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This, the epiphany of when inspiration strikes – author and educator, Grace Nolan, sparks our interest with her story behind the stories of the lively, bouncy and cheeky new series for younger children, One to Ten and Back Again. Thank you, Grace! 🙂
A Flash of Rainbow Colours
The One to Ten and Back Again Series
The inspiration for the series, “One to Ten and Back Again” arrived in a flash – just like the birds themselves so chatty and friendly as they dashed noisily over the backyard in a cacophony of chirrups and squawks and a streak of rainbow colours. “Lively Lorikeets,” I thought, “there must be ten of them. Ten Lively Lorikeets! And now they’re gone!” In that instant the idea for 10 Lively Lorikeets flashed into my mind and in a creative spark I imagined the lorikeets disappearing one-by-one and they became a way to explain subtraction.
In the days that followed, I wanted to find a way to explain addition to complement the concept of subtraction and the idea of cute Australian bush animals gathering one at a time for a fun event became 10 Bush Babies. It was then I realised I needed an even earlier concept – just counting to ten – and again more Australian native animals were waiting to be included. Originally, I called this book One Playful Platypus and it was only later it became 10 Naughty Numbats, the first book in the series.
I sent my manuscript off to Big Sky Publishing as I knew they had an Australian emphasis to their publications, but I really had no expectation of it being accepted. It was with great surprise when I returned home from a few days break that I checked my inbox and found an email from Big Sky wanting to discuss the books. I signed my first publishing contract a few months later and so began the journey towards publication.
As an English and Humanities teacher for many years, I have seen how some students struggle with both language skills and very basic maths. It seemed that with these three texts I had found a way to use my love of language and Australian animals to help make these basic maths concepts concrete, fun and accessible.
The format of the books was also really important to me. I felt double page spreads with a landscape orientation were essential to give a sense of freedom and movement to the characters as well as allowing for action and capturing the wide spaces of Australia. I believed the books needed a very clear font with a black typeface on a plain background so that the words were easy to read, especially for younger readers who find reading a challenge. I also wanted the numerals and text placed in the same general area on each page so children could easily predict and locate the information. The element of prediction is present in all the books but is especially obvious in 10 Lively Lorikeets – now the third book in the series but originally the first book I wrote.
In this book the differentiation between the left-hand page with its colour and action and the stark white background of the right-hand page, emphasise the mathematical operation. In 10 Bush Babies as well, the inclusion of the equation on each opening adds another dimension to the level of teaching and learning, while the activities at the end of each book are a chance for revision and reinforcement.
Even with all these underpinning structural elements, I still wanted delight in learning to be the main aspect of the books. It was only natural for me to use my love of rhyme, rhythm, alliteration and assonance to make the texts aurally appealing while also helping children remember what they have learnt.
Nancy Bevington, the wonderful and talented illustrator, has enhanced the books by making every page a work of art. She has brought all the characters to life in a humorous and expressive way in her beautiful and entertaining illustrations. The books also feature thirty Australian animals which help to introduce children to our unique native flora and fauna, so it was great to learn that Australian Geographic had endorsed them.
Apart from introducing children to some basic maths concepts, I love the way these books can bring fun and enjoyment to learning while helping them appreciate our beautiful natural environment and Australian native wildlife.
Article by Grace Nolan.
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