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How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Was That Built?

Roma Agrawal

Katie Hickey

Bloomsbury, 2021

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781526603654

From the time our earliest ancestors sought shelter in caves and discovered their limitations, humans have been building structures, each seemingly grander than its predecessors as challenges such as height, length, shape, and strength are overcome and physical impediments such as being underwater, underground, on ice and even in space are conquered.

There is something comfortable and comforting in being enclosed -perhaps it stems from the confines of the womb – and from the early childhood days of making a cubby with a sheet over chairs (itself having evolved to purchased indoor tents) to building towers from toothpicks and peas to bridges “strong enough to hold a toy car” from paper, our junior engineers have evolved to become those making the creations that dominate the modern landscape. While some, like the pyramids , Stonehenge and other ancient temples  have endured across centuries, this book focuses on more modern structures which have solved the problems like how to build high, long, strong and so forth, explaining with explanations and illustrations how the obstacle has been overcome in both general and specific circumstances. 

For example, in the section How to Build Across, the mechanics and physics of various bridge designs are demonstrated and then the construction of Te Matau Ā Pohe, a bridge across the Hatea River at Whangarei, New Zealand that needs to be able to lift quickly to allow essential boat traffic to pass, is explored, showing how the engineers drew on the Māori legend of Maui fishing the North Island from the sea with his hen matai, a magical fish hook, to create the lift mechanism.

Although more for those in Year 5/6+, this is an intriguing book for readers who want to take the basic “design, make, appraise” of STEM to its next level or who have a fascination with structures and aspirations to be structural engineers themselves.  For those just intrigued by big buildings, it is equally fascinating as they learn the whys, whats and hows of their favourites. 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2021

128pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780734420046

Natural history illustrator Sami Bayly, the mastermind behind two of the most intriguing non fiction titles that have got young boys, particularly, reading recently – The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly  Animals has produced another outstanding offering that will have readers as intrigued as its predecessors did and the phenomenon of young lads grouped together poring over the pages during lunchtimes in the library will return.

Bayly has collected stories of 60 peculiar pairs – plant and animal species that rely on each other for their survival – and over half of them call Australia home.  Whether parasitic or symbiotic; teeny -tiny like the Heath’s Tick and the Mountain Pygmy Possum or large like the Ocean Sunfish and the Laysan Albatross; land-bound like the Stinking Corpse Lily and the Liana Vine or water-dwelling like the Spotted Handfish and Sea Squirt; plant-plant, animal-animal or plant-animal Bayly has brought together a fascinating group of creatures whose relationships need to explored. 

The book has a built-in ribbon bookmark and serendipitously mine fell open on the entry about the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon and the Garden Wolf Spider. One of the reasons we bought a home where we did in Canberra was its proximity to the proposed Gungahlin shopping centre, making access to facilities more convenient as we aged.  But then the site was discovered to be the only habitat of the Earless Dragon in Australia and so the whole precinct was moved to preserve its home.  Like all the other entries in the book, its relationship with the spider is explained as well as other facts and figures that just make for a fascinating read in language that is accessible to all. We learn new terms like mutualism and commensalism )which describe the type of relationship) -the sorts of words youngsters like to offer at the dinner table to baffle their elders – as well as critical information such as the environmental status. As usual, the illustrations are very realistic , each pair having a full colour double-page spread. 

While my review copy will be going to the same little lad as I gave the others to because they have been the springboard to his becoming an independent reader within months of beginning, he will have to wait until I’ve finished reading about pairs that I didn’t even know existed let alone that I wanted to know more about them!

Look for this one in the shortlists and winners’ circles. 

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

Andrew Kelly

Dean A. Jones

Wild Dog, 2021

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

 9781742036281

For generations the little penguins have left their island home to hunt for the shoals of small fish in the rich waters of the bay and the mouth of the river.  And when they have had their fill they risk their lives navigating the rip   and the shipping to go back to their burrows on their island home.  The island has all they need to build their burrows but it is getting crowded and the young males are finding it tricky to find a place that is safe and that will attract a young female. But there is nowhere suitable to build a burrow on the bay.

And then changes start to happen to their feeding grounds – huge machinery is dumping rocks into the sea to build a breakwater to protect the boats and the beach, and over time the sand and silt build up in the cracks and crevices. Sometimes the penguins rest on the rocks but they always return home.  Until one day, one little penguin decides to stay…

Much is written about the impact on wildlife when humans change the landscape and it’s usually negative so to read a positive story is unusual.  For this is the story of how the penguin colony at St Kilda, Victoria emerged and is continuing to grow. While they still have to deal with the hazards of dogs, cats, ferrets, stoats, human vandals, plastic pollution, boat strikes, boat propellers, oil spills, the fragmentation and loss of habitat and climate change, nevertheless because of the conservation practices in place they have shown that it is possible for native wildlife to live side by side with humans. Using just one little penguin as its focus personalises the story and brings it into the realm of the young reader, so they are more able to relate to it and understand the situation.  

Told by the Yarra Riverkeeper and beautifully illustrated this is an uplifting story that shows that the relationship between humans and the natural world can be a positive one, as well as demonstrating how that world adapts to deal with issues such as overcrowding. But charming as it is as a standalone story, it is one that has enormous potential to be a springboard into further investigations both of the penguins (with comprehensive teachers’ notes) and then human impact generally.  If you “can’t stop progress” how can it be managed through environmental impact studies, local support groups and so forth?  Is there a development happening in the readers’ community that might be having a wider impact than is immediately visible?  The opportunity to “act locally, think globally” is very apparent and this book can fulfil the purpose of the author. “Let us walk gently together.”

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World-whizzing Facts: Awesome Earth Questions Answered

Dr Emily Grossman

Alice Bowsher

Bloomsbury, 2021

256pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526602435

Just because kids get older doesn’t mean their questions about the world around them stop and in this new book, a sequel to Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered  TV science expert Dr Emily Grossman answers incredible and important questions about our natural world such as why some animals do square-shaped poos and which direction a dog is likely to face while weeing,  as well as serious stuff like what climate change and wildlife loss are actually doing to our planet and what can be done to help.

Covering a diverse range of key science topics, from human biology and animals and plants to the weather and space, Dr Emily shows readers why Earth is so weird and wonderfully great yet still faces its biggest challenge.   Through clear, sensitive explanations, and a format that will engage the most reluctant reader, the reader can find out what is actually happening to our Earth and what this means for both humans and wildlife – and how they, as individuals, can make changes that will help. 

Like its predecessor, this is designed to inspire the scientist in the reader and encourage them to go beyond the information provided to investigate and discover deeper answers for themselves. 

Everything Under the Sun

Everything Under the Sun

Everything Under the Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Under the Sun

Molly Oldfield

Ladybird, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241433461

Subtitled A curious question for every day of the year this remarkable book that started life as a podcast based on questions submitted by children, contains 366 curious questions such as How much bamboo can a giant panda eat?  Do aliens exist?  What we would do if we didn’t have a prime minister?  Why do hammerhead sharks have such strange-shaped heads?

Subdivided into questions for each month of the year it not only offers answers to the questions that kids ask that invariably stump the adults around them, but it gives the child all sorts of information that can be dropped into the dinner-table conversation to take it on a new path.  It is also one that groups will pore over as they try to outdo each other with their new knowledge.

But my favourite part is the scope it offers for developing information literacy.  It could either be used as a stimulus offering teachers a ready-made question to be investigated and answered by students and their answers compared to that in the book or it could be a model for students to ask and answer their own questions to develop their own month of curious questions.  That way they have purpose for learning, can seek help with the particular part of the information literacy process they actually need, can answer the question “how did you find out?” so they can reflect on their learning, and then share both their product and their process by creating a display for the library that includes this book, encyclopedia and other reference and non fiction titles. 

If the information literacy process is new to you click here and choose ‘present’ to learn more. 

 

Scientists Who Changed the World: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scientists Who Changed the World: Stephen Hawking

Anita Groy

EK Books, 2021

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925820720

Stephen Hawking advanced our understanding of the universe more than any other scientist of his day. He spent his entire career chasing the idea of the “Theory of Everything: to explain the entire universe relating to the Big Bang Theory. His book A Brief History of Time was designed to explain physics to the general public, not just scientists, and this made him one of the most famous scientists in the world. 

This new additions to this series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and that they all started as ordinary kids, just like the readers. 

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to Hawking , his discoveries and his their early life and how that influenced the path he took. But when I think of Hawking, the image I see is him in his wheelchair having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease at 21, and speaking by controlling a computer with his cheek after he lost the ability to speak.  That alone, as a model of resilience, of one who never gave up, whose body may have failed but his brain didn’t, is a reason to share his story with our students. 

When other teacher librarians ask for suggestions for biographies of contemporary people that are interesting and accessible for primary students, this series is always mentioned.  So it’s one to have in your collection as the fascination with science grows exponentially at a time when we are so dependent on it. 

 

Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Birdies

Andy Geppert

Lothian Children’s, 2021 

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

9780734420695

Can your children tell the difference between a beach chicken (seagull) and a bin chicken (white ibis) ?

Or a roof chicken (pigeon)  and a chicken chicken (chicken)?

In this introduction to the birds commonly seen in Australian backyards, including large inflatable flamingoes and swans, Andy Geppert mixes a few basic facts with a lot of humour to make for an enjoyable read for young children who will just be noticing the differences between the species.  Clever illustrations and funny text combine to make this the most unusual field guide but one which will pique little ones’ curiosity and have them trying to identify the birds that they see.   They could even make a chart and mark each one off as it is spotted from their window, beginning their skills in data gathering, mapping and interpretation!   It’s the simple things….

Mapping Sam

Mapping Sam

Mapping Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapping Sam

Joyce Hesselberth

HarperCollins US, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780063043220

Each night after Sam the cat has made sure that the family are safely tucked in bed, she goes on a nighttime wander.  

But rather than this being a tale of what she does and who she meets while she is out, this story is the impetus for exploring how maps are used to “tell us how to get from here to there” and “tell us what is where”.  It is a unique introduction to the purpose of information illustrations like maps, charts and diagrams and how they can be used so that a picture does indeed, tell 1000 words. 

By using an inquisitive cat whose favourite place is atop what will be the highest building in the neighbourhood (shown through a birds-eye-view map) this is a clever story that engages the reader because they become invested in Sam’s explorations rather than being confronted by dry explanations. As Sam follows her customary path, wandering farther and farther away from home, readers encounter different kinds of maps illuminating different points of view and the various spots Sam visits. Finally, when Sam reaches her favourite place and confirms that all is well, she heads back home, climbs onto a cosy bed, and falls asleep.

Thus the reader comes away with having enjoyed a story as well as new knowledge, knowledge that is consolidated by two pages of background  information just to draw all the concepts together.

For those who think that maps are confined to using the sat nav or Google maps, this is an excellent introduction to the variation and purpose of maps and the importance of being able to read, interpret and perhaps even create our own.  They are so much more than the stereotype Boy Scout activity!

Teachers notes created by the author are available.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

One Potoroo

One Potoroo

One Potoroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Potoroo

Penny Jaye

Alicia Rogerson

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486314645

Two Peoples Bay on the southern coast of Western Australia, just east of Albany, and fire is bearing down fast on the last-known natural population of Ngilkat, or Gilbert’s Potoroo.

After the flames have passed leaving only ash and bones behind,  gentle hands find a tiny, burned potoroo huddling under a slab of granite; hands that are checking, caring, soothing and which pop him into a warm sack where he will be safe and secure on the journey to a new place.  A place that doesn’t smell like home but which doesn’t smell like smoke and ash either, but where he will be cared for until he can be found a new home.  A home that has granite boulders – but no pythons; a home that has melaleuca thickets – but no foxes.  A home that has deep leaf litter and truffles – but no cats.  Because this little chap is one of just a handful of his kind left on the planet, a species that was known to the Noongar people for tens of thousands of years, but was thought extinct because of the impact of introduced animals, and which had been rediscovered just 20 years earlier.

And so when his wounds have healed he finds himself once again in the sack and on the truck, this time heading to a new home in the Waychinicup National Park where there is food and protection from the predators.  And where there are others of his kind who offer the promise of life…

While we  have heard much of the plight of the koala following Black Summer, and Jackie French told us of the wombats, it is hard to grasp the extent of the destruction of all wildlife and their habitats until stories like this are put before us. Beautifully illustrated and narrated in a matter-of-fact way but with carefully chosen vocab that make the text as gentle as its subject, there is a desire to learn more about this tiny little creature, even form a cheer squad for its survival.  There is more information at the back of the book to whet the appetite but this is a story to tell and a book to promote to any child or teacher planning to investigate Australia’s endangered species, because it is our rarest mammal and the world’s most endangered marsupial. Extensive, teachers’ notes  covering science, sustainability and English are available and include suggestions for titles for related books such as Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish.

It is part of the unique story of our country, and the  courage and resilience of its inhabitants.

 

 

 

We Go Way Back

We Go Way Back

We Go Way Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Go Way Back

Idan Ben-Barak

Philip Bunting

A&U Children’s, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760526085

Sooner or later a young child will ask, “Where did I come from?” and this will be the perfect book to have on hand.  But it is not the “birds and the bees” talk that might be expected, but rather an attempt to simplify the scientific explanation for life on earth, starting with the big bang theory.

Using a mix of clever illustrations, well-chosen language and layout, the reader is taken on a journey that asks what is life and then travels back in time to the first elements found in the seas which joined together to form molecules and how things evolved from there culminating in a triple-page spread of life on Earth. But then the final endpages put it all in perspective!

Ben-Barak, who has degrees in microbiology and in the history and philosophy of science as well as one in library sciences, has a knack of using his knowledge to simplify science for children in a way that intrigues them and captures their imagination – Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You and Do Not Lick This Book – while Bunting had several books listed in the CBCA 2021 Picture Book of the Year Notables making this a powerful combination to introduce this tricky topic to young readers.