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We Go Way Back

We Go Way Back

We Go Way Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Go Way Back

Idan Ben-Barak

Philip Bunting

A&U Children’s, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760526085

Sooner or later a young child will ask, “Where did I come from?” and this will be the perfect book to have on hand.  But it is not the “birds and the bees” talk that might be expected, but rather an attempt to simplify the scientific explanation for life on earth, starting with the big bang theory.

Using a mix of clever illustrations, well-chosen language and layout, the reader is taken on a journey that asks what is life and then travels back in time to the first elements found in the seas which joined together to form molecules and how things evolved from there culminating in a triple-page spread of life on Earth. But then the final endpages put it all in perspective!

Ben-Barak, who has degrees in microbiology and in the history and philosophy of science as well as one in library sciences, has a knack of using his knowledge to simplify science for children in a way that intrigues them and captures their imagination – Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You and Do Not Lick This Book – while Bunting had several books listed in the CBCA 2021 Picture Book of the Year Notables making this a powerful combination to introduce this tricky topic to young readers.   

Look Inside Maths

Look Inside Maths

Look Inside Maths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look Inside Maths

Rosie Dickins

Bernedetta Giaufret & Enrica Rusinà

Usborne, 2021

14pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781474986304

Almost 40 years ago in a school where literacy and maths classes were streamed from Kindy onwards (an argument for another day) I was assigned a maths group deemed at the lower end of the spectrum and expected to teach them in a way that had already failed them for two years, killing not only their interest in maths but their belief in their being able to master the subject.  And so a new approach was needed. For the kids’ sake I was prepared to wear the wrath of the PTB who were determined that the be-all and end-all was an English text book series that even to me, spoke in riddles. Having had great success with a whole-language classroom, I decided to try a whole-maths classroom and for an hour a day while they were with me, my Year 2 students were immersed in maths that related to their everyday lives so they could see that it had purpose, meaning and relevance for them.  From this grew my first book, Maths About Me and later a sequel, Maths About My Year.  

Maths About Me

Maths About Me

By the end of that year my students could see why maths was important to them, how it drove so many aspects of their lives and their and their belief in their ability to conquer its abstraction reinstated. 

So to be asked to review a book that takes a similar approach by demonstrating through bright, busy illustrations and hundreds of flaps to lift and explore, the ubiquity of maths – numbers, shapes, measurement, processes and even a challenge to put what has been learned into practice was such a treat.  Even though it is in board book format, that is to ensure the durability of the lift-the-flap design and it has a place in any early childhood collection.  In fact, it could be used as a model for older students who might like to create their own page of how maths is embedded in their lives. 

There are those who believe that if you have a calculator you have all you need to solve maths problems (just like there are those who believe that all information is available on the internet) but it is that deep understanding of and engagement with the processes and the way they are embedded in everyday life that is the critical element of success.  If we can get our youngest students appreciating this through books like these, attitudes will change and competency soar. 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Beryl Young

Sakika Kikuchi

Greystone Books, 2021

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

9781771645737 

As the “humpback highway” gathers momentum and more and more of our young readers have the privilege of seeing these majestic creatures, this is a timely release of the story of a humpback whale and her calf and how they bond and learn, grow and change and how that process parallels the development of the child. Both baby and calf have mothers who keep them safe and nurture them, while other natural-instinct behaviours also mirror each other such as blowing bubbles and blowing a plume, shouting and singing and frolicking in water.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a charming story of two not normally viewed together, answering the child’s questions as well as offering a new wondrous perspective of these magnificent mammals. 

 

 

Story Doctors

Story Doctors

Story Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Doctors

Boori Monty Pryor

Rita Sinclair

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760526559

What do you do when you are expected to review a book like this when you know you don’t have the knowledge, the skills or even the authority to do so?  And the text is so lyrical, the illustrations so sublime and the message so powerful that you just feel overwhelmed.

You let the words of others do your work because you know they will convey the power and the beauty so much better.

This is from its blurb…

This is a book for everybody. Welcome! Take a seat! And listen carefully, because this story has a heartbeat. Can you feel it, there in your chest?

Legendary storyteller Boori Monty Pryor invites us to travel with him from the first footsteps through 80,000+ years of strength, sickness, and immense possibility.

From the very first stories and art, to dance, language, and connection with the land, Boori offers a powerful, beautiful, and deeply rich account of Australia’s true history, drawing on a lifetime of wisdom, and on his generous instinct to teach and heal.

An exquisitely illustrated celebration of the power of storytelling to unite us, how nature connects us, and the wonderful truth that the medicine needed for healing lies within us all.

This is an interview with the author from Radio National which gives so much insight.
And this, the first few lines that demonstrate not only their origins and the thinking behind them but also the lyricism of the entire text… the language used is masterful and so clever, particularly the written version rather than just the audio.

And finally this – the explanation of the mesmerising, thought-provoking afterword on which the whole book was founded…

 

With the theme of the 2021 NAIDOC Week being Heal Country, this is indeed,  “an empowering story for all Australians, acknowledging our true history, embracing inclusivity, and celebrating the healing powers of nature and culture” from Australia’s Children’s Laureate 2012-2013.  If ever there were a book that epitomised the theme of Australia: Story Country, then this is it and it is one for all ages. 

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Angela Robertson-Buchanan

Wild Dog Books, 2021

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

9781742036076

When their tree-home was cut down leaving two baby sulphur-crested cockatoos alone because their parents flew away in fear, wildlife rangers rescued them and raised them until they were able to be independent.  Anyone who has heard the screech of these common birds of the bush will understand how well their names Squeak and Squawk suit them, and will enjoy following this photographic journey of their survival from just two weeks old.

Written for young readers,  this is a beautiful book written and photographed by a wildlife carer and  includes just enough information to give the intended audience what they need to know about these majestic birds. Teacher’s notes   encourage young readers to think about why young creatures need human help and what can be done to help them.

A great introduction not only to sulphur-crested cockatoos but also to how books can provide us with information and open new worlds. 

Pranklab: Practical science pranks you and your victim can learn from

Pranklab: Practical science pranks you and your victim can learn from

Pranklab: Practical science pranks you and your victim can learn from

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pranklab: Practical science pranks you and your victim can learn from

Chris Ferrie, Byrne LaGinestra, Wade David Fairclough

Sourcebooks eXplore, 2021

224pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781728223742

It is school holidays, many children are stuck inside because of COVID or the weather and it won’t be long before the “I’m bored!” refrain starts. 

So this new book that features 25 experiments that disguise themselves as pranks will be the ideal solution because both the perpetrator and the victim can learn a lot about science in the process. Using everyday household items, kids can exploit the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry through entertaining (and perfectly safe) activities. Each prank is in a separate coloured section and includes easy-to-understand instructions, step-by-step diagrams, and diary-style illustrations. Additional notes in each prank explain the science behind the fun.

Each begins with a list that indicates the victim, the mess, danger and funniness levels, the degree of science involved and the materials required.  There are warning sfor any potential problems, clear instructions with easy-to-follow diagrams, as well as an explanation of the science and even the opportunity to learn and do more to extend knowledge and understanding, such as The Wet One examining why plastics can be problematic.  

Even though the authors are highly qualified scientists (Ferrie at the University of Technology, Sydney; LaGinestra and Fairclough both at Sydney high schools) they have brought both the science and language levels down to those in mid to upper primary offering a lot of learning and a lot of fun in the same package.  Recommend this to parents – who may at first hate you, but then will appreciate your dedication to their child’s scientific learning. 

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton's Endurance:  An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Joanna Grochowicz

Allen & Unwin, 2021 

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526092

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest and victory over Sir Robert Falcon Scott. the fascination with Antarctic exploration was not over. Irishman Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott’s original expedition in 1901-1904, turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. 

Thus, in August 1914, Shackleton and his men set sail for Antarctica, where they plan to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. But in January 1915, his ship, the Endurance, becomes locked in pack ice, slowly being crushed before the shore parties could be landed and, later, sinking without a trace. With no help available, to survive, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men must undertake a trial even more extreme than their planned crossing of the frozen continent. Their aim is to make it home against tremendous odds, with only lifeboats to cross the heavy seas of the South Atlantic. And so the crew camped on the sea ice until it disintegrated, and eventually launched the lifeboats aiming for South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles (1,330 km). As well as the ice and the ocean their constant companions were hunger, exhaustion, and uncertainty but  Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills drive them on.

This is an extraordinary tale of leadership, courage and teamwork made all the more remarkable because it is a true story, and while at the upper end of the readership for this blog, a story that will entice and engage those who crave these sorts of real-life adventures.  Told using narrative non-fiction the reader becomes one of the characters experiencing the events as the meticulously researched historical facts are woven into a compelling story.

A companion to Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey a journey which inspired my own mother throughout her life and led her to become the first female journalist to visit the ice , and Amundsen’s Way,  this is the third in this trilogy of tales from that Age of Antarctic Exploration that take the reader back into a world of curiosity and faith, courage, determination and resilience, well before technology made such exploits “safe”.  

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Diane Lucas & Ben Tyler

Emma Long

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760525958

When a walk through the forest becomes an opportunity to learn about the secrets of what grows and lives there, and to tell and hear the stories of its past peoples, you never know how long you will be, what you will hear or what you will see.  For this forest in Kakadu in the Northern Territory contains more riches than a pirate’s treasure trove with its plant life, insects, birds and creatures, their inter-connections and the stories they bring with them. Old man Kapirigi says, “You gotta watch those birds”, (the djuwe or northern bower bird} “they’ll steal your bones out of the cave when you die.”

Combining their knowledge of and passion for the land and its stories, the authors have created a text that carries the reader along with its narrative while being laden with the most remarkable information, embedding the Kundjeyhml language in so naturally that the English equivalents seem so bland and boring in comparison. And Emma Long’s line and watercolour drawings that span full page spreads down to tiny vignettes are just sublime, highlighting just how busy even a tiny leaf can be if we take the time to look and listen. Rather than using conventional speech indicators, an avatar depicts the speaker as they point out something or tell a story and the whole just becomes an engaging read and learning experience that makes you want to go out to really embrace and inhale the nearest bit of garden you can find.  Just because we can’t get to Kakadu right now doesn’t mean we can’t learn the lessons of observation, appreciation and conservation that this book offers. There is so much more than we usually see to discover – a new world that fits in perfectly with this year’s CBCA Book Week theme. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lucas’s first book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, published over 15 years ago led the way to opening up this land to our young readers so they could begin to understand its ancient stories and those who shared them and this stunning book continues the tradition. Look for it in the CBCA 2022 Eve Pownall Notables because it certainly deserves a place there. 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Gina M. Newton

Rachel Tribout

CSIRO Publishing, 2020

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

 9781486311842

Where the Derwent River spreads out to meet the Tasman Sea on the southeastern coast of Tasmania lives Handstand,  a spotted handfish and one of just 1000 left of a species that the dinosaurs would have recognised.  A species of anglerfish, Handstand lures prey using a fleshy growth on her head, which acts like a fishing rod and lure, even including a “light” that attracts the worms and crustaceans on the deep sea floor. But even more amazing is that she has hands – pectoral fins that have adapted to allow her to walk along the seabed because without a swim bladder, she can’t swim. 

This is just some of the information contained in this remarkable book, told by Handstand herself, and introducing this highly endangered species to young readers.  Being one of the first marine fish species to be listed on the IUCN Red List , and one of just 14 species from the hundreds that used to be in the oceans (all of which are Australian). not only does Handstand raise awareness of her species for those looking to investigate a not-so-familiar endangered species, but she conveys a strong message of the need to protect and conserve both the marine environment and those that live within it. 

Presented in a way that engages the reader with Handstand’s story entwined and embedded with facts and accompanied by biologically-correct illustrations which have a childlike appeal, this book has been shortlisted for both the CBCA Even Pownall Award for Information Books for 2021 and the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature: Non fiction 2021, both accolades that are richly deserved because not only is the spotlight thrown on the future of the spotted handfish , but there is also a raised awareness of the needs of and threats to the ocean environment generally. If climate change, chemical pollution, rubbish, fishing nets and invaders like the Northern Pacific Seastar are threatening this tiny creature, then others must be at risk too. 

Extensive teachers’ notes are available and the book uses a variety of graphic techniques that students could adopt and adapt to bring their own reports to life, making it a book that as well as deserving its award nominations, definitely deserves a place in the library’s collection. 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

My First Book of Aussie Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Book of Aussie Animals

Gordon Winch

Stephen Pym

Catch A Star, 2021 

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9781922326232

Right from the get-go, our youngest littlies learn to recognise the iconic Australian wildlife – I’m currently making a library bag for Mr Almost-2 with an Aussie animal theme – and so this little board book from the creator of Can You Find Me? is perfect for not only consolidating their knowledge but also beginning their reading journey.  With its sturdy board book format,  lift-the-flap interactivity and repetitive, rhyming text they can discover the platypus, echidna, koala, kangaroo and possum in their familiar habitats while also being introduced to some less familiar creatures that share that same environment.

Not only does this approach start to develop those early reading behaviours that are the foundation of mastering print, but it also encourages them to look more closely at the trees and bushes around them and understand that even if they aren’t a home for something familiar, they are a home for something. And if they look carefully, they might just discover what that something is.  

There are indeed riches galore in this seemingly simple, beautifully illustrated book.