Friday, April 29, 2022

The critical role teachers play in the formation of students

I've been working on my family history in the last six months. I set myself the task of compiling the story of the previous 3-4 generations of my family history in words (yes, a ‘small’ task!). As I began to write, I found myself revisiting images of people, places and events. I knew that any family history largely reflects memories and the perspectives of varied family members and significant others like friends, teachers, sporting coaches and so on. Even two or more siblings can have slightly different memories of the same events, person and relationships. I began to see that as well as the family stories handed down across the generations, photographic evidence and other historic documents also matter!

 

 
 Above: My sister Dianne & me (a 'few' years ago).

But while varied evidence is not always 'equal' in validity, it all helps to understand who we think we are, what we believe, and also give insights into how our character and values were formed. An image alone, can help us to situate and understand our memories within a specific place and time. They act as anchors for 'truth'. But an image requires interpretation, so in partnership with the memories of multiple people and sources, places and events, we will end up nearer to the 'truth'.

My Great Great Grandfather watched a son and daughter (and a nephew) leave Scotland in 1882 never to return to their homeland. As I began to dig out old family photos and records, and listen to the memories of those still living, a bigger and more complete story emerged of what had happened. The addition of unseen images from boxes, old newspaper clippings, ship records and so on, all contributed to a larger and more complete story; one richer than any single family member could recall. There is often much knowledge that is common to family members, but gaps can be filled by other people and official documents. Like many families, there have been some surprises, with some troubling events uncovered, and amazing stories unearthed.

As I have embraced this journey I've been reminded of the words of Alasdair Macintyre:

"The story of oneself is embedded in the history of the world, an overall narrative within which all other narratives find their place."

Of course, it is true, every story is unique, but also our personal stories reflect the stories of others before us, as well as those we live life with now. Alasdair's words seem to be very much 'big picture', but I believe that he is right. It should not surprise us when we discover that every personal stories is unique, they share elements with other people's stories, and all demonstrate how we are shaped in part by the lives of our family members, and previous generations from our maternal and paternal relatives.

  

 Above: My Dad near the Forth Bridge in Scotland having returned after 60 years

I grew up in a less than perfect home. For much of my childhood both parents were 'absent' from my life for varied reasons. My older sister and I were fairly independent from about the age of 10. But we both loved our parents and were shaped in varied ways by their lives.

With our less than perfect parents, some of our teachers also had a strong influence on us. My sister was better behaved so she had more! In my case, there were a few I loved and some I loathed. Only a few could see much potential beyond the unkempt and at times disobedient child. These few teachers demonstrated the way we engage and nurture the children in our care matters. Sadly, many saw me as just a cheeky and annoying kid (which in their defense I was). Whatever role we fill in life, we can and should seek to have an influence for good. Teachers are in a critical category of their own.

Above: Terry Malone, Dr Phil Lambert & Me

I had the joy last night of attending the launch of a book from the recently retired Assistant Director General of Education in NSW Dr Phil Lambert. The book is 'The Knowing and Caring Profession'. He invited me to attend his book launch, along with a former colleague I taught with 48 years ago! To our great surprise he mentioned us both in his book (and not for bad behaviour!). As a 1st year student teacher he was assigned to my class (in just my third year of teaching at Chester Hill Primary school in Sydney). 

Phil shared at the book launch and in his book, that he'd considered leaving teacher training until he came to my classroom for his first period of practice teacher. He said that he observed my love of teaching, my love of the students, and the friendship and fun I had with the teacher in the next room Terry Malone. The fun and joy we had teaching, and the impact on the children's lives inspired Phil to continue. He came to the school thinking of dumping teaching, but he left keen and excited about completing his course. To learn this many years later was a joy!

I share the above story, not to blow my own trumpet, but because it reminds us that our stories are always intertwined with other people's stories. As teachers, it is important to consider how we encourage our students to live in ways that acknowledge their true identities, while also seeking to help them grow and mature through lived experience. Just like their parents and wider families, teachers play a part in helping to shape the character of our students and can change their lives for the good!

The central goal of education should always be more ambitious than just academic standards, cut-off scores, future jobs, sporting achievements, and so on. As Alasdair MacIntyre argues, education in our schools should lead to “purity of heart,” not just appropriate behavior and school success. As I outline in my book "Pedagogy and Education for Life":

"The role of teachers and schools is to partner with parents to create school learning communities that work in concert with the many other communities in which all students are participants. These school communities of learners will teach, nurture and indeed form the children who God gives to us, in whatever educational context we meet them."

I know there are many challenges in teaching right now, but be encouraged, you can make a difference to children. As tough as teaching can be, seek to place the learning of your students and their growth as people at the centre of your concerns. You serve in a noble and important profession that has an impact on the lives of others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

'Discovering' Literature


I first wrote about ‘discovering’ literature in a book published in the 1990s called ‘Pathways to Literacy’. In it I explained it took me until I was 8 years old before I read my first book. This was in spite of the fact that I’d been able to read since about 4-5 years of age! The first book I truly 'read' was Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’. I had read school readers and some school magazine stories, a lot of comics and a couple of editions of Boys Own Annual. But I had never read a novel of my choice. At school, I’d only ever read for functional purposes.

 

But that changed when I was given Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at my Father’s Miners’ Trade Union Christmas party. It was this book that taught me things about reading I'd never known before.  As I wrote in ‘Pathways to Literacy’:

 

“I lived through this book" (to use Louise Rosenblatt's well known phrase). I could almost smell the leather in Captain Nemo's Cabin. I felt the panic of the sailors on the wooden hulled ships at the terrifying sight of a glowing 'eyed' monster hurtling towards them in the darkness. I also felt deep compassion for the people inside doomed to death.”

 

There was a sense of excitement and commitment to the text evoked by this story. This had not been generated by my school readers. The formal reading in my first 2-3 years at school had a range of banal plots, impoverished language and weak characterization. The stories were written to teach me, rather than being provided to engage, enrich and transform me through the power of story.

 

I believe that ‘first’ book changed me as a reader, turning me from a passive consumer of text into an active meaning maker. In response to the book I was 'creating' text in partnership with the author!  I was to read the book many times and eventually others as well.

 

 

Years later, as a young teacher I was to observe many children who like me as a young child, never read books except to complete a school task. I helped to run a community literacy centre for a number of years where parents would bring their children to me for help with reading. I discovered something interesting. Virtually all the children who had reading problems, behaved as if they were reading textbooks.

 

Like me as a child, “… they were mere consumers of other people's texts, not creators of meaning in the fullest sense of the word. The attention of the readers was often focused on the surface features of the words in the text, and not necessarily the construction of meaning.”

 

As teachers, our definition of what literature is, also has an effect on the way we value and use literature in classrooms.  For example, some teachers see it is as a vehicle for sustaining our cultural heritage.  For those who see literature in this way, it is the means for ensuring that all students have access to an assumed central and essential cultural knowledge, based on an exclusive cannon of special literature.  Other teachers see literature as the provider of significant experiences which are seen as central to the social fabric of family life.

 

While one cannot deny that literature also fulfills these functions, each misses the point that literature is a living tapestry of yesterday, today and tomorrow. It sustains, enriches and sometimes rebukes the cultural practices of our day.

 

Literature's potential

 

There are many who are locked within their narrow and limited conceptualizations of what literacy and literature are, and hence they fail to identify all that they can offer.  Literature is not just about story, it is about life, and one's world. In my book, I suggested that literature can fulfill many complex functions.  It can act as:

 

• a mirror to enable readers to reflect on life problems and circumstances;

• a source of knowledge;

• a source of ideological challenge;

• a lens to peer into the past, and the future;

• a vehicle to other places;

• a means to reflect on inner struggles;

• an introduction to the realities of life and death; and

• a vehicle for raising and discussing social issues. (‘Pathways to Literacy’ T.H. Cairney)

 

Most books offer the potential to address many of these functions at once.  For example, Charlotte's Web (E.B.White) simultaneously offers new knowledge about spiders and the animal world, addresses the complex issue of dying, and deals with many elements of the human condition, including love and companionship.

In short, literature offers "endless possibilities" for readers to explore their world and learn from it, to enter "other worlds" and to engage in meaning making (Cairney, 1990). 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

When Fears Rush In: How children’s books might help anxiety.

As Russia continues to invade and attack the nation of Ukraine, children will be fearful and afraid around the world. While nations seek to push back an international bully, parents wonder across all nations, how can we encourage and reassure our children? As children see and hear newsflashes that adults seem very interested in, what might they be thinking. Also, if they ask questions about the situation in Ukraine, what might we say? Some parents will say little or nothing, others will say too much. Perhaps taking some time to hold your children and read to them might be a good thing to do.


Throughout history, stories have been helpful to allow humans to gain insights into specific life situations, as well as comfort and encouragement not to allow fear to take a hold of them. This post looks briefly at a number of wonderful books that might be helpful to share at this time to allow any lingering fears within our children to be discussed. These aren’t necessarily, the ‘magic’ books that will help to remove all fear, they are examples of books that might allow parents to open up difficult fears, shine a light on them and offer comfort and hope to our children.

 

1. 'Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?' by Martin Waddell & illustrated by Barbara Firth

 


It's another sleepless night for Little Bear in his dark cave. Big Bear lovingly brings brighter and brighter lanterns to help ease the cub's fears. When those don't help, there's only one thing left to do: show Little Bear the warm, ever-shining glow of the stars and moon. This soothing story ranks up there with our other favorite bedtime stories like Good Night, Moon.

 

This book by Martin Waddell has been described as 'the most perfect children's book ever written'. It is about a Little Bear, who just can't sleep. There is dark all around him in the Bear Cave. Not even Big Bear's biggest lantern can light up the darkness of the night outside. Can Big Bear find a way to reassure restless Little Bear and help him fall fast asleep?


Recommended age: 3 and up.

 

2. 'What a Bad Dream' by Mercer Mayer


Nightmares happen to everyone, including Little Critter. One night, one of his dreams starts out great, with him skipping baths, eating fudge pops for breakfast, and getting a gorilla as a pet. But it quickly turns into a nightmare when he realizes his family is nowhere to be found, so he has no one to read to him, tuck him in, and give him a hug. Everything is better when he wakes up to his mom and dad comforting him.

 


3. 'Wilma Jean the Worry Machine’ by Julia Cook and Illustrated by Anita Dufalla

"My stomach feels like it's tied up in a knot.
My knees lock up, and my face feels hot.
You know what I mean?
I'm Wilma Jean,
The Worry Machine."

 

 

Anxiety is a subjective sense of worry, apprehension, and/or fear. It is arguably the number one health problem in most nations. While common, anxiety in children is often misdiagnosed or even overlooked. Everyone can feel fear, worry and apprehension occasionally, when feelings prevent someone from doing what he/she wants and/or needs to do, anxiety becomes a disability.

 

This is a fun book that addresses the challenge of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It also offers strategies for parents and teachers to use with children to lessen the severity of anxiety. The book aims to help children develop tools to feel more in control of anxiety. The book also includes a note to parents and educators with tips on dealing with an anxious child.

 

4. How Big are Your Worries Little Bear’ by Jayneen Sanders & illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

 

Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear’s help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all. 

 

Through this engaging and beautifully illustrated story, children will learn that everyday worries and fears can be overcome. It just takes a willingness to share with a helpful listener, and an understanding that making mistakes is how we learn. 

 

Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators, and extra hints to help children manage anxiety.

 

 5. 'The Invisible String' by Patrice Karst & illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

 

‘The Invisible String’ has been acclaimed as a wonderful tool for helping children to cope with separation anxiety, loss, and grief. It is a relatable and reassuring contemporary classic. The story centres around a mother who tells her two children that they're all connected by an invisible string. "That's impossible!" the children insist. But still they want to know more: "What kind of string?" Their mother says it is simple. There is “An Invisible String made of love. Even though you can't see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love."

 

The book poses many questions. “Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach? Does it ever go away?” It is a wonderful picture book for all ages. It explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and those who love and care for us. The book will allow deeper conversations about love, fear, security and hope.

 

The book has been recommended and used by parents, bereavement support groups, foster care and social service agencies. It has also been embraced by military library services, church groups, and educators. This special book offers a simple approach to dealing with loneliness, separation, and loss.  with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, and delivers a particularly compelling message in today's uncertain times.

 

6.  'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' by Judith Kerr



This is a book for older readers 10-13. It is a semi-autobiographical classic, written by the beloved Judith Kerr, it tells the story of a Jewish family escaping Germany in the days before the Second World War. It tells the story of Anna living in Germany in 1933. As a child, she has not listened to talk of a leader called Adolf Hitler. She is too busy with her schoolwork, Friends and tobogganing.

 

This beautiful new edition celebrates the fifty-year anniversary of an adventure that Michael Morpurgo called “The most life-enhancing book you could ever wish to read.” But one day Anna and her brother Max are rushed out of Germany in alarming secrecy, away from everything they know. Their father is wanted by the Nazis. This is the start of a huge adventure, sometimes frightening, but also funny and always exciting.

 

Judith Kerr wrote the book based on her own journey, so that her own children would know where she came from and the lengths to which her parents went to keep her and her brother safe. It is recognized today as a classic that is required reading for children all over the world.



 


 

 


 


 















Wednesday, January 26, 2022

13 Great Children's Books to Start 2022

I can't think of a better way to start the school year (or term) than with a Baker's Dozen of books to share with children aged 0-12 years. All are new titles received in recent months. I've arranged them in rough order from young readers to older readers.

1. 'Toy Mountain' by written by Stef Gemmill & illustrated by Katharine Hall

Sam is tired of his toys. Why would he want his Grandma’s old train set and teddy, when there’s a toy factory high up in the clouds that makes rumbly red toys, grumbly green toys and so much more? In this important story about reducing waste and taking responsibility for the environment, Sam is about to find out what matters most.

Sam's dream of new toys comes to fruition when his Grandma comes home one day and tells him that the 'Tiny Hands Toy Company' needs a toy tester. Within no time boxes of toys begin to arrive for him to test. First one box, then two, three, then trucks full! He is excited at first, but soon he realises that the new toys break quickly. He ends up with a mountain of broken toys, and is overwhelmed. He longs for his well-loved toys handed down to him from his Grandma.

This is a funny book with a serious but subtle message about ‘consumer culture’, and the value of looking after our belongings. This is a message we all need to hear in a world where we generate 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic each year. The story is also beautifully illustrated by Katharine Hall. 

2.  'What if ...?' by Lynn Jenkins & illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan

This is such a lovely book. Anyone who has been a parent will understand the 'What if'? question. It is a gentle story and the illustrations by Kirrili Lonergan contribute beautifully to the 'calmness' of the narrative.
What if there is a monster in my cupboard? she wonders before going to sleep. Or What if my floor turns into quicksand and swallows my bed? 
In this delightful book Issy is a master of the question, but her Mum knows just how to respond.

The book has been written by an experienced author/clinical psychologist and illustrator/art therapist. It is an exploration of how children think, and how we can help them "to turn those worries into wonders."

Children under six, parents, carers, teachers and therapists will all find it helpful and kids will enjoy it too.

3. 'Cookie' by Isabelle Duff & Susannah Crispe

Cookie the Border Collie loves lots of things, like smelling smelly smells, chewing chewy things, going for adventures and making friends. But most of all, Cookie loves Girl. Join this inseparable pair as they play together and learn how to make each other happy, even on the days when Cookie is the only one who can make Girl smile.

This is such a lovely book. Cookie is a heart-warming story about the love between a pet and the person who owns them. It is also a sensitive exploration of childhood depression and anxiety, and the importance of empathy. With beautiful words and playful illustrations, it provides a gentle starting point for big conversations when children are troubled.

19-year-old author Isabelle Duff was inspired to write Cookie by her personal experiences with acute depressive disorder and anxiety, and by her wonderful dog, Saffy, who has been an invaluable support to her. The result is a valuable resource for reducing the fear and mystery of mental illness, and is a tribute to the loved ones who are able to get you out of bed when nothing else can.

Anyone who picks up 'Cookie' will find themselves learning something from this mischievous pup and his 'Girl'. It is also suitable for children who have experienced depression and anxiety just like 'Girl'. It's also for kids who don’t understand why someone close to them is so sad. It will also be helpful for child psychologists who need to talk to young people about mental illness. And, of course, it is for dog-lovers everywhere. Susannah Crisp's delightful water colours offer their own special 'softness' to the gentleness of the text.

 4. 'Arabella's Alphabet Adventure' by Christopher Nielson

I just love this book about "an alphabet, a daring adventure and a book who learns she is perfect, just the way she is." It opens

“Not so long ago,
In a town not far away,
On a shelf marked
ESPECIALLY FOR CHILDREN
sat a book
waiting to be read.
 What better way to start a book about books?!

'Arabella’s Alphabet Adventure' is the most beautiful and most borrowed book in the library - but only ever by children. Tired of having her pages torn by sticky fingers, Arabella slips into the Very Serious Book section of the library and takes an adventure within the pages of an African travel guide. But will Arabella realise that where she belongs is closer than she thinks?

 5. 'Sticky McStickstick' by Michael Rosen & illustrated by Tony Ross 

A powerful and personal story from one of Britain's best-loved authors about his recovery from coronavirus.

After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with COVID-19, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. This very personal story by a famous children's author will be encouraging for many. It is a true story of resilience and the will to recover from illness.
With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names "Sticky McStickstick", he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. 
This a very personal story from the former Children's Laureate, and is beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross. The book allows us into Rosen's story of perseverance and hope.

6. 'Cat Problems' by Jory John & illustrated by Lane Smith

This is an intriguing and engaging book from an author who clearly knows cats! And we find out at the end of the story that of course Jory John & Lane Smith do have a 'special' cat. Here's a little of the dialogue from this story about a cat that thinks it is the centre of the world. The cat is examining its food bowl.

Oh.
A few dry kernels of dry food.
Wonderful.
Thanks for remembering folks!
What does it take to get a little service around here?

This funny and real-to-life story about a home bound cat and their relationship to their owner is very funny. The text moves quickly and is engaging and the illustrations are just wonderful. Such an expressive cat! And for the author to get 'into the mind' of this seemingly self-focused cat, is clever.

Jory John and Lane Smith once again have a winner here that is a companion book to 'Penguin Problems' and 'Giraffe Problems'.
 
7. 'A Good Place' by Lucy Cousins

Follow four adorable insect friends as they look for a good place to live. A delightful new picture book from the award-wining author and illustrator Lucy Cousins.

Four insect friends have a problem. They can't find a good place to live. A place where there aren't hard pavements, polluted water, noise, rubbish, or where poisons and insecticides are being used. Until they meet a lovely butterfly who shows them a wonderful garden that they can share. A place where insects are welcomed and play a part in the diversity and balance of the world.  
As usual for Cousins, this is a beautifully crafted text and illustrations which will draw in young readers and listeners aged 1-5 years.

8. 'Piano Fingers' by Caroline Magerl

Isla and Bea are two sisters from a very musical family. Big sister Isla plays the violin and her little sister Bea is keen to begin music too. When will she be able to play something like her sister? She tries the triangle, but that doesn't work (sister Isla is less than encouraging). Perhaps if the triangle doesn't work she needs to tackle another instrument - the piano?!! 
And who could have guessed, the piano will be her instrument, for she has "piano fingers"! At last Isla and Bea are able to make wonderful music together.
This is a simple story that many children will relate to. The wonderful water colour illustrations support the simple but engaging text to create a wonderful picture book.

9. 'Our Country Ancient Wonders' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac

Mark Greenwood is well known to children's literature fanatics. He has teamed up with a number of fine illustrators to produce stunning picture books that offer rich stories about Australia and its people.  This first book in the 'Our Country' series takes readers on a journey across Australia to encounter our unique geology and geography.

He has also teamed up with Frané Lessac the wonderful illustrator, to produce a beautiful book that takes us on a journey to find out about the prehistoric beasts that roamed the land in Winton in remote northern Australia. This journey allows us to explore the lava-formed caves at Undara, experience the fiery glow of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and much more. 

Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac are both highly awarded and have previously collaborated on books like 'Midnight', 'Simpson and his Donkey' and 'Ned Kelly and the Green Sash' and others. This is another stunning book from Mark & Frané.
Other bopks by Mark Greenwood include 'Simpson and His Donkey' with Frané Lessac, a CBCA Honour Book and a USBBY Outstanding International Book. As well 'Jandamarra' (illustrated by Terry Denton), was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature and the West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards. 'The Happiness Box', illustrated by Andrew McLean, was also a 2019 CBCA Honour book. 

10. 'We Were Wolves' written & illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

This stunning book has been Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal.

'Boy' lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer.
But dark forces are circling – like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age...

An intense, darkly spellbinding story of a boy awaiting his father's return from prison as an ancient woodland awakes.

Jason Cockcroft was born in New Zealand, and raised in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He graduated from Falmouth School of Art and is the illustrator and author of over forty books for children, including the illustrated covers for the last three books in the Harry Potter series. Jason won the inaugural Blue Peter Book Award and has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

11. 'Saving Celeste' by Timothée de Fombelle (translated by Sarah Ardizzone)

This is a moving and powerful story about climate change by one of France’s greatest writers for children, the world is now run by Industry and the only thing that matters is to buy, buy, buy. People live in crowded cities where cars are stacked vertically and shopping centres run miles into the sky. On the day Celeste starts school on the 110th floor of a tower block, she meets a lonely, young boy. The next day she doesn't return. Her blood has become as polluted as the seas and rivers. On a mission to save her, the boy battles the forces of Industry and takes her far, far away. Will the world realise the truth of Celeste’s disease? Will there be time for her, and the planet, to recover?
This is an interesting and thought provoking environmental fable that centres on two children who are 'fighting' for a better world. Celeste arrives at Bryce's school and he is immediately captivated by her. The story unfolds as the dialogue shifts from Bryce talking about Celeste to Celeste talking about Bryce. Eventually, the dialogue merges as their relationship grows and they fight for a cleaner and more. sustainable world. 

12. 'Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairybeast' by Sue Whiting

This is fast-paced junior fiction adventure with a plucky heroine who needs to face her fears in order to save her parents, her friend and the day!

Pearly Woe is a worrier. She worries about everything, especially that she’ll never be brave enough to become a member of the top-secret group of stealth adventurers – The Adventurologists’ Guild. Pearly also has a special talent – she can talk to animals. Her favourite animal to talk to is her pet pig, called Pig. But with her parents missing, Pig pig-napped and Pearly a stowaway on an icebreaker heading for Antarctica, Pearly’s worries just got REAL.

Author Sue Whiting is an award-winning children’s book writer, former teacher and publishing manager. 'Pearly and Pig' is the first book in a new series centred on the main characters Pearly Woe and Pig. In this book Pearly is a worrier and hence one of the themes of the book is children's mental well being. 
She has written numerous books in a variety of genres: fiction and nonfiction, picture books through to YA, including the best-selling 'The Firefighters and Missing', the award-winning 'A Swim in the Sea' and the CBCA Notable Books, 'Get a Grip Cooper Jones', 'Platypus' and 'Beware the Deep Dark Forest'.

13. 'Return to Factopia' by Kate Hale & illustrated by Andy Smith

Kate Hale (& Andy Smith) are back in collaboration to produce a follow up to their previous book 'Factopia'. Their latest effort is 'Return to Factopia: Follow the trail of 400 more facts'. Readers can choose their own path through this fun and informative book 9-12 years olds.

Did you know that bacteria from between people’s toes has been used to make cheese? Or that the world’s most expensive cheese is made from donkey milk? Or that the milk from one species of cockroach is the most nutritious substance on Earth? Or that a cockroach can survive for weeks without its head? Welcome back to FACTopia!, a world of perfectly amazing facts, all of which are verified by Encyclopedia Britannica!

The genius of the book is that every fact is connected to the next using a clever trail of information. But this isn't a simple sequential trail, there can be many trails. Your path can branch and you can choose to jump to a totally different places in the book.

A great book for the curious who are prepared to allow their curiosity to lead them through this fun book and its wealth of wonderful facts!