Tag Archives: nature

Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Wholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava

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wholesomeWholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava, paperback picture book, 48 pages, published by Media for Life in 2016.

Little Peach Pit is out for a walk. Along the way Pit encounters and appreciates the wonder of nature. The soil and ponds are healthy, there are bees and ants and frogs. However, as Pit draws closer to the city, nature is not so healthy. There pollution and waste and other human activities are hurting nature. What can Little Peach Pit do to help? Pit discovers some ways that we can all help to improve the health of our environment.

Little Peach Pit’s walk is an interesting one, flowing from the healthy countryside into the polluted city. Each step of the way there was advice on how people could help the environment and make the world a better place for everyone. Even though Pit found some very sad areas within the city, such as a polluted pond and unhealthy, weedy soil, he also found hope that we can improve. He saw people picking up rubbish, recycling, and growing a community garden. He learns that the way people interact with the environment, even in little ways, can have a huge impact on the health of our planet.

All children should learn how to help protect and improve our environment, and Wholesome is a great way to introduce some of these concepts. Reading this with young children will provide a starting point for discussions on what we, as individuals, and as communities, can do to make the planet healthy and happy. There is a vocabulary list at the back of the book to help children understand some of the terms referred to in the story and there is also a list of resources that will assist in further education.

Wholesome: Together we can save the Planet! is a lovely educational story suitable for primary school children. It would make an excellent addition to school and public libraries.

 

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

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Don’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez

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dontmisstheboatDon’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez, e-book, 84 pages, published by Archway Publishing in 2016.

The Benson family head to Arrowhead Island for a weekend of water-skiing, swimming and fishing. Brothers Joe and Tom and their little sister Debbie are very excited to be back on Lake Wateree. Their dog, Anna, also joins them on their camping adventure.

Don’t Miss the Boat! is based on the author’s childhood memories of spending family time at Lake Wateree. I was expecting a work of fiction, but this is more of a memoir, a re-telling of summer family fun during the 60s. This is to be the first in a series about the Benson’s adventures on Arrowhead Island.

The story is told quite simply, often with short sentences, which suits a chapter book. It was an easy read which I knocked over quickly. Quite a lot of the book was about the family water-skiing, which I found slightly overwhelming, having no experience or interest in water-skiing. However, I felt like I learnt a little bit about the sport whilst reading, and I didn’t feel excluded by my lack of knowledge in that area. I liked the depth to which each activity was described; it made me feel I was part of the trip to Arrowhead Island.

The Bensons seem like an interesting and likeable family, which I hope will have plenty more adventures in the future. I really liked Anna, the Benson’s long-haired dachshund, such a cute addition to the family. Debbie obviously adores her big brothers, which made them seem rather angelic. This image was sadly shattered when they played a prank on their father! The Bensons are a military family, and there are a number of references to this throughout the book. The kids call their father “Sir”, which is novel these days, but was probably much more common back then. I think being a military family during the 1960s has the potential to add a unique slant to the series.

Don’t Miss the Boat! will suit lower primary school children. It would be particularly good for children interested in the outdoors, camping and fishing.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom

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beeslorettaBees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion, picture e-book, 34 pages, published in 2016.

While bringing in wood from the woodpile during winter, Loretta finds a leafcutter bee’s nest. She puts the nest back in the woodpile and watches it to see what happens when spring arrives.

Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet blends facts and fiction into a delightful and educational picture book. Information about leafcutter bees is integrated subtlety; the kids won’t even know they are learning about nature! The story is easy to read and the text is clear. Quaint illustrations feature throughout the book.

At the end of the book there are instructions for making a home for solitary bees, such as the leafcutter, to encourage them into your garden. This looks like an easy and fun activity for kids, as well as something that will help your garden flourish.

Suitable for primary school children, Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet makes for lovely shared reading time.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

D is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales by Ron Chandler

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dudleycoverD is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales by Ron Chandler, paperback, 74 pages, published in 2015.

D is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales is a collection of short stories, mostly about animals and the environment.

The first couple of stories in the book were too short and lacked substance. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the book, but I continued hoping to find that the other stories were better. There wasn’t one I liked much until about half way through the book, with the title story, “D is for Dudley”. It was a little unbelievable, I would definitely be suspicious if my kids volunteered to do the washing!, but I liked the theme. Striving to protect the environment and animals it contains, is quite noble, and these kids do their best to save the extremely large terrapin from hunters within the bay.

The best story in this collection was by far “Chicken Feathers”. It is the story of a young girl who grooms a rooster for the county fair. She is competing against her much older and more experienced neighbour. Despite her young age, she believes in her ability to win, and even when her rooster is looking scraggly, she doesn’t lose heart, she tries even harder to get him in shape. This is a lovely lesson showing that determination and persistence are often rewarded. The only downside to this tale is a slight undertone of racism.

It states in the blurb on the back of the book that the stories “celebrate nature”, but these stories don’t so much do that as they do showcase humanity’s depravities. Throughout the book there were people behaving badly. There were alcoholic parents, bickering couples, dog fighters, hunters, and animal abusers. I found most of the stories to be very depressing and often distasteful. One story made an offhand comment about a twelve year old girl skipping meals to stay skinny. This is not only awful and inappropriate, it also had no relevance to the story. In another tale a boy looked a girl over from her toes to her shoulders in an appreciative way. Again, this was an unnecessary addition to the story, and it’s quite sexist, it’s as if she had no face. There are also girls being told that they will want to dress up and go to balls, instead of doing “tomboy” things. I found there to be a sexist vibe throughout the book, which was disappointing. I also felt that hunting for sport, which is something I’m opposed to, was condoned as a suitable activity for kids.

This book is aimed at kids aged 8 to 12, but I really can’t recommend it to anyone. Even aside from the sexism throughout the book, most of the stories weren’t particularly good. They all lacked description and depth, and sometimes even a clear direction. Since I was expecting a book full of the gloriousness that is nature, I found this to be very disappointing indeed.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Pinecone Bird Feeder

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Items we used.

Items we used.

A came across this idea in one of her kindergarten readers and begged for us to try it out at home!

Coating the pinecone with peanut butter.

Coating the pinecone with peanut butter.

We tied a piece of string to the pinecone so that it could be hung up in a tree when we were finished, and then I helped A to cover the pinecone in peanut butter. This was a little messy, but A didn’t get nearly as much peanut butter on herself as I had thought she would.

Rolling the pinecone in birdseed.

Rolling the pinecone in birdseed.

Then A rolled the pinecone in a bowl of birdseed. We used a basic parrot mix because most of the birds that hang about in our yard are parrots such as cockatoos and galahs. A pressed as much seed into the sticky peanut butter as she could, completely covering the pinecone. When the pinecone could hold no more seed, we took it into the yard and hung it up in a large bottlebrush tree.

Making sure the whole pinecone was covered.

Making sure the whole pinecone was covered.

And now we wait for the birds to come and have a feast.

Our new bird feeder hanging in a tree.

Our new bird feeder hanging in a tree.

Cardboard Roll Trees

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Making play trees is quite easy using some simple materials, such as cardboard rolls, tissue paper and streamers. Using cardboard rolls of different length or width can make an even more interesting forest of play trees.

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We made four different trees to play animals and dinosaurs with.  A chose to make our play trees green because “trees are meant to be green mummy!”, but I think we could have made trees in other colours to play with. I like the idea of a magical forest of pink and purple trees to play with our fairies and unicorns!

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Strips of streamers.

Strips of streamers.

The first tree uses green streamers as the leaves. We had streamers in a few shades of green, so we used strips of each on our tree, but one colour would have been fine also.

The strips taped together.

The strips taped together.

We cut the streamers into strips, and laid them in a pile. Then A twisted the end of the pile together and used sticky tape to secure it. She placed the bundle of streamers into one end of a cardboard roll and taped it down. She fluffed out the streamers in all directions to create the top of the tree. A has been referring to this tree as her “jungle tree”.

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Taping on the tissue paper circle.

Taping on the tissue paper circle.

Adding more layers of tissue paper.

Adding more layers of tissue paper.

The second tree used tissue paper circles for the foliage. A placed a cardboard roll onto the centre of a circle of tissue paper and taped it down. Then she turned it up the right way and used a dot of glue in the centre of the tissue paper circle to attach another circle to the first, and then a third one on top of that. We used four or five pieces of tissue paper, but adding more would have made a puffier tree. Once the glue had dried, we were able to shape the tissue paper to create layers of foliage.

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A cut strip of paper.

A cut strip of paper.

The first leaf attached.

The first leaf attached.

The next tree has foliage made from sheets of green paper. We cut the paper into strips, and then placed small cuts into both sides of these strips to create leaves that A thought look like palm leaves. The key is not to cut right through the strip, though A had a little trouble with this and we ended up with a few short leaves! We left a section at one end of each leaf uncut, where we could attach each leaf to a cardboard roll. A taped the leaves to the outside of the roll, and then let the leaves flop outwards and down. This was her favourite tree.

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Putting the tissue paper into the cardboard roll.

Putting the tissue paper into the cardboard roll.

The last tree was the simplest of all. A loosely rolled one end of a sheet of tissue paper and inserted it into a cardboard roll. She used a piece of tape to secure it, and then scrunched and shaped the tissue paper into a ball shape to create the tree’s leaves. She added a few pieces of tape to keep the tissue paper attached to the cardboard roll.

A was very happy with her cardboard roll trees, and used them to create fun play scenes with her animal and dinosaur figurines.

A very happy girl with her new trees and her animals.

A very happy girl with her new trees and her animals.

Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester

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IMG_1393Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2013.

The wishes of a mother for her child. From waking to birdsong, experiencing the great variety of nature, and drifting into dreams, Kissed by the Moon, reads like a lullaby of love between mother and child.

This heart-warming book captures the beauty of the mother and child relationship. For her child she would like the simple pleasures of love, happiness, contentment, safety and experiencing nature in all its forms, things that many parents want for their own children. It is also beautifully and brightly illustrated, a pleasure to see. Kissed by the Moon is a lovely book to read to children before bed, from toddler through primary school, it will remind them of their parents’ love and help them to settle down for a peaceful sleep.

 

Propagating Succulents

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After painting their terracotta pots, the kids wanted to plant something in them. We have a single succulent plant growing out by our letterbox that seems pretty hardy, and I thought it would be fun to try to propagate some new plants from it’s cuttings.

Cuttings drying out.

Cuttings drying out.

The succulent in our garden is a good size, so we were able to take several stem cuttings. We removed the lower leaves from the bottom of each stem. We left the leaves and the cuttings to dry out for a few days.

Succulents generally like well-drained soil, so L collected some red gravel from one of our garden beds to place in the bottom of each pot to improve drainage. She then filled each pot with some cacti and succulent potting mix. My mother had told me to try dipping the base of the cuttings into honey prior to planting them. This is supposed to kill any bacteria on the cutting, and improve growth. I’d never tried this before, but we pulled out some honey and dipped each cutting in. It’s hard to know whether it worked, but all of our cuttings survived, and had new growth on them, so I think we will use honey on our cuttings again in the future. L placed a single stem cutting into each pot, patted the soil down and gently watered them in.

Gravel used for drainage.

Gravel used for drainage.

Adding soil.

Adding soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placing the cuttings into the soil.

Placing the cuttings into the soil.

Patting the soil down around the cutting.

Patting the soil down around the cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We placed them in a sunny spot, and checked on them every day, keeping the soil moist, but not too wet. After a week or so, we noticed some of the cuttings had produced some new leaves, and some little roots had appeared near the base of the stems.

All of these succulents in their decorated pots were given away as Christmas presents, mostly to their teachers. The kids were so proud to show off the pots that they painted and the plants that they had grown. They made unique gifts that were well received and appreciated.

Watered in and ready to grow.

Watered in and ready to grow.

As we began to clean out the laundry this week, in preparation for painting, we discovered some unused pots under the laundry tub. These will make excellent vessels for our next round of succulent growing. I would like to try propagating some cuttings from other types of succulents too.

Leaf Rubbings

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IMG_3545A, Baby T and I were out walking yesterday and A began to collect some leaves. She mostly picked up gum leaves, but she also picked up some maple leaves, silky oak leaves and some other small leaves from a few bushes. It was a motley collection, but perfect for trying some leaf rubbings.

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We sorted through the crayon tub to find some suitable crayons, and A delighted in pulling off the remaining paper covering these crayons (and then just throwing it on the floor like confetti!). We picked fat crayons so they were easier for A to hold. She placed the leaves on the table and covered them with white paper. I held the paper still while she wielded the crayon on its side, rubbing it over where the leaves were lying. She was amazed to see the shapes of the leaves emerging beneath the crayon. She kept calling them ‘leaf fossils’, I think because we did a rubbing of a dinosaur fossil on a recent trip to the museum.

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