The Greenberg sisters have taken the ancient myth of Gaia and updated it with a strong environmental message for young readers in this striking graphic novel/picture book. Following the success of their earlier collaboration, the pair continue with their theme of bringing the Greek goddesses to life, this time with clear parallels to modern circumstances.
Gaia, is revered as the creator of Earth and the universe and all of the natural world held within both: She raised trees from their roots to the sky, sent waterfalls tumbling over cliffs and created the tides that sloshed on the shore. She gifted her creation to animals and mortals, and watched as they made it their home.
But as time went on Gaia was unable to control the power wielded by the warring gods who used their wiles to corrupt and orchestrate the events of mortals such as Achilles and Hercules. Helplessly, Gaia had to watch much of her beautiful creation destroyed by thoughtless and greedy mortals, just as happens today. Despite this, she never gave up trying to save her world and the clear message here is that we too must never give up fighting for the preservation of our planet.
A terrific and very different book to include with any unit of work that is environmentally focused and one that will arouse much interest with readers from around middle to upper primary.
A delightful 1/2 class, at a local school which has a special focus on all things ‘ocean’, as it is located right on the very seafront, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the depths of the brine with Sami.
Dive on in and find out about each of the underwater zones and the weird, wonderful creatures who inhabit them, as well as how those creatures have adapted and evolved over time to suit their habitat.
We enjoyed so much rich discussion as we took our time over each double spread. Along the way we interrupted our reading to measure out just how long a giant oarfish is, and to see if we could flatten ourselves like flounders (which was a nice opportunity to talk about alliteration!) and to talk about what the children (and the school) are doing to help preserve the ocean on our doorstep.
The marvellous creatures are shown with great detail and each one is accompanied by neat facts, which add even more to the wealth of information being shared. It is, of course, quite difficult for little humans as young as these to grasp the concept of millions of years or indeed, thousands of metres down below the water’s surface but they can realise the scope and enormity of this part of our natural world.
This is another of Sami’s lavishly visual offerings with her trademark superior illustrations and I, for one, just love her self-representation right down to her distinctive hair and winged eyeliner!
Having stolen just half an hour or so to pore over this and seen the fascination exhibited by my audience, I would love the opportunity to incorporate this into a more extended learning experience.
HIghly recommended for readers from as young as 5 or 6 years old, and naturally, particularly useful if you are exploring a unit of inquiry focused on the Ocean.
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.
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.
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!!
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 .
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.
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.
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.