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Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phyllis & Grace

Nigel Gray

Bethan Welby

Scallywag Press, 2022

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

9781912650514

Phyllis and Grace live next door to each other, and Grace like to take Phyllis little gifts like a slice of cake Mum has baked, or biscuits she has baked herself.  Phyllis is always grateful and invites her in, even though she doesn’t always remember Grace’s name or even her own…

This is a delightful story that is being replicated in many communities and families as the Baby Boomers move into senior citizenship and choose to stay in their own homes rather than “being a burden” on family.  Not only does it echo the difficulties faced as their independence declines, but it reflects the rewarding relationships that children and older people can share.  Grace sees Phyllis through the clear lens of a child, accepting her for het she is in the moment and responding to the moment, rather than getting impatient and frustrated as some adults do because they wish the old “Phyllis” who was sharp-thinking and focused was still there.

Grace’s visits give Phyllis the connections she needs, not just with her immediate community but also those she has known before, bringing back the memories of childhood in a gentle way,. Even when Phyllis can no longer live on her own, encouraged by her parents who clearly see this as a friendship that is as important for Grace as it is for Phyllis, Grace continues to visit, meeting Phyllis’s son and learning that this old lady is more than her dementia; that there is so much more to her than an illness or disability.

With soft illustrations as sensitive as the story, this is one to not only help little ones understand dementia better, but also to help them understand that whatever a person’s illness or disability, they are more than that with a rich life to share or dreams and wishes to fulfil.  While their condition might shape their life in the now, there is so much more that was and will be in the sufferer’s story. And that should be our focus as friends.

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Andy Fackrell

Ford Street, 2022

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696007

Have you heard of a flamboyance of flamingos?  Perhaps a bloat of hippos or even an implausibility of gnus?

Wilbur is on a journey through his local zoo, visiting his favourite animals and discovering the wonderful words that describe groups of them.

Written in rhyme with a repetitive refrain, it is an entertaining way for students to investigate some of the more outrageous nouns, as they develop their vocabulary and perhaps even speculate on how the groups got their labels.  They might even investigate the noun associated with their favourite creature to create an extra page for the book, including illustrations that offer  similar extra information as the originals.   Teachers’ notes offer other suggestions for using this book in the English strand.

However, Fackrell has intended this to be more than a romp through a zoo to build vocabulary.  He is a strong supporter of The Lion’s Share, a fund backed by the United Nation’s Development Programme – its mentor David Attenborough –and its work protecting our most vulnerable wildlife groups. Thus, each spread features a supporting cast of unnamed species, all biologically correct to the ecosystem. For instance, in the Andes, alongside the Flamboyance of Flamingos there is a Knot of endangered, Lake Titicaca Water Frogs.

The endpapers of the hardback version are a definitive and fun reference source with a world map of all known collective nouns  drawn on the inside front, with the matching animal names on the inside back.

To learn more about the book’s creation, there is a Q & A with Andy Fackrell here. 

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Karen Romano Young

Angela Hsieh

What On Earth Books, 2022

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

9781913750527

Antarctica is one of the most isolated and harshest environments on the planet, often referred to as “the final frontier”. 

From her harbourside home in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, as a young girl in the 1930s my mum would watch the ships head southwards to the ice, literally the next stop after they left the safety of the port of Bluff.  And she began to dream. In 1968, after years of dedication and hard work, she broke the “petticoat ban” and she too, joined those sailing south from Bluff – on a converted fishing trawler that was the precursor to the luxury liners of today, as Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered Antarctic tourism and she became the first female journalist to go south.

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

Fifty+ years on and it is so different – or at least the getting there is, and the presence of women is no longer a novelty and the issue of where they might go to the toilet no longer a primary barrier!

Today, in the southern summer, tourist trips leave regularly for the ice, although most often it is via South America to the Antarctic Peninsula as the crossing of the Drake Passage is usually only about two days while scientists are there all year round and women work alongside the men.  So, this new book provides an up-to-date view of this isolated continent in a narrative that draws on the author’s own experiences as well as extensive research and interviews with scientists, combining a unique personal perspective with up-to-date information about the land and its inhabitants, the investigations being undertaken and the discoveries being made such as studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet. There is still so much to learn and do and the book’s scope offers many opportunities for students’ interest-driven investigations.

While most of its readers probably won’t have the wherewithal to afford a trip on one of the many ships that have made it a bucket-list destination, perhaps this book will inspire them to take another route under the Australian Antarctic program and dare to dream – just as my mum did all those years ago! For that truly was “Dreaming with eyes open…” 

 

 

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I'm a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

Dr Eve M. Vavagiakis

Ilze Lemesis

MIT Kids Press, 2022

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

9781529506334

Somewhere, back in the hazy days of high school in the 60s, I learned about protons, electrons and neutrons but, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in science and physics was an absolute mystery.  Now, even having read this book it still is, but there is bound to be a budding young physicist who can get their head round the existence and purpose of these mysterious particles of matter that are the smallest known.

According to the publisher’s blurb, “Before you finish reading this sentence, trillions upon trillions of neutrinos will have passed through your body” and according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a neutrino is  an “elementary subatomic particle with no electric charge, very little mass, and 1/2 unit of spin. Neutrinos belong to the family of particles called leptons, which are not subject to the strong force. Rather, neutrinos are subject to the weak force that underlies certain processes of radioactive decay.”

So to have someone who is not only smart enough to understand the scientific definition but then distil that into an accessible poem the explains the phenomenon (and further explain it in prose as well), and another person to also understand it and be able to interpret it in illustrations is a phenomenon in itself.  Nevertheless, that’s what has been done in this book and there will be budding young cosmologists whose brains can travel to places that are a mystery to me. And if they want to know more, then have them listen to this conversation with the author. 

 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733341632

Miimi Marraal, she created us,
you and me …

Using a palette as soft and gentle as the accompanying text,  Gumbaynggir storyteller, artist and designer Melissa Greenwood, has created an ode between mother and newborn that tells the baby of the deep connections of First Nations Peoples have to Miimi Marraal (Mother Earth) from the moment of conception. While it is a story that echoes the feeling between any mother and newborn. it is expressed in a way that shows the long, strong threads of family that reach far into the past of First Nations families and, indeed, Greenwood says it was “channelled through my beautiful Nanny” and “inspired by my late great grandmother… and my own beautiful mother”, thus spanning five generations into “this life we will weave”. And, as well as that strong female thread, there is another equally strong one that ties them to the land on which they live and the need for its protection, thus from birth the baby is learning about their cultural heritage and tradition that is so important to our First Nations peoples..

Children learn their mother ;language, whatever it is, through listening to it.  They learn its meaning, its rhythm, its expression, its nuances from the first words that they hear. So while the baby may not yet understand the words that its mother is sharing, there is much that they are absorbing during these personal, precious moments. Therefore, these sort of lullabies have a unique place in language learning and should not only be among the gifts given to any new mother but also be the first in the baby’s library. 

 

At the Pond

At the Pond

At the Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Pond

David Elliot

Amy Schimler-Safford

Candlewick Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536205985

The red-winged blackbird spreads his tail
and sings his hello morning song;
he has sung it since the bright
and misty world began.

When the soft pink of the dawn sun starts peeking over the pond, a new day has begun for all the animals who live in it and around its watery edges. The friendly duck family, the mysterious water striders, and the busy beaver are a few of the many fascinating and familiar animals included in this glowing poetic tribute to the lively ecosystem of the pond.

Pairing poems with pictures, this is an introduction to the animals and plants that call the pond home, and while they may not all be those that young Australian readers are familiar with, it sets up the opportunity to investigate what a local pond might have and would look like. Do we even call them ponds?  Or are they dams and billabongs? 

This is another invitation to look more closely at the world around us, especially those parts we tend to take for granted, to extend vocabulary and writing skills to describe it in poetry or depict it in artworks, or if that isn’t a strength, create a brief factual description using those included as a model.   

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Rebecca Schiller

Sophie Beer

Walker Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397024

In the USA school students are walking out of school to protest the lack of gun control laws; in Australia, they walked out of school in 2021 to protest the lack of action on climate change… The names of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists are as well-known to them as those of their favourite singers and movie stars as the mantle of protest moves from its traditional university setting to the classroom.  

But who are they inspired by? On whose shoulders do they stand? 

Defining an activist as one who uses their knowledge, skills and energy to make the world a better place by protecting human rights, ending prejudice and inequality and protecting the planet from harmful human activities so all its creatures are safe, this book introduces young readers to 20 people who have made a significant contribution to changing the world – some names familiar, others not-so – including Sonita Alizdeh; Rachel Carson; Favio Chavez; Mahatma Gandhi; Jane Goodall; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr; Nelson Mandela; Wangari Maathai; Aditya Mukarji; Emmeline Pankhurst; Autumn Peltier; Boyan Slat; Gareth Thomas; Harriet Tubman; William Wilberforce; Ai Weiwei Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as well as both Yousafzai and Thunberg.

Each person has a double-page spread that includes an outline of what they have achieved, the core motivation for their actions, the particular powers that they employed, as well as a significant quote to inspire the readers to continue their work.  There is also an activity suggested so that this can be done so the reader begins to realise that no one is too small to make a difference. For example, they are encouraged to build their public speaking powers so when they have something important to say they can speak out with confidence as Mahatma Gandhi did, or perhaps create something that will solve a problem as Boyan Slat did when he was confronted with an ocean of plastic rather than marine creatures on his first scuba diving trip.

Conservative, right-wing, middle-aged men in suits (and those who follow them) condemned those children who left their classrooms to protest – they should have stayed there to study and learn –  yet it could be strongly argued that those same children were actually putting their learning into practice, determined to make the world a better place for themselves and others, because “there is more to life than increasing its speed” as Gandhi said.  By introducing our students to those who have gone before, and those who are already forging a new path, through books such as this,  Children Who Changed the World , and others, perhaps we can plant the seeds that will grow the future.  Encourage each to “dream with their eyes open.” 

 

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Jackie Kerin

Milly Formby

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

978148631449

 

A few weeks ago we found ourselves at an international airport, which might not seem unusual except we we had no luggage, tickets or boarding passes, we weren’t intending to fly anywhere and our feet were firmly planted in the sand of Shoalhaven Heads in the Illawarra District of Australia’s East Coast.

 

But this was not your usual airport where planes take off for faraway destinations – it’s actually an important bird migration destination on the East-Asian Australasian Flyway  that extends from Arctic Russia and North America to New Zealand and is used by over 50 million migratory waterbirds.  Twice a year, 36 species of migratory shorebird fly annually to Australia and New Zealand for their non-breeding, or overwintering, season, and then return to breed in the northern hemisphere above the Arctic Circle.

So the release of this book for review was very timely, particularly as it also coincides with an opportunity to follow illustrator Milly Formby’s microlight adventure around Australia to raise awareness for migratory shorebirds in May–November 2022, complete with all sorts of support resources including the teachers’ notes downloadable from the book’s home page..

While we might be learning about the amazing migratory journeys of species like the humpback whale  and other creatures, they are able to stop, rest and feed on their journey.  How can a red-necked stint which weighs about the same as a piece of toast fly 500km without stopping – that’s the distance from Sydney to Perth and then another 1000km out to sea?  Who are these amazing birds, who can’t land on the water because they don’t have webbed feet, and what do they do to prepare for their amazing journeys? How do they find their way across both ocean and continent covering up to 12 000km in nine days like E7, the bar-trailed godwit which was fitted with a tracker to record the first world bird record for the longest non-stop flight?

In this absorbing book, the reader is taken on a trip to the Arctic tundra and back to discover the life and lifestyles of these wanderers in a format that is engaging, accessible and which opens up a whole new world to wonder about.  With books like this and The Great Southern Reef  we can introduce our students to the amazing world that is right on their doorstep, perhaps opening up new interests and dreams. For Milly Formby has a dream to fly her microlight to Siberia and back to follow the birds, the first step being that  Wing Threads adventure of flying around Australia. A real-life example of “Dreaming with Eyes Open.” 

Milly's Journey

Milly’s Journey

 

 

Then to enrich the experience, as well as being involved in  Milly’s adventure, track down a copy of the movie Fly Away Home, the remarkable story of saving Canada geese by training them to follow an ultralight, based on the real-life experience of Bill Lishman.

What a world has opened up for me because I found myself at that unknown airport!  And my feet haven’t even left the ground!

 

 

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the White Ibis

Phillip Gwynne

Liz Anelli

Puffin. 2022

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

9781760897949

The ‘chorus” of this song would seem to sum up this bird’s reputation…

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate

But, in fact, the white ibis – Threskiornis molucca – has  a more dignified tale to tell. That of being related to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt and to Thoth, the god of science, writing, magic and the moon; that of being the farmers’ friend as their long beaks aerate the soil as they dig for troublesome insects like locusts; that of once living in the wetlands but driven to being of scavenger of the cities because of human habitation overtaking theirs. 

There was much derision when Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe suggested the white ibis to be the mascot for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane but this intriguing book by Phillip Gwynne with its detailed illustrations from Liz Anelli  shows the bird in a completely different light, offering a different side to its common image. Certainly, the final message of “reduce, reuse, recycle’ or we might all become bin chickens is confronting but is a definite heads up to make us think about why there is just so much waste to enable these birds to thrive in the urban environment. 

According to the  National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study

  • Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion each year.
  • Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain – this wastage equals about 312kg per person, equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
  • The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers in excess of 25 million hectares, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.

(Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2022)

Thus, this book could be the springboard to students  investigating food waste and its management in both our schools and our homes making it so much more that a plea from a bird for some dignity and respectability. Even young readers can create visual representations of what 312kg  or one in five bags of groceries look like. And that notion of it being the Olympic mascot could be more beneficial than first considered… 

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku

Sally M. Walker

Matthew Trueman

Candlewick Press, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536203561

one minuscule speck
grows into the universe
a mind-boggling birth

Defined as a traditional Japanese three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count which often focuses on images from nature, haiku emphasises simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression making it an effective way to get students to focus on the essence of an object and then use succinct, descriptive vocabulary to portray it so every word has to work hard. 

In this stunning union of poetry, art and science, haiku is used to explore the universe through a lunar eclipse, beyond the orbiting planets, and into glowing galaxies and twinkling constellations out to Ultima Thule, the most extreme limit of the journey which “longs for a visitor with coal and a carrot”, and all accompanied by the most imaginative illustrations that are almost photo-like so that not only does the reader learn about the vast beauty of space but they are left in wonder and awe of its magnificence. The minimal text structure of haiku means just the nucleus of the phenomenon is offered as a teaser, leaving the reader with a tempting taste to learn more…

the Eagle landed

one giant leap for mankind

footprints in the dust

Some of this is offered in the comprehensive, well-researched final pages which explore such topics as constellations and astronomers, the birth of the universe, stars, the solar system, moons and eclipses, asteroids, meteors, and comets, but the whole offers an opportunity for students to engage in their own interest-driven investigation with the challenge of summarising their findings in their own haiku and artwork.