Exploring the 2019 CBCA Short List: Younger Readers

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Author: Ursula Dubosarsky  Illustrator: Andrew Joiner

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Themes: Australian environment; Australian animals; domestic and wild animals; belonging; family

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 3 and 4; Arts (Visual arts), Years 3 and 4; Humanities and Social Sciences (Researching, Evaluating, Geography, History), Year 3 and 4; Mathematics, Year 4; Science, Years 3 and 4.

From the publisher’s synopsis: This is a story about a boy called Pender and a kangaroo called Brindabella, about how they became friends, and all the things that happened to them because of it. Pender and his father live in an old house made of honey-coloured stone in the bush by the river, with only the company of his father's paintings and the loyal dog, Billy-Bob. Then, on one winter morning, a gunshot amongst the trees changes everything.

Unit writer: Helen Cozmescu

Field and context

Building field knowledge

  • Explore the importance of the symbol of the kangaroo. For example, on the Australian coat of arms and the one-dollar coin. AC9E3LY02
  • Kangaroos are marsupials. Compare the benefits and challenges that marsupials have compared to other mammals.
  • Use a sequential diagram to represent the life cycle of a kangaroo.
  • Learn some facts about kangaroos, including some of the dangers affecting these animals, such as loss of environment, overpopulation in some areas, hunters, rabbit traps and cars. AC9S4U01 
  • Find out the speed with which kangaroos can travel and how far they can jump in a single bound. Calculate how many bounds a kangaroo would need to travel around the school. AC9M4N08 
  • Speak to a wild life rescuer to find out about the role and what should be done if an injured wild animal is found. Most local councils can provide information about wild life rescue and wild life in your local area. AC9HS3K07
  • National Parks and State Forests hold an important role for conservation. Find out about your closest National Park or State Forest and learn about the flora and fauna that live there. AC9HS4K05

Exploring the context of the text

  • Explore Australian artists’ depictions of the bush, include work by Albert Namatjira, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and John Glover. Compare these paintings to the description of the bush in Chapter 2. AC9AVA4E01  AC9AVA4E02
  • Listen to the sounds of the Australian bush and compare these to the sounds heard in your area. AC9E3LY02 
  • Billy-Bob the dog, Pertelote the chicken, and the cat named Ricky were all content to stay with Pender. Discuss why Brindabella did not feel the same way, and relate this to differences between wild and domestic animals. AC9E3LY02

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Responding and exploring

Responding to the text

  • The house had a carving, with the Ancient Greek words that translated to ‘Remember to be a good man’. Create a motto for your own home and collectively decide upon a motto to suit the classroom’s door. Use an online translator to find out how to write it in Greek.
  • Pender drew many charcoal drawings of Brindabella. Read Chapter 7 and discuss the benefits that Pender received from the process of drawing. Experiment with the technique of using charcoal. AC9AVA4D01
  • Record the messages that you think the author is sending to the reader about hunting in the Australian bush. AC9E3LA02 

Exploring plot character and setting

  • Find evidence in Chapter 5 that confirms dad’s opinion of hunters. AC9E4LA02 
  • Discuss the technique the author has used in Chapter 8, to help the reader gain insights into the animals’ ways of thinking. What do we find out about the animal characters? AC9E4LA12 
  • Evaluate Billy-Bob’s plan to help Brindabella escape. Debate if he was right or wrong to help her run away. AC9E4LY02 
  • Create a spider-diagram to show how the characters in the story showed kindness and compassion. AC9E4LE03

Creating texts

  • Make a pamphlet for distribution at the local council or local library, providing information about the local wildlife and what should be done if an injured animal is found. AC9E4LE02
  • The narrative is rich in similes. For example: 'the water shone like a piece of broken glass'. Use an online text creating program such as Sway, to publish these similes alongside chosen images. AC9E3LE04 
  • Extend the ending of the story, by writing a chapter that tells the reader what the young joey, who appeared at the end of the story, told its mother. AC9E3LE05

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Examining text structure and organisation

  • The story is organised into twenty-five chapters, identified by numbers. Select some chapters and create chapter headings, to foreshadow a theme in the chapter. AC9E4LY03 
  • Each chapter number is accompanied by a drawing of a kangaroo or a eucalypt branch. What other symbols could be used? AC9E3LA09

Examining grammar

  • The narrative’s setting is important to this story. Find how the setting has been constructed through adverbials of place. For example, 'by the river'; 'in a hidden valley not far from the coast'; 'beyond the fence.' AC9E3LE03
  •  The author uses adjectives within extended noun groups to create images in the reader’s mind. Explore the pictures that are created when you read: 'the sky was smeared with pink clouds'; 'the slender smoke began to spurt out of the hut’s tiny chimney'; 'a steep muddy slope led to the river'. Find other examples of adjectives used to help the reader visualise. AC9E4LE04 
  •  When Brindabella ran away, the author used three statements each with one word. 'Happiness. Strength. Freedom'. Explore what each of these words meant to Brindabella, during that moment in time. Discuss the effect of using three single words, to describe the kangaroo’s feelings. AC9E4LE03

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Andrew Joyner’s illustrations are included throughout the book. At times, these are full page or double page illustrations, other times they are smaller and included within the writing. Examine the full and double page illustrations and discuss how the illustrator has used: shading, salience, and line. What information is conveyed to the readers via these larger images? AC9E4LA10
  • Re-read the pages that include white font on a black background. Discuss how this visual element helps the story to be told. AC9E4LA10

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Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Read picture story books written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Andrew Joyner, such as Tim and Ed; Too Many Elephants in this House; The Terrible Plop.

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