Monday, March 19, 2007

A is For Australia

Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy: Books Featuring the Land Down Under

Fox, Mem. Koala Lou. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.

Do you come from the land down under? Mem Fox does! I have a special place in my heart for Koala Lou, for I encountered it in my beloved The Art and Practice of Storytelling class at Louisiana State University. It was read aloud to our class by the incomparable Pabby Arnold, head of children’s services at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system.

Koala Lou knows her mother loves her, even though she doesn’t hear it as often as she used to (before the brothers and sisters came along). Koala Lou enters the Bush Olympics in hopes of making her mother proud. Training for the Bush Olympics is serious work, and Koala Lou jumps right into the action.

Finally, it’s the day of the big event. Koala Lou is geared up for the gum tree climbing event. She climbs very well, but it’s a case of “close, but no cigar.”

Luckily, Koala Lou is reminded of how much her mother loves her, even if she did place second.

Audience level: Preschool. Pages run about 2-4 sentences in length.

Concept themes: Mother’s Day, Australia, exotic animals, endangered animals, baby animals. Pair this with Time For Bed (also by Fox) for a Mother’s Day theme or with Possum Magic for an Australia theme.. Or celebrate Fox’s birthday (March 5) by reading her books.

Read aloud?: Yes. Many of Fox’s books make great read alouds.

Lester, Alison. Are We There Yet? A Journey Around Australia. La Jolla: Kane/Miller, 2005.

Kane/Miller is a unique publishing company; it is an American company that publishes books originally published in other countries. This particular find concerns a family’s whirlwind trip across Australia, narrated by an eight year old.

Audience level: K-2. This is a lengthy picture book with lots to read and look at.

Concept themes: travel, summer, homeschooling, Australia

Read aloud: Not for a medium sized or large group. Many illustrations feature labels and further explanation. Best suited for individual reading or one-on-one reading aloud.

Ormerod, Jan. Lizzie Nonsense: A Story of Pioneer Days. New York: Clarion Books, 2004.

Lizzie is a bright and imaginative child. Her imaginations are often called “nonsense.” Before this rankles you, please know that this takes place within a 19th century family in the Australian outback, and the mother is alone with the children for the majority of the time. Attitudes and times were different then. Lizzie’s mother obviously loves her daughter, and this comes across plainly.

Audience level: Preschool-Kindergarten for listening level, but would be useful for older grades (K-1) doing a unit on Australia.

Concept themes: Australia, historical fiction, mothers and daughters, play

Read aloud: Text lends itself readily for a read aloud; pictures are big and attractive, making it very suitable for a medium to large sized group.

Next week, we'll travel back to the States and visit Minnesota, known as the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. It's also the land of Gary Paulsen, Maud Hart Lovelance (Betsy-Tacy books), and Laura Ingalls Wilder (On the Banks of Plum Creek).

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