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Wonderful Wasps

Wonderful Wasps

Wonderful Wasps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful Wasps

Katrina Germein

Suzanne Houghton

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315734

The first line asks, “What do you know about wasps?” My answer can be summed up in two sentences …They sting. I avoid them because of a childhood allergic reaction that almost killed me.”

Who knew that there are so many other species apart from the “we’re everywhere” European wasps?  That there are over 12 000 “we-have-always-been-here” species found in Australia and they are as critical to our survival because of the work they do as their cousins, the bees

Beginning with a visual introduction on the endpapers, this beautifully illustrated book introduces the reader  to some of the native wasps that thrive in our native gardens and bushlands, the work they do  in sustaining both the flora and fauna while maintaining a healthy respect and difference for a creature that can sting and sting again, although unlike the common European wasp, many indigenous species are not aggressive unless provoked.  

As summer comes on, and our bushland springs to life with its floral beauty, the wasps will be active again and so this is a beautiful book for younger readers to start to learn more, both from the factual information in the final pages and from the activities suggested in the thorough teaching notes.  While there has been an emphasis on protecting and nurturing bees in the environment lately with gardens being established and even bee hotels installed, perhaps it  is time to expand the focus and consider what could be done to ensure the preservation of our wasp species as well.  Among them, Katrina Germein, Suzanne Houghton and CSIRO Publishing have provided the perfect starting point.  (And I know a lot more than when I started!) 

Backyard Buddies

Backyard Buddies

Backyard Buddies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Buddies

Andy Geppert

Lothian, 2022

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

9780734421470

There are lots of creatures and critters that live in our backyards that fascinate our young readers – things like butterflies, spiders, blue-tongue lizards and even pet rocks.  So this “somewhat factual introduction to the hoppy, crawly, wriggly, buzzy,[and] fluttery ” that little ones are likely to see will be a welcome addition to help answer their questions.  

Beginning with the front endpage offering a contents list that relies on the reader recognising the shape of the creature they want to investigate (encouraging visual acuity), each has its own double-page spread that has lots of pictures including visual cues about when to see it and whether it is safe to touch or not as well as an easily readable description.

Butterflies are like moths – just fancier.

They fly around during the daytime to show off their pretty, colourful wings. This is probably why moths prefer to only come out at night.

As well as offering our youngest readers an understanding that books can be about real things so their questions can be answered, thus introducing the concept of non fiction, like its predecessor Backyard Birdies , it could even inspire the young backyard naturalist to be more aware of their surroundings, perhaps starting a chart to record their observations and  beginning to develop their skills in data gathering, mapping and interpretation! To help parents and teachers encourage this exploration of the immediate environment, there are teachers’ notes that suggest activities that go beyond the pages to investigating life cycles, adaptation and even how humans interact with the creatures.  Even though they might have the ‘don’t touch” symbol, does that make them an enemy to be killed? Or does everything have a place? Scope for a range of ages… 

Let’s Build a Backyard

Let's Build a Backyard

Let’s Build a Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Build a Backyard

Mike Lucas

Daron Parton

Lothian, 2022

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

9780734421289 

Chug! Chug! Chug! That’s the sound of the tipper truck.

Bang! Bang! Bang!  That’s the sound of the nails being hammered into the fence.

Sing! Sing! Sing! That’s the sound of the birds in the big tree that offers shelter and shade to countless living things and which must be protected.

In this charming companion to Let’s Build A House, Dad and his daughter are back again, this time building the backyard from bringing in quality topsoil to building a bee motel to planting the vege patch, installing a frog pond and planting bright flowers that feed on stinky chicken poo.  Using simple rhyming sequences and repetitive text, Mike Lucas and Daron Parton have once again combined to bring the complex task of creating a backyard haven for the family and wildlife alike into the realm of our youngest readers.  The bond between father and daughter is just as strong as she helps him with all the tasks – imagine the fun of being allowed to control the bobcat – with the final spread showing them sharing the joy of their labour together, suggesting that there is no mother in the story, a situation many will relate to.

As well as introducing young readers to all the tasks involved in creating a backyard and the order in which they must be done, the story opens up the opportunity for students to dream with their eyes open and plan their own backyard.  What features should it have so that it is perfect for playing and relaxing while still being a safe haven for the local wildlife and environmentally sustainable?  Teach them about bird’s-eye-view maps and drawing to scale so things fit. Big concepts for little children but made thoroughly accessible through this must-have book. (And if the prospect of a backyard is not feasible, how could the school playground be improved in a similar way? )

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

The Butterfly and the Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly and the Ants

Kate McCabe

Nicole Berlach

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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

9781486313471 

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…”

The opening sentence in one of the most popular children’s books ever written, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  

But do butterflies really grow up by eating apples and pears and chocolate cakes?  Or is there something more to their story?  

The Butterfly and the Ants tells the story of Blue, a member of the Lycaenidae species of butterfly that is found around the world – a species that comprises about 25% of the world’s butterflies but which is unique because it is dependent on the special relationship the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises have with the ants that look after them. So while we are familiar with the basic life cycle of the butterfly, this adds not only another element but also a lot more detail about how that tiny egg emerges to be a beautiful gossamer-wing butterfly, usually with a touch of blue. 

It introduces the reader to the concept of symbiosis setting up the potential to investigate which other creatures live in such relationships and underlining the need for children to understand that even if they take or move just one thing from an environment, it can have far -reaching effects.  

This is a book for those who want to know more than the basics,  that explains the process in clear and accessible detail that respects their intelligence – as all those from CSIRO Publishing do. There are teachers’ notes available that not only have a focus on the science but also help expand vocabulary and encourage students to use the “real” language, as well as to be more observant.   Other elements support the information literacy process as they are encouraged to read the notes at the back, use the glossary and so on. 

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Starts with a Bee

Jennie Weber

Quarto, 2022

34pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780711270336

Slowly, slowly we are beginning to understand how critical bees are to our survival, and yet how endangered they are becoming, so any book for young readers that helps them understand the crucial role that bees play has to be an important addition to any collection. 

Using rhyming text and delicate illustration the reader is taken on a journey through the seasons from winter to autumn showing how a garden is pollinated and thus blooms to be beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables bringing both joy and food to our lives, culminating in a magnificent three-page spread summarising the essential elements of the process.  As well, it shows how bees work together with each other and other insects creating an interdependent eco-system which we must protect. 

Although created by an English illustrator who believes ” if people are amazed by the natural world, then they will be less likely to destroy it.” so that there is a “English country garden” feel to it, many of the plants featured are very familiar to young Australian readers, making it’s message as important here as it is anywhere.  It is an ideal complement to books like Holly, the Honeybee Dancing Star  and Bee Detectives (with its focus on Australian species) , all with their strong message of not just conservation but how simple it is for even our youngest readers to ensure their safety and survival. 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

The Secret of Sapling Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Sapling Green

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2022 

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

9781925820980

Sometimes being different can be cool, but when your talent is growing things, and your thumbs are literally green, it isn’t.  Until it is…

Sapling Green has always hidden her big secret – her green thumbs. As the others play in the schoolyard, even helping to create a new garden, she shoves her hands in her pockets and hides her thumbs. Much as she would like to help, the library is her refuge as she watches Wynn climb the old, bare tree in the yard. 

But one day it is damaged in a storm, and Wynn becomes more and more morose, particularly when the diagnosis is that the tree must be cut down. Is it time for Sapling to be brave enough to show her classmates her secret and save the tree?

Every class has its mix of the quiet and the boisterous and yet both might be behaviours covering similar insecurities.  Because while Sapling Green’s might be made overtly obvious in the story, why does Wynn become so despondent so quickly when the tree is damaged?  Does he feel his place in the playground, perhaps in the world, is entirely dependent on his tree-climbing prowess? So while this story has a familiar theme of our differences being our strengths, it is also an opportunity for students to consider the behaviours of others and begin to develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  Doing it at arm’s length through story is much less fearful and confronting than actual examples of their classmates, but it does offer a way of viewing others through a different lens. It is an opportunity to discover that our beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes and actions are unique to us because of the experiences we have had, and that there are those whose lives are vastly different, even though, externally, they are similar.

Inspired by her son’s diagnosis of autism, the author wanted “to portray a character who isn’t neurotypical. A character who learns to accept themselves and be accepted by others simply for being who they are.” But, IMO, it becomes more than this because by delving deeper, not only does Sapling Green accept herself but others accept her too, allowing her to build trust in others that can lead to long-term bonds.  Just look at how Wynn’s relationship with her changes.  

We are not empty pots like those portrayed on the front endpaper – we each have magic hidden in our depths that allows us to bloom as individually as the pots on the back…

Who Makes a Forest?

Who Makes a Forest?

Who Makes a Forest?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Makes a Forest?

Sally Nicholls

Carolina Rabei

Andersen Press, 2021

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

 9781783449200

Who makes a forest? A wizard, a giant, a business corporation or an emperor and all  his armies?

With its very English orientation this has been sitting on my to-review pile for some time, patiently waiting its turn as I pondered whether it was appropriate for young Australian readers, But as other reviews unfolded, particularly the series about the development of the planet from the Big Bang , the formation of land shapes and landscapes that we view in awe today, and the birth of animal life  its place in the scheme of things began to evolve.  For if this planet was formed by a mighty explosion that left us with scalding molten rock that eventually cooled, how did it become covered in all the plant life we know today?  

Compounded by watching what, for decades, has been a sharp, clay bank where the earth was cut out for a building turn to a moss-covered haven for tiny creatures as this year’s rain has seeped through the ground from the hills above us, and lichen grew on tree stumps that have been dead for just as long, the book found its way to the top of the pile.  So even though the plants and creatures that the children meet as they walk through the woods with Grandpa, nevertheless it is the concept of how  a thousand tiny things can come together to change the face of the earth. And so just as the children find moss and algae and lichen on the rocks, so I too, am finding it in my very Australian bush landscape.  And just as they see the tiny plants emerging from the soil created as those mosses and lichen break down, so am I seeing the shoot of a grass.  And as they see the butterflies and bees followed by the birds whose droppings not only nourish the fledgling soil but leave seeds that will sprout, so am I seeing clumps of wattle trees and other wildflowers starting to carpet what has been barren clay and shale. 

So from what was a book that didn’t really speak to me loudly, it has now taken its place in that collection that will help our young readers better understand the world around them and how it works.  And regardless of what evolves in the middle of the story, the start and the end of forests are the same – and there are even tips on what we can do to help them last longer. 

The Green Planet

The Green Planet

The Green Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Planet

Leisa Stewart-Sharpe

Kim Smith

Cbeebies. 2022

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

9781405946667

“About 500 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed, primitive plants crept across this barren rock called Earth.  Tiny mosses and liverworts hugged the ground, creating the first soil and pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.  This planet became a Green Planet…”

Now, Earth is dominated by plants, which outweigh all other life – from tiny duckweed floating in our ponds to giant sequoia trees towering above us. It’s easy to take plants for granted, but we depend on these light-eaters, oxygen-generators, and rain-makers for every breath of air and mouthful of food we take. Plants that can  care for other plants and can smell, taste, touch, hear and even ‘talk’. 

In collaboration with BBC Earth, this illustrated non-fiction book captures the intrigue, drama, and beauty of the groundbreaking new BBC TV series: The Green Planet. opening up a world of natural history that is often overlooked or deemed not as dynamic as the animal kingdom.  Each double-page spread explores a different aspect from the battle for light in the tropical world so surviving in the sands and the desert to the secret gardens of the sea using full-colour illustrations, and text presented in accessible chunks that offer the most intriguing information.  Did you know there is a “wood wide web” of fungi roots kilometres long that share nutrients with other plants, including those in distress?

Sir David Attenborough, who narrated the television series says, ” We can all work with plants to help make our world greener and a little wilder.  If we do this…our future on this planet will be safer and healthier- and my own experience tells me that we will also be happier.” There are suggestions for how each of us can help make this happen and this book is the ideal starting point becasus the more we know the more we understand, appreciate and value. 

 

Tiny Wonders

Tiny Wonders

Tiny Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Wonders

Sally Soweol Han

UQP, 2022

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

9780702263477

When we were kids, if you held a dandelion under your chin and the yellow was reflected it meant you liked butter, and if you blew on the fluffy seeds, the number of breaths it took to clear it represented the time in Fairyland.  But for April, they represent something much more…

She thinks if her town was a colour, it would be grey. Everyone is too busy to stop and look around. How can she help them slow down?

When she remembers the happiness that dandelions brought her grandmother, April comes up with a plan … what if she were able to plant dandelions so their bright yellow flowers brought joy and colour back to the town. But it’s not as easy as she thinks, but then she has the determination and tenacity to persist…

Even though recent global events have meant that many have slowed down and are appreciating the natural world more, the easing of restrictions has shown that it won’t take much for towns and cities to become grey and blind again so this is a build-on book that could inspire all sorts of plans and preparations to make our homes and schools more cheerful and friendly, and, in doing so, give Mother Nature a helping hand.  As well as allowing young children to investigate how they could beautify their neighbourhood and the life cycle of plants, there is scope to discover what grows where and when and why as well as having to take on the long-term responsibility of nurturing a garden.  There are all sorts of biology investigations about the colour of flowers and the insects they attract and their value to the bigger picture as well as the language of flowers that both April and the author focus on.  

While there are many picture books focusing on the environment, this one that brings it right back to the child and their own back yard is a charmer and offers much scope for change – perhaps there will be many pockets of colour amongst the grey in the months ahead. 

 

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Environmentalist: Gardening

9781761041709

Little Historian: Dinosaurs

 9781761041716

Puffin, 2021

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Joining this popular series for young readers wanting to know more about their world, are two new titles.  Gardening joins its earlier companion Composting  to help young readers learn about plants, their needs and how they can care for them, while Dinosaurs is the latest in the Little Historian collection.

A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for over 80 years, Puffin has developed this series to introduce our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in the perfect size and format for little hands. Voiced by Puffin Little and speaking directly to the reader in a narrative style which ensures engagement, there is much to carry interest and open up new fields to explore.  The contents page and glossary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into addressing their unique needs as emerging readers as well as tapping into subjects that appeal. 

Teacher librarians are reporting a real upsurge in young readers seeking non fiction written for their interests and abilities, particularly if they are collected together in one place in a series box,  and so collections like Puffin Little have a significant role to play in helping children understand that books have a role to play in their search for information and understanding of the world, ad  that not everything is available on the internet and certainly not at their level of understanding. Allen Lane, the founder of Puffin, began with a dream of establishing a publishing house to produce quality literature for children, beginning with four non fiction titles for children who had been evacuated to the country to keep them safe from German bombing and invasion.  Now, 81 years on, his dream is still being realised.