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The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

The Secret Signs of Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Signs of Nature: How to Uncover Hidden Clues in the Sky, Water, Plants, Animals and Weather

Craig Caudill & Steve Backshall

Carrie Shyrock

Magic Cat, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781913520380

Since the world really started to focus on climate change, and particularly since the lockdowns of the pandemic which meant that often the only outdoors we could visit were our own backyard, there have been many books for children encouraging them to be much more observant. to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them, to be aware of not only the little creatures but also the ordinariness of the habitats the live in and to take greater care.

This book, co-authored by a BAFTA winning naturalist, takes that ability to be observant several steps forward and shows the reader what can be learnt from Nature, by noticing and interpreting everyday signs and signals that not only enrich the experience but help predict what might be happening.  Apart from using their senses more acutely, young readers are encouraged to read the weather by understanding rainbows, observing cloud patterns, predict wind direction and use a compass before they set off into their environment and then each section introduces them to some of the secrets of that place whether it be the ocean or a puddle, the woodlands or a desert or even how a farm paddock! 

Although predominantly using the landscapes of the United Kingdom, the reader and the two young adventurers are taken across the globe as there are many principles to discover that are universal – looking at the shape of the moon and the various visible stars or examining tree stumps can all reveal stories regardless of where you are.- and the reader is urged to be constantly curious, to be present in the moment, to be familiar with the environment so changes are noticed, to study what they observe and ask questions, and then use their learning to teach others.  So, having spotted a huddle of sheep in a paddock, they can surmise that it is likely to rain soon and predict the direction the wind is coming from be looking at the land’s topography. Or stomping through a puddle can tell the person who comes after you, which direction you were travelling…

With such a focus on environment and sustainability both in the curriculum and literature, this is an important book that can empower young readers even more, encouraging them to go  outside and see what they can learn right now!  

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

Nicola Davies

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781406394771

It is one minute to midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, April 21 and as the clock strikes midnight there, the reader begins an amazing journey around the world to see what is happening in other places at this precise time, whether that be having breakfast or even afternoon tea.

But this is not the more common snapshot of what people are doing at a specific time. but a glimpse at what the natural wildlife are up to, the threats they face and in some cases, what’s being done to mitigate them.  We travel to the polar bears in the Arctic; to sea turtles in India struggling to the sea after they’ve just hatched;  to kangaroos fighting both the climate and each other in Mutawintji National Park in NSW; and so on around the world as different species respond to the time zone of their environment.

The date was chosen because at that time of the year there is something exciting happening in the animal kingdom around the world, and coincidentally it was Earth Day, celebrated since 1970 “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. and act as a call to action to acknowledge that “the clock has struck and it is time to make a difference together”. Accompanied by stunning illustrations, each of which includes the two little children who are taking us on the journey so that there is a storyline rather than just a time-lapse diary, the reader is introduced to creatures like the polar bear whose plight may be familiar as the warming planet melts their icy home to the not-so familiar owl monkeys of Ecuador whose habitat is being destroyed in the search for oil.  And while it might seem impossible for a young reader in Australia to help them, nevertheless there are things that each of us can do to  daily to make a difference. So books such as these  which raise awareness in interesting, fascinating ways are perfect for helping us to think globally and act locally.  

And there is always the sideline of investigating why it’s midnight in Greenwich but midday in Sydney!

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 Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Encyclopedia of STEM Words

Jenny Jacoby

Vicky Barker

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A27.99

9781486316632 

Not so long ago, the word ‘stem’ referred to the major vertical shoot of a plant that bears buds and shoots with leaves and with roots at its lower end to anchor it. (It had other meanings too, but that’s the one with which primary school kids were most familiar.)  Now though, in schools  it more commonly refers to the interdisciplinary approach to teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, thus bringing these topics and their vocabulary into the realm of even our youngest students.

So words like ‘hypothesis’, ‘viscosity’ and even ‘yangchuanosaurus”  now roll off tongues as a matter of course, and concepts such as inertia, electromagnetism and bioluminescence sit alongside the more traditional ones of the primary classroom like photosynthesis, evaporation and metamorphosis. But sometimes such words are easier to say than understand so this encyclopedia explains 100 words that are common to young scientists, arranged in alphabetical order and each with its own page so there is space for illustrations and text so the meaning and the concept’s application is clear.  To make it even easier, there is a contents page, an both an index and glossary so navigation is simple if the reader is looking for a specific term.  

But as well as being a ready reference in itself, it just begs to be a model for students to build their own definitions and explanations.  Imagine the power of a Word Wall that has more than just vocabulary, one that is built and added to at point of need, written and illustrated by the students themselves. Maybe even extending the Word Wall to a display of working models so that as well as the science there are also the technology, engineering, and maths aspects that can be exploited.  And who wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Lego Masters and try to explain the STEM as well as the story? 

Books like this that actively engage readers in building on them are essential tools in the kits of teachers, libraries of schools and bookshelves of families.  This one is a must-have. 

 

Wombat

Wombat

Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombat

Christopher Cheng

Liz Duthie

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781760653873

Known as the “bulldozers of the bush” wombats may look soft and cuddly, but they are determined and tough, with sharp teeth that never stop growing, limbs that they use to shovel dirt like bulldozers, and bony bottoms they use to defend their burrows. They can live for years without drinking water, getting all of their moisture from the plants they eat — and they deposit their cube-shaped poop on rocks or stumps as a warning to other wombats.

But even though they can be destructive, ornery and bite the unwary really hard, wombats still rank high among children’s favourite Australian animals. So this  new paperback addition to the Nature Storybook series, which introduces young readers to the natural world by focusing on the daily life of one creature while expanding its activities with factual information about those in a format known as ‘faction’ or ‘narrative non fiction’ will be a welcome addition to the collection.

Given recent bushfires and floods, the plight of Australia’s native creatures has never been so precarious or prominent as young readers begin to understand the impact of these natural disasters on habitat and food supplies.  And with May 11th being Hairy-Nosed Wombat Day the timing is perfect for sharing this charming story.

Wombat Day

Wombat Day

Beginning deep underground, “where dirt and tree roots mesh”, the story follows Wombat’s days from daybreak as she snuggles down in her burrow to sleep through the bright, hot day to marking her territory as she is a solitary creature, to having to defend herself and her little jellybean-like baby against the dingo. Again, Cheng has crafted the most compelling story, accompanied not only by stunning illustrations from Duthie, but also lots of wombat facts as imagination and information sit comfortably side by side. 

Chris Cheng is at his best when he meshes his meticulous research with his way with words and this sits very well alongside  Python, his other contribution to this series, and his many other stories for children, my personal, long-term, yet-to-be-beaten favourite being One Child

A must-have for any collection that meets the needs of any children with a liking for or an interest in these unique creatures.  

And if you would like to get your students started on writing faction, beginning with a wombat focus, then From Fact to Faction(e:update 011, 2012) written by me is available to Primary English Teachers’ Association Australia members.

 

Do You Love Exploring?

Do You Love Exploring?

Do You Love Exploring?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Exploring?

Matt Robertson

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526639622

Whether they live in the tallest mountains, the deepest oceans , the hottest deserts or the iciest places on the planets, animals have evolved so they can survive and thrive in every environment and this joyful book is the perfect introduction to species familiar and not-so for young readers.  

Each double page spread features a different habitat – grasslands, mountains, rainforests, islands, woodlands, ice worlds, deserts, oceans -as well as those who are nocturnal, endangered or just plain strange and provides a brief description that whets the appetite.  But unlike formal books that can be somewhat daunting, the cartoon-like nature of this one makes it appealing and accessible to even the youngest readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the beginning of the book there is a double-page spread of many of the featured animals, and readers will delight in choosing one and then spotting it in the body of the book.  Look for the bear with the burger or the alpaca in the woolly hat! If Robertson, who both wrote and illustrated the book, is also the designer of the layout, then he certainly knows how to capture the attention (and attention span) of young readers.

As well as introducing the diversity of creatures, the book also teaches the reader about the different regions of the planet encouraging them to think about what would be needed to survive there and how the various creatures have actually adapted so they can, prompting possible investigations into how particular species have changed over time. It brings in new vocabulary to explore and explain such as adaptation and evolution, endangered and extinct, as well as concepts such as climate change and human impact, raising awareness of the fragility of the environment from a very young age.

This is the third book in the award-winning series by Matt Robertson that includes Do You Love Bugs? and Do You Love Dinosaurs? and is just as interesting and intriguing as its predecessors.

 

Nature’s Treasures

Nature's Treasures

Nature’s Treasures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature’s Treasures

Ben Hoare

DK, 2021

192pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241445327

Walking to explore our local neighbourhood became daily exercise for many during the recent pandemic, and our children learned to walk with their eyes wide open.  They looked at the sky, the ground, the trees, bushes and flowers and within them they found all sorts of treasures – coloured leaves, scribbles on bark, coloured feathers, a spiderweb jewelled with dew… Perhaps they found a bird’s nest, a pretty stone or even blew on a dandelion fairy clock…

All around us there is evidence that Mother Nature has walked before us with “dazzling feathers, armoured fruit, extraordinary eggs’, bristly teeth, leaf skeletons, glittering gems, ancient fossils, exploding seeds, super-sticky webs, rocks from outer space and much else besides.” In this superb book, the stories of these fascinating objects is explained – where they are found, how they work, what they tell us, how they are used…  Grouped into categories -animals, plants, fungi and algae, minerals and rocks, and made by Nature – common and not-so-common finds are examined with photographs, diagrams and readily accessible text.

From the early “Cabinets of Curiosities” -“large private collections of those wealthy enough to travel to gather them displayed in glass cabinets- to the classroom “nature tables” eagerly renewed each Monday morning as children brought in their weekend discoveries,  there has always been a fascination of these sorts of objects, although now there is a much greater emphasis of just taking photographs and leaving them in situ because they are part of the particular ecosystem and others can also enjoy them.  Thus, a book as beautiful, as entertaining and as informative as this one is a must-have in both the home and school library because if children know and understand what they are looking at, they are more likely to treasure and protect it. 

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. 

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

The Great Southern Reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Reef

Paul Venzo & Prue Francis

Cate James 

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

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

9781486315314 

Most Australians, even our youngest and newest, are familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches over 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space. But even longer and more accessible to most is the Great Southern Reef , a fringe of interconnected underwater systems that span 8000km from the NSW/Queensland border, around Tasmania and its islands, along our great southern coastline and up to Kalbarri in Western Australia.  

First defined as an entity just six years ago in 2016, it has already been identified by Mission Blue  as a Hope Spot, a biodiversity hotspot critical to the health of the world’s ocean environments, particularly because of its forests of giant kelp, Ecklonia radiata, that offer shelter and food for more than 4000 species of invertebrates, countless fish species such as the weedy sea dragon, the WA rock lobster and the blacktip abalone, and many seaweeds, most unique to the reef, which offer carbon storage to offset climate change as well as potential for a plastic-free world of the future. 

But despite 70% of us living within 50km of it, its existence is little known and so this beautifully illustrated, informative book is an essential step in teaching our young students (and hopefully the adults in their lives) not only about its existence and inhabitants but also its importance.  After a storm thrashes the coastline, Frankie and Sam join Professor Seaweed in a walk along the beach to see what has been washed up overnight.  Together they find many things and not only does Professor Seaweed explain what they are but she also demonstrates the need to leave the beach as we find it, to be careful when delving into rockpools, and the significance of the saying, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Kill nothing but time.” However, she does encourage the children (and the reader) to collect any rubbish that will also have been washed up as their contribution to helping the beach and its creatures stay pristine and healthy.

Even for those of us who do not live within that 50km of the reef, or the ocean, it is a destination that naturally attracts millions every year, so this is the perfect book to introduce our children to the existence of the reef itself and their role in protecting it.  Teachers notes  linked to the Australian Curriculum are available to help you do this. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780241553503

There are two phrases that, when seen on the cover of a book for littlies, guarantee an engaging and enjoyable read that will help them understand both the world around them and the power of books.  They are “the Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Eric Carle” . And while we sadly lost Carle to kidney failure almost a year ago, his work lives on in books like this whose tantalising , colourful, familiar illustrations entice children to open them and discover what’s inside.

This one encourages them to look up, look under, look inside  and look closely to discover the minibeasts that live in their world so that they will appreciate both the bugs and the environment as being their home.  Its lift-the-flap format ensures there are lots of surprises and of course there is always the challenge of finding that elusive very hungry caterpillar on each page.  

If you missed celebrating The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day earlier this year on March 20, perhaps May 23, the first anniversary of his death, could be the day to celebrate the life and legacy of this man who has touched so many lives since we first met the VHC in June 1969!