Literature + Story Mapping = Geography!

I  thoroughly enjoyed putting together a recent presentation for Eduwebinar titled Story Mapping – Using Geographical Concepts to Respond to Literature. I discovered so many fantastic books with journeys and adventures to intrigue readers of all ages. I have compiled a list of these – those shared during the presentation – plus a number that I couldn’t address on the night due to time constraints. You can find the list linked on the Presentation page of this site for the recent webinar dated 28 November 2018. Note that the file is a word document so that users can continue to add to it. Feel free to use the contact form to send me new (as in newly published) suggestions.

As is always the way – after the event I have found more. One gem is a fiction series The Magic Tree House Kids (interesting Wikipedia article) where siblings, Jack (age 8) and Annie (7), discover that a tree house in the woods near their home that can transport them to different places and historical periods. The children are sent all around the globe to achieve specific goals, usually to rescue an important historical document. Later additions involved time travel with Merlin the wizard. All require factual knowledge to solve the missions. There is a supporting Magic Tree House Kids website with a club and game section with numerous games linked to the titles in the series. There are many titles (50+) published over the past 25 years and these were repackaged in 2017 to celebrate the series’ 25th anniversary.


Screen shot from one of the Magic Tree House missions.

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Book Bento Boxes

I have just created my first book bento box – and it was great fun to do. An alternative way to express a response to literature that will excite students with its combination of personal expression, visual arts, technology, creativity and hands on compilation of the bento box contents.

Having just finished Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold, I really wanted to express some ideas about this wonderfully deeply rooted Australian novel set in the Australian wheat belt. It would have made a great winner of the 2018 CBCA Book if the Year Award – more than an honour book in my opinion.

Anyway, back to book bento boxes. Bento is a Japanese term of single serve take away meal that is served in a box – traditionally lacquered wood – with separate sections for different portions. Applying this strucutre to a literature response strategy results in book bento boxes. Here are some great examples to get you inspired. You will see that the box structure can be somewhat flexible in this strategy and most do not have compartments for different portions.

After reading some useful instructions developed by two English teachers and with a fantastic book to focus on – I was hell bent on having a go. Unfortunately, the interactive buttons have not transferred into WordPress. Click on the link in the caption to read the commentary on the contents.

Bales, J. (2018, September 24). Mallee boys bento box

This is a highly adaptable reader response strategy that goes well beyond the English classroom. With a guiding question on a story that connects to History, Geography, Health or other area students could demonstrate understanding of significant events or objects that shape their interpretation of subject matter. It also provides a great starting point for a teacher librarian before reading a book. Preparing a book bento box in advance with significant objects to get students to predict relevance and then at the conclusion of the reading to evaluate their initial thoughts, and perhaps suggest alternative objects to include. The latter would provide a wonderful insight into how students perceive the books that we read aloud and identify what is most significant in their eyes.

I created my bento box on the spur of the moment – oops – no box to hand! I collected “free to use” images online and from my personal image collection and compiled them in a Word document to look like they were sitting in a box. Some basic image manipulation skills were required to adjust layout, group images, apply transparency etc, to make a cohesive whole to be saved and uploaded into Thinglink a program that allows you to add text, hyperlinks and buttons to places on your image.

The principle of creating a collection and saving as an image is quite straightforward. Adding written annotations works seamlessly with Thinklink but could be tackled with different software. Prezi could work well, with a pathway and supporting text to each element. For younger students, a simple slide presentation and animated text boxes attached to each image could also work. There are not doubt other apps out there that would work too. If you read this and have suggestions please feel free to add a comment. I would love some further suggestions to experiment with.

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Literature Pearls – new resource

This is a project I have been working on in free moments over the last month. Pearltrees is a visual curation site – each pearl a small snapshot of a webpage. I chose this as a means of bringing together websites that do not need annotations or tags to help sort, locate or retrieve content. Explore the Literature Pearls tab on the menu bar to find sites on authors, illustrators and book series. It has a menu that I will add to if I create new collections. Or dive straight in!

Pearltrees is great for very quickly adding content, the app works as smoothly as the web portal. Pearls can be moved around easily so I can express my inner teacher librarian self and sort in alphabetical order. It is easy to copy other people’s content into collections in my own tree. It has a reasonable storage space that should be adequate for the size of this project.

I do find the very constant suggestions to upgrade a tad annoying but as I have all these pearls at my fingertips for free I am not complaining.

I hope you find it useful.

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Dust Echoes – fantastic news from the ABC

Dust Echoes has been a wonderful resource to support secondary studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures. Recently the interactive online version was archived and no longer available. I followed up via the ABC contact form and have just hear back that they have preserved this resource in a digibook format so it is still available.


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Latest news on ‘JB on not Just Books’

I’ve been away for a while and have spent a wet and windy day doing some critical updates on my site. First up, I have downsized to just one work focus – with the School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University.  And…. I have been most fortunate this session to be the subject coordinator for Literature Across the Curriculum – so feeding my passion and earning some income at the same time. This means a change in focus in what I cover in my blog news.

It is this teaching that has prompted me to do some critical updates, particularly with my @WWW page which curated an increasingly large collection of digital literature. It had become so unwieldy that it took forever+ to load. Today I have learnt how to create subpages and drop down menus so that there is less information (and links to videos) on each page which means less to load and therefore faster viewing.

There are sub-pages now for digital literature that supports
English & Literature
Cross-Curriculum Priorities & General Capabilities
Celebrations & Collections

Readers do need to keep in mind that many resources cross over curriculum areas so make sure you browse on each page and check out the contents of the various collections provided.

Hope you like the changes and enjoy the reading and new additions.

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Materials in My Makerspace

This lively and engaging series is similar in design to the highly successful and popular Simple Machines in My Makerspace.

Children will enjoy this fascinating series, which uses the principles of Makerspace to Simple text describes the observable properties of materials, and gives readers the tools they need to compare and contrast those properties. Readers are then provided with strategies to start their own creative projects using the ideas they have learned. Along the way, tips and helpful hints guide children on how to brainstorm and solve problems working as a team.


Changing Matter in my Makerspace explores the properties of liquids and solids, and how these properties change between states of matter.
Exploring Materials in my Makerspace introduces the properties of different materials, such as wood, paper, and plastic.
Testing Materials in my Makerspace describes how the properties of materials, such as transparency and buoyancy, relate to their uses.

Discover how mixing and separating can result in new states of matter, substances, and materials with differing properties in Mixing and Separating Materials in my Makerspace.
Joining Materials in my Makerspace explores how objects made of many pieces can be disassembled to make new objects, and how the properties of those objects can be observed.
Shaping Materials in my Makerspace examines how natural and human-made materials are shaped for their purposes, and how the properties of those materials support their purpose.

Text, illustrations, content and project difficulty targets middle primary students to encourage both independent and collaborative scientific investigations. Content addresses the primary levels of the Australian Science Curriculum to specifically explore the Chemical Sciences strand.

Available from INT Books for schools and libraries across Australia.



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Eon. The Story of the Fossils

Eon is a stunning visual creation, crafted by Aviva Reed, that explores Earth’s evolution.

EON an illustrated adventure in Time by Aviva Reed from Selena de Carvalho on Vimeo.

Aviva Reed is an author and illustrator and describes herself as a visual ecologist. This beautifully designed hardback book combines exquisite and minutely detailed illustrations with descriptive, evocative, and scientifically accurate prose to stimulate thinking about the evolution of our planet and how the various ecosystems evolved and interconnect.

As deep time passed,
the ocean was slowly filled with
molecules, cells, compounds and shells.

Life was thriving, all microbial and gooey,
slowly becoming skeletal and pooey!

Edited by Professor John Buckeridge (RMIT), a prominent paleontologist and ethicist, Eon. The story of the Fossils is sure to be a contender for the CBCA Eve Pownall Awards in 2019 for quality, inspiring and original non-fiction. Suitable for all ages – don’t miss out on this treasure!


Available from INT Books for schools and libraries across Australia.


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