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Posted by Lisa Hill on December 29, 2009
Students, click this link to go to the LisaHillSchoolStuff Wiki.
Posted by Lisa Hill on October 26, 2014
Meet… Nancy Bird Walton is another in the Random House series of picture books about notable Australians. It’s a useful series for introducing biography for younger (or less able) readers in the library and it now includes these titles:
I am hoping that the series will include some notable indigenous Australians before long. A bio about Jandamurra, or Tunnerminnerwait & Maulboyheenner would be a lot more useful than yet another title about Ned Kelly who was a common criminal.
Nancy Bird was Australia’s first female commercial pilot. I read (and reviewed) her autobiography My God, it’s a Woman a little while ago, and although I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it as an audio-book to listen to, I was impressed by the remarkable achievements of Nancy Bird. Meet … Nancy Bird Walton compresses these achievements into a crisp, effective summary that focuses on the exciting early days of aviation. The illustrations are almost all double page spreads to convey the sense of scale and with their bold lines and authentic dress styles are reminiscent of adverts of the period. Most importantly the pictures show the fragility of the aircraft in which this brave woman pioneered aviation across Australia’s outback.
This title would be a handy resource for Year 3 History:
ONE important example of change and ONE important example of continuity over time in the local community, region or state/territory; for example, in relation to the areas of transport, work, education, natural and built environments, entertainment, daily life (ACHHK061)
There is a timeline at the back of the book, but I think the endpapers could usefully have included maps as well.
Author: Grace Atwood
Title: Meet … Nancy Bird Walton
Publisher: Random House, 2104
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House.
Fishpond: Meet… Nancy Bird Walton (Meet…)
Posted by Lisa Hill on October 21, 2014
I first became aware of this remarkable book when two of my favourite bloggers posted reviews of it on the same day: they are both historians, and they were both impressed.
Yvonne at Stumbling Through the Past piqued my interest with her comment that Pascoe used the journals of Australia’s explorers to make his case:
Pascoe draws on the work of Bill Gammage, R Gerritsen and others as well as his own research make a strong argument for the reconsideration of our understanding of the way Aboriginal people lived in colonial times. He draws extensively from the journals of explorers to present a remarkable array of evidence about the agricultural and technological sophistication of Aborigines before contact.
And Janine at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip linked the book to some recent unfortunate remarks made by our blundering Prime Minister.
Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu argues directly against the idea that Australia was ‘scarcely settled’. It was, he argues, very much settled in a way that forces us to reconsider the ‘hunter-gatherer’ label that is often used to describe pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians.
Like many teachers, I’ve used the term hunter-gatherer in exactly that way, and so I felt impelled to read the book. I’ve had Bill Gammadge’s award-winning The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia on the TBR for ages, and I will get round to reading it one day, but it was an indigenous voice I wanted to hear. Now that I’ve read it for myself, I think that this is an indigenous voice Australians should hear…
In 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he’s not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily debunked, his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complex civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority. These diaries describe systematic agriculture and aquaculture; permanent dwellings; storage and preservation methods and the use of fire to manage the difficult Australian environment. The reader can sense Pascoe’s pride in asserting that all these complex systems were managed through stable government that was fundamentally democratic in nature. (Elders, after all, earned their role through initiation and learning the law: they did not inherit their power or grasp it through conquest.)
There is much more to this exciting book than I have outlined here so I urge you to follow the links above to Yvonne’s and Janine’s reviews. They interrogate the book as historians do, with the expertise of their profession.
As a teacher, however, I recommend it as essential reading for any educator.
Dark Emu has been shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing.
Author: Bruce Pascoe
Title: Dark Emu Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident
Publisher: Magabala Books. 2014
Source: Casey-Cardinia Library
Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.
Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2014
The Rescue Ark is a delightful picture book pitched at raising the environmental awareness of young children. While the allusion to the Biblical Ark is made obvious by the illustrations, it’s not a vengeful Old Testament God that the animals need to be rescued from, but rather from their own habitats which have been fouled by pollution.
Told in occasionally slightly awkward rhyme, the book shows endangered animals clambering, whooshing and grumbling their way onto the Ark, some (as you’d expect) in less orderly fashion than others. The animals are mostly charismatic cuddly creatures, with cute little faces rendered in slightly muted primary coloured collages by talented artist Naomi Zouwer. The Ark’s passengers include wombats, potoroos, numbats, quolls, bandicoots, bilbies, Tasmanian devils, wallabies and possums; while amongst the flying creatures there are butterflies, parrots and cockatoos. In the less adorable but likewise endangered category there are bees, snakes, lizards, frogs and turtles, not to mention a river mouse that looks much more like a rat. For the adult, there are zoological notes at the back which explain the conservation status of the animals, and there is a map so that the route of the Ark around Australia can be traced as the animals board it. Some of the illustrations for the zoological notes are images from the National Library’s Rare Books Collection and they include pictures by the likes of John Gould, while others are the work of contemporary wildlife photographers.
Ideally suited for pre-school and prep children, the book concludes with the empowering message that the animals return to their homes when Aussie kids have cleaned up the environment. This title would be a nice one to include in any units of work about Australian animals.
For another review, see Kids’ Book Reviews.
Author: Susan Hall
Illustrator: Naomi Zouwer
Title: The Rescue Ark
Publisher: NLA (National Library of Australia, 2014
Source: Review copy courtesy of the NLA.
Posted by Lisa Hill on August 31, 2014
Could there be anything worse than the belief that not even your own dog likes you?
Elizabeth Fensham’s new book begins with nine-year-old Eric running away from home, egged on by his ‘horrible’ sister Gretchen. Worse, when it doesn’t work out, he gets sent to his room for being rude to her like the victim is in prison and the bad guy is free. (p.6) No one in the family is ‘on his side’ – not even the dog.
He seems to have made a number of mistakes with the dog, not the least of which is its name. Provoked by Gretchen who’s ten years older than he is, he names it Ugly. And because he doesn’t keep his promises about looking after it, the dog’s loyalty is to mum, who feeds him. And she doesn’t take kindly to Eric’s experiments with using the new idioms he’s learned at school: the dog was Eric’s eighth birthday present but since the dog loves her instead of him, he calls her an Indian giver. It’s not a pretty scene.
Fortunately he has two good friends at school. Milly and Hugh try out their newly acquired research skills by designing a questionnaire to solve Eric’s problem. They survey other children who come up with a heap of suggestions, but Eric – who, it must be said tends to give up easily – says he’s tried nearly all of them. But he hasn’t…
‘Well, next is this idea of Emily’s about letting the dog smell your hand and acting gentle around it.’
I knew all about that. Grandad had told me before we went to the Dog Shelter. ‘That’s the right thing to do when you meet any dog,’ I said, ‘but after that first introduction, you have to live with your dog every day of its life. The same goes for Skye’s idea. Ugly likes being tickled and scratched, but you can’t keep doing that all day.’
Milly crossed off Emily and Skye’s ideas.
‘Dog toys?’ asked Hugh.
‘Ugly’s a spoilt brat,’ I said. ‘He’s got masses of toys, but he gets bored with them and sneaks off and chews up things that belong to us, like my Parthenon project.’ (p.41)
One experiment appeals, but alas, it doesn’t work out. The idea of giving the dog bones fails after one try because his mother is none too pleased about Eric carving the bone out of the Sunday roast before it’s been cooked, and Dad is none too pleased about Ugly destroying the vegie patch to bury the bone. The rest of his crazy experiments don’t work out too well either.
The humour derives partly from the narrative voice. The book is written entirely from Eric’s point of view, so although young readers can see that Ugly’s flaws are caused by Eric’s behaviour, Eric doesn’t see that at all. His whiny self-justifications and blaming of others are funny because they’re authentic.
Meanwhile the dog is growing, and the time comes when there’s an ultimatum. Either Eric takes responsibility for the dog and trains it properly, or it has to go. The humour limps a bit as the ‘responsibility’ theme kicks in, but I still think that young readers will enjoy the book and its unexpected ending.
The cover art by Jo Hunt is just perfect.
Author: Elizabeth Henshaw
Title: My Dog Doesn’t Like Me
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press), 2014
Source: Review copy courtesy of UQP.
PS Elizabeth Henshaw is also the author of Helicopter Man which won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Book of the Year: Younger Readers (2006). It’s not a book for younger readers, IMO, because it’s a harrowing book about a boy whose father suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and they are on the run from the father’s imaginary enemies. But in the hands of a skilled teacher it is an excellent book for older readers and young adults to comprehend what life can be like when there is mental illness in the family.
Posted by Lisa Hill on August 2, 2014
Just yesterday one of my students was very excited about her discovery of the excellent My Story series, and I suspect that another fan of historical fiction has been born! I wonder if she might also enjoy To See the World which is based on a similar premise: bringing history to life through the story of a child who lived in a previous era.
To See the World is based on the true life story of a cabin boy named José, who went to sea aboard L’Uranie, a ship commanded by Louis de Freycninet in the early 18th century. Elaine Forrester has crafted his story from the journals of Rose de Freycinet, the adventurous young wife who disguised herself as a boy to stow away aboard L’Uranie, scandalising French society and worrying the superstitious sailors who thought that women brought bad luck. The book begins with José’s alarm at being expected to take lessons with Madame Freycinet, and he finds reading and writing hard going at first after his free-and-easy life in Mauritius.
As the author explains in the historical notes at the back of the book, in 1818 many of the French officials on Mauritius had taken mulatto mistresses, and they were often generous to these women and their children. When José’s father was recalled to France in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, he made provision for José by placing him in the care of Freycinet. Teaching him would provide an interest for Rose (who by the time L’Uranie reached Mauritius was bored and homesick) and an education for José would give him a better chance in life.
As the lessons progress, José matures. He comes to see Rose as a person, and to care about her. At the same time, he adapts to life at sea, first taking on duties in the galley, and later when he is older, as a sailor. (The voyage lasts more than three years so he leaves boyhood behind as well as his family). He witnesses a death at sea, and is asked by the Commander to listen out for any incriminating conversations so that the murderer can be identified. He survives massive storms, shipwreck and being marooned on an island. He also witnesses historical events of interest to Australians: the removal of the Vlamingh plate; an encounter with the Malgana People of Shark Bay WA, and a visit to the fledgling Sydney Town at Port Jackson on the east coast. (Alas, Rose had some of her precious belongings stolen in Sydney – but, well, what could she expect ‘when more than half the population has been sent here for breaking the law’!
The last part of the voyage where the ship’s company is at the mercy of a competing gun-runner and an American whaler is quite exciting, and José ‘s subsequent journeys are a bit of an anti-climax. But over all, I think young people will enjoy this book for the glimpse of an adventurous life that seems appealing despite its discomforts and dangers. Each chapter is illustrated with B&W reproductions of images from the National Library, including a painting featuring Rose and José that was censored from the official account of this voyage because Rose was not supposed to be on board.
Rose de Freycinet herself, of course, deserves to be better known because while not the first woman to circumnavigate the world, she was the first to journal her experiences. (An image of a French publication of her journal is included in the book). Her husband, Louis de Freycinet is known to Australians as the navigator who managed to publish his map of the Australian coastline (complete with French place names and claims of French discoveries already made by the British) ahead of Matthew Flinders’ map because Flinders was detained by the French governor at Mauritius for six years. But time goes by, and petty rivalries can be set aside in honour of the brave men – and woman – who showed great courage and tenacity in the quest to explore the planet.
A most interesting and enjoyable book that deserves a place in school libraries everywhere.
Author: Elaine Forrrestal
Title: To See the World
Publisher: NLA Publishing (National Library of Australia)
Source: review copy courtesy of the NLA
Fishpond: To See the World