Books with current issues, Environmental books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Welcome Home by Christina Booth

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors we borrow it from our children

– Chief seattle.

Welcome Home by Christina Booth is a story of a young boy who can hear whales singing when no one else does. He hears sounds of joy and sadness and listens to stories she tells while he is asleep.


The whale tells of fear and darkness in tales of whaling of the past.

Why did they hurt us and chase us away?

The illustrations illuminate this fear and emptiness and make you wonder why whaling was such a sport.

The whale tells the young boy that she wanted to come home but they do not feel safe –

Sorry – the boy whispers.

The journey the reader embarks on is one of critical thought – why did people go whaling? How has this sport impacted the ocean? How can activities we take part in today impact the future?

Although whaling and the issues that surround it can come across quite strongly – this picture book approaches the dark past in a more gentle manner allowing children to explore the issue without feeling fear or guilt but rather a sense of empowerment.

Welcome Home was inspired but the birth of a whale calf in the Derwent river in 2010 – the first for over 190 years.  It is a beautiful read and one that needs to be read to the future.

So where to from here:

Welcome Home

SUSTAINABILITY

  • How do actions we take every day impact the future?
  • Do people have a right to hunt whales today? Explore the pros and cons of whaling as you try to understand why some countries still whale. Look at whaling from their perspective and see how you could change their mind using their perspective on whales.
  • Create a story about an action in the past that has impacted our current environment in a negative way? Create this story so that readers can learn from this mistake.
  • How are we connected to whales? Do we need whales for our ecosystem to survive? Look at life cycle charts and food chains to explore this question.

NUMERACY

  • Investigate the whale numbers around the world and compare to previous years. How are the numbers changing?
  • Look at the different shapes of whales and the patterns of symmetry.
  • Whales can have barnacles living on them. Which species have this? How many barnacles could fit on a whale?

LITERACY

  • Storytelling is an important gift that we all have. What would the world be like without storytelling? Can you think of what your life would look like without stories?
  • Write a letter, create a magazine advertisement that implores people to think about whaling and the horrific side effects. Great way to use persuasive and emotive language.
  • The whale told this story to the young boy  – could this story be told to an adult? How would the story be different.
  • Explore personification used throughout the story: Tugs at my heart, the moon danced on the waves. How does this language make you feel?
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Environmental books

Out of the Blue by Alison Jay

Out of the Blue by Alison Jay is a stunning wordless picture book which draws you into each image, searching for stories within stories.

A young boy lives in a lighthouse and spends his days beach combing – where he meets a young girl and together they play until a storm rolls in.

The boy retreats to his lighthouse home, to only find once awakening, that a giant octopus has emerged from the storm and is stranded on the beach – alive but tangled in old netting.

The boy and girl rescue the octopus along with other caring beach goers and release it back into the sea to all of the other sea creatures.

No words are needed for this story to make you feel warm with hope, blue with sadness and energised with joy. The illustrations allow your mind to wonder throughout the story and long after it has been read.

Take your time to read this story again and again – and draw fact from the back pages to learn more about the creatures of the ocean and how we can take better care of them.

So where to from here?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • The Ocean Clean up is an amazing company who are working on creating an eco friendly way to clean up the ocean by removing plastic bags that lie around in the ocean, harming wildlife and their habitat.
  • Investigate organisations which act to look after the ocean.
  • Should plastic bags be banned? Debate this – look at the pros and cons and work out why large companies are reluctant to ban them.
  • Visit the beach or a local waterway and see how much plastic you can find while you are there. Categorise the plastic – what is turning up the most? What state is the plastic in? How might these pieces of plastic be harming wildlife (links to numeracy: graphs and creating categories)

SCIENCE

  • Investigate ocean animals that live in the deeper parts of the ocean. What do they look like? How are their survival techniques different from animals who live on the upper levels of the ocean?
  • Have there been occasions where a deep sea creature really has appeared on the beach out of the blue?

LITERACY

  • Rewrite this story from the octopuses point of view or even the little girls point of view.

Environmental books, Picture books that address current issues

Amelia Ellicott’s Garden by Liliana Stafford and Stephen Michael King

Imagine a garden once loved and tended to but now falling into a state of disarray.

Imagine a neighbourhood which has changed from large houses to apartments.

Imagine a neighbourhood change from a mono culture to a multicultured place.

How would you feel?


Amelia Ellicott’s garden covers many different issues that come up in our society.

Multiculturalism, racism, loneliness, friendship, buying local and sense of community.

Amelia Ellicott has lived in the same street all her life but now she is getting old and cannot care for the garden she once loved. She detests the high rises that surround her house and the people within – who she thinks do not hold values similiar to her.

She wishes to show her baby chicks to others but has no one. Meanwhile in the high rise, people look down longingly at the vegetable patches and baby chicks.

But after a storm things change within this little community and within the heart of Amelia. She allows the people from the apartment to help her bring her garden back to it’s former glory – but with a lot more warmth.

Amelia Ellicott’s Garden is a heart-warming read for anyone and perhaps it will inspire you to say hello to your neighbour? Share some tomatoes with the person next door or maybe join a community garden?

I love Stephen Michael King’s illustrations in all of the book’s he has illustrated and this one is no exception.

So what can you do?

PHILOSOPHY

  • What is community? This is a great philosophical discussion to be had with children as we all perceive community to be different. Look into different types of community, the roles we play – and the importance of each role. Do we all need to play an equal role to be a member of a community?

LITERACY

  • Investigate characters: How do all the different characters feel throughout the story? Compare the different background stories they all have and how this contributes to how they feel towards their community. Could this story be written from another characters perspective? How might they be feeling towards Amelia?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Check out your local community garden
  • Investigate crop swap organisations
  • Buy some chickens for christmas – they are the best pet – cuddly and give an egg a day (they do poo a bit but that is great for the garden!)

SOMETHING EXTRA….

  • Have a BBQ with your neighbours! We are heading to one this weekend and I can’t wait to have a longer than 10 minute chat with them all!
picture books

Gwendolyn by Juliette MacIver

img_2515Gwendolyn by Juliette MacIver and Illustrated Terri Rose Baynton ( ABC books.) is a playful story about  a penguin who lives in the jungle very happily. She loves the weather, the colour and the friends and she is always very optimistic until she realises that she really wants to be a penguin in the Antarctic.

Despite her jungle friends trying to change her mind, she is very determined to see her old ‘real’ home and eventually arrives in Antarctica.

Gwendolyn is excited by living back in Antarctica and meeting many different family members but soon realises the jungle is the place for her and that she can be different  – and it’s ok.

This book highlights the importance of optimism and friendship. It also looks at the fact that anywhere can be out home – as long as we are happy and loved.

This is a great book to read to children who may experience self doubt. Trying new things can be a scary thought but with encouragement and self belief, we can do anything!

Gwendolyn!