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Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297824

“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth: An Evolution Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moth: An Evolution Story

Isabel Thomas

Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781408889756

In a clean, fresh world, a shiny cocoon wriggles and jiggles and a moth with salt-and-pepper wings emerges. But there is no time to languish – as daylight emerges, it must fly to the nearby trees with their lichen-covered branches where its colouring camouflages it from its predators – birds, bats and cats!

But some moths are born with charcoal wings, easy prey as their colouring makes them stand out . While they become food for hungry birds and their chicks, the speckled, freckled ones are safe in their disguise and the next night they lay eggs of their own, and their babies will be just like their parents.

But then the world began to change and coal-burning factories and steam-driven trains changed it to a dirty, dark place full of pollution which stained the clouds, and darkened the branches where the speckled, freckled ones rested. And they became the vulnerable ones while their charcoal friends were safe.  So gradually, they changed and it was the dark-winged variety that was common and the salt-and-pepper ones became rare.

However, as people realised the harm they were doing, slowly the world began to change again – not quite as clean as before but so much better.  And a miracle happened…

Encapsulated in this beautifully illustrated book is the story of the peppered moth, an example of natural selection and the theory behind process of evolution – creatures changing themselves to adapt to and survive in their changing environments. With its explanation of the moth’s story and extrapolating from that to all creatures including humans, this is the perfect introduction to Darwin’s theories and the impact of human intervention on the environment.  Throughout though, there is hope – that we are not doomed as many would have us believe, but that we are changing and we must adapt to that change whilst doing all that we can to assist Mother Nature by keeping our planet pure and pristine because try as we might, not all creatures can adapt as readily and quickly as the moth does and the list of species, both fauna and flora, that have become extinct continues to grow.

A must in any library in a school that has students and staff concerned about the environment – what might be living in the playground that could use a bit of positive human intervention?

Ori’s Clean-Up

Ori's Clean-Up

Ori’s Clean-Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ori’s Clean-Up

Anne Helen Donnelly

Self-published, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A20

9780646984131

Ori the Octopus loves his home but he hates it when his friends leave rubbish everywhere.  They are quite willing to help him clean up when he asks but within a week it’s just as bad as it was!  So this time as they clean up again they  think of ways they can recycle and reuse their rubbish so that they are not only making it easier for themselves, but also helping the environment.

This easy-to-read story with its repetitive action sequences and bright, bold pictures is primarily for early childhood, showing our youngest students that they are never too young to make a difference, although my experience is that once they are aware of the possibilities, it is the very young who are most diligent and bad habits and laziness are more likely to be those who are older.  Nevertheless, providing information and  instilling good habits from an early age can only be a good thing as we become more and more aware of the problem of waste and litter, particularly with the removal of single-use items in the spotlight.

Perfect for preschool, especially if there is a discussion about what might happen if Ori’s friends don’t clean up and this is extended into speculation about the playground, their bedrooms or their homes.

Backyard

Backyard

Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard

Ananda Braxton-Smith

Lizzy Newcomb

Black Dog, 2018

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

 9781925381177

Dusk “in this city that is like other cities” and a “sleep-moony child and s star-eyed dog” sit on the back step of their home and watch and listen to the sights and sounds of night falling.  For the back yard is home to other animals apart from them and just taking the time to listen and look can reveal an astounding array of inhabitants that are otherwise often invisible…

While television programs may make us think that nature happens on the vast plains of Africa or the hidden depths of the ocean, in Backyard author and illustrator using poetic descriptive text and exquisite, lifelike illustrations, have brought to life a suburban backyard, exposing critters and creatures that so cleverly hide amongst the plants and bushes, showing that the marvels and miracles are so much closer than we realise. And while our own backyards might not have the particular species shown, that just sets up investigations into what creatures are there; why they are different from those in the book; the influence and impact of day and night; what conditions are needed to protect those that are and encourage more…the possibilities are so many!

But even if scientific investigations are not for you and yours, this is a lyrical lullaby that would serve as a perfect bedtime story as it is so calming and peaceful, encouraging the child to sit and listen and dream and gradually pull the curtains on their day. 

(For those of you wanting to use this as a springboard for a series of lessons that explore your playground or the students’ backyard, a great non fiction companion would be The Australian Backyard Naturalist  by Peter Macinnis who combines his deep skills in science, history and teaching to produce resources for Australian teachers and children.)

 

 

 

Hello to You, Moon

Hello to You, Moon

Hello to You, Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello to You, Moon

Sally Morgan

Sonny & Biddy

Little Hare, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99   

9781760125462

When little people draw the curtains on the day, snuggle down and close their eyes, little do they know that a whole different world is waking up. 

From the fading of the light  through to the twinkling black and on until the dawning of the new day, as the constellations shift across the heavens and Moon completes its journey for another night, across the world nocturnal creatures are getting on with their lives, each paying homage to that timeless orb that will outlast and outlive them as it has done for generations of their forbears. From the kangaroo coughing at the moon at dusk in an Australian desert, to the jungles of Asia where sun-bears snuffle and grunt and to the still silence of the extra-long Antarctic night where penguins scurry and honk, the planet is populated by species that prefer the cool light of the moon to the bright heat of the sun. And while not all of them are strictly nocturnal, nevertheless all respond to the moon through movement and sound that little ones will like to mimic. 

Stunningly illustrated in the details, textures and colours of the night, and building as a counting story, author and illustrators have brought the after-dark to life introducing the youngest readers to the nocturnal world in a way that will make them want to learn more about what else is up and about while they sleep and why they choose dark over light.  It may also encourage curiosity about the Moon – why does it change shape; where does it go in the daytime; why can we sometimes see it in the day and not at night – but my favourite activity is to get them to listen to the sounds of night falling and imagine those things that are tucking themselves in for the night as they are and those things that are waking and greeting their new ‘day’.  

Formal  teaching notes are available.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

John Miller

Chris Fornell Scott

Quarry Books, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A27.99

9781631594830

Apparently, 74 million people play Minecraft each month, one of those is Miss 12 who is now hooked on coding, and many of whom are in schools where the game is being used in many scenarios as part of the everyday learning experience.  For some time, the teacher librarian networks I belong to have been peppered with queries about how it can best be used and so a book that specifically focuses on its use in the science, technology, maths and engineering strands will be of great value to teachers whose students are clamouring for these sorts of experiences but whose personal knowledge and skills of the game are not as developed as those of those they teach.

Beginning with a thorough explanation of what Minecraft is, how it works, how it can be used and played and purchased so that parents and teachers understand its value both in school and beyond – the book’s focus is ‘to connect the Minecraft player(s) in their life with STEM learning…to help bridge the gap between game-play and engaging STEM concepts” –  it moves on to six themed quests, each of which presents four labs, which, in turn, have two parts – an out-of-game activity that requires hands-on exploration and an in-game building and crafting activity.

Quest 1: Pistons, Rails, and Redstone
Quest 2: Construction Zone
Quest 3: The Sky is Not Your Limit
Quest 4: Rocks, Minerals, and Gems
Quest 5: Cycles in Science
Quest 6: Engineering Challenge

In terms of the quality of content, Miss 12 would probably be a better reviewer than I, but in her absence, this review by a Minecraft expert suggests that it is “outstanding” and gives a comprehensive tour of the contents and layout.  The credentials of the authors also convince me of its authority. However, as a non-Minecraft person who wears a teacher’s hat, it would seem to me to be the perfect tool to not only capture an audience who prefer gaming to reading but also to use its user-friendliness to explore things not necessarily intellectually or physically in the teacher’s toolbox.  Added to that is this article which shows that onscreen adventures are leading children to discover their origins in print.  

I’m beginning to see what all the conversations have been about and why there is such excitement about this game that demands so much more of the student than pressing buttons or manipulating levers.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

Professor Astro Cat's Human Body Odyssey

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

Dominic Walliman

Ben Newman

Flying Eye Books, 2018

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

9781911171140

Young readers can join Professor Astro Cat, his helpers Evie, Martha, Gilbert, Felicity and Astro Mouse as they journey through author Dr Dominic Walliman’s body to discover its bits and pieces and how they work. 

Using cartoon-like illustrations, diagrams and simple narrative text that speaks to the reader, this is a wonderful first information book that helps young readers understand what’s under their skin from the very aspects that mean they are alive (they grow and reproduce) through to the minute organisms that combine together to make the organs which in turn work together to make the body work. 

While the explanations are simple, nevertheless they are complete and use the proper language and labels so there is no sense of things being dumbed down for the reader – it fulfils its intention of teaching young people about their bodies, how they work and how to care for them.  Complete with a comprehensive glossary and index so that questions can be answered as the need arises, this is an exciting new addition to the 612 section of your library. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A First Book of the Sea

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2018 

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406368956

With evocative blank verse poems and stunning watercolour illustrations, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton take the young reader on an amazing journey to the sea, under it and beyond it in this new anthology that is the third and final in the series.  Beginning with First to See the Sea the reader is immediately engaged because who has not wanted to be the first to see that elusive glimpse of blue as the coast draws nearer and the air sharpens?  

Encapsulating the most common experiences of the ordinary beach-goer in short poems – paddling, building sandcastles,  catching waves, fishing, gathering pebbles, being mesmerised by the lighthouse flashing its warnings- the net is cast wider and wider and explores the creatures beneath the endless waves and in the ocean’s depths from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Those for whom the sea is home, for whom it is their livelihood or an adventure to be conquered, all are featured in words that are as informative as they are picturesque.  And the stunning fold-out of the humpback whale with instructions for singing a whale song is just superb.

If you buy just one poetry anthology this year, this should be it – there is a poem for every day to spark the imagination and the wonderment of the magic that covers more than two-thirds of this planet. As one born and raised by the ocean and a dream to return, this is one book that is staying in my personal collection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a Mermaid?

Candy Gourlay

Francesca Chessa

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

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

 9781910959121

It has been suggested that the origin of mermaids comes from sailors mistaking ‘sea-cows’ or dugongs for these fanciful creatures and letting their imaginations and desires fill in the gaps.  But not so for Benji, who, with his sister Bel spots a dugong on the beach.  He knows exactly what it is but dugong disagrees, insisting she is not an “it”, but is, indeed, a mermaid – a beautiful mermaid.

She shows the children her tail, which Benji insists is a dugong’s tail; sings to them which hurts Benji’s ears;  and even demonstrated how gracefully she could swim in the sea.  While Bel wishes she, too, could be a mermaid, Benji refuses to give up his criticism, adamant to prove the creature is a dugong. But when he calls her a “sea cow”, she is very hurt and Benji suddenly realises how sharp and cruel his words and attitude have been. Can he make amends?

The word ‘dugong’ comes from the Malay for mermaid as 17th and 18th European sailors saw them or the first time in South East Asian waters  and while this story is set in the Philippines, they are also found in warm Australian waters too.  So, as well as being a story about the power of words and how hurtful they can be even when that is not the intention, this is also a story that puts a focus on these elusive, endangered creatures more closely related to elephants than cows. Young children could create a comparison between mermaids and dugongs while older students might investigate their habits and habitats more fully, perhaps even getting involved in Project Seagrass

The sustainability of the environment and its inhabitants is an important part of the primary curriculum and this is the perfect introduction to a less familiar endangered species that could be added to those already studied.