Bong! Oscar is woken by the town clock striking midnight and strange noises in the street. As he looks out his window he sees a huge, hairy woolly mammoth. Instead of being scared, he is dressed and outside in a flash where Timothy the mammoth explains he is searching for his little brother. Together they continue the search which leads them to the town museum where the door opens a crack to reveal the inhabitants have come alive and are having a party. Continued through the interactivity of gatefolds, lift-the-flaps and speech bubbles the search progresses through the various sections of the museum until… It is certainly the most extraordinary hour of Oscar’s life.
Apart from kids’ universal curiosity of the mysterious creatures of the past, this is a book that will delight young children as they explore it over and over as it combines so much information as the quest continues. There is so much detail included that there will be something new to explore and learn with every reading. It is certainly an intriguing way to help them discover their world and enjoy having to be part of the action to move the story along.
“In the vastness of space lies a tiny sphere that orbits an ordinary middle-aged star in a quiet backwater of the Milky Way. It’s one of billions of trillions of worlds, yet it is the only one that we know supports life… let’s go on a voyage of discovery to the four corners of the globe.”
Beginning with the beginning of the planet’s existence and told in a narrative style suitable for the newly independent reader who likes to read non fiction rather than dipping and delving for specific information, this is a beautifully illustrated book that takes the reader on a journey through physical earth, life on earth, the regions of the earth and the human planet.
With its retro colour palette, diagrams and pictures it reminds me very much of a similar book I used to pore over 60 years ago and which I still have, such was its importance to my understanding of the world. While today’s youngsters have television and the Internet to take them on similar journeys, nevertheless there is comfort and security in having something on hand that can be referred to over and over on demand; that gives enough information to satisfy a curiosity while also being a springboard to seeking further understanding if that is required.
However, the illustrations are not as clear as might be expected for a ready reference resource of this type and being unpaged, and lacking a contents page and an index make its use more a personal one than an essential element of a library’s collection. It is one to recommend to parents who are looking to boost their for home libraries so their children can start to understand what this planet is and how it works. It may become as loved as mine did and decades on form part of a collection of adored childhood reads.
As world events and personal dramas seem to envelop us, books like this tend to put mankind and indeed Earth into perspective in the scheme of things and we are left with a wonder and an awe of this ‘third rock from the sun” as well as a sense of hope that despite everything and everyone, this place will endure for our lifetime and that of several lifetimes to come.
This seems like a strange title for a book, even given that we know little ones like to explore their world using their mouths, but it achieves its purpose – to make you venture beyond the covers. And when you do, you are introduced to a whole new world – one that contains Min and millions of her microbe friends. You are encouraged to place your finger on the spot and pick her up and take her on a journey around your body – your teeth, your clothes, even your belly button. With the aid of electron microscope images, we are introduced to her relatives Rae the streptococcus, Dennis the fungus and Jake the corynebacterium and all the while there is the message of keeping clean to keep healthy. Min herself is an E.coli and while she can live happily in your intestines, she spreads easily and with dire consequences of hands are not washed regularly.
While antiseptic manufacturers would have us believe that we need to live in a sterile world and they can assist with this, the truth is it is impossible to rid the world of its germs, helpful or harmful, and this is a fun introduction to that that we cannot see. Young scientists will love it and will delight in sharing their new knowledge with the adults in their world while those who are reluctant to wash their hands, clean their teeth and change their clothes might think again.
Two interactive board books for the very young which take them on a journey into town or to the farm teaching them new vocabulary and inviting them to find things hidden in the illustrations. Very young children will delight in finding things that they are already familiar with – there are peepholes and flaps galore to explore – and learning the names of the places and things that are common to them. On the other hand. often city kids have no idea at what is found and done on a farm and vice versa – country kids may not be aware of the hustle and bustle of the city – so introducing them to the sorts of things they may find there at such an early age helps sets up their schema for when they encounter them in other stories. Even the concepts of “city” and “farm” and where they are and how they get there can be explored, compared and contrasted, and new vocabulary built.
Great for the very young as well as those learning English for the first time. They might illustrate additional things they know as they show off their new knowledge.
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
32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99
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
64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
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…
Does it move?
Does it eat?
Does it respire?
Does it poop?
Is it sensitive?
Does it grow?
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.
“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.
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
208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00
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
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!