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Eyes That Weave The World’s Wonders

Eyes That Weave The World's Wonders

Eyes That Weave The World’s Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes That Weave The World’s Wonders

Joanna Ho & Liz Kleinrock

Dung Ho

HarperCollins US, 2024

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

9780063057777

In the annual family photos where everyone gathers in matching clothes and shoes and laughter, everything is the same for everyone – except for one.  Because no one has eyes like hers – eyes that kiss in the corners.  But despite their shape, she sees the wonder of the world through her eyes and those around her,  But who gave her those eyes? And where ad why and what if and what happened?   Questions that every child who is adopted asks eventually, and even though there may be no immediate answers, she understands that sometimes “love must look like letting go”.

This is another wonderful story from the author of such masterpieces as Eyes that Kiss in the Corners and Eyes that Speak to the Stars.  and once again Joanna Ho has used her gift of language to create something that brings a common situation into the spotlight.  This time it is that of the adopted child and co-author Liz Kleinrock focuses on this in a note to the reader at the beginning of the book.  Between them, authors and illustrator have created another story of awareness, understanding and acceptance not just by the protagonist but also the reader and I know that whenever I pick up a title with Joanna and Dung Ho’s names on the cover I am going to be changed by the reading of it.  And this is no exception.  It’s not the shape of our eyes that matters, it’s what they see that counts.

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Planet: Journey Through The Amazon

Rob Lloyd Jones

Wazza Pink

Usborne, 2024

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

9781805312185

This is a board book with just 16 pages, but in those 16 pages the reader is taken on the most remarkable journey along a river that is the world’s largest drainage system and which, because of the forests through which it flows, has been called “the lungs of the earth”. 

Through remarkable illustrations that leap off the page and a lift-the-flap format that make it interactive and thus more engaging, the reader is introduced to the Amazon’s flora and fauna in the canopy, along the river, in the jungle and on the ground as well as some of the peoples who have lived there for over 10 000 years. 

But this is not a mere travel guide and neither does it tell the entire story for there is so much more to be discovered.  Its purpose is to begin raising awareness of this remarkable, crucial landscape that is critical to the health of the planet. but as we are told, “While you’re read this book thousands more trees have been cut down [and] at this rate, the Amazon rainforest will be gone.” And so will its ability to counteract some of the pollution that is pumped into the planet’s atmosphere each day.

Part of the Extreme Planet series which includes Journey to the Earth’s Core, in which young readers are introduced to some of the amazing habitats of Earth and their inhabitants, in a way that is accessible to them through both format and text, it inspires a desire to know more as the narrative directly embraces the reader as their boots “squelch on the rotting woods and fallen leaves” and insects scurry through the gloom because so little sunlight reaches the forest floor. But beware – bright and colourful as they may be, some are deadly… Use this link to see for yourself.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

And for those who do want to know more, there are the usual Quicklinks which are such a unique and integral part of this publisher’s presentations. Perhaps students could use what they learn and the format of the book to develop a wall display to help raise the awareness of their peers. 

One thing is for certain – by the time they have read this book, the word “Amazon” will be so much more than a large online shopping mall.  

The Sea in Me

The Sea in Me

The Sea in Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sea in Me

Cody Simpson with Jess Black

Amandine Thomas

Puffin, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761049965

A hot summer’s day and everyone seems to have had the same idea – to go to the beach. Rows of beach tents block the breeze, the jingle of the ice cream van is on repeat, the towels are so close they are touching and even the seagulls are grumpy as they squabble over spilled chips.  The sights and sounds are so overpowering and overwhelming that there is just one solution – to go for a swim , dive deep below the waves and relax…

The sounds from above are hazy and lost to me.
I can only hear my heartbeat, slow and steady.

Far below the hubbub above, there is peace and quiet and the sea creatures go about their lives as they have always done in a slow, repetitive rhythm that soothes jangled nerves and calms the soul in a magical way.

Sometimes, whether it is a physical experience like being at an overcrowded beach, or just embroiled in life itself, we will all feel that it is all too much and we just need to get away, to find solace in silence and stillness, to go to where the only sound is the inner voice in your head and listen to it.  And with today’s busy, frenetic lifestyle and all the outside noise imposing itself even on our youngest, this is a wonderful allegory to share to help them find that inner peace, whether that be under the waves or high in a tree or perched on a rock or snuggled under the blankets.  We all have a “sea” that is our sanctuary. 

Cody Simpson is a name that will be familiar to many – as a musician, aspiring Olympian and now writer he is well-qualified to write about the outside noise and pressures on his life.  Listening to an interview with Giaan Rooney immediately after just failing to make the Olympic team to go to Paris, this book could not have a more timely release.  He spoke of a time when he had to shut down all the distractions and listen to the voice of 12-year-old Cody telling him that he was a talented swimmer at that early age and had the potential to go far, and it was up to him to realise it.  The most powerful message though, comes from the ending – even though he didn’t achieve his ultimate goal, he gave it his all and he wasn’t going to go through life wondering “What if…” But it was that initial act of actively seeking that solitude and seclusion that allowed him to hear that voice that sparked the dream that was so critical.

So whether this book is just used as a peek at what is underneath the waves, or as part of a mindfulness program that encourages students to look deep within to find their “sea” and what it is telling them, it has a place for a wide audience and a message that goes far beyond the celebrity’s name on the cover.  Even if not as an Olympian or a musician, Simpson has offered himself as a role model of an entirely different sort. 

Milly’s Parent Airport

Milly's Parent Airport

Milly’s Parent Airport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milly’s Parent Airport

Rachel Brace

Angela Perrini

Little Steps, 2024

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

 9781922833136

For many children, airports are a place of great excitement and anticipation as the prospect of a holiday somewhere or meeting a long-gone relative looms large.  But for some, like Milly, they can be places of uncertainty and butterflies-in-the-tummy as it means they are leaving one parent and going to visit the other.  And even though it is a journey Milly has made several times, there is still the anguish of saying goodbye to her mum and the anxiety of going to meet her dad and wondering what changes are in store.

With holidays looming, this is a story that will resonate with many of our young readers and Milly’s strategies for dealing with the what-ifs, like breathing slowly and deeply and understanding that if there is turbulence of any sort -on or off the ground – it won’t last for ever.

Written by a psychologist who works with children in families experiencing divorce, there are a couple of pages of very helpful hints for both parents and children to make the transition less traumatic so that everyone stays calm and supported, regardless of where the changeover takes [lace, making this a useful text for both the family and school library.  

 

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

Imagine a Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine a Time

Penny Harrison

Jennifer Goldsmith

New Frontier, 2024

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

9781922326966

Remember the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty about a princess who at her christening, was cursed by an evil fairy who hadn’t been invited? She would prick her finger when she was older and died, but this was mitigated by another fairy to sleeping for a hundred years before being awakened by a handsome prince.  And while she slept, so did everything around her except for Mother Nature and the land around the palace was once more returned to its natural beauty.

Its origins are unclear but there are elements of it in a number of European stories from medieval times, all with that theme of everything stopping and Mother Nature reclaiming what is hers.  Although this new release doesn’t have the elements of the princess being awakened by the handsome prince, it does invite the reader to imagine time stopping, all travel and transport halted and people slowing down to just breathe and be in the moment.  

Imagine a time when all the world stops,
when all of the clocks no longer tick-tock.
and all of the maps are starting to fade,
as the need to be somewhere drifts far away.

While no one falls asleep for 100 years, they do take the time to let go of all that drives them forward incessantly to the next thing as if the current time is not enough or of no consequence, and soak in what is available for free if only they had time to see and appreciate it.

With a gentle, rhythmic rhyming text that encourages a slowing of the mind and delicate watercolour images, this is one that should be shared regularly as we encourage our young children to listen to the sounds of night falling, or watch the clouds make magical shapes, or wonder at the beauty of the colours around them. or… 

Living where I do I am blessed to be surrounded by Mother Nature at her finest but what about the city kids who seemed to live a life of such hustle and bustle that there is no time to stop and dream and wonder?  It’s a theme that has been addressed before in stories like The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts, In My Garden by Kate Mayes, and The Concrete Garden by Bob Graham, among others, but it is clearly one that needs to be returned to often.  The clocks don’t have to stop for ever, not even for an hour, but what about taking five minutes outside right now just to fill the senses and daydream.  The feeling of calm will last a lot longer.

How to Move a Zoo

How to Move a Zoo

How to Move a Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Move a Zoo

Kate Simpson

Owen Swan

A & U Children’s, 2024

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

9781761180309

Here’s a problem for your students to solve… it’s 1916 and you need to move a zoo from its old home in Moore Park, Sydney. to its new home on the other side of the harbour.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge hasn’t been built, and the road trip is long and involves crossing five different bridges.  It’s been okay for a lot of the animals because they could be put in crates and cages and loaded onto the back of trucks, but how do you move an elephant that is too large for even the largest truck of the time?

This is the fascinating story of how Jessie the Asian elephant, a hugely popular attraction at the old venue where she had lived for 30 years,  made her way along Flinders Street, through Taylor Square to the Domain to Fort Macquarie and on to her new home at Taronga Park Zoological Gardens on Bradley’s Head, a journey that would take about 20 minutes today but so much longer back then.  In the early hours of a Sunday morning in a Sydney very different from today, anyone who was up and about, like the milkman with his horse and cart, would have been startled to see a man leading an elephant through the quiet streets and as gentle and as tame as Jessie was, it was not an easy journey for the streets, sights, sounds and smells were unfamiliar to her and she could have panicked at any time.  Crossing the harbour on a ferry was an unknown but when there is a bond between animal and human as there was between Jessie and Mr Miller, who knows what’s possible. 

While the role of elephants in today’s modern zoos is so much more important than providing amusement for a penny a ride, Jessie’s story is one that is well documented both in articles and photographs, and this beautifully illustrated narrative non fiction version is the perfect starting point for not only learning about that remarkable cross-city journey, but also delving more deeply into these fascinating creatures whose future is uncertain.  

Oceans at Night

Oceans at Night

Oceans at Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans at Night

Vanessa Pirotta 

Cindy Lane

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

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

9781486317233

For many young readers, when they pack up the buckets, spades and surfboards and head home after a day at the beach, that’s the last they think of the ocean until they visit it again.  But as the sun sets on their day, a new world starts to come alive beneath the waves and in this stunningly illustrated book the reader is introduced to just a fraction of the nightlife that emerges when dusk and darkness fall.

And believe me, it is a world that is very different from the daytime with creatures not normally seen coming to life.  How well I remember putting my brave on and with only a cyalume stick strapped to my wrist, stepping into the inky black waters off Heron Island for my first night dive.  But it was worth the fear because the world we went into was so different from that which we had dived a few hours before, even though it was the same location.  Not only was the resident moray of the bommie out and about but my enduring memory is that of the beauty of the Spanish Dancer nudibranch swimming along, skirts dancing like a flamenco dancer, brilliant colours brought to life by the light of our sticks.

11,100+ Sea Slug Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock |  Blue dragon sea slug, Green sea slug, Blue sea slug

As the world celebrates World Ocean Day and we have a particular focus on the environment that makes up 70% of our planet, this is an outstanding first look at those creatures who prefer dark to light – even those who never see light so deep do they live – and even includes the strange collection of plankton that, in certain conditions, turns the foaming waves blue and attracts sightseers whenever it is spotted. 

When I was a kid it was a television show called Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges that sparked my desire and determination to become a scuba diver, perhaps these days it is the feats of James Cameron and his Deepsea Challenge or other movies that take viewers to depths that modern technology allows. but whatever the inspiration, it is books like this that ignite the thirst for knowledge.  Written to inform the young independent reader and encompassing creatures from little penguins returning to feed their youngsters to the almost-mythical giant squid, this is one that could begin a journey that will last a lifetime.  

Magic Counting

Magic Counting

Magic Counting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Counting

Nabeel Khan

Tete Garcia

Scribble Books, 2024

22pp., board book, RRP $A24.99

9781922585400

For generations of kids, maths has been taught as discrete strands of number, space, and measurement with little or no connection between the strands, and more often than not it is taught at a certain time each day making it appear to be a standalone subject with little or no connection to the real world, and generations of kids, particularly girls, have grown up believing that apart from being able to count and perform basic operations, it is a subject that bears little relation to their everyday lives and that it lives in the “too-hard basket”. Whether these attitudes are because of the heavy reliance on textbooks to teach it, or the ease of writing curriculum documents based on those apparently separate areas (although the Australia Curriculum now has algebra, statistics and probability included) , or teachers having the same perceptions as their students, is debatable but the outcome seems to be the same – it is a subject set apart from all others even though it has been called “the queen of sciences”. 

Forty years ago when given a class who, at the age of just 8, perceived themselves as already failing at maths because they had been streamed into the bottom group, it was clear to me that there had to be a different approach than the typical traditional textbook they had been following, and so, having had so much success teaching littlies to read with a ‘whole language classroom’ I decided to try a whole-maths classroom, with the outcome being a complete turnaround in attitude and achievement, as well as the publication of many articles in the then-authoritative Classroom magazine, as well as Maths About Me, Maths About My Year and the Eureka Maths program (all for Longman Cheshire.) My basic premise was that maths was everywhere and if we could show students how it connected to and actually drove their lives so they could see its purpose and relevance, they would be more willing to embrace it and invest their time and energy in learning how to understand and use the concepts and processes.

Which is all a long-winded way of explaining why I was so excited to have this new book arrive for review.  In it, visual artist Nabeel Khan explores the connections between shapes and numbers and the world in a way that reaches out to both the beginner and the experienced learners. Beginning with the number one – One earth turning, where countless creatures live – the reader then opens the flap=page to discover the circle, its properties and its place in nature and  its connections the spiritual beliefs of the world’s peoples, continuing the exploration for each number to ten, Khan builds on his belief that children learn more effectively if we begin from “a place of playfulness, curiosity, and tangible connection to their environment” so that maths is seen as a connected whole from the get-go. “We can find numbers and shapes everywhere: in the natural world, in art and architecture, in symbolism, and in the sky above us.”

Back in those delightful days when we were allowed to use our imaginations to teach, one of the favourite activities was to explore a maths trail where students would investigate the shapes, numbers, measurements and all the other things in the environment, whether that was around the school, around the shopping centre or even a national institution like the Australian War Memorial. Sometimes they followed trails that others had set, but often they made up their own; sometimes that had to find the correct term for a pattern of bricks and sometimes they just had to add the numbers on their letterbox but either way it provided authentic fun learning across all aspects of the discipline and all ages of the student body. Maybe this book will inspire a similar way to discover the magic as they look more closely at the maths in the world around them.

Needless to say, this is a book that has captured my interest and one that I believe, should not only be in the library’s collection but in each teacher’s toolbox because it has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we teach and understand this vital topic.  

 

  

 

The Miracle of the Grey Swans

The Miracle of the Grey Swans

The Miracle of the Grey Swans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Miracle of the Grey Swans

Zhao Lihong

Wang Keqiao

Little Steps, 2024

106pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781922833211

Each year the swans come to spend six months on the lake near Weiwei’s home and then fly off to who knows where.  Weiwei’s family feels a special connection with these magnificent birds and so when a male is heard making a great fuss, Weiwei investigates, only to find the female who is obviously its mate, is injured and unable to fly.

Despite the male’s protestations as he tries to defend his mate, Weiwei and his father are able to move the swan to their shed to care for it, as well as the two eggs they discover she is sitting on.  They leave the door and gate open so the male is free to come and go, as he eventually does, but when it is time for the flock to leave he is torn between staying with his injured-but-recovering mate and the call of nature and the wild.  Over the winter the babies hatch and the mother takes care of them but will her partner return in the Spring with the rest of the group.

Like the author’s other story, Snow White’s Escapethis is another original plot, simply told with no other purpose than to entertain young readers.  Despite its length, it is more like an extended picture book than a novel with a linear story devoid of complex twists and turns. 

There is a reference to The Ugly Duckling that might lead the reader to exploring that or perhaps even Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, but it is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of animal migration.  Where do the swans go when they leave the farm near the lake?  Why do they go? How do they find their way back? are they the only creatures that do this?  Perhaps a good stepping stone from Weiwei’s story would be A Shorebird Flying Adventure  which tells the story of some remarkable Australian birds, and then a search of this blog for “migration” will bring up a number of non fiction texts perfect for investigating further. It might even inspire a class activity observing and tallying the different birds seen in the school playground over the course of the year to determine which are permanent residents and which are transitory but regular visitors.  

Sometimes the most unlikely story can lead the reader down any number of pathways to new discoveries – this is one of those and that is truly the magic of reading.  

 

This Book is Full of Holes

This Book is Full of Holes

This Book is Full of Holes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Book is Full of Holes

Nora Nickum

Robert Meganck

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

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

 9781486318407

What is a hole?

Is it the place in your sock where your toe peeks through?  Is it the hollow in a gum tree where Mother Galah raises her babies? Or is it the gap in a rock formed over millennia by wave action and which now fascinates as those waves create a spectacular fountain?  Perhaps it is that mysterious place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out.

This book tells us a hole is “a hollow place. An empty space. A part of something where there is nothing at all”. And then goes on to explore and explain a wide range of holes, each with a particular purpose or story to tell in one of the quirkiest but most fascinating books that I have read in a long time.  In the past I’ve engaged students with a unit I called “Why Do I Have Seven Holes in my Head?” but never have I given a hole more than a passing thought, apart from something to mend, walk around or put something in (like tea in the hole in the cup).  Accompanied by illustrations that will make the reader LOL, not only does it explore holes in everything from the everyday to the extraordinary, it also looks at the word in our language, opening up all sorts of places and phrases to investigate.

Present and promote it to the kid who thinks a little differently, whose curiosity is never satisfied, who is looking for something absurd that becomes absorbing and you will be giving them entertainment (and education) for a long time to come. Superb.