Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan and illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibarr


Little birds flit around us all of the time, but what do they eat? Where do they go when the sun goes down and why do they wake us up so early?

In Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan and illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibarr the daily life of a bird is explained through simple language and traditional art techniques.

Through the story we hear the personification of the clouds and the moon, we wonder about the dreams the little bird has and we listen to the daily movements it needs to make to survive.

On each page the reader is told what is happening to the little bird and then in italics there is a whisper from the world telling the little bird what to do

Here come Cloud, huffing and puffing.

Time to play little Bird, time to spin across the sky.

Johnny Warrkatja Malibarr is the inaugural winner of the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator award and through his illustrations this story is brought to life. The cross hatching of the animal skin show texture, the colours of the desert show the variety of landscape in the desert regions and the night sky pages is full of dreams and wonder.

This story will appeal to readers of all ages as not only will readers learn about the daily life of a bird but Indigenous art techniques and the use of figurative language.

So what can you do?

Sustainability

What do birds need from the natural world to survive? What happens to them if some of the things the little bird does in this book go missing?

Literacy

Look at the personification of dusk and the moon. Why have they used this literary technique? Explore different ways to personify objects.

Science

Explore the daily life of a bird and create a flowchart to show this.

STEAM

Create a book based on the daily life of a bird local to your area using indigenous techniques from a local artist if possible.

Write a story about the daily life of a native animal local to your area – perhaps as it lives naturally and then as it lives in the urban environment. How would different objects interact with it?

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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.

Under the southern Cross by Frane Lessac.


Take a fact tastic tour on Frane Lessac’s most recent picture book – Under the southern cross and discover many intriguing facts about Australia that perhaps you never knew.


Such as

  • A golden staircase rises from the sea over Broome with every full moon.
  • Ribbons of rainbows hover over Tasmania at certain times of the year
  • Cape Tribulation is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world
  • The southern cross is used not only for navigation but to help with seasons and of course storytelling.

Each page is filled with simple facts but overarching this is the double page lllustration highlighting the beauty and wonder of the particular place in Australia.

Details abound and so much can be gained from just looking at the illustrations before reading the facts.

Under the Southern Cross is a great book to use in the classroom to show how we can learn about what really makes each place around Australia unique. We often get caught up in the basic facts and landmarks – this book will inspire your students to look further into each individual place and see what really makes it different.

What can you do with this book?

Geography

Plot each place on the map of Australia then compare at least two of them to discover the similarities and differences.

Why have these places been chosen to be in this book? Find another place or two that you think should be included in the book for their uniqueness.

Literacy

Write a short piece – similar to how each place is introduced in the book to introduce a place of your choice.

STEM

Explore other constellations that are important in the Southern Hemisphere.

Locate these in the night sky and find out if there are any Indigenous stories that accompany them.

Teacher notes:

https://www.franelessac.com/wp-content/uploads/Under-the-Southern-Cross-Classroom-Ideas.pdf

The box cars by Robert Vescio and Cara King

Do you remember when you had more fun playing with a box than the toy that can inside it?

Have you ever watched young children play with an abandoned box for days on end?

The Box Cars by Robert Vescio and Cara King is a delightful picture book that shows young readers the fun they can have with boxes!

We meet two best friends – Liam and Kai who are experts in making different types of box cars and racing them around the local park. It isn’t until one day that they notice someone watching them that they realise how special friends and imagination are.

Soon enough – with a bit of problem solving – their duo becomes a trio and even more box filled fun takes place!

Simple yet brightly lit illustrations by Cara King fill each page and clearly show the emotions of the children as they play. They give a sense of freedom with imagination and nature at the heart of every page.

The story delves into the wonders of imaginative play and friendship and the problems that arise when we need to consider the needs of every one around us.

The Box Cars will open up the opportunity to get children outside with their imaginations instead of inside in front of a screen. It will encourage discussions about friendships and help children to see wonder in the simple things!

So what else can you do with this book?

Literacy

Grammar – Look at the different types of verbs used to describe how the characters do different things throughout the story. Replace these verbs with different or more plain verbs and see how the story changes.

Visual literacy – Every page is a whole page illustration except for one double page spread when Eve is not in a box car. Why is this the only page that does this?

STEM

Design and Make – Build something of your own out of a box that could serve a purpose in the school playground. Create plans before it is made and outline the clear purpose.

History

Toys in the past – explore how children made toys of their own in the past. What materials did they use and how did they make them?

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)

When you’re going to the moon by Sasha Beekman and Vivienne To

Have you ever believed that you could go anywhere you wanted?

Do anything you dreamt of?

Or could be anything you wished?

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When you’re going to the moon by Sasha Beekman and Vivienne To is a beautiful story about believing in yourself and the accompanying illustrations are magical.

A young girl wants to go to the moon. She decides to take only the essentials in her small green bag and of course her pet iguana – but what else might she need to get there?

Determined to climb higher than she ever has before she takes no risks, making sure she packs a map to help her get home.

When you’re going to the moon by Sasha Beekman and Vivienne To is a story to read to young children to help them to see the importance of believing in their dreams, admiring their achievements and soaking in the wonder of new activities.

A book to share, a book to read and a book to enjoy.

We are together by Britta Teckentrup

We’re off to climb mountains, all the way to the top…Our friends keep us going – they won’t let us stop. 

We are together by Britta Tenckentrup is a celebration of love and friendship.  Through colourful illustrations and fun peek a boo holes, children of all ages will see the power of friends as the story travels along.

This book is a wonderful story to share with children as it highlights many things about self love and love of others.

It starts with the importance of our own self – our special gifts, dreams and hopes but it then shows that with one other and perhaps more than one other – we can achieve so much more.

Friends help us to see the bright side of life, they help us believe more in our selves and follow those dreams.

Young children will love the new person that appears on every page and the people shaped holes that are made with each page turn.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

We are together by Britta Tenckentrup is a book to share with all young children, one to pour over the illustrations together and discuss about how we feel about ourselves and the people who surround us.

Self belief and positive peer groups are such an influential catalysts in the development of our young children. Talking openly with children about their gifts and how working with others who respect us is important – and through We are together by Britta Tenckentrup, this discussion can be brought up so much easier.

So what else can you do with this book?

Personal Development 

Link this book with any Personal Development units of work in the classroom – talk about the gifts each child has. Discuss the important people in their lives who support them and make them feel respected and listened to.

Explore the people we are friends with – how their strengths and their weaknesses help us to become better people.

Visual Art

Look at the technique Britta has used to introduce new characters on each page.

Literacy

Explore the use of rhyme throughout the story and create a new stanza that could be added somewhere in the book to add more information about the importance of self belief and friendship.

Charlie’s Adventures by Jacqueline De Rose-Ahern and illustrated by Sophie Norsa.

Charlie’s adventures in South Africa by Jacqueline De Rose-Ahern and illustrated by Sophie Norsa.

Have you ever wanted to visit South Africa but the thought of the long flight with small children was too much?

https://www.derose-ahernstories.com/

You will either be satisfied just reading this book or will be more inspired to head on over there after reading the adventures young Charlie has with his family in South Africa.

As you follow Charlie’s journey you will learn a little of the local lingo, meet the animals that live on the savannah, walk through the city, taste the local produce, dance to some music and of course help Charlie to solve the riddles in order to find hidden treasure!

After Charlie visits a new place in South Africa, he receives a clue which he needs to hold onto in order to solve the final riddle.

The characters talk about a map which they use to move around South Africa and I would recommend pulling out a map so children can see where they might be travelling to as they visit different places.

There is an added bonus in this story – a postcard at the back! Children love reading postcards and this one is blank, leaving space for children to write their own thoughts about this mini holiday!

Charlie’s adventures in South Africa is part of series of travel books for children (which I haven’t’ read, but would be interested in seeing as it is a different way to ignite interest in other countries and its people.) In Jacqueline’s other books he visits Australia, Hawaii and England.

Teacher’s will also love this book as it looks at a country in a different way – through the people and the eyes of a child. It will encourage an interest in maps and perhaps ignite some postcard sending!

What can you do in the classroom? 

– We looked at where South Africa was on the world map, then where is was in Africa.

– As I read the book I showed matching images from South Africa – to make connections.

– As I read I asked the children to listen to and look for clues.

– After we read the children in Kindergarten drew what they thought Charlie saw on his adventure. You can see below what they have drawn and written.

Join my facebook group – Growing Globally and socially conscious children – a closed group where we share ideas on how we can talk about big issues with young children through simple activities. 

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

And join in on the Book Blog tour running this week!

blogtour

The gum family finds home by Tania McCartney and Christina Booth.

Do you actually know how hard it is to find the perfect home?

The Gum family are in need of a new home – it needs to be safe, secure ,comfortable and of course somewhere amongst the gum trees – where will it be?

Join Tania McCartney and Christina Booth as they take the Gum Family on a rocky adventure around Australia, visiting many different and amazing geological formations in Australia.

They visit the 12 apostles, wave rock, Kata Tjuta and the Glasshouse mountains – just to name a few. At each place the look for the perfect spot for a new home admiring the different ways the rocks have formed and changed over time.

Children have a great sense of wonderment and awe and this book arouses just that.

After we read this book we pulled out a map of Australia, books about each place visited and jumped on the internet to learn more.

The book does contain a map, small pieces of information and real photographs but the need to learn more was inspired – so we did just that!

Many students knew about Uluru and the Three Sisters but that was about it – so thank you to The Gum Family – these students all now know a lot more about the country they live in.

I also enjoyed pulling out old photographs of my trip around Australia to many of these places and reminiscing about how I felt in each location.

So this is what we did after we read the book:

– We researched further into each location and wrote down some more points.

– We worked out why tourists visit here and created a new brochure.

– We discussed what might happen if some of these places crumble up? Get destroyed by human interference?

– We discussed what koalas need in a perfect home.

What have you done with this book?

Book Week 2018 activities for classrooms

Need some inspiration for this year’s CBCA Book Week? Check these out!

Sustainability

  • How can we host a waste free Book week? Come up with ideas for costumes and decorations that create the least amount of waste in our school and community.

Literacy

  • Write a book review on one of the shortlisted books.
  • Write down the name of a book that you treasure on a gold coin, book shape, pirate ship, image from book.
  • Write a letter to the author of your favourite book telling them why you treasure it.
  • Write a letter to someone to tell them you found treasure but you have been captured! Tell them where they need to go to find you!
  • Explain why one book should win over the others
  • Explore the protagonist in each story – which are animals? Which are humans?
  • BOY by Phil Cummings- choose a story that you love and draw it as a comic strip or a whole picture without any words.
  • Choose a book, write the name and the title on some decorated paper or shape and place in on the genre treasure map on display.
  • What is treasure and can it mean different things to different people?

Geography

  • Plot on a map where the authors of each of the shortlisted books have come from.

Numeracy :

  • Graph the winners of past CBCA awards: Male vs female, winners from each state etc.
  • Draw a map of the library and plot where different books can be found.
  • If you could buy ten new books for the library – what would they be and how much would they cost? Write a letter to your principal outlining why the school needs these books.
  • Create a map of where you would hide treasure at our school and write down directions using the points of a compass and strides.

Science

  • Do not lick this book: How is a germ like a treasure? Draw a microbe and show why it is like a treasure!
  • Florette – How is a garden, plant or flower like a treasure? Draw your favourite outdoor space that is like treasure and explain why you need this treasure.
  • Design a new library.

Art

  • Search for different paintings that are considered treasures. Do you agree or disagree and why?

Books from 2017 that encourage you to be kinder the people of the world

There were so many lovely books that I came across this year that encourage young readers not only to think about those around them in their own community but also those who live on the other side of the world.

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Being a part of a community is so important and knowing how to look out for others in our community is something that we all need to do.

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Being kind to others whether they be our next door neighbours, residents in our suburb or children we hear about in the news is something we should all encourage our children to think about. It should be something we as adults should think about too.

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Once we think about others we can reflect on our own actions and perhaps make more sensible choices in what we buy, what we do and what we say. Every little thing we do will impact someone in someway and taking a leaf out of one of these books might just change an action you are going to take today.

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Feather by Phil Cummings

Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Say Yes: A story of friendship and hope

Children in our world: Refugees and Migrants

Whatcha Building by Andrew Daddo

I’m Australian too by Mem Fox

The Ones that Disappeared by Zana Fraillon

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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/

A science storybook about forces: Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones

Are you finding the concept of pushing and pulling a little tricky to teach or understand?

This science storybook about forces is a wonderful way to look at simple forces and how they occur in the real world.

The concept of forces is explored through the lovely ‘Bird’ who uses pushing and pulling in many different ways throughout her day. She pulls a worm out of the ground for breakfast, pushes twigs around for her nest and uses strength to push, pull and carry things to and from her nest.

Richard Jones’ illustrations are delightful and reflect the changing light of the birds day.

The story is told in a matter – of -fact way but children will love seeing the bird build her nest, explore the woods and lay her own eggs. And becuase this story is so easy to understand, the concept of pushing and pulling will be too.

A science storybook about forces: Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones is an excellent book to have in any early science classroom as it makes science real and will help you to get outside and start to look at all the different forces coming into play in our world every moment of the day!

There are some simple activities in the final pages of this book alongside an index and bibliography which will help to continue the conversation about forces after the story has been read.

Can you do anything else with this book?

Visual arts

  • Explore how the artist has drawn movement. Explore different ways to show something is moving.
  • Explore the different colour of the sky throughout the day and how you can replicate that in your draawings.

Literacy

  • Explore the verbs used in this story and which ones relate to forces.

Science

  • Go outside and find other things that use this force.

BUY NOW FROM FISHPOND

Bird Builds a Nest: A Science Storybook about Forces (Science Storybooks)

AND THINK ABOUT HOW THE RUBBISH YOU LEAVE BEHIND IMPACTS THE NATURAL WORLD – BUY FROM BIOME TO MAKE LESS OF AN IMPACT!

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 Flying Optometrist by Joanne Anderton

Have you ever wondered how someone who needs glasses in the outback gets them with no local optometrist around? 

Wonder no more as you meet one of the many optometrists in Australia who regularly fly to remote areas such as Wanarring and Tiboburra to give eye check ups to people who need them most. 

The Flying optometrist by Joanne Anderton and illustrated by Karen Erasmus is one of those picture books that intrigues you straight away. We meet Stephanie, a young girl who has broken the glasses she needs to wear everyday – but as we can see from the dusty illustrations, she lives in a very small and remote town and cannot get them fixed straight away like many people who live in more urban areas can.

And that is where we meet the Flying Optometrist!

The size of his plane is something to worry about as he navigates storms but with great flying skills he makes it – just a day late – and is ready to help those in need.

This picture book really teaches those who aren’t aware of flying medical practitioners just how important they are to these small towns. Without people who are willing to spend time flying around, these Australians wouldn’t get the help they need.

BUY HERE

Karen Erasmus’ illustrations give the feel of the dry and desolate outback, the small population of the town and the importance of a town centre.  Joanne’s words paint the story of those unsung heroes who use their skills as often as they can to help those in need.

This picture book is based on fact and there is some excellent information at the end of the story where you can discuss with children about how the Royal Flying Doctor Service started, what they do, who this book is based on and the Brien Holden Vision Institute.

I really enjoy books that are based on real-life stories or information as it is a great way to learn.

This information at the back is a great way to end the story – and when you read it again (which you will) you and your children and students will be able to ask so many more questions and wonder so much more.

Check out this interview with Joanne Anderton and her Father, Philip Anderton.

Teacher notes can be found here

And some more teaching ideas:

Exploring people and problem solving. 

  • Find out more about Philip Anderton or another flying optometrist.
  • Explore where medical professionals needs to fly to in Australia.
  • What is the Brien Holden vision institute and where do they fly to?
  • If we didn’t have medical professionals willing to fly planes, what would happen to people of the outback? Or what changes would we need to make?
  • If medical professionals can’t get to a town what else could they do?

Creative thinking

  • Explore some other books which are written as picture books but are based on a true story.
  • Can you write your own short story or picture book based on a true story?
  • Create a way in which people who live in these remote areas can get better help in the future.

What’s at the end of this piece of rope? by Tania Cox and Jedda Robaard.

What’s at the end of this piece of rope? 

Do you leave it? Pull it? Or ask some friends to help you investigate? 

All this is explored through a simple and fun text written by Tania Cox and Illustrated by Jedda Robaard.

With a repeated refrain : What’s at the end of this piece of rope? , a small girl enlists the help of many friends to help her to work out where this tightly held rope is anchored to.

Working together is a key concept in this story and with engaging and fun illustrations, young children will see how important and fun team work can be.

The young reader will love chanting the refrain and also wondering which animal friend will help next. You can ask questions to your young reader as you skip along through the pages helping them to develop their inquiry based thinking.

Enjoy reading this book aloud or encourage your early reader to read to you. Not only is this book a great early reader it is also a great book to spend time perusing through the images of the animals who fill up this book with warmth.

Buy Now – click here: What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What else can you do with this book?

  • Question – what else can be at the end of a piece of rope?
  • Question – should we always pull ropes by ourselves?
  • Question -Why do we need other people to help us sometimes?
  • Which animals are in this story, write down their names and the countries that they come from.
  • Look at the sounds they make as they pull the rope. Can you think of some other sounds that you might make when something is heavy?
  • Why are there not many words in this picture book? Explore the importance of pictures.
  • Please and thank you are used quite a bit in this story – why are these words important?

STEM solves Fairy tales: Rapunzel by Jasmine Brooke.

Did Rapunzel really think that throwing her hair down to the prince was the only way she was going to get out of that tower?

Perhaps she knew how strong her hair was because of the numerous hair strength experiments she had done? Could she have tried to create a zipline out of there? Or could have Rapunzel’s parents avoided this whole catastrophe and grown their own herbs?

The answer is yes – Yes through science!

Many children and adults love fairy tales but perhaps not many of us have really thought of the possibilities of these fairy tales changing for the better.

STEM is an increasing focus in schools and can be used in so many ways at home too.

I loved the creativity of this book series as not only does it capture children’s imagination, it also integrates many aspects of science  – living things, engineering, the scientific method, design, hypothesising and creativity!

It’s something different – combining literacy and science  – and a great way to engage young children!

This book is part of a set of four that you can buy here:

 STEM Solves Fairytales: Rapunzel: fix fairytale problems with science and technology (STEM Solves Fairytales)STEM Solves Fairytales: Jack and the Beanstalk: fix fairytale problems with science and technology (STEM Solves Fairytales)STEM Solves Fairytales: Goldilocks and the Three Bears: fix fairytale problems with science and technology (STEM Solves Fairytales)STEM Solves Fairytales: The Princess and the Pea: fix fairytale problems with science and technology (STEM Solves Fairytales)

When the mountains roared by Jess Butterworth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what else can you do with this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher notes written by Vanessa

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

‘The teachers’ notes Vanessa prepared for me were well thought out, comprehensive and completed in a timely manner. They captured the essence of Esme’s Wish very well and would make a valuable addition to any teacher’s tool kit.’ Elizabeth Foster, Esme’s wish. 
 

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster, http://elizabethfoster.com.au

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Educational services

Please contact me if you would like any of the following paid educational services

– Written teacher notes linked to the Australian curriculum for novel studies.

– Talks for parents and teachers about Gifted education.

– Lesson plans and units of work related to picture books, junior and young adult fiction , science and sustainability.

I can be contacted by email at nes.ryan@bigpond.com

Please see my About me tab to see my experience in the field of education.

The chronicles of Jack Mc Cool: The Amulet of Athlone by R.E.Devine

Ever wondered, ‘What’s special about me?’. Jack did and soon discovered that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, even ones with sticky-up hair and an unending supply of dodgy one-liners.

Jack Mc Cool is funny, full of energy and bright- but he is also forgetful and gets in trouble from his teachers. He lives with his family and goes to school – just like any other ordinary teenager.


But this all changes the day he tries to escape the annoying requests from his brother to help him prepare for his school play.

Jack climbs into the attic of the house and in an effort to escape his brother, stumbles upon a trunk – which looks like a great hiding place but ends up being something completely out of the ordinary.

The Amulet of Athlone is the first book in a series of 6 which takes the reader on an magical adventure back in time to the Kingdom of Eireann to recover 6 powerful gems that will restore peace to the Fianna people.

Ruth Devine’s writing is fast paced and action packed. Each chapter in The Amulet of Athlone leaves you with a cliff hanger, subtly recaps what has happened and allows you to really get to know the characters.

Ruth was inspired to start writing this series of 6 by her three sons, who all have ADHD. She wanted to create an adventure story with a quirky main character that not only would her boys want to read about but also other children who may be reluctant readers or have ADHD.

You’ll feel like you know each of the characters by the end of the book and if you’re like me, be quite happy to join Jack and Finn on the next quest. You’ll be amazed by the magical spells and tricks played by evil banshees and mesmerised by the description of the places Jack visits. You’ll also see how important family, friends and positive support  are to all children, especially those who are a little bit different and don’t always fit what the teachers at school or society expect from them.

The Amulet of Athlone is a great start to this 6 book series and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Teacher notes coming soon – Watch this space!

Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin Hamid

The idea of swimming on top of freshly mown grass which has been swamped by fresh water conjures up ideas of the simple and care free nature that comes with being a child. This scene, amongst others in Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin really sums up how beautiful childhood can be when we are free to take life slowly, not worry about money, war or jobs and just play with our friends and imagination.


Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin Hamid is a cleverly written fiction book written for 10-15 year olds. Written from the perspective of young Farida, the reader explores life in Sudan before the war consumes the nation.

Farida is a carefree, playful and imaginative girl who not only enjoys helping her mother around the house also enjoys learning about the world around her. Farida has an English  Mother, A sudanese Father and sister and two brothers and experiences traditional Sudanese culture on a daily basis but also learns English and some western ways from her mother.

Hot beans for breakfast, endless cups of tea, outdoor meals and stifling heat are all part of growing up in Sudan. Visits to the local library by foot, picking oranges with neighbours and helping out with a friend’s mother birth are something perhaps foreign to many children in the western world.

Through the eyes of Farida we learn about the Sudanese traditions of prayer, mourning ceremonies and important religious days. The reader is also exposed to each chapter being written in English and Arabic.

Swimming on the Lawn is a quiet read and through the simple short stories there is so much to learn about a life devoid of electronic devices, fast food and a fast life. The childhood of Farida and her siblings seems idyllic until the war begins – and we all know where that has led the nation that once flourished.

Fremantle Press have provided some thought provoking teacher notes for you to use. It is a great book to debrief about and explore more about how children in other countries live.  This book can be used to ignite children into thinking about how they can make their life a bit slower and a bit more playful.