  Thank you.

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Katie Daynes

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2017

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

9781409598985

 

From the time they are born children are innately curious  and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world.  As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers.  Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.

Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish.  Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who,  how and yes or no.  Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps.  Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?”  Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations.  Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.  

Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.

Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions.  With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.

It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.

This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.  

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is Rain

All I want for Christmas is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

Cori Brooke

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059717

It is a sight so familiar to many Australian children.  Brown, cracked, dried earth as far as the eye can see, and even if it could see further, the landscape wouldn’t change. Drought.  The farmer’s curse is this sunburnt country where it can be a long time between drinks for the land and paddocks are empty as livestock is trucked off to the saleyards because it costs more to feed them than they are worth. 

It takes its toll on farmers and their families and in a desperate bid to change things, Jane takes the long shiny train into her nearest town because Santa is coming and he is the one person who can grant children’s wishes.  Standing in the queue in the hot sun, patiently waiting her turn, Jane has only one request from Santa.  “My wish is for rain.”

Set against a backdrop of the most stunning and powerful illustrations that depict the desolation of the Australian landscape in drought, this story-in-rhyme brings alive the reality of summer and Christmas for so many and gives the reader pause to think about what life can be like at this time for our country cousins and what are the true gifts that we can hope for.  While we cling to the English traditions of our ancestors with snow-clad scenes, hot dinners and Santas in red furry suits, there are those who see an entirely different side to this festive time that may not be so joyful. An excellent opportunity for the children to express their interpretation of an Australian Christmas in art and perhaps a change from the more traditional pictures and crafts.

I wish it had been available in 2002 when the news was dominated by the dreadful drought gripping so much of the country and my library’s focus was on gathering gifts for the children of Charleville. It would have been the perfect starter to show the people behind the landscapes of the news in a way that spoke directly to my students.  But, in the meantime, it’s winging its way to Wales to show some children there what Christmas can be like for the children here.

 Another worthy addition to Australia: Story Country.

Gifts for Charlevile

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville