Showing posts with label non-fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label non-fiction. Show all posts

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Crafty Science

Crafty Science by Jane Bull (Dorling Kindersley) PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 9780241353455

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

This bright hardcover publication continues the useful and factual format of the non-fiction DK range. Parents and librarians recognise this long-standing range that continues to provide clear and concise information in a durable format. Building on previous publications it contains past, and new science projects that focus on STEAM, the science and technology components of the UK and Australian curriculums.

Each project contains bright step by step instructions with a framed "What's the science?" paragraph in simple text explaining the concepts as well as an equipment list. As with all the high-quality DK information range this title by award winning author contains a contents page, rear index and glossary. 

Although this title repeats many well-known projects the updated format with additional STEAM links provides a great title to use at home. the variety of projects will engage a range of interests. A valuable addition to public and school libraries it also would aid Home-school or distance education families. Aimed at middle and upper primary ages, many of the projects require adult supervision and planning to purchase resources.  

The only small issue in this new title is the use of dark red and green text boxes for some of "What's the science?" paragraphs which might be difficult to read for children who have colour blindness.  

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) RRP: Paperback $14.95 Hardback $24.99   ISBN: Paperback 9781925675771 ISBN: Hardback 9781925675788

Reviewed by Anne Helen Donnelly

Australia Remembers begins with an introduction to our country, how we live and how people in other countries may live. It continues to explain, in plain language perfectly pitched for the target age group of 6 to 12, the topics such as conflict, commemoration, ANZAC and document events such as the World Wars and current events that take place in remembrance. Apparently, there are three different types of bugle calls. I didn’t know this even though I had a friend in the army who used to play at every dawn service!

After the initial explanation, the book flows chronologically beginning with World War I and ending with The War on Terror, as well as Peacekeeping efforts. It explains to children why we remember and how, detailing various Australian War Memorials within Australia and abroad. Symbolism is included, such as the wearing of poppies and other national rituals, such as the minute silence on Remembrance Day and the baking of Anzac biscuits.

The layout is spot on, with the right mixture of images and information. The text is not excessive and is presented in different ways such as in thought bubbles, posed as questions and in sections with different coloured backgrounds. The images used keep the reader interested.

Photos, both current and historical, are included, as are maps and little drawings such as lightbulbs and question marks to attract attention to various text. A glossary is included for younger readers and the activities in the last chapter including making cardboard poppies and a recipe for Anzac biscuits, will keep little hands busy and make this book a more interactive experience.

This is exactly the type of non-fiction book I would have loved at age 6 to 12. Informative and interesting with relatable content. I highly recommend it.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN978 12925675771

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Primary schools all over Australia are sure to snap up this well-designed and comprehensive large format book. Filled with coloured pictures and photographs (some of them historical), the book takes the reader through the story of conflicts that Australia has been involved in. It shows how our country honours, thanks and remembers those who fought to protect others, or suffered in war and conflicts in the past.

It explains how, from a population of five million, over 416,000 Australians volunteered to serve their country in the AIF. And how more than 60,000 of the volunteers lost their lives. It examines the role of Anzac Day in our country’s history with numerous coloured break-out shapes that look at subjects such as the Western Front and the Middle East, mateship, the Diggers and the Anzac Spirit. It moves on to Anzac Day services, ceremonies and parades, with numerous quotes from serving soldiers and school children about subjects such as why the day is remembered. The reader is shown stories and photographs of the bugle call, dawn services, even the RSL.

A large section of the book is devoted to Remembrance Day (11 November) with details such as when the Armistice was signed, the silence of respect, even the ode of Remembrance and why poppies are important. More than one chapter is devoted to war memorials across Australia, with additional information about the Vietnam War (1962-73), Afghanistan 2001 (ongoing), and another war on terror, Iraq (1990-91) and (2003 – 2009).

At the back of the book there is more to inform the reader, including a map showing locations where Australians serve in conflicts and peace-keeping missions. There are numerous activities included, too, such as how to make a poppy, Anzac biscuits, a wreath and even how to create a war memorial. Like all good non-fiction books there is a glossary, index and bibliography with acknowledgements and a page about the hard-working author who has also written the 2016 ABIA and CBCA-longlisted title Anzac Sons: The Story of Five Brothers on the Western Front.

The book is highly recommended.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines by Prue and Kelly Mason, illustrations by Tom Jellett (Walker Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781922244635

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Can you imagine what the world was like before we had aeroplanes? Imagine how long it took to get anywhere and how isolated we were from the rest of the world.

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines shares the stories of 10 brave Australians who took to the skies and changed aviation forever. These Australians had vision and courage, and it is thanks to them that we can travel through the air.

The authors were inspired to write this book after they bought a vintage plane in 2000. Both licensed pilots, they started researching the history of their purchase and were intrigued by what they uncovered.

This book is overflowing with interesting facts about aeroplanes and aviation, and is not only interesting to read but also highly informative.

Did you know that women weren’t allowed to fly until 1927, even though men were permitted to fly 15 years earlier? Well, after reading this book you will have lots of impressive facts to wow your friends and family with.

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines is one of the most visually appealing books on the market. It is beautifully designed with fun illustrations from Tom Jellett and archival photography of each of the Australians featured.

It is a wonderful educational tool for children and is great for classroom discussions. It features "Did You Know" sidebars, three amazing facts about each of the people featured and friendly, informative text that is enjoyable and entertaining to read.

This book is perfect for readers aged 9 years and over, and is a brilliant gift for young readers interested in aviation and Australian history.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

DK Find Out! Ancient Egypt

DK Find Out! Ancient Egypt by Dr Angela McDonald (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $14.99   ISBN 9780241282779

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

As a child I would have loved to receive this book – and as an adult I’m delighted to read and review it. All Dorling Kinsley books are beautifully designed, researched by experts and full of amazing and fascinating facts – and this book is no exception. 

Fully coloured, this is a small book filled with full colour page spreads (mostly photographs) on all aspects of Ancient Egypt such as boats and trade, gods, artwork, tombs, Pharaohs, soldiers and war, even how to make a tomb -- and much, much more. Take the pages on Food and Drink: the diet for poor people mainly consisted of bread and beer as well as spring onions and nabk (which tasted like apples) but cucumber was a ‘fancy’ food. Rich people on the other hand ate dates, lotus root, figs, honey, yogurt, pomegranates and melons as well as meats, principally beef. We read on these pages that a rich Egyptian called Mereruka had hyenas fattened for a feast!

In the section on Children in Egypt, there’s a board game which highlights the dangers these ancient children faced such as falling into the river Nile and being chased by a hungry crocodile, and being stung by a scorpion. If you land on spot 12, you get another go because ‘you’re a natural red-head’ and ‘red hair is rare in Egypt and a symbol of the god Seth.

There are so many unusual and fascinating facts in this entrancing book, all set out in easy to read style with lots of break-out boxes, diagrams, and photographic captions. Learn about mummified dung, secret messages, the importance of the number 10, facts about missing parts, explorers, servants, pyramid building and so much more. Any child reading this book is sure to drive the family mad because they will constantly making discoveries and relating them.

This book is highly recommended for schools and for children, especially those aged 8 to12 years.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Wilderness: An interactive atlas of animals

Wilderness: An interactive atlas of animals written by Hannah Pang, illustrated by Jenny Wren (Little Tiger Press) HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781848575066

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

A beautifully presented, hardcover non-fiction book, Wilderness provides a fact-filled overview of the world’s animals, perfect for readers aged five to eight.

The book is divided by habitat, from ‘On Safari’ and ‘Sea Search’ to ‘High Mountains’ and more. The book is illustration-heavy and interactive, with pop-ups and lots of flaps to lift, revealing fascinating facts about quirky animals and diverse eco-systems. A particularly fun spread is ‘Trek to the Poles’, with animals from the Arctic at the top, and those from the Antarctic upside down at the bottom, encouraging readers to flip the book around.

While the book is broad in its overview, a unique aspect is its focus on lesser-known creatures. From the pale-throated sloth to the red-lipped batfish, kids will delight in discovering the world’s animals beyond the usual suspects. The book would make a great gift, and would also be a handy resource for school projects.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Aliens and the Unexpected

Aliens and the Unexpected by Rose Inserra (Rockpool Publishing) HB RRP $24.99   ISBN 9781925017489

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The target readership of this book which explores mysterious and strange real life occurrences is readers aged 10 to 14 years. It addresses the question which has been debated for decades: are we really alone in the universe? For others interested in unidentified sightings and in the unexplained, author Inserra, an expert in metaphysics, explores a wide range of strange phenomena, asking such questions as whether or not our ancestors have connections to galactic visitors and why famous ancient sites are built on ley lines and how they might connect to extra-terrestrials.

Inserra has really done her homework and has convinced this reviewer of the existence in both the past and the presence of alien life. She has presented so much evidence that it seems difficult to refute it, though governments have done for many years. To start, the author says that archaeologists had discovered strange skulls with non-identifiable human DNA strands. She formulates the hypothesis that ancient aliens visited Earth in prehistoric times – as evidenced by petroglyphs and rock art showing ‘sky beings’ or ‘spirits from the clouds.’ Early fifteenth century Mayan texts from Mexico talk about ‘beings descended from the sky in flying vessels… white men in flying rings who can touch the sky.’ 

Quoting the story of the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, and other ancient sources, Inserra suggests that aliens bred with sub-human beings to produce modern man. How to explain the advanced technologies evident in the building of Pyramids and the giant statues of Easter Island, for example?

The only aspect of the book which seemed to be unsupported by clear evidence is when Inserra writes about the many varieties of aliens which exist, ranging from the Pleiadeans (blond Nordic humanoids or brunettes) with super technology to the Draconians, muscular and dragon-like who are terrifyingly tall and corrupt and brutal. Other alien species mentioned include the Greys, the Nordics, Lyrans, MIBs, Arcturians and Sirians. If you want to know UFO hot spots around the world, the book names them, and also gives examples of dates and places of claimed alien abductions.

In this fascinating and easy-to-read book, there is a wealth of information which cover unexplained phenomenon such as crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, time travel quantum physics and more. Perhaps our ancient ancestors did have connections to galactic visitors and modern man does have alien DNA (this, suggests Inserrra, would explain the ‘missing link’ of Darwin’s theory).

The book is well-designed with headings, sub-headings, break-out boxes, and really interesting photos some of which show art depicting UFOs. In The Crucifixion painted in 1350, a UFO is shown in the sky (a man sitting inside a sun-like capsule), and there are two other photos of artwork showing UFO-like features in works painted in the 1500s and 1600s.

Children who are intrigued by the idea of aliens and who enjoy a good read are likely to become totally absorbed by the wealth of stories in  this book. They are also likely to walk around trying to convert others to the fact of life beyond Earth. And, too, they might like to follow up their reading by referring to the bibliography of books, magazines and websites at the end of the book.

Aliens and the Unexplained with stories of bizarre, strange and mysterious phenomena of our galaxy is the second in The Supernatural Series, the first being Witches and Wizards by Lucy Cavendish.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up

101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up by Bianca Schulze (Quarto Children’s Books) PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781633221697

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

There’s no shortage of online lists of the ‘best children’s books’ to read -- but it is just so nice to see the titles celebrated in this full-colour, kid-friendly guide!

Founder of the successful website ‘The Children’s Book Review’ (, author Bianca Schulze has compiled a great collection of modern and classical children’s fiction from around the globe. There are stories like The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, Bridge to Terabithia, The Graveyard Book … about 101 stories, to be exact! (More if you count the books listed in the complementary ‘What to read next?’ list against each title.) I was also pleased to see some Australian fiction in there – Whoever You Are, Hating Alison Ashley, The Magic Pudding and The 13-Storey Treehouse.

The design of this book is sure to appeal to the age group (8–12 years). The layout is magazine-style, with full colour pages. There are breakout boxes with quotes from the books or with fun facts. The icons down the side of the page note basic info – target age, genre, publisher, publication date and page count. There is a brief description of each book, written in a friendly, non-condescending voice -- with just enough of the plot to pique one’s interest! Each book entry includes an empty journal space for readers to mark whether they’ve read the book, give it a rating, list their favourite character and write notes.

The colourful, cartoon-like illustrations by Shaw Nielsen are delightful and literary figures (such as Harry Potter, Pippi Longstocking and Peter Pan) are immediately recognisable. The book includes a double-sided, pull-out poster of most of the characters also. Kids will have fun matching up the Nielsen drawings in the poster against the book entries in the guide.

The books are presented by age (though there’s an author note explaining that they can be enjoyed by readers of any age). It is also possible to search for the books by genre, making this a great reference for kids and parents who aren’t sure what to read next.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Awesome Animals: Cats – Fun Facts and Amazing Stories

Awesome Animals: Cats – Fun Facts and Amazing Stories by Dianne Bates, illustrated by Sophie Scahill (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925275407

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Identical in format to the companion book on Dogs, Awesome Animals: Cats is another journey through entertaining, at times unbelievable, always interesting information on our feline friends.

It opens with a history on cats beginning in ancient times and the important role they played in worship. Cat fossils over fifteen million years old have been found. There have been cats in art dating back 7,000 years. From Ancient Egypt to travel on the Mayflower and onward, cats in history prepares the reader for the wondrous trail of facts – humorous and incredible – that this collection for the 8-12 year old is compiled.

The recorded cat adventures will prove that truth is stranger than fiction with feline exploits, statistics, stories of survival, heroism and bravery, and bizarre stories of tyrannical cats. We learn about cats as Gatekeepers, Ambassadors, heirs to fortunes, and spoilt and over-indulged moggies. There are Award winners, actors, pets of famous people such as Popes, Presidents, Prime Ministers, writers and other prominent people. Look for the stories about toilet trained cats, and the first Cat Café that opened in Sydney in 2015.

Jokes, poems, trivia and rhymes add humour and create laughter. The gorgeous photos that appear throughout the book are of residents of the Little Legs Cat Rescue, Queensland.

As with the Dogs edition, this book emphasises the importance of responsible cat ownership and care, and stresses the need for research before choosing a pet as it is to last for the lifetime of the animal, therefore must be taken seriously and entered into with commitment for that lifetime. Useful links and information on Pet Shelters are also listed.

Awesome Animals: Dogs - Fun Facts and Amazing Stories

Awesome Animals: Dogs - Fun Facts and Amazing Stories by Dianne Bates, illustrated by Sophie Scahill (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925275384

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Although aimed at the 8-12 year age groups, this delightful, well-researched book on dogs throughout history will entertain, inform and amaze adult readers, pet lovers, and trivia buffs as well with its astonishing and unusual stories and facts.

Under the 20 chapter headings, gems of tales emerge about moving and impressive feats of courage, loyalty, love and miraculous acts from dogs of all kinds and with varying needs. Stories recorded are of famous dogs such as Laika, Greyfriar’s Bobby, Old Shep, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Old Yeller. Other stories about heroic dogs of war will impress, as will those on dedicated working dogs. And the list goes on.

There are dog jokes, and doggy verse; amazing but true stories and facts about dogs. I found this excellent compilation educational and highly entertaining. It produced many laughs and readers will be eager to share it with others.

The outstanding photographs featured throughout the book are of the dogs from the Best Friends Rescue in Brisbane on the Gold Coast and surrounding areas of Queensland. It sent me straight to the site to learn more about these animals that are looking for a ‘forever’ home and love. The book draws attention to all the knowledge that is essential when choosing a dog for a pet, for owning any pet is a lifelong commitment and must be seen absolutely as that. It also brings to light the amount of dogs sadly put to sleep each year.

Awesome Animals: Dogs, is one of three books under the Awesome Animals banner. There are Cats and Horses also. Look out for them for these books are truly worthwhile. They come Highly Recommended.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Meet Banjo Paterson

Meet Banjo Paterson by Kristin Weidenbach, illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock (Random House)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-0-85798-008-3

Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

While lurching at a copy of Meet Banjo Paterson, I was immediately reminded of my grade 4 public speaking performance of Clancy of the Overflow, (that and Jack Thompson’s blonde moustache). As our English teacher’s comb over floated celestially above his head during enthusiastic rehearsals, we were blithely unaware of the man behind the poem; the boy then the man who was to become Banjo Paterson.

Meet Banjo Paterson is the seventh book in the Meet… series from Random House, a collection of non-fiction picture books aimed at uncovering the people behind Australia’s most well-loved and infamous icons including Ned Kelly, Mary MacKillop, Captain Cook and Douglas Mawson. 

Kristin Weidenbach and illustrator James Gulliver Hancock, set the scene for a young Andrew Barton Paterson (Banjo), a boy who lived and loved the Australian bush, particularly horses and bush life. Weidenbach’s evocative tone creates a clear description of what life was like in the second half of the 19th century. 

This is contrasted beautifully with the backdrop of the industrial revolution and the cities where Banjo worked as lawyer in later in life. His love of the Australian outback and fascination with Bushmen is translated as a lasting vehicle of Australia’s heritage.  

James Gulliver Hancock’s illustrations enrich the palate of colonial Australia with muted hues and the use of black chalk to portray a coal and campfire society. The colours including deep reds and purples are indicative of those naturally found in banksias and wild lavender. While the stylized art is a rich collage of Australian bush imagery, the typeface is clean and easy to read, so as not to detract from the overflowing pictures. The font reinforces the non-fiction nature of the book and is interwoven with excerpts from Paterson’s poems and stories such as Waltzing Matilda and Mulga Bill’s Bicycle.

I love that Weidenbach’s retelling of Banjo Paterson’s life creates a vibrant and engaging experience while the timeline of his life at the back of the book gifts insights about the man rarely known. The Man from Snowy River is part of Australia’s DNA, however I was unaware that when it was released it sold out within a week and broke Australian publishing records (without the aid of that internet thing). As an educational tool teachers will love the way it can inspire further research on the life and times of the man but as an example of writers impacting their community.

Kristin Weidenbach’s previously published non-fiction book Tom the Outback Mailman won the 2013 CBCA Eve Pownall Award. James Gulliver Hancock has an extensive background in advertising, animation and technical drawing. Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers is his compilation of profiles detailing interesting facts about famous historical figures presented as highly stylized infographics. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Frank Gardiner

Frank Gardiner by Jane Smith (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781922132673
Reviewed by J Wishart

This non-fiction story is aimed at readers aged around 7 to 12 years and is part of the Australian Bushranger series produced by Big Sky Publishing. Written by historical researcher, Jane Smith, it offers an insight into the exploits of Frank Gardiner during the mid 1800s.

Born in Scotland, Gardiner (then Frank Christie) immigrated to Australia with his family at the age of five. The year was 1834. Fortunate to receive an early education, Gardiner nonetheless had to grow up fast and was working as a stockman by his teenage years. Lack of employment, and a life dependent on horses, eventually tempted him into stock theft. From there he progressed to highway robbery, and eventually became famous for holding up the coach that escorted gold from the mines to Bathurst. 

Despite his crimes, Gardiner had such a talent for influencing people that the term ‘Gardinerism’ was used to refer to his artful strategies. He managed to appeal his sentences with the help of friends and family and even won the support of local citizens, some of whom were victims of his crimes.

As well as touching on themes of human nature and the pursuit of wealth, the book contains a range of historically accurate information. In addition to the main narrative it includes photographs and copies of official documents and news stories to add interest and authenticity. The story covers Gardiner’s main period of activity during colonial history, his various arrests and escapes, and leads up to his eventual exile in 1874.

The text is presented in small, easy-to-read chunks. Breakout boxes offer straightforward facts and figures and help to show the reader what life was like at the time, including difficulties practically unknown today due to modern transport and communications technology. Character is added through the inclusion of brief biographies of the various characters who worked with Gardiner, as well as those who tried to bring him to justice.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Hidden Diffability: Discovering Aspergers

The Hidden Diffability: Discovering Aspergers by Lyndel Kennedy, foreword by Dr Richard Eisenmajer (Blasck Publishing)
RRP  $10 e-book; PB $39.95
ISBN 978-0-9873505-0-3 (ebk) and 978-0-9873505-1-0 (PB)
Available at Dymocks, Readings
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards
Reading Ambassador

A timely book, in different formats too.

This is one of the first e-books I have read on my iPad. I also gave a print copy to my psychologist friend who counsels many families and another to a busy mother of students in the age range of these families. In either the electronic or print format, this book is a valuable resource for continuing reference.

It is also very accessible reading, which is why this collection is significant. It deals with the real questions which families face and contains strategies for everyday practicalities relating to diagnosis, finding an appropriate school, applying for funding support and the final question, of educating non-Aspie families too.

The ‘Hidden Diffability’ title appealed to me, as did the emphasis upon the positive aspects of Asperger Syndrome. Fifteen families are interviewed but these are representative of much more research behind this book.

The strength of this Autism Spectrum collection is in the range of viewpoints, logical structure, excellent editing and cover, but also in having real experiences to share. Vocabulary and terms are explained. No-one wants to insult or alienate by inadvertently using ‘a label’ which others find offensive. I’ve learnt it’s okay to say ‘Aspie’, but it’s even better to talk about ‘diffabilities’.

Author Lyndel Kennedy is to be commended. Two more books are planned in the series and will cover Aspergers at School and Everyday Aspergers. Lyndel also maintains the website of the Aspergers Syndrome Support Network and is a parent support group facilitator. She is a writer, researcher, editor, webmaster (mistress) and mother of three. is where she publishes Asperger-related information.

I’m glad I went to the launch. Lyndel is also a ‘Hazelnut’, a self-named group of writing mentorees who have helped each other in the process of getting their important books written and published. All were at the launch.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations

Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations by Christopher Cheng and Linsay Knight in association with the Powerhouse Museum (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781742755649
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

What a fascinating book. Not everyone is into reading fiction and this latest compendium of inventions that explains and celebrates Aussie creativity has three things going for it. It is sumptuous to look at, simple to read and seriously interesting to learn from.

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations is a handsome book, generous in size at almost A4 proportions, with each page clearly numbered and glossy to handle. Its layout is fresh with appealing print and visuals and enough white space so that you don’t feel weighed down by slabs of words.

Its catchy cover sparkles in colour and font and cries out to be opened. Sure, you can Google Aussie inventions (if you knew what Aussies had invented apart from Vegemite), but this book is tactile, fun and not intimidating even though it is filled with information.

Simple to read is another plus. With its conversational tone, it’s as if someone is spinning a yarn about each invention. There are nine themes reflecting innovations in science, industry and design. Each theme is colour-coded, such as green for communication, red for leisure and blue for health. Each invention begins with a problem conceived by the inventor, such as ‘How to convert chook poo into a useful fertiliser…’ We’ve all smelt the eye-watering odour around the neighbourhood and here we learn that chook farmer, Norman Jennings took years to work out how to turn the sludge into Dynamic Lifter that is now sold world wide. We get a short bio of the inventor and then find out the nitty-gritty of the process he had to go through. A keyword for each topic is helpful, as is the glossary at the back.

Seriously interesting is my last criteria. Over 45 inventions or innovations are explained that can be dipped in and out of. How would you find clues at a crime scene that are hidden to the naked eye like invisible fingerprints? Check out the Polilight on page 172.  What about Spray on Skin or the Supreme Mousetrap Machine? Heard of the Black Box Flight Recorder? Read their stories and more.

This book would suit anyone from upper primary through to teens and adults. It is a result of the collaboration of great minds with accomplished children’s author Christopher Cheng and author and editor Linsay Knight together with the storehouse of all things innovative, the Powerhouse Museum.

Just think. You might be a future inventor. That light bulb moment could happen when you least expect it. What a great idea. Let’s patent it!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Lolli's Apple

Lolli's Apple by Tomas Fleischmann (A.K.A. Publishing)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-984530-3-4
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Lolli’s Apple is an autographical account of Tomas Fleischmann’s experience of the Holocaust and, following the Second World War, his emigration to Australia. I always find autobiographical accounts of the Holocaust somewhat easier to read because at least I am safe in the knowledge that the author survived though at times I wondered how. He and his brother (who was born in Terezin Concentration Camp) were two of only 123 out of 16 000 children who went through the camp.

Tomas was born into the privileged lifestyle of the landed gentry in central Europe. Everyone in their district knew they were Jewish but it wasn’t until August 1944, when Nazi persecutions intensified, that the family went into hiding. Many of Tomas’s extended family were hidden by villagers (and survived). However, possibly because of his parents’ fears of the difficulty of hiding a young boy or the fact that his mother Lolli was pregnant, Tomas’s family headed for the Slovakian capital of Bratislava where they were shortly discovered.

Fleischmann details the brutality, fear and bravery of life in the camps. He writes in an easily accessible manner which does not overwhelm the reader with the horrors of his experience but neither does it shirk this aspect. Powerful images of a train load of Jews left to wander deliriously on the platform as they starve and freeze to death; stark statements such as ‘They don’t build playgrounds in concentration camps’; and explanations of Tomas and other boys walking on the dead in pits as they scatter lime over bodies all encompass a reality that we should never forget occurred in recent history.

Despite all of this, this book is a story of hope and the most memorable image is the one referred to in the title. Following the birth of her baby boy in the camp hospital, Lolli splits a precious apple in two and throws half to Tomas waiting outside.

This book can and should be read by children. Undoubtedly, adults should be ready to give guidance and understanding of the historical events but knowledge of such events is vital if our world, and our children’s world of the future, is to avoid repeating such atrocities. To further that aim, Tomas Fleischmann is a regular speaker for Courage to Care, an education program which promotes respect, harmony and acceptance for all people and has reached out to over 200 000 Australians throughout our community. The program is targeted particularly at school children. 

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dog Ear Café

Dog Ear Café by Andrew Stojanovski (Hybrid Publishing)
PB RRP $34.95
ISBN 978192166506
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

I feel like stopping people in the street to tell them that they MUST read Dog Ear Café. It is essential reading for all young adult and adult Australians. Dog Ear Cafe is a powerful recount of Andrew Stojanovski’s time in the central Australian community of Yuendumu where the battle raged to save the community’s youth from a petrol-sniffing culture. Young people were becoming brain-damaged and dying. Along with Walpiri community elders, Stojanovski established the Mt Theo Petrol Sniffing Program which in eight years defeated petrol-sniffing.

However, it was not an easy eight years. How Stojanovski stuck it out, I don’t know. At times his life was threatened and his marriage teetered. Many other good men and women gave their all but were finally exhausted and left.

One of the great strengths of this book is it is written from the heart and with humour but does not gloss over the harsh realities of life in these communities. Stojanovski has a genuine love and understanding of the Walpiri people gained through being open to their ideas and ways. Dog Ear Cafe is by no means an academic text but Stojanovski (an anthropology graduate) gives his theory on how, with all best intentions, many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people misunderstand each other. Notions of work and saving, kinship and obligation are vastly different in Western and Indigenous culture. Stojanovski explains the ramifications of these differences on how programs run and their effectiveness.

The success of the Mt. Theo Program was due to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians stepping outside their cultural boundaries, commitment and the building of close relationships. Stojanovski founded the Mt Theo Program with Peggy Nampijimpa Brown and Johnny Hooker Creek (all three were awarded Order of Australia medals in 2005). These two Indigenous leaders put themselves at great personal risk by looking after other clans' children. If something had happened to those youths, they may have been subject to the traditional notion of payback.

Dog Ear Café includes a glossary of many Walpiri words and terms; a list of people and their cultural identity; a list of places; bibliography; maps; and many colour and black-and-white photographs.

Please, please, please do yourself and our nation a favour by reading Dog Ear Cafe. This book most certainly should be in every high school, university and public library. It is a story of overcoming culture clash, and inspiration by people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who cared too much to give up.