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A Climate in Chaos

A Climate in Chaos

A Climate in Chaos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Climate in Chaos

Neal Layton

Wren & Rook, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781526362315

Planet Earth has been very good to us. But 150 years ago, humans began making machines powered by burning things…

You’ve probably heard about climate change. At least I hope you have – because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT. It affects all of us living on Planet Earth right now, and everyone and everything that will live on our planet in the future.

This year seems to have been the year for books about climate change, its impact on the planet and what we, as individuals, can do to help revert the damage that has been done.  Given that any book begins life well before it is published, it would almost seem prophetic that production must have started well before 2020 and its planet-changing events evolved.  What sets this book apart though, is that it helps our youngest readers understand the difference between climate and weather and just what is causing the climate to change.  Using the picture book format and easily accessible language in a narrative style that speaks directly to the reader, the impact of industrialisation over the last 150 years or so is explained simply and clearly using examples that little ones can understand and relate to.  It then moves on to showing how simple activities and lifestyle changes can make a difference and help sustain the improvement that has been caused by the pandemic.

With the environment at the forefront of so much curriculum work, this is one that will help even the youngest readers understand the words they hear every day while offering practical help and hope so that chaos doesn’t become disaster.

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Matthew Cunningham

Sarah Wilkins

Puffin, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143774495

Like all children her age, Abigail often has BIG questions about the world around her as she strives to makes sense of it.  And those questions can consume her until she gets an answer.  Today, as she gets ready to jump in the puddles made by the incessant rain, her big questions is about where the rain comes from.  And, again like all children her age, she isn’t satisfied with the first answer she gets from her mum – that it comes from the clouds – and she has to delve deeper, wanting to know how the water gets into the clouds.  

So using a lot of imagination mixed in with information, her mum tells her of a little drop of water who always wanted to fly and gently and gradually Abigail comes to understand the water cycle.

Investigating where the rain comes from was always an intriguing investigation as my classes explored the science, the maths, the language and even the story of Noah’s Ark and tho have had this book as an introduction would have added another layer.  Putting that big question which always started a unit into such an engaging story, giving the children the opportunity to reflect on what they know and believe to be the answer so that their imaginations are captured and they are invested in the investigation brings those big questions down to their level. 

Tagged with “a curious girl explores BIG ideas” , this is the second in this series – the first explores the birth of the sun– in which Abigail wants answers and her family members help her discover them in a way that combines the facts of science with the magic of story.  The final picture in Abigail and the Restless Raindrop hints at what her next big question will be and young readers can have fun predicting what it is as they wait for the next instalment. 

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night of the Hiding Moon

Emma Allen

Sher Rill Ng

NLA Publishing, 2020

4099., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279583

‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’

Alone in his room, Felix is frightened – he imagines he can hear giants gathering on the rooftop. As a wild storm thunders through the night, Felix turns to his trusty torch, creating strong, brave shadow creatures who can keep him company and protect him from the ferocity of the wind and rain.

One by one, frolicking creatures crowd Felix’s bedroom. With his shadow friends impatient to play in the night, Felix must decide whether to stay, alone, or venture out shoulder to shoulder with his friends and confront his fears.’

Storms can be terrifying for young people (and not-so) and how well I remember being told that lightning was just the angels having a fireworks party and thunder, the clouds banging together – explanations I shared with both my son and my grandchildren when they crept into my bed seeking comfort. So Felix’s fear is understandable and will resonate with young readers and perhaps offer them some reassurance. It offers an opportunity to not only investigate the origins of storms but also to play around with shadows and discover how they are caused.

But being from the NLA, this story has the added bonus of extra pages and these one focus on the art of telling stories with shadows, particularly shadow puppets.  There are even instructions for making your own and patterns that can be used. In these times of schools not necessarily being in physical spaces, this is one that could be recommended to parents (it’s available for purchase online) to offer lots of creativity and fun as well as learning. 

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

The House on the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House on the Mountain

Ella Holcombe

David Cox

Allen & Unwin,2019

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

9781760636968

 

There is a fire coming, and we need to move quickly. Mum and Dad start packing bags, grabbing woollen blankets, the first-aid kit, torches, and then the photo albums. Dad puts Ruby on her lead and ties her up near the back door. My chest feels hollow, like a birdcage.

At first, it was just another hot day as  summer days can be in Victoria, with the heat lingering well into the night. But this hot day turns out to be like no other… For this is February 7, 2009 – a day that is forever etched in Australia’s history as Black Saturday. Over 400 fires took 173 lives and left thousands homeless.  

And sadly, it could have been any one of a number of deadly days of this past summer as fires again tore through the landscape, on a much larger scale devastating homes and lives in every state on an unprecedented scale.  In this particular story, the author draws on much of her personal experience of 10 years ago to tell of the fear, the anguish, the devastation, the unknown but she has changed the ending of one of family tragedy – she knows that story too well – to one of hope and continuity and renewal. 

But this could be the story of so many of our students this year – those who have witnessed the fires first-hand, those who have had to evacuate, those for whom there is no home to go back to; those for whom life is going to be topsy-turvy and very different for a long time to come.  But while it is a bleak story to begin with, one that will stir memories for many, it is that message of connection and continuity, that one day (that might seem too far away just yet) their children may play on land they once called home that can offer succour and strength to try one more day.  And it may be the catalyst for some to open up about their experiences and begin to share and process what they can.

Even if students have not been able to return to their own schools, nevertheless it is the routines of school that are the constants in students’ lives right now so anything we, as teachers, can read, understand and do to support them is so important. Used sensitively at this time, this could be an important part of the help we offer. 

 

Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

Ella and the Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Ocean

Lian Tanner

Jonathan Bentley

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760633691

Ella lived in the red-dirt country
where the earth was as dry as old bones
and it hadn’t rained 
for years
and years
and years.

One night, Ella dreamt of the ocean… and the image mesmerises her and she wants to know more. So she asks her dad,  her mum and Ben the farmhand, and while each has a distant memory to share it is viewed through the lens of the cracked red earth, the dust of the dry, dry, plains and the hungry hungry cows.  Her Gran hasn’t seen the ocean but dreamt about it once – ‘it picked me up and carried me from one side of sleep to the other and I have never forgotten it’- and so she sets about making Ella’s dream come true.

This is an uplifting story that will resonate with so many children from the front cover of the red-roofed house surrounded by vast dry, red, rain-starved land and gaunt gum trees to the family melancholy of hard work and no relief to the power of just a small break in routine to restore faith and hope.  You do not have to venture too far from the city to see the impact that this interminable drought is having on the land, and just as it sucks the life out of the land, so it has the people. Like Ella’s family, that impact is not as visible but is in their body language, their words and their perspective and while we city folk might pay some attention to their plight it is not long before we go back to our own lives, having put a few dollars in a tin or bought a more expensive bottle of milk.  Stories like Ella’s  and images like Bentley’s bring the reality home and depending where you live, will either help the children understand that they are not alone in this plight or perhaps inspire them to do something that might be ‘the trip to the ocean’ that turns a family around for a little while longer.  Or perhaps look a little closer to home. maybe the local nursing home, and think about what they can do to disrupt the routine of same-same boredom to put a light into someone’s life.

So often any unit of work about weather and its causes focuses on the scientific rather than the human, and Ella and the Ocean works to redress this, as readers are almost compelled to think about the what-if. and the what-can-I-do.  Another one of those great picture books that can work across all age groups.

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall

Orchard Books, 2019

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

9780316362382

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. As the seasons pass and the waves rise and fall, outside, the wind blows; inside, the lighthouse keeper writes, and the rhythms of his life unfold. But change is on the horizon…

Whatever the season, whatever the weather, the lighthouse keeper must keep the light going to warn ships of the dangers nearby. and this stunning book by Australian illustrator Sophie Blackall takes the reader back to a time in history when men lived on these far-flung beacons, isolated from civilisation and charged with keeping the ships and their sailors safe, regardless of whatever might befall them.  Set on a lighthouse on the tip of Newfoundland, the story unfolds of the loneliness and the joy of a typical lighthouse keeper who has a duty above all else. 

In 2016, Blackall was  awarded the Caldecott  Medal, the first Australian to receive if for her work on Finding Winnie  and now, in 2019, she has won it again for Hello Lighthouse. “Masterful ink and watercolor illustrations illuminate the story of a lighthouse and the family inside. Stunning images of the lighthouse in all kinds of weather alternate with views of intimate interior detail and circular motifs. Blackall’s skill with composition, line and close attention to detail have created an exquisite book. “

But apart from the quality of the illustrations, this is a book that will resonate with so many who are familiar with lighthouses as there are over 350 of them dotted around our coastline. While there are no longer any manned, nevertheless they still hold an appeal and this journey back into another time because regardless of its position, life was pretty much the same for all those who tended the beacons.  

Something very different that deserves a place in any collection. 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Weather

Katie Daynes

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2019

14pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474953030

As the days go by and the calendar inexorably creeps towards the cooler months of the year, young students will start to notice that there is a change in the weather, the clothes they wear and the things they do.  Now there is football on television rather than cricket; they’re looking for a beanie rather than a sunhat and scruffling through the leaves is much more fun than crunching over dry, prickly grass.

So what causes these changes? This new lift-the-flap book from Usborne is another one in their excellent series that helps little ones understand the world around them using the interactivity of lifting the flap to find answers. Each question uses the simple language that children do – What are rainbows made of? How hot is the sun? – and the answers are just as direct, satisfying their immediate need. Grouped together under the headings Where, What, When, Why, How, Which, and Yes or No. finding the particular question is easy and the pictorial flaps make searching for the answer fun.  At the end, readers are challenged to offer explanations for some simple questions using what they have learned and there are even instructions for making their own water cycle using a ziplock bag! And, as is usual with these sorts of Usborne titles, there are Quicklinks to resources that provide more information for those who want to know more.

 As well as being ideal for early childhood, this is also a role model for older students as a presentation tool. Whatever the overall topic, each can pose a question that intrigues them (perfect for helping them develop the skill of asking questions rather than just answering them), find the answer and then collaborate to produce a text that covers a gamut of sub-topics so that the task is manageable, is engaging and is owned by them.

 

All Right Already!

All Right Already!

All Right Already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Right Already!

Jory John

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008330033

Bear and Duck are neighbours – but two more different would be hard to find.  Bear is huge, slow and somewhat grouchy; Duck small, energetic and always looking for fun. Told in dialogue with each character having their own font that cleverly echoes their nature, each story focuses on a conflict between the two as Bear wants one thing – usually a quiet life – while Duck wants the opposite. And it is the same in this latest addition to this series for very young readers…

It has snowed overnight and Duck wants to make the most of the fun it offers while Bear wants to stay in his cosy warm house. Even after Duck coaxes him out he is a reluctant participant in the games and when he starts to sneeze, Duck bundles him back inside (where he wanted to be all the time) and assumes the role of nurse.  But Bear is not particularly grateful and when Duck begins to sneeze too and heads for her home, it remains to be seen whether Bear will step up and nurse her.

Apart from being a charming story that young readers will enjoy, there is much it offers for the development of early reading behaviours for them as well.  Firstly, being a series, it is an opportunity for the adult to ask the child what they remember and know about the characters already so their thoughts are already set to the contrasting characteristics of each.  When Duck goes to Bear’s house, full of excitement and anticipation, what sort of reception is she likely to get?  There is also the opportunity to explore the concept of dialogue as the whole story is told in conversation with Duck’s voice in a different, lighter font to that of Bear’s. It offers lots of things to chat about such as why it snows and why most Australian children won’t wake to a snowy morning; how we need to protect ourselves from catching a cold and how we can keep from spreading the one we have, and also the things we can do to make a friendship solid and sustainable.  While bedtime stories should always be about the bond and the connections between reader and listener, there are subtle ways that these concepts about print can be shared so that the young one engages even further with the story and becomes even more determined to become an independent reader.

 

 

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Peter Macinnis

NLA Publishing, 2019

248pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9780642279347

Anyone who knows Peter Macinnis, either personally or through his writing, knows that he is passionate about connecting young children with science and this latest contribution to the education of our students sits perfectly alongside his Australian Backyard Explorer and Australian Backyard Naturalist

In it, Macinnis takes the reader on a journey from explaining what earth science is and the earliest beginnings of the planet to the current debate about climate change, stopping along the way to investigate and explain all sorts of things which affect the development, health and performance of the planet like how rain is formed, the various types of rocks that lie beneath our feet, the impact of the currents on life and a zillion other things like why humidity is a critical factor in bushfire season, all tailored to helping young scientists understand what is happening in their own backyard.  It’s not “out there”, it’s right in front of them.  

Using his incessantly curious mind, he ferrets out all sorts of unknown facts and curiosities and then writes about them in a way that makes them so easily readable by his young target audience while giving them all the information they need yet not overloading them with too much detail. He leaves the door open for further investigation from more specialised sources.  The book is richly illustrated with photos, many of his own, diagrams and charts and there are projects to undertake, sections that delve more deeply into a topic, and ‘ologists’ to investigate and inspire.  

But for all the facts and figures and photos, there shines through a deep and abiding respect for this planet and an acute awareness that we must do more to protect it, and it is through young people having the knowledge and understanding about how it works that is likely to make the most difference.  Even though it has a global perspective, readers are inspired to “think global, act local” and examine what it is they can do to make their part of the world a better place for all, such as making a frog pond and keeping a seasonal diary.

If you add one non fiction book to your collection  this year, then this should be it – and if you don’t have the previous two then track them down through the NLA Bookshop.

Teachers’ notes are now available.

WINNER 2019 Educational Publishing Awards from the Australian Publishers Association.