Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl's Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science











Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Karl Kruszelnicki

ABC Books, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00


“The year 2020 has reminded us that science is a bit like a wave. By that , I mean, that science is a dynamic process that ebbs and flows, rather than being something set in stone…. science is NOT a collection of facts- that’s what you have an encyclopaedia for.  Instead science is a process of discovering facts through curious exploration and then using them to understand the Universe around us…Science is an ongoing process,  It’s self-correcting- which, let me emphasise, is a strength not a weakness,,, That might sound confusing at first, but scientists are flexible and willing to look at results and tweak the advice accordingly…”

So like its predecessor Dr Karl’s Random Road Trip Through Sciencethe familiar Dr Karl takes a journey through a broad range of subjects in which the scientific thinking has changed over time or there is a greater understanding of the why because of new thinking and developments. 

Aimed at older, independent readers there is a more in-depth look at some of the more unusual phenomena from what it means to be winded to vegan diets to the 5G network, as he explores all sorts of topics assisted by an augmented reality app which has a hologram of Dr Karl offering a more in-depth introduction and then buttons to explore even further information. 

Mist students are familiar with Dr Karl and know he not only talks sense but he speaks in a language that is easily accessible to them – you don’t have to be a scientist to understand what he says.  So this book, which stands alone without the technology but is definitely enriched by it, is one for both the novice and the more experienced with an interest in the world around them.

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3










Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2020

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


Surrounding Australia’s coast are thousands of kilometres of coral reefs, and within those reefs lives a vast variety of creatures.  In this beautifully illustrated picture book, young children are invited to count some of them while learning about them at the same time. This is more than just a 1 2 3 counting book where the reader matches the numeral to the number of items on the page – it also offers tidbits of information that the adult can share with them encouraging both curiosity and awareness of the life beneath the waves.

Beginning with  one giant whale shark  and counting all the way to twelve tired seahorses, it could also become a sort of almanac that the child with an interest in the ocean’s creatures could complete over a lifetime, marking the creatures off as they discover them. Even as a scuba diver in times past, there are those like the dugongs and whale sharks I’m still waiting to cross off!!! But it has been an adventure of a lifetime in the making.

But even for those not inclined to go beneath the surface, nevertheless this is a fascinating introduction to that unique environment, a worthy companion to all the other fantastic books that Frané Lessac has gifted our little ones throughout her career.

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather












Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Tania McCartney

NLA, 2020

68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


According to my Facebook memories, 12 months ago it was snowing heavily here in the Snowy Mountains while there were 95 bushfires raging in the north of NSW, and we, ourselves, were evacuated just a few weeks later because of fires that had ignited here. The talk and news were constantly about the “worst drought in memory”, the heat and the continual and spreading threat of those fires.  And just as we thought that it would never end and we were doomed to breathing smoke-laden air forever, the rains came and places devastated by flames were now threatened with floods!

Regardless of the time of year, the weather in Australia is always a reliable topic of conversation and now two of my favourite creators have teamed together to offer an explanation for the phenomena for our younger readers.  Beginning with an explanation of whatever is weather, their combined writing and drawing talents have been used to explore the various elements of the weather, particularly in Australia so there is a greater understanding of the why, where, when and how of that which has such a bearing on our lives so that it is more than listening to the brief forecast on television or the BOM site. or being fascinated by the rain radars.  Living in the bush as I do, my favourite pages were Bush Forecasting that explain some of the behaviours and characteristics that we have come to notice and learn as the weather changes. Black cockatoos are always a welcome sign here.

Both Stephanie and Tania have drawn deeply on the resources of the National Library of Australia (luckily for them, it’s in their neighbourhood) and being a NLA publication the support materials for further exploration are very detailed. Even moreso though, is the module written to support the book as part of the NLA’s digital classroom   Aligned with the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography), and Science for Year 4, 5 and 6 students, it adopts an inquiry-based learning approach to develop students’ understanding of geographical and scientific processes relating to weather, environments, people and systems.

What more could you want?

The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book

The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book

The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book











The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book

Jennifer Cossins

Lothian Children’s, 2020

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


There may be only 26 letters in the alphabet but in this 64 page book there are more than 400 featured as Jennifer Cossins, creator of The Ultimate Animal Counting Book, introduces young readers to some of the creatures that inhabit this planet.  

Some are familiar and some not-so, but each is labelled and many have a sentence or two offering unique information about them which curious readers may wish to explore further. For example, unlike other big cats, snow leopards cannot roar. I wonder why! 



A peek inside....

A peek inside….

This is a dip-and-delve book that just calls for the reader to try to list as many creatures as they know starting with a particular letter before they turn to page to find what Cossins has included (or not)!  Who knew that there were at least 14 that started with Q?  My tally stopped at four – quetzal, quail, quoll and a quokka!

This is the perfect companion to her other offerings, including A-Z of Endangered Animals which was an Honour Book in the CBCA Eve Pownall Awards in 2017 and one that will have young readers poring over the pages as they discover new creatures to add to their knowledge bank. 



Tree Beings

Tree Beings

Tree Beings











Tree Beings

Raymond Huber

Sandra Severgnini

EK Books, 2020

96pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Look closely at the cover of this book.  Look closely at the bark of the tree and the gaps and spaces in between the branches and roots.  For there you will start to discover the purpose of this book, its importance to the planet and why so many people are passionate about their preservation, particularly those whose stories are told within. 

More than 30% of the planet is covered with forest providing clean air, pure water, shelter and employment for both people and animals but the rate of deforestation and degradation is alarming and changing the planet irrevocably.  With a foreword by Dr Jane Goodall , and a focus on four big ideas…

  • Trees give life to the planet.
  • Trees can help save us from climate change.
  • Trees are like beings.
  • Trees need our help and protection.

our children will learn about the value of trees and how essential they are to the healthy life and biodiversity of the planet. As well as understanding how trees give the Earth life, how they ‘talk’ and why they are our best allies in the fight to slow down climate change, readers will meet some of those who have devoted their lives to bringing attention to the plight of the forests and their preservation, the eccentric British professor who travelled the world for seventy years telling people how trees can save us. Written for independent readers in a style that draws them in and keeps them reading, and beautifully illustrated with diagrams, vignettes, close-ups all botanically correct, this is a stunning book that will be eye-opening to many. Trees are so much more than a home for a bird.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

And for those who want more, there is this clip from Gardening Australia that opens up even more understanding.

In a world where students are so aware of climate change, where they have seen the destruction of our bush from the Summer of Fire, where “environment” and “sustainability” are words that even our youngest know and understand and want to act on, this is a book for all ages that will offer yet another avenue of awareness that will allow them to make a difference. Maybe they will be inspired like the 9-year-old-boy who has a plan to plant a trillion trees to save the planet and start their own project!



Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue










Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Gina Newton

Tiffanee Daley

Ford Street, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


Combat Wombat, Wildlife Warrior of the Bush is fast asleep when he is woken by the other creatures, wanting to play. But there is no time to play because Combat Wombat’s super-sensitive nose, ears and paws have picked up some unmistakable signals – there is a bushfire on its way.  Quickly organising  his friends to be in charge of certain elements of safety, Combat Wombat leads them to Billabong Island where they will be safe.  Even though there are significant obstacles on the way he uses his special talents to overcome these until he gets to the river’s edge.  All the others can get across the water, but wombats are not built for leaping, flying or swimming.  Can he trust Bingo Dingo to get him there safely?

This is a story for younger readers that puts the plight of wildlife during a bushfire firmly in focus, particularly relevant given the events of last summer.  By using their special talents and working together, the creatures keep themselves safe, a lesson that goes beyond this particular situation. Much of the story is told in the artwork which is unique and Tiffanee Daley has shared her technique in this video.

Teachers’ notes offer a variety of ideas about how to use this book in the classroom with little ones but I believe they will enjoy it just for its own sake. I did.

Timeline Science and Technology

Timeline Science and Technology

Timeline Science and Technology











Timeline Science and Technology

Peter Goes

Gecko Press, 2020

80pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


There is no doubt that the technology and tools available to us on a daily basis shape the way we live – it’s only 10 years since the iPad was introduced – and this large format book with it easy text and whimsical illustrations takes us on a journey from the Old Stone Age to the present day sharing how man changed his way of life.  Luckily, in early times change wasn’t so fast and so each double spread has been devoted to an era but as things evolve, the spreads are reduced to covering  a decade. So the tools of wood and bone of the Paleolithic Age gradually evolve to the tools that will probe the universe in the future.

This is a succinct timeline of development that will whet the appetite of the young historian, the young scientist and the young computer enthusiast or anyone with an interest in how we got to where we are. It is a dip-and-delve book that probably raises more questions than it answers, but that’s a good thing because it will send readers off on new paths of investigation and exploration as they seek to know more about whatever catches their interest.

More than worth the purchase price. 

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island











The Tindims of Rubbish Island

Sally Gardner

Lydia Carry

Zephyr, 2020

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Since the days of the Vikings, the Tindims have lived on Rubbish Island, recycling debris salvaged from sunken pirate ships and galleons. They have always lived in secret, caring for the creatures of the sea and helping messages in bottles to find the right tides. But now as plastic threatens to overwhelm their island home, the Tindims make contact with children for the first time ever to show them how to turn rubbish into treasure…

Join Skittle, her furry pet Pinch, her parents, Admiral Bonnet, Mug, Jug, Brew, Captain Spoons,  Granny Gull and Barnacle Bow on  Rubbish Island where they seem to find a use for every piece of rubbish that the ‘Long Legs’ throw into the water. For years they have lived by their motto: ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’.  Wander through its warren of underwater rooms, including a toothbrush library and a hospital for sick fish, climb its terraces overlooking the sea and scale Rubbish Mountain. Set sail with them on their first ocean adventure as they show keen young human ecologists how to help protect our planet for the future.

There was recently a discussion on an education forum about teachers having younger readers who are newly independent and who have outgrown the levelled basal readers that are usually offered the age group.  The consensus was that these readers should not have their opportunities stifled by stories with controlled vocabulary and contrived sentence structure just because of their age and a convenient label, and that while they still needed some support with shorter chapters, larger fonts and illustrations which not only broke up the text but also helped clarify it, there were plenty of these sorts of books that offered such a platform, built on a solid, quality storyline. This series, is one of those.

It is modern in appearance and focuses on a theme that is close to the heart and minds of its target audience, that of making this world a better place by thinking globally and acting locally. There are not a lot of things that our youngest readers have the power to improve or change, but being environmentally conscious is one of them so this book which inspires them to be more aware is certainly within their realm. Reminiscent of the classic series The Borrowers by Mary Norton, it may even inspire them to expand their horizons and read that collection.

The first in this series, it is one that should appeal to those who are ready to test the next stepping stones of their reading journey.


The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat











The Fire Wombat

Jackie French 

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


A curl of smoke appears on the horizon, gradually getting bigger, blacker and more ominous as it comes closer.  The parched earth burns and day becomes night as the ash-thick air envelops all before it and beneath it. 

Nowhere above the ground is safe for anything with two legs or four, but this is not the animals’ first fire and Wombat knows where to go and what to do. And when it is finally safe to emerge, the landscape is unlike the one they had left… grey, charred, burnt, devoid of both food and water. But a primeval instinct drives Wombat and she pushes on and on, seeking the liquid that would mean life…

Written about a little wombat that stumbled onto her Araluen Valley property and then collapsed, this is Jackie French’s own story of resilience and hope amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 when she and those she loves were surrounded by four fires and the future looked bleak, if not dire. It is a story about how when things seem to be at their worst, basic human nature, kindness and goodness prevails and we look out for those who are in worse circumstances, including our precious but often helpless wildlife. Even though what is done initially may not solve the problem, it is something that can lead to something else and something else… Like the Fire Wombat, we just need to keep searching until we find what we need.

It is a story that  embraces all the age groups – on the surface it is a story for little ones about a little wombat whose basic instinct is preservation and which perseveres to find what it needs; but it is also for older students who can consider the sort of assistance that is required and what they can do; maybe even what they can do to prevent fires of the future. The teachers’ notes which I wrote span all these aspects offering another avenue for our students to heal from that awful summer.  Pandemic or not, there are still many wounds to tend to.

No matter at what level you read this beautiful story – along the lines, between them or beyond them – you  will acknowledge that Jackie French is indeed a master storyteller, and her words have been enriched and enhanced by Danny Snell’s sensitive artwork.

And the rainbow after the rain, the dawn after the dark? Jackie has just shared that the Fire Wombat now has a baby of her own, “black as charcoal, fat and bouncing” . She glimpsed them in the valley three weeks ago and Fire Wombat is fat and happy too! 


Look, Baby!

Look, Baby!

Look, Baby!










Look, Baby!

Janeen Brian

Renée Treml

Little Book Press, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


There is so much in this world to introduce a little one to that it can be overwhelming but this cleverly written and designed picture book is the perfect start.

On each page Baby is encouraged to focus on something through a cutout – a dolphin, cloud, grasshopper, frog –  but when the page is turned, instead of the anticipated word there is a whole environment with like-minded inhabitants!  The dolphin reveals a seascape with seagulls and shells and turtles and sandcastles; the owls reveal a tree with “shiver-quiver leaves that shade you and me”.  The final pages are just delightful – give a baby a mirror and sit back and observe – bringing a sense of the happy ending that stories for this age should have. Then, as an added extra, the final page revisits all the details in the big pictures to encourage the child to re-focus and ensure they found them all.  So perfect for a re-read and then a trip outside to see what can be spotted in the real world and what extra things might be added.   What else can you see in the sky? Is it always blue like the picture? Consider having preschoolers paint a picture of a particular habitat, perhaps with labels, to share with their younger siblings so they can show off what they know and add to Baby’s repertoire. 

With its interactivity, its rhyme and rhythm, its gentle illustrations, and clever design that fosters focus on both detail and broader picture, this book has all the best elements that encourage our little ones to find joy and excitement in stories and books. It builds up those essential concepts about print and early reading behaviours that are the hallmarks of early reading success.         

Any new parent will love to have this as a gift – it promises hours of entertainment.