Tag Archives: Environmental issues

A Whale of the Wild – Rosanne Parry

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2022

  • ISBN: 9780062995933
  • ISBN 10: 0062995936
  • Imprint: HarperCollins US
  • RRP: $16.99

This is just a magical read – the lyrical text almost flows like the water Vega and her family inhabit – and was certainly for me last night, a really intriguing but also restful way to read myself ready to sleep. That’s not to say it’s without tension and drama but there really is just something about it that just floats the reader along with the orcas.

I have to be honest. I had never heard of the Salish Sea nor was I particularly aware of different types of orcas, so reading this was also very informative and it is indeed described as ‘slyly educational’ which is pretty much spot on. *grin*

Vega and her family are already facing difficulties as their usual salmon feeding cycle has been disrupted and their hunger increases as they try to find the salmon that is usually so plentiful. They do not realise that humans have made such an impact on the ecosystem at first. Vega is learning to be the salmon finder for her family, against the day when she will become the matriarch following on from her mother and grandmother but when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami separate her, along with her younger brother Debden, from the rest of the pod, they must brave danger and threats to try to find their family again. In a sea that is almost unrecognisable they face sharks, their increasing hunger and polluted waters and Vega must be resilient and employ every skill she has learned from her mentors.

It is a rousing adventure, a wonderful story of survival and an ecological lesson all in one with superb research underpinning the entire story. It is further enhanced with beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and also includes a map, much backmatter and information on orcas.

The publisher suggests it for 8 years upwards and certainly it is not a demanding text but I am seriously considering it for inclusion with our scant ‘Animals’ genre collection for our Year 7s in particular as I think there would be many kiddos who like both animal stories and are interested in environmental topics for whom this would greatly appeal.

On that basis I’m giving it a full recommendation for readers from around Year 4 to Year 8. A very useful teaching guide is available.

Read more about SRKW (Southern Resident Killer Whales)

Toy Mountain – Stef Gemmill and Katharine Hall

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Exisle Publishing

 9781925820966

EK Books

RRP: $24.99

With Christmas literally around the corner this is a timely reminder about promoting sustainability, moderating our consumerism and caring for both our belongings and our earth.

Sam has much-loved toys with which to play and share with baby Max, some of them being handed down from his grandma but there are times he wishes he could have some new toys as well.

When the Tiny Toys factory is looking for a toy tester Sam is first to put his hand up and is delighted when the first box of shiny new plastic toys arrives. It really is like a dream come true and Sam welcomes the packages arriving daily. But it doesn’t take long at all before the packages and the new toys are piling up so fast that Sam doesn’t even have time to play with them properly. The toys are taking over his house, and spilling out of the windows and his old favourites are being buried in the heap of glittering glitzy gimmicky gadgets. Not only is Sam and his family in danger of being buried by the new toys just like the old hand-me-downs, but these new toys don’t even last! They just break or or stop working almost immediately. So now, its not even a mountain of toys but a mountain of plastic waste!

This is one great book to share with kids to illustrate and underline some very vital truths. Shiny and new is not always better. Today’s gifts are often tomorrow’s garbage. Quality is always quality, not matter how old. We live in a disposable culture but the tide is turning and many are returning to a more sustainable lifestyle. Children are fast becoming our most environmentally aware citizens and, after all, they are the ones who are going to lead the world in a very short time. It is paramount then that we as educators help to guide them to make meaningful choices and take an interest in the world around us.

The bright illustrations are a perfect foil for the text, which though simple, is eloquent and simple enough for children to discern the import of the message. It would make a super springboard for discussion into this topic whether around times like Christmas or just in a classroom setting.

Highly recommended for readers from Prep upwards – and no doubt, perfect for sharing in this lead up to Christmas.

Endangered Animal Tales 1: Coco, the Fish with Hands – Aleesah Darlison. Illustrated by Mel Matthews.

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Penguin Random House

June 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760899226
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $19.99

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!!

The Tree – Graeme Base

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Penguin Australia

  • November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897048
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $24.99

Yet again Graeme Base gives us the most beautiful picture book with a charming story that cloaks a hugely important message for all.

This is the story of a cow, a duck and a very big tree.

When two friends discover an enormous tree both are thrilled especially with the mooberries and mushquacks it provides. They become so absorbed in their new-found goodies each forgets the other is there. The situation becomes even worse when a big storm comes along and although the tree bends and survives, both Cow and Duck become jealous of each other and determine to protect their own part of the tree. Their fortifications of above and below become so extreme and so stressful for the tree that when the next storm comes along, the tree does not bend – instead it is smashed apart and neither of the friends has their guarded space.

It takes a long time but eventually a new young sapling begins to grow amidst the ruin of the old tree and this time Cow and Duck work together to protect it and share the good things it provides with all who come. A timely lesson indeed for the imperative facing each and every one of us – to protect and share our natural abundance, without selfishness and greed.

Children as young as Prep will enjoy the humour of the story and delight in finding the other creatures tucked away in each illustration, in typical Base style, but will also be able to comprehend the message. I foresee many rich and deep discussions arising from sharing of this outstanding new offering from one of Australia’s most celebrated creators.

Highly recommended for children from around 4 years upwards .

The Tindims of Rubbish Island – Sally Gardner and Lydia Corry

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Harper Collins Australia

September 2020

  • ISBN: 9781838935672
  • ISBN 10: 1838935673
  • Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr – GB
  • List Price: 12.99 AUD

This is not only a terrific story for newly independent readers to enjoy on their own but if your junior classes are planning an environmental or recycling unit this would make a super introduction to some serial reading – with a chapter per session. This is particularly so as each chapter focuses on a different character and part of the whole in turn.

The Tindims (sorry but every time I looked at the cover, I immediately thought Tim Tams! haha!) are little people not entirely dissimilar to humans except for one very striking difference. The Tindims don’t throw rubbish, especially plastic, willy nilly all over the place. In fact, they rescue and recycle trash into creative and useful everyday objects. As a matter of fact, their entire island has been constructed from discarded waste acquired over hundreds of years.

In modern times however, the Tindims are facing a huge problem. The amount of plastic washing up on their island is becoming too much for them to re-purpose and they have no idea how to persuade the Long Legs (humans) how to change their ways.

As the book doesn’t offer a solution to that problem, I think there must be more in the pipeline but in the meantime, little ones will enjoy the creativity of the Tindims, their quirky personalities and will, no doubt, be able to come up with many ideas of their own.

Recommended for readers from around five years upwards.

Tree Beings – Raymond Huber and Sandra Severgnini [with a foreword by Jane Goodall]

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Exisle Publishing

October 2020

ISBN 9781925820539

RRP $34.99

I think it fair to say that if Dr Jane Goodall is lending her endorsement to a book then you know it must be of the highest quality.

This is a beautiful volume packed with information and richly illustrated which addresses the growing desire among children to be part of the global saving of our planet.

Challenging the perception that trees are just ‘silent statues’, it focuses on four big ideas:

  • Trees give life to the planet.
  • Trees can help save us from climate change.
  • Trees are like beings.
  • Trees need our help and protection.

Through individual vignettes focused on people, past and present – the titular ‘tree beings’ – from professors to the nine-year-old boy determined to plant a trillion trees, readers will glean so much from both the inspirational accounts and the wealth of information.

In part, straight informational text but with these personal anecdotal pieces, fun facts and interactivity via in-text puzzles and mazes included this will both delight and amaze youngsters.

As a call to arms (branches?) this would be a marvellous addition to any classroom unit centred on conservation and protection of natural resources but is more likely to be taken up by individuals keen to explore its inherent beauty and subject matter. Readers will spend hours poring over the detailed illustrations and uncovering the grace, strength, science and spiritual importance of trees across cultures.

Over the past ten months the world has been forced to stop and take some stock of the mess we as humans have created as the sudden cessation of many aspects of contemporary life suddenly opened up a vista of ‘what could be’. Families and individuals alike have taken up an altered lifestyle more closely aligned to the natural world and it’s needs. How very perfect then is the timing for this outstanding volume which will encourage young readers to be more observant and to take action.

Highly recommended – indeed, I would say essential – for readers from around eight years upwards.

Teaching notes and sneak peeks available via the links below.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall – Lucinda Gifford

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760651596
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Despite it being the last week of term, this was another fun read this week and one that I enjoyed immensely with so much to commend it, particularly to your middle primary kiddos.

The Greycoat family – Randall, Leonora and their only cub, Boris – live in their splendid home in Moravia but are trying to decide on their next holiday destination. There are objections from all directions to various suggestions but when Boris reads that Scotland is planning to ‘re-introduce’ wolves, the family immediately decide that they should be the first to visit. Of course, Scotland very likely is not expecting a well-dressed, affluent and articulate family of wolves to arrive in the Highlands but the Greycoats are thrilled to be early adopters and determined to make a great impression. This is particularly so as they can trace their ancestry to Scotland – to their venerable ancestor, Lambert McLupus the first wolf to become a Scottish baron. And as if that’s not enough, it is well-known that the cakes in Scotland are wonderful and given those in Moravia are horrid, that would likely be an incentive for anyone, let alone wolves with phenomenal appetites!

The Greycoats create quite a stir but also make some instant friends which is just as well as they encounter a particularly nasty property developer who is not only determined to raze a beautiful old home but who will do so at the expense of the local fragile ecosystem and rare wildlife.

This is absolutely loads of fun to read and children will intuitively pick up on the thread of resentment towards those who are different, without justification as well as the environmental theme.

Either as a read-aloud or for independent reading this is a cracker and will very quickly find a following among your readers from around eight years upwards.

Oooh check out this cute activity book on Lucinda’s website!

The Silver Arrow – Lev Grossman

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Bloomsbury

September 2020

ISBN 9781526629418

RRP: AU $14.99 NZ $16.99

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.

Old Enough to Save the Planet – Loll Kirby/Adelina Lirius

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1578870160710

Walker Books Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781916180529
Imprint: Magic Cat Publishing
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

Another fantastic book to inspire your kiddos who are always keen to be eco-warriors especially in their own ‘backyard’ so to speak. This book collates the stories of 12 real-life child environmental entrepreneurs who have identified problems within either their own sphere/locale or globally and engineered their individual responses to solve these.

Children as  young as 9 year old Fink from Germany have responded both thoughtfully and successfully to address issues of climate change, habitats and animal protection.

From France to South Africa, India to Australia or Kenya to Ukraine these kids are the champions of the future preservation of the planet and your kiddos could be likewise.

Any unit of work concerning this topic is always a rich source of real-life applications for children and their enthusiasm for embracing and organising change is amazing. Over the years I have seen many students take up the gauntlet of being change-agents whether in their schools, their homes or their communities and certainly these real-life stories will be a source of real inspiration to your own budding activists.

Each double spread features a particular child, their story and facts that not only relate to the environmental focus but include cultural or community details in easy-to-digest snippets.

This is just a marvellous book and I for one will be promoting it to my junior classes and their teachers.

HIghly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

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