Tales from the inner city by Shaun Tan


We took the orca from the sea and put it in the sky. It was just so beautiful up there, so inspiring. But the calls of the mother never stopped.

Every story in this compilation will make you think about the world we live in and the relationships we have with animals.

You will come across animals we have forgotten, places that once were and never will be again, animals that live within our urban environments and others that want to live with us. You meet animals with agendas  – and will come away from each story wondering how much you really know about the animals that are part of this world.

Each story is accompanied with an illustration which adds more depth. Each story is filled with ideas rather than character or plot development but leaves you wondering – how did we get here?

These stories and poems can just be read for pure enjoyment and reflection but they can also be pondered upon – with the question – Is this really it?

This book is for older readers to enjoy and think about how animals can save us, and how our lives are forever entwined, for better or for worse.

So what can be done in the classroom?

Animals & Sustainability

Look at the table of contents and explore the way this has been created. Research how humans have and do interact between the animals and themselves. Draw similarities between the animal and human.

Compare and contrast the living habitats of animals who dwell in urban and rural areas. Are there benefits to either way of living

Explore the collective nouns for each of these animals.

Literacy

Explore flash fiction / microstory about a chosen animal after reading one in Tan’s novel (crocodile, butterfly, snails, shark, cat sheep, hippos, orca)  

Explore the famous short story by Ernest Hemingway

Why is this a good story?

Explore how picture books can tell a story in less than 500 words.

What do they need? What don’t they need?

Flash fiction does not have images – or perhaps only one – so you will need to tell more but still not as much as a short story.

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Lucky and Spike by Norma MacDonald

Have you ever wondered what life is like out in the desert of Australia where the Spinifex grass grows and the stars shine all over the night sky?

Through the eyes of two cute hopping mice – Lucky and Spike – you and your young readers will see what they get up to each night as they search for food and escape from hungry predators!

Every night Lucky and Spike enjoy the spinifex seeds leftover from the local women who grind them to make bread but as we find out, they are not the only ones who are in search of food.

Lucky and Spike need to use their quick legs to escape a hungry feral cat and a barking owl but with the help of the camp dog and the sharp spinifex grass, they escape.

Norma Macdonald’s illustrations highlight the colours of the desert and the people who live there. The animals are full of life and we can see their movements over the pages as they hop, fly and run throughout the night.

There is so much to enjoy about this book and so much to learn, it is a must for anyone interested not only in the diverse landscapes, people and animals of Australia, but also the need for better solutions for native species.

The hopping mouse lives in Australia in small pockets of sand dunes, grasslands, gibber plains, heaths and open forest .   

They are on the vulnerable species list and are closely monitored by different conservation groups around Australia. Feral cats are a huge problem due to their ability to hunt the mouse with little detection. Other feral animals who roam free also play a role in the degradation of soil and small grasses – needed to provide safety and shelter.

Lucky and Spike is a fun book to read for younger children but also one which can be used for older readers to explore further into different desert animals.

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository Premiere

So what else can you do with this book?

Sustainability

Look at the final page in this story and read what Norma has written about feral cats. Explore the different organisations who are trying to cull these creatures and the different ways they are doing this.

Visual Arts and Artists.

Explore the art works by Norma MacDonald and other books she has written ( Spinifex Mouse by Magabala books)

Literacy

Find the verbs used to describe how the animals move around. Create a list of other verbs these different animals might use during the night and then during the day.

Science

Research further about Spinifex Hopping mice and Barking owls.

Discover how cats become feral.

Join my facebook groups if you like!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sociallyconsciouschildren/about/

The elephant by Jenni Desmond

Once upon a time, a child took a book from the shelf and started to read……

About elephants.

The elephant by Jenni Desmond is a beautiful non-fiction picture book which will teach you almost everything you need to know about elephants and the important role they play in the world.

Did you know that without elephants watering holes would remain shallow? Or that pathways through the rainforests would not be accessible to smaller creatures? Or perhaps that their poo is not only a source of food for other animals but also a place to carry seeds for many different types of plants.

The pictures in this book are stunning and although the writing is lengthy for younger readers they will soak up the information whilst staring at the sketches.

Jenni Desmond has written two other books about endangered species, highlighting the importance for us to take a lot more care of them. With growing population and a demand for space to grow food, humans are encroaching on their space to live and pathways to move.

I only just read an article last week about elephants in India and the deadly clashes that are occurring each year. 

Stories about endangered animals are important but so are factual books. We need to know more about these species so we can talk to governments around the world and demand that more care is taken.

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

  1. Look at other books about elephants – non fiction and fiction!
  2. Work on your own project about the history between humans and elephants. How have we felt about them throughout history? Why have things changed?
  3. Explore the different places elephants live and the positive encounters people have with them.
  4. Explore other animals who have helpful poo. What might the world look like if poo was not deposited they way it is?
  5. Create your own information book like Jenni Desmond’s that highlight important facts about another endangered animal.
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Visit my facebook group – Growing globally and socially conscious children to explore more ideas together!

Minimising waste and reading more books!

2018 has been a great year, filled with so many wonderful books sent for reviews and bought for home or our school library.

I don’t have the time right now to list all of my favourites and I don’t know if I can choose either!! But here are a few Recent ones:

Another great thing that has happened this year is our movement towards creating less waste in landfill this year.

We’ve kept on composting and worm farming,

Reducing our food waste by making banana peel cake

Making our own dishwashing detergent, dishwasher powder and other sprays around the house!

And trying to use less packaging where we can.

I’m hoping to share more tips and tricks for parents to create less landfill waste in their homes without stressing about being zero waste – which I am sure turns many people off as it is quite unattainable for many who work full or part time, live in the suburbs, have kids, care for others .

If you know anyone who would like to join me and learn from my mistakes and my successes then pass on my blog.

See you in 2019!

The rabbit, the dark and the Biscuit Tin by Nicola O’Byrne

Do you have a child who does not like to sleep?

Have you ever wondered what your evening would look like if the dark never came?

I know we’ve all wished it, especially on those wonderful summer days.

The rabbit, the dark and the Biscuit Tin by Nicola O’Byrne is a cute story about a little rabbit who does not like going to bed and wishes that the evening never – ever came.

But little does he realises that without night time, many living things suffer.

The rabbit, the dark and the Biscuit Tin by Nicola O’Byrne will  teach children about the need for night and day, and the animals and plants that need it.

The illustrations are vibrant and the pop out towards the end will amaze young readers.

The rabbit, the dark and the Biscuit Tin by Nicola O’Byrne is a perfect story for those children who do not like bed time as after this book they will come to appreciate just how important it is!

Teacher tips

 – Science: A great resources for Early Stage One and Stage one when looking at day and night.

 – Literacy: A great resource to use for creative writing – what could you place in a biscuit tin?

 – Life cycles and animal habits – why do they need day and night? Which animals would not survive without one or the other? Which animals have had to adapt to city living because we have too many lights? (Sustainability, STEM, Science, Geography)

Where in the Wild by Jonny Lambert

“The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Where in the Wild by Jonny Lambert is an engaging picture book which shows the reader the beauty of different habitats and the animals that live within each one.

On each double page spread we learn about the plants that make the space habitable for the diverse group of animals who choose to make it there home – but there is a great aspect to each page which young children will love.

On each page is a window to another page which shows how some animals can live in two different types of habitats – even when they are quite different – we loved guessing where they might lived the first time we read the book and enjoyed talking about how they can live in both habitats on subsequent occasions.

On each page are colourful pictures of the animals, plants and insects interacting accompanied by rhyming story and also some small facts about different types of animals.

Where in the Wild by Jonny Lambert is a great book to raise awareness about how animals need special places to survive and it is up to us to ensure there are more of these areas – not less.

So what else can you do with this book?

SUSTAINABILITY

In your local area is there habitat for different animals? Find out who lives here and how they live in this environment.

Can you make your local green spaces better places to live for local animals? Try planting more trees and having less grass or built up space.

GLOBAL ISSUES

Where in the world do large rates of deforestation occur and why? (Geography Link, Numeracy Link)

Explore why people chop down large areas of trees and which country is most responsible  – is it the country where the trees are or countries that buy the products or two own the land?

ANIMAL CONSERVATION

Explore the life cycle of different animals and why they need certain habitats as they change and grow. (Science link)

Which animals in the world can only survive in certain areas?

How many different types of animals are on each page? Explore a favourite of yours and the area they live in.

And – come over and join my facebook group where we discuss how we can help our students and children understand and take action on these big issues!

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

Can you find me? By Gordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington

Tufts of grass, muddy banks, forest floors and watery gardens are all places animals hide  – with every intention of never being found, but perhaps you can find them?

Gordon Winch has worked alongside Patrick Shirvington to create this picture book which not only allows readers to search images but also read along with the story through the use of repetition and simple language.

On each double page spread the reader will hear clues that will help them to find the animal who is trying to camouflage in their natural habitat – some are very easy to find while others are quite tricky!

Early readers will get a feel of how each page is written and start to read along as they search the illustrations.

The Australian bush land is full of so many marvellous animals and so many of them are very well hidden so that if we ever want to see them we have to be very quiet!

This picture book is a wonderful way to teach children that when we are in the bush, sometimes it is important to be quiet, look around, listen and most importantly tread carefully because all creatures are there, we just need to take the time to look for them!

Many of the animals in Can you find me?  are endemic to Australia so by bringing their habitats to life through questions really engages children and will help them to think about each animal as they venture into the natural world.

Can you find me? By Gordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington

And – come over and join my facebook group where we discuss how we can help our students and children understand and take action on these big issues!

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

Tilly’s Reef Adventure by Rhonda N. Garward

A turtle hatches from her egg and immediately her life is in danger – we know that has always been that way but how have humans made the dangers even more numerous?

Tilly’s Reef Adventure by Rhonda N. Garward is a wonderful book – both illustrations and story engage young children from start to finish and gives them so many different ideas for questions they can ask.

The main character in this story is Tilly, and she is a new turtle, born with an instinct to survive.

She escapes from crabs, birds and barracudas but it is the one thing that she wasn’t prepared for that nearly kills her – a plastic bag!

Luckily for her there are some caring humans around who help her out of the bag as they continue to pick up rubbish along the beach.

Continue reading

If Sharks disappeared: Why sharks are important for our whole planet by Lily Williams

What would happen if sharks disappeared completely?

Do we really need them? Can we live without them?

All these questions will be answered in this cleverly written and illustrated book by Lily Williams – If Sharks disappeared: Why sharks are important for our whole planet.

A healthy ocean is home to many different creatures and if we get rid of any one of these creatures the ocean will be unbalanced and possibly have devastating effects on other animals, sea life and then life out of the ocean.

This book spells this devastation out in an easy to digest way for young children. They will not feel worried, fearful of the future or helpless – they will feel informed and powerful.

Lily Williams tells us the facts and tells us what will happen if we don’t do anything about overfishing, shark nets and ocean pollution but she doesn’t leave us hanging – she also tells us what we can do if we want to ensure the world stays balanced and healthy.

Excellent facts and suggestions to stop shark numbers falling are outlined in the final pages and are a great place to have further discussions with children.

The end pages of the book show the different types of sharks that inhabit our oceans – a great place to see the diversity of these scary looking creatures!

So perhaps if you are a little afraid of sharks, love swimming in the ocean and eat fish on a regular basis – this is a book for you and your family as after reading this you will hopefully look at the humble shark just with a little more empathy.

So what else can you do at home?

LIVE SUSTAINABLY

– Eat little fish. Many fish are caught in large nets so therefore sharks, dolphins and whales are also caught up in the mess. If you need to eat fish choose types that are sustainably and ethically sourced.

– Go down to your local beach and look out for any pollution that might effect the animals that live in the ocean. Pick it up and work out what you can do with it.

SCIENCE – LIFE CYCLES

– Draw up a food chain and work out who eats who in the ocean and what might happen if one of these creatures disappeared.

– Where do sharks live? Which sharks live near you? Work out how they live, what they eat and how long they live for.

Are any scientists researching sharks?   

See what this scientist is doing! 

GEOGRAPHY

– Where in the world do different sharks live? Is there anywhere where sharks cannot live?

LITERACY

– Choose another animals and work out what would happen if they disappeared. Write a text similar to this one or in story form to teach others about the problems that would arise.

– Look in the media for articles about sharks. Are they positive or negative? Collate and see how the media is making us think about sharks.

BUY NOW FROM FISHPOND – CLICK IMAGE BELOW

 If Sharks Disappeared

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/

The littlest things give the loveliest hugs by Mark Sperring and Maddie Frost

Hugs from someone you love or someone who cares for you are just one of those things that can make your day seem so much brighter.

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And that’s why we loved reading The Littlest things give the loveliest hugs by Mark Sperring and Maddie Frost.

You’ll sail through this book and meet different parents who just love their little ones and the snuggly hugs that they give.

The rhyming and repetition will entrance young readers as will the brightly coloured illustrations.

We loved discussing how the different animals did hug each other with their different sized limbs and bodies. We also wondered how they lived and the different body covering they each had.

The littlest things give the loveliest hugs is a fun book for young readers and a great way to explore the role of parent and child in the animal kingdom!

So what else can you do with this book?

  • Explore how these different animals live.
  • Explore how long babies in each animal group stay with their parents.
  • Look at rhyme and the different words that rhyme with hugs.
  • The end pages are lots of fun to look at – explore the differences between the front and the back.

BUY FROM FISHPOND

 The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs

AND CHECK OUT BIOME’S GREAT PRODUCTS THAT WILL HAVE LITTLE IMPACT ON THESE LITTLE THINGS!

Biome Eco Stores - Zero Waste, Toxin Free, Ethical Choices

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

Snap review: Missing by Sue Whiting

I couldn’t put this book down.

A heart wrenching, page turning young adult novel by Sue Whiting , missing is one to read.

You’ll be immersed on the awful emotional journey a young girl named Mackenzie must take as she learns her mother has gone missing.

Her mother is a scientist with a specialty in bats. She travels the world speaking at conferences and out in the field discovering new bats and disease seen in them.

Mackenzie’s mother hasn’t returned from her recent trip to Boquete in Panama – and hasn’t been in contact in any form. No one has seen her and as to her whereabouts- there are mixed messages.

No one is telling her anything and the police can’t find her

She clings onto anything she can to feel like her mother is still alive and it isn’t until she does some of her own detective work that she comes to learn what really happens.

You won’t be expecting the ending and you’ll be drawn in by the strength displayed by Mackenzie, a year 6 girl, on the cusp of high school.

So many people go missing every year in Australia and although many are found, many are not.

Take a read of this to see how those who are left behind feel throughout the searching process.

Echidnas can’t cuddle

But with my spikes, I can’t even hug my very own mother.

 

Poor Eric.

 

He is covered in spikes and they are getting in the way of his need to cuddle. All he wants to do is cuddle someone and feel the joy of a warm embrace but all the other bush animals are too frightened of his spikes.

Penny the platypus cries, koalas are cuddly up high in the tree and rosellas with all their feathers can put their wings around eachother at any time. Poor little Eric.

Upset with his situation, Eric runs away and then runs even faster when a snake tries to bite him, bees try to stng him and an eagle tries to snatch him.

Luckily he has spikes – those spikes that he hates and wishes he never had – to save him.

Eric learns to love his spikes and comes to realise that even if he can’t give a hug to someone he loves, he can give them a kiss.

Eric the echidna is quite the loveable character in this rhyming picture book. He displays many characteristics that children will relate to  – jealousy, fear, independence, lack of self esteem,  love for others and love for himself. Echidnas can’t cuddle is a great story to use to talk about self acceptance and learning to love the different things about each person.

Lauren Merrick’s images have been created through collage and print and are wonderful to look at, talk about and wonder how they were created to give the feeling of texture and life.

Echidnas can’t cuddle was shortlisted for the 2017 Environment awards because of the way it raises awareness about these spiky creatures, its habitat and the other animals that live around it.

http://www.eacl.org.au/2017-shortlist-announced/

So what else can you do with this book?

 

Science

  1. Find out more about echidnas! Where do they live and are they endangered?
  2. What types of animals are echidnas and who else belongs in this group?
  3. What are the spikes made out of ? What else can you find out about these spikes?

Creative writing and drawing

  1. Write a story about another animal that wants a cuddle but can’t.
  2. Choose another Australian animal and write about a journey it might go on in order to find something positive about itself.
  3. Re create an image of the Australian bush using the techniques Lauren Merrick has.

Self awareness

  1. Link back to self – what do you love about you? What do you worry about? How can you help yourself to be proud of everything you are?

Amazing animal babies by Chris Packham and Jason Cockcroft

Which animal lives in it’s father’s mouth as an egg? How big are earthworm eggs? And which creatures need to fend for themselves as soon as they are born?


Babies of any kind are amazing yet many of us know little about animal babies – unless we see them on the news as part of a zoo breeding program.

Amazing animal babies by Chris Packham and Jason Cockcroft is a wonderful book that teaches the reader about how different babies are grown in the womb or egg, how they develop and the amazing things they can do from a young age.

Each page is accompanied by Jason Cockcroft’s vibrant illustrations that depict how the animal lives and moves in its habitat. The pictures bring the facts to life and help the young reader to absorb the facts that they hear or read throughout the book.

A great aspect of this book is towards the end where readers can discover more through some extra facts. I love when books provide this extra information as it really empowers children to go on and explore more about the particular animal they are interested in.

So how can you use this book?

  • Choose one or two of the animals and then research some more about them through library books and easy to read websites.
  • Are any of these animals endangered?
  • Where do each of these animals live? Plot them on a world map – country awareness is really important to build from an early age.
  • Should we use the cute factor to save endangered animals? Would this help? 

Hush

We have read Possum Magic by Mem Fox many many times but at the moment it is taking on a little bit more meaning.


We have a resident possum and her baby living in our cubby house. Even though this may sound cute, the reasons they are there are heartbreaking.

– The mother has huge gashes on her body either from a fellow possum fighting for a tree or from a cat – and there are way too many cats who roam our neighbourhood at night.

– They have not been able to find a new tree due to the many trees that have been cut down in our area due to recent development.

– Our chickens are not very welcoming pets and they did not like the possum and her baby living in their coop.

We tried to build a possum box but she just didn’t move to it. We placed it at the right height, put fruit, old fur and poo in it but she just found the pretend oven in the cubby house more inviting.

We hope that her mother has some invisibility tips for young hush as I am just not sure how well they will go with so many cats around.

Australia – we need to take more ownership of these so called pets. If you have a cat please lock it up at night, place a bell and collar around it’s neck (even if it is chipped) and provide stimulation for it at home. Check out the PETA website – they are against cruelty to animals and even they suggest keeping your cat indoors – that says a lot to me.

I’m drafting up several letters to send to councillors and I am going to be pushing this issue. If they can rid the national park near us of foxes, surely they can bring in tougher laws for cats.

Think about Hush.

Fluke by Lesley Gibbes and Michelle Dawson

The little southern right whale was born under the shadow of the great harbour bridge.


Fluke by Lesley Gibbs and Michelle Dawson is a beautifully told story about the day a southern right whale gave birth to a calf in Sydney Harbour. Lesley Gibbs gentle storytelling skills alongside Michelle Dawson’s mesmerising illustrations make for a loving tale about a mother whale in search for her baby deep in the harbour.

This event was only the third one recorded in the last 200 years so it made a great impact on the locals who were able to watch the baby grow, become lost and then reunite with it’s mother.

Not only do we get to read this lovingly told tale, we are also able to learn more about Southern Right Whales through small facts on the front and back covers.

The story of Fluke brings to light the care that so many of us have towards living creatures when we see them in distress. It shows just how much many of us love the living world around us and marvel at the wonders it gives us everyday.

So how can we link this to sustainability? 

  • Learn more about whales – where they live, what they eat, how they move and any historical facts about human contact.
  • Are whales endangered? There are many different whales – are all of them endangered and are they all endangered by the same things?
  • How does our water usage effect these great mammals? Can you use water in a more sensible way so that it is not effecting the whales?
  • Do you know of any other stories about animal conservation that have been created into picture books? There are a few on my blog — Can you create your own?

 Phasmid

 Rhino in the House

 The hairy nosed wombats find a new home

The little Corroboree Frog

Circle

Feathers

  • Is climate change or global warming effecting these mammals?
  • How can you make sure you are making less of an impact on how whales live?

Try this:

 Use less chemicals in the shower (Check the ingredients on your bottles)

 Use less throw away plastic  – it can end up in the oceans.

Walk instead of driving

Use less heating or cooling when you can add a jumper or open up some windows instead.

Eat at home or in a restaurant instead of getting take-away.

Make your own food instead of buying food in excess packaging.

Check out some great Biome products here

Magic Fish Dreaming by June Perkins

I’m writing this story in a bottle lost at sea…..

 

Magic Fish Dreaming by June Perkins is a collection of poems for children that ignite imagination, incite dreaming and explore the great land and wildlife of Australia.


Poetry is not something I read a lot of – but after reading Magic Fish Dreaming by June Perkins I believe it is something I should do more often.

Not only did I enjoy the diverse range of poems included in this book but the children I read it to lapped it up.

My son asked me to read the poem about the Cassowary several times over along with Pond Pests and Magic Fish Dreaming. We loved the rhyme in some poems, the storytelling within others and the speech between families.

Each poem told a different story and really ignited conversations about fairy teeth, why a Cassowary wasn’t at his home and the possibility of us going on an adventure in a bottle.

June Perkin’s poems are short yet effervescent. They are perfect for reading out loud and some of these poems can also be read as a group. Helen Magisson’s delicate pastel illustrations compliment each poem and add more mystery to those poems which make you sit and wonder; what if?

Not only are these poems full of imaginative places they also bring up issues of endangered animals, loss of habitat and the importance of respecting the land. The beauty of these poems that talk about cane toad invasion and loss of natural habitat is that the message can be quickly understood – something that is really important when trying to educate young children.

Magic Fish Dreaming is a wonderful anthology and one to share with your young children.

 

So what can you do at home?

 

  • Read the poems out loud – which poems can you read together? Which poems have different characters?
  • Find the poems that have rhyme – do you prefer poems with or without rhyme?
  • Which animals are mentioned in the story are endangered? Find out where these animals live and why they are endangered.
  • What are cane toad poles? Why are cane toads pests?
  • Rain is mentioned in a few poems – explore how rain can help and hinder the people and animals of the land.
  • Choose a favourite poem and create a short story from this poem. You could explore the idea of writing a story from a bottle or perhaps finding your own fairy tooth.

 

National Threatened species day

Today is National threatened species day and a great day to pull out a book so you can learn more about an animal that is in need of help.

What is a threatened species?

A threatened species is an animal or plant that has numbers which are becoming lower. This could be due to loss of habitat, feral animals or disease.

Why celebrate?

This day is celebrated in order to raise awareness of how we can start to reverse the decline in numbers and reflect on the past – where we have let animals become critically endangered or extinct.

What can you do?

Pick up some books:

CLICK ON IMAGE TO BUY FROM FISHPOND – FREE DELIVERY! 

Koala Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Rhino in the House: The Story of Saving Samia One Small Island   A-Z of Endangered Animals

CLICK ON IMAGE TO READ BOOK REVIEW AND TEACHER NOTES

Koala by Claire Saxby

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Phasmid by Rohan Cleve

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Rhino in the House by Daniel Kirk

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A-Z of Endangered animals by

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One small island  by Alison Lester

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Create a poster to share with otherscheck out my blog post on this activity.

Encourage a public speaking competition where children creatively teach others about endangered species

Write your own stories about an endangered animal who has been saved just like Rhino in the House or Phasmid or The Hairy Nosed Wombats Find a new home.  

Check out my simple lesson plan here: Writing a non fiction picture book

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What will do to to help children learn more on threatened species day?

Stripes in the forest by Aleesah Darlison and Shane McGrath

We will hide from their eyes, their dogs, their fire sticks.

We will survive.

For always, we will be. Stripes in the forest. Stealth in the shadows.


A book written for those who value wildlife. A book written to stir awareness of the precious animals in our care. A book written to ensure that we do not wipe out any more animals due to our actions.

Aleesah Darlison has created a story which captures the sprit of the last wild Thylacine, hunted down by man. Stripes in the forest is not so much a story of hope but one of warning. As I read this book to my children and some classes there was a sadness that overcame us all and many questions – why did they hunt them? What did they do wrong? Are they still alive? What can we do now?

The Thylacine was an amazing creature that once inhabited mainland Australia but was slowly hunted out due to farmers killing them to protect their flocks and hunters killing them for sport. The last known Thylacine died in captivity in 1936 but since there rumours have abounded as to whether or not some have still survived.

Shane McGrath’s illustrations give more depth to the story adding the darkness of the rainforests, the hiding places the Thylacine seemed out when it was hunted and the fear it felt when it lost it’s family. The Thylacine is drawn in great detail, giving the reader a true understanding of how it looked and moved.

Stripes in the forest will need some extra discussion after it has been read as it is quite dark; Guns are fired and animals are killed – a very sad reality which still happens today.

But despite it darkness it brings across a very important message – we need to look after the animals on this earth. We need to support those who work in animal conservation so that no more animals become extinct. We need to learn from our past mistakes to make sure this does not happen again.

The facts at the end of this story are a great way to inspire further research into the Thylacine and perhaps some groups who still believe it may be running around somewhere in Tasmania!

So how can we link this to Sustainability? 

  • Check out a list of endangered animals and find out how humans are impacting their existence.
  • Explore these questions – Do we really need as much farm land as we currently have? How does farmland impact on native animals?
  • How do you cause animals to become endangered and how can you change this? (Do you have a cat that creeps out at night? Do you drive instead of walking? How many native plants are in your backyard or local park?)
  • How are conservation groups and scientists helping some of these endangered animals?
  • How does poverty or war cause animals to become endangered?
  • Write to your local government asking them to do more for the animals in your area.
  • Talk about these animals to others and by raising awareness we can make a difference!

One very tired Wombat by Renee Treml

Feeling a little sleepy but ready to learn about some beautiful Australian animals?


Put on those snuggly pyjamas and have a read of this delightful counting book – One very tired Wombat by Renee Treml.

One very tired Wombat by Renee Treml is a intricately illustrated counting book where one wombat just wants to sleep!

As the wombat tries to snuggle down he is disturbed by furtive frogmouths, playful penguins and bubbly budgerigahs until he sneezes – which you’ll have to read for yourself to find out what happens to all of his noisy guests!

Not only will your child be exposed to counting both forwards and backwards between one and ten but they will also learn a little bit about each cheeky animal throughout the story and then on the back page of the book.

Renee Treml is a very talented artist and each animal has been drawn with expert detail and care – so much so that your child will easily recognise these birds if they are seen in the wild.

SO what can you do at home?

  • Learn more about these cheeky birds who you might hear in the morning if you live near nature reserves.
  • Create your own counting book with ten of your own favourite animals from your country.
  • Renee has used alliteration throughout the story. Explore the words she has used and then think of how you could describe some different Australian animals and birds.
  • Visit Renee’s website and learn about how she creates her images. Perhaps you could try this with young children by scratching onto wet paint to create a picture using lines.
  • Plot on a map where these animals live in Australia. Are any of them close to you? Are any of these animals endangered?
  • Where do wombats live? Explore where wombats usually sleep so they can avoid noisy feathered friends!

 

 

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

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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.

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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/

 

 

Python by Christopher Cheng and Mark Jackson

It’s morning in the bush.
Python stirs and slithers out from her shelter.
She warms her head and smells the air
with her forked tongue.
Python is a beautiful snake,
but also dangerous
– and she is looking for a meal

Python by Christopher Cheng and Mark Jackson is a captivating picture book that takes you along for a ride as snake looks for her next meal.

Illustrator Mark Jackson brings the danger of the snake to life through his descriptive illustrations of snake sneaking up on her next meal, camouflaging amongst rocks and basking in the warm sun with her brood.

Christopher Cheng not only writes an enchanting story of the snake and her meal seeking adventure, he also adds in some great facts along the way that even the youngest reader can engage with.

Python teaches the reader about Pythons, their habitat and behaviour. Many of us are petrified of snakes and perhaps would rather throw a rock at it than let it run away. When we read stories like this to our children we are building their awareness of creatures like snakes, who are dangerous, and allowing them to know more about them to realise that the snakes are probably a lot more scared of us!

Did you know that pythons might only eat once every four weeks? And that they can unhinge their jaws?

The world of pythons is dangerous yet intriguing and this CBCA shortlisted picture book is a book for all to enjoy.

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101 Collective Nouns by Jennifer Cossins

Have you ever wondered what to call a group of seals?otters? cows?

Well wonder no more – this is the book for you!


101 Collective Nouns by Jennifer Cossins is a highly engaging and educational book that teaches the reader the different group names given to different types of animals – well 101 of them!

Who thought of calling a group of cranes a siege? or a group of goldfish troubling?

The background behind each group name isn’t given but it sparked our interest  – which is something I love about this book. Being able to spark an interest or some extra imagination is a wonderful characteristic of a great book.

Jennifer Cossins illustrations are delightful and show the diversity of size, shape and colour within each animal group.

101 Collective nouns is a great way to start teaching  others about not only the amazing animals we have living on our planet but also the creativity of the English language!

So what can you do at home?

 – Find out why the different group names are given to each animal.

– If you could change any of these group names what would you change them to?

– Are any of these animals endangered?

Check out some more of Jennifer Cossins designs

Published by Lothian Children’s books (Hachette Childrens)