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Archive for the ‘Australian Curriculum’ Category

Book Review: DK Atlas of Exploration

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 16, 2013

This book is a disappointment.

I borrowed the DK Atlas of Exploration from the library for my Year 3 and 4 students whose project this term is to identify the best (most useful) books for finding out about Explorers of Australia.  (I will upload this new Australian Curriculum History unit later this year when I’ve finished teaching it and have tidied it up).

Like most books of its type, Atlas of Exploration is meant only to be a general overview and students can’t expect to find a great deal of detail about an area of interest.  Even though we might expect that the exploration of the last continent might be considered rather important to the rest of the world, Australians are used to being a bit of an afterthought in non-fiction texts published in America or the UK.  If there’s a page or two acknowledging our part of the world that’s about the best we can hope for, even in a book that purports to follow the world’s great explorers.

However, when it came to checking out the interactive CD-ROM, even these low level expectations weren’t met.  There are icons to click so that students can follow the voyages of various explorers – but not one of them is an explorer who came to Australia.

Don’t waste your money.

Title: DK Atlas of Exploration
Publisher: DK (Dorling Kindersley) 2008
ISBN: 9781405322089
Source: Kingston Library.

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Book Reviews | Tagged: | Comments Off on Book Review: DK Atlas of Exploration

Book Review: The Little Fairy Sister, by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenbry Outhwaite

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 13, 2013

The Little Fairy SisterIda Rentoul Outhwaite is one of the authors mentioned in Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things, which I reviewed here just recently.  I had never heard of her until then, but I should have, because she was one of Australia’s preeminent author-illustrators of enchanting books for children in the first half of the 20th century.

First editions of The Little Fairy Sister – first published in 1923 – sell for hundreds of dollars but it’s possible to have a copy of this lovely book for any small person in your life who is besotted by fairies because the National Library of Australia has produced a facsimile edition, and it is beautiful.

It’s hard to believe but according to the Introduction by S.O.R. Ida Rentoul Outhwaite initially didn’t have enough confidence in herself to write the texts for her books: until the late 1920s she used to create the illustrations first and then her mother, sister or husband would write the story.   The Little Fairy Sister was written by her husband Grenbry to complement the exquisite pictures that are so beautifully reproduced in this book.  By the way. it’s not just little fairy-lovers who would admire it, anyone interested in pen-and-ink and watercolour illustration would find it an irresistible ‘collectible’ too.

The story is quaint and sentimental, and some of the language is dated, but that’s part of its charm.  Bridget is a little girl whose sister Nancy has died, and she sets off on a quest to the Land of Heart’s Delight to see her.  As well as the fairies, Bridget meets other ‘wee’ people along the way: a dragon-fly, a Kookaburra, a lizard, some teddy bears, a pelican and the Mannikins.  There is some low-level scariness with the Merman who lurks in the Merman Pool on the way, and she must be careful to avoid staying where her sister is forever, but of course she makes it back home safe and sound  to the anxious but loving arms of her Nurse.

It’s a book that’s suitable for 8-10 year olds who are not yet too world-weary to enjoy it. While I wouldn’t read the whole book to a class because at 102 pages it’s quite long and attention might wander, reading a snippet or two and exploring these classic illustrations would be something different for classes covering the Australian Curriculum Literature content at Levels Foundation to Year 2:

  • Foundation: Respond to texts, identifying favourite stories, authors and illustrators (ACELT1577)

  • Year 1: Discuss how authors create characters using language and images (ACELT1581)

  • Year 2: Discuss how depictions of characters in print, sound and images reflect the contexts in which they were created (ACELT1587)

The Little Fairy Sister is a lovely addition to any school library for those little girls who are obsessed with those interminable fairy book series.  I can think of quite a few at my school who – while perhaps not able to read it themselves, will be interested to see the context from which contemporary fairy fandom springs.

Or it might just be the perfect gift for a small someone that you love.  Perfect for bedtime reading…

Authors: Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenby Outhwaite
Title: The Little Fairy Sister
Publisher: National Library of Australia, 2013
ISBN: 9780642277725 (hardback, colour & B/W illustrations, 26.0 x 20.0 cm)
Review copy courtesy of the National Library of Australia

Fishpond: The Little Fairy Sister

Or direct from the National Library of Australia: The Little Fairy Sister

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Australian Curriculum, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Book Review: The Little Fairy Sister, by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenbry Outhwaite

Book Review: Kitty’s War, by Janet Butler

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 15, 2013

Kitty's WarSomewhere in the archives of the War Memorial in Canberra, there is a small diary scribbled in pencil. It was donated by The Spouse’s family because old Eric was a gunner in the 7th Field Artillery Brigade and he was awarded the Military Medal in The Great War. Before he lost his leg in the conflict he recorded his impressions of the first tanks to arrive on the battlefield so it’s a most interesting document. Transcribing this diary is an eventual retirement project for The Spouse.

We had always thought that this would be a fairly straightforward task, but now that I have read Kitty’s War by Janet Butler, I realise that there is much more to a war diary than first meets the eye. What’s not in a war diary can be just as interesting as what’s in it… and what’s in it, is sometimes not much about war at all, but rather about changes in identity because of the war.

When Kitty McNaughton sailed away to do her bit as a nurse, she, like most of the other volunteers aboard, had never been out of Australia. The war (which everyone expected to be over soon) was an opportunity to see the world, and she devotes many pages to describing the journey. The troops and nurses were ferried to Egypt on the troopship Orsova, which was formerly a passenger liner. So this young woman enjoyed all the excitements that are common to cruise ships today: games and sports, fancy dress parties, a crossing-the-line ceremony, fancy dinners and so on. But there is no mention of any serious flirting because nursing was still cultivating a respectable image to counter Dickens’ Sarah Gamp. Kitty was always conscious that her diary was going to be read by others, especially her mother, and she is circumspect about what she writes.

That’s why, later on, when she’s nursing on the island of Lemnos, when she writes about the four young men who became important to her, she always refers to them as ‘boys’ or ‘youths’, and she always records the presence of some other person, making it clear that she is never alone with a young man. She is careful to adopt a sisterly tone, sometimes maternal, never romantic. Reading between the lines, we wonder what her feelings were, especially when we know that for most of the young men thrust into relentlessly all-male company for long years in that war, that mateship offered no outlet for emotional release. Men could talk about their feelings to women, but not to each other…

What’s also noticeable is that she doesn’t write much about the shocking injuries she encounters. Butler says that this is because Kitty feels constrained by her audience: these horribly mutilated young men often dying in dreadful pain were the husbands, sweethearts, brothers and sons of her friends and family back home. So, like others reporting to those at home both formally and informally, she maintains the conspiracy of silence about their suffering in order to protect them from the awful truth. It is when she is nursing German soldiers on the Somme that she finally feels able to write about the horror of what she witnessed, because they are Other, and she can describe their injuries and how their needs were addressed.

What is also most interesting about this period, is that for the first time, she indirectly acknowledges her own skills. A modest and self-effacing nurse had to be careful about this, because it was not thought seemly for women to have ambitions beyond their gender-assigned roles. It was in reading the passage below that I realised the importance of documents such as Kitty’s dairy being interrogated by an historian:

I have eleven with their legs off and a cuple [sic] ditto arms & hips & heads galore & the awful smell from the wounds is the limit as this Gas Gangrene is the most awful thing imaginable, a leg goes in a day. I extracted a bullet from a German back today, and I enjoyed cutting into him … the bullet is my small treasure, as I hope it saved a life as it was a revolver one… (p.130)

Now when I first read this I recoiled at the idea that Kitty ‘enjoyed cutting into him’ – to me it felt as if she was enjoying a sort of vengeance against the enemy. But what Butler’s analysis reveals, from looking at the diary in its entirety and comparing it with a host of other documents and diaries, is that what Kitty is enjoying is being entrusted with the scalpel and being allowed to perform procedures that traditionally were the sole preserve of male doctors. To read Kitty’s self-effacing diary at face value without realising that it deliberately undercuts her own achievements is to overlook that Kitty was in fact a very good nurse indeed: she received commendations; she was mentioned in dispatches; she was in sole charge of the whole Bosches Line of German wounded (more than one huge ward of very serious cases); and she was allowed to undertake surgical procedures as well.

What is also revealed by this rare documentation of the suffering of the German soldiers is that it offers Kitty emotional release. She describes her distress at the confronting injuries and the pitiable state of soldiers arriving with maggot-infested wounds, an outlet which is promptly closed when Allied soldiers arrive and she no longer gives herself permission to write about them.

Butler analyses the Conscription Referendum in terms of how it impacted away from home; the class issues including the hostility from Imperials to Colonials; and the decline of the ‘war diary’ from a place to share matters of interest to its role testifying to grief and despair. The appearance of gaps, when for long periods of time Kitty can find nothing of interest to write about, signals that the relentless tide of the wounded is contributing to what we would now call stress. When she is on the Western Front after the Somme, Kitty and her friends succumb themselves to illness, and she openly acknowledges it, perhaps in part because her own mother has died and she longer feels that she has to hide her suffering. (There is a remarkable pair of photos in the book that shows the impact of this ongoing stress on Kitty’s appearance. The nurses joke that first their hair goes, then their teeth and then their reputations, but it was true: the bad diet and the appalling conditions made Kitty’s hair go grey while she was still only in her thirties.)

While close female friendships were nurturing and supportive, they could not salve the ongoing stress entirely. This is especially true when Kitty is transferred to a clearing station near the front line, where the nurses are carefully chosen for their suitability and monitored for signs of strain. Where the official histories make no mention of the fact that the nurses are much closer to danger, Kitty and other nurses write about it in detail. She has to undergo gas training before the transfer, and we know from the diaries of other nurses that their clothes stank afterwards of the gas. Kitty also records shelling, missiles falling into the camp and the crash-landing of two allied planes in the field beside it, but she does not record her own bravery, as for example when she is ordered to fall back because of an impending German attack and refuses to go. Yet there is a striking absence of any commentary about the sick and wounded, at a time when the casualty rate is shocking. Medical officers reporting to their professional journals provide information about the horrific situation that is omitted from Kitty’s diary, and the testimony of a Matron O’Dwyer confirms that nothing – not even experience at the base hospitals further back from the front line – could prepare nurses for what they were to encounter at a clearing station. But Kitty’s experiences here are at war with the identity she has crafted for herself within this diary: as a tourist, a recorder of culture and a chronicler of the affairs of women, of family and of Anzac glory. (p. 181) In her four months at this clearing station, she does not know how to write about the relentless flood of seriously wounded men in pain.

There is so much more that I could write about this brilliant book but I will confine myself to recommending that if you read just one book about the ANZAC experience, it should be this one. Butler’s humane analysis covers much more than just the experience of one woman at war, and the issues raised by this book have been the subject of many conversations with friends and family while I’ve been reading it.

The book includes B&W photos of Kitty, comprehensive notes, a select bibliography and an index.

The launch at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance was a slightly more sombre affair than other book launches I have been to. Held in the visitor’s centre, proceedings began with a recitation of the Ode of Remembrance, and the book was launched by Colonel Jan Mc Carthy ARRC (retd) from the army nursing service. Many of the people there were descendants of Kitty McNaughton who shared the author’s pride that the story of this remarkable young woman has been told at last.

Highly recommended  for teachers of Australian History, teachers teaching on the topic of War, and teachers teaching Gender Studies.

Author: Janet Butler
Title: Kitty’s War
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press) 2013
ISBN: 9780702249679
Source: Review copy courtesy of UQP, and autographed on the night by the author!


Fishpond:Kitty’s War

Or direct from UQP.

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Book Reviews, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Book review: Meet Mary MacKillop, by Sally Murphy and Sonia Martinez

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 13, 2013

Meet Mary MackillopI’ve always rather liked the Catholic idea of sainthood.  Not because I believe in miracles or any of the spiritual concepts associated with it, but because I like the idea of acknowledging people just for being good.  Society rewards soldiering with military medals, and most countries have some sort of honours system for high achievers. There are bravery awards, and educational systems usually have some kind of award system for excellence in a variety of fields.  But (as far as I know) only the Catholics confer sainthood on people for being good, and so it’s rather nice that Australia has got its very own saint at last.

I teach in a secular school and so this is the approach that I would take in the matter of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop.  She was a pioneer of education for all children rich and poor, and she was an inspiring female role model who set up her own school and founded her own order of nuns.  This kind of leadership was not common for women in the 19th century and so her story in Meet Mary MacKillop helps to provide gender balance when teaching children about significant people in Australian history.

Teachers who do even a rudimentary bit of research at Saint Mary MacKillop and at Wikipedia will soon see that Mary MacKillop was a spirited woman with a talent for controversy.  As the timeline in the back of this book shows, she was excommunicated and even when this was rescinded and she had the Pope’s blessing for her new Order of Nuns, there was conflict with her superiors in Queensland.  Wisely, Sally Murphy has skipped over all these complicated dramas, and told the simple story of MacKillop’s first foray into teaching in Penola South Australia in a beautiful hardback picture book.  The full-colour illustrations by Sonia Martinez contribute to showing the pioneer lifestyle and the text focusses on MacKillop’s initiative, determination and devotion to her faith.

Meet Mary MacKillop is one of a series being produced by Random House to resource the National History Curriculum.

You can find out more about Mary MacKillop at Saint Mary MacKillop and at Wikipedia.

Author: Sally Murphy
Illustrator: Sonia Martinez
Title: Meet Mary MacKillop
Publisher: Random House, May 1st, 2013
ISBN: 9781742757216

Review copy courtesy of Random House.


Fishpond: Meet Mary Mackillop

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Aboriginal Perspectives Resources (with thanks to Anita Heiss)

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 27, 2013

As teachers know, the new Australian Curriculum includes three cross-curriculum ‘priorities’, one of which is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.  One of the science topics includes Year 2 students identifying toys from different cultures that use the forces of push or pull, and this made me wonder about traditional Aboriginal games and whether there was a concept of a ‘toy’ in nomadic lifestyles.  I’ve read a few memoirs and a quite a few children’s books by ATSI authors but I don’t recall any of them referring to this topic at all.

My Australian Story: Who am I?Keen to include Aboriginal perspectives on this topic if possible, I contacted Dr Anita Heiss who is Adjunct Professor at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, at the University of Technology, Sydney.  Many teachers will also know her as the author of My Australian Story: Who am I?

Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal LiteratureBut she also co-edited the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature which I recommend as an introduction to the diversity of indigenous writing  – see my review at ANZ LitLovers  – and she is also the author of these entertaining novels: Manhattan Dreaming, Not Meeting Mr Right, Avoiding Mr Right, and Paris Dreaming.  These popular novels are about sharing the highs and lows of being an urban Aboriginal woman but pitched at a mainstream audience.  Read more about the rationale for these ‘chick-lit’ novels here.

Manhattan Dreaming Not Meeting Mr Right Avoiding Mr Right Paris Dreaming

Am I Black Enough for You?Her most recent book is Am I Black Enough for You? which as the book blurb says is a rejoinder to racist remarks made about ‘being too ‘fair-skinned’ to be an Australian Aboriginal. Such accusations led to  Anita’s involvement in one of the most important and sensational Australian legal decisions of the 21st-century when she joined others in charging a newspaper columnist with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. He was found guilty, and the repercussions continue. This book is on my TBR and I will be reviewing it on the ANZ LitLovers blog when I’ve read it.

Anyway, Anita generously gave her time to reply to my query with some suggested sites:

Yulunga, Traditional Indigenous Games is an ‘activity resource of over 100 traditional Indigenous games created to provide all Australians with an opportunity to learn about, appreciate and experience aspects of Indigenous culture’.   It’s available as a CD-ROM.  Order it here.

There are tips and advice about teachers self-educating about indigenous history and culture at The Critical Classroom.   It’s not about doing formal professional development (though that’s a good idea if you can access it), it’s about reading indigenous literature, listening to indigenous music, using social media and viewing indigenous music. I’d add checking out indigenous art wherever you can access it, and if you’re in Melbourne, keeping an eye out for relevant events at the Wheeler Centre or the NGV at Federation Square.   If you’re keen to read indigenous literature, you might want to join in Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers, I’m hosting it there each year during NAIDOC Week.  (If you don’t know where to begin, I’ve also reviewed some lovely books about indigenous art, mostly published by Wakefield Press, and UQP who sponsor the David Unaipon Award and are great supporters of indigenous writing have also sent me some interesting memoirs.  Check the Indigenous Writing Category in the ANZ LitLovers RHS menu to see what’s available there.)

The Critical Classroom has all kinds of useful resources including this game: Birrguu Matya: A Wiradjuri board game.   Links for where to buy it are here and if you ‘like’ The Critical Classroom at Facebook you can keep in touch with all kinds of stuff.

If you know of any additional resources or bloggers who’re working on this too, please share what you know in the comments below.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian Curriculum, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Learning and teaching, Resources to share | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Aboriginal Perspectives Resources (with thanks to Anita Heiss)

The Great Race, by David Hill

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 21, 2012

I’m not sure whether it’s because maritime exploration has resurfaced in the Australian Primary History Curriculum, or if it’s because there’s a resurgence of interest in Australian history in general, but there are now three recent books that I know of that trace British-French rivalry in the exploration of Australia. The latest one (launched 9.11.12) is Almost a French Australia: French-British Rivalry in the Southern Oceans by Noelene Bloomfield (UWAP, 2012); there is the one I reviewed a little while ago, Encountering Terra Australis: The Australian Voyages of Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders by Jean Fornasiero, Peter Monteath, John West-Sooby (Wakefield 2005); and – released just a little while ago – there is also The Great Race by David Hill.

Although I haven’t set eyes on Almost a French Australia my guess is that most school libraries will buy all three as reference material, but the one that most students will read will be David Hill’s. It’s written in a very readable style and although it’s not as profusely illustrated as Encountering Terra Australis and is certainly not such a beautiful book, it’s not as expensive and it’s not as long, so many schools will be able to buy more than one copy of it.

However, they should not IMO try to make do with David Hill’s book only. It does have illustrations and maps, but they are all placed in the middle of the book rather than beside the relevant text. When trying to follow the actual journeys taken by the various explorers. the placement of appropriate maps in the Fornasiero, Monteath, West-Sooby book, next to the voyages described makes it much easier to visualise what’s going on, especially where the place names have changed over time. This is not a small quibble for teachers: professionally, we know that there are different kinds of intelligences and different learning styles. For students who are visual learners, apt images contribute to efficient learning and retention of knowledge. Vast slabs of text make learning harder for these kinds of learners, even if the book’s readability is not a problem.

However, for general readers who are interested in the fascinating story of Australia’s maritime exploration, The Great Race is ideal. The early chapters trace two hundred years of exploration by Dutch and Portuguese mariners and the landings on the Western Australian coast by the British buccaneer William Dampier. It then continues with the very familiar ground of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast in 1770 when he claimed the continent for England. From there the book goes on to the main game: it covers the contest between Nicolas Baudin from France and the Englishman Matthew Flinders to chart the map of Australia: neither knew of the other until their historic meeting at Encounter Bay. True to the ideals of the Enlightenment, they transcended the hostility between France and England to share not only information and maps but also their mutual delight in the discoveries they had made.

Hill charts their journeys, their travails and their triumphs, quoting extensively from the journals and correspondence of these men to bring them to life. Of necessity there is less of Baudin’s because of his premature death and the fact that his expedition was therefore written up by his spiteful rival Péron, but Hill’s portrait is a generous one. Baudin had his flaws, but there is one quotation which shows clearly that his expedition was an intellectual quest, not one motivated by a desire for new territorial possessions. I haven’t got Encountering Terra Australia to check it, (because I’ve lent it to a colleague) but I don’t recall reading in that account of Baudin’s interesting view of his quest …

At the conclusion of his epic voyage of exploration, not long after his departure from Sydney and en route along the southern coast of Australia, Baudin was surprised to find himself pursued by Captain Charles Robbins aboard the Cumberland. Governor King had sent the British ship after Baudin because there were rumours that the French were about to set up a colony in Storm Bay Passage on Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania). Baudin immediately scotched these rumours with his reply, which is worth quoting in full:

I now write to you as Mr King, my friend, for whom I shall always have a particular regard… To my way of thinking, I have never been able to conceive that there was justice or even fairness on the part of Europeans in seizing, in the name of their governments, a land seen for the first time, when it is inhabited by men who have not always deserved the title of savages or cannibals that has freely been given them; whereas they were still only children of nature and just as civilised as your Scotch Highlanders or our Breton Peasants, etc., who, if they do not eat their fellow-men, are just as objectionable. From this it appears to me that it would be infinitely more glorious for your nation, as for mine, to mould for society the inhabitants of its own country over whom it has rights, rather than wishing to occupy itself with the improvement of those who are very far removed from it by beginning with seizing the soil which belongs to them and which saw their birth.

If you will reflect on the conduct of the natives since the beginning of your establishment upon their territory, you will see that their aversion for you, and for your customs, has been occasioned by the idea that they have formed of those who wished to live among them. In spite of your precautions and the punishments undergone by those of your people who have ill-treated them, they have been able to discern your projects for the future, but being too weak to resist you, the fear of your arms has made them emigrate, so that the hope of seeing them mix with you is lost, and will soon remain the peaceful possessors of their heritage, as the few who now surround you will no longer exist. (p. 262-3)

It will be really interesting to read Almost a French Australia to see how Baudin’s view was at variance with official French plans of the time!

As Hill points out in his admiring analysis, it shows that [notwithstanding Baudin’s opinions about ‘objectionable’ cultures]

Baudin’s letter is unusual for its insight into the injustice of European annexation of territory, and enlightened for its time. It is also remarkable for its accurate prediction that white occupation would devastate Aboriginal civilisation. (p. 263).

Alas, not all Frenchmen were as reasonable, as Flinders himself was to find on his return journey to his long-suffering wife Ann in England. Although he had a ‘passport’ issued by Baudin, he was detained on Mauritius by the governor for seven years due to the renewal of war between France and England. This delay meant that Péron’s highly critical account of Baudin’s leadership of the French expedition was published first and Flinders’ map of Australia was preceded by a French one (which used French names for some places including Golfe Napoleon for Spencer Gulf!) which caused major indignation in England.

On modern maps, however, while there are still some places in Australia that retain their French names (e.g. Freycinet Peninsula) it is the name that Flinders chose as the name of our country that is used, and the place names that he bestowed are those that mostly remain. (While Aboriginal names have been reinstated in some places in Australia, notably Uluru, I do not know if any of the places Flinders named have been). Today Flinders is acknowledged as the first to circumnavigate Australia, it is Baudin’s reputation which is gradually being rehabilitated, and Péron is remembered for his petty jealousy rather than anything else.

Flinders died when he was only forty, just a few years after being reunited with his wife.

The book has extensive notes and is fully indexed.

Author: David Hill
Title: The Great Race: The Race Between the English and the French to Complete the Map of Australia
Publisher: Random House 2012
ISBN: 9781742751092
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House

BTW David Hill is no relation of mine.

Fishpond: The Great Race: The Race Between the English and the French to Complete the Map of Australia

This review is cross-posted at Lisa Hill’s ANZLitLovers LitBlog.

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Book Reviews | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Goodnight Mice! wins 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 2, 2012

Goodnight, Mice!As I’m sure most readers know by now, the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award was won by Goodnight Mice! by Frances Watts and Judy Watson.

It’s a lovely story, suitable not just for Preps and Juniors, but also for students in Years 3 & 4 who will enjoy the rhyme and can also discuss elements of the text such as the setting as depicted in the illustrations.  When the Australian Curriculum is up and running, this book will also be useful to use to discuss poetry and rhyme.

Skills from the SLAV teacher librarian program that can be taught include:

Prep (Level 1)

  • LS 1.2 verbalise sequence of main events in stories
  • LS 1.3 identify the main characters from picture story books
  • LS 1.4 describe where the story takes place in particular picture story books

Years 1 & 2

  • LS 2.3 verbalise sequence of main events in stories
  • LS 2.4 identify the main characters from particular picture story books and describe significant physical features
  • LS 2.5 describe the setting for a particular picture story book

Years 3 & 4

LS 3.2 distinguish between poetry, prose and drama

  • LS 3.4 verbalise sequence of main events in a fiction book and identify the story’s climax
  • LS 3.8 predict what the main character will do after the story has ended
  • LS 3.9 describe contribution of illustrator and illustrations in developing a particular setting

If you don’t already  have a copy of the SLAV Primary Teacher Librarian program, contact SLAV, because it is excellent and has been the basis of my program ever since I’ve been in the library.

I’ve made a Venn diagram worksheet to compare the ‘bedtime in the mouse house’ with ‘bedtime at home”.  It can be used as  follows:

  • Preps: use it as is
  • Years 1 & 2: students write a sentence about their favourite part of bedtime at home
  • Years 3 & 4: students write a sentence under each section of the Venn diagram comparing the bedtime rituals in the story with bedtime rituals at home.

Download the activity worksheet:  Goodnight Mice Setting Venn Diagram

Availability: Click the link to buy from Fishpond: Goodnight, Mice!

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Australian Curriculum, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Library activity sheets, Recommended books | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Goodnight Mice! wins 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award

New Australian Curriculum units for the Primary Library

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 17, 2012

Over Easter, I’ve been updating some of my old VELS units for the Australian Curriculum.

There’s one for Years 1 & 2 called Stories Around the World (and I’ve started another one called Habitat which I’m currently teaching.  I’m aiming to upload that at the end of Term 2 if the workload involved in the School Review  isn’t too horrible. (In my dreams!)

There are now three completed Prep Units: Fables; Wild Animals, and Beatrix Potter.

I’m working on a trial unit called Explorers for Year 4, and an ANZAC unit called Animals at War for Year 3 – though I really don’t know whether these are going to be practical in composite classes.

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Resources to share, School Library Units of Work | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on New Australian Curriculum units for the Primary Library

Book review: Dampier’s Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William Dampier by Adrian Mitchell

Posted by Lisa Hill on February 5, 2012

Dampier's Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William DampierThe publication of Dampier’s Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William Dampier by Adrian Mitchell is not just of interest to readers keen on Australian history, it’s timely for another reason.

Starting in 2013, Australian teachers will begin teaching the new national Australian Curriculum, and so any primary school teacher under the age of 40 will probably need to learn something about the history of European Exploration. It was, I believe, last taught as a compulsory topic in the 1956 Course of Study when students of my vintage laboriously traced maps into exercise books and with coloured pencils marked the voyages of assorted explorers across the world’s oceans. I found it fascinating because of Miss Baird, who told us tales of high adventure, danger and mayhem while we struggled to keep those dotted lines even and in the right place. I loved Miss Baird. She was young and pretty, and, I now realise, she had taken the trouble to jazz up her lessons by doing some background reading that went beyond the dry facts mandated by the Victorian Department of Education.

The 21st century version of that curriculum for 9 year-olds in their fifth year of schooling looks like this:

The Level 4 curriculum introduces world history and the movement of peoples. Beginning with the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, students examine European exploration and colonisation in Australia and throughout the world up to the early 1800s. Students examine the impact of exploration on other societies, how these societies interacted with newcomers, and how these experiences contributed to their cultural diversity. (ACARA, The Humanities – History)

And the mandated content goes like this:

The journey(s) of AT LEAST ONE world navigator, explorer or trader up to the late eighteenth century, including their contacts with other societies and any impacts. (Content description ACHHK078)

The (non-compulsory) suggested examples are Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, or Ferdinand Magellan – but I hope some teachers choose the politically incorrect buccaneer William Dampier instead. He was the first to circumnavigate the world three times, so he counts as a world explorer, but he’s much more interesting to Aussies because in 1688 (100 years before James Cook’s portentous landing at Botany Bay on the east coast) Dampier in the Cygnet became the first English explorer to make landfall in Australia. And if he wasn’t a pirate, he was perilously close to it…

Alas for Mr Dampier, he landed on what he found to be an unprepossessing north-west coast and didn’t find any opportunities for either plunder or trade. Although he returned in 1699 in the Roebuck for more than his previous cursory inspection, in one of those fascinating ‘what might have been’ moments of history, he dismissed the West Australian coast and its inhabitants as unworthy of further notice. So Cook and his Union Jack got the gig as the explorer who claimed Australia for the British, and Dampier was relegated to comparative obscurity…

But as Adrian Mitchell’s book makes clear, Dampier deserves better. Even though the biographical details are a bit scanty, and Dampier himself rejected any suggestion that he was a rogue, enough is known about him for us to be sure that he was more than a bit disreputable, which – let’s face it – makes him much more interesting for kids to learn about than the respectable Captain Cook!

If teachers do decide to lift Dampier from his relative obscurity, they will find Adrian Mitchell’s Dampier’s Monkey a useful resource for background information. They will discover, for example, the reasons that Dampier didn’t – as he wished to – explore more of the ‘New Holland’ coast. I was enchanted to discover why on his first voyage he didn’t sail south:

Like all buccaneers, Dampier navigated the world’s oceans in the hope of making money, and he was especially keen on finding precious metals, i.e. gold and silver. His New Holland Plan was, clearly, to make his fortune in this new world, and that meant finding gold, preferably gold already dug up by accommodating natives who could be persuaded by one means or another to part with it. This ambition cost him a significant place in the history of Australian exploration, and for a reason I could never have guessed.

Though he occasionally found it handy to use sailors’ superstitions to persuade others to do what he wanted, Dampier was a rational man who made his decisions on the basis of known evidence. He sailed north and not south because he reasoned that ‘the gold and silver which the new continent must surely contain would be in the tropic latitudes, as everywhere else around the world’ (p125). This ‘concept of geology determined by geographic zone’ with ‘echoes of an older, medieval notion of some correlation between warmth and mineral wealth’ (p126) precluded Western Australia’s Kalgoorlie and South Africa’s Johannesburg as well as California and the Klondike in the Northern hemisphere, not to mention the lucrative Victorian goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo and Bathurst in New South Wales.

(Mind you, if he had sailed south, he’d have had a bit of a hike to find the nuggets lying about in Kalgoorlie because it’s a good six hundred kilometres inland and there’s a good reason for the pipeline that runs alongside the highway all the way from Perth; there’s very little water to be had. Still, he would have found some very desirable real estate all the same.)

HMS Roebuck 1690, source Wikipedia Commons

And why on his second voyage in the Roebuck didn’t he explore the eastern coast as he wished to? For the most prosaic of reasons – because of borers in his ship. After the publication of his first book, New Voyage Round the World in 1697 there was a lot of enthusiasm for this second voyage but less so for provisioning it, and the ship he was fobbed off with was deficient in many respects. So having made the first detailed survey of the flora and fauna of Shark Bay, and discovered to his dismay that the local Aborigines had no concept of trade that he could exploit, Dampier had to abandon the rest of his plans because of the incompetence of his ship’s carpenter, and set sail for Timor. Just as well he did, because it wasn’t long before the ship sank, off Ascension Island. Fortunately Dampier was able to salvage his journals and some specimens, and it was his expert navigational records that eventually enabled the wreck of the Roebuck to be located by divers in 2001 and some relics including its bell to be salvaged.)

What I found from Mitchell’s book is that it’s not the bare facts of Dampier’s journey that make him so interesting. You can find those on Wikipedia:

Dampier reached Dirk Hartog Island at the mouth of what he called Shark Bay in Western Australia. He landed and began producing the first known detailed record of Australian flora and fauna. The images are believed to be by his clerk James Brand. Dampier then followed the coast northeast, reaching the Dampier Archipelago and then Lagrange Bay, just south of what is now called Roebuck Bay all the while recording and collecting specimens, including many shells. (The Roebuck Expedition, Wikipedia)

What Mitchell does is to analyse Dampier’s journals and his published books to discover discrepancies between them. Dampier began sailing at a time when a blind eye was turned towards buccaneering; the spoils it brought benefitted cash-strapped kings and it led to the development of all-important trade. But James II issued a proclamation against piracy, and Dampier was hauled before the Board of Trade twice (1697 and 1698) and court-martialled too in 1702. It was his books which saved him and his reputation: while the pirate Captain Kidd was strung up and his body left in chains on display to warn others not to replicate his crimes, Dampier was a guest of Samuel Pepys in 1698 and presented to Queen Anne in 1703.

His journals are the key to this differential treatment: while his style was influenced by The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a book of marvels and monsters based on Mandeville’s supposed travels first circulated between 1357 and 1371, , Dampier’s books documented marvels that he had seen and actually knew about, based on the careful observations in his ship journals. New Voyage Round the World (1697) and its successors Voyages and Discoveries (1699) and the two-part Voyage to New Holland (1703 and 1709) were written to captivate his readers with artful descriptions of massive birds and peculiar animals, but in a rational and coherent way. Dampier was arguably the first of the great travel writers.

Mitchell also includes a very interesting chapter about the words that Dampier introduced into English. He was very keen to report back using the indigenous words for things, and this is how we have the word ‘gong’ and also ‘barbecue’!

So you’d think that Dampier’s journal of the 1681-1691 voyage in the South Seas would have made it into print long before this, but no, it’s in this book by Mitchell that we can see it for the first time, complete with Dampier’s (sometimes sanitising) annotations and written in that eccentric seventeenth century spelling as well. (I’d be tempted to give a short extract to a small group of clever Year 4 students for a fun proof-reading exercise!)

The cover illustration is of Norman Lindsay’s The Landing of Dampier (1925), and there are also some interesting reproductions of maps and engravings from Dampier’s books, including one accompanying his record of sailing through a violent storm to Aceh after being deliberately marooned on Nicobar Island. Dampier and his Companions in their Canoe, overtaken by a dreadfull Storm (1777) which (unlike most of the rest of them) is actually in the National Library of Australia.

Dampier’s Monkey: The South Seas Voyages is a scholarly work and here and there it’s a bit arcane, a bit opaque for a general reader. If you’re trying to find a simple summary of why Dampier matters in the history of Australian exploration then this is not the book for you. But to discover the life and interests of a complex, influential and morally ambiguous man who played an important part in the development of natural science, linguistics and anthropology, it is worth the effort.

Miss Baird would have thought so. She’s actually the only teacher whose name I remember from the patchwork of primary schools I attended across three continents. Her approach has to be worth emulating, I would say.

Cross-posted at ANZLitLovers.

© Lisa Hill

Author: Adrian Mitchell
Title: Dampier’s Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William Dampier
Publisher: Wakefield 2011
ISBN: 9781862547599
Source: review copy courtesy of Wakefield Press

Fishpond: Dampier’s Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William Dampier or direct from Wakefield Press.

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New curriculum planning templates for Australian Curriculum History and Science

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 25, 2012

It’s taken a good bit of the summer holidays, but I have finally finished designing some new curriculum planning templates for primary school AC History and Science.  There are four for each subject i.e. for the Foundation (Prep) year; for Years 1 & 2; for Years 3 & 4; and for Years 5 & 6.

Click here to find them.

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