The Dog runner by Bren MacDibble


“When the world turns upside down, the ones that survive are the first ones who learn to walk on their heads.”


The Dog Runner , written by Bren MacDibble is a  poignant Middle grade fiction book that allows readers to delve into a world where food is scarce and the world population is suffering.

We meet Ella, the quiet city girl who has lost her mother and hasn’t seen her for 8 months.  She borrows books from her neighbour by sliding them under his door and she remembers life before people started to become dangerous.  Her father and brother live with her and each day, although comforting to still have some of her family, is an act of survival.

Until her Dad doesn’t return home.

Ella and her brother Emery need to find not only their Dad but also Ella’s mum and Emery’s home out in the Mallee scrub. If they can find this place not only will they find his family but they will be able to live off the land and not have  to live off canned sardines and old books.

But to get there they need to pass people who will stop at nothing and land that has little water or shade. Ella and Emery shouldn’t have to take a dangerous journey like this – but they must.

But that’s when Maroochy, Wolf, Bear, Oyster and Squid come in –  A pack of dogs who are strong enough to pull a sled across the barren land. The adventure starts when they take off from the city and it is non stop suspense as they bump and race over the land.

The Dog Runner highlights the importance of the danger of relying too heavily on the use of pesticides on farmed land, large corporations who focus on one type of grain and thinking we can constantly kill our soil and hope that it continues to give us more food.

In this world that Bren MacDibble creates, a fungus has killed all crops around the world and it is only the genius of Emery’s grandpa that gives Emery and Ella hope that the world will again be fed and hopefully more aware.

Indigenous farming methods are the best suited farming methods for Australia and it is about time that we started to take more notice of how they looked after the land and always had diversity in what they grew. Many crops in Australia are not suited to the climate and the soil has been mistreated so poorly that the reliance on pesticides is increasing.

This book sends a message to us all – re learn your Australian history and trust the methods and the crops that the first Australians grew. Stop relying on multinational companies and start looking towards smaller scale farms that take time to look after soils and produce.

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Lizzy’s Dragon by Melissa Gijsbers

“No, you cannot have a pet lizard -” Lizzy’s mum said, “And before you ask, no snakes either. No reptiles of any sort.”

 

Lizzy’s Dragon by Melissa Gijsbers is a wonderful new fantasy  novel for younger readers – and they won’t want to put it down!


I know that as a young child I always wanted a different pet -a dog, a rabbit, a fish or a bird – I never wanted a lizard, and still wouldn’t want one crawling about in the house But Lizzy does, and she is determined to get a pet of her own.

Lizzy lives on a farm which is going through drought. The grass is brown, the dams are dry and their is the ever present threat of bush fire.

Lizzy is a strong, caring and clever young girl and perhaps by luck or perhaps by magic she stumbles upon a round shaped egg in the field outside their house. Her brother Joey discovers Lizzy and her secretive behaviour and does what many siblings would do – threaten to tell their parents if she doesn’t let him on the secret.

Despite Lizzy’s efforts to keep her egg (and then pet dragon) a secret, her brother finds out and Lizzy has to put up with doing all of his chores – that is until she discovers the magic her dragon holds and possibly the real reason the dragon egg happened to land in the drought stricken land.

Full of magic and mystery, Lizzy’s Dragon is an story you cannot put down. Younger readers will love this story as Lizzy is a character many children will identify with – she is thoughtful, she fights with her brother, she cares for her family and she wants the best for the place she lives in.

Dragons are magical beasts which excite and engage many readers and the beauty of this dragon is that it comes across as one of the best possible pets you could have.

Lizzy’s dragon is a wonderful read – one to read out loud or for better readers –  to read alone. The pictures within the novel give the readers some more insight into what Lizzy and her dragon look like and ignite more of that wonderful imagination.

Magic, mystery and mettle, Lizzy’s dragon is a book to inspire the best in all of us.

So what else can you do with this story?

 – Design your own dragon. What egg would it hatch from? where would you keep it and what would it’s special gift be?

– Are there any areas close to you or in your country that are experiencing drought? What do these places have to do during times of drought?

– Have you ever helped out in your community? Find out how you could help in some way at a community event.

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Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai

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


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

To tell you the truth I was a little bit hesitant about reading Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai to my six year old. But she wanted to read it. She told me she wanted to know more about poor people, why they are poor and how we can help them.

Perhaps the numerous stories we have read and conversations we have had are paying off.

Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is wordy but is written in language that children can identify with. I didn’t feel that I needed to paraphrase any of the story or leave anything too confronting out. I didn’t even need to come up with a reflection of what we can do as the final pages give ideas to the reader.

This book gently looks at poverty and hunger – and leaves the reader empowered to do something, not fearful of the world we live in.

We need to read these books to our children as this is the world we live in but we need to do it in a way – as done in this book that educates them so they know why these things can happen. Different reasons are given for poverty and hunger and also different ways volunteers and governments try to help out to alleviate these issues.

Children in our world: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is a must have for anyone wanting to explore these issues with their children and students.

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 Poverty and Hunger (Children in Our World)

On the River by Roland Harvey

Come with me from the mountains to the sea.

 

How well do you know the Murray River? Do you know where it flows from and too and what is along the way? This is the perfect book to do some lounge room exploring from!

Ronald Harvey has written some great books which explore Australian environments, share secrets and learn about the people, animals and plants that live alongside and amongst it.

On the River is a delightful picture book with detailed illustrations on every page that leave you searching for the main character, bird life, antics of the local people and the amazement of the river itself.

This book is both educational and entertaining as you travel along thousands of kilmotres through farms, tourist areas, dams and towns. The reader learns about the importance of the river and the devastating effect human activity is having on it’s life.

As humans clear more land for housing, over fish rivers and take water for farming the river and it’s diverse ecosystem is failing. There is more drought within towns that once thrived on the river and more toxic bursts due to chemicals we put down the drains and onto farming produce. So many people love and enjoy this river that it really is time we started to look.

Ronald Harvey drives home this big issue through facts about the river, it’s history and the people who love it.

So what can you do at home?

GEOGRAPHY & SCIENCE

  • Look at the map on the inside cover and then find another map of the Murray River on the computer or an atlas. Look at the different towns along the river and find out more about them.
  • Find out where your water comes from. Where is your water tank? Local dam? Water tower?
  • Check out the health of your local water source with some simple water testing kits. Some are more in depth and can check for all sorts of minerals, metals and bugs!
  • What would we do if we did not have rivers?
  • How are rivers the life blood of our country?
  • How would Australia look if we did not have the vast river system that we do? And what might it look like if we do not take care of these rivers?

All i want for Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke

All I want for Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke and Megan Forward is an uplifting story about a young girl’s belief in Santa and the power of Christmas Spirit.

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A family of farmers are about to celebrate Christmas but the farm is parched, the dams are dry and spirits are low. The watercolored illustrations  by Megan Forward highlight the dryness of the country.

Jane, a strong and thoughtful young girl is an inspiration to any youngster who is yearning for more presents for Christmas. Jane encompasses the true meaning of Christmas when she travels into town on a ‘long shiny train’ and asks Santa for one thing – rain!

All I want for Christmas is Rain is a melodic read and the illustrations add to the emotions of the family over the Christmas period.

Children from the country will understand Jane’s position and children from the city will gain some insight into the harsh realities of farming life in Australia. Perhaps even gain more appreciation for the places our produce comes from.

All I Want for Christmas is Rainis a great new story from New frontier publishing would be an excellent addition to the Christmas gifts – alongside many local and handmade toys, tickets to shows and love rather than more plastic things.

How does this link in with sustainability?

  1. Precious water. 

Review or learn about the water cycle. Link this knowledge of the water cycle to a rain map of Australia or the country you live in. Why do some areas lack rain? Look at the influence of mountain ranges, coastal living and the role major rivers play in the outback.

2. Where does our produce come from?

Using supermarket brochures, local farmers markets and and social enterprise networks; work out where they get their produce from. Is it sourced local? Interstate or from overseas?

3. How is different produce made and does it rely on water? 

A great project could be delved into under this banner and interchanged with different produce. (Links with numeracy, geography and science)

EXAMPLE: RICE.

Where is rice grown in Australia? Create a map of the rice growing areas.

How is rice grown? What is needed – create a timeline of rice growing .

How much water does it take to produce a bag of rice?

Is white rice a good crop to grow in some areas of Australia?

Is there a better alternative to this grain that may not rely on as much water?

Create a more sustainable way to grow rice or a better crop for our environment.

4. Christmas gifts

Write down a list of things you can give to others for Christmas that have less of an impact on the environment. This could be tickets to shows or places, handmade items.

Munkle arvur and the big dry – some simple ideas! 

This is a great read aloud story for all children as it introduces then to many different literacy devices and a big environmental issue of water conservation.

This book reminded me of Dr Suess as the story is filled with nonsense words, alliteration and rhyme.

Water is precious! ‘This land has dried up!’ Munkle said, feeling sad, ‘Dustified desert? oh, it’s crickling up bad.’

‘And the Tikaroo Springs? They’ve been sucked up this hose! I smell Bod-mischief here and it’s blocking my nose.’

Readers are introduced to the importance of water conservation through this energetic story of the water stealing Bod and the Eco loving Munkle! It was a refreshing environmental tale as I find many have a sad tinge to them:this one doesn’t but still sends across a message for our young readers to take in.

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

  • Play with alliteration! Can you make up sentences that contain all the same sounds as your child’s first name sound?
  • Rhyme! As you read see if your child can finish off the sentence.
  • Nonsense words. What do these words really mean? How did Nikki Slad Robinson come up with them? Try to create your own words by blending two words together!
  • Compare: find some dr Suess books and compare the language and writing style. Try The Lorax as this also has an environmental theme.
  • Do you know any Bods? Keep a water diary at home to see who is the biggestBod in your house! Think of some ways you can conserve water.