Books for Our Planet

There’s nothing more important than our children’s future, and what’s the world without a thriving, flourishing and beautiful planet. To make a difference on this Earth, it starts with YOU. One person. One child. So, it is with delight that our children’s book industry has LOTS of empowering, stunning picture books to raise awareness and unity in collectively working towards a better planet for all of our futures.

Amira’s Suitcase, Vikki Conley (author), Nicky Johnston (illus.). New Frontier Publishing, March 2021.

In beautifully emotive language, Vikki Conley pens this hopeful, heart-warming story of a little girl vicariously feeling the warmth and growth of her seedling, discovered in the corner of her suitcase. Nicky Johnston’s touching illustrations add plenty of love with her aptly chosen earthy hues representing the collaborative care and nurturing by Amira and her two friends, living in a shanty town with not much other than this growing life form to lift their spirits. Little visual clues around the cover and within the pictures enrich the message of the journey of migration, memory and kindness, with Spanish text meaning ‘to treat with care and affection’. Amira’s Suitcase is filled with pure happiness.

Pear of Hope, Wenda Shurety (author), Deb Hudson (illus.), EK Books, May 2021.

Pear of Hope in every sense symbolises hope, health, life, strength and heart. Tugging on heartstrings, this story by Wenda Shurety is written with a gentle, beautifully poetic style of prose representing growth with the unity of a pear tree seed and of a little girl’s recovery following her serious illness. An empowering sense of keeping positive and mindful in times of hardship shine through the pages, which are radiantly illustrated by Deb Hudson with multi-media, multi-textural design, colour, brightness and stunning natural detail. Pear of Hope is like a comforting canopy of sweetness to gain warmth and nourishment from, for all and especially those with difficult life circumstances.

Teaching notes have been provided at EK Books.

Move that Mountain, Kate & Jol Temple (authors), Terri Rose Baynton (illus.), Scholastic Australia, April 2021.

On first thought, a child might think they’re too little to make a difference in this world. These concerns are reflected upon reading Move that Mountain; when a group of tiny puffins come across a stranded killer whale (aka the mountain) on their beach. When ‘the problem’s too big’, it seems moving it an impossibility. But thank goodness for the brilliance and encouragement of these creators, following the ingenuity of their first title, Room on our Rock, for reading the book backwards takes on another perspective. A perspective that allows the reader a powerful, thought-provoking experience and an attitude towards acting upon environmental changes. Language and pictures work harmoniously together, in a sublimely moving force of nature.

Bee Detectives, Vanessa Ryan-Rendall (author), Brenna Quinlan (illus.), CSIRO Publishing, May 2021.

This non-fiction narrative by Vanessa Ryan-Rendall and Brenna Quinlan sure is buzzing with fascinating facts and excitement as we enter the bee hive with the budding Bee Detectives. Olivia and Hamish are alerted with a loud chainsaw scream and a smoky haze coming from the neighbouring park, only to discover it to be a smoke of insects – Native Social Stingless Bees trying to repair their fallen hive. Following is a sweet, busy exploration into the life of bees – from the structure of their comb, to keeping them safe, different variants of species and their characteristics, and their work in the pollination industry. What keeps readers engaged is the clever use of questioning, the consistency of the characters’ voice, and the enlarged, bold and coloured text that helps the audience identify specific names and essential terms. Plus, the watercolour and line illustrations beautifully lend themselves to the child-friendly quality, including eye-catching break-out boxes as photographs, sketches in a book or on a blackboard, magnifying glasses and sequences of life cycles and diagrams. Not to mention the added buds of humour and sugar-loads of tips on attracting native bees, hints on conservation and their benefits to the environment, and further information, which create quite a sting to our senses! Primary-school children are sure to get ‘stuck’ right in to this one!

CSIRO Publishing provides free teacher notes at: publish.csiro.au/book/7962.

The Plastic Throne, Amani Uduman (author), Kera Bruton (illus.), MidnightSun Publishing, March 2021.

The Plastic Throne takes a serious subject of pollution and sustainability and turns it into a whirlwind of tongue-in-cheek humour. Young Denver’s adversity to various food, broken and unwanted items (even if some of them aren’t his own) leads to raging city chaos when he decides to flush them all down the toilet, awakening the fury of the midnight ocean. Whilst some residents take advantage, Denver and his sister Maisy (and their trusty rubber chicken!) embark on a mission to not only restore their natural environment, but also to find a new solution to disposing of the waste. Amani Uduman and Kera Bruton maintain their wickedness until the end, allowing readers plenty of giggles yet a strong focus on safe and appropriate environmental practices (as well as animal welfare). This one will keep early years children ‘engaged’!

The Gentle Genius of Trees, Philip Bunting (author, illus.), Scholastic Australia, April 2021.

There’s no denying the genius of Philip Bunting, master of the funny non-fiction, with titles including Give Me Some Space and Who Am I?. The Gentle Genius of Trees is another spectacular wander into our wild and beautiful world – this time, the intricate brilliance of our trees and their systems, including the works of photosynthesis, symbiosis, and the wood-wide-web. Bunting literally gives his trees life with his humorous anthropomorphic one-liners nestled in amongst the forest of fascinating facts and nutritious, delicious graphics, diagrams and illustrations that, ingeniously, appeal to both young and old. Finally, he ‘leaves’ us with a lasting impression; like trees, we ‘hairy humans’ should support one another, look out for our world, and strengthen ourselves with the things that give us the most energy. One word – genius!

Growing Pains, Alison McLennan (author), Melissa Johns (illus.), EK Books, April 2021.

If anyone cares the most about the feelings of trees, it’s Finn; a sensitive young boy learning how to navigate his own path to standing tall and brave, found through the serendipitous help of the tree itself. As it grows, Finn’s curious and kind heart ensures that his sapling is fed, warm and comforted by the same means as humans’ needs – toast, a scarf and in good company. In unison, Finn grows, too, and learns more about himself than he thought possible. This sweet and heart-warming tale is beautifully paired with stunning collage detail, fully illustrated with textured materials that create a soothing, homely and natural feel. Growing Pains is an important book for young children to realise their own courage and resilience, and inspire care for the world around us. This is one that will absolutely burst your own heart with love.

Teaching notes have been provided at EK Books.

The Colour of Music, Lisa Tiffen (author), Matt Ottley (illus.), MidnightSun Publishing, June 2021.

The Colour of Music is the ultimate culmination of imagination, beauty and poetic language, through a completely synesthetic experience. Lisa Tiffen’s lilting words and Matt Ottley’s stunning artwork transport the reader to worlds both reflected in true nature and in fantasy, all through the power of music. Molly, with the vibrations of the beats running through her headphones, allows her mind to take her on a colourful, emotion-filled journey of sound. From peaceful arpeggios and deep rumbling waves of the bass, to sharp, sickly daggers that ring in her ears, heavy triads in stirring sludge, and triumphantly resounding in a beautiful silence. This is a book that opens up possibilities for readers to explore their senses on a whole new level through the power of synaesthesia. Utterly, superbly pitch perfect!

Reviews by Romi Sharp.

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