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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… 

 

 

Ecology for Beginners

Ecology for Beginners

Ecology for Beginners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecology for Beginners

Andy Prentice

Lan Cook

Anton Hallman

Usborne, 2023

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474998475

“Ecology is the study of how animals, plants and other living things interact with their environment and with each other”.

In its typical, direct reader-friendly language, this is the definition of a word that is bandied around a lot these days, along with “environment” and “eco-systems” and other scientific terms connected to the protection and preservation of our planet and its species in this new book from Usborne.   

Described as “the perfect answer to the question “What is Ecology, and why should I care?”, young readers can explore the basics of Ecology by following a wide variety of real-world examples about how living things cope in all sorts of environments which is essential if they are to understand the current concerns about climate change and the responsibilities they are being asked to shoulder.  Not only do they learn how ecosystems work and their interdependence, but also what happens when the systems are damaged or destroyed, even how and if they can be protected or even repaired. Importantly. they learn that there are still many issues that ecologists are trying to find answers to, and while there are loud voices calling for action, the best course of action might not yet be known.  

Its graphic-heavy, byte-sized text format, it is ideal for the curious mind that wants to delve into this topic, and for those who want to explore further there are the usual Quicklinks  which offer all sorts of practical suggestions for students to explore their own world in greater depth such as building a bee hotel or making a quadrat to record wildlife in their backyard.

The Busy Garden

The Busy Garden

The Busy Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Busy Garden

Mary Luciano

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2023

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

9781922678553

Early morning, and all the critters in the garden are awake and going about their usual regular routines.  Beatrice the bee, Lenny the lizard, Sienna the spider – they each have their daily chores that keep them busy. But then the children arrive to play and like most kids, they don’t even see all the little inhabitants in their homes and at their work, let alone the destruction they cause as they play…

With vivid illustrations that take the reader to eye level in the garden in a way they seldom get to see in reality, this is a story-in-rhyme that not only raises awareness of the diversity and busy-ness of the garden’s inhabitants but also teaches them that is the work of these creatures that make it as stunning as it is so it is a pleasant place to play.  

One to encourage young readers to be more aware of their surroundings and their impact on it, as well as leaving them in awe and wonder of all that goes on when they aren’t there.  

 

Lone Pine

Lone Pine

Lone Pine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Pine (First World War Centenary edition)

Susie Brown & Margaret Warner

Sebastian Ciaffaglione

Little Hare, 2014 

hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.95

9781742978703

 

In 1915, on a Turkish hillside a lone pine stood in a barren wasteland above a fierce battle being waged between the Turks and ANZACs, a conflict that has become part of Australia’s history and identity. 

In 1934, a sapling grown from that lone pine was planted in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia’s national capital.

In 2012, and still in 2023,  that tree stands tall in beautiful, lush surroundings in memory and recognition of the events of 1915.

 

The 80-year-old Lone Pine tree at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

The 80-year-old Lone Pine tree at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

 

Lone Pine is the true story of that journey.  From a soldier looking for his brother, a mother mourning the loss of her son, a gardener understanding both the significance and the vision, a Duke performing a ceremonial duty we learn of how a tiny pine cone from that solitary tree has become such a symbol in our commemorations.  Told in simple prose against a backdrop of muted but magnificent artistry, the story is both moving and haunting.  The soldier’s mother plants three seeds but only two saplings survive, just like her sons; fierce storms batter the sapling the day it is planted at the AWM, just as war clouds started rumbling around Europe once again; it survives to stand tall and strong despite the storms it has to weather, just as our hope for peace does. The continuity of life through the pine tree echoes the seasons and cycles of human life.

Jointly written by a teacher librarian and a teacher, there is a real understanding of how to engage the target audience and tell a true story that is not just a recount of an historical event. Accompanying the story are notes about the events it depicts including more information about the tree itself which  reinforce the theme of the renewal and continuity of life.  As well as the sapling planted at the AWM, its twin was planted as a memorial to the fallen brother in Inverell, and even though this has since been removed because of disease, its son lives on at Inverell High School, planted by the fallen soldier’s nephew.  Two trees propagated from the pine at the AWM were taken to the Gallipoli Peninsula and planted there by a group of ANZACs in 1990.

A search of the Australian War Memorial site offers much more about the tree and its descendants  and teaching notes  take the students well beyond the story of a remarkable tree. 

With the 110th anniversary of both World War I and ANZAC Day drawing closer, the resurgence of the significance of ANZAC Day in the understanding of our young, and a pilgrimage to the Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove becoming a must-do, life-changing event, the story of the lone pine deserves to be better known, and this wonderful book HAS to be a part of any school library’s ANZAC collection.

Original review: April 22, 2014

Updated February 11, 2023

Pollination

Pollination

Pollination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollination – How Does My Garden Grow?

Chris Cheng

Danny Snell

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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

9781486313235

When you live high up in an apartment in the city, it can be easy to take things like your food and clothing for granted, but take a trip to your grandparents in the suburbs and your eyes can be opened and your thinking changed entirely!

For even though young city kids might now know that bees are important, in this intriguing book they learn not only of the bees’ critical role in the survival of the planet as they flit from flower to flower, but also all the other pollinators who carry the precious gold dust – appropriate that it is gold, in the scheme of things – from plant to plant, not only providing food for humans but also for their own kind so that the cycle can continue on.  So, just as pollination itself is essential to the survival of the world’s ecosystems, so it is essential that we protect the pollinators.  As the child learns, something as simple as placing a bright-coloured flower in a pot on a balcony can contribute.

Linked to the Science strand of the Australian Curriculum, particularly the Biological Sciences understanding that “Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves ” as well as being used in conjunction with Bee Detectives,  Plantastic,The Butterfly and the Ants     and Wonderful Wasps, this is an excellent foundation for helping our youngest readers understand a concept that many adults wouldn’t believe they could even pronounce!

Extra notes and some suggestions at the end of the story offer further information as well as some ideas for the best plants to put in a “Pollinators Paradise” if the school were to go down the path of creating a special, year-round garden to attract and protect the local pollinators.  Imagine the investigations that would spark…