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Plantabulous!

Plantabulous!

Plantabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantabulous! More A to Z of Australian Plants

Catherine Clowes

Rachel Gyan

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

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

9781486317202

When it comes to native Australian flora, students can generally recognise those they see often like the wattle and the waratah, and even some of the eucalypts but with more than 24 000 species -some that survive fire; some that can combat air pollution and even some that are venomous – there is such a diversity that  even the Australian National Botanic Gardens, dedicated to maintaining  a scientific collection of Australia’s native plants, only has about 4,600 species which represents around a fifth of those known.  

Somehow, the author of this book has managed to select 26 to explore in detail in this new book designed to build awareness not only of the diversity but also the role that each plays in the environment.  Each has true-to-life illustrations,  fascinating facts and other information as well as a pronunciation guide so readers can dip and delve as they choose.  There’s a glossary that is tremendous for getting both the tongue and the brain around some of the common words associated with plant life like “germinate”, “photosynthesis”  and the differences between “petals” “sepals” and “tepals”, as well as a map of the various ecoregions found across the continent.  

More for the older, independent reader seeking more detailed information, rather than a beginners’ guide, nevertheless, it is easily readable and definitely has a place of the shelf for any burgeoning botanist, and worth seeking out the first in the series. Plantastic

Plantastic!

Plantastic!

 

 

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

Seed to Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seed to Sky

Pamela Freeman

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781760653750

Come to the oldest forest on Earth,…

On the oldest continent…

Where the oldest trees reach high into the sky…

And begin a journey into 00 years ago, before European settlement and the Daintree Rainforest was much larger and very different to what it is now.

In this latest on the brilliant Nature Storybooks series, which combines lyrical text with factual information amidst stunning real-life illustrations, the reader is taken on an exploration of how a seed becomes a sapling over hundreds of years and is introduced to the diversity and generations of insects, butterflies, bird, lizards, snakes and an abundance of native wildlife that will bear witness to the rise of the magnificent Bull Kauri pine…

Australia is a continent of diverse landscapes and landshapes, each with its unique flora and fauna and while the extensive teachers’ notes will lead you through an investigation of the Daintree itself, they could also serve as a model for investigating a similar situation in the students’ environment.  What vegetation is indigenous to the local area and what creatures might have witnessed its development?

When it comes to narrative non fiction that engages as it explains, this series is one of the benchmarks and this addition is no different.  

Tree

Tree

Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree

Claire Saxby

Jess Racklyeft

A & U Children, 2024

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761069505

On a misty mountain morning, just like the one outside my window this morning, the tree stands tall in the forest, high above those that surround it , “older than those who find it, younger than the land it grows from.”

From its roots that gather food and the tiny, feathery threads that connect it to other trees to the tips of it top leaves that reach for the sun and give dappled shade from it, the tree brims with life – both its own and those who seek shelter and food from it.

Known as “the forest giant” as they can soar to a height of more than 100 metres, and sometimes living up to 300 years old, this is the story of a mountain ashEucalyptus regnans – native to the forests of Tasmania and Victoria, born from a seed the size of a pinhead but uniquely designed to be able to push its way through the ash of a bushfire and begin its rapid growth that helps regenerate the scorched land below. 

Just like Iceberg this is another incredible offering from this team of author and illustrator, one that brings to life the life of something so ordinary yet extraordinary  in words and pictures (including an amazing three-page spread) in a way that should be used as a role model for students tasked with research-and-report writing.  Compare “In the layered litter, a a scaly thrush flicks. A lyrebird scritch-scratches. Slaters curl, beetles burrow and centipedes scurry.” to  something like “At the bottom of the tree lots of birds and animals live among the dropped leaves and twigs.” It is the lyricism of Saxby’s language that shines through in all her books and in this case, Racklyeft’s watercolour illustrations put the reader right in with those little inhabitants.

But whether the tree is a magnificent mountain ash, or a humble backyard specimen, this is one that will spark awareness of the value that any tree adds to both the landscape and life itself, and thus needs protection rather than destruction. 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781406399998

These days young children are very aware of the importance of plants and bees, the  deadly potential of climate change and the concept of “green” being more than just a colour in the paint palette. But what is the connection between them?

It is all explained in this beautifully illustrated picture book. In accessible text, the young reader learns that a tree isn’t just a tree standing green and shady but that it is really busy purifying the air through photosynthesis as it does, and from there they are led naturally through a timeline of the development of plants on the planet, the impact of using the remains of the ancient forests as fossil fuels, and the interaction and interdependence of plants on the planet’s health and function, as they begin to understand why “GREEN is the most important colour in the world.”

This really is the most remarkable book that explains really complex concepts in such a simple way that it should be the starting point for any study into the environment and why we need to protect what we have.  It is the basic WHY of all the what, where, who, how and all the other questions that students have that will provide context and purpose for any investigation, encapsulating and explaining such a  big idea in a way that just gives sense to so much else. No matter what the topic under investigation, if it is about the natural world, it will stem back to plants and their health and prevalence.  

Research shows that the eye distinguishes more shades of green than any other colour and certainly the view from my window has more hues than I could count, but it never ceases to suggest a sense of calm and peace, which is why so many medical facilities are painted in shades of green. This book is the beginning of understanding why this is so, and why it is so important to our lives and well-being. 

A must-have in any collection.

Orlando’s Garden

Orlando's Garden

Orlando’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orlando’s Garden

Stephanie Paulsen

Valery Well

Little Steps, 2023

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

 9781922358585

Orlando lives in a light, bright apartment that has a large balcony where he plays with his trucks and diggers most days, in amongst the plants that his parents have planted in pots and containers..  But mostly he loves going on walks with his parents and discovering all the different plants they see on the way.  He is fascinated by their diversity – their colours, shapes, sizes and textures – so when he plants a bean seed in his sandpit and it sprouts, it is just the beginning of a whole new world of discovery for him.

Including some beginner-gardener activities, this is a story designed to inspire young readers to take an interest in growing things and perhaps even grow their own.  Even if they only have a balcony, there are many things that can be grown in pots – all they need are the right conditions and someone who cares enough to nurture them. 

The rise in school kitchen gardens and the support available for them including how they are integral to the sustainability and environmental strands of  the curriculum  shows that there are many children who are interested in growing things, particularly if they can eat the produce when it is ready, and Orlando’s story is not only an inspiration to get started but also shows that even those living in flats and apartments can join in the fun.  (In fact, he probably grows more there than we can here on acres of thin mountain soil exposed to all weathers.)

As the new term looms, and planting season for many things is on the horizon, this could be one to kickstart some initial planning, particularly using the initial guide from NSW Department of Education.

 

Butterfly Girl

Butterfly Girl

Butterfly Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Girl

Ashling Kwok

Arielle Li

EK Books, 2023

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

9781922539564

When she lived in the country, Olivia had plenty of space for her Butterfly Garden and each day she was surrounded by all sorts of butterflies, content in her own company and theirs.  But when they move from the country cottage to an apartment in the grey city, there are no butterflies to be seen.  Even though she waited and waited, sang to them and danced and whirled and twirled as she had done to attract them in her old home, none came. 

So she decided to plant a little garden on her balcony so she could offer the butterflies the things they liked, but still none came.  Despite the little bright spot in her corner, the buildings around remained grey and bleak, seemingly only being populated by pigeons. And she still had no friends.  She sang louder, danced faster and coloured her world… Then,  one day she saw something amazing- and it wasn’t a butterfly.  Before long, she not only had butterflies but more friends than she could ever had wished for.

Moving house, whether it is across town or state, or from country to city, can be daunting for little ones, and the fear of having no friends is common.  So much so that it is theme in many books for young readers.  So this new story, well timed for those for whom a move to a new town or new school is on the horizon as year’s end nears, is one not only of reassurance but also suggests a pathway forward.  Olivia’s need for her butterfly friends and her creating of her balcony garden to attract them leads to the building of a community that crosses age and cultural borders and creates the connections that we all need.  Even if you live in a crowded apartment building you can still be isolated and lonely. There are instructions for building a butterfly garden in a small space, but even if that’s not a practical answer, it is the message of how reaching out to those with similar interests can bring untold rewards. 

 

 

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk With Us: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

A & U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761065071

When Harvey and his mum go for a walk in their favourite park, they are invited to walk with indigenous Elder Uncle Boris and learn about the wonders of the Cammeraygal (North Sydney) land on which they are treading.  From the healing powers of the leaf of the tologurã (lemon myrtle ), to the wildlife near the waterfall and even seeing a large canoe tree,  mother and son see and learn things that they have passed by many times but have taken for granted.  Harvey has already astonished his mum by reciting the Acknowledgement of Country that he has learned at school, and now both of them develop not only a new insight into the significance of their surroundings but also experience a sense of calm and tranquility as they view the landscape with new eyes and absorb its significance..

Based on a phrase in the final line of the Uluru Statement from the HeartWe invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future – this is the fourth in this brilliant series designed to teach both children and adults a little more of the meaning behind those now-familiar words of the Acknowledgement of Country.  Using people and symbols that are important to them (these are explained on the verso page). the authors have crafted a simple but significant story that will encourage young (and not-so) readers to start to look at their surroundings through a different lens.  Who walked this Country before I did?  What did they know about it that I could learn?

As with the previous titles, this starts with a visual glossary of indigenous words for the familiar items featured in the story, and given that October 22-29 marks the inaugural Aboriginal Languages Week in NSW,  it would seem appropriate to compare the words of the Cammeraygal people for things such as fire, snake, wallaby, frog and so forth to the words used by local peoples, perhaps even starting to construct your own visual glossary.

In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country or even just take a walk through their neighbourhood, they do so with a new knowledge of and respect for all that has gone before.

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wollemi: Saving a Dinosaur Tree

Samantha Tidy

Rachel Gyan

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486316083

Imagine if, in the course of your daily work, you discovered something so significant that only a handful of people were ever allowed to know where you had been and even they were sworn to secrecy.  

This is the story of the discovery of the Wollemi pine, a tree that can grow to over 40 metres tall but whose existence was unknown until just 30 years ago, when Ranger David Noble found a clutch of them growing in a deep gorge in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. A tree so old that it dates back to the dinosaur period and so rare that there were less than 100 in existence at the time.  No wonder its location remains a secret so that sightseers can’t traipse in and bring in diseases on their shoes, damage the site and perhaps wipe out those remaining so it is gone forever.

Sadly, though, humans aren’t the only threat to this ancient species and this is the story not just of the tree but the remarkable efforts that were made to protect the grove and the gorge during one of NSW infamous fire seasons, for surely, something that has descended from a family of trees going back 200 million years, and has survived ice, fire and the passing of many generations deserves to be saved no matter what.

This is another remarkable publication from CSIRO Publishing shining the spotlight on yet another unique Australian creature so that our youngest readers can start to build their awareness and knowledge or the amazing things we share this landscape with, and hopefully, with that knowledge and awareness, become its protectors.  Introducing Mia, the schoolgirl daughter of botanist Kate, brings the story right into their realm and when Mia suggests that her class plant a seedling to help conserve the Wollemi, they might be inspired to do the same thing as they explore the story further through the teachers’ notes

 

The Concrete Garden

The Concrete Garden

The Concrete Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Concrete Garden

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781529512649

At last, winter is over, lockdown is lifted and the children spill out of the large apartment block ” like sweets from a box”.  Last out is Amanda and she is carrying a large box of chalks because she has an idea. Choosing green first, she draws a large circle with some smaller circles radiating from it – and from there the fun begins… Firstly, Jackson made a dandelion from Amanda’s circle, and then Janet added a mushroom and then the twins added flowers and then…

This is Bob Graham at his best offering the reader so many ideas to explore as the book is read and re-read.

Firstly, there has to be that glorious feeling of being free to connect with others, including those whom you have never met, when isolation has been imposed on you. The reader can hear the shouts of delight of the children and the babble of busyness as they get to be kids again, and imagine that their new and renewed friendships will spread to those of the adults in their lives too, meaning that there will be a greater sense of community in the apartments once inside beckons again.  But what if that isolation isn’t COVID related?  What if there is a child confined to a hospital bed, or isolated by language or being new to the area or… How might the reader reach out to them?

And while many will resonate with living in an apartment building where there is no opportunity to have the sort of gardens that feature in In My Garden , that doesn’t mean the children are oblivious to Mother Nature and the colour and magic and togetherness that she brings.  As so many of the young artists add natural elements to the drawing, there is an unspoken acknowledgement of what is missing from this hemmed-in concrete jungle, perhaps inspiring something more than a transient chalk drawing to be done. And, as with In My Garden, there is much to explore about the connectivity of gardens, real and imagined, in “The picture crossed deserts and mountains and oceans and cities.  It bounced around the world, returning to fill the screens in all the dark rooms over the concrete garden”. 

Others might like to explore why it is the seemingly simple activity of drawing a picture with chalk that brings so much imagination, friendship, co-operation, optimism and joy rather than the more formal, organised, prescriptive activities that seem to be such a part of children’s lives.  They might be let loose with chalk in their playground, or start a chain picture to which everyone contributes in the classroom, or even work together on a physical project to beautify their school or local community.  The possibilities are endless.

This is not only Bob Graham at his best but also the picture book at its best.  The links between text and illustration are woven so tightly together, one can’t stand without the other and each thread of the tapestry offers something to explore and ponder.  Expect to see this one up there in all the awards in the coming year.   

In My Garden

In My Garden

In My Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden

Kate Mayes

Tamsin Ainslie

ABC Books, 2023

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

9780733340253

In our gardens are where we belong.

Planting, watching, growing, dreaming.

In our gardens something out of nothing comes.

Over 2000 years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero is said to have said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

And in this new release,  readers can have both as they join children from around the world as they share their gardens, from blossoming flowers in Japan to the waterside of Malawi, the frozen landscape of Iceland to the bush tracks of Australia, even where the mountains meet the sea in New Zealand.. Despite the diversity of plants and wildlife, these are the places they love and the places they belong, where they seek serenity and solace from the busy-ness of the world around them.

But as well as bringing peace to the soul, this is a book that has the potential to open up new horizons for young learners as they understand that while gardens themselves are universal, the plants within them vary greatly and so that can set up all sorts of investigations into why that is so, the needs of plants, the adaptations they make to their conditions – perhaps even why so many Australian gardens tend to feature English plants. And those who have come from some of the gardens featured can not only indulge in a little nostalgia but share their knowledge with their peers. There is the opportunity to consider what each garden might teach the reader about the child and the country represented, and teachers’ notes offer further guidance and ideas to explore.

I am not a gardener, which is probably just as well given where I live with its harsh winter climate and poor soil that is leached of its goodness by the hundreds of snow gums that surround us, but I do value their beauty and the variety of wildlife they attract (in itself, another investigation) and I’m privileged to  experience that universal feeling  of calm and wonder that comes wherever we find Mother Nature just doing her thing.  Just looking at this book can offer that as the mind drifts away…