Gleebooks Education 

February 2009

Gleebooks Bookshop - Sunday, February 01, 2009

No 33,  February  2009

Best wishes for the New Year.  I hope it is a good one for you.  We are sweltering with a heat wave at the moment with more to come!  But the beach is a wonderful compensation.

We have now been in Adelaide for just over eight years and Austral Ed has been specializing supplying books to overseas International Schools for about fifteen years altogether.  And I have known some of you for all of that time! I have watched with interest as you shift from one school to another in different regions of the world.  It has been fascinating and we enjoy catching up with you at International Conferences and at your schools.  This year we shall be attending the IB Conference in Singapore in March and so look forward to seeing many of you then.  We are also delighted that we will be going to the EARCOS Conference in Kota Kinabalu toward the end of March.  When we first set up Austral Ed we went to every Conference (then called SEATCCO) for over 8 years.  Then it just became too difficult to get to them each year and so I am really looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones at the EARCOS Teachers Conference this year. 

I also wanted to thank you for your support over the years.  It is your support that makes it possible for Austral Ed to continue to provide teachers and librarians with lists of recommendations and the reviews in the newsletters.  I have done quite a bit of work over the past month or so and updated a lot of the lists.  It takes a lot of time as I am sure you are aware!  Some of the lists are attached to this newsletter.  In fact most of the Australian lists are attached.  I shall also send out, in a few weeks I hope, the PYP and MYP lists as I am frequently asked for updates of these lists but haven’t quite completed them yet.

We had a wonderful Christmas in Sydney and New Year at Culburra Beach two hours south of Sydney with our young grandson Noah and family.  Noah is now 15 months and it is amazing the way his language and communication skills improved just in the time we were there.  Once when we had been at the beach for a while Noah went to the bag with his clothes and got out his sandals.  We took this as a sign that he wanted to go home.   This was such an improvement on his previous way of communicating which was a mini tantrum!  Such excitement too when he saw a real live cow for the first time and immediately said “Moo” which he had never said before.  Isn’t it amazing that young children recognise the real animal as the same as the representation they see in the drawings in books!    

Please pass on the newsletter to anyone who may find it of interest and let me know if your email address has changed. 

Picture Books

Let There be Peace: Prayers from Around the World Selected by Reverend Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly  hardback $27.95
It is not easy to find books which approach this topic in a way which is not sentimental or overly idealistic. However I was most impressed with this wonderful selection of poems, entreaties, writings and prayers from around the world which express so beautifully and movingly our desire for peace.  All the pieces are called prayers and in a way they are but not in the conventional way we usually think of prayers.  The first is a poem from Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism in China over 2,000 years ago.  Others include poems/prayers written during the recent conflict in Bosnia, a Shinto prayer from Japan, a Native American prayer, a Hindu prayer from India and a prayer from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  They all remind us that peace begins with each of us.  The simple understated illustrations add to the strength and beauty of the written word in this marvelous book.   Due beginning March  (6 – 12 years)        

Who is Mrs Green? By David McKee  pb $20.95
When Jennifer’s Mum tells her off, Henry explains that her Mum isn’t really cross, it’s all because of Mrs Green.   He then describes the long chain of events that was caused originally by Mrs Green when she walked across the floor of her upstairs apartment in high heels and woke up Mr Williams who worked shifts and was trying to sleep.  Because he was irritated, he pushed roughly past Bruce … and so on setting off a long chain of cause and effect.  The story would be great to read aloud as it finally builds to the climax when we learn who is Mrs Green was and what she had done to cause this long chain of irritated people.  It is very amusing and would be great for discussing how our actions affect others.  (6 – 9 years)  PYP Fiction

The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis  illus by Gwen Millward  pb $14.95
This is a charming story about two little girls who go fishing at the beautiful magic pond in Bluebell Wood and find a little blue Bog Baby.   He is so lovely they take him home and make a beautiful home for him and care for him so carefully but in the end he looks sicker and sicker.  Their mother says he is a wild creature and can only live in the magic pond in Bluebell Wood.  And so they take him back and many years later one of their own daughters sees many little bog babies playing in the pond.  It may sound a bit soppy but the bog babies are delightful and the story would appeal to little girls.  And it has a very important environmental message with a touch of magic.   (5 – 8 years)

Magic Beach  pb $14.95  • Big Book $40.00   
It is great to see this classic picture book now published for the first time as a Big Book.
This picture book shows children playing in so many different ways at a beautiful beach.   It also engages children’s imagination as it invites them to imagine what might happen if the sandcastle they are building became real or if they found pirate treasure.  The addition of a border highlights details of beach life – there is so much that children can talk about.   (3 – 9 years)

A Bush Christmas by C J Dennis illus by Dee Huxley  hardback $25.00
It’s a bit late for Christmas this year but maybe next year.  Written in 1931, this is a much-loved poem about a very Australian Christmas in the bush.  It is a stiflingly hot day and Mum is cooking the traditional turkey and vegetables, followed by hot plum pudding.  It’s a lazy day for Dad and the boys while Mum slaves over a hot stove and later does the dishes.  Old Rogan comes once a year for some food and a beer and yarns about Christmas in snowy England when he was a boy and the kids can hardly believe what he describes – it is all so different.  Dee Huxley brings the family and the hot dry dusty countryside vividly to life through wry, at times satirical illustrations, contrasting so much with snowy England.  This picture book would be great for discussion of Christmas in different lands and perhaps for discussing stereotypes.   (4 – 10 years)

Mohammed’s Journey: A Refugee Diary by Anthony Robinson and Annemarie Young illustrated by June Allan  hardback $27.95
Mohammed was only six years old when his father was beaten and taken away by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers.  Mohammed and his mother fled Kurdistan in northern Iraq making their way in a perilous journey by truck and boat to England where they were accepted as refugees in 2002.  They have never heard whether Mohammed’s father is dead or alive but presume he is dead.  Mohammed is now happy at school but has vivid memories of his life in Kurdistan and the dangerous journey.  This very moving picture book is told in Mohammed’s words and is illustrated with photos and illustrations. (6 – 9 years) 
PYP Fiction

Crusher is Coming  by Bob Graham   pb $17.00  
It is wonderful that this old favourite of mine is back in print.  Crusher a tough football player from school is coming home for tea.  Peter wants to impress him and so he makes sure that there are no incriminating stuffed toys around his room.  His mother is given strict instruction to keep his little sister away so that they can play older games.   However Peter is amazed when all Crusher wants to do is play with Peter’s little sister Claire.   This is an absolutely delightful story which very amusingly deflates stereotypes and expectations.     (4 – 9 years)


Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo  pb $13.00
This is a new edition of this classic story originally published in 1985 and set in South Africa at the time of Apartheid.  It is the story of two children who set out to walk 300 miles to Johannesburg in order to reach their mother to tell her that their baby sister was very ill.  Their mother works for a white family and sees her own family only a few times each year.  Their journey shows the harshness and discrimination of the Apartheid regime.  This edition contains a Foreward by Michel Rosen and notes on Beverley Naidoo’s own background.  She grew up in Jo’burg with two mothers, her own mother and a black nanny and she can hardly believe that as a child or a young woman she never questioned the cruel system of Apartheid.  This book was banned in South Africa at the time of publication.  It also contains brief notes on the history of Apartheid.     (8 – 12 years)  PYP Fiction

Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson  pb $15.95
The story of a young girl and whose family of mother, father, and younger brother and sister, are forced to flee Herat in Afghanistan during the time of the Taliban.  They travel for many days by truck over rugged mountains into Pakistan where they wait while their father makes his way first to Australia.  When they don’t hear from him, they finally decide to leave making their way to Indonesia and then across to Darwin in a perilous journey with many others in a small fishing boat.  Their joy at arriving turns to grief when they are kept in a desolate detention camp in the centre of Australia.  Finally they manage to contact their father and the family is finally reunited.  This is an amazing story based on true stories of courage and determination.    (11 – 15 years)   PYP Fiction

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman  pb $13.95
Written like a collection of short vignettes, this book begins with a young girl from Vietnam planting a line of beans in the vacant lot near the apartment where her family lives in Cleveland, Ohio.  The lot was full of trash and the snow had only just melted after the long, cold winter.  She planted the beans in memory of her father who died when she was just a baby.  He had been a farmer and so she would be too.  This simple act gradually sparks a succession of plantings by different people of different ethnic backgrounds and with different reasons for planting.  Even more - it is the spark which makes people clear away the garbage and begin what becomes a community garden in which plants are grown, harvested, exchanged and people begin to talk to each other and help each other.  Each character is described through just one short chapter but many of them also appear in the stories of others so that we learn more about them and over the year, a sense of community grows.  Simply written, absorbing and inspiring.  It is enough to make one want to go outside and start planting!!            (9 – 12 years)   PYP fiction     

The Wish Pony by Catherine Bateson   pb $15.95
Ruby has just quarrelled with her best friend and now she has no one.  Her mum always seems to be sick as she is expecting another baby and so it seems that both parents have no time for her.  It is altogether an upsetting time for Ruby and she finds herself behaving in hateful ways that normally she wouldn’t ever do.  However with the help of Magda, who is a bit like a fairy godmother with brilliant henna coloured hair and purple boots and a glass wish pony, things change and on the way Ruby grows up a lot, finds other friends and learns a lot about herself and other people.  A charming book with a hint of magic.   (9 – 11 years)

Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow  pb $19.95
This was obviously great fun to write.  Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow have written this story in tandem and it is about an assignment that Joel and Cat (who have developed a strong antipathy to each other) have to write together.  They are in their final year at school and have to write the story writing assignment by alternate emails and without discussion.  It is great fun as there have been a number of misunderstandings in the past and Joel and Cat discover to their surprise that they don’t really hate each other.  In fact they find themselves increasingly attracted to each other.  It is fast moving, witty and enjoyable.  (12 – 16 years)  

Town by James Roy    pb $19.95
Published in 2007 I missed this story back then.  It was only recently that I read that it had won the Golden Inky in the 2008 Inky Awards.  These Awards are chosen through internet voting by teenage readers themselves from a short list of books put up the website  Do check it out.  The website and the Awards have created a lot of interest.  I really like the structure of Town.   Thirteen short stories are told by thirteen different adolescents over the course of year in an Australian country town.  The stories are linked because they often deal with the same characters but through the various stories they are described from different viewpoints.  It makes for a fascinating portrait of the young people in this town.  Some of the stories are humourous, others are sad; some deal with grief and loss, others with love and hope.  I really enjoyed the book and find it fascinating that young people obviously enjoyed it so much making it their choice for the first prize in the Inky Award.      (12 - 17 years)  


The Word Spy by Ursula Dubosarsky  illustrated by Tohby Riddle  hardback 24.95  (2008)
Urusula Dubosarsky describes herself as a word spy because she gains such pleasure from spying out all the secrets of language.  In this book she invites young readers to join her on this very entertaining journey as she shares all that she has learned about words.  Ursula Dubosarsky writes in a very entertaining and enthusiastic way and gives many amusing and intriguing examples, puzzles, riddles and a code for students to work out themselves.  The book is divided into sections and it reads almost like a story as it discusses various alphabets from round the world and how the English alphabet came about.  Another section looks at the reasons why English is so strange and has such peculiar spelling.  She even makes her discussion of how punctuation came about very interesting and there are lots of examples of language games including puns and tongue twisters, not to mention the examples of anagrams, pangrams, lipograms and acronyms and palindromes.  She finishes up with a discussion of the language of telegrams and of texting.   She obviously loves words and this book is written in such a lively, interesting and enthusiastic way that the descriptions stay in the mind.  Amusing illustrations and clever and engaging presentation add to the appeal of the book.   (9 - 15 years)    

How High can a kangaroo Hop?  by Jackie French  pb $15.00    (2008)
It is a non-fiction book but it looks like and sometimes reads like a novel.  It is written in a conversational style which is very easy to read.  Fascinating tit-bits of information are included in highlighted fact boxes or through Bruce Whatley’s at times beautifully realistic and detailed illustrations and at other times amusing almost cartoon style drawings.  Did you know that a mother kangaroo and wallaby are able to feed a number of baby kangaroos at the same time, each on a different kind of milk for their different stages of development?  The book discusses the development of the gigantic kangaroo of prehistoric times through to the modern day kangaroos and wallabies, the relationship of indigenous people to the these animals, and the effect of European settlement.  There is fascinating information about roo poo, how to behave near kangaroos and how to care for joeys (baby kangaroos). ).  However the best parts of the book are Jackie’s own anecdotes about the kangaroos and wallabies she has lived with on her farm.  There are roo and wallaby jokes and finally details on a wide range of kangaroos and wallabies including details about habits and distribution maps.   The book is similar in format to The Secret World of Wombats  pb $14.95    (9 – 14 years)

World of Design series hardback $40.00 each
Each of the books in this series looks at a wide range of crafts from round the world and there are clear instructions on how to make 6 different examples of crafts, similar to one of the examples of shown.  Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is that it does encourage students to look closer at how the craft is made and indicates different aspects of the design of each craft object.  Some of the craft objects are very modern and made from recycled materials whereas others are ancient crafts.   The book is appealing with brightly coloured photographs and will give students many ideas of different crafts to make.    The full range of titles is:      (8 – 10 years)
Bags and Purses
Bowls and Boxes
Festival Decorations
Toys and Models
Musical Instruments

China Land of Dragons and Emperors by Adeline Yen Mah  pb $15.95
A very readable introduction to the history of China, from the time just before the Beijing Olympics back 2,200 years to Ancient China. This vast history is divided into dynasties but it also features vignettes on various important characters and describes many of China’s inventions and their impact on China.  It is attractively presented with many maps, photos, drawings, and paintings giving us a greater understanding of the very different periods of Chinese history.  It is not a dry historical account as Adeline Yen Mah does try to help us understand how China’s history has affected the way China acts today, especially in relation to China’s determination to keep the whole of the land under tight control since, at so many times in the past, as the Empire unravels then there is chaos throughout out the whole country.   (12 – 16 years)

Australia’s Rivers series by Jane Pearson  hardback $29.95 each   (2008)
Capital City Rivers
Dryland Rivers
The Murray-Darling River System
Wild Rivers
Australia is the second driest continent in the world  (only Antarctica is drier) and so Australia’s rivers are extremely important and as a result this series is welcome but by far the most interesting title is the title on dryland rivers.   Dryland rivers flow through deserts and there are plenty of those in Australia.  These rivers are often just beds of sand for most years but when rains come then they can fill with water and often flood.  At times of floods, fish, frogs and animals and birds appear as if by magic and then as the river dries out the animal life also disappears.  The plant and animal life is accustomed to these cycles however periods of prolonged droughts to do place this system under threat.  When explorers went north they sometimes thought it was a land of lush grass if rains had just fallen and the rivers were full.  It was only later that it was understood that the rivers might fill only once every ten years or so and that the rest of the time the country was desert.  Lake Eyre in northern South Australia has filled only six times since 1839.  And then there is the Henley on Todd Regatta.  This regatta has been held each year on the Todd River in Alice Springs.  Since the Todd River is normally dry the contestants use boats which have no bottoms so that they can be held at waist hight and the contestants can run along the dry sandy river.  The race couldn’t be held in 1961 because at that time there was too much water in the river.  I think students would be fascinated by these dryland rivers and would love to investigate them further.  There is a glossary, Index and the book is well illustrated with photographs and maps.  For students (9 – 12 years)       

Evolution Revolution: From Darwin to DNA  by Robert Winston  hardback $29.95   (2009)
This book is extremely well set out and presented in the well known DK style.  It covers a huge range of information in an entertaining and at times humourous way.  The book begins with some creation stories from round the world and then with a discussion of theories that developed in the 1700s and 1800s as scientists questioned the belief that God had created all the species exactly as they appeared.  There is detailed description of Darwin’s notes and research over 20 years, and the events that led to his publishing of his ideas on natural selection.  The last two chapters look at the effect of the study of genetics on Darwin’s natural selection theory and a discussion of evolution in action over the millennia and how we can see it still evolving.  There is a huge range of photos, diagrams, graphs and illustrations which add to the understanding and interest of this book.  Also a comprehensive Index and Glossary.    (9 – 14 years)             

Illustrated History of Antarctica by Marcia Stenson  pb $29.95 (2007)
This book provides an excellent summary of both the harsh physical environment and the human history that makes up the story of this continent.  It is unusual to get a book looking at the history of Antarctica which includes information on all the many different explorers from various countries and also on the early whalers and sealers.  It covers the geography, climate and discusses the scientific work that has been undertaken by various nations in Antarctica.  Many interesting photographs and detailed maps help give us a sense of this fascinating frozen continent, so different from the Arctic which is a frozen ocean surrounded by continents.   (10 – 15 years)   

The Time Book:  A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks  by Martin Jenkins illustrated by Richard Holland  hardback $29.95  (2009)
I really enjoyed reading this book.  It does not look like the more conventional non-fiction titles and in fact it reads like a discussion of time.  The illustrations are sometimes whimsical and add to our interest and understanding with graphs and representations of specific machine.  The book is divided into chapters and it begins with a discussion of why different cultures over the millennia have found it so difficult to make an accurate calendar.  Various calendars are discussed and in particular the peculiarities of the Roman calendar and the effect this has had on other calendars.  Lots of information is included that I hadn’t known before.  Jenkins looks at time measuring devices and their accuracy and the earliest clocks used by Egyptians, Romans and the Chinese.  I found his discussion on the social effects of more accurate timekeeping had on society fascinating. The final chapter asks if we really understand time and discusses some very strange phenomena and what happens to time when we travel at the speed of light.  Browsing through this book would be assisted by the very comprehensive index.   (12 – 16 years)

Every Picture Tells a Story:  Adventures in Australian Art (2008)  by John Ross with Anna Booth  pb $29.95  (2008)
This is such an interesting book.  Surprising enough it is great for browsing through the artworks but could also be used as a text.  The authors have chosen a marvellous collection of Australian art, including paintings, photographs, lithographs, linocuts and etchings.  Each work of art and its artist is discussed and there is also an historical account of the event or place depicted.  This means that for the Aboriginal ochre painting on bark by Indigenous artist Wandjuk Marika, the meaning of the painting is described and also some background on the artist and there is also a description of the art of Indigenous Australians and background to their history.  In this way we learn about early and later immigration into Australia, about Ned Kelly and also the environmental scourge of rabbits in Australia and the dread of bushfires as well as War, and the Depression.  The art works are fascinating in their own right but the background information makes them even more interesting while giving at the same time some information on Australian art and its history and also on general Australian history.  All the art comes from the collection at the National Gallery of Australia.  The book was published in 2008.  It is a meandering journey made all the more interesting by some additional intriguing anecdotes.    (12 years up)   

The Ultimate Book Guide : Over 600 great books for 8 – 12s  editors Daniel Hahn and Leonie Flynn and Susan Reuben  pb $35.00  A second updated edition is due in April 2009.  This edition 2004.  This is a very inviting book for browsing.  Dozens of well-known writers have written lively reviews of some their favourite books.  As a result there are many classics but also recent titles.  A few of the books listed are out of print but most are still available.  The book is organised as an A – Z by title.  But from time to time there are also lists of the top ten best adventure, or fantasy or school stories or stories from other cultures and with each review there are some other suggestions of books that may be similar in some way.   It is lively, inviting easy to use and extremely helpful.  A good book for parents for teachers or for students.   

You may remember that I reviewed the following book for teenagers last year.

Right Book Right Time:  500 great reads for teenagers (2007) by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen  pb $35.00   Agnes Nieuwenhuizen has an extraordinary knowledge about books for young adults and has written over the years a number of books on this subject.  I was especially impressed with this book, just published in 2007, because its layout makes it so accessible and it is a book which invites browsing.  Books are discussed under various subject areas such as action, adventure and crime, life, love and loss, extreme & edgy, this sporting life and fantastic worlds.  Agnes has reviewed many of the books herself but there are other reviewers and so there is a variety of voices.  About 200 of the entries are recent books, by writers from Australia and also from many overseas countries.  Throughout the book there are suggestions of other titles that teenagers could try next.  If you like this author, then try … If you like crime, then try this classic.  Agnes hopes that this will provide stepping stones and links for readers to take them to more books that they will enjoy.  A number of translations are also reviewed.  This is an extremely helpful reference for teachers, librarians and parents and it is also a book that teenagers can browse through and where they will hopefully be directed to other books that they will love.  “The challenge, as Doris Lessing emphasised, is to find the right book at the right time.”  (12 years up)

Music Resource

Music is not my area of expertise and so I don’t normally recommend titles in this area but this book has been an institution in Australian schools now for many years and is widely recognised as being excellent and is much loved by students and teachers.  
The Sing! Book 2009   published by ABC  $13.95  
It contains a collection of fifty songs for primary school students to listen to, to learn and to sing along with.  A new collection is published each year.  In this 2009 edition, there are five songs based on the environment and there are also songs described as Speech Rhymes and Rap, Show Music, World Music, Being Me, Country and Popular.   The companion Sing! Teachers’ Handbook 2009 offers a variety of practical and fun ideas to integrate into classroom activities.  It features percussion and movement activities, performance ides and vocal arrangements. The Handbook can be used by the experienced or inexperienced music teacher.  There are also 2 double CD sets which contain both vocal recordings and instrumental backing recordings.   
The Sing! Book 2009     $13.95
Sing! Teachers’ Handbook 2009    $15.95
Sing! Teachers’ Vol 1 and Vol 2 CD sets 2009    $34.95 each

Professional Resources

Learning for Themselves: Pathways to Independence in the Classroom  by Jeni Wilson and Kath Murdoch  (includes CD-ROM)  pb  $45.00  (2008)
This is another very helpful book from this impressive team.  It is increasingly recognised that classrooms are the places where students learn to learn and learn how to become effective, independent learners.  This book aims to give teachers a repertoire of effective strategies and structures which will give students the opportunity to be independent in their learning.  The chapter are organised into four broad areas: Thinking, Learning Preferences, Inquiry and Personal Challenges.  The learning tasks given draw from commonly addressed topics in primary school curriculums and are designed to be adapted by students and teachers to suit particular interests and a range of teaching and learning goals. The accompanying CD-ROM provides all learning task proformas as well as a further 28 proformas to assist teachers and students when planning, managing, monitoring and keeping records associated with independent learning.     

Improving Student Achievement: A Practical Guide to Assessment for Learning by Toni Glasson  pb $42.00  (2009)
This is a helpful book covering many different aspects of assessment for learning and how it can be incorporated into teaching strategies.  The book provides practical guidance to teachers in the way they consider and use assessment in the classroom.  It highlights the learning partnership between students and teachers as they plan, set goals and respond to feedback to improve student learning and teaching focus.  There are chapters on, Learning Intentions, Success Criteria, Strategic Questioning, and Effective Teacher Feedback.   Many helpful examples are given.    

The Connected library: A handbook for engaging users  (2006) by Suzette Boyd  pb $82.50  
I had meant to review this some time ago but it got buried under a large pile of books!  This is a challenging book with a wealth of practical ideas.  It is an extremely creative, lively and engaging account and gives a huge number of ideas on how to increase the level of engagement with users of the library.  It is written in a very clear format, and is compact and accessible.  John Marsden has written the very complimentary Foreward to the book and he writes that a “librarian’s success in effecting change depends on her ability to achieve status and influence in school and to assert herself“.  The Connected Library has many ideas on how this can be achieved.  As a result the book is not just a how-to manual.   It emphasises the importance of building connections and trust with students, of communicating with and enlisting the support of all users, of being positive, upbeat and enthusiastic, of marketing and promoting the library, and in becoming the cultural and education hub of the school.  Perhaps a problem could be that there are so many ideas that some librarians, especially new librarians could find it overwhelming.  In addition I am very aware that many libraries do not have the staff levels which would be necessary to put many of these ideas into practice. However I do think it is a very worthwhile book and so have reviewed it here.   (Apologies for the cost of the book but we get very little discount and also have to cover the cost of shipping.)

If anyone would like their name to be added to the mailing list so that they receive the newsletter and lists directly by email, please contact me.      

If you would like to order any of the books reviewed in this newsletter or in the accompanying list, send orders to Austral Ed by fax, post or email.   All prices are in Australian dollars and include GST of 10% which is not applicable to overseas schools.

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