Latest book reviews

animals, Book review, eco living, Environmental books, Teacher tips and resources

Bouncing Back: An eastern barred bandicoot story by Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch

How did the last eastern barred bandicoot on the Australian mainland end up living in a rubbish tip? 

Based on a true story, Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch have created a picture book that teaches young readers about the plight of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and the hard work of volunteers, conservationists and scientists to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

The story begins with some information about the Bandicoot, accompanied by delicately illustrated pictures. We learn how they live and grow, what they like to eat and their habitat.

Sadly we learn how humans have caused devastation to this once thriving population through the eyes of the Bandicoot.

The Bandicoots tell us that because of land clearing, fires, foxes and cats their numbers have drastically dwindled.

They tell us that because they have no where to hide in the once loved long grasses, they are easy prey for owls and feral animals.

The double page spread drawn by Coral Tulloch brings home the terrible circumstances these animals were in – life in a rubbish dump – the only place they felt safe enough.

Luckily a small band of dedicated people were able to save the last few of these Eastern Barred bandicoots and with hard work their population is on the rise in fenced reserves, safe from feral animals and land clearing.

This story, although long, is engaging and children will be happy to know that there is a happy ending – even if there is still a lot of work to be done.

Facts and a glossary are added to the end of the story and the endpapers are a fantastic tool for conversation!!

What else can you do with this story? 

Ask students to find out about an endangered species and create their own picture book so they can teach others about it’s plight and how people are trying to save them.

Ask students : What would life be like if Eastern Barred Bandicoot’s disappeared? How would the ecosystem be effected?

Find out: Are there other picture books that are based on factual events that look at animals brought back from near extinction? Try Phasmid: saving the Lord Howe Island Insect and Rhino in the House

And access some great teacher notes from CSIRO

Buy your own copy from Booktopia

Booktopia

Extra links for further study

Conservation volunteers: http://conservationvolunteers.com.au/what-we-do/threatened-species/eastern-barred-bandicoot/

Zoos Victoria: https://www.zoo.org.au/werribee/animals/eastern-barred-bandicoot

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Book review, Books with current issues, Environmental books, Uncategorized

When the mountains roared by Jess Butterworth

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. 

Without warning Ruby’s mother is killed in outback Australia. Her mother, a herpetologist  leaves a gaping hole in Ruby and because of this sudden loss, she doesn’t know how to cope.

Ruby’s father and grandmother are also struggling to deal with this loss and we see this in the first chapter when they race to get away from Australia and on a boat into India without warning – to manage an abandoned hotel at the foot of the Himalayas.

At first Ruby hates living in this remote location but as time goes on she makes a friend, learns about the mountains and sees how much help she can be to the local wildlife.

But despite this new found love of the mountains she soon discovers a dark secret that it hides – poachers. These poachers are on the hunt for endangered leopards and will do anything to hide what they are up to.

You will fall in love with the mountains of India and be in awe of the determination and strength that Ruby displays despite the loss she has just experienced.

Children will relate to Ruby and Praveen and their ability to see beyond what adults see when it comes to making a difference in the world.

When the mountains roared by Jess Butterworth is an excellent read, set out in small chapters and adorned with leopard print, young readers will find this book a page turner yet a mananagable one.

When the mountains roared is a great book for a class novel study as it links in India and Australia, animal conservation and natural disasters.

So what else can you do with this book?

 – Find out where Ruby moves to from reading the description in the novel. Work out how long it would take to get there by boat and bus.

– Does this book have any similarities to Jess Butterworth’s other book ‘Running on the roof of the world”?

– Where in the world are animals poached and why does this happen? Explore what poaching means and measures in place to stop this from happening.

– Explore the differences in children’s lives around the world. Compare Ruby’s life in Australia to Praveen’s life in India as a goat herder.

– What are superstitions and why do they exist? Do you have any superstitions? How can superstitions be helpful and harmful?

– How many leopards (different types) are left in the world? Is poaching the only reason they are endangered?

Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books

Feasible planet by Ken Kroes

“There are no such things as great deeds—only small ones done with great heart.”
– Mother Teresa

 

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Trying to live more sustainably is something every person on this planet needs to think about – especially those who can afford to buy smart phones, use electricity and buy food from a supermarket.

Ken Kroes has created a guide to more sustainable living which contains facts, tips and links to companies and websites that can help anyone on their path to better living.

There is a bit of reading do in this guide but with an easy to understand contents page, you can skip to the sections you like and find information that is practical and quick to embed into your lifestyle.

Perhaps some images would make this book more appealing to readers but overall I think it is a great guide for anyone who wants  to start to make a difference.

You can learn the impact your smartphone has on the world when it is made and after you have finished using it, learn how to motivate others through good facts and information and of course how to educate the children in your life.

By talking to the children in your life we create a ripple effect in the wider community and give them the tools to be leaders of change in society.

Feasible planet is a great guide for anyone – even those who don’t want to make a difference – as I am sure by the end you will see that those small changes you can make will make a huge difference in the way the world currently functions – for the better.

Book review, Books with current issues, Environmental books, gifted education, life cycles, Teacher tips and resources

The wild robot by Peter Brown

Clouds scudded through the sky

Spiders spun intricate webs, Berries beckoned to hungry mouths, Foxes stalked hares, Mushrooms rose up from leaf litter, turtles plopped into ponds, moss spread across tree roots, vultures hunched over carcasses, ocean waves beat against the coastline, tadpoles became frogs, caterpillars became butterflies. A camouflaged robot observed it all. 

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is my latest read and one which has had many positive reviews. I loved the premise of this novel – a robot living on an island amongst nature, learning to live in the wild and learning about the cycles of life.

But did I love the book – after a slow hump in the middle, I did.

Author Peter Brown involves the reader right from the start, telling us all about how the robot came to be on the island and often asking us questions about what we think might happen next. We watch as Roz, the mechanical robot,  learns to live in nature by observing daily activities by animals, watching the subtle changes in the cycle of seasons and day/night and of course through making friends.

We learn about the daily activities of Roz, which I found interesting but a little slow at times. However, the pace picked up again and the growth of love between Roz and her adopted son made the story so much more rich.

The Wild Robot explores the intricate details of nature and how everything effects each other. We learn, in a subtle way, about the impact changing seasons and human development are having on animals and the possibility of life with robots.

Younger children will love this book if it is read to them as they can explore how Roz learns about animals and the natural world. The last few chapters are confronting – but so are many aspects of the current world we live in.

The Wild Robot is an excellent read, broken up into little chapters with simple illustrations, it will reinvigorate your desire to get out in nature and possibly become a little wild yourself!

Children over 11 will enjoy reading this alone and I would even recommend this book as a class study as so many different topic areas are covered

  •  Climate change (how it effects animals habitat, survival in the changing seasons)
  •  How living things work with each other (life and death, building materials, symbiotic relationships)
  •  Animal habitats (how they create them and where they live)
  •  Robots in our lives – do we really need them? (What do we use them for now?)
  •  Migration patterns in birds (Map patterns of your local migratory birds)
  • Geography (uninhabited island in the world)
  •  Literary technique – breaking the fourth wall.
  • How do we communicate with animals?
Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, Uncategorized

Kookaburras love to laugh by Laura and Phillip Bunting

Have you ever wondered about why a Kookaburra up in that old gum tree is laughing?

Did you ever think that perhaps there has to be a serious Kookaburra amongst them all?

Kookaburras love to laugh  is another fabulous creation by Laura and Philip Bunting that will leave youngster having a good giggle as they follow the antics of a rather serious Kookaburra – who simply does now want to laugh.

As expected, the use of prints in this story add to the humour of this book. Simple movements or props added to each image give enough information for the reader to know what is going on and through this technique, children feel that they can add a bit more to the story.

This poor Kookaburra is very serious and he is sick of others trying to make him laugh – so he leaves and finds somewhere where he can have some peace and quiet….that is until he discovers that life without laughter doesn’t seem quite right and surprises his friends on his return.

Watching the subtle eye movements between each picture, talking about some good Kookaburra jokes and wondering what #%*@! Really means is all part of this story.

Kookaburras love to laugh is another wonderful story to add to the tree dwelling animal books we have so far:

Mopoke

Koalas eat gum leaves

I wonder who will be next?

So what else can you do?

  • Make sure you participate in your local areas Bird count. This is a really important way the local councils can learn about which birds reside in their areas through residents input.
  • Create your own Kookaburra jokes!
  • Always wonder what they are laughing at – always!
  • Draw your own Kookaburra and of possible photocopy it to add some extra props to create your own pictorial story board.
Book review, literacy, Teacher tips and resources

Teacher notes written by Vanessa

Have a look at the notes I have produced recently and ask me how I can help develop teacher notes for your novel or picture book.

 

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

http://elizabethfoster.com.au

The Amulet of Athlone by Ruth Devine (notes to come)

http://ruthdevinewriter.com/books/

 

Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Little Whale by Jo Weaver.

“Is this home?” asked Little Whale. “No, we’ve still got a long way to go,” said Grey Whale.

Deep blue ocean, gentle waves rocking and peacefulness oozes out of this book.

Little Whale, written and illustrated by Jo Weaver, is a beautifully told story about a baby whale and the journey north it is taking with its mother.

Grey Whales migrate nearly 20 000 km on a yearly basis as they move back and forth between the cool and warm waters in order to find food and safety.

As we see and read about this migration we watch the baby tire, the dangers lurking in the depths and the beauty of the sea forest below.

The role of the mother whale is so important for her baby’s survival and despite the length they have to travel, albeit a little bit slower than she would normally take, she still sticks by her child ensuring they make it safely to the north.

As you read this story you will find yourself slow down.

The journey of a mother with her calf is a slow and careful one and the way Jo Weaver has told this story ensures we understand how long that journey is.

The illustrations in Little Whale are created in charcoal and really add to the atmosphere of the water. The gentle sketches of the water ebbing and flowing, sea grass swaying and fish circling give off a peaceful sense of life at sea.

Little Whale is a gorgeous story about the migration of whales, the love of parents and life living in the ocean.

It would be a great book to springboard into life cycles, animal studies of migration, animal conservation and ocean awareness.

How can I use this book at home or in the classroom?

  • Plot on a map the different routes whales around the world take in order to migrate to different feeding and breeding grounds.
  • How many different types of whales are there in the world and do they all have the same life cycle?
  • What type of habitat do whales need for optimum development? Explore why they move and why the places they go to are so important.
  • How are humans having an impact on whales and their migration? On their breeding or feeding grounds?
Books with current issues, literacy, picture books, Teacher tips and resources

Can reading children’s stories help us change the world?

Each week every child at our school has the opportunity to visit the school library whether it be during their class borrowing time or one lunch time when the library is open.

The books inside the library give each and every child the opportunity to visit a new world, walk alongside a new character or think completely differently to they ever have before.

So can these stories help us change the world? Of course they can!

Every book you read to your child, or they read to themselves helps them to look outside their own world.

Every time we laugh at a story we see how humour can help change the world for the better.

Every time we cry in a story we realise how precious our own lives are and how we can help others to be just as lucky.

Every time we look up something because we wondered about it after reading a story, we learn what is going on in our world.

Stories can help us change the world so encourage your child to keep on reading, read widely and read for a change.

find your treasure, Teacher tips and resources

Find your treasure #4

Where can you find treasure in storybooks? With dragons of course!

This week we found as many dragon books as we could and created a display.

Dragons can be treasures

And

Dragons can be the guardians of treasure

Dragons can be mysterious and dragons can be dangerous.

Dragons can be kind and dragons can be helpful.

There are so many wonderful journeys you can go on with dragons in mind. Check out some ideas we are using in the library!

  1. Using at least 4 books with dragons in them, compare the different roles they play in each story.
  2. How can a dragon be mighty yet meak. Explore this concept with examples.
  3. Explore the myths behind dragons and try to discover early tales of these creatures.
  4. What is a dragon? List as many attributes as possible.
  5. How did the creation of the dragon change the world of storytelling? How does the addition of a dragon change a story?
  6. Dragons are frightening and should not be included in any children’s story.
  7. Do dragons become more frightening the older we get? Discuss this question with examples.
Book review, Books with current issues, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

You hold me up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel.

The four words : You hold me up ring throughout this picture book, highlighting the importance of family, trust, friendship and love.

Written by two Canadian authors, this story highlights the damage done by the government to indigenous children in the past and at times, now.

A pertinent issue for many countries around the world, and as an Australian, something we need to do more about.  

Children being taken from their families, never to see them again was something that happened all too often and the stories that are emerging from this are atrocious.

Many of these children and families are on a long path to healing and can only do this with the support of the community around them.

This story reminds us that we are all human and that we all need love, respect and dignity.

Monique Gray Smith has written this with the littlest people in mind and hopes to encourage dialogue among children, their families and educators.

Danielle Daniel’s illustrations are vibrant and full of warmth and love. Each picture oozes the strength of each relationship and the bond held between the people involved.

Read this story with those around you and as you do, you will realise how important it is to hold everyone in our community up.

So what else can you do with this book?

  • Think about how you can support those in your family when they are sad, have experienced something difficult or are just having a bad day.
  • Investigate the Indigenous people of your country. How have they been treated in the past and how are they treated now?
  • How do books like this inspire change? Can books inspire change?
  • Look at the technique used by Danielle Daniels: bright colours, focus on faces and how we can draw emotion into people. Experiment with your own way of exploring happiness, love and support in art.