Interview with Karen Tyrell, author of Song Bird Two: The Battle of Bug World.

Welcome Karen, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that these questions will give my readers some more insight into how you have developed the characters in Song Bird , how music inspires and how we can all take better care of the world we live in.

 Song Bird 2 The Battle of Bug World

What inspired you to write the Song Bird series?

Two life changing events.

Fan girls of my Super Space Kids series requested I write a new series with a girl superhero as the main character, especially written for adventurous girls.

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Songbird Superhero, AKA Rosella Ava Bird character is based on my experiences as a 11-year-old geeky, bullied girl. Each night, I dreamt I could fly, to escape my bullies. Later, I joined the choir and learnt how singing boosted my self-esteem and self-confidence. The following year, I started high school where I discovered my love of science and maths. I wanted Songbird to represent the powerful and free spirit I aspired to be.

Music is so important to all of us and can give us strength. How does music play a role in your life and why did you think your superhero needed music to help her?

Music plays a key role in empowering me in tough times. As a bullied 11-year-old girl, I joined the choir and learnt to sing. My voice was something no bully could defeat.

When I was a bullied teacher, music comforted me when I developed PTSD and anxiety. My student and his parents bullied me to breaking point. Music gave me joy and certainty, a place where I drew confidence and peace.

Like me, Rosella Ava Bird joined the school choir discovered her superpowers lived within herself.

Rosie is such a strong and confident character, even when she doubts herself. Is your character Rosie based on anyone you know?

Rosie is a mix of me and the girl I dreamt to be. I would love to sing and to fly… And use my superpowers for good, to save and protect others.

I really love that you have included children with disabilities in The Battle of Bug World and portrayed them as strong, clever, brave and very able – what inspired you to do this when most books do not?

Two important reasons.

I have a mental illness that’s invisible. Many people label my illness as a disability. I don’t. My illness is part of me. I’ve found writing lets me express my struggles and successes in ways that empower myself, and help others. I want to encourage kids to connect with their inner superhero and live strong.

I once taught a boy-genius who was smart and brave, and an incredible maths science whizz. He also happened to move about in a wheelchair. In Songbird, I wanted to shatter the disabilitry stereotype. Like the boy I knew, Amy Hillcrest, is quite the hero.

How do you think teachers and parents can inspire young children to step up and think for themselves when it comes to looking after our planet?

Children should read and learn about their environment. Realise, they are a part of it and can make a difference to it.

My message: We can all lend a hand to care for our environment. Many hands make light work.

Did you research to learn more about how bees and insects function in our world?

YES. I studied how insects and bees behave, especially the bee’s waggle dance. I spoke to beekeepers of honey bees and Australian stingless bees. I spoke to the director of Bee Aware at the Logan LEAF eco festival.

How do you look after bees in your life? Do you have any tips for our young readers as to what they can do?

I do simple things like plant brightly coloured flowers and fresh herbs in my garden. I grow purple agapanthus and native grevilleas to attract bees. I put out clean dishes of water for the bees to drink. I’m careful not to spray pesticides on the grass or the garden. That would poison the bees. Instead, I pull out weeds.

How do you think children can make a difference in our world in relation to the degradation of the environment without having to always rely on adults?

Kids can plant and nurture their own garden, pick up litter especially in parks and waterways, pack their own lunches without plastic, turn off lights and taps, sort out family rubbish into glass, paper and cans ready for recycling bins.

 

What is in store for us in Book 3?

Song Bird returns to save the lost rainforest, revealing an ancient mystery.

Thank you Karen for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Such honest responses and really drawn on your own life experiences and those who you have come across that show their own super powers. I am really looking forward to reading more of your inspiring and adventure filled stories.

Make sure you get your copy of Songbird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World here:

Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World available on Amazon

Karen Tyrrell Bug World

 

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Two Rainbows by Sophie Masson and Michael McMahon

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green, Purple and Orange and Blue….

 

Two rainbows by Sophie Masson and Michael McMahon is a stunning picture book for readers to learn to explore colour in their every day lives. Published by Little Hare books, Two Rainbows explores life in the city and in the country and how colours that are in one place can be completed different in another.

Colour is all around us and every moment of the day the colours can be different. As we read we see that the same colour can be seen in different places and the comparison between city and country colours shows that the same hue can be seen in many different ways-both built and natural .

Everyone loves a rainbow – no matter where it is people always stop to admire, take a photo or just ponder that mythical pot of gold at the end must be out there, somewhere.

This story also allows us to show our children that colour is everywhere, even when days seem dark, lonely, sad or hopeless – there is always colour even in the greyest of cities.

Michael McMahon’s illustrations are simple yet powerful. The simplicity of each picture highlights the colour in our world. Perhaps it shows us how much of a role colour can play in our lives – even when are all so small in terms of the space we each take up. The illustrations also show the beauty and freedom of the countryside and the dull, busy city life many of us lead. Perhaps this story might encourage city dwellers to get outside of the city boundaries more often – and see how those colours become so much more alive when they are in their natural state.

Take the time to read this book with your child and learn to appreciate how even though different  may form the same shade, they can give us a different feeling.

So what can you do at home?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Get outside into a natural environment and explore colours. Compare the different green leaves on the same tree, Look at the different shades of flower petals and feathers on birds.
  • How can you add more natural colour to your home or local environment?
  • Explore the use of natural colours – make your own and create your own Two Rainbows style book. Use beetroot, potato, clay, spinach and carrot!!  Using natural colours ensures that less chemicals are going down the drain.


 

Drawn onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer

A creative palindromic picture book has arrived in the form of Drawn Onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer.


Within this story the reader explore the glass half empty attitude: ‘People who think they are important and precious are wrong” to the glass half full attitude of “Important and precious people who think they are just a tiny speck tossed this way and that can’t hope to do anything at all“.

As the reader engages with each page they see how hopelessness which causes self destruction, darkness and loss can be turned into hopefulness, light and energy. These images have been delicately drawn by Andrew Frazer to give extra meaning to the short sayings written by Meg McKinley

Drawn onward is a powerful picture book written for older readers and a great book to explore slowly with discussion and reflection. The book can be read in it’s entirety but then should be looked back upon so links can be made between how the character recovers from the dark heavy feelings of life.

Many young children are effected by bullying and low self esteem so reading books like this can help the discussion of these issues become easier. As parents and teachers we need to support our children so that they do not feel weighed down by life. The sooner we can raise awareness in our children that there is always hope, they better.

Meg McKinley has cleverly played on words to create this story of hopelessness and hope and it is one that should be shared in all classrooms. Not only does it focus on self concepts it also looks at how if we just play around with words things can sound so much better – and this all relates to how we talk to ourselves.

Drawn onward by Meg McKinley and Andrew Frazer is a great collaboration between author and artist and one that helps us to learn how a simple shift of focus can change our whole perspective.

So what can you do at home or in the classroom?

Literacy

  • Explore Palindromes in words and Phrases – write these down and then draw these to show how simple swaps make a huge difference.
  • Explore synonyms and antonyms for words such as hope, love, light, truth, good, important and precious.

Mental Health

  • Explore times when you have felt like the dark character – how did you remove the heavy rock and reach towards the light? Allow students to explore this individually through picture or word.
  • Explore meditation with children and how helpful just three minutes a day to help ourselves get into the right mindset.

Teacher Notes

Check out these great teacher notes by Fremantle Press

Being a bee by Jinny Johnson and Lucy Davey

Discover the secret life of bees from queens to the waggle dance, hives and honey. 

Have you ever wondered about how your flowers grow so brightly or perhaps how tomatoes grow so rapidly or even how weeds seem to appear all over your garden without the slightest hint of a breeze?


Well, wonder no more – Being a bee by Jinny Johnson and Lucy Davey explains the many facets of a bee through simple explanation and colourful illustrations.

In this lively book  children will love learning about bees. They will be introduced to the delightful queen bee and then shown how the babies are fed and grown in the hive alongside where honey is kept for safekeeping.

We learn how and why bees to a waggle dance and how important it is for them to work together as a team.

The section on beekeeping was eye opening and helped us to really appreciate the tub of honey we have sitting in our cupboard.

The flat design illustrations abound with green and yellow and flashes of colourful flowers – which without bees would be no more.

Being a bee is a great way to introduce your young reader to the importance of bees and the valuable role they play in our society.  There is a lot of news in the media at the moment about the need to bring bees back.

So what can you do at home or at school with this book?

Sustainability

  • Have a look around your home and see what would entice any type of insect to your area? all insects are beneficial and attracting them to something they can live off or eat is important. It’s better they live off the plants than things in your house!
  • PROJECT: How can we provide the best home for attracting bees? Investigate what the bees (local to your area) need. Draw up a plan of what the hive would look like, where it should be placed, what conditions it needs to attract bees and to survive. (This project includes outcome links to mathematics, literacy, science and geography)
  •  Herbs are an easy plant to start with as they can be grown in small planter boxes on windowsills – give rosemary, thyme or mint a go.
  • It is important that you find out about the beneficial flowers that help bees in your area too. Australian stingless bees love:

 

Abelia x grandiflora Abelia
Buddleja * Butterfly Bush
Callistemon  Bottlebrush
Eucalyptus  Gum Blossom
Grevillea Spider Flower
Lavandula Lavender
Leptospermum Tea Tree
Melaleuca Honey Myrtle
Westringia Rosemary
Many Varieties Daisies

Literacy

  • Find some more books that have bees in them – you’ll bee surprised! Do these stories all have a similar message to tell?
  • Compare scientific literature to children books that are on the topic of bees. Why do we need both types of literature out there to understand the need for bees in our world? Create your own bee themed picture book based on some scientific literature.
  • Create your own story about your adventure with a bee. Which flowers would you like to visit? Divide a page into four sections and draw a series of pictures that show what you would like to do with a bee to make sure there are enough flowers, fruits and vegetables in the world.

SCIENCE

How is honey used in our lives apart from to eat? Investigate the different properties of honey and how it is used in a myriad of products!

GEOGRAPHY

Where are bees located? What type of environment do they need to thrive? Create a honey bee and a stingless bee map of Australia.

NUMERACY

Why are honey bee hives made out of hexagonal shapes?

Why do stingless bee hives spiral shaped?

Investigate the different shapes of bee hives across the globe and why they are this shape. Could they be another shape? Investigate if there is a better way to keep honey in a hive.

https://www.hachette.com.au/jinny-johnson/being-a-bee

 

Shapes of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft

Swirls, whorls, circles and rectangles.

Lines, dots, waves and zig zags.

Red, green, blue and orange

The personified text of Bronwyn Bancroft’s Shapes of Australia brings each of aspect of nature on these pages to life. Her colourful Indigenous style illustrations use different types of line and shape to form abstract ideas of the world around us.


Bold colours, light shades give depth and shade to boulders, rivers and bee hives.

Shapes of Australia allow the reader to learn more about the amazing parts of Australian nature and how the time of day, types of weather and place of existence can change the colour of objects.

Shapes of Australia is a book that makes us look twice at the painted landscape. As the reader reads along we are encouraged to think – how do those majestic mountains merge with the long horizon or which mystical forms are inhabiting the ocean floor?

Shapes of Australia is a stunning book that emits a calming effect and inspires the awareness of colours in our world.

 

So what can you do?

Visual Art

  • Explore the natural world around you and look at the different lines, shapes and colours.
  • What were the different places visited in this story? What do they really look like?
  • List the verbs used to describe how each of the objects act.
  • How are all of these objects personified?

Sustainability

  • How are the colours of the natural world different to that of the man made world?
  • If we reduce our natural spaces how might our colour inspiration change? Where will we gather our colour from and will it be the same?

Indigenous 

  • Explore the techniques Bronwyn has used to paint the pictures in this story.
  • Where did Bronwyn learn her painting technique? Explore other artists from her Indigenous nation.

 

 

Dear picture book section

Dear Picture book section,

It was really lovely seeing you the other day. You were full of some new releases, some hidden gems and of course some old favourites.

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Whenever I come across your smiling face I am able to stop, relax and take stock of what has been happening in the real world. I can slip into a world of imagination and learn lessons that help me to get by in my every day life.

Your magical stories give me new ideas and your haunting tales caution me about the dark side of life. The new lands you introduce me to help me to see my world from another perspective and different characters help me to see myself and my friends in a different light.

So many of your tales involve animals that can talk and I always wonder why that is. Do we relate better to big issues when a normally speechless creature can suddenly speak words of wisdom?

Picture book section, I don’t know why we have to go weeks without seeing each other so I am starting my own picture book section in a corner of my house. Every time I borrow some pieces of you from the library I am going to store you in my bookcase, not in my bag. I am going to read a story every day and share these new ideas with those around me.

Picture book section, without you I would be in a land of screens, simple stories and cats that just sit and purr in a basket.

Dear Picture book section, thank you for being you.

See you soon,

 

Vanessa

 

 

Children in our world: Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts and Hanan Kai

Wow. Such a big and heavy topic which is often filled with sadness, worry and fear. But this series – Children in our world has again written about refugees and migrants in a way the leave children feeling informed and empowered to take action.


In the news we hear so often of refugees who have settled in Australia and living happy lives but it is the stories of heartache, loss and fear that we don’t always want our children to hear.

Children in our world: Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts and Hanan Kai informs the reader how people can become refugees and how it would feel to pack up your life into a small bag so that you can run. The images that accompany this story really add emotion to the book as we see small children in their much loved bedrooms leaving everything behind, we see children orphaned by their parents and children hidden away on an illegal journey.

But hope is there and we see a young child happily sitting with a family member drinking tea on a verandah at the end of the book. We can see that people can be safe and find a new home – but without government intervention and the power of people keeping them accountable these things cannot happen.

Children are also informed as to how they can make a difference to refugees lives and I love that writing a letter to the government is one of these. Young children may not feel that they really have a voice but through letter writing they can be powerful.

Inspire your children and inspire yourself to take a stand on the ever increasing amount of refugees in our world. These people deserve to live in safety and deserve to live in houses – not in the tent cities that seem to be growing every day.

BUY NOW

 Refugees and Migrants (Children in Our World)

Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreisse

Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often

We all know someone who is good at telling stories – and in Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreiser (a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe)  and published by Magabala books we meet Kookoo – a kookaburra who has a knack for telling stories.

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Kookoo is often filled with stories but one day he cannot think of a new one – so instead starts making fun of the other bush creatures. This teasing makes the animals feel terrible and soon enough Kookoo realises what he has done and makes sure that from that day on he is only kind.

This story teaches us that in order for others to be kind to us, we also need to be kind. We need to show respect to others and always consider how our actions effect those around us.

Driesse’s illustrations are bold and colourful which conjure up liveliness of the bush creatures, emotions of the bush animals and the beauty of the Australian bush.

So what can you do with this book?

Use this story to teach young readers about kindness and respect.

Explore each character and the actions that take place when they are teased.

Explore the actions of Kookoo before and after he teases after and reflect upon times we have done this.

Gregg Driess’s artwork is beautiful – explore the use of dot painting in his story and try to draw your own Australian bird amongst the Australian sky or land.

 

Interview with Muza Ulasowski and Jennifer Poulter

 Today I am interviewing Jennifer R Poulter and  Muza Ulasowski, the author and illustrator of the beautiful story – Getting Home.

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How did you come about to illustrate picture books?

I have always been ‘arty’ with it being my favourite subject in high school. Even as a child, I remember telling everyone that I was going to illustrate children’s books!! However, life happened to get in the way – I ended up working as a legal secretary and various other professions instead – eventually, forgetting my dream. After my children graduated from high school though, I went back to college and graduated in 2007 with a Diploma in Graphic Design.

In 2011 I was lucky enough to have received my first publishing contract with New Holland to illustrate the book, ‘Where’s Michael?’ by Xavier Waterkeyn. I enjoyed that process so much, that I have been illustrating children’s picture books ever since. So now, I am very happily living my childhood dream.

How were you able to illustrate these Polar bears so that they would look so life like?

My natural style is hyperrealism. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do simple illustrations. Before I begin to illustrate a character in a book, I research and research and research, downloading hundreds of images via Google. I also visit zoos. For the book Forest Wonder, for example, I spent a lot of time at Lone Pine and also at Australia Zoo photographing the animals and sketching, to get a feel of their movements. I definitely used up my annual passes to both places!! With Getting Home, I visited Sea World many times and took photographs of their polar bears.

What was the medium you used for the illustrations in ‘Getting home’?

I use digital illustrating for books, and I work in layers. The reason for this is so that I can move the characters and background around to fit the text in comfortably – without having to redraw the whole illustration.

I used a combination of Artrage and Photoshop digital programmes via my trusty Intuos 4 tablet or my Cintiq Companion 2 to illustrate Getting Home. I used Artrage because the program is very straightforward and has no “bells and whistles”. It is very similar in technique to using acrylic paints in that once you choose your brush, intensity, medium, colour and transparency – away you go. Each brush stroke is applied individually – just like using acrylic paints – except there’s virtual “water”, no paint spillage and, you never run out of paint. Also, there’s a magical button I like to use a lot – called “delete”!!

Each character is created as a separate illustration, much larger in size than needed so that I can put a lot of detail in each illustration. All the created characters and the background are then combined in a Photoshop file and any touch-ups to colour and shadows are then finalised.

 

Do you enjoy drawing animals?

I love drawing birds and animals and portraying the tiniest of details. I find it fascinating to try to convey expressions on their faces and though quite challenging, it’s extremely rewarding when I “nail it”.

 

Your illustrations bring out so much in this story which has such a simple storyline. How do you do this so you can not only draw what has been written but add more to it?

I usually know what I want to draw before I start, but the pictures tend to change and evolve as I go. Sometimes it feels as though the animal characters totally take over – dictating to me what should happen on the page and what else is going to be happening on the page. Usually this happens once I am halfway through a book, and then I have to go back and amend or add to what I’ve previously drawn. So the stories evolve as I go further into the book with sidelines being added to the story.

Do you discuss much of your work with the author?

J.R.Poulter: “Getting Home” was a collaboration. Muza and I spent over a year to and fro-ing ideas, modifying images, modifying text till we had a cohesive whole that we knew ‘worked!’

Muza: Getting Home took an extraordinarily long time to develop…. when I look at the original roughs, the final one looks like a totally different book. There were lots and lots and lots of emails between Jennifer and I and a lot of collaboration changing, editing, deleting, redrawing…. it took over a year to get it to where we thought it was just right.

Why is it important that young children are aware of the problems animals face due to human behaviour?

J.R.Poulter: Today’s children, as the next generation of politicians, teachers, writers, researchers etc., are the ones who will work to protect our world and its animal inhabitants or not. It is important that children are taught to respect the world they live in and seek to preserve it for their children. If today’s educators and parents fail to pass on this respect by example as well as by teaching, then we can expect more animal species to become extinct as their habitats disappear, their food sources are cleared, water sources poisoned and the animals themselves hunted to oblivion either literally or by the push of so called ‘progress.’

 Do you have any favourite stories that encourage people to act more sustainably in our world?

J.R.Poulter:

“The Trail of the Sandhill Stag” and “Foam Razorback, His Life and Adventures” both by Ernest Thomas Seton – these two books were handed on to me by my grandmother. My mother’s eldest sister gave me a book called “Nanuk” about an Eskimo boy and his family and how they sought to live and work sustainably in their environment.

My grandmother also had a set of books called “People and Places,” which was published before World War I, I believe. It gave wonderful description of the native peoples and their environments and the animals of these then pristine areas.

Thank you both for giving up your time to answer these questions. Maybe we will see another collaboration someday soon. 

Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 12 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in 2017/18. Whilst primarily concentrating on creating digital images for children’s picture books, Muza also specializes in graphic design, designing book covers and book layouts to print ready stage. Currently Muza has illustrated approximately 12 books, with more to be published in 2017 and 2018.

In her spare time she enjoys illustrating in pencil and charcoal, acrylic painting, wildlife photography, sewing, and creating artworks for her colourful and crafty ETSY store.

Qualifications:

  • Diploma of Arts – Visual Communication – 1979
  • Certificate IV in Graphic Design – 2008
  • Diploma of Graphic Design – 2008

muza_profilePhoto_NEW

Jennifer R. Poulter was a senior education officer with Qld Studies Authority, writing assessment packages for schools and editing material, and was Deputy head of John Oxley Library [SLQ] when she left there to have her brood of 5. She has over 30 children’s and education titles published in Australia, UK, Europe and USA with mainstream publishers and is currently collaborating with over 30 illustrators publishing her work under her imprint Word Wings for Kids. She has won major awards, including Children’s Choice, New Zealand. More books are coming. She loves teaching children the fun to be had with words!

Under J.R. McRae, she writes novels (including YA), award winning literary poetry, short stories and creates artwork.

J R Poulter - portrait

 

 

One child by Christopher Cheng

Just imagine.

 

Just imagine what one child can do when they put their mind to it.


One child by Christopher Cheng is an inspiring story told through vibrant illustrations and a simple yet engaging story.

A young girl stares at the TV screen and wonders in despair what she can do about the pollution of the skies, the loss of animals and the trees being cut down. She despairs and worries.

But, something that I have placed at the heart of my own blog comes through this book – we can all make a difference.

We can all do something small which can result in something big.

The girl in this story plants a tree, tidies up the rubbish, walks instead of driving and speaks up.

We all have the power to do something. Something is better than nothing.

This book is so powerful. You will feel inspired and your children will feel inspired to do something now, to make a difference so they can live in a better world not only for themselves but for everyone they know.

 

So what can you do?

 

Write a pledge. Download this one here. Fill it in with what you are going to do in the next 6 months to make a difference in our world. Declare it and revisit it often. Keep yourself on track so you will make a difference in the world we live in.

Koala by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Julie Vivas

Koalas – the quintessential Australian animal and one we thought would always be in abundance. But recent news has taught me that these sleepy marsupials are on the decline due to habitat loss and feral animals.

And although many of us are aware of what the koala looks like, do you really know much about it?


Koala by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Julie Vivas is a wonderful addition to the Walker Books Nature Storybooks series. As we climb up the Eucalyptus tree, the reader is introduced to a little joey Koala who has just been asked to move on by his mother!

The story follows this little joey as he grows up and searches for a new tree to live in. As the story flows alongside the detailed illustrations, down below are simple facts that relate to the story on the page helping the reader to understand why the joey must move on and where it needs to live.

The story has sad undertones as this little Joey is flung into the world without his mother – who doesn’t want him around anymore due to another Joey on the way – and needs to find a new home away from other males, in the right type of Eucalyptus tree and away from any dangers.

But nature isn’t always the perfect existence we want it to be and Koalas being animals aren’t always going to be kind if it means food and reproduction, so through this story we learn that the little Koala is resilient and can move on, can live on his own and can find a place to live.

Koala by Claire Saxby and Julie Vivas ends with hope, and shows us just how resilient these little marsupials are. Koalas are an emblem of Australia, but many of our actions effect how they live. None of this is mentioned in the story but when we see bushfire, lack of trees and housing – we can assume that perhaps Koalas would be much better off if we took more time to think about them and other native animals.

The illustrations by Julie Vivas are beautifully detailed, adding visual information to the story. The extra facts on each page allow the reader to pause and reflect upon the little koalas journey out into the world without his mother – a great asset to any picture book.

Koala by Claire Saxby and Julie Vivas has been loved by myself, my children and my students – so many questions filled with wonder filled the pages and continued after we read the final page.

So what can you do at home?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • What type of Eucalyptus leaves do Koalas eat? Are there any of these leaves in your area?
  • Where do Koalas live in Australia, find a map to see where the different colonies are.
  • Find out some more facts about koalas using the book and other methods of research.
  • How do humans change the population of Koalas?
  • Are there any organisations that support the population of Koalas? Try the Australian koala Foundation

 

 – Writing a letter to a member of parliament

 – Creating something that will alert friends and families about koalas. 

 – Teach people about the harm feral animals and plants can do to the environment.

 – Consider ways you can have less of an impact on the environment. 

We can all make differences in the world we live in – no one is too young or too small to make an impact. Think about what you can do today to make a small difference. Your actions speak louder than words! 

Love this review? Join my facebook group where we delve deeper into these issues facing children, parents and teachers. 

JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHERE WE EXPLORE BIG ISSUES AND HOW TO BEST TALK ABOUT THEM WITH KIDS.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/362368594250457/

 

 

Coral Sea Dreaming by Kim Michelle toft 

Another intriguing and intricately detailed picture book from Kim Michelle Toft is Coral Sea Dreaming. ⠀

Take a plunge under the water and meet many amazing animals who live amongst the Coral of the Great Barrier Reef. ⠀

Learn about why we need to take care of this world heritage listed wonder. ⠀

Learn more about the animals who call the reef their home and know that if the reef is destroyed by mining, climate change, pollution, over fishing or greed that they too will disappear. ⠀

Kim Michelle Toft shows her passion for raising awareness about the GBR in all her books and this one is no exception. ⠀

Norah Colvin has written an amazing and insightful blog post on this book – take  a look here: http://www.readilearn.com.au/preserving-worlds-oceans-coral-sea-dreaming/

So what can you do?

Visual Art

Explore the techniques used by Kim Michelle Toft and recreate your own images of endangered sea creatures of the GBR.

Literacy through science 

Write your own poem using rhyme that highlights the importance of coral. Explore why we need coral and which animals would not be alive if we did not have any coral in our oceans.

Sustainability

How do each of our actions effect the GBR? Make a list of the actions you are going to change (water usage, chemicals you put down the drain, amount of times you drive instead of walking)

Why do we need the coral reef? List all of the different reasons why we need this great natural wonder.

How can we talk to the government so that they take action and halt any further mining in this area?

What might the future look like without the GBR?

Visual ArtExplore the techniques used by Kim Michelle Toft and recreate your own images of endangered sea creatures of the GBR.Literacy through science Write your own poem using rhyme th

 

 

 

Need an Environmental award winning book?

The winners have been announced for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (EACL) 2017.

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The winners are:

Chooks in Dinner Suits by Diane Jackson Hill and Craig Smith (picture fiction category);

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy (nonfiction category);

Rainforest Camp: Juliet Nearly a Vet by Rebecca Johnson (fiction category).

As a budding writer myself it was inspiring to read how all of these authors have been able to incorporate something they are passionate about into a work of fiction. As this blog is my way of getting important messages across about how parents and teachers can teach young children about how they can protect their world, writing books is another way for children to enjoy and learn at the same time.

Check my reviews out here if you need to check up on them! 

Congratulations to these three winners and all those in the shortlist.

 

 

 

 

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van T Rudd

It has painted on lights and a bark numberplate that keeps falling off and we have to remake it.


The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van T Rudd is a fun book filled with onomatopoeia, vibrant adjectives and outside active play.

As you read through this story the energy seeps out of the pages as the children tumble through the streets, run up and down hills and zoom along on their homemade bike.

Set in a small village on the edge of the No -Go Desert, the children need to make their own fun. The children get inventive and create their own bike made from old bits and pieces (and perhaps some things that mum might need…). They create wheels out of wood, a number plate out of bark and handlebars out of branches. These children use their imagination and problem solving skills to create a bike that can shicketty shake them over sandhills and winketty wonk them through fields.

This book is lots of fun to read and really makes you think – that if you didn’t have access to toys, televisions and screen then perhaps more of this would take place in our backyards and parks. Perhaps more children would be outside playing, thinking creatively and using up their extra energy.

The Patchwork Bike is a celebration of children and play and the joy of owning a bike. The artwork in this story is superb and more can be seen here. Each page exudes energy, we can see the children playing at all times of the day and all over the village. We can feel the joy and smell the freedom these children have despite the fact they do not have much more.

The Patchwork bike is Shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA and I’m thinking it has a good chance of winning!

So what can you do to link this to Sustainability? 

  1. Look at some ‘junk’ you have at home and create a bike, pushcart or scooter! Draw up plans first and then create. What extra things do you need? How will it work?
  2. Can any of the toys or things you don’t need anymore go somewhere else apart from the bin? Charity? Garage sale? Repair cafe? A friend?
  3. Explore local repair cafes and see how they fix up things that many people think are useless junk.
  4. How can you create less waste in your life? Do you really need to latest toy? Can you make do with simple things and still have fun?
  5. Try to pick up less free things just because they are free. This especially includes toys that are given as part of store giveaways – you can sign my petition here to stop this.

 

 

How important is science?

Science is Golden was once sung by The Grates

And on the kids radio channel I often hear some potatoes singing Science Science Science Science

But how much importance do you place on Science?

 

If we are hoping to help out children to take more notice of the world we live in and the changes that are taking place, we need to open their minds to the wonders of science.

This week is National Science Week and there is no better time to start taking more notice of the wonderful things that are attributed to science.

  1. Start to investigate how much water you use and how much plastic is in your rubbish bin.
  2. Investigate Climatic events which have caused refugees or caused human rights issues.
  3. Read a book – Juliet nearly a Vet or Squishy Taylor and the Tunnel of Doom.
  4. Read another about great scientific works in the area of research and conservation: Phasmid or The Hairy nosed wombats find a new home.

Happy National Science Week! 

Check out these great workshops by the Surfing Scientist!

Try this quiz too! 

 

 

 

Interview with Joanne Karcz, author of Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows, a ferry and me.

Joanne Karcz is the very talented author of the rhythmically relaxing picture book: Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows a ferry and me.

Thank you Joanne for taking the time to answer some questions I have about your great book.

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How long have you lived on Dangar Island?

I have lived permanently on Dangar Island for seven years, but had a long association with the island before that. We used to come up for weekends regularly since 2000.

What do you love about Dangar Island?

I love so much about the Island, including being so close to nature, having parrots in our trees and water dragons near our jetty. I like that there are no cars. The river is beautiful and the ferry regularly passing our house is a sight I really enjoy. The community here is another great thing about living here. People are friendly and supportive and there are often community initiatives that happen here that are unlikely to happen on the mainland.

What inspired you to write a picture book about Dangar Island?

The freedom that the children who grow up here have, is something very special. They are allowed freedoms that not many children on the mainland have. That and the fact that I love living here gave me the inspiration to share this life with others.

You have written this poem in rhyme – how difficult was it to find the right words?

I have written many things in rhyme over the years, and it is a style that works for me. Finding the right words took time and perseverance – I did many drafts before being satisfied with the text.

What do children love to do on Dangar Island?

The book pretty much describes what the children enjoy doing. Playing in the park, getting covered in mud on the beach when it’s low tide and riding their bikes down the hill to the jetty. They enjoy exploring and older ones like to walk around the island on the shoreline at low tide.

If we come to visit what should we do? The cave looks exciting! 

It is easy to explore the island on foot – it only takes about 40 minutes to walk around the island. A couple of caves are close to the road on the high side. They are big rock overhangs, not deep caves. A walk to the top of the island through the bush is fun. You should see the beach and the park and try and see how many different birds you can see.

The illustrations really complememt the story, was it difficult finding an illustrator who would suit the lightness and happiness of the story?

It was difficult finding an illustrator at all given my budget constraints. This book was a personal project which I wrote for my children and the children of Dangar Island. It took me quite some time to find Jacqui who is the niece of a friend and lives on a property in Queensland. She first came to Dangar Island when we launched the book and used internet searches and photographs to guide her illustrations. We communicated regularly by phone and email. Before engaging her I asked her to do a sample of her work in a style similar to Mem Fox in Possum Magic. I am really happy with how the illustrations and story work together.

Can you see yourself writing any more books in the future? 

I have written a second book which is similar but very different from the Dangar Island book. It is currently in the process of being illustrated. Jacqui was not available and I was lucky to find someone else to work on this new book.

Thank you Joanne. I am looking forward to making a weekend visit over to Dangar Island some day very soon! 

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Photo taken from : http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/story/4794923/farleigh-downs-artist-recognised-in-us/

The coffee cup

A few weeks ago I blogged about and sometimes you forget – which many readers found solace in considering many of us lead busy lives and just sometimes those coffee cups get forgotten.

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Well there seems to be an answer to this forgetting right here in Sydney.

Although it’s still not ideal and waste is still created – a 96% recyclable cup has been created. The first place to trial this cup will be Toby’s Estate in Chippendale. This cup can  be turned into paperback covers and other paper and cardboard products BUT it does need to be dropped into a recycle me box in order for this to happen properly.

It would be wonderful if we always remembered our reusable cup or took the time to have our tea and coffee at the cafe – but it is good to know there is an environmentally answer to those times we do forget.

Perhaps it is time to talk to your regular cafe and ask them what they are doing to make a difference to the waste their customers create. Either offer a discount or start to invest in these recyclable cups.

Dungzilla by James Foley

Now you’ve got me thinking Sal…why don’t you use a bunch of Dung Beetles to clean Joe’s nappies? 

Ah, the friendly Dung Beetle – how I wish I could employ a couple of these poo lovers to clean out our nappy bucket so I didn’t have to deal with the washing of poo and wee on a weekly basis. But the risks of the Dung Beetle turning into a Dungzilla are real in our scientific household so for now….I’ll just keep my gloves on.


Dungzilla by James Foley is a highly entertaining graphic novel about a young girl – Sally Tinker (Formerly of Brobot) who is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In this story she has invented a resizenator and whilst trying it out on a humble slice of pizza she accidentally hits her friends pet Dung Beetle. And you can only imagine what a giant Dung Beetle might get up to.

The humour entwined with adventure make this story one which you can’t put down. The comic style story allows younger readers to follow along with more enthusiasm as they can see the characters and gain more insight into how they are feeling and acting as each scenario unfolds.

James Foley has also included some great facts about the Dung Beetle within the story which we loved reading and inspired some extra research on this scat loving creature. We even learnt some extra words that also mean poo as we read along and some ideas on how we can create our own resizenator.

Dungzilla, filled with humour, action and great illustrations is a must read book for younger readers and those who are just starting to read on their own. But why Dungzilla on a blog about sustainability you ask – well building awareness of the small creatures in our world is just as important as awareness about the big ones.

Without Dung Beetles our world would be a lot stinkier, filled with more methane and germier.

Dung Beetles are endangered in some areas of the world due to loss of habitat, land being over farmed, more chemicals on the land and poorer quality poo due to poorer food sources.

Check out these links:

Why we need Dung Beetles

Feral animals endangering the Dung Beetle

So what can you do at home?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Go on an insect hunt and find out which insects live in your neighbourhood. Is there a way you can attract more beneficial insects to your backyard or local park?
  • What is a Dung Beetle? Find out some more facts and history about the humble Dung lover.
  • Why do we need insects? What might our world look like if we didn’t have beetles and bugs?

LITERACY

  • Create your own comic strip about a science invention that doesn’t work out as planned.
  • Look at how James Foley uses comic strips to create suspense and humour. How can you add that to your own creation?

EXTRA TEACHING NOTES HERE: Fremantle Press

Feathers by Phil Cummings and Phil Lesnie

The sun rose on a crisp, cloudy day. The sandpiper stretched its wings in the chilling breeze. It knew it was time to leave so it took flight.

Feathers by Phil Cummings and Phil Lesnie is a calming yet thought provoking picture book that takes the reader on a journey over lands filled with hope, fear, sadness and joy. As we follow the yearly migratory flight of the sandpiper we see the countries that play an important role in its survival. We watch the bird as it soars over snowy landscapes, lands near flood waters and finds safety amongst reeds in the water.

Feathers raises many issues but a big one is the time to reflect on how lucky we are to live in Australia. The countries that the sandpiper flies over on it’s yearly flight have been hit hard by earthquake (China) Civil unrest (Myanmar) Flooding (Cambodia) but its final resting place is in Australia – safe and disaster free.

Feathers has so much to offer  – it is a worrying yet heart warming read and one which should trigger some deep conversations about how we can help those who are less fortunate than us.

It is a story about annual bird migration  – which may not seem so important but it is. The numbers of many of these migratory birds are dropping drastically because of loss of habitat.

These birds need to land in different places all over the world – see the  East Asian-Australasian Flyway map – and if they dont, eggs will not hatch or if they do hatch, the chick may not be fully developed, chicks may get eaten by feral animals or not have enough food to eat to survive the long flight back to Australia.

Phil Lesnie’s illustrations bring so much emotion to the story through the ever changing light in the sky  – we can feel the pain of the people escaping war, the worry of the people surrounded by flood and the fear of those whose houses have fallen down. We can see the strength of the sandpiper as it flies on it’s pathway seeking out food, shelter and then home.

Feathers is a poignant read that focuses on human destruction of the world we live in. Read this story with your class or children at home. Take the time to think about how you can make a difference in the world we live in – so that war is eliminated and habitat is saved.

So what can you do after you have read this book?

Join my Facebook page and group: educateempower11 or closed group for teaching ideas : growing globally and socially conscious children. https://m.facebook.com/groups/362368594250457

Sustainability

  • Why do these birds need to migrate?
  • Find out about which birds migrate each year.
  • Read Jeannie Baker’s book – Circle to learn more about the migration of the Godwit.
  • How is Australia causing issues for migratory birds? Can you write a letter to the local government to discuss this and urge them to stop the destruction of habitat?

Human Rights

  • What does safety mean to you? Where did you feel safe in the story?
  • Why does Mia feel lucky?
  • How can we help those who have been affected by floods, earthquakes and war? Are all these acts purely natural disasters or have humans played a role in exacerbating the situation?
  • Explore the UN’s rights of the child. Would all the children in this story have their rights?

Literacy

  • Explore the feather – what does it look like, feel like and sound like? Explore the bird – look, feel, sound and then explore the landscape. Use adjectives, adverbs and verbs to explore these nouns.
  • Choose another migratory bird and write a story about where they travel and what they might see.

Geography

Here are some great articles to read about the demise of the migratory bird:

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2017/05/migratory-shorebirds

http://birdlife.org.au/documents/Shorebirds-FactSheet.pdf

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory-species/migratory-birds

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/project-underway-save-endangered-migratory-birds-pelican-island/7279234

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts.

She took a deep breath and she simply asked, “Why?”

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts is a celebration being inquisitive, persistent, independent and creative!


In this delightful picture book, we meet Ada Twist , a young scientist who doesn’t start to speak until she is three (echoing Einstein). Once she does start talking her world is full of why, how, what, when and many different experiments and investigations along the way.

Ada’s parents and teacher are bombarded with her constant questioning and messy investigations but luckily they see her passion and her gift and give her the time and the support that she needs.

And that’s what they did – because that’s what you do when your kid has a passion and a heart that is true. 

The illustrations by David Roberts are brilliant and not only support the story but add so much more to it. As we read along you can search for the pet cat, the smelly socks, her brother and the trail of investigations Ada leaves behind.

The reader can see her thoughts floating around her written not only in words but also through her facial expressions.

Andrea Beaty’s rhyming text is not only a perfect way to tell the story of young Ada but a perfect way to teach young children that when they follow their passions and dreams, with the support of those around them, they can achieve anything.

Ada Twist,  who we leave in Year Two, still makes a mess and still makes mistakes but she is learning along the way and her passion is infectious – we see many of her class mates also taking part in her investigations and experiments.

Ada Twist, Scientist is a brilliant story based on inspiring female scientists such as Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. Perhaps this story will inspire your daughter or female students to reach out and achieve their scientific dreams.

So what can you do at home? 

Gifted Education

Gifted education is a passion of mine and when I read this story to myself and out loud to different children I really loved the support Ada’s parents gave her. They weren’t smothering her by enrolling her in every course or after school activity and they also were not dismissing her talent by telling her to stop asking so many questions.

I think that parent’s can take note of Ada’s supportive parents and perhaps start to look at their child and see what they need, listen to their questions and answer them in the best possible way. Many gifted children do not turn their gifts into talents because of the lack of support and the feeling that they are asking too many questions.

  • Listen to your children and answer their questions.
  • Show them that you don’t always know the answers and help them to research or investigate.
  • Give them time to play and investigate rather than always being involved in an after school activity.

Science Investigation: Smell

  • Investigate the olfactory system.
  • Investigate how long smell takes to travel to us and if we need to see something to know what it smells like.
  • Create your own perfume for different purposes (to repell mosquitoes, to smell nice by the beach, to smell nice at a party, to ward off witches etc)
  • Compare different smells and work out how we know the difference between good and bad smells and what those smells are really telling us!

Teacher Guide is here: http://www.abramsbooks.com/adatwist/

 

Talking to your child about poverty

How do you talk to your children about poverty? Have you ever wandered through the city and seen a homeless person sleeping on the street? What have you said to your child? Or more importantly – what have they asked you?

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Poverty is a huge issue in our society and one which often gets unnoticed as a lot of the media coverage it driven by consumerism and money. We see so many images of people who have so much, we see advertisements telling us we need to have things to make us happy but how often do we see the people who have lost their homes, loved ones and money? Not so much.

But how do you talk to your child about poverty? There is a wonderful book called Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger and there is you.

So what can you do?

Does your child understand the concept of money? What is a dollar or a cent?

Do they realise how people make money and how much things cost? Many children these days are given so much – we need to show them the cost of these things – not only to the consumer but to the person who made it and the environmental impact.

Do they realise how other people around the world live? Look at images of other children around the world and show them what poverty really means. Talk about how having clean running water, healthy food, electricity  and shelter are the basic needs people need to ensure they live without poverty and hunger. Poverty doesn’t mean not having the latest gadget.

Look at magazine images of people who over consume. What is the media trying to tell us? Do we need to aspire to be like this?

Research different charities that help people to move out of poverty and see how you can get involved. 

 

Educate and empower your child to be a global mover and shaker.

 

 

A is for Australian animals by Frane Lessac.

Have you ever wondered which Australian animals you would come across if you wandered through the alphabet, across the desert down by a river or over the ocean?


A is for Australian animals by Frane Lessac takes every reader on a magical journey all over Australia where we meet Quokkas, Bilbies, Jumping spiders and even Death adders!

Starting from the letter A, Frane Lessac explores through brightly coloured and detailed illustrations the amazing characteristics of each animal. Each picture is accompanied by 5 – 10 facts that are very interesting and perhaps unknown to many readers.

Did you know that emus have two eyelids?

Did you know that the Perentie Goanna can run up to 30 km/h?

Letter A gives the reader background information as to why Australia has so many interesting animals. In A is for Australian Animals, Lessac explores the habitats of mammals, reptiles, birds and monotremes through each letter of the alphabet- really highlighting the diversity of Australia.

The use of rich Australian outback and bushland colours brings life to the illustrations and allows the reader to feel like they are there with the animals in their natural environment. There are no people or buildings to be seen throughout the whole story – a great way for readers to see this wide brown land.

Frane Lessac artwork is superb and draws the reader to look further into each double page spread, searching for hidden animals, detailed plants and movement of sand or water.

A is for Australian Animals is  a must read for any Australian, and perhaps an inspiration for you to take a drive out of the city and into the outback, hidden rainforests or islands of our diverse country.

So what can you do at home? 

Geography

Find out where each of these animals live and plot this on a map. How big is each animals range of habitat and has this range changed over time?

Science

Group these animals – mammal, monotreme, bird or reptile.

Group these animals according to the types of environments they live in.

Literacy

Compare this book to another fact book, video of facts and podcast of facts. How do you prefer for find out facts? Which way do you think is better for your learning or are they all helpful?

Could you change the animals in this story by creating your own A-Z of Australian animals?

Numeracy

There are more kangaroos than humans in Australia! Where do they all live then? Compare and contrast the population sizes of the animals in this story. You could look into the rise or decline in numbers and try to work out why this has happened.

GeographyFind out where each of these animals live and plot this on a map. How big is each animals range of habitat and has this range changed over time?ScienceGroup these animals – ma

Escape to everywhere

Have you ever read a book and wished that you could escape to that magical land? Perhaps you wished that your cupboard opened up to a secret land where you could meet animals that could talk, eat sweet biscuits with new friends and watch magic spells come to life with the flick on a wrist.

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Have you ever met a character in a book that you wanted to spend more time with so you could find out more about them, hang out with them and go on some of their adventures or perhaps learn some new skills from them?

Maybe your way of escaping is to learn new knowledge, perhaps you escape by becoming engrossed in new facts, pondering about hypothesis and exploring a new scientific or mathematical concept?

Reading allows us to escape. Reading slows our bodies down and gives us time to absorb what is going on inside us. Studies show that when we sit down and read we breath more deeply, our heart rate slows and our body has time to heal and absorb more nutrients from our day (must be why that hot cup of tea and healthy treat is a must when reading)

If we have the skills to escape through a story or through knowledge we can move away from the fast pace life of social media, fast paced computer  games and action packed news.

So not only during book week should we take the time to escape, we should take the time to escape everyday. We should be teaching our children the art of escaping through books.

Which book will you be reading tonight so you can escape?