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Review: Platypus Deep by Jill Morris and Heather Gall

Platypus Deep is the story of Orni the platypus and his search for a new place to build a den when his old home is destroyed by a savage storm.Author and conservationist Jill Morris likes to make plays on words with the names of her characters. The scientific name for a platypus is Ornithorhynchus Anatinus and upstream from Orni lives Anatina, feeding her babies; while downstream lives the old and fierce platypus, Rhyncus. A good way to introduce your students to the idea of scientific names and that they are important because there can be so many common names for the same thing.

Morris gives us a clear sense of the habitat of the platypus in her opening pages; In the ‘secret pool on a quiet creek,’ we meet sandpaper figs, fig parrots, butterflies, frogs, echidnas and yabby’s, which all share the pool with Orni. We learn what Orni eats and also the food web relationships between the other inhabitants of this little ecosystem. Later a dingo visits the pool and we get a sense that there are predators even further up the food chain.

Morris also shows us some of the adaptations and characteristics of the platypus and other animals. Anatina feeds her babies upstream, clearly mammalian, the snake soaks up the sun for warmth, and Orni and Rhyncus battle with their posion spurs as they compete for the pool downstream.

There is also a sense of changing landcape here, which fits in with the Earth and Space Sciences stream. There is the rapid change due to the storm, geological changes over long periods of time and the changes caused by the impact of humans and pollution. Morris sends a clear message here and her inner back cover states that ‘in 2005 the people of Maleny protested unsuccessfully against the building of a supermarket on the bak of Obi Obi Creek, the habitat of a large colony of platypuses. Illustrator Heather Gall lives near Maleny in Queensland.

Morris doesn’t let the science get in the way of the story-line and so it’s an enjoyable read on it’s own merits. It’s also a book that could be used on a number of different levels, even with older children as an exercise in drawing food webs.It’s particularly relevant at level 4, looking at interactions between organisms. Local and authentic content makes the exercise much more worthwhile.

Jill Morris has produced a number of books with conservation themes through her Greater Glider publishing. A review of her book ‘Green Air’ on this blog can be found here. You may also like to read a review at Aussie Reviews.

NATIONAL CURRICULUM LINKS (as from ACARA)

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 2)

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

  • representing personal growth and changes from birth
  • recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
  • exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly
  • observing that all animals have offspring, usually with two parents

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things have life cycles

  • making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
  • describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.

  • investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
  • observing and describing predator-prey relationships
  • predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
  • recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.

Biological sciences (Year 5)

Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment. 

  • describing and listing adaptations of living things suited for the Australian environment
  • exploring general adaptations for particular environments such as water conservation in deserts
  • explaining how particular adaptations help survival such as nocturnal behaviour, silvery coloured leaves of dune plants
  • comparing types of adaptations such as behavioural and structural

Earth and Space Sciences (Foundation)

Daily and seasonal changes in our environment, including the weather, affect everyday life.

  • investigating how changes in the weather might affect animals such as pets, animals that hibernate, or migratory animals

Earth and Space Sciences (Year 1)

Observable changes occur in the sky and the landscape.

  • exploring the local environment to identify and describe natural, managed and constructed features
  • recording short and longer term patterns of events that occur on Earth and in the sky, such as the appearance of the moon and stars at night, the weather and the seasons

Earth and Space Sciences (Year 4)

Earth’s surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity .

  • collecting evidence of change from local landforms, rocks or fossils
  • considering how different human activities cause erosion of the Earth’s surface
  • considering the effect of events such as floods and extreme weather on the landscape, both in Australia and in the Asia region

Author:     Jill Morris

Illustrator: Heather Gall

Greater Glider, 2006

ISBN 9780947304744

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Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Foundation, Level 1, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 4, Level 5, Uncategorized

Review: ‘Green Air’ Jill Morris and Lindsay Muir, Greater Glider

When I first began compiling this list of resources for teachers, I surveyed writing colleagues who were also primary teachers to see what their favourite books were. Again and again, the same books and name kept popping up…Jill Morris.  A great testament from her peers.

Jill Morris founded Greater Glider publishing in Melbourne in 1983. She began her writing journey creating scripts for TV, radio and theatre, later branching out into writing for children. Jill creates books for both the Curriculum Corporation and Greater Glider.  Her books have strong environmental theme and are Australian classics. Jill now lives at the Book Farm in Queensland, where she hosts school visits and writing workshops.

When I first contacted Jill, she generously sent down a number of her titles and as I opened the package I knew I was in for a treat.  There is a real sense of quality in the presentation of these Great Glider publications.

Green Air is one of Jill’s older books…I’ll be reviewing some of Jill’s other titles at a later date.

Green Air is the story of Silus the frog, who lives in a lush tropical forest. This book is very visually appealing…with rich browns and greens which simply drip with moisture. The effect is produced by the unusual illustration process using 3D clay sculptures immersed in water. Green Air was written by Jill to suit the medium of illustrator Lindsay Muir, a clay sculptor who runs workshops in making frogs and their habitats out of clay.

We first meet Silus as he swims to the surface to catch his first dragonfly. Using the words ‘piccabeen palms’ and ‘booyong trees’ firmly locates this book in the sub-tropics. It made me want to quickly google what they looked like and I’m sure it’s the sort of thing that your students would love to do too.

Silus meets other creatures in his habitat; the names of which are shortened versions of their scientific names.  Chloris the red-eyed tree frog is Littoria chloris; Phyllurus the leaf-tailed gecko is Phyllurus cornutus and Dendre the tree snake is Dendrelaphis punctulata. In fact, Silus himself is Rheobatrachus silus, the Southern Gastric Brooding Frog. This could lead to a discussion on how species are named , between scientific names and common names and why scientific nomenclature is used.

The really fascinating part of course is the mating/breeding process! Silus fertilises the eggs but the female swallows them. They grow in her stomach and eventually she regurgitates them. ‘Green Air’ itself refers to the forest around Silus’ pool, to which he returns after being swept downstream to the ‘Yellow Air,’ where rotting and decomposition is occurring.

Such a lot of science in such a little book. The last page give us some sad background. ‘The Gastric-Brooding Frog was discovered in the Conondale and Blackall Ranges of southeastern Queensland, Austlaia in 1974. By 1981 it had disappeared.’

This story fits neatly into the biologicalsciences sub-strand of the National Curriculum, as it addresses areas such as habitat, how animals get their food, adaptations…Chloris can climb but Silus can’t. It would lead into interesting discussions at the year 4 level, which looks at how species have offspring.

It’s a great educational resource… but above all it’s a great read and is a story that can be read alone or shared with parents too.

Green Air:

Selected for Choice Magazine & Wilderness Society, 1996
Short listed Crichton Award, 1997
CBC Notable Book, 1997

Applications…..

Biological sciences (Foundation)

  1. Living things have basic needs, including food and water (ACSSU002)

Biological sciences (Year 1)

  1. Living things have a variety of external features (ACSSU017)
  2. Living things live in different places where their

Biological sciences (Year 2)

  1. Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves (ACSSU030)

Biological sciences (Year 3)

  1. Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)
  2. Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)

Extracted from:

http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Science/Curriculum/F-10

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