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Teaching Notes Riley and the Curious Koala

by Tania McCartney, illustrations Kieron Pratt

Following in the Riley series of travel adventure books, Riley and the Curious Koala takes Riley the little aviator on a journey around the beautiful landmarks of Sydney, in search of a strange, elusive and very thirsty creature. With striking black and white photos of Sydney's beaches and glorious harbour, even in torrential rain, this whirlwind trip showcases Sydney at its best. Part adventure, part picture book and travel guide, Riley and the Curious Koala is illustrated once again by the illustrious Kieron Pratt. It is the third book in the popular Riley travelogue series for little ones.

About the author and illustrator
Tania McCartney is a travel-loving Aussie who has been writing since her teens. She is an experienced editor and magazine writer, runs her own small publishing company and is the founder of Kids Book Review. Her first book in the Riley series–– Riley and the Sleeping Dragon––was featured in the ABA’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2009/2010 and by 2013, Tania will have a dozen books in print. She lives in Canberra with her husband, two kids and a pile of books. Kieron Pratt is a Canberra-based illustrator with an extremely well-developed funny bone. This is his third book in the Riley series.

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Curious Koala by Tania McCartney

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Lesson 1 – Exploring Sydney and Koalas
Riley and the Curious Koala is set in modern-day Sydney and features an iconic and much-loved but sadly endangered Australian animal. Read the book and ask the following questions or discuss the following elements with children, either during or post-reading: Where is Sydney located? Are there koalas in Sydney? Where do you think they would live? (Koalas are found in the wild in four states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.) How would you like to jump in your own plane and fly anywhere in the world? Where would you go? Darling Harbour is located right in the heart of Sydney city. Once a derelict dockland, the area is now packed with shops, restaurants, cafés and tourist attractions like the Sydney Aquarium and National Maritime Museum. The original aboriginal inhabitants of Darling Harbour – the Cadigal people – used to call it ‘Tumbalong’, which means ‘place where seafood is found’. When white man arrived in 1788, they called the bay ‘Long Cove’. Why do you think they named it such? (Its unusual length.) The Rocks is one of Australian’s oldest settlements. Originally inhabited by the Cadigal people, the area was claimed by white man in 1788 and began life as an open air gaol, which later developed into a vibrant port community. Many original sandstone buildings still survive at The Rocks. What kinds of items might you find at The Rocks Discovery Museum? Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the world’s most recognised bridges. Opened in 1932, it weighs 39,000 tonnes and took over 8 years to build. It is not the longest steel arch bridge in the world, but it is the largest and widest. There were no safety nets for workers during its construction and eight men fell to their deaths. How could we provide workers with better safety conditions today? Why do you think a city like Sydney needed this bridge? Circular Quay is located in the heart of Sydney between Bennelong Point and The Rocks. This is where the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788. Circular Quay was originally known as ‘Semi-Circular Quay’ and was used for shipping before being developed into the transport, leisure and recreational centre it is today. What transportation options are available at Circular Quay? (Ferry, boat, train, bus. It was once also a tram terminus.) Sydney Opera House is one of Australia’s best known icons and is one of the world’s most recognised buildings. It sits on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour and was designed by a Danish architect named Jorn Utzon. Utzon had to redesign his plans several times until engineers could work out how to build the unusual roof. The Opera House has over 1,000 rooms and stages 3,000 events a year. The exterior features over 1 million tiles. What does the roof remind you of? One of Sydney’s major city thoroughfares, George Street runs all the way from The Rocks near Sydney Harbour Bridge to Broadway near Central Station. The street was created from a track made by marines and convicts who walked from a convict camp to The Rocks every day. Originally referred to as ‘High Street’, in typical English fashion, it was officially named George Street in 1810. Who do you think it was named after? (King George III of England)

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Curious Koala by Tania McCartney

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The Strand Arcade was built between 1880 and 1900, and was created in the late Victorian style, with an overhanging gallery and tinted roof glass. It is the only Sydney arcade remaining in its original form. Named after a famous London Street, the arcade was partially destroyed by fire in 1976 and was restored a year later. What does ‘Victorian’ mean? Manly Beach in the northern suburbs of Sydney was named by Captain Arthur Phillip after the ‘manly’ behaviour of the aboriginal (Guringai) people living there at time of white settlement. During the 1800s and early 1900s, Manly was one of Australia's most popular seaside holiday resorts. It’s said to be the place where the ban on daylight swimming was first challenged. Why do you think people weren’t allowed to swim during daylight hours? What did people wear when they went swimming back then? (Neck-to-knee costumes.) Bondi Beach is one of the world’s most famous beaches. Its name comes from an aboriginal dialect meaning ‘water breaking over rocks’. The land around Bondi was once privately owned but due to its popularity, the beach was made public in 1882. Between 1935 and 1961, beach inspectors would measure swimming costumes to make sure they weren’t too skimpy. The world’s first lifesaving reel was used at Bondi in 1906. Which famous sportspeople train almost daily at Bondi Beach? (Surf lifesavers.) Luna Park opened in 1935 and was based on the famous Coney Island version in New York (1903). In 1969, the site and rides were sold to a group who wanted to replace it with a multi-storey trade centre. Thankfully, their application was unsuccessful, though the Park was closed and re-opened several times through the 80s and 90s. In February 2010, Luna Park was listed on the State Heritage Register. What kind of rides might you find at Luna Park? Situated right on the northern shores of Sydney Harbour, Taronga Zoo was opened in 1916 and is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful zoos. Spreading over 21 hectares, it’s home to over 2,600 animals. In the mid 1980s, a gondola lift was installed to transport visitors from the waterfront to the upper part of the zoo. In July 2009, the first ever elephant calf was born at Taronga Zoo. Considering its wonderful position on the harbour, what do you think ‘Taronga’ might mean? (It is an Aboriginal dialect word meaning ‘beautiful view’.) Koala Facts Discuss the following koala facts and what they might mean.             Koalas are not bears, they are marsupials Koalas have two thumbs which help them climb and grip their food They are nocturnal animals The fur of the koala differs according to where it lives. In southern parts of the country, their fur is longer and shaggier, to keep them warm Koalas communicate with each other by making snoring noises and then a burping sound known as a bellow Koalas usually have only one baby per year; older females may have two Like wombats, koalas have a pouch that opens to the rear Koala babies are known by several names including ‘joeys’ and ‘cubs’ When born, they are only 2 cm long, have no fur and their eyes and ears are sealed shut A cub stays in the pouch for five months then rides on its mother’s back until the age of one Koalas are fully grown by their third or fourth year An average koala eats just over a kilo of leaves per day
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Teaching Notes – Riley and the Curious Koala by Tania McCartney

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There are about 600 varieties of eucalyptus tree and koalas only eat about 120 of these Koalas don't normally drink as they get all the moisture they need from gum leaves If too many koalas live in one forest, they get hungry and sick The biggest problem facing koalas is the loss of eucalyptus trees, which serve as both their home and food Koalas are protected by law, but their homes and food aren't Dogs and cars kill many koalas each year Only between 43,000 and 80,000 koalas remain in Australia today

A percentage of direct sales of Riley and the Curious Koala go to the Australian Koala Foundation. If you would like to sponsor a koala, head to

Lesson 2 – Story Writing Elements and Structure
Read the book and ask/integrate the following questions: What is the title of this book? What does the title tell you about the story? What is the subtitle of this book? What does ‘subtitle’ mean? Who is the author? What does the author do? Who is the illustrator? What does the illustrator do? Where are the end papers? Who took the photos in this book? Where can you find more information about the publication of this book? What does multimedia mean? (text, illustrations, graphics, photographs) Where is this book set? Who are the main characters? Why does Riley want to fly around Sydney?
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What problems and conflict does Riley encounter? Does he find the koala straight away? What drives the momentum of this story? What pushes it along and makes you want to turn the pages? What do the photos in this book offer the reader? Why do you think the photos are black and white? When is the climax of this story? What happens? How does the story resolve? What is your favourite part of the story and why? What did you learn from this story?

Lesson 3 – Book Making Activity
Read the story. Have children take B&W photographs around the classroom or school. Create a main character and a friend. Choose a vehicle. Write a storyline where the character and friend search for an object or animal. Draw pictures of the vehicle and characters that can be cut out and placed on the photos. Add text to the pages. Print out and staple together. Discuss the multimedia elements used in the construction of these books. Further activities like colouring sheets and mazes can be found at Tania can visit your school with a variety of fun, interactive readings and presentations aimed at children from Grade 1 to 6. For more information see or email See Tania’s site, Kids Book Review, for more teachers’ resources and lesson plans –
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