Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 Australian Childrens Book Council Award Winners



The Children’s Book Council of Australia announced the 2016 CBCA Book of the Year Awards on Friday 19th August. The theme this year was Australia! Story Country. As usual, there were many stunning books. In this the 70th anniversary of the awards, there were over 400 books entered for the varied awards. Australian schools have completed a variety of Book Week activities including thousands of traditional book parades, displays in school libraries, author visits and readathons. It is always an exciting week in schools.

This year there have been many wonderful books, including some that have broken new ground.

The Winning Books

1. Picture Book of the Year


Winner

Flight illustrated by Armin Greder and written by Nadia Wheatley



Flight is a wonderful picture book that tells of a small family that flees in search of refuge. It is of course based on the Christian story of Jesus and Mary escaping with Jesus from a wicked King Herod, to seek refuge in Egypt. The traditional story has been used as a parable for our times being applied to the plight or refugees.

Nadia Wheatley explained the genesis of the story in an excellent interview that she did recently.

As the idea took shape, I knew that what I wanted to do was to write the story of the Flight into Egypt in a way that initially lulls readers into thinking that it is set 2000 years ago; then suddenly, by introducing a bombardment and tanks, the story would become something that could be happening on the evening television news. Simultaneously, there needed to be a shift in the ‘back story’ of the characters and the peril that they are fleeing. After all, if the Holy Family were to be depicted as contemporary refugees, then I needed to think afresh about their cultural identity. (Interview with Nadia Wheatley, 'Reading Time').

This is a stunning picture book with its powerful text illustrated brilliantly and with stunning simplicity by Armin Greder.

Honour books:

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! illustrated by Shane Devries and written by Phil Cummings

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! is a powerful picture book that deals with war. Set in World War 2 where our main character Ricardo lives in an Italian village. He loved to ride his bike through the village and life seemed good as he peddles roads under endless perfect and peaceful skies. But one day this changes as the shadows of war arrive. This is beautifully written and delightfully illustrated.



One Step at a Time illustrated by Sally Heinrich and written by Jane Jolly


This is a wonderful picture book that tells of a relationship between a young boy named Luk and his elephant named Mali. This is an unusual tale of love and commitment. It is set on the border of Thailand and Burma where landmines are common. One day Mali steps on one with disastrous consequences, and so Luk helps her to recovery and in a wonderful twist, helps to get her another chance to walk. Heinrich’s wonderful illustrations offer a perfect enhancement to a delightful story. 

2. Early Childhood

Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Mr Huff is a story about the clouds and the sunshine in each of our lives. Bill is having a bad day. Mr Huff is following him around and making everything seem difficult. Bill tries to get rid of him, but Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger! Then they both stop, and a surprising thing happens…

This sweet story will delight readers aged 4-7 years.



Honour books:

Perfect by Danny Parker (illustrated by Freya Blackwood)

Danny Parker says that this lovely story was inspired by a simple response from his daughter.

One happy day I asked her what she wanted to do. Her reply was simple. ‘I just need a crayon and somewhere to scribble.’ And so began a little story about simple pleasures.

Any parent will be able to relate to Parker's simple story. Freya Blackwood's watercolour images show the delight of children as they roam the beachside immersed in the light, sounds and smell of a perfect summer day.

This is a story that children aged 3-7 will love.

The Cow Tripped Over The Moon by Tony Wilson (illustrated by Laura Wood)

This is an amusing recreation of the traditional nursery rhyme that all children know.

Hey diddle diddle
The dish and the fiddle
The cat mucked around with the spoon,
The cow felt quite lazy
The details are hazy
And nobody went near the moon.

Children love to do their own imaginative recreations of stories and this one will amuse and engage them. Laura Wood's simple images are rich in colour and cartoon-like details, children will love them. A perfect and fun book to read to or with children aged 3-7 years.

3. Younger Readers

Soon by Morris Gleitzman

Soon continues the incredibly moving story of Felix, a Jewish boy still struggling to survive in the wake of the liberation of Poland after the end of World War Two. The Jewish boy shares:

I hoped the Nazis would be defeated. And they were. I hoped the war would be over. And it was. I hoped we would be safe. But we aren’t.

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan
 

This is a story about a young Aboriginal girl. She is taken from the northern Australia to an institution in the southern Australia. The story takes us through the events of her life as she creates a new life for herself. In spite of tragedy she finds great strength in friendships.

The novel is in free verse, and as you'd expect from Sally Morgan, she doesn't waste a word. It is a powerful story which affirms the power of family and kinship. It should be enjoyed by 13-15 year olds. This is another stunning book from Fremantle Press that keeps turning out many wonderful titles. 

Shadows of the Master by Emily Rodda

Britta has always wanted to be a trader like her father, sailing the nine seas and bringing precious cargo home to Del harbour. Her dreams seemed safe until her father's quest to find the fabled Staff of Tier ended in blood and horror. Now his shamed family is in hiding, and his ship, the Star of Deltora, belongs to the powerful Rosalyn fleet. But Britta's ambition burns as fiercely as ever. When she suddenly gets the chance to win back her future she knows she has to take it whatever the cost. She has no idea that shadows from a distant, haunted isle are watching her every move.

4. Older Readers

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Scholarship student Vân U’oc Phan is all work and no play – until star athlete Billy Gardiner develops a sudden and seemingly irrational interest in her. Worried that she’s at the centre of an elaborate joke, Vân U’oc starts to wonder if magic could actually exist. For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fell into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she'd eaten too much sugar. 

Fiona Wood moved from writing film scripts after 10 years and has had great success as a writer of children's fiction. 'Cloudwish' is her third novel, her second YA novel 'Wildlife', won the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers.

Honour Books

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

Every girl dreams of being part of the line—the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line—strong, respected, reliable. And—as all girls must be—she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question the world she knows? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

This is a delightful tale set in a dystopian world where Jenna's village has been cut off from the outside world. They have no way out so the villagers need to adapt their lives to this existence. Girls of fine bones are desirable and special, but boys have little value. Jenna begins to question the work that she was born to do. This is a shocking tale in its own way, but there is also hope.

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant façade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.

Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all.



5. Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Lennie The Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony by Stephanie Owen Reeder

This is the inspiring true story of 9-year-old Lennie Gwyther who, at the height of the Great Depression in 1932, rode his pony from his home town of Leongatha in rural Victoria to Sydney to witness the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lennie’s 1,000-kilometre solo journey captured the imagination of the nation, and his determination and courage provided hope to many at a difficult time in Australia’s history. 

In its day, this true story captured the attention of a world that was looking for good news stories at a time when all was gloomy and hopeless. This is a great read and a very worthy winner in this category.

Honour books:

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect by Rohan Cleave (illustrated by Coral Tulloch)

Phasmid presents the amazing true story of the Lord Howe Island Phasmid – aka Stick Insect. Once thought to be extinct, the phasmids were rediscovered on Balls Pyramid, a volcanic outcrop 23 kilometers off the coast of Lord Howe Island, Australia, prompting an extraordinary conservation effort to save this remarkable insect. It is now officially known as a “Lazarus species” and has attracted the attention of zoo goers, tourists, naturalists Dr. Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough and millions of viewers on Vimeo.

This is a wonderful book. It has stunning watercolor illustrations by Coral Tulloch. It is a positive story about the survival of one 'species’ when many others are dying.  It will hopefully challenge young readers to think about the survival of all species and become more ecologically engaged.


Ancestry: Stories of Multicultural Anzacs by Robyn Siers (illustrated by Carlie Walker)

Ancestry is the third book in the Century of service series. It tells the stories of individuals and families from a range of cultural backgrounds who served with Australian units during the First World War. This image-rich publication draws on the Australian War Memorial’s diverse collection, including private records, photographs, works of art, and relics.

You can download a version of this delightlfully produced free of charge.

6. Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade by Allison Colpoys and written by Davina Bell

This is a delightful book for younger readers that explores social anxiety and how a boy copes with it. Faced with the fancy-dress parade. Parties, school events and other social occasions are worrying times for him and now he isn't brave enough to participate. He doesn't want to take part, so his mum takes him to the aquarium. He wanders round miserable and depressed and seeing himself as a failure, until a fish pokes its nose out from amongst some coral and captures his interest.

This lovely picture book introduces the work of Allison Colpoys an exciting new illustrator, who manages to capture the reality of insecurity and vulnerability. An interesting book for children aged 3–8.






Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How Can Teaching Change Learners? 6 Steps to transformation

What is Transformational Teaching? In the simplest possible terms Transformational Teaching (TT) is teaching that creates environments that change learners. It changes the way they approach tasks, the questions they ask of the tasks, their expectations for what they will learn from a task, and their expectations for its use and application. It in effect helps to change the way learners understand learning, co-learners, their teachers and themselves.


The opposite of Transformational teaching is 'Transactional Teaching'. This can be recognised by its characteristic transmission of knowledge from teacher to child and its focus on integrating knowledge of others largely as individual learners. Its major concern is what the learner knows and will learn.

While knowledge is important and there is a role for transactional approaches to developing it, there are other ways to learn. Transformational Teaching values knowledge too, but it is characterised much more by inquiry, discovery, firsthand experience, critical thinking and the use of varied communication and thinking skills, than simply knowledge transmission.

6 Key Steps to using Transformational Teaching.

Step 1 - Develop effective routines

What I mean by this is that a classroom that allows inquiry, experimentation, problem solving and lots of interaction needs to be VERY well organised. It is not synonymous with classroom chaos, although there will inevitably be a little more noise.

Step 2 - Organise classroom space & materials well

TT requires a room where materials are available, spaces are provided that permit interaction, additional access is given to computers and other key resources.

Step 3 - Establish clear expectations with students about what can and cannot occur

We need to establish some basic rules about sharing space, movement, sharing materials, how class members interact, time frames for task completion and so on. All must be clear and revisited regularly.

Step 4 - Implement routines for the sharing of ideas and discoveries

Classrooms where TT is practised need to be places where ideas are shared and celebrated. Audiences are very important to testing ideas, receiving feedback and learning from one another.

Step 5 - Place a high importance on quality outcomes and behaviour

Classrooms that are characterised by TT are places where standards are high. Near enough is not good enough, there must be accountability in terms of quality, task completion respect for others and so on.

Step 6 - Place a priority on communication, feedback, task evaluation, honesty & respect

This is the key to a vibrant engine room in any classroom. Classrooms where there is honesty, generosity and accurate feedback are places where members will take risks as learners. Ensure that these are present and part of you regular maintenance work as a teacher.


What do these classes do?

I'll probably say more about this in a future post but in general terms Transformational Teaching leads to classroom environments where you will see:
  • much greater interaction between students as well as much great interaction with the teacher;
  • much more group work (and these will vary based on topic, interest and expertise, not simply general ability;
  • the teacher leading from behind as much as from the front;
  • more celebration of work and achievements;
  • greater learner autonomy within clear boundaries;
  • regular demonstration, and expert resource people visiting;
  • increased use of multi-modal responses (shared use of images, words, drama, art etc);
  • increased risk taking, experimentation, problem solving and creativity; and
  • high expectations and standards for work and behaviour.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

20 Great Non-Fiction for Reluctant Readers

This is a repeat post but I will update but I hope that it's still as helpful. Some of these are ideal books for boys who are reluctant. Some young readers find non-fiction more engaging than fiction, so finding good non-fiction is worth the effort. In an earlier post I talk about this at length (HERE). This post is simply a quick review of some good books published in the last few years, it isn't meant to be comprehensive. I have arranged the examples I offer roughly in order of difficulty and age interest. It goes without saying that there are girls too for whom non-fiction is also more engaging.

'Bilby Secrets' Edel Wignel, illustrated by Mark Jackson

This is a delightful non-fiction picture book that teaches us in narrative form about the life of the wonderful bilby, an Australian marsupial. It traces the events of a typical day for mother and baby, and the perils of native and feral animals as the baby Bilby tries to survive life in the Australian landscape. Edel Wignel's story keeps the reader interested, while Mark Jackson's brightly coloured illustrations add drama and detail to this piece of discovery learning in narrative form. Children aged 2-6 will love this book. It is also a great book for classroom-based units and learning. 



'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide (Lothian)

'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide won the Eve Pownall prize for information books. This delightful true story of a great Australian character is based on Weidenbach's story of Tom Kruse who was the driver of the Marree-to-Birdsville mail. Once a fortnight for twenty years Tom loaded his Leyland Badger truck and drove 1,000 km across perilous territory on little more than a dusty dangerous rutted track. His job was to deliver mail and provisions to arguably the most isolated residents in the world. Tom was a great Australian character who lived in the middle decades of last century

The book is a version for younger children (aged 5-8 years) that Weidenbach has adapted into a delightful picture book for young readers. It offers just a small slice of the events of Tom's life. When floods cut the Birdsville Track, the station residents run out of supplies and worse still, the Birdsville Hotel runs out of beer! It takes Tom’s ingenuity to beat the floodwaters and get the mail and the beer through. Timothy Ide provides wonderfully detailed watercolour illustrations that add to what is already a compelling narrative account.

'Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook' by Angela Wilkes and published by DK Publishing.  

The Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook has 60 simple recipes that children will enjoy. The recipes are easy enough for most children to use, and are mostly suitable for the whole family. It contains a mix of healthy snacks, full meals, and delicious treats and sweets. The meal recipes include pita pockets, falafel, pizzas, Turkish meatballs, tacos, Thai satay kebabs, lemon fish sticks, filled crepes, chicken curry and rice. There are also many wonderful sweets including simple baked bomb Alaska, Tiramisu, parfaits, carrot cake, cookies and many more.  

The book also outlines cooking techniques, good food hygiene, kitchen safety, and step-by-step instructions. Full colour photographs are used throughout the book.

'The Lego Ideas Book' by Daniel Lipkowitz and published by DK Publishing 

If you have a box of Lego pieces resulting from your purchase of dozens of Lego sets, then you need this book. The book has 500 ideas for how you can make new things out of your box of Lego pieces. The book has six themed chapters—transportation, buildings, space, medieval history, adventure, and useful things to make. Each section has templates for models and ideas for how you might create your own. The book has 200 pages of tips and advice, illustrations and ideas.  It is well illustrated and beautifully designed. This book will keep children aged 7 to 70 years busy for hours.

'How Machines Work: The Interactive Guide to Simple Machines and Mechanisms' by Nick Arnold & Allan Sanders, published by Quarto Children's Books and distributed in Australia by Walker Books.

This book is a unique interactive guide to understanding simple machines and mechanisms. It introduces basic physics both in words and through models that the reader manipulates. It has 9 double-page spreads that introduce the reader to a key mechanical principle that you then put into practice by building one or more working models. The text and illustrations offer an easy to understand description of the mechanical principle and how to make a model that demonstrates it. This hands-on approach makes it easy to understand how these principles work and how they can be applied to everyday objects, such as cars, bicycles cranes and seesaws. Everything that you need is within, or attached to the book. The concept is brilliant

'Locomotive', written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2013).

Floca is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including three Robert F. Sibert Honour Books: 'Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11', 'Lightship', and 'Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring', written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

'Locomotive' is the story a family’s journey across America in 1869 on the newly completed transcontinental railroad. The star of the story is the steam engine, but a mother and her two children and all those who keep the train moving are essential extras as it races down the Californian coast.

For the true enthusiast of trains the author gives us plenty of technical information about 19th-century railroading. This is not surprising, as Floca seems to have aimed at a very broad audience. Some will be pulled along by rhythm of the story, others will love the train details, and some will revel in the sense of history (even in the very typefaces used). Floca uses free verse and as you'd expect plays with words and sound to great effect. 

The technical craft and book design are both brilliant, as Floca uses every device to good effect to engage readers in this exciting journey by an incredible piece of 19th century technology.

Even the way he uses his pictures provides a cinematic style that is hard to create, but which adds to the richness of the text. The detail in the illustrations is superb; it is as much draftsmanship as it is fine illustration.

'Locomotive' won the 2014 Caldecott Medal.

'Kubla Khan: Emperor of Everything' by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Robert Byrd

Kubla Khan is not well known and has often been mentioned historically only indirectly or in passing. Who was the man who Coleridge described in his famous poem 'Kubla Kahn'? This is the presumed grandson of Genghis Khan who reputedly built the imperial city of Beijing, and fathered a hundred or more children. History and legend suggest that he ruled over the greatest empire of the time, and that it was more advanced than previous civilisations in science, art and technology. The narrative text is engaging and should hold the interest of young readers, and Robert Byrd beautifully illustrates the book. Readers aged 7-9 years will enjoy this 42 page illustrated book.

'Simpson and his Donkey' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac

Every Australian and English child who grew up in the 1950s to 70s in Australia would know of the story of Simpson and the donkey he used to retrieve wounded men on the WWI battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. This was one of the greatest of all defeats for the forces of Britain, France and of course the Australian and New Zealand armed forces (the ANZACs). In the midst of the massacre of thousands of allied troops and the eight-month siege of this isolated beachhead, a man and his donkey were responsible for saving many lives, before Simpson was eventually killed on yet another mission.

Mark Greenwood offers a moving story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli. It traces his life from his home in South Shields in Newcastle (England) and his journey from the Tyne Dock to Turkey. Informed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how one of the many he rescued was actually a childhood friend.

Frané Lessac's illustrations are a wonderful complement to the story and have strength of colour that is not controlled by conventions. There are skies of yellow, orange, aqua, purple and all shades of blue. Her unique style draws your eye deep into each plate; no details can easily be missed.
 
'Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas' by Fiona Watt and published by Usborne

The Usborne Art book has almost 300 pages of original ideas for painting, drawing and making collage. This fantastic book is ideal for children of varied (and minimal) artistic ability. It is also suitable for just about any age (but it's ideal for 7-12 year olds). The book will help children to explore varied artistic forms and materials, including chalk, pencil, paint and watercolour. It offers ideas that require the use of a wide variety of artistic techniques, including painting, drawing, sticking, ink, ripping, rubbing, smudging and colouring. Each of the many ideas is illustrated with very easy to follow step-by-step instructions. The book also offers tips on brushwork, mixing colours, thinning and thickening paint, how to shade and add patterns, using oil pastels, acrylics and more. 

'I Was Only Nineteen' by John Schumann and illustrated by Craig Smith (Allen & Unwin)

John Schumann wrote an unforgettable song 'I Was Only 19' in 1983 with the band Redgum. It had the memorable refrain 'God help me, I was only 19'. The lyrics of this well-known Australian song have been brought to life in a children's picture book illustrated by the widely acclaimed Australian illustrator Craig Smith. The words are used exactly as in the song. With Craig Smith's wonderful watercolour and line drawings they are a moving reminder of the Vietnam War. This was a war that was fought in different ways to the previous great wars and had less universal support than previous conflicts in which Australia and other nations had fought. This was a war that for many didn't seem 'quite real', and our servicemen still carry the physical and mental scars. The book is a moving insight into a war fought by young men who knew little about the country in which they fought and why they were there. It would be an ideal book to share with children aged 6-12 years as we approach ANZAC Day in Australia on April 25th.

'Tales of the Greek Heroes' by Green Roger Lancelyn (Penguin, 2009)

The beautiful land of Greece is haunted by more than three thousand years of legend and history. In this gripping retelling of the Heroic Age, you'll meet the mighty Poseiden, God of the Sea; Zeus, the King of Heaven and Earth; Hades, Lord of the Dead; Artemis the Huntress; Aphrodite, Immortal Lady of Beauty and Love; and many more mortals and gods. Their adventures are some of the oldest and most famous stories in the world.

This collection of well-known Greek myths will be enjoyed by readers aged 11+

'A Tale of Troy' by Lancelyn Roger Green (Penguin, 2012)

This book is a companion to 'Tales of the Greek Heroes'.

Step back into the Heroic Age with the story of Helen and the judgement of Paris; of the gathering of the heroes and the siege of Troy; of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. And join Odysseus, the last of the heroes – famous for his wisdom and cunning – on his thrilling adventures as he makes the long journey home to Greece.

Once again, perfect reading for children aged 11+

'Tales of Ancient Egypt' by Lancelyn Green Roger (Penguin, 2011)

In this thrilling collection of the great myths, you'll encounter Amen-Ra, who created all the creatures in the world; Iris, searching the waters for her dead husband, Osiris; the Bennu bird and the Book of Thoth. But there are also tales told purely for pleasure, about treasure and adventure – and even the first ever story of Cinderella.

Ages 10+ will love this collection





'Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. America’s First Black Paratroopers' (Candlewick Press, 2013)


This is a true story that has been a long time coming. It tells in a fair but powerful way of the racism that has often existed in armed forces around the world. Americans may well have heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, but few would know of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion - the Triple Nickle. These were the first US black paratroopers. They showed that black soldiers could do anything their white counterparts could do. The text and over 100 carefully labelled photographs in this 150 page book offer us an insight into how some brave and persistent African American men paved the way for others to be a full part of the US armed forces.

Tanya Lee Stone (author of 'Almost Astronauts') has done extensive research to tell her true story for readers of all ages. Boys in particular will love reading and looking at the historic photos. The work took Stone almost 10 years and the meticulous care and passion shows in this wonderful book. This amazing story will challenge all readers irrespective of age, race or ethnicity. The book recently won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. It is a very worthy winner.

'The Dangerous Book for Boys' by Conn Iggulden & Hal Iggulden (Harper Collins)

As they say, this book is an 'oldie' but a 'goodie'. It offers a range of ideas for making and doing things. For example, how to make the greatest paper plane in the world, building a tree house, all about dinosaurs, making a G0-cart, how to go fishing, juggling, all about Australian snakes, skimming stones and so on. This isn't a simple book (about grade 4-5 standard) but the content will help boys to 'stretch' themselves. It is also a great book for boys to read and 'do' with an adult. I've reviewed it in more detail here.

'You Can Draw Anything' by Kim Gamble

Kim Gamble is a well-known illustrator of Australian picture books. In this very accessible book he shows you how to draw just about anything you want to. Most how-to-draw books are either simple and recipe like or far too complex. The book offers principles and guidance for drawing many objects, including varied animals, people (bodies and faces), and landscapes including perspectives. He also offers techniques for shading and colouring. He intersperses the many diagrams and drawings with stories, jokes and examples that make the approach lots of fun, engaging and effective. It is ideal for children aged 7-10 years.

'Amazing Grace: An Adventure at Sea' by Stephanie Owen Reeder
This is a story about the courage of 16-year-old Grace Bussell. The year is 1876, when a steam ship, the 'Georgette', runs aground near Margaret River in Western Australia. On shore an ordinary 16 year-old girl sees the unfolding drama and heads off on horseback with the family servant Sam Isaacs to try to help the stranded passengers. Grace and Sam head into the water with their horses and rescue many people. Using eyewitness accounts and other historical documents as well as some slight embellishment to fill in details to sustain the narrative, Stephanie Reeder brings this true story to life.  This wonderful story is an excellent follow on from Stephanie Reeder's previous book, 'Lost! A True Tale From the Bush'. This previous story was also a true story. It told the story of 3 children who became lost on their way home in 1864 and spent eight days alone. It was shortlisted in the 2010 CBCA children's literature awards.  
'The Boy from Bowral' by Robert Ingpen

Robert Ingpen is known primarily as an illustrator but he is also a fine writer with 13 works of fiction and over 20 non-fiction. His most recent book as writer and illustrator is 'The Boy from Bowral' which tells the biographical story of Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman who is the greatest cricketer of all time. Bradman is seen as a legend in any cricket playing nation and Ingpen provides a lucidly written and historically accurate picture of Bradman's early life in Bowral, his rise to prominence as a cricketer, and his sporting career. The images are drawings based primarily on existing photographs, so the keen cricket fan (like me) will feel that they recognise some of them. The cover (which wraps around to the back) is a wonderful sequence of images that appear like a series of video frames that capture the classic Bradman cover drive. I loved this book and any cricket following child or adult will also enjoy it.

'Neurology: The Amazing Central Nervous System' by April Chloe Terrazas (Crazy Brainz, 2013)

Neurology explores the complexities of the Central Nervous System, beginning with the different sections (lobes) of the brain, continuing to the spinal cord and concluding with the structure and function of the neuron. Readers will learn how to pronounce key terms like Cerebellum, Occipital Lobe and Sensorimotor Cortex. They will also discover the functions of the Cerebral Cortex, Basal Ganglia and the Hippocampus! The book will also help them to understand the way the brain is organised - Forebrain, Midbrain, Hindbrain... and much more. 

The book has wonderful images that will engage them and color-coded text will reinforce lots of new learning. A great book for boys who love science and fancy themselves as brain surgeons! This is a book that will appeal to boys (and girls) of all ages.

'Into the Unknown' by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty

This wonderful hard cover book from tells the story of 14 famous journeys throughout history, including 'Pytheas the Greek Sails to the Arctic Circle in 340BC', 'Admiral Zheng He Crosses the Indian Ocean in 1405-07', 'Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin Land on the Moon in 1969', 'Marco Polo Rides the Silk Road to China in 1271-74' and many more.

Each story has multiple drawings, maps and a giant fold out cross-section. Boys will read and look through this book for hours. You will also enjoy reading this exciting book to boys. There are many other 'cross-section' books by Stephen Biesty and others (here), including 'Egypt in Cross Section', 'Castles' and 'Rome'.

'Movie Maker' by Tim Grabham, Suridh Hassan, Dave Reeve and Clare Richards

'Movie Maker' is another wonderful resource from Walker Books designed for primary school aged children (7-12 years). It is a kit that contains ideas for making movies, and a handbook that shows you how armed simply with a video camera, you can make movies. The handbook talks about techniques like storyboarding, production, equipment, sound and lighting, design, special effects, how to vary camera shots and so on. It also includes some very cute aids such as a binocular mask, an adjustable frame, sample story boards, character props (e.g. glasses, moustache) and even authentic theatre tickets. All it doesn't include is the popcorn.


'The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists' by Sean Connolly

I wanted this book as soon as I saw it.  Well, as soon as I saw the title!  The book is all about igniting interest in science. Sean Connolly achieves this with lively, hands-on activities that suggest excitement and "danger". Simple experiments that pop, ooze, surprise and teach will delight boys and girls in upper primary. He also leads the reader through the history of science, and uses simple experiments to demonstrate key scientific principles.

The reader can rediscover the wheel and axle with the ancient Sumerians, or perform an astounding experiment demonstrating the theory of angular momentum. Children can build a simple telescope like Galileo's and find the four moons he discovered orbiting Jupiter.  They can experiment safely with electricity and avoid the more risky approach of Ben Franklin with his Lightning experiment. They will also learn how to re-create the Hadron Collider in a microwave with marshmallows, calculator, and a ruler to demonstrate the speed of light. Or they might simply crush a can using Stephenson's steam can experiment. This is a wonderful book for children aged 9-12 years.

Related Posts

'Meet the Author: Mark Greenwood & Frané Lessac' HERE
'Author & Illustrator Focus: Robert Ingpen HERE
'Getting Boys into Books Through Non-Fiction' HERE
'Making Reading Exciting for Boys' HERE
'New Title for Young Independent & Reluctant Readers Aged 6-12' HERE

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Australian Indigenous Literature: A review of 8 wonderful books

Magabala Books is Australia's leading Indigenous publisher. Based in the pearling town of Broome in the far north of Western Australia, it is one of the most remote publishing houses in the world. Since its incorporation in 1990, Magabala has been recognised as a producer of quality Indigenous Australian literature. Its books can be found on its own website or through other online stores and search engines. You can also find teaching resources for most of their books on the site HERE. This will be very helpful for teachers.

Magabala is a not-for-profit organisation that preserves, develops and promotes Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and cultures. It has released more than one hundred and fifty titles from a range of genres, many of which are still in print.

While I've enjoyed Magabala's books for some time, recently I had the chance to visit the publisher and consider all of their titles. As well, I was able to buy some for myself and as gifts for children in my family. In this post I want to review just some of the wonderful material that they publish.



1. 'Tjarany Roughtail' by Gracie Greene and Joe Tramacchi and illustrated by Lucille Gill

Tjarany Roughtail contains eight dreamtime stories from the Kukatja people of Western Australia’s remote Kimberley Region. Each story is complemented by beautiful artworks painted by Aboriginal artist Lucille Gill that visually explain each story using traditional dot paintings. Told in English and Kukatja.

This wonderful book offers mysteries of the Dreamtime centred on the cultural history of the Kukatja people of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Told in English and Kukatja, the book includes magnificent paintings, maps, kinship diagrams, exercises and language notes. Children aged 7-12 will love this book and gain a greater appreciation of the richness of Aboriginal culture and story.

The book was the winner of the Australian Children's Book Council (CBCA) Eve Pownall Award for Information Books (1993), and was also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

2. 'Two Mates' by Melanie Prewett and illustrated by Maggie Prewett

The true story of the special mateship between two boys who have grown up together in Broome; Jack is Indigenous and Raf is non-Indigenous. The boys share their daily life as they search for hermit crabs, go hunting for barni, fish for salmon, explore the markets, eat satays and dress up as superheros. At the end of the book it is revealed that Raf is in a wheelchair due to spina bifida. The book offers some additional information on this condition at the end of the book. 

This is a lovely story that shows that true friendship sees no barriers in race or disability.  This would be a wonderful book to share with children aged 5-8 years. There are also some teaching notes on the Magabala site HERE.


3. 'Joshua and the Two Crabs' by Joshua Button


Joshua Button is a young Indigenous author with a keen interest in the saltwater country he has grown up in. His observations of his family’s fishing trip to Crab Creek give us a unique opportunity to see this adventure through his eyes. Joshua’s illustrations evoke the beauty of Crab Creek—a tidal creek that lies in the mangroves of Roebuck Bay near Broome in Australia’s north west.

I had the pleasure of spending some time at Roebuck Bay just last week. This is an exquisite place where I spent hours looking at the sheer beauty and the rich marine life. Some of the stars of the wildlife are definitely the crabs. Watching them scurry (at great speed), eating, digging and leaving their intriguing marks on the red sand was a great joy. My photos below show a little of this beauty.



4. 'Our World Bardi Jaawi, Life at Ardiyooloon' written and illustrated by the students of One Arm Point Remote Community School 

Ardiyooloon is home to the Bardi Jaawi people and sits at the end of a red dirt road at the top of the Dampier Peninsula, 200km north of Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This vibrant book is bursting with life and activity and takes readers inside the lives of the children of a remote Indigenous community.

This wonderful book is inspired by the stories of the elders and the beautiful beauty of the land and culture of Ardiyooloon. The many chapters in the richly illustrated book consider the history, language, food and cultural practices of the Bardi Jaawi people. The children's illustrations enrich the many factual texts that consider fishing, bush food, special events, language and the wildlife of this wonderful place. For example, on one double page the children describe and draw 23 different saltwater creatures that are found in their world. The authenticity of the waters and the richness and colour of the illustrations, make you want to dip again and again into this beautiful book.


The book was the winner of the Speech Pathology Australia's Indigenous Book of the Year 2011 and was also shortlisted in the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) awards in the same year.

Comprehensive teacher notes for the book can be downloaded here

5. 'The Grumpy Lighthouse Keeper', by Terrizita Corpus and illustrated by Maggie Prewett

This amusing tale takes place on a stormy wet-season night at the Broome lighthouse. Meet Cassius the hermit crab, Jacob the jellyfish, Bruce the bluebone and more sea creatures as they head down the beach and race up the lighthouse staircase to escape a wild storm — all while the lighthouse keeper is out checking the lamp for passing ships. When he discovers his bed has been taken over by slimy sea creatures, he is very grumpy.

This is a more contemporary work of fiction situated in the lighthouse at Cable Beach in Broome. The lighthouse keeper's house and the ruins of the lighthouse remain, plus a new less visually attractive unmanned lighthouse (see below). The beautiful watercolour illustrations complement the funny text. My final recommendation is that any book that has a crab named 'Trev' would have to be good! It will be well received by children aged 4-7 years.

Above: The modern lighthouse
'
The Grumpy Lighthouse Keeper' is inspired by the iconic Broome lighthouse and the remains of the old lighthouse keeper’s house that sits on the edge of the world-renowned Cable Beach. This is a beautiful place with great wild beauty and the rich colours of the earth so synonymous with the remote north west.









6. 'Do Not Go Around the Edges' by Daisy Utemorrah and illustrated by Pat Torres

This remarkable book weaves together the story of Daisy Utemorrah’s life with a collection of playful parables and poems. It explores themes such as Creation, tradition, memories, family and most importantly, country. 'Do Not Go Around the Edges' imbues a simple autobiographical story with humour and depth, and will appeal to adults and children alike. Retold with love and honour, be transported to a place where time stands still...

Daisy Utemorrah was an elder of the Wunambal people from the Mitchell Plateau area in the far north Kimberley. She was born in 1922 at Kunmunya Mission and her family background gave her fluency in three Aboriginal languages. Daisy was recognised for her work as a poet and a teacher. This was her first book and of course was published by Magabala in 1991. It won the Australian Multicultural Children’'s Book Award the following year, and was also shortlisted for the Children’'s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) award for Younger Readers. As well, Pat Torres won the prestigious international IBBY award for illustration for her work on this book in 1994.

It is a remarkable book for various reasons. It integrates Daisy's unique autobiographical story with a variety of traditional Aboriginal Dreamtime themes, focussing on memories, family, creation and country, the important relationship between a people and their land. It is beautifully told with simplicity and economy of words, and it weaves Daisy's traditional languages with her stories and the wonderful illustrations of Broome-based Djugan artist Pat Torres. Here is a sample:

I am the native cat, I dance everywhere.
I hop, skip and jump.
I jump on the flat stone
and dance and wobble my bum and hold my hips
And then I dance again.


7. 'The Mark of the Wagarl' by Lorna Little and illustrated by Janice Lyndon

Maadjit Walken is the Sacred Rainbow Serpent. She is the mother spirit and creator of Nyoongar Country in the south west of Western Australia. She formed the landscape and the waterways, and made her first child Maadjit Wagarl, the Sacred Water Snake, the guardian spirit of all the rivers and fresh waters. The Mark of the Wagarl is the story of how a little boy dared to question the wisdom of his elders and why he received the Sacred Water Snake for his totem. Janice Lyndon’s pastel illustrations resonate with the cultural power of the Maadjit Wagarl and the landscape of the south west. This is a revised edition.

This is a traditional Aboriginal Dreamtime story featuring a well-known character - the Rainbow Serpent - who appears in other books for children, most notably 'The Rainbow Serpent' by Dick Roughsey. The slightly more contemporary illustrations are designed to appeal to a new generation who should love this book.

Comprehensive teacher notes for the book can be downloaded here from the Magabala website.


8. 'Ngay janijirr ngank. This is my word', by Magdalene Williams, illustrated by Pat Torres and with photos by Maria Mann.

A beautifully illustrated account of the life of Magdalene Williams of the Nyulnyul people. Raised in the confines of Beagle Bay mission in the Kimberley, she was nevertheless exposed to her traditional culture through her Elders. Magdalene's account of the coming of the missionaries, and the destruction of law and culture is interwoven with the richness and diversity of her Nyulnyul stories.

I love this book for the beauty of the language and the power of the stories that Magdalene Williams tells. The work is also well illustrated by Pat Torres and has wonderful photos from Maria Mann. The opening line gives a sense of what is to come as she tells the story of the Nyulnyul people of Beagle Bay:

"A long time ago in Ngarlan, the place where Beagle Bay now stands, a very strange and frightening thing happened."

The book also contains several wordlists. Helpfully, these include Nyulnyul to English and English to Nyulnyul, selected phrases, traditional names of the family members mentioned, and also a pronunciation guide. This is a book that works at many levels, it has an engaging story, it raises cultural awareness, offers language study and more.  Children aged 7-12 will enjoy this excellent book.


Further reading

Other previous posts on Indigenous literature HERE.
Other reviews on children's literature HERE.