Book review, Indigenous authors, Parent tips, picture books, Teacher tips and resources

Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh

Alfred had fought in the Great war, but his bravery was not part of the nation’s remembering. He was one of the forgotten soldiers.

A powerful picture book for children aged 7+, Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh highlights the lack of recognition given to Australian Indigenous servicemen who returned from WWI.

Alfred lived where he liked to live, outside, under the stars, beneath gum trees or by the fire. He lived free and happy as a gardener and labourer, far from home. When he signed up for war not only did he experience the horror of war but also the horror of returning home without recognition for what he did to save Australia.

Many men and women returned from war, scarred from the awful experience they had and many did not receive the support they should have – but to be forgotten would have added more insult to the injuries he sustained.

Indigenous Australians have had many injustices done to them since 1788

Rachel Bin Salleh has written a beautiful story and it really pulls at the heart strings. Children will have so many questions to ask and this is a wonderful thing. We talked about war and we talked about indigenous Australians. We talked about many things I didn’t think younger children would want to listen to, but they did because they saw an injustice in the world.

Samantha Fry’s illustrations add more emotion to each page of the story, giving more meaning to who Alfred was and what he did for Australia.

Creating stories that are told through picture like this are so important and we need to make more of them so that the mistakes of history are not created again and again.

What else can you do?

  •  Talk about war – be honest without too many details. Talk about wars that have been and wars that are still raging. Explore why they start and how they finish.
  • Talk about indigenous people of Australia, what happened to them and why. Look at the indigenous language map of Australia to see where different tribes lived and where some still live today.
  • Why were the indigenous people forgotten about?
  • Look at the different colours used on each page and how those colours make you feel.

BUY HERE – click on book below.

Alfred's War

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Book review, Indigenous authors, Uncategorized

I remember by Joanne Crawford and Kerry Anne Jordinson

Do you have a memory from many years ago that is as strong as it was the day you did that activity? 

Can you remember the smells, how you felt, what you saw or ate? 

Written by Joanne Crawford and illustrated by Kerry Anne Jordinson, I remember is a beautifully told story that highlights memories and how those that fill us with joy linger within our minds, even when our day to day memory is fading.

We meet our storyteller, an older women, briefly and are quickly transported back in time to a holiday she had as a child.

She tells us in detail her family trip to the Murchison River – the journey in the car, the setting up of the campsite and cooking of damper within hot coals.

Jordinson’s illustrations bring these memories to life so much so that we can feel the heat, smell the gum leaves and hear the night animals.

The gentleness of this story shows the reader just how important happy memories are to an ageing person and how much joy they can bring. It also shows just how important storytelling is – the sharing and listening to of stories brings people and places back to life and sheds light on how we can move forward.

About 4 years ago I visited the end of the Murchison River – near Kalbarri but only spent a day there…it was amazing and I can only imagine the beauty of spending a week or two there would bring. The red rock, the blue river and the green growth – a spectacular place.

I remember by Joanne Crawford moved me, its a book for young and old, one to be shared and perhaps one that will inspire some storytelling around your kitchen table.

So what else can you do with this book?

– Tell stories as often as you can, make them up or retell about a time once had.

– Go camping or spend some time outdoors – entice your senses!

– Find out where the Murchison River is and where you could camp.

– Why is storytelling such an important aspect of Australian Indigenous culture?

– What are memories? Do we need them and if we don’t have them how does this effect us?

– What would life be like if we didn’t have any memories?

Book review, Indigenous authors, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

In the city I see by Tori-Jay Mordey

Have you been on a trip to the city lately?

Perhaps it is too far away or too busy for you?

Perhaps just for now you can curl up on your lounge and visit it from there! 

Visiting the city is a great experience for young children so in the meantime – take a look at this new book ‘In the city I see‘ written by Tori-jay Mordey and published by Magabala books.

A small , simple and sturdy board book, ‘In the city I see’ will amaze young readers with the vibrant colours on each page that help to add more detail to the simple descriptions.

As you travel through this story you might see hungry pigeons or colourful markets and as you read each of these pages you can talk to your child about the colours they can see, the faces on the people and the different details Tori-Jay has added.

The young art series by Magabala books is a great initiative that showcases young indigenous artists. We have read At the beach I see and At the zoo I see – both fantastic books for young readers.

So what else can you do with this story as you read or after you have read it?

  •  Point out the different colours, name and ask what they are.
  •  How are the different people in the book feeling on the various pages?
  • Who lives in the city?
  •  Why are pigeons hungry in the city?
  • Which flags are flying from the tall buildings?
  • Which show is being advertised on the sign? Check out this video here
  • Visit the city with a camera and an agenda. Choose some places that you can get to by walking or bus and check out places that are child-friendly. A day out in the city is a great way to spend some time!
Book review, Creativity, Indigenous authors, nature play, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Molly the Pirate by Lorraine Teece

“Molly lived a long way from the sea, but every day she wished she was a pirate”

Molly is a little girl with a great imagination. She lives in the red dirt of the Australian outback with her mum, a cat, a dog and three chooks but nothing is stopping her from dancing a jig with a pirate, steering a pirate ship or fighting Captain Chicken!

Lorraine Teece has brought this little girls vivid imagination to life through action, adventure and fun filled description of life aboard a pirate ship. Teamed together with Paul Seden’s colourful and movement filled illustrations, Molly the pirate is a great book for young readers.

Children will be inspired to use their own imagination after they have read this book – noticing that sometimes those every day boring looking objects can be turned into something a lot more fun.

A clothes basket could turn into a pirate ship.

A backyard chook into a fearsome pirate

A washing line into a sail .

Many children lack these skills of imagination as they have so many screens and toys to amuse them. Molly the Pirate shows us that with a little bit of creativity we can make any imaginary world come to life!

Perhaps you’ll start to look at the washing basket a little bit differently next time you take it out to hang on the line….

So what else can you do?

  • CREATE: Encourage imagination!! Instead of buying your children more toys take them outside to a park or natural setting and let them play and imagine up worlds.
  • INVESTIGATE: Take a look at your clothes line – who invented this and why? Why should we dry our clothes on the clothes line instead of the dryer?
  • LEARN: Do you have backyard chooks? Where do your eggs come from? Investigate the best types of eggs to buy if you can’t have chooks of your own.
  • RESEARCH: Where is the red dirt of Australia? Investigate which towns live on red dirt and why it is red.
  • WONDER: Did chickens ever travel on pirate ships? Find out more about pirates and why they existed and how they still exist now.
animals, Book review, Books with current issues, Environmental books, Indigenous authors, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

The Amazing A to Z thing by Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft

“I have something to make you jolly, Numbat.” said Anteater.

But animal after animal throughout the alphabet is just too busy to find out what Anteater has until they feel like they are missing out on something wonderful!


The Amazing A to Z thing by Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft is an intriguing  illustrated book that not only is a stunning alphabet book, it also has a message for us all  that I think all readers will see differently.

As readers peruse through the pages and admire the illustrations they can also explore Bronwyn Bancroft’s use of indigenous art techniques which complement each if the Australian animals who stumble across Anteater on his little journey.

Sally Morgan’s words are descriptive and this adds to the depth of using this book in the classroom or at home as parents and teachers can explore the different adjectives used to describe how the anteater thinks the animals might feel about his amazing thing.

The Amazing A to Z thing by Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft is a beautiful book that can be admired and read again and again and drawn upon for many different lessons.

So what can you do from here?

  • List all of the adjectives that are used throughout the story and discover if any are synonyms.
  • What were each of the animals too busy doing? Explore the different verbs from each of the animals.
  • How much do you know about each of these Australian animals? Explore some of the animals you don’t know a lot about.
  • How many times does the anteater appear throughout the book? Explore counting through the pictures of the animals on each page.
  • Are any of these animals endangered?
  • Are any of these animals endemic to one particular area of Australia?
  • What do you think this amazing thing really is and why might everyone think it is different?

 

animals, Book review, Books with current issues, Environmental books, Indigenous authors, life cycles, literacy, Teacher tips and resources, water

Big Fella Rain by Beryl Webber and Fern Martins

Thunder Rolls – BOOM!

Way up north, lightning flashes, thunder rolls, and the frogs sing a chorus.

Big fella rain coming


 

The magic of the summer rains is wholeheartedly felt throughout this picture book. Living in a place where life blossoms almost immediately after the first rains would be a magical place to be. This book, Big Fella Rain by Beryl Webber and Fern Martins and published by Magabala Books, is a celebration of life and the reliance all living things have on rain.

Figurative language abounds in this story from liquorice clouds, cracked earth, iridescent wings and thirsty reeds. You can feel the world come to life through the story and see it grow in colour through the illustrations.

Big Fella Rain allows the reader to explore how life changes when water plays its role. We can see seeds looking for somewhere to sow themselves, animals drinking up the long-awaited water and rivers forming to support life. The subtle changes of colours in the illustrations throughout the story show the life return to the red sand and cracked earth.

Big Fella Rain is a celebration of the start of the rainy season – the clouds building, the animals retreating and the cracked earth waiting. It is a celebration of the seasons in the Top End of Australia and the delicate nature of the natural world.

Fern Martin’s illustrations are exquisite and the details she adds to the animal features or the subtle changes in the sky add more depth to the story and show the young reader just what life looks like as the rain falls.

We loved reading this story, looking at the details of the insects, listening to the animals cry for joy and watch the water as it made it’s presence. Big Fella Rain is a wonderful picture book to read out loud, pour over the pictures and think about how much we rely on water.

 

So what can you do at home?

Explore Water 

Explore the animals of the Top end

  • Which type of tortoises live in the Top End? What is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?
  • What are Brolgas? Emus? Which other large water birds live there?
  • Are there any frogs endemic to the Top End?
  • We often forget about insects but they also play a role in this story – how do they cope with the rain? Where might they go when it is too wet?
  • Are any animals endangered due to climate change? Less rain or too much rain? Damage from mining or pollution?

Explore art

Explore the art work by Fern Martins – Explore how she has created the illustrations in this story and her other artwork. 

 

Have you ever experienced the start of the rainy season? I would love to hear your stories!

Book review, Books with current issues, Indigenous authors, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources, water

Free Diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston

Do you know much about the history of Australia’s pearling industry? In the late nineteenth century, many of Western Australia’s Indigenous were forced to dive for pearl shell under terrible conditions. This story is a tribute to these men and women who risked their lives for the pearl lugger owners.


Free diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston is a lyrical narrative that takes the reader on a journey out to sea and on board a pearl lugger. A pearl lugger was the name given to the large vessels that were used to go out to sea to collect pearl shell. This industry, which has brought a lot of money to Australia is still a part of the economy today – visit Broome to see the many pearl shops up there – but under much better circumstances for the divers.

Older readers will be entranced by the colour of the land and the sea. They will feel scared and worried as the main character dives beneath the waves and yearns for his home. The prose entices the reader to ask questions about where they are, why they are diving with just a rope and why is pearl so precious?

This story really allows the reader to see the past injustices of society and how many people were treated so terribly just for the sake of money.

Brown Houston’s illustrations add more emotion to the story. We feel the gentleness of the ocean breeze, the warmth of the sunshine, the quietness of the moon. But we also see the fear the young man feels, we see the worry he holds within but also the freedom he feels when under the water.

Although I have read a little bit about the history of the Pearling industry from my visit to Broome this book gave me more insight into the dark side of it and how something so beautiful can hold a sad story.

Read this book with your children – it is a beautiful tale. The song at the end may inspire you to pull out your guitar and have a sing along too.

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

  • Explore the pearling industry. Compare the past and the present. Indigenous people had their own methods of finding pearl shell long before the Europeans came along.
  • Are there currently any injustices in the jewellery industry? Explore the concepts of fair-trade and worker’s rights.
  • Sing the song together – it is a beautiful tribute and there is no better way to learn about a story than through song.
  • Explore the art of Bronwyn Houston and the techniques used in this story.
  • Stand up for human rights. Keep an eye out for those around you and make sure that everyone is being treated equally. Be more mindful of what you buy to ensure that people aren’t being mistreated just for a final product.
Book review, Books with current issues, Environmental books, Indigenous authors, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, plastic free July, Teacher tips and resources

At the beach I see by Kamsani Bin Salleh

The beach is one of my favourite places to go to. The warm sand, the crashing of the waves and the smell of the ocean. I love swimming too – but only when it is warm enough!


At the beach I see by Kamsani Bin Salleh and published by Magabala Books, is a vibrantly illustrated board book which young children will adore. On each page the reader is treated to a visual delight – not only are the different animals or plants of the sea coloured in life-like colours, they also have intricate designs on them – which we loved looking at.

The designs on each creature really highlighted the fact that although these underwater dwellers may look the same, they – like us, are all so very different.

Each watery page also exposes the reader to creative adjectives that describe how the  ocean animal or plant moves in or above the water.

Babies, toddlers, preschoolers and even young school children will love reading this book. It is easy to read, alive with colour and full of amazing sea creatures!

So what can you do with this book?

  • Visit the beach, a river, dam – whatever local waterway you can and look at the different plants and animals that reside there. Take your sketchbook down and draw the animals. Look at how they live, what they might eat and where they hide.
  • Explore the adjectives used in this book, how else can these animals and plants be described?
  • Look at the patterns Kamsani Bin Salleh has used. Explore different types of lines – waves, circles, spots, straight lines, curvy lines, spirals, dashes, zig zags. Create your own art using these lines. A great way to do this is to cover paper in paint and then scratch lines into the paint – a great sensory experience.
  • Look at some more great Young Art books published by Magabala Books.
  • For older readers – How can we take better care of the beach so these animals can continue to thrive in a pristine environment? Think of at least one thing you can do (less chemicals down the drain, pick up some rubbish at the beach, leave shells behind, buy less plastic)

 

What do you love about the beach? 

 

 

Books with current issues, Indigenous authors, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

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.

 

 

animals, eco living, Environmental books, Indigenous authors, picture books, Picture books that address current issues

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.

IMG_6467

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.