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Lyla

Lyla

Lyla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyla

(Through My Eyes-Natural Disasters  series)

Fleur Beale

A & U Childrens, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A 16.99

9781760113780

DISCLAIMER: This will be neither an impartial nor an unemotional review. For one who called Christchurch home for many years, particularly those formative years of my schooling and teacher education, and for whom so much that was so familiar is now gone, it is impossible to be objective when the places and events are so well-known.  Although I was not there during the earthquake I have made trips back and I still can’t get my head around it.

February 22, 2011 and life has returned to normal for Lyla and her friends Katie and Shona after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck – that’s if having the earth move under your feet several times a day and making a game of guessing the magnitude can be considered normal. Even the daily reminder of the main block of their school, Avonside Girls’ High, being damaged and unusable has been set aside as they try to do the things that 13 and 14 year olds students do. Caught in town at 12.51pm when ‘the big one’ hit, their lives are plunged into chaos as buildings collapse and  people panic as the air fills with dust making visibility almost impossible.

While it is possible to watch endless news coverage, read articles and information it is impossible to know what a natural disaster such as this is really like unless you are part of it and experience it for yourself.  So while I had watched and read and listened and learned, spoken to family and friends who were in the thick of it and even returned home and visited the backyard of such a major part of my life, it was not until reading Lyla that I got a real understanding of what it was to be in the moment.  Beale has drawn on stories of the events of the day and the months following and woven them into a narrative that is both scary and un-put-downable that illustrates not just individual heroism but that sense of community among strangers that seems to emerge when humans are put under such duress – made all the more haunting when you can picture the reality of the setting which is a well-known as the face in the mirror.

In the beginning, there is the fear for family and friends as both Lyla’s mother, a police officer and her father, a trauma nurse at Christchurch Hospital are unaccounted for and she is separated from Shona and Katie in the chaos as the SMS service goes into meltdown, and while they are eventually found to be OK that need to know family is safe means that all families have an earthquake plan much the same as Australians have a bushfire plan. The theme of needing to be with others is strong throughout as neighbours have a need to eat and sleep and be together even if they have a habitable home to go to, and enduring and unusual friendships and bonds are formed.   

There is also a strong thread of Lyla feeling powerless because of her age but finding things she can do that make a difference such as babysitting her neighbour’s children so their mother can return to the medical centre where she works; helping shovel the oozing, stinking liquefaction for elderly neighbours; setting up a charging station for those still without electricity… seemingly minor things within the big picture but nevertheless critical to her mental health at the time.

But like so many then and now, the situation becomes overwhelming. Despite hearing the harrowing tales of others and the rising death toll, and the news of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and telling herself that compared to them she is in great shape, Lyla succumbs and needs qualified medical intervention.  This is another strength of the story – given that seven years on the city still has not recovered it was never going to have a happy, all-is-fine ending, so having Lyla denying help because the common thinking is that the people of Christchurch are somehow more resilient than others, that because her home isn’t munted she should be okay, but nevertheless accepting it and going some way towards recovery shines a light on the okay-ness of needing assistance to get things back in balance.  This particularly poignant in light of the subsequent increase in suicides, unprecedented demand for psychological help and the continuing need for support as there has been a 73% increase in the number of children who need support for mental health issues in Christchurch.

While this has been an emotional read for me, it and the others in both this series and its twin focusing on children living in conflict are essential elements of both the curriculum and the collection as they offer the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  They are the blend of imagination and information that such fiction can offer that leads to insight and understanding.  

Seven years on, long after the event has disappeared from the news headlines and faded from the memories of those not directly involved,  the reality of that time is still in-your-face on every corner of Christchurch and will be for many years to come – Lyla and her friends will be 20 now, confronted by images and memories of that day still, just as anyone who has lived and loved Christchurch is.  For now Ruaumoko, the Maori god of earthquakes has settled a little (even though there were 25 quakes in the week preceding the anniversary, albeit peanuts compared to the 15669 on that day in 2011) but like her friends, family and all those who chose to remain in Christchurch to rebuild their lives and their city one wonders when he will wake again.

185 empty white chairs

185 empty white chairs surrounded by empty spaces, broken buildings and a gloomy sky – September 2015

 

 

How to Be a Fashion Designer

How to Be a Fashion Designer

How to Be a Fashion Designer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be a Fashion Designer

Lesley Ware

Tiki Papier

DK, 2018

96pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781465467614

The world of fashion, with its perceived glamour and glitz, always appeals to a certain number of students who care about what they wear and have the ability to make the proverbial sack look good. Sadly though, enduring emphasis on body image continues despite all that is done to combat it and many soon realise they don’t have “the look” to be a top model and turn away.  But in this easy-to-read manual other avenues in fashion are explored, particularly those of the designer and the stylist.  “While designers create their clothes, stylists know how to put them together.”

Using themed double-spreads students are taken through the basic steps with typical DK layout pizzazz, illustrations galore, tips and challenges that encourage them to start designing now.  The last 20 pages offer opportunities to design a t-shirt, trousers, skirt, hat, shoes and accessories with outlines already provided so new knowledge can be applied immediately as the reader learns about colour, texture, patterns and shape while being encouraged to be inspired by the event and the environment.  Recycling and upstyling are explored so not only is waste minimised but even those with few dollars do not need to be deterred.

Ware believes that those who can “speak up with fashion” have the courage to speak up in other ways too so as teachers we should look to those who dare to be different as being more than clothes horses.  A close-to-home example is a student I taught a few years ago who always made the compulsory school uniform a personal statement, who was a whizz at design puzzles like tangrams and who, at 17, starred in a local show in a country town and six months later in 2017, had her designs on the catwalk in Vancouver  and more recently, Nassau in the Bahamas! Her story alone should give students confidence to continue.

Written to support a STEAM curriculum, the suggestions in this book offer an entire term’s curriculum for those with this sort of interest but even those who aren’t particularly interested in fashion can learn how to step out with a bit more style to give themselves a confidence boost.

 

100 scientists who made history

100 scientists who made history

100 scientists who made history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 scientists who made history

Andrea Mills & Stella Caldwell

DK, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241304327

Throughout history there have been so many perceptive pioneers, brilliant biologists, medical masterminds, clever chemists, phenomenal physicists, incredible innovators and other scientific superstars who have challenged the known to change our lives that to choose just 100 of them must have been a taxing task. 

Nevertheless, in this brand new release from DK, the achievements of people as diverse as Aristotle, Alexander Fleming, Louis Pasteur, Ernest Rutherford, Alan Turing and Edwin Hubble are all described in typical DK format with it characteristic layout, top-quality photography, bite-sized information and accessible language.  But there is so much (and so many more). Although not being of a scientific bent, while many of the names of those in the clear contents pages were familiar, there were as many that were not, and sadly many of those not were women.

But the authors have included many women in the lists – who knew that Hildegard of Bingen, aka the singing nun, born in 1098 could have had such an impact on medical treatments through her study of and writing about the medicinal uses of plants?  Or that of five of those credited with having such an influence on the development of computing, three were women? Or that Mary Somerville correctly predicted the existence of the planet Neptune in the early 19th century and that there were many 19th century astronomers who were female?

This is a wonderful book for everyone – not only because it will introduce a new generation to those who discovered so much of what we take for granted today – they didn’t make history because they became famous, they made the history we look back on so we can move forward-  but also to inspire – “If them, why not me?”  Challenge your students to find another scientist who could have been included and have them develop a page for them using the DK format as a model.

I know a budding scientist who needs this book!

Women in Science

Women in Science

Women in Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Science

Jen Green

DK, 2018

64pp., hbk,, RRP $A14.99

9780241315958

More and more as news coverage reports scientific breakthroughs, it is a woman who is the face of the science rather than the stereotypical man in a white coat.  Women leading scientific discoveries is not a new phenomenon, as this new DK publication demonstrates with its introductory section about scientists of ancient times, but at last it is becoming understood and accepted that science is not “bizniz bilong men”.

Written especially for young readers who are verging on independence or who have made that journey, this book links the achievements of just a handful of women who have made significant contributions to their field of study.  Familiar and unfamiliar names are included as well as a brief introduction to just some of the fields that come under the science umbrella, encouraging the reader to perhaps be the next big name. There is a quiz to spark further investigations as well as the characteristic DK attention to detail in the layout and supporting clues and cues. 

As well as introducing young readers to the work of these remarkable women, there is scope for it to be the springboard as they answer the questions, “Who would you add? Why?’

The Amazing Animal Atlas

The Amazing Animal Atlas

The Amazing Animal Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Animal Atlas

Dr Nick Crumpton

Gaia Bordicchia

Flying Eye Books, 2017

52pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781909263116

Little people love big books so this one that is 375mm tall will certainly appeal.  Add to the size is the content which is also a favourite of little people and this new publication will be a welcome addition to  the collection.

Beginning with a huge double page spread that shows the animal side of the tree of life in pictorial format which is followed by another double spread of their key habitats around the world, it then starts in the Arctic and makes its way through all the continents showing the iconic creatures of each region with some pages opening out to magnificent double double-page spreads! Information is in short paragraphs which will encourage further exploration in more detailed texts. 

Having whet the appetite with the amazing variety of creatures that share the planet with us, there are four pages devoted to identifying why they are at risk and what we can do about it – very much a case of “Now that I know this, what can I do about it?” 

Complete with a contents page, index, and references this is also a great resource for helping young readers use the cues to find the information they want – no one is too young to begin their information literacy.

A sound investment for either the library or the home collection.

Busy Little Creatures

Busy Little Creatures

Busy Little Creatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Little Creatures

Raising Literacy Australia

Fiona Bowden

Little Book Press, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9780994385345 

From bees to beetle to butterflies, our world is full of busy little creatures and ten of them are collected here in a book which not only introduces them but also helps the very young reader explore movement, colours, patterns, sizes and numbers. Perhaps they might also become a detective as they create a chart of the creatures so they can tick off each as it is discovered and maybe even add new ones not featured in the book!  There could also be discussions about why people are dependent on these minibeasts and how we need to protect them rather than squash them, squirt them and otherwise kill them, as well as learning which are friendly and which are not-so!

Fox in the Night

Fox in the Night

Fox in the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox in the Night

Martin Jenkins

Richard Smythe    

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406355154

Fox is hungry so she emerges from her dark den to look for food only to find it is still daylight outside. (It’s dark in Fox’s den because the daylight doesn’t reach inside.) When she does finally emerge, it is night and she is even hungrier and so she ventures into the nearby town in search of dinner.  There she is helped by all sorts of light sources to find what she needs – and to escape!

Science surrounds us – it is not limited to people in white coats in sterile laboratories that television news crews choose to use to report breakthroughs and in this story very young readers will not only enjoy Fox’s adventure but also learn about light, why it is important and where it comes from as there are simple explanations that match the storyline on each page. It also includes an index, bibliography and extra questions and experiments to get young readers thinking about the science behind the story and for them to explore further – a perfect parent-child activity to do together. It suggests  that the child compares the length of their shadow over a couple of hours and this is a great activity to do with a class if you get them to trace each other’s shadow in chalk in the morning, noon and afternoon.  Teaches them so much about the sun’s path as well as measurement.

This is the first in a new series from Walker and I look forward to many more.  

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9780008266165

“Well, hello.
And welcome to this Planet.
We call it Earth.

Our world can be a bewildering place, especially if you’ve only just got here. Your head will be filled with questions, so let’s explore what makes our planet and how we live on it. From land and sky, to people and time, these notes can be your guide and start you on your journey. And you’ll figure lots of things out for yourself. Just remember to leave notes for everyone else… Some things about our planet are pretty complicated, but things can be simple, too: you’ve just got to be kind.”

Written for his baby son, Jeffers tries to offer an explanation of this planet and how it works so that young Harland (and any other little children) will be able to negotiate it successfully.  Even though this planet is a complex place, Jeffers manages to extract its essential elements  – there are basically two parts, the land and the sea – and using direct narrative, his iconic illustrations and simple labels he explores the concepts of the planet and the people and animals who inhabit it. Huge ideas reduced to simple but carefully chosen words that convey both explanation and advice.

“People come in many shapes, sizes and colours.  We may all look different, act differently and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people.”

Throughout there is the underlying message of choosing kind and gentle to the land, its people and all its inhabitants, underpinned by a quote from J. M. Barrie as part of the dedication page..

With so much emphasis on the environment in our school curricula these days, this is the perfect book to create a child’s awareness of their surroundings beyond their immediate self.  But there are so many avenues that could be explored by posing questions such as “Is there more land that sea?”  or “If most of the land is at the top of the planet, why doesn’t the planet roll?” that could lead to investigations by all ages.  

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth was the #1 New York Times Bestseller and voted #1 TIME Best Book of the Year for 2017.  It’s easy to see why. A must-have in your collection and one to be recommended to teachers as the staple that underpins all their lessons this year.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary & Incredible Cross Sections

The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary

The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary

Pablo Hadalgo

DK, 2017

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

9780241281093

 

The Last Jedi Incredible Cross Sections

The Last Jedi Incredible Cross Sections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Jedi Incredible Cross Sections

Jason Fry

Kemp Remillard

DK, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241281079

In 1977, when most of the world was dancing to Saturday Night Fever  George Lucas created a collection of characters who lived  “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.  Who could have foreseen that 40 years on those characters would still be as popular as ever and the eighth episode in the saga would break box-office records in its first weekend of release.

In The Last Jedi , the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.  And, like its predecessors, it is packed with memorable characters and amazing machinery so it was inevitable that these two publications would accompany its release as fans and fanatics strive to know more about everyone, everywhere and everything.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi™ The Visual Dictionary is the definitive guide to the movie revealing the characters, creatures, droids, locations, and technology from the new film whilst The Last Jedi Incredible Cross Sections reveals the inner workings of 13 key vehicles from Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi™. Each vehicle is shown as an intricately detailed, full-colour cross-section artwork, complete with callouts to the important features of each ship. Clear, comprehensive text makes this an indispensable reference guide for the new craft in the Star Wars galaxy.

The Star Wars phenomenon has spanned almost the entire length of my teaching career and I wish I had $1 for every child, particularly boys, who has sought out the publications accompanying each film, pored over them with mates for hours discussing, reading, searching, and learning so much more than just about the topic of the book.  With the usual excellent and now expected standard of DK publishing they have been stand-outs, almost impossible to keep on the shelves and these two new additions are no exception. 

There will be few students who have not seen this movie over this holiday period and so to come back to school to a display which features the very latest in print accompaniments will be like a huge welcome banner telling them that the library really does have something for them in 2018!

Can’t get better than that!

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

Caryl Hart

Sarah Warburton

Nosy Crow, 2017

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780857637079

Kept in her beautiful palace at the top of the world by parents who fear for her safety because of what lives in the surrounding forest, Princess Eliza is lonely  But even though she is stuck inside all day with no one to play with, she is resourceful and she figures out how to make almost anything with a few bits of wood and some string — including her own toys! But her parents think that her mechanical inclinations aren’t suited to a princess, and tell her she’d be better off devoting her time to searching for a friend.

But not being allowed to go out into the world makes that a tricky thing, and even drawing on her fairytales doesn’t help – the gingerbread man skedaddles, the frog she kisses doesn’t turn into a prince and even dangling her long hair out the window brings no visitors. But as she sits at the window she smells smoke drifting over the trees and is determined to find out who is making it and she slips out into the forest.  As a huge shaggy shape looms up out of the snow she is frightened but it turns out to be a friendly deer who carries to his master’s house where she finds elves who are overworked and despondent because  Santa has the flu and they’re unlikely to finish all the orders before Christmas Eve.

But Eliza knows just what to do – at last all that time spent with paper and paperclips, scissors and glue comes in very handy… but can she save Christmas?

Recommended by A Mighty Girl for being a story that empowers girls and encourages them to be “smart, confident and courageous” this certainly meets these criteria.  From defying her parents and going into the forest, demonstrating her inventive intelligence in an elves-and-shoemaker kind of way to save Christmas and yet still keeping her feet on the ground (sort of), this is a story that will appeal to girls everywhere and help take the sting from the word ‘princess’ that it has acquired over the last decade or so. Being clever, imaginative and inventive is not restricted to boys! And it could well be the springboard for kickstarting some problem-solving as Makerspaces need new life breathed into them at the beginning of 2018.  Students could brainstorm the other sorts of problems that Santa might encounter as he tries to meet everyone’s requests and then they could invent something to solve them.  

A joyful, fun story that will be a permanent part of my Christmas Countdown.