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Australian Birds

Australian Birds

Australian Birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Birds

Matt Chun

Little Hare, 2018

36pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760502003

It took millions of years of isolation and a diverse range of habitats for Australian birds to evolve the way they did. The result is many of the world’s most striking and beautiful birds, including some that are stranger than fiction. In Australian Birds,  artist Matt Chun showcases 16 remarkable species that have captured the imagination of the world. 

This is a beautifully crafted book, superbly illustrated with great attention to detail and colour, which is the perfect introduction to Australia’s unique birdlife. Each of the birds featured is one that will be well-known to many of our students because it will be a part of their environment, but at the same time, will be new to others who live in a different part of the country.  Living in the bush as I do, I’m privileged to see lots of varieties on a daily basis, whether it’s the little finches who have just raised a family in their little nest in the honeysuckle outside my window, to the magpie family who bring their babies down to feed and learn each year, the cheeky crimson rosellas who delight in splashing in the birdbaths we have around or the raucous kookaburras who are better than any alarm clock.

Children will delight in telling you which ones they already recognise, while it would serve as a wonderful resource to start identifying,  spotting and tallying the species and numbers of birds found in your school playground throughout the various seasons and investigate ways that it could be made more bird friendly, perhaps even being involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count in October this year.  

 

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Dippy's Big Day Out

Dippy’s Big Day Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dippy’s Big Day Out

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9781460754061

All Dippy wants to do is fill his tummy and find a soft place to sleep.  But it seems that that is a bit tricky when you are a diprotodon, a kind of giant wombat the size of a rhinoceros!   No matter what he does or where he lies down, it seems Dippy is doomed to be hungry and wide awake.  Beds that are nests, snacks that attack, it’s a bit bewildering until…

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have developed an idea from Ben Smith Whatley and teamed up once again to introduce young readers to the world of megafauna, huge creatures that evolved from the dinosaurs and roamed Australia up until about 50 000 years ago. Not surprisingly, given her well-known love of wombats, Jackie has focused this story on their ancestors, the diprotodon, but even though this initially appears to be a story for the very young, it opens up so many areas to explore that it could be for any age.

Combining minimal text with illustrations that contain so much action, this is a great introduction to the genre of ‘faction” where a fictional story is based on so much fact that the lines are blurred and it becomes an information text as much as a imaginary one, meeting many of the Australian Curriculum outcomes in the process. Whatley has painted a very different Australia to that which we are used to, which has to spark questions about climate change and what happened to these ginormous creatures. And are there lessons we can learn because we no longer have diprotodons in our landscape? Is its descendant, the wombat, likely to follow in its footsteps? Put May 11 aside to celebrate Hairy Nosed Wombat Day as a focus for endangered and extinct species!

Given the fascination that young children have for dinosaurs, it is surprising that there are so few stories, or even resources, about these other prehistoric beasts and so, this is a must-have in any collection.

Excellent teachers’ notes (written by me) exploring the riches of this book are available both on the publishers’ website  and their Teachers Hub , demonstrating that what might be considered a book for preschoolers actually has a much wider application, making it a model of its genre..

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

There are Fish Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are Fish Everywhere

Britta Teckentrup

Big Picture Press, 2018

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

9781787410763

As summer draws on, it is likely that many of our young readers will have either been fishing or will have eaten fish or perhaps seen them “in the flesh” over the past few months. While those who have caught them in rivers, lakes or the sea may be able to identify the species of their catch, with over 33,600 described species in the world, fish are the most diverse creatures  than any other group of vertebrates found in aquatic environments all over the world. 

“Big or small, spiny or flat, spiky or blobby, bright or exactly the same colour as the sand”, fish have inhabited the planet for about 420 million years, and in this richly illustrated, informative book from Britta Teckentrup, young readers can investigate all things fishy from the biological characteristics of fish to their evolution to what lives where. Focused on providing initial answers to a variety of questions it is a broad-ranging text that will  satisfy the reader’s curiosity and perhaps inspire them to investigate further. With information in manageable chunks and accessible language it is an ideal starter text for the independent reader, and with invitations to search for things, including the rarely seen but most common fish on the planet, the bristlemouth, they are encouraged to read and look carefully.  Ideal for those with an interest in these amazing creatures.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

Alice James

Usborne, 2018

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

9781474942997

Did you know that out of 30 million emails sent in the time it takes to tread this line, 20 million of them will be spam?

That a champion mathlete can add ten 10-digit numbers in their head in 13 seconds?

The first computer game for two players was based on playing tennis and was created over 60 years ago?

These are just some of the interesting facts that are shared and explained in this fascinating new book from Usborne that is so easy to explore, navigate and read.

Way back when, in a time when I did not teach maths well and avoided it if I could, I was presented with a class of eight-year-olds who were as turned off the subject as I was.  In the days when text books and workbooks were the norm and the curriculum comprised going through said books which were cheaply produced, unattractive and unappealing, it was no wonder that those for whom maths was a mystery were not enthused to participate.  However, I was a successful “language arts” teacher and so in the interests of my students, I had to invigorate my interest and so I examined what I did well in my whole language classroom and translate it into a whole maths classroom.  By the end of the year, we were all thriving, I’d written many articles about my approach and even had several book contracts lined up!

The secret was to show the kids how maths related to their everyday lives, in both overt and obscure ways so that it became apparent that it permeates everything we do.  We started with a focus question of “What would we do without numbers?” and delved into the history of number and so on, and things just flew from there. This book, 100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding would have been a godsend in those days as even though its focus is computing and coding, there is enough in it to build a lesson a day for almost an entire school year and that doesn’t include the offshoot investigations that would take you off on a tangent! I can envisage those eight-year-olds of 30 years ago pouring over it!

There are often queries to teacher librarian forums about how to engage with the maths teachers to show that the library offers them something, and the usual answers of teaching the Dewey Decimal System pop up, but imagine the interest there would be if you shared a fact a day and invited explorations as part of your library displays!  Those who see libraries as being about books and reading and therefore not for them would be engaged and their learning could go off in any direction, while not even realising they are engaging with reading, books and information literacy.  Sort of like hiding vegetables in cakes.

Don’t buy this book and hide it away in the 004 section.  Buy it and use it as the basis to turn students’ attitudes towards maths, computing and coding into something positive!

Everest

Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everest

Sangma Francis

Lisk Feng

Flying Eye, 2019

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

9781911171430

It is the highest spot on planet Earth, known to many as the roof of the world and the ultimate challenge for mountain-climbing adventurers. It is Mount Everest.

Mount Everest is undoubtedly the most famous mountain on Earth. Hundreds of people clamber to its summit every year, following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, hoping to experience Earth’s highest peak. But there is so much more to this mountain than the people who climb it.

In this new release, readers travel back to the mountain’s ancient origins as 50 million years ago the two tectonic plates that we now know as India and Europe collided forcing the land upwards and creating the Himalaya (a Sanskrit word meaning “home of snow”), the biggest mountain range on the planet, one which is still rising at up to 10mm a year. Known to the Tibetans as Chomolungma or “Mother Goddess of the World”,  to the neighbouring Nepalese as Sagarmatha or “Goddess of the Sky” and in English as Everest after Sir George Everest who was head of the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1865, this magnificent mountain rises 29029 feet (8848 metres) into the heavens between Tibet on the northern side and Nepal on the southern.

The author covers a wide range of topics from how to measure a mountain- it’s all done with triangles – to the flora and fauna that live at its various altitudes, to the sacred stories, myths and legends that have built up over the years.  Of course, being a New Zealander I was very interested in seeing if Sir Edmund Hillary was given credit for being the first to conquer the peak in in 1953 and even though the attempts to the top are seen through a British lens, with Sir John Hunt getting a greater focus as leader of the whole expedition, there is a special section dedicated to that final push on May 29th as Hillary and Tensing Norgay finally conquered that which had been tantalising many for so long – and still does as thousands make their way to Base Camp each year.

Perhaps because Sir Edmund became a friend of my mother’s and once took her down Aoraki (Mt Cook in New Zealand) on the back of a skidoo so she could be home in time for my birthday, Everest has always held a fascination for me.  So this book, which is perfect for younger readers wanting to know more, took me to aspects of the mountain that I didn’t know – as it will for those independent researchers who are looking for a starting point to discover this unique landmark. 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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

 9781925594249

Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.

 

Vanishing

Vanishing

Vanishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanishing

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781925227444

Once, creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered this empty land. They had horns and wings, scales and feathers. They lived in vibrant forests, desert plains and icy tundras. But where are they now?

This is an evocative picture book, lyrically written and sublimely illustrated, that introduces young children to a host of the creatures that have inhabited this planet over the millennia but which have now disappeared, often because of the impact of humans on their habitat or a desire to own what they offered.  But this book goes further than the extinction of its creatures for it warns that humans with their cities and all that they consume will also disappear.

“The humans learned about their past.  But they didn’t learn  enough from it.” 

But there is also hope that perhaps once the humans have gone, the creatures will emerge again. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The recent criticism against the students who chose to display their anger through a national strike about the inaction of governments and corporates towards climate change really angered me. Rather than asking themselves why the students felt compelled to take this action, those self-styled “social commentators” and politicians just demonstrated their ignorance about what our students are concerned about, what they are learning in schools through curricula that they, the politicians, have put in place, and the emphasis placed on transferring what has been learned into action. As well as ignorance, they also showed their arrogance in thinking that they know better and are the only ones with “solutions” to fix things.  

The publication of Vanishing at this time is very timely and it should be an essential element of any study focusing on sustainability of the landscape so that, regardless of their age, they can “learn  enough from it”.  Enough for them to continue asking questions, to examine their own beliefs and practices, to encourage others to think about the then as well as the now, to take the action they did and to maintain it until the changes are stopped if not reversed, and to not give into a future of doom and gloom.  To show those who were of a similar mindset when they were students, that there are more important things than those that they now worship, particularly in a country that is among those with the worst rate of animal species extinction in the world.

A comparison of the front and back end-pages should be enough to pique the interest but further teaching notes are available here.

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Awesome Book of Space

Adam Frost

Bloomsbury, 2018 

112pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408896501

Did you know that if you were an ancient Egyptian then your understanding of the sun’s journey across the sky would focus on a giant dung beetle called  Khepri who dug the sun out of the underworld in the East at dawn, rolled it across the sky and then pushed it back into the underworld in the evening? But if you were an Aztec you would know that there had been four suns before this one, which is called Tonatiuh, and without human sacrifices, it would refuse to move across the sky and all the crops would fail.

On the other hand, did you know that just one space suit (used on the ISS only about 25 times each) costs 40 times more than the top-of-the-line Rolls Royce car; or what would happen if you fell into a black hole?

These are the sorts of things covered in this intriguing book about space that is perfect for young readers who like to dig and delve and have their information presented in a graphic format rather than lots of text making it  accessible to readers at all levels of development.  Ranging across the sort of subjects that young readers like to ask questions about or surprise their parents with at the dinner table, this book answers questions like 

  • How many pairs of pants you’d need to pack to live in a space station for a year?
  • What the weather is like on Neptune?
  • How many tonnes of litter humans have left on the moon?

Written in the conversational tone of Splat the Fake Fact, young readers are invited to guess or research the answers to some of the articles such as which of a range of creatures has not made it into space, so that it becomes an interactive experience rather than just a passive reading one.  And with the range of topics covered, it offers a taster for everyone providing the boost to do some further research if the imagination is gripped, not just about space itself but also physics, geology, and a host of STEM topics. Just how many explanations did earlier civilisations have for the sun’s journey across the sky and how do they compare with what we know to be the case now that science has solved its mystery? 

Not only would this be a valuable addition to a library collection to inspire space enthusiasts, but it’s also the right size and price for popping in the Christmas stocking.   

 

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO Super Heroes Visual Dictionary

Elizabeth Dowsett & Arie Kaplan

DK, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241320037

Since 2006 when it first released its Batman-themed sets, LEGO, a contraction of leg godt which means “play well” in Danish, have offered fans construction sets related to the popular superheroes so they can learn to read and follow instructions and develop their fine motor skills as they make the intricate models from the movies, then use their imagination to build new stories and adventures with their creations.

 This visual guide to the minifigures, vehicles and sets of the Superhero world offers lots of background information about the characters culminating in a behind-the-scenes chapter which features concept art and an interview with the LEGO DC Super Heroes creative team.

Like its predecessors that have been linked to popular movies and characters, this is a book that will have young fans poring over it, talking about what they are discovering, wanting to learn more and reading to do so- engaging in all those behaviours that show that print offers them something and that reading for pleasure is a worthwhile thing to do.  Guaranteed to hook young reluctant readers, appeal to more independent fans and even offer suggestions for the Christmas stocking as each model has details of its release date, set number, and the number of pieces and minifigures that come with it. There is even a Yellow Lantern Batman included!

Crafty Science

Crafty Science

Crafty Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crafty Science

Jane Bull 

DK, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780241353455

Whether the little fingers of our youngest readers are making a sun clock, weaving paper, floating boats to escape sharks or concocting chocolate chunk cookies, as well as the fun there is also science involved.  Whether the final product works  because of energy, temperature, strength, aerodynamics, or the combination of molecules, simple science is behind many of the common craft activities that children love to create.

So in this new release from DK, Jane Bull has taken some of these popular projects and explored not only the steps involved in making something from start to finish, but has also explained the science behind each one.  

From making a beautiful ice lantern that could grace the Christmas table, to a balloon that doesn’t pop to investigating how beans know which way is up, there are 20 different activities that will young minds occupied and, in some cases, mesmerised, as they are fascinated by the “magic” while they learn to follow procedural texts.  Guaranteed to engage is the popular grass-head figure made by putting some grass or wheat seeds into a piece of stocking or kitchen wipe, filling it with potting mix and securing it tightly before putting it wick down into a jar of water.  Draw a face with permanent markers and place on the classroom window-sill.  Your young scientists will make a beeline for theirs each morning to see if it has started to sprout hair, and having competitions to see whose will grow the longest!  (Can you tell I’ve done this once or twice or more in my 45 years in schools?)

Learning science through play from an early age using easy-to-find materials opens up so much of the world for the young child, and with a simple equipment list, clear step-by-step instructions, lots of photographs and the simple science explanations this is a book that should be in every school collection, available on the makerspace table and also in Christmas stockings for a child’s personal library this year.