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The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Signs of Nature: How to Uncover Hidden Clues in the Sky, Water, Plants, Animals and Weather

Craig Caudill & Steve Backshall

Carrie Shyrock

Magic Cat, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781913520380

Since the world really started to focus on climate change, and particularly since the lockdowns of the pandemic which meant that often the only outdoors we could visit were our own backyard, there have been many books for children encouraging them to be much more observant. to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them, to be aware of not only the little creatures but also the ordinariness of the habitats the live in and to take greater care.

This book, co-authored by a BAFTA winning naturalist, takes that ability to be observant several steps forward and shows the reader what can be learnt from Nature, by noticing and interpreting everyday signs and signals that not only enrich the experience but help predict what might be happening.  Apart from using their senses more acutely, young readers are encouraged to read the weather by understanding rainbows, observing cloud patterns, predict wind direction and use a compass before they set off into their environment and then each section introduces them to some of the secrets of that place whether it be the ocean or a puddle, the woodlands or a desert or even how a farm paddock! 

Although predominantly using the landscapes of the United Kingdom, the reader and the two young adventurers are taken across the globe as there are many principles to discover that are universal – looking at the shape of the moon and the various visible stars or examining tree stumps can all reveal stories regardless of where you are.- and the reader is urged to be constantly curious, to be present in the moment, to be familiar with the environment so changes are noticed, to study what they observe and ask questions, and then use their learning to teach others.  So, having spotted a huddle of sheep in a paddock, they can surmise that it is likely to rain soon and predict the direction the wind is coming from be looking at the land’s topography. Or stomping through a puddle can tell the person who comes after you, which direction you were travelling…

With such a focus on environment and sustainability both in the curriculum and literature, this is an important book that can empower young readers even more, encouraging them to go  outside and see what they can learn right now!  

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

Nicola Davies

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406394771

It is one minute to midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, April 21 and as the clock strikes midnight there, the reader begins an amazing journey around the world to see what is happening in other places at this precise time, whether that be having breakfast or even afternoon tea.

But this is not the more common snapshot of what people are doing at a specific time. but a glimpse at what the natural wildlife are up to, the threats they face and in some cases, what’s being done to mitigate them.  We travel to the polar bears in the Arctic; to sea turtles in India struggling to the sea after they’ve just hatched;  to kangaroos fighting both the climate and each other in Mutawintji National Park in NSW; and so on around the world as different species respond to the time zone of their environment.

The date was chosen because at that time of the year there is something exciting happening in the animal kingdom around the world, and coincidentally it was Earth Day, celebrated since 1970 “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. and act as a call to action to acknowledge that “the clock has struck and it is time to make a difference together”. Accompanied by stunning illustrations, each of which includes the two little children who are taking us on the journey so that there is a storyline rather than just a time-lapse diary, the reader is introduced to creatures like the polar bear whose plight may be familiar as the warming planet melts their icy home to the not-so familiar owl monkeys of Ecuador whose habitat is being destroyed in the search for oil.  And while it might seem impossible for a young reader in Australia to help them, nevertheless there are things that each of us can do to  daily to make a difference. So books such as these  which raise awareness in interesting, fascinating ways are perfect for helping us to think globally and act locally.  

And there is always the sideline of investigating why it’s midnight in Greenwich but midday in Sydney!

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

Jenny Jacoby

Vicky Barker

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A27.99

9781486316632 

Not so long ago, the word ‘stem’ referred to the major vertical shoot of a plant that bears buds and shoots with leaves and with roots at its lower end to anchor it. (It had other meanings too, but that’s the one with which primary school kids were most familiar.)  Now though, in schools  it more commonly refers to the interdisciplinary approach to teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, thus bringing these topics and their vocabulary into the realm of even our youngest students.

So words like ‘hypothesis’, ‘viscosity’ and even ‘yangchuanosaurus”  now roll off tongues as a matter of course, and concepts such as inertia, electromagnetism and bioluminescence sit alongside the more traditional ones of the primary classroom like photosynthesis, evaporation and metamorphosis. But sometimes such words are easier to say than understand so this encyclopedia explains 100 words that are common to young scientists, arranged in alphabetical order and each with its own page so there is space for illustrations and text so the meaning and the concept’s application is clear.  To make it even easier, there is a contents page, an both an index and glossary so navigation is simple if the reader is looking for a specific term.  

But as well as being a ready reference in itself, it just begs to be a model for students to build their own definitions and explanations.  Imagine the power of a Word Wall that has more than just vocabulary, one that is built and added to at point of need, written and illustrated by the students themselves. Maybe even extending the Word Wall to a display of working models so that as well as the science there are also the technology, engineering, and maths aspects that can be exploited.  And who wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Lego Masters and try to explain the STEM as well as the story? 

Books like this that actively engage readers in building on them are essential tools in the kits of teachers, libraries of schools and bookshelves of families.  This one is a must-have. 

 

Do You Love Exploring?

Do You Love Exploring?

Do You Love Exploring?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Exploring?

Matt Robertson

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526639622

Whether they live in the tallest mountains, the deepest oceans , the hottest deserts or the iciest places on the planets, animals have evolved so they can survive and thrive in every environment and this joyful book is the perfect introduction to species familiar and not-so for young readers.  

Each double page spread features a different habitat – grasslands, mountains, rainforests, islands, woodlands, ice worlds, deserts, oceans -as well as those who are nocturnal, endangered or just plain strange and provides a brief description that whets the appetite.  But unlike formal books that can be somewhat daunting, the cartoon-like nature of this one makes it appealing and accessible to even the youngest readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the beginning of the book there is a double-page spread of many of the featured animals, and readers will delight in choosing one and then spotting it in the body of the book.  Look for the bear with the burger or the alpaca in the woolly hat! If Robertson, who both wrote and illustrated the book, is also the designer of the layout, then he certainly knows how to capture the attention (and attention span) of young readers.

As well as introducing the diversity of creatures, the book also teaches the reader about the different regions of the planet encouraging them to think about what would be needed to survive there and how the various creatures have actually adapted so they can, prompting possible investigations into how particular species have changed over time. It brings in new vocabulary to explore and explain such as adaptation and evolution, endangered and extinct, as well as concepts such as climate change and human impact, raising awareness of the fragility of the environment from a very young age.

This is the third book in the award-winning series by Matt Robertson that includes Do You Love Bugs? and Do You Love Dinosaurs? and is just as interesting and intriguing as its predecessors.

 

Nature’s Treasures

Nature's Treasures

Nature’s Treasures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature’s Treasures

Ben Hoare

DK, 2021

192pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241445327

Walking to explore our local neighbourhood became daily exercise for many during the recent pandemic, and our children learned to walk with their eyes wide open.  They looked at the sky, the ground, the trees, bushes and flowers and within them they found all sorts of treasures – coloured leaves, scribbles on bark, coloured feathers, a spiderweb jewelled with dew… Perhaps they found a bird’s nest, a pretty stone or even blew on a dandelion fairy clock…

All around us there is evidence that Mother Nature has walked before us with “dazzling feathers, armoured fruit, extraordinary eggs’, bristly teeth, leaf skeletons, glittering gems, ancient fossils, exploding seeds, super-sticky webs, rocks from outer space and much else besides.” In this superb book, the stories of these fascinating objects is explained – where they are found, how they work, what they tell us, how they are used…  Grouped into categories -animals, plants, fungi and algae, minerals and rocks, and made by Nature – common and not-so-common finds are examined with photographs, diagrams and readily accessible text.

From the early “Cabinets of Curiosities” -“large private collections of those wealthy enough to travel to gather them displayed in glass cabinets- to the classroom “nature tables” eagerly renewed each Monday morning as children brought in their weekend discoveries,  there has always been a fascination of these sorts of objects, although now there is a much greater emphasis of just taking photographs and leaving them in situ because they are part of the particular ecosystem and others can also enjoy them.  Thus, a book as beautiful, as entertaining and as informative as this one is a must-have in both the home and school library because if children know and understand what they are looking at, they are more likely to treasure and protect it. 

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

Kate McCabe

Nicole Berlach

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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

9781486313471 

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…”

The opening sentence in one of the most popular children’s books ever written, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  

But do butterflies really grow up by eating apples and pears and chocolate cakes?  Or is there something more to their story?  

The Butterfly and the Ants tells the story of Blue, a member of the Lycaenidae species of butterfly that is found around the world – a species that comprises about 25% of the world’s butterflies but which is unique because it is dependent on the special relationship the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises have with the ants that look after them. So while we are familiar with the basic life cycle of the butterfly, this adds not only another element but also a lot more detail about how that tiny egg emerges to be a beautiful gossamer-wing butterfly, usually with a touch of blue. 

It introduces the reader to the concept of symbiosis setting up the potential to investigate which other creatures live in such relationships and underlining the need for children to understand that even if they take or move just one thing from an environment, it can have far -reaching effects.  

This is a book for those who want to know more than the basics,  that explains the process in clear and accessible detail that respects their intelligence – as all those from CSIRO Publishing do. There are teachers’ notes available that not only have a focus on the science but also help expand vocabulary and encourage students to use the “real” language, as well as to be more observant.   Other elements support the information literacy process as they are encouraged to read the notes at the back, use the glossary and so on. 

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Reef

Paul Venzo & Prue Francis

Cate James 

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315314 

Most Australians, even our youngest and newest, are familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches over 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space. But even longer and more accessible to most is the Great Southern Reef , a fringe of interconnected underwater systems that span 8000km from the NSW/Queensland border, around Tasmania and its islands, along our great southern coastline and up to Kalbarri in Western Australia.  

First defined as an entity just six years ago in 2016, it has already been identified by Mission Blue  as a Hope Spot, a biodiversity hotspot critical to the health of the world’s ocean environments, particularly because of its forests of giant kelp, Ecklonia radiata, that offer shelter and food for more than 4000 species of invertebrates, countless fish species such as the weedy sea dragon, the WA rock lobster and the blacktip abalone, and many seaweeds, most unique to the reef, which offer carbon storage to offset climate change as well as potential for a plastic-free world of the future. 

But despite 70% of us living within 50km of it, its existence is little known and so this beautifully illustrated, informative book is an essential step in teaching our young students (and hopefully the adults in their lives) not only about its existence and inhabitants but also its importance.  After a storm thrashes the coastline, Frankie and Sam join Professor Seaweed in a walk along the beach to see what has been washed up overnight.  Together they find many things and not only does Professor Seaweed explain what they are but she also demonstrates the need to leave the beach as we find it, to be careful when delving into rockpools, and the significance of the saying, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Kill nothing but time.” However, she does encourage the children (and the reader) to collect any rubbish that will also have been washed up as their contribution to helping the beach and its creatures stay pristine and healthy.

Even for those of us who do not live within that 50km of the reef, or the ocean, it is a destination that naturally attracts millions every year, so this is the perfect book to introduce our children to the existence of the reef itself and their role in protecting it.  Teachers notes  linked to the Australian Curriculum are available to help you do this. 

Seree’s Story

Seree's Story

Seree’s Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seree’s Story

Irma Gold

Wayne Harris

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781925126990

When they came, the herd scattered in fright, their trumpeting calls shattering the morning. Seree and her mother were cornered. Life in the jungle was good for young Seree and her mother until the day poachers come. Separated from her mother and the life she knows, Seree is taken to work in a circus. Forced to perform every day and spend each night in chains, Seree longs to be with the herd and reunited with her mother. Will she ever be free? 

This is another picture book that, on the surface, looks like it is for young readers, but which would be really useful with older students aware of animal conservation and the plight of many creatures. 

In 1992, 30 years ago, the ACT introduced ground-breaking legislation that banned the use of exotic animals in circuses and by April this year, 45 countries had imposed similar bans. Reminiscent of Elizabeth Stanley’s The Deliverance of Dancing Bears it can open up discussions about how animals are used and treated, and whether there is ever a place for their being in captivity but also how attitudes have changed and it is the voice of the people calling for that change that has made the difference. So while the focus of the book may seem anachronistic, its importance in continuing to shine a spotlight on the welfare and treatment of animals in general, and elephants in particular, will sadly, always be necessary.  There are always those willing to exploit our wild creatures for any reason that makes them money and while it may no longer be for circuses,  there are other heinous issues that must be wiped out, before the elephants themselves are gone. The author is an ambassador for Save Elephant Foundation and offers more information about their plight and what can be done in the final page. 

 

Star the Elephant

Star the Elephant

Star the Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star the Elephant

Surviving the Wild

Remy Lai

A & U Children’s, 2022

112pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9781760526849

There isn’t enough food left on the island to sustain Star’s Asian elephant family -no more teak tree bark, bamboo shoots, bananas or even palatable grasses because their natural jungle is being cleared for palm oil plantations. So Star’s herd has to split up to find other food sources if they are to survive at all, and Star finds himself swimming in the ocean under the stars for what seems like the longest time ever. But the world out there is so big!  Despite Aunty’s constant warnings about not going where his mum can’t see him,  soon Star finds himself lost and alone, facing giant “spiders “and a big, wild ocean and the scariest thing of all … humans! Will he ever be reunited with his family?

The second in a new graphic novel series called Surviving the Wild designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it, this story is loosely based on a true story when, in 1990, three bull elephants swam across the Johor Strait from Malaysia to Singapore, landing on an island where there was a military base and the soldiers tracked the elephants so they could be safely rehomed in a nearby sanctuary,  the focus of this story is the impact of deforestation on the natural inhabitants of these places, from creatures as large and as visible as the elephants and orangutans, to the not-so-obvious like the fiddler crabs.  Thus, even our youngest readers can become aware of the devastation that humans can inflict on the environment and, in their own small way, begin to make changes which can have far-reaching effects.  Even looking at the labels on the food their parents purchase and encouraging them to look for those without palm oil or with the symbols of either the Rainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council can make a difference.

Teachers’ notes focusing on helping young readers read and interpret the graphic novel format are available. 

The Echidna Near My Place

The Echidna Near My Place

The Echidna Near My Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Echidna Near My Place

Sue Whiting

Cate James

Walker, 2022

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

9781760652401

Whenever Nana and Child walk through the scrubby paddock at the end of their street, they look for the echidna – that curious, spiky creatures that waddles like its feet are on backwards.  They see if often, almost as if it knows them, and, as they watch it carefully, they learn about its habitat and habits.

This is the latest addition to the Nature Storybooks series, one of my favourites for young readers as it combines a narrative story with a factual account so they learn so much more about the fascinating creatures that inhabit their world, particularly Australia.  

Just as Searching for Cicadas celebrated the relationship between grandfather and grandchild, this one also focuses on the special bond, this time with grandma as they walk through the paddock almost daily and each time they see the echidna they learn something new. For although the short-beaked echidna (the only species found here, the other three are in Papua New Guinea) is common in many parts of Australia   – we often see them waddling along our road or through our bush block here in the Snowy Mountains – nevertheless, they are shy and well-camouflaged so not so easy to find if you’re not looking.  But for all that they might be common, they are also just one of two monotremes – egg-laying mammals – found on the planet, the other being the platypus. Teaching notes to learn even more are available. 

So even though we make sure our old, gentle cavoodle is inside when they come, and they uproot pot plants seeking shelter because their sensitive snouts smell her anyway,  we will continue to enjoy their company whenever they come to visit – just like Nana and Child.