Tag Archives: Australian animals

The Fire Wombat – Jackie French. Illustrated by Danny Snell.

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460759332
  • ISBN 10: 1460759338
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

A year ago Australia was gripped by the raging fires that were sweeping through so many areas with ferocity causing so much devastation in their wake that the whole world was gasping as the scenes were broadcast. According to sources the destruction wreaked by Black Summer was unprecedented: 72 000 square miles burnt, 5 900 buildings destroyed (around half of these homes) and 34 people lost their lives. An estimated three billion land animals were impacted with some endangered species suspected to be now extinct. The Kid and I were visiting family in the Blue Mountains and the constant vigilance and state of alert around the fires that kept springing up across the ranges was both exhausting and stressful. Jackie French was just one of thousands evacuated when her home came under threat and given that the valley in which she lives is heavily populated with wildlife she was a firsthand witness to the dreadful impact on our native species.

With so many animals displaced and their food/water supplies destroyed an army of volunteers took on the role of providing fodder and clean water for thousands of creatures who otherwise would have succumbed as victims in the aftermath.

The Fire Wombat is just one of these and Jackie has crafted a beautiful testament in rhyme to illustrate the survival of our fauna, both with their own instincts and the compassionate help of so many.

One small wombat realises that bushfire is approaching and leads other animals to the shelter of her burrow, knowing that underground is the safest place to be. When the inferno has passed the creatures emerge and try to make their way out of the charred remains of their home territory, scalding their paws as they traverse the baked earth. But the fires have destroyed everything – grass, seeds, foliage, creeks and waterholes. If not for the legion of helpers dropping tons of carrots and other fodder as well as providing water, the decimation of our native wildlife would have been even greater. Jackie has captured this moving moment in our history beautifully and Danny Snell’s illustrations are a perfect accompaniment providing visual insight into the terrible destruction of the forests and mountainsides.

A truly beautiful book to both springboard discussions about supporting our fragile environment, caring for our wildlife and preparing for as well as recovering from bushfire season.

Watch Jackie’s video clip of the real Fire Wombat – now chubby and healthy after her recuperation.

You can find other images of animal rescue from Black Summer here at the Atlantic and an inspiring video of the work done by volunteers in saving animals.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – I would encourage multiple copies for your collection – and teaching notes are also available which will provide excellent scaffolding for use in your library or classroom.

Top Koala – Jackie French. Illustrated by Matt Shanks

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HarperCollins Australia

November 2011

ISBN: 9781460754818

ISBN 10: 1460754816

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 24.99 AUD

Following the huge success of Koala Bare this favourite furry friend returns with enough self-confidence to power the whole country!

I am top of every tree!

Top is always best to be.

With the terrible outcome of bushfires and the dire predicament of our native animals, particularly koalas there could be no better time to use a delightful picture book to focus attention on these amazing and threatened creatures.

Once again Jackie’s lively rhyming text is accompanied by the truly beautiful watercolour illustrations of Matt Shanks as readers follow Koala to the top of everything – whether its Uluru or Parliament House or the Big Pineapple. Children will once again be treated to exposure to some of our quirky Australian animals including that favourite – the quokka with loads of laughs along the way.

Whether you have a classroom topic of animals or Australia or simply to remind your kiddos of the need to protect our fauna,  this is superb way to introduce both and your audience will definitely be clamouring for re-reads!

Highly recommended for little readers from around 3 years upwards.

The Gum Family Finds a Home – Tania McCartney/Christina Booth

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Publisher:   National Library of Australia
Edition:   1st Edition
ISBN:   9780642279255
Publication Date:   01 August 2018

 

Tania McCartney is not only one of my very favourite author/illustrators but also one of my favourite humans. This impossibly talented woman is clever, stylish, generous, beautiful inside and out and passionate about our unique country. It took a while for this review copy to get to me but oh how worth the wait it was! And as with Tania’s other books this one doesn’t go to our library shelves or some other worthy recipient but remains firmly in my own collection.

 

A sweet family of koalas live, as they would do, in a gum tree but their home is not without its problems. High winds, busy buzzy bees, no shelter from rain and more all make for a sometimes difficult living environment and like many other families this one thinks perhaps they might look for something more congenial and comfortable. With their koala caravan hitched up they follow their black noses around some of Australia’s most glorious geological wonders in search of a dream home. Along the way they see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world but when all is said and done, they realise that their own home is special – and with just a few modifications might suit them best after all.

 

What a perfectly wonderful way to introduce kidlets to our amazing landscapes (some of which Miss No-Longer-Small and I will be privileged to see next holidays! Excitement!). I am just a little sorry I didn’t receive it in time to use it with Year 2 this term – but what the hey there’s always next term to follow up on their classroom unit! Particularly as there is a wealth of information at the end of the book about the various locations this will prove not only entertaining but enlightening.

 

Tania, you and Christina, are a dream team – and this is just beautiful as well as informative. And oh my! The end papers are just truly divine!!!! (my kiddos at school find my obsession with endpapers highly amusing).

 

Watch the beautiful Tania share this gorgeous book here.

Bill Baillie: The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby – Ellis Rowan

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Publisher:   National Library of Australia
Edition:   1st Edition
ISBN:   9780642279200
Publication Date:   01 March 2018

RRP: $24.99

 

Aptly in time for Easter (Bilbies not Bunnies!!) this is a beautiful abridged adaptation of Ellis Rowan’s fictionalised account of the little orphan bilby she raised and kept as a pet. The original was published in 1908 as simply Bill Baillie and included beautiful colour plates of some of Rowan’s wildflower paintings. Her extraordinary travels around Australia and to Papua New Guinea marked her as an unusual woman of her times and her prowess as a painter of wildlife, though she had no formal training was remarkable.

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During an extended stay in tiny Goongarra on the Western Australia goldfields in 1906, wildflower painter Tabitha is given an orphaned bilby, blind and hairless, rescued from its dead mother’s pouch. With painstaking patience she raises the little creature and takes it on many travels with her. With so little known about these tiny animals at the time, Bill Baillie became a fascination for all who came into contact with him, earning him the soubriquet of His Highness Master Bill Baillie. His quirky antics and endearing personality make for engaging reading.

This lovely edition also features some of Rowan’s wildflower plates in colour, comprehensive information about bilbies and advice for wildlife rescue. A glossary is also included to assist young readers in an understanding of language of the period.

A delightful hardback of almost pocketsize, this is just a truly beautiful book which would make a lovely gift as well as a fine addition to a primary collection.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Click here for more information about the Easter triplet bilbies and the work of the Save the Bilby Fund.

 

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ABC Dreaming – Warren Brim

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Magabala Books

  • Published:Nov 2015
  • ISBN:9781922142627
  • Format:Paperback

 

RRP: $17.95

I have purposely saved this one for the start of the school year believing it to the most beautiful ABC book I have seen in a long, long time and so perfect for introducing your preppies to both the alphabet, Australian flora and fauna and Indigenous culture.

In particular as Warren is descended from the Djabugay  people of Far North Queensland, this is even more relevant to our Queensland schools as the illustrations depict the diverse wildlife and plants found in the Far North rainforests.

Each vibrantly colourful page shows an illustration of the chosen creature or plant in traditional Aboriginal style and colours.  An interesting exercise might be to research the actual descriptions and images with the children to make comparisons between the stylised and photographic versions.  And of course while there will be some familiar names to the children, others which are unique to the Far North may require some investigation.

Warren is a celebrated artist whose work you will know from Creatures of the Rainforest.

As usual Magabala has published another truly quality book that will make a perfect addition to any bookshelf whether home or library.

Highly recommended for toddlers up.

The Great Garden Mystery – Renée Treml

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ISBN: 9780857984166

Published: 01/09/2014

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 32 pages

-RRP: $19.99

Just over a year ago I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing Renée’s second picture book, Colour for Curlews. I absolutely loved it – and I love this new one just as much.

There is great consternation in the garden. Someone is stealing the beetroots – who could it be? The two curious curlews reappear and assume the role of detectives and are enthusiastically ‘helped’ by the speculations of the other animals who either find incriminating clues such as square poos, a hole under the fence or tufts of fur or use their knowledge of character traits to fling around accusations so, as Fox is sneaky it could well be him.  Following this maze of clues leads to a final accusation against Roo – who bounds away rather than stay to face this bush court (should that be kangaroo court?). The garden is tidied up, new seeds planted and all seems calm. That is, until nightfall when Wombat (in a reappearance from the two earlier books) wakes up, and sets off for more free veggies – especially beetroot!

This is a very amusing detective story for young readers and certainly could lead to some interesting classroom discussions about taking care when leaping to conclusions.

Once again I am very struck with Renée’s illustrative techniques. In this new book, the characters themselves are quite monochromatic but the effect of them placed against coloured backgrounds in the double page spreads is really striking.  The lovely endpapers with a trail of munched beetroots against the white space are similarly attractive.

Another picture book which lends itself particularly well to read-aloud sessions and no doubt much debate and discussion about who the guilty party might be, as well as introducing some judicial new vocabulary.

Highly recommended for young readers aged 5 and up.

Visit Renée’s website here and find teaching notes here.

Aussie Wildlife Poems for Kids & the Young at Heart- John McColgan/Becky Roberts

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Self-published by Becky Roberts, Clontarf, 2014

portfoliopics.com.au

RRP $24.95

It gives me the greatest pleasure to share this delightful ‘home-grown’ book with you. That’s right, direct to you from Paradise aka the beautiful Redcliffe peninsula; a father and daughter team have produced this tribute to our native fauna, especially for smaller humans. They are, respectively, the granddad and mum of a lovely bubbly young friend with whom I taught here some years ago – and they are a very talented and creative family.

When John McColgan’s children were young, he wrote some poems about Aussie animals for them, wanting to share his love and respect for our fauna. He hoped to have enough for a little book some day but grew discouraged by his efforts and gave it up. Fast forward, to fifty years later when his artist daughter, Becky, persuaded him to have another go. The result is a quite lovely collection of original poems which share the author’s fondness for our native creatures, of all types, and a respect for their attributes, with just a little information, some humour and even warning about some dangers.   All beautifully illustrated with Becky’s skilled and imaginative watercolour (and ink) paintings

As well as koalas and kangaroos, quolls and quokkas, Tasmanian devils and dingos, little fellas like the Bleating Tree Frog are included (I have the most gorgeous big one who lives on my patio!) – and there are two wonderfully whimsical poems about the Yowie and the Bunyip – plus (yes, I know you want more!) a final piece about ‘weather warnings’ from various animals.

Small and I both enjoyed looking at the pictures and sharing some of the poems. Of course, with her new baby blue tongue curled up in her arms, her stand out favourite is The Blue-Tongue Lizard, which begins:

A well-known sight in Eastern states

Is our Blue-Tongue Lizard friend

He’s only seen in warmer months

Well after winter’s end.

You’ll often find him warming up

Basking in the sun

He might look savage, but he’s not

He’s friends with everyone! ….

We also both love The Pelican, as these birds are so synonymous with Redcliffe and we love to play our game of ‘count the pelicans’ as we drive across the bridge, to or from the other side of town.

I believe this is a worthy addition not only to your home bookshelf but for the school library where I can see it being well used for those Units focused on Australian Animals. Children will enjoy the rhymes as well as the illustrations and could ‘springboard’ to writing some poems of their own around their animal of choice.

Well done to both John and Becky on a great collaboration!

Dad & Me

Find the book:

On Etsy

On FaceBook

On Becky’s website PortfolioPics

P.S. I might add that John is about to celebrate his 86th birthday – what a great way to celebrate with a newly published book! John currently lives in lovely Laurieton, NSW.

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