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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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?

Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood

Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood is a moving and informative story told through the eyes of a young boy who lives on a farm through abundance and scarcity.


Nature rules the lives of so many whose livelihood depend on the great cycles of nature causing great joy and also great distress.

As most of the population live in cities and suburbs of those cities we really need to take the time to appreciate what goes on on those farms and how much weather patterns plays a role in what the farmers can and can’t do with produce and live stock.

The young boy in this story is waiting for his friend Rick to come and visit him again over summer and is making comparisons to last year when  the river flowed, the green grass, the number of animals around and the extra time they have to put into the farm when the grass isn’t there for the animals to feed on. He hopes that perhaps Rick will bring some rain with him.

Two Summers is a beautifully written book with soft and emotive illustrations. You can feel the emotions of the family through their daily life on the farm and begin to understand what farming life is like when times are tough.

So how can you link this book with your children and family to make more meaning? 

Geography: Taking a trip to the countryside is so important but if it can’t be done there are many local farms that are often within an hours drive of a major city.

Take some time to see where your food comes from and learn how the amount of rain, the fluctuations in temperature and the pressure from large multinationals plays a role on the lives of the people who provide food for us.

English: Look deeper into perspective – how would you feel if you lived on a farm? How does this boy feel?

Science: Look at the rainfall and temperatures of a large farming area where your food comes from. How do you think this climate effects produce?

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.