Archives

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781406399998

These days young children are very aware of the importance of plants and bees, the  deadly potential of climate change and the concept of “green” being more than just a colour in the paint palette. But what is the connection between them?

It is all explained in this beautifully illustrated picture book. In accessible text, the young reader learns that a tree isn’t just a tree standing green and shady but that it is really busy purifying the air through photosynthesis as it does, and from there they are led naturally through a timeline of the development of plants on the planet, the impact of using the remains of the ancient forests as fossil fuels, and the interaction and interdependence of plants on the planet’s health and function, as they begin to understand why “GREEN is the most important colour in the world.”

This really is the most remarkable book that explains really complex concepts in such a simple way that it should be the starting point for any study into the environment and why we need to protect what we have.  It is the basic WHY of all the what, where, who, how and all the other questions that students have that will provide context and purpose for any investigation, encapsulating and explaining such a  big idea in a way that just gives sense to so much else. No matter what the topic under investigation, if it is about the natural world, it will stem back to plants and their health and prevalence.  

Research shows that the eye distinguishes more shades of green than any other colour and certainly the view from my window has more hues than I could count, but it never ceases to suggest a sense of calm and peace, which is why so many medical facilities are painted in shades of green. This book is the beginning of understanding why this is so, and why it is so important to our lives and well-being. 

A must-have in any collection.

The Beehive

The Beehive

The Beehive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beehive

Megan Daley

Max Hamilton

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760655228

Even though Willow hurries to school every day, today is a very special day. Today was the day that Tom the groundskeeper was going to divide the hive of native bees living in the hollow of an old tree, and Willow was going to be able to take half of it home to begin a new hive…

Part of the brilliant Nature Storybooks collection, and written by Megan Daley, a name familiar to any teacher librarian who has been around for a while, this is a book that is a must-have in any library collection, but particularly those where the protection and conservation of the environment is high on the agenda, and even moreso if the students are developing a bee-friendly garden.

Alongside the story of Willow’s growing interest and excitement, is the informative parallel text introducing young readers to Australia’s native bee species – there are over 2000 of them – not only explaining their habits and habitats but demonstrating just how important they are in the natural scheme of things.  While there have been a number of books awakening young readers (and not-so- to the importance and plight of bees, this has a unique local focus that stimulates the imagination into what could be happening in the school playground or the home backyard with some input from an expert – of which there are a growing number. While Willow is lucky to have the help of Tom and her stepdad, both of whom know what they’re doing, it is not hard to find help from experienced keepers, even in the heart of the city. There are apiarists’ associations in every state and territory.

And given Megan’s professional life, and in keeping with others in the series, there is both an index and a glossary included so young readers can begin to learn the cues and clues for navigating non fiction resources so they can find the information they want.

When it comes to narrative non fiction and sparking interest in the world around them, this series is in my top five favourites and this particular addition just adds to their repertoire and reputation. 

 

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Little Lunch

Danny Katz

Mitch vane

Walker Books, 2024

464pp., pbk, RRP $a19.99

9781760658816

That break known as “little lunch” or “recess” is only 15 minutes in the school day so really, what can happen in such a short time?  Ask any teacher who has ever been on playground duty and you will discover the answer is – a lot! And in this collection from the Little Lunch series are 18 stories that are perfect for those venturing into the world of novels because of their relatable characters and events and text/image balance, the reader discovers what teachers already know- it can be the most significant 15 minutes of the day.

Set in a suburban primary school in Australia each highlights  the adventures of a class of Year 5 students  Manny, Debra-Jo, Tamara, Rory, Atticus and their friends and their teacher Mrs Gonsha during morning recess as relationships ebb and flow over what seems like the most innocuous events. And whether it’s Tamara Noodle hogging the monkey bars, fighting over what kind of sandwich Manny was eating or Batty becoming SUPER BATMAN GUY, each provides an engaging read that not only has heads nodding but also offers opportunities to discuss how the issue was or could be solved without argument or violence.   

The series was first released 20 years ago, was made in to a TV series, still available on iView, in 2015-2016 and is as popular now as it was then because the characters and the things that happen essentially don’t change.  The issues a teacher deals with on the playground today at recess will be similar to those I dealt with all those years ago.  Now bound into a big book, it also includes all sorts of bonus activities to stretch the brain.

Apart from just being a fun read, Danny Katz shows that writing about every day stuff, the stuff you know about and have done can be just as entertaining as the most far-fetched fantasy, and thus the stories in the book could be a basis for a writing exercise for a class. Start as a class exercise by posing a common problem and then asking, “What if ABC said or did XYZ instead?” “How else could the situation have been dealt with?” offering scope for individual scenarios and responses.  Then have them really observe what happens in the playground, analyse the relationships among those involved and how the dynamics made the incident worth watching, show them how to disguise real-life by giving the characters new identities and then have them create their own story for an extra addition to the series. 

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Jeffrey Alan Love

Walker Studio, 2024

240pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406390506

Through movies like Thor and Thor Ragnarok, and the television series Loki many of our emerging readers are familiar with and interested in the gods of Norse mythology (whose names are remembered in our days of the week).  And while there are many online resources discussing and debating the similarities and differences between the legends and their screen interpretations – indeed between the modern and ancient stories themselves – nevertheless, interest is high and this book is the ideal way to capitalise on that.

The author of this collection, Kevin Crossley-Holland is viewed by the likes of Neil Gaiman as being an expert in translating and retelling these tales of old, having translated Beowulf from the Anglo-Saxon and his stories of King Arthur have been translated into twenty-five languages.

These stories tell of Odin, with his one eye (the other in order to see everything that happens in the world( who is the god of both war and death and the ruler of Valhalla, a place of near-perpetual food, drink, pleasure, and battle where fallen warriors go in the afterlife; his son Thor who, with his mighty hammer Mjölnir is the god of thunder and lightning; and Loki the god of mischief, trickery, and deception. 

With its dramatic illustrations, this is one for independent readers with an interest in the stories behind the stories, ancient myths and legends, the Vikings themselves, even those from the north of the UK whose past ties with Scandinavian countries are strong. A dip-and -delve book, it would be an excellent one to share in those odd moments when a good story that will captivate even the most rambunctious boys is required.

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Sue Lawson & Jodi Toering

Guy Holt

Wild Dog Books, 2024

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

9781742036670

Whether our students know it as “written expression”. “composition”, “exposition”, “essay”. “creative writing” or any of the other terms story-writing has been tagged over the generations, the first thing that they ask a published author is, “Where do you get your ideas from?”

And whether it’s a set topic with perfect spelling and grammar expected from the get-go, or the free-range experience of ideas first, editing later promulgated by the likes of Donald Graves and Lucy M. Calkins,  there are those who love to write and do it well, and those who struggle and find it a chore.  Whether the focus is product or process, there will be teachers who find this a tricky topic to teach and students who find it hard to achieve – just as those who find music, maths or any other subject tough going. Nevertheless, there is an expectation by society that students will be competent readers and writers having passed through the school process, being able to express themselves well verbally and in writing so others can understand their meaning and intent and so we must do what we can, AI, Chat GPT and text-speak notwithstanding.

So this easy-to read practical guide will be a boon to both teachers and students, because, regardless of any external aids that might be imposing all sorts of new considerations, those aids cannot edit or alter or improve a blank page.  But where to start to make those first marks on the page, whether they be with a pencil on a scrap of paper or keystrokes on a computer screen?  One of the first things the authors say is that you DON’T have to start at the beginning – either the beginning of the story of even the beginning of the book. If characters interest you, then look at the section that helps you develop credible characters that the reader cares enough about to want to find out what happens to them; if visualising and description is your thing, then start there… Thankfully, through the teaching of Graves et al., writing is seen as a process of refinement over time (unless you are sitting a standardised test where you have to get it right first go or else) and so this little handbook offers ideas and tips for getting started and keeping going, particularly for those whose imaginations might need a kickstart. 

In a nutshell a story has a complication and a resolution – a problem and a solution, made more interesting by the impact they have on those experiencing them,  and there are suggestions for story starters, ideas for creating the characters  who will be participating (even how to name them appropriately), tips for setting the scene – all the elements that complete and engaging story and all written in a style and language that directly addresses the reader so they are itching to get started, whether as teacher or writer. IMO, just acknowledging that we each have a different way of getting started is critical – some prefer to start with the end in mind and work back; others prefer to have the ‘what-if’ identified and work outwards; others  (like me) prefer to have the opening sentence set in place and flow from there.  There is no one way and no right way. 

Next to my storybook cushions, my author kits with engaging covers and basic tools of the trade are the biggest sellers on my little market stall as budding authors pester parents to purchase one, and apart from hearing, “My child loves to read”, hearing “my child loves to write” gives me the biggest tingle.

So if you have a child who loves to write or are a teacher who is not sure where to start to enthuse students, this little book is for you. 

 

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Fog Rolls In

Pam Fong

Greenwillow, 2024

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

9780063136540

On a clear day, when the sea and the horizon stretch endlessly around, the flock of puffins takes flight from their rocky island home – except for one, who is a little tentative and anxious.  But, when he has the courage to follow his mates, the fog rolls in and things become murkier and murkier until it is so thick, he stumbles and can’t find his way forward.  Perhaps it would be safer to stay just where he is, but when a walrus looms in front of him, he realises that that can be dangerous.  And so, he summons his brave that let him leave his home in the first place, and goes forward learning that “the closer you get, the more you see. And the more you see, the clearer the path becomes.” And eventually, the fog lifts and the world and the horizons spread in front of you again.

On the surface this is a story about a little puffin separated from his flack, lost, afraid and bewildered until he finds them again, but it has been deliberately written as an allegory for helping young ones navigate uncertainty, open their minds and finding their way back to a place of safety and certainty. It helps them understand that, at times, we all face feeling lost and unsure, having to make decisions and having faith that what we decide will lead us to clarity.  

While there are lots of stories that celebrate being happy and positive, and others that deal with anger and sadness, there are few that confront confusion and uneasiness in such a way that makes it easy to start conversations and explore those emotions so that the child not only understands that there can be a pathway through without becoming too anxious, but others feel the same way at times.

An exceptional addition to your mindfulness collection for little ones, while useful for teaching older students about allegories and learning to read between and beyond the lines to what the author is really saying – an essential skill in being a critical reader.   

Two Rabbits

Two Rabbits

Two Rabbits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Rabbits

Larissa Ferenchuk

Prue Pittock

EK Books, 2024

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

9781922539656

On a dark rainy night, in a cold wet field, Little Grey Rabbit and Little Brown Rabbit had an argument, their words carried away on the wind. And as you do when you have had an argument, each stormed off – Little Grey Rabbit into the street towards her home, and Little Brown Rabbit into the lane towards hers… Will they be able to come back together and find a way to save their friendship?

Using a clever textual technique where the actions and thoughts of each are mirrored in the text, this is a charming story for little ones who are still feeling their way with forming friendships beyond the family and learning that you can still be friends even if you disagree on some things.  Yes, there is anger and sadness and even loneliness, but these become reasons to mend the friendship rather than destroying it.  Apologising is being smart and grown up, not a weakness, and with the reason for the original argument not disclosed, the focus is on those feelings and the coming together again.  

The endpapers are interesting – see if the child can spot the difference – and they will have fun spotting places and tracing journeys of the map.  

One that is perfect to add to the collection exploring how to make and maintain friendships, particularly in those early months of school. 

Artichoke to Zucchini

Artichoke to Zucchini

Artichoke to Zucchini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artichoke to Zucchini

Alice Oehr

Scribble, 2023

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

9781761380617

Many of us grew up learning that healthy eating was based on selecting something from the five food groups each day…

 

Five Food Groups

Five Food Groups

And then we learned that we should be judicious in our choices using the Food Pyramid as a guide…

Food Pyramid

Food Pyramid

Then we were encouraged to eat a rainbow every day…

Food Rainbow

Food Rainbow

So it seems only logical that now we can indulge in an entire alphabet of food in this beautifully illustrated new release from graphic artist Alice Oehr, a follow up to her successful first book, Off to Market. a CBCA Notable and the Winner of the 2023 ABIAs Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year.

A is for artichokes and long spears of asparagus. It’s for bright, creamy avocados and salty little anchovies …

While these sorts of books appear, on the surface, to be for very young readers learning new vocabulary as they pick out those foods they recognise, they have a much wider value as we try to encourage little ones to learn to make healthy choices from the get-go.  Students can have fun classifying the various foods into those familiar food groups; they can tick off those they have tried and those they are yet to try; they can suggest foods they know that start with a particular letter but which haven’t been included on the page; those from other countries can contribute foods they are familiar with which we might not know; they can seek out recipes and ways to cook and prepare the foods they are unfamiliar with; they can carry out research and data collection of favourite foods; they might even venture into the history of food, the concept of food miles, traditional foods for traditional celebrations – the list is endless.

This is the first book I’ve reviewed for this company and if this is the calibre, then we are in for some good stuff.  I’m just glad I did the review after my healthy chicken and salad meal! 

Questions and Answers About Refugees

Questions and Answers About Refugees

Questions and Answers About Refugees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers About Refugees

Katie Daynes

Ashe De Sousa

Oksana Dkachkovska

Usborne, 2023

14pp., board book., RRP $A19.99

9781803709987

Who are refugees?

Why do people become refugees?

Can anyone become a refugee?

What do ‘asylum seeker’, ‘migrant’ and ‘internally displaced person’ mean?

These are some of the questions asked and answered in this new release Q&A from Usborne, the masters of making the complex simple. With its lift-the-flap format, all the big questions like “Why do wars start?” are explained in short, easy-to-understand paragraphs so that students can have a basic understanding of what some of their classmates may have faced in a previous life and time.  And with current and potential conflicts creating an even greater problem than previously, there are many who will be seeking answers.

 Written with advice from the Refugee Council and drawing on conversations with refugees and aid workers from around the world, the questions cover all stages of a refugee’s journey, from fleeing danger and embarking on hazardous journeys, to seeking asylum and struggling to find a new place to call home. The language and scenes have been carefully considered to be appropriate for younger children, providing an extremely useful educational tool for families and schools. And for those wanting to know more, there are the usual Quicklinks to carefully selected and vetted online resources.

Little Horses

Little Horses

Little Horses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Horses

Deborah Kelly

Jenni Goodman

Wombat Books, 2024

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

9781761111310

Out in the bay, where sailboats glide

Little horses drift and glide

Changing colours so predators pass

In gardens of sponge and coral and grass

In the calm peaceful waters, disturbed only by the rise and fall of the tide, little seahorses spend their lives swaying with the movement of the water, occasionally spotted by sharp-eyed scuba divers who are lucky to see them amongst the seaweed. They give birth and raise their young in a way that only seahorses do, continuing a cycle that is generations old.

But then a storm hits the bay and the seahorses are swept away from their home by the tumbling, crashing waves to a barren place where there are no sponges, coral and grass until…

Inspired by true events when severe storms hit Port Stephens, NSW between 2010 and 2013 and almost wiped out the fragile population of White’s Seahorses (hippocampus whitei) – so much so that it was declared endangered on the IUCN list – this story tells the story of how scuba diver David Haraski spotted two seahorses beginning to build a new home on an old lobster pot that had also been swept away bit which was starting to sprout new corals and sponges. With the adage, “If we build it, they will come” in mind, in 2018 Haraski  built and placed the first seahorse hotel onto the Port Stephens seabed – and it worked.  Haraski the tried his concept in Sydney Harbour where there were other endangered populations and now these seahorses hotels are springing up around the world, including a dedicated breeding program at Sydney Sea Life.

This is such a positive spin on how humans are working to save the environment and its creatures that it deserves a place in any library collection to support the environment and sustainability curriculum. The gentle rhyme has a rhythm that mimics the wave movement, building to a crescendo when the storm hits, and all set against eye-catching artwork that is so lifelike.  There are notes about both the seahorses themselves and the seahorse hotels to add context and whet the appetite to know more and explore further.

With summer beach holiday memories still fresh in the mind, this is the ideal time to encourage students to think what lies below the yellow sands, beneath the rockpool calm and beyond the sparkling waters and used together with Beach Song and Voice of the Sea, there is the trifecta of storybooks to form the basis of the investigation.