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.

Advertisements

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/

Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler

You have his mark Mia, between your shoulder blades. The dirrarn (black cockatoo) is your totem. Your jarriny (conception totem) totem

I adored this book so much so that I read it twice.

Mia, a young indigenous girl lives on the coast of Western Australia in a remote town surrounded by bush land, water holes and hot red dirt.

She lives with her family, which includes her grandparents, but feels lost between the culture and traditions of her past and the present world she lives in.

But Mia feels the past so much more than her brother does. She feels the pain of the he injured animals and smells danger and freedom on the wind.

The story revolves around Mia rescuing a black cockatoo who has been injured by her thoughtless brother.

We learn about the beauty of persistence, following your beliefs and believing in the power of positive actions.

We also learn the importance of listening to the past, embracing culture and tradition yet looking towards the future.

Black Cockatoo will not only entertain readers from ages 9-13, it will also teach them about owning their beliefs and standing up for what they know is best.

Black Cockatoo would be a great book if o study as a class group as the Jaru language is scattered throughout the story-in context-so readers can learn how to speak this indigenous language from The Kimberley.

As Australians we need to eEmbrace more of our indigenous languages and teach not only those with indigenous heritage but also those who don’t.

Black cockatoo by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler is a beautiful story and I hope that it can be shared with many more children!

Clever Crow – Wak Liya-Djambatj by Nina Lawrence and Bronwyn Bancroft

 

 

When a hungry crow can’t find any food, he has to be clever.

IMG_2652

 

Clever Crow – Wak Liya-Djambatj. Written by Nina Lawrence and illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft is a traditional Australian indigenous story about crows and how clever they are. But what makes this book even better than just being a story, is it is a story told in two languages – English and the Djambarrpuynu, a Yolnu language from the north east of Arnhem Land.

 

As you turn each page you can read the story in either English or Djambarrpuynu and ponder on the patterned images that fall across the pages.

 

For those who cannot speak Djambarrpuynu an orthographic guide has been placed at the back alongside a glossary.

 

Clever Crow teaches the reader about persistence and patience. It shows us that even if we don’t achieve something that we want so much, with time we may just gain it.

 

Children are introduced to difference Australian animals,  traditional indigenous cooking activities and the patterns of indigenous art.

 

The colours of the illustrations jump off each page, lighting up the story from the bright sands of the beach to the darker shades of the bush. The patterns and lines within each block are something to look at in detail to understand the texture of the trees or the contours of the land.

 

Clever Crow is a book that all children across Australia should be reading and it would be wonderful to see more books like this written so we can share the Indigenous languages of Australia and keep them alive for many more generations to come.

What can you do with this book?

Explore the artwork and the patterns within each illustration. Compare the illustrations to that of images from Arnhem land – can you see the patterns in the landscapes?

Find another indigenous story from this part of Australia.

Find an indigenous story from where you live in Australia.

Think about how you have been a clever crow in one aspect of your life OR how you can be.

 

The great lizard Trek by Felicity Bradshaw and Norma MacDonald

Written by Felicity Bradshaw and illustrated by Norma MacDonald, an Aboriginal Yamatji artist, The Great Lizard Trek is an excellent addition to the science, geography and sustainability curriculum in classrooms .

It is also a wonderful book for family homes where nature lovers will delight in looking at the detailed illustrations, the maps and the reasons why we need to care more for the world we live in.

The Great Lizard trek takes us on a journey from the north to the south coast of Western Australia. Along this journey we meet the different types of lizards who live in this part of the world and learn their indigenous name and the indigenous country they come from.

Not only do we learn about these lizards we also learn that they are having to move from the places they have always lived because of climate change. Many lizards cannot cope well with extreme heat, lack of water, too much water or lack of shelter. And we often forget that reptiles play just as an important role in the ecosystem as mammals and marsupials do – not as cute and cuddly so they just don’t get the attention.

We learnt a lot about different lizards and were especially surprised by Goannas and how important temperature was for the development of their eggs. If the eggs get too hot – all the babies will be girls and this is a big problem for the future.

The Great Lizard Trek is a book you can read in one sitting or one you can take your time with, drawing on information, flipping to the maps included at the back and the from of the books and doing a bit of your own extra research.

The story is engaging as are the lizard characters we meet. The dialogue between the characters adds lots of fun to these reptiles that often get ignored!

Norma MacDonald’s illustrations are highly detailed and the background for each lizard is a reminder of where they live and the conditions they live in.

Reptile’s are amazing creatures that live in Australia – and we have so many of them. The Great lizard trek is a great wake up call for all readers to see how human actions are having huge ramifications on the animal world.

Luckily for these lizards the outcome seems to be good – but will it always stay this way? Will there be a part two? I’m not sure if the part two will be as positive.

The Great Lizard Trek is an excellent book to discuss climate change from a different angle, various reptiles and to learn more about indigenous language, culture and country.

There are some great teacher notes here: https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/7807/#forteachers 

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/

Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean up by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina

Have you ever been out on a bushwalk, seen some rubbish but thought – it’s not mine, I’ll just leave it? Or have you ever left something behind because you didn’t want to carry it home?

Perhaps reading Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean up by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina will help you to consider the ramifications of those small bits of rubbish we leave behind and the effect they have on Australian bush animals.

Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean up is a great story about a very friendly lizard called Benny Bungara. We meet him on a beautiful day, warming himself up under the sun – but  when he hears a strange sound he just has to find out what it is.

Thinking it might be a new bush creature he scrambles up a tree to see but once there he discovers it’s a friendly Olive Python with his head stuck in a bottle. Benny helps remove the bottle only to find other creatures who have been effected by rubbish humans have left behind – broken glass and fishing line.

The friends know they need to ask the humans for help but while they are waiting for the help they decide to start cleaning up the place themselves by reusing some items, recycling others and putting some in the bin.

A simple message comes across in this book and young readers will understand what they need to do.

Humans have a huge impact on the planet and we all need to be much more mindful of what we leave behind each and every day.

Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean up by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina teaches children in a fun way about how to never leave rubbish behind and always think about the best place to put it once we have finished with it.

So what else can you do with this book?

 – Check out my (in very draft form) resource to help minimise the amount of waste you have in your house: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xnstqsthasuz2tu/How%20much%20plastic%20is%20in%20our%20pantry.docx?dl=0

Look at your bin at the end of the week and work out what could have been reused, refused, repurposed, composted or recycled!

Pack a waste free lunch box for a week and come up with different ideas that help you to leave less rubbish behind.

Explore images of animals around the world who have been effected by the rubbish humans have left behind.

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/

Nganga by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson

Nganga is an authoritative and concise collection of words and phrases related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues. The word Nganga (ng gar na) means to understand, to see.

In Australia we come across many indigenous words in our daily lives – but do we know the true meaning or origin?

Nganga is an excellent compendium for readers to be able to engage and explore indigenous words.

On each page a new word is presented and the reader is able to learn about the history of how the word became ‘European’, where in Australia the word came from or from which country in Australia it belongs to.

Written by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, Nganga allows all people – young and old to have easy to understand access to the Aboriginal language.

The culture of Aboriginal Australia is not only one of the oldest cultures but is unique and vibrant. This book provides insight into how to pronounce the different words, the respect needed around certain parts of Aboriginal culture and the way we can all learn, grow and love the country we live in.

Nganga would be a great book for many schools as it is easily accessible from early reading ability and aligns strongly with the National curriculum.

Sorry day by Coral Vass and Dub Leffler

Long ago and not so long ago, the children were taken away

Sorry Day is a very important picture book  to share this Sorry day – or any future Sorry days.

Released on May 1st, Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Dub Leffler is a powerful story that highlights both the impact on the families who lost loved ones when they were taken away and the impact Kevin Rudd and the Australian community had when they formally said sorry in 2008.

The scene is set as we meet young Maggie who is excitedly waiting at the Sorry Day speech but amongst the excitement she loses her mother and frantically searches for her amongst the sea of legs and people.

But as we watch Maggie we also see the loss the Indigenous people experienced during the period of The Stolen Generation, we experience through word and illustration how it would have felt to be ripped apart from your family with no warning.

Dub Leffler’s illustrations are amazing and give so much more emotion to this meaningful story. We hear the story and we see the people.

We hear their cries and we feel the emotion as we watch their faces.

We read the history and we see how this has effected the current landscape.

Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Dub Leffler is picture book you will not forget.

I’m sure children will have many questions about this topic once this story has been read as the links between a child getting lost in a crowd and the story of children being taken away really pulls at the heartstrings and stirs so much emotion.

Delve deep into this topic with your young readers, explore the past and think about how we can make the future a better place.

What else can you talk about?

  • Explore the quote: Long ago and not so long ago, the children were taken away.
  • How did the story impact your emotions?
  • Why did the author jump between the past and the present?
  • How has the illustrator shown the difference between the past and the present?

Sorry Day

  • When is Sorry Day and how long have we commemorated this day?
  • Explore the impacts of The Stolen Generation.
  • Why was there a Stolen Generation?
  • What can we do now to ensure inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous people lessen?
  • How can you share the story of Sorry Day with others?

Creative Arts

  • List any songs that you know of that explore this theme.
  • List any artwork that you know of that explores this theme.

There are some excellent teacher notes here: https://flickingonthebook.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/3fe4b-sorrydayteachers27notes.pdf

Buy this book now from Fishpond:

Our birds: Nilimurrungu Wayin Malanynha by Siena Stubbs

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”
― Marc Riboud

Siena Stubbs was given a camera three years ago, and now at the age of 15, she has been able to publish some of her favourite photos of birds that live in Arnhem land.

Each photo is accompanied by information about the bird in words by Siena. These words tell us some simple facts about the bird and how she took the photo  –  which make this book so enjoyable for children to read.

Readers will also learn why she has chosen this bird to be in the book and where she often sees that bird.

Not only are we learning about the birds of Arnhem Land, we are also learning about the land, the sea and the sounds each bird makes.

Buy now through fishpond: Our Birds: Nilimurrungu Wayin Malanynha

Our birds allows the reader to learn the language of the Yolnu people and understand how each bird was given its name.

We loved looking at the different types of photographs taken at different times of the day and in different locations. And every child that read this book was intrigued by the Indigenous language names for each bird.

This book is a great book to read but it is also a great book to use as a springboard for other activities.

What can you do with this book?

Geography

  • Look at the map of Australia and learn where Arnhem land is. Discover what life is like up there for children.

Culture

  • Explore the different moiety groups, language groups and cultures in Indigenous Australia.

Science

  • Learn more about some of the birds in this book.
  • Which birds only live in Arnhem land? Which ones travel to other countries or places in Australia?

Visual Arts

  • Look at the different ways the photographs of the birds have been taken. Critique the different techniques and then explore your own photography skills on some local birds.

Literacy

  • Explore the way the information has been written in this book. It is written in first person. How does this make the reader feel? Could you write this information from a third person perspective? Could you research and find more information to make this a different type of non-fiction book?

Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Australians have had many injustices done to them since 1788

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

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

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

What else can you do?

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

BUY HERE – click on book below.

Alfred's War

I remember by Joanne Crawford and Kerry Anne Jordinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what else can you do with this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the city I see by Tori-Jay Mordey

Have you been on a trip to the city lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Molly the Pirate by Lorraine Teece

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

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

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

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

A clothes basket could turn into a pirate ship.

A backyard chook into a fearsome pirate

A washing line into a sail .

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

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

So what else can you do?

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

Big Fella Rain by Beryl Webber and Fern Martins

Thunder Rolls – BOOM!

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

Big fella rain coming


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So what can you do at home?

Explore Water 

Explore the animals of the Top end

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

Explore art

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

 

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

Free Diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shapes of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft

Swirls, whorls, circles and rectangles.

Lines, dots, waves and zig zags.

Red, green, blue and orange

The personified text of Bronwyn Bancroft’s Shapes of Australia brings each of aspect of nature on these pages to life. Her colourful Indigenous style illustrations use different types of line and shape to form abstract ideas of the world around us.


Bold colours, light shades give depth and shade to boulders, rivers and bee hives.

Shapes of Australia allow the reader to learn more about the amazing parts of Australian nature and how the time of day, types of weather and place of existence can change the colour of objects.

Shapes of Australia is a book that makes us look twice at the painted landscape. As the reader reads along we are encouraged to think – how do those majestic mountains merge with the long horizon or which mystical forms are inhabiting the ocean floor?

Shapes of Australia is a stunning book that emits a calming effect and inspires the awareness of colours in our world.

 

So what can you do?

Visual Art

  • Explore the natural world around you and look at the different lines, shapes and colours.
  • What were the different places visited in this story? What do they really look like?
  • List the verbs used to describe how each of the objects act.
  • How are all of these objects personified?

Sustainability

  • How are the colours of the natural world different to that of the man made world?
  • If we reduce our natural spaces how might our colour inspiration change? Where will we gather our colour from and will it be the same?

Indigenous 

  • Explore the techniques Bronwyn has used to paint the pictures in this story.
  • Where did Bronwyn learn her painting technique? Explore other artists from her Indigenous nation.

 

 

Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreisse

Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often

We all know someone who is good at telling stories – and in Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreiser (a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe)  and published by Magabala books we meet Kookoo – a kookaburra who has a knack for telling stories.

IMG_6467

Kookoo is often filled with stories but one day he cannot think of a new one – so instead starts making fun of the other bush creatures. This teasing makes the animals feel terrible and soon enough Kookoo realises what he has done and makes sure that from that day on he is only kind.

This story teaches us that in order for others to be kind to us, we also need to be kind. We need to show respect to others and always consider how our actions effect those around us.

Driesse’s illustrations are bold and colourful which conjure up liveliness of the bush creatures, emotions of the bush animals and the beauty of the Australian bush.

So what can you do with this book?

Use this story to teach young readers about kindness and respect.

Explore each character and the actions that take place when they are teased.

Explore the actions of Kookoo before and after he teases after and reflect upon times we have done this.

Gregg Driess’s artwork is beautiful – explore the use of dot painting in his story and try to draw your own Australian bird amongst the Australian sky or land.

 

My country by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan

In my country I play with the morning star

Author Ezekiel Kwaymullina, from the Palyku people in Western Australia’s Pilbara, says, ‘The book was inspired by my Nana and Gran, who passed on their love of country to me.’

IMG_6466

This must read for all ages is a celebration of Australia. Throughout the book we see the land as a diverse and bountiful playground that we can all enjoy and one which belongs to all of us.

As we listen to the text hear the young girl playing with the natural world  – sliding down rainbows, chasing the sun and swimming in the moonlight. Sally Morgan’s illustrations bring the text to life through her vibrant, indigenous artwork.

This story is a wonderful bedtime read as it flows from morning to night time, reminding us of the constant connection we should have with our land. It also teaches young children about the importance of country to Indigenous Australians and the deep connection they have.

So what can you do with this book?

Celebrate Indigenous people of Australia. Who are they? Where do they live? How do they live? What has happened in the past and how can we ensure this never happens again?

How do you view the land? Can you improve on how you see the natural world?

Look at Sally Morgan’s illustrations – draw your own picture of you playing with nature using her techniques of bold colours and lines.

 

 

 

 

Waterlilies by Diane Lucas and Colwyn Campbell

This simple yet powerful picture book will empower your child to want to investigate the outside world and the abundance we can find within it if we take the time and the care.

IMG_6465.JPG

Waterlilies by Diane Lucas brings the indigenous perspective of food and life to children who otherwise would have little idea of how people live off the land is a respectful way.

Written in both English and one of the Indigenous languages spoken in Kakadu ( Gun-djeihmi) and drawn with expert detail, this picture book will enlighten.

As Australians we need to know more about the people who cared for this land many years before white man came and took over. We need to draw more from this knowledge so we can start to treat the land with respect so it will be around in the same condition for many more years.

Waterlilies by Diane Lucas and Colwyn Campbell is a must read and one that should inspire some learning of your local indigenous language and local bush tucker.

 

 

So what can you do?

Here are some simple ideas and questions to pose to your students or children: 

Conduct your own investigations into any local bush tucker in your backyard or nearby bushland.

Write about a time you ate some local food – cooked from scratch.

What is your local indigenous language?

What sort of bush tucker is available in your area?

How can you treat the land with more respect so that we can live off it and keep is beautiful for many years to come?

Stories for Simon by Lisa Miranda Sarzin and Illustrated by Lauren Briggs.

This story speaks of love and understanding, it speaks of a time past and a time present coming together. Stories for Simon shows us that we are all part of this big world and together we can all help healing to take place.


Stories for Simon is a truly beautiful story about healing the past and working together for a brighter future.

When a young boy named Simon receives a Boomerang in the post from his uncle little does he know that the paper that wraps the Boomerang carries a message to the Stolen generations of Australia.

Sorry

With his teacher and mother’s help he learns what saying sorry means.

But it is through an unexpected friendship that Simon really understands the meaning of saying sorry.

This is a wonderful story of friendship, understanding of different cultures and reconciliation. The illustrations add to the cultural dimension of this story – both Indigenous dreamtime and the horrifying aspects of the stolen generation. Children will love looking at the illustrations as they read Stories for Simon as they add warmth and acknowledgment to each of the characters and their role within the story.

Stories for Simon will help readers to understand why saying sorry is so important, why the healing process will take a long time and why we need to continue to work towards a better future for the Indigenous people of Australia.

All royalties from this book go towards the GO foundation (Goodes & O’Loughlin) which supports creating opportunities for Indigenous Youth through education.

So what can you do?

REFLECT

LITERACY

  • What do you think the stones meant?
  • Where do you think this famous beach is?

DEVELOPING EMPATHY

  • Create your own Sorry cloud for Reconciliation week – just like the sorry stones. What do you think we can do to make Australia a better place for everyone? 

GEOGRAPHY

  • There is a forward by Vic Simms, an elder of the Bidjigal nation. Research the different nations of Australia.

 

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle, illustrated by Maggie Prewett is a fascinating story about life in the desert for three children and the trouble with the red dust that blows in and over everything in it’s path!


This group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why they always bring in grubby homework. BUT – little do they know what mother nature has in store for them all!

They live in a higgledy-piggledy house with a higgledy -piggledy garden but they play outside, tell stories in the sand, have vivid imaginations and love learning.

Maggie Prewett’s illustrations highlight the spareness of the desert and dominance of the red sand after a sand storm! It reminded me of the many times I have spent in the desert and the fact that even months after returning home, I still found that red dust in pockets of clothes and gaps in the car seals!

I loved reading this story to my children and to classes at my school during library lessons as I was able to tell them about the desert and the amazing landscape we have in Australia. We were able to discuss how theses people live near waterways and if they don’t – water needs to be trucked in – a very foreign concept to city based children.

When we read books to children we open their minds to how other children live and therefore increase empathy and awareness of the world around them.

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

  • Look at a map of Australia and see where remote communities live. How do these people live in these areas?
  • How do children go to school when they live remotely? Explore School of the Air and Central schools. Compare how you go to school to how they do. Look at this school in Broken Hill 
  • How did the children in this story pass on stories and learn? Have you ever told a story without writing it down? Try and tell a story or two using only spoken word and perhaps a drawing or two as you talk.
  • How did they use their imagination when they heard unusual sounds? Close your eyes and listen to the outside world – imagine what those different sounds could be.
  • Explore personification throughout this story. How does making the objects alive add to the story? Create your own personification sentences.

Looking further:

 

 

Making a difference in Australia.

There is still low education achievement outcomes for Indigenous children in Australia. Indigenous children deserve to learn how to read and write as much as any one else does so that they can choose to move out of poverty cycles and educate the next generation.

In many indigenous communities books are scarce and literacy levels are low.

You may have heard in the media about the low literacy rates and perhaps wondered how you can make a difference? It is really important that we as an affluent nation look towards helping developing nations but we need to look at our own communities who at times are functioning at a developing nation level – which should not be happening.

Through education, empowerment and support anyone can achieve anything.

logo-ilf-blue-transparent-v2

The Indigenous literacy foundation are an amazing group who raise money and work with indigenous communities. Through their programs they empower communities to learn how to read by giving them books and publishing books that have indigenous links.

We are a national book industry charity, which aims to reduce the disadvantage experienced by children in remote Indigenous communities across Australia, by lifting literacy levels and instilling a lifelong love of reading.

Please check them out at www.ilf.org.au  and see if your school or community can  participate in the great book swap in August:  www.greatbookswap.org.au

Say Yes: A story of Friendship, fairness and a vote for hope. Jennifer Castles.

Say Yes: A story of Friendship, fairness and a vote for hope is a perfect book which mixes both history and storytelling to tell us about the 1967 referendum.

IMG_5199

Say Yes, is told to us through the eyes of two best friends – one indigenous and the other white. We experience the heartaches, the unfairness, the loneliness and sadness that the indigenous people go through pre 1967 and then the joy – when finally the Australian law was changed to recognise Australia’s indigenous people as people of this land, who deserved to be treated the same as everyone else.

Many children would have little idea about how Australian’s used to treat the Indigenous people of this land and this story tells it perfectly. Using a mix of Paul Seden’s illustrations and real newspaper clippings and photographs we are able to see what happened and the amazing people who were part of this change.

This year, 2017, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum so make sure you share this important event and take the time to read through the notes and explanation on the law that was changes.

What can you do at home or in the classroom?

Indigenous Australia

  •  Are there any issues today that are still not fair?
  • Do you think people’s attitudes are the same or different if compared to 1967?
  • Compare how indigenous people would have been treated before and after this referendum.

Literacy

  • Write a letter to a local politician in the time of 1967 – explain to him or her why the law needs to be changed.
  • Explore the use of the sentence: It’s just not fair. What isn’t fair and why is it repeated throughout the story?

Take action now

There is still low education achievement outcomes for Indigenous children in Australia. The indigenous children deserve to learn how to read and write as much as any one else does so that they can choose to move out of poverty cycles and educate the next generation.

The Indigenous literacy foundation are an amazing group who raise money and work with indigenous communities. Through their programs they empower communities to learn how to read by giving them books and publishing books that have indigenous links.

We are a national book industry charity, which aims to reduce the disadvantage experienced by children in remote Indigenous communities across Australia, by lifting literacy levels and instilling a lifelong love of reading.

Please check them out at www.ilf.org.au  and perhaps even participate in the great book swap in August:  www.greatbookswap.org.au

Our Island by the children of Gununa

Our Island explores the beauty of Mornington Island through children’s pictures and gives you a true sense of the peacfulness and abundance of nature. ⠀


The children of Gununa alongside Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey have created this picturesque story that shows outsiders the beauty of Mornington Island and the link the Indigenous people have with the natural world around them.

Sunrise, Sunset and the hot summer sun are all depicted through the eyes of children alongside the poetic nature of the words. Simple crayon and food dye techniques are used to create a natural feeling of the island and its people.

Our Island helps readers to become more aware of the rich indigenous culture that Australia has and the beauty of places untouched by development. By sharing this story with someone you are making their world a bigger and brighter place.

Indigenous Links

  • Who are the children of Gununa?
  • Learn some Lardil words
  • Can you find out the same words for the tribe who did or still does inhabit/ed where you live?
  • How do indigenous people live with nature – how does this help the environment?

Literacy

Before: Predict what this book might be about:

  • Where is Mornington Island?
  • Who are the children of Gununa?
  • Who is Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey?

After:

  • What do you think life would be like for the people who live here? Compare your ideas from the start of the book.
  • What do you think people do on this island?
  • Are there people on this island? Why is it not mentioned in the story?
  • How do these people feel about the natural world?

Your Task

  • With a partner, describe where you live
  • Create a book just like this to show your town, your city, your island, your bushland, your ocean etc.
  • Do you think you would need to mention people?  Can you leave people our of your space like this story does?
  • Compare and contract the children of Gununa to your life. Think about the differences and how you would both feel living in each others community.