Yesterday at the EdSummit conference Brisbane, I had the great joy of hearing the amazing Aleesah Darlison deliver a lively and engaging presentation called “Saving the Environment through Story”. Uber-talented Aleesah has long been a huge advocate for the environment and has repeatedly taken up the cause of various creatures through her creative work. And what better time to write this review than following that experience on this, World Environment Day!!
This new series from Penguin/Puffin is going to be a real winner with little people, their parents and educators as it explores hitherto not-so-well-known Aussie critters.
First up is the adorable and really very special spotted handfish which is found only in the Derwent estuary near Hobart, Tasmania. Young children will love to hear about Coco and while this is not a narrative in the traditional sense it has a strong sense of story mixed in with the fascinating facts. These sweet and interesting little fish are critically endangered and it is imperative that we all do what we can to protect and conserve the most humblest and smallest of creatures – because they all have their important role to play.
Highlighting the information which is presented in such a palatable and easily accessible way are the absolutely tremendous illustrations from Mel Matthews. Having read the book last weekend, and then listening to Aleesah yesterday my mind immediately raced as to the many possibilities for activities, inquiry and action that one could undertake with kiddos. For those who are looking to focusing on Australian species and taking an active stance on conversation this series is going to be absolute gold, in my opinion.
I’m so thrilled to be able to count Aleesah amongst my literary friends – her talent, generosity of spirit and genuine commitment to educating and encouraging children to take up the challenge of protecting our fragile environment.
Read more about the series here and find teaching resources here – our junior library is about to populate a gifted fish tank with inhabitants and I think this is going to be a perfect accompaniment to that real-life activity.
I cannot recommend this highly enough and am so looking forward to seeing the forthcoming series titles!!! Well done Aleesah on another evident success!!
In my opinion it’s a rare middle-age novel that can transcend reading interests, age groups and genders but this is most definitely one that can. Certainly your middle grade readers will love it but it is just as appealing for older readers, including adults, as well as competent younger readers with its blend of whimsy and fantasy, strong conservation theme, friendship and family, humour and adventure.
Kate’s wealthy estranged uncle is considered ridiculously eccentric and irresponsible by her parents and really she knows very little about him. Certainly when she writes to him on a whim and asks for a birthday present she doesn’t expect to receive one. She definitely doesn’t expect the gift of a full-sized steam locomotive which appears in her back garden.
While her parents wrangle over what to do with such an unwanted and cumbersome gift, Kate and her younger brother Tom ignore parental doubts and distrust and board the engine in the middle of the night. The journey that ensues is both a revelation and a test of the children’s resilience, initiative and bravery.
To their complete astonishment the locomotive takes off through the night and guided by the engine’s own ‘voice’ they soon arrive at a station where a curious assortment of animal passengers wait patiently with valid tickets to board. The children do not take long to realise that their job is to ensure that each of these creatures, endangered due to various impacts on their natural habitats, are safely delivered to new homes where they can have some certainty of survival of their species. From the sweetest baby pangolin to a very cantankerous porcupine, a beautiful mamba to a sad and lost half-starved polar bear, the Silver Arrow has a mission – one that is filled with moments of danger and near-misses but ultimately the trip of a lifetime for all.
Readers will be thrilled by the excitement of the adventure and adore the laughs to be had but will also learn a great deal about the plight of many of the world’s most threatened animals. Like Kate and Tom, one might hope that they will also take action to do what they can to preserve and conserve the wonders of nature against loss of habitat, introduced invasive species and of course, humans.
I cannot recommend this highly enough for your readers from around 7 or 8 years upwards. It is both a joy and an inspiration and, in my opinion, destined to become a modern classic.
Where to begin with this absolutely glorious book? Once again Tania has created a jewel of colour and style with her distinctive stylised illustrations and combined with information both fascinating and amazing this is a treasure for readers of all ages.
The wealth of facts about a wide variety of our unique animals is presented in bite-sized segments perfect for easy digestion by avid little naturalists from as young as seven. Each beautiful double spread is crammed with such detail yet easy to absorb with life-sized art of such things as teeth or eggs , annotated portrayals of the animal, scientific names, habitats, diet, appearance, distribution and much, much more all of which will delight and intrigue the reader.
The important issue of conservation is not neglected. Several pages conclude the book with vital information about endangered or extinct animals encouraging children to take action to prevent the loss of more of our natural wonders.
The lineage of animal life is included as is a beautiful spread describing the astonishment of European arrivals with reproductions of early representations of these curious creatures.
An extensive glossary and index complete the volume making this the complete package for young investigators and researchers.
Tania knows well that her books normally do not leave my own personal shelves. However I am going to make a supreme sacrifice with this particular title. This year I have had the pleasure of a little American girl who has been one of my keenest participants in library activities of all kinds. Sadly for us, her university lecturer dad has completed his exchange and she and her equally delightful family will be returning to the States. I can think of no better gift to give her as a keepsake of our shared year and know that she will truly love it.
My prediction is that this should definitely be a given for any award short-list and in my opinion a winner. I highly recommend it to you as a valuable addition to your shelves or a special gift for a child of your acquaintance. With Christmas fast approaching it would make a truly prized present in someone’s stocking!