LisaHillSchoolStuff's Weblog

'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Tomlinson)

Redirection to ANZ LitLovers

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 29, 2009


Click on the link to redirect to Lisa Hill’s book blog ANZ LitLovers.

Students, click this link to go to the LisaHillSchoolStuff Wiki.

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Literacies in the Digital Age: Historical Literacy

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 7, 2014


Kathy Shrock is writing a superb series about the literacies needed for the digital age: click here for this one on historical literacy.  IMO it’s essential reading for primary school teachers who don’t usually have an academic background in the teaching of history.

Thanks to Sharon Brennan for bringing it to my attention via Facebook:)

Posted in Australian History, Learning and teaching | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Meet… Nancy Bird Walton, by Grace Atwood, illustrated by Harry Slaghekke

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 26, 2014


Meet... Nancy Bird Walton (Meet...)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
ISBN: 9780857983879
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House.

Availability
Fishpond: Meet… Nancy Bird Walton (Meet…)

Posted in Australian History, Book Reviews | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe

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
ISBN: 9781922142436
Source: Casey-Cardinia Library

Availability
Fishpond: Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?
Or direct from Magabala Books

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Book Reviews | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Book Review: Alfie’s Big Wish, by David Hardy

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 17, 2014


Alfie's Big WishAlfie’s Big Wish is a sequel to Alfie’s Search for Destiny which I reviewed on this blog last year.  It’s another title from Magabala Books, the indigenous not-for-profit publishing company based in Broome, Western Australia, and again the story is written in rhythmic rhyming couplets.

This time Alfie is in search of a friend.   This is a common theme in books for young children, and increasingly as families become more mobile and divorce is more common, the theme features a treasured friend moving away, leaving the other child bereft.

…his mates had moved on with their mum and their dad,
leaving him lonely, leaving him sad.

The other kids who are still around are older than he is  and the things he used to do with his friends are suddenly no fun anymore.  Appropriately in books for this age group the problem is reassuringly resolved when Alfie makes a wish upon a star and a little friend emerges from the bushes the next morning.

While this is a sweet little book for pre-school children, it has value for older students too.  As I explained in my previous review, David Hardy is an indigenous freelance artist descended from the Barkindji people of Brewarrina, NSW.  He worked for eight years with Walt Disney Studios in feature film animation, and has now come home to live in Sydney.  Hardy’s success in a high-profile international arena makes him a great role model for students of any background, but especially for indigenous students who are so often subjected to negative stereotypes of their people.

While he was with Disney, Hardy worked on The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata, Tarzan II, Lilo and Stitch2 and Return to Neverland.  He was also ‘clean-up animation director’ in Manila, Philippines, where he worked on  The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning and The Fox and the Hound 2.  Older students will immediately identify the classic Disney facial expressions and gestures in the Alfie series of illustrations, while also identifying the symbols of indigenous identity such as the red and ochre head and arm bands; the boomerang; the face painting and the dancing.   The clever way that Hardy has adapted his ‘Disney’ style for the indigenous Australian context provides the opportunity to talk about career possibilities in animation and other forms of digital art.  I also use it to encourage students not to slavishly copy the pop art and Manga that they come across, but to adapt it and make it their own.

Author: David Hardy
Title: Alfie’s Big Wish
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781922142535
Source: Review copy courtesy of Magabala Books

Availability

Fishpond:  Alfie’s Big Wish
Or direct from Magabala Books

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Tea and Sugar Christmas, by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 16, 2014


Tea and Sugar Christmas

Robert Ingpen was an inspired choice of illustrator for this delightful book, Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly.  Awarded the Hans Christian Anderson in 1986 for his lasting contribution as a children’s book illustrator, Ingpen has transformed a simple Christmas story about outback life into a work of art that teachers will love to share with their students at any time of the year.

Teachers in metropolitan areas know that it’s not easy to convey a sense of the outback to urban children.  But the cunning design of this book does it well.  Each page of text is accompanied by a B&W drawing of the characters in the story, but it opens out to reveal a double page colour spread  of the landscape and of the train which brought goods and services to the remote Aussie outback until as recently as 1996.  And so we see little Kathleen holding an empty tin of tea on the first page, which then opens out to the muted colours of the small settlement where she lives, the town bisected by the all-important railway line.

As the illustration shows, if the family ran short they went without.  There was no shop, and no other source of goods and services than the ‘Tea and Sugar’ train.  It ran along the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie just once a week, its vans stocked with household goods, groceries, fruit, vegetables and meat.  People could do their banking, use medical and welfare services and catch up with news from elsewhere.  And once a year, there was a special Christmas train…

The text and the illustrations work well together to convey the sense of anticipation.  Kathleen – shown through the pictures to be the child of a mixed-race marriage –  is an active, independent child.  Barefooted, she climbs the hill-face at the back of the house and sits on a rocky outcrop staring into the distance across the vast plain.  When it arrives she is ecstatic:

Katherine slid down the hill and ran through the drowsy town.  She burst inside.

‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’ she shouted.

Dad looked up and his eyes danced a jog.

‘Now, what might be coming, girlio?’

‘You know, Dad.  Come on.  Let’s go.’

‘At last, more tea and sugar,’ said Mum, from the end of a paper chain.

Kathleen grabbed the wheelbarrow and started running with it.  Her feet pounded the hot track, searing like scones on a griddle.  She could hear the screeching of the train as it pulled into the siding.  As she ran, others emerged from their tin castles, cheering and calling out across the shimmering landscape.

The portrait of Kathleen when it’s her turn to see Father Christmas is stunning.  Just beautiful.

At the back of the book there are photos accompanied by historical information about the train, including the migrant men who worked on it after World War II, and the way that the people dressed up to meet it because it was the highlight of their week.  The endpapers are used to show a map of the route.

As a window onto a vanished lifestyle, Tea and Sugar Christmas is brilliant.

Author: Jane Jolly
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Title: Tea and Sugar Christmas
Publisher: NLA Publishing (National Library of Australia), 2014
ISBN:9780642278630
Source: review copy courtesy of NLA Publishing

Availability:
Fishpond: Tea and Sugar Christmas
Or direct from the NLA shop

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Counting Aussie Animals in My Backyard, written and illustrated by Bronwyn Houston

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2014


Counting Aussie AnimalsThis book is almost too beautiful to let into the hands of small children!  It’s a simple 1-10 counting book designed for pre-schoolers so there are two kookaburras laughing on the fence and five cockatoos squawking in the trees, and so on – but the illustrations are so stunning, most adults would be happy to have them framed and hanging on the wall. The colours are so vivid they almost take your breath away.

Little kids will love locating the creatures and talking about where they can be found in their own backyards.  (Well, maybe not the python!)  This would make a lovely Christmas gift for toddlers and pre-schoolers – just make sure that they have clean hands and don’t spoil the gorgeous artwork!

As all good books by indigenous authors do, the book includes biographical information about the author.  Bronwyn Houston is descended from the Nyiyaparli and Yindjiparndi people of the Wana clan in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She lives in Broome and draws her inspiration from the local landscape and the Kimberley region where she was born.

But I also discovered from Google that Bronwyn also works as a graphic designer and photographer, and you can buy her designs at Red Bubble.

You can find some of her other books at Fishpond, including My Home Broome reviewed here a little while ago.

Author and illustrator: Bronwyn Houston
Title: Counting Aussie Animals in My Backyard
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781922142542
Source: review copy courtesy of Magabala Books

Available from October 2014

Pre-order from Fishpond:Counting Aussie Animals in My Backyard
Or direct from Magabala Books.TitleTi

Posted in Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Sylvia, written and illustrated by Christine Sharp

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2014


Sylvia

Sylvia is a delightfully daft picture book about the unrequited love of …  a snail.

Yes, Sylvia is a snail who is in love with Simon Green and his vegie patch: his luscious lettuce, choice cucumbers and buttery beans.  Needless to say, he is not so enamoured of her!  Have a look at the sample pages on the UQP website to see Sharp’s brilliant illustration of his enraged face bellowing GET OUT! at her, and it is just possible that even if you are a grower of vegetables yourself, you may feel a tinge of empathy when you see her slide away and shrink into her shell, sobbing her little heart out for love of Simon.

What to do?  Well, with her shimmering trail she writes Simon a love letter, but Simon is aghast when he sees the damaged kale and the nibbled tomatoes.  He’s an organic gardener who sells his produce at the farmer’s market – and he knows how fussy customers are.  (I don’t understand why people would rather buy an unblemished over-sized strawberry that tastes like water instead of a small flavoursome one, but then, I don’t understand why people eat processed food and junk food either).

But to Simon’s surprise – and the amused reader’s too – Sylvia finds a way to make a public declaration of her love, and it turns out to be the best kind of advertising he could possibly have.  Love blooms in all kinds of unexpected ways, eh?

Highly recommended!

You can download teacher’s notes from UQP.

Author and illustrator: Christine Sharp
Title: Sylvia
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780702253140
Source: review copy courtesy of UQP.

 

Availability
Fishpond: Sylvia
Or direct from UQP

Posted in Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books, Sustainability resources | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review: The Rescue Ark, by Susan Hall, illustrated by Naomi Zouwer

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2014


The Rescue ArkThe 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
ISBN: 9780642278104
Source: Review copy courtesy of the NLA.

Availability
Fishpond: The Rescue Ark
Or direct from the NLA bookshop.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: My Dog Doesn’t Like Me, by Elizabeth Fensham

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 31, 2014


Picture of My Dog Doesn't Like Me 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
ISBN: 9780702250170
Source: Review copy courtesy of UQP.

Availability
Fishpond: My Dog Doesn’t Like Me
or direct from 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 in Australian Children's Literature, Book Reviews | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Book review: Look and See, by Shane Morgan

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 5, 2014


As a librarian, it often falls to me to catalogue books for beginner readers, and it is in this genre that the ingenuity of Australian authors and illustrators never ceases to amaze me.  Working with a very limited vocabulary and designing the book so that illustrations provide context clues to support the reader, time and again these incredibly creative people manage to come up with something different.

This cute and quirky book by Shane Morgan is a good example.  At 24 x 18cm, Look and See, meet your favourite Australian animals is a bit bigger in size than most books of its type, but it follows the usual design rules: short easy-to-read sentences on one side of the page, and a picture on the other.

What makes it a bit different is the humour.  The sentences are rhyming pairs, and the first sentence introduces the animal, while the sentence on the ensuing page shows the animal getting the better of the human.

Look at the emu, running so fast.
See the emu, he caught me at last.

The picture that accompanies the second sentence shows the emu holding the human upside down by his undies – ouch!

The animals are not just the ones you’d expect, there’s also a lizard and a turtle, and all of them have very cheeky faces.  (My favourite is the frill-necked lizard with a great big cheesy grin).

Shane Morgan is a descendant of the Yorta Yorta people of Victoria.  He lives in Shepparton and studied the Advanced Certificate of Koorie Arts and Design at Goulburn Valley Community College, so I am hoping that he will go on to create more gorgeous books like this one.  I haven’t come across too many other children’s books by indigenous people from Victoria and would like to see more of them.

PS I read it to Year 1 and 2 classes today, and they loved it.  Interestingly, they picked up on the fact that it was created by an indigenous author from the double-page illustration (before the story starts) because they recognised the distinctive style of indigenous patterning and colours.  I was rather pleased by this: it shows that our students’ exposure to indigenous literature is making them so familiar with it that they can identify it without being told, even when they are only seven and eight years old.  I took the opportunity to show them on our indigenous map of Australia (always on display in the library) where the Yorta Yorta people come from, and they were excited to know that they were Victorian Aborigines.   So now I’m even more keen to add to our collection with more indigenous stories from Victoria!  I just have to find them…

Availability

Fishpond: Look and See: Meet your favourite Australian animals
Or direct from Magabala Books

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Fun stuff, Indigenous Teaching Resources, School Library stuff | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers