Monthly Archives: June 2013

Julia Donaldson new titles


Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door

Julia Donaldson

Scholastic Australia – June 2013  RRP: $9.95

Paperback 74 p. ISBN: 9781742837109

UK Children’s Laureate and author of the much-loved The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson has produced a terrific read for the newly independent readers of around 5-8 years.  When Elmo and his sister have to move house because Granny is moving in with them, they really want their parents to buy the ‘jungle house’ with its wild overgrown garden, lion door knocker, monkey patterned wallpaper and resident big black spider.  But sadly their parents choose the much less exciting neighbouring place, which Elmo calls the ‘flowerpot’ house.  The children look longingly over the fence at the far more desirable next door residence until the temptation becomes too much and they begin playing in the wild back garden – after all, the house is still empty and nobody cares.   When they find a rusty old key in the yard, Elmo and his sister are elated to find it opens the back door of the jungle house and they can roam to their hearts’ content, pretending the house is their very own. But oh oh, when Mr Birdsnest decides to buy their house, they are discovered and banished to their own pristine and boring home – until Granny needs rescuing and they discover that perhaps having a neighbour in the jungle house isn’t so bad after all.

Younger readers growing in their confidence will love this story with its fast pace and short chapters. Hannah Shaw’s amusing illustrations break up the text to present an easy-to-read layout.

Highly recommended for your lower school children, both boys and girls.

The Snake Who Came to Stay

Julia Donaldson

Scholastic Australia – June 2013-06-28 RRP: $9.95

Paperback 76 p.   ISBN: 9781742837093

Another fantastic read for the younger students and definitely one to share with Miss Small – who is crazy about all animals but especially reptiles!  I can easily imagine her doing exactly the same as Polly, the main character in this delightful story about a very entrepreneurial young lady who opens up a Holiday Home for animals – much to her mum’s consternation. Guinea pigs, a mynah bird and the goldfish next door are all a bit stressful in their own ways, but when Polly takes on her best friend Jack’s snake Doris, Polly’s mum really starts to get agitated.  As you can easily imagine, Polly realises that looking after other people’s animals is not always smooth sailing – and when Doris goes silently missing, she has to do some very fast problem-solving. Fortunately, all has a happy ending – with a safe return of all the animals to their owners – plus a few extras in the case of the guinea pigs!

Another great addition to your shelves for your ‘easy reading’ fiction titles – and a very funny read aloud.


Phryne Fisher



Tonight is monthly book club night – yayyyy! And the theme for this month is ‘Exotic or Erotic’ ;-).

While I could have gone wildly in search of something saucy, I decided that it was time I bought the newest Phryne Fisher mystery – Unnatural Habits – October 2012.  #18 in Kerry Greenwood’s series about the sexy and smart Miss Fisher, this newest adventure was no disappointment.  Phryne is drawn into investigating the disappearance of a young feisty female reporter (most unseemly in 30s stuffy Melbourne), brothels, gentleman’s clubs, a white slaving ring and a very un-Christian convent laundry all with the able help of her ‘minions’. The cast of characters in the series continues to grow – each with their own special place in the greater scheme of things. Tinker, or Tink, the latest is a scruffy urchin who is beginning to become civilised by his association with Phryne’s household and reveals some very apt natural talents.

If you haven’t read any of the Phryne Fisher series, or indeed, Kerry Greenwood’s other exotic/erotic series Corinna Chapman’s Earthly Delights – do try them out!  The newest novel will be out in October 2013 – looking forward to that!

Racism and Children’s books



I have no doubt I may offend some readers here, but (shock!) I will write what I think. I mentioned that the other night on my evening commute as I thought about the question of ‘which book in the burning library would you save’ and whether this would be the book you find your favourite or the one to which you have an emotional attachment, I thought about my father’s Sunday School prize book. The book is called “Although he was black”

below a summary from Antiquarian Booksellers of America





      (AUD $ 83.01)

  • Bookseller: Aleph-Bet Books, Inc.
  • Seller Inventory #: 15208
  • Book condition: 2
  • Illustrator: COBB,RUTH
  • Date published: 1933

Book Description

1933. 2. BLACK INTEREST. ALTHOUGH HE WAS BLACK by Lucy Laing. Lond.: Nelson, nd, bookplate dated 1933. 8vo, pict. bds, [63]p., sl. soil, VG+. The story about a man who brings home a Black boy as a surprise servant for his two sons. The boy is named Sambo and talks in dialect and the book is replete with racism. By the end of the book, Sambo has managed to help the young boys who say: “he was one of the whitest fellows I ever knew although he was black!”

First of all, I’m a bit surprised that it is fetching so much on the market. For one thing, it is by today’s standards, very racist and secondly, because it was clearly written for the Christian market (hence being a Sunday School prize!).  Clearly,  I have an attachment to it because it was my father’s and the aforesaid Sunday School prize – and Buddha knows, I don’t think my father was closely aligned to the church for the rest of his life (he was a questioner!).  A reasonably average story for the time in which it was written – kindly white people rescue and offer salvation to lowly black person.   Beyond that, it made me think about other stories much loved in our family. I have bought a copy of ‘The Story of Lttle Black Sambo’ by Helen Bannerman for all my children and a few more. Now I read it to Small and she loves it – wide eyed at Sambo’s bravery in the face of ferocious hungry tigers. Is it racist? Some think so and it attracts intense reactions. I think it is certainly a product of it’s time and I think Helen Bannerman wrote a story of a very brave boy using characters and settings with which she was very familiar. I cannot detect any racism in that original text beyond the fact that she has called the boy Sambo and the illustrations are exaggerated. There is much dispute about the book but it seems clear that the original was not the biggest target for villification, rather it was the numerous copies and ‘knock offs’ of the story which developed the racist theme. You can read an interesting essay by Jim Pilgrim here
and I really do NOT like the sanitised version called Sam and the Tigers -Julius Lester, 1997.
Enid Blyton suffered similar castigation for the golliwogs in her stories – can you remember when the Noddy books were banned from your school library? Blyton’s comment was that really all that meant was that the sales of her books went up! And she vigorously defended any cruel intention towards black people and that she had written as many ‘good’ golliwogs into her stories as ‘naughty’ ones. Personally I think she’s far harsher on the lower class – associating them with laziness, stupidity and dishonesty. All that aside, consuming huge quantities of Enid Blyton as a child has not made me racist or irrationally intolerant to the ‘lower classes’. I resent stupidity no matter which social strata I encounter it in!

Commute ruminations


As I was stuck in my usual at-least-one-hour commute traffic this evening I was thinking about my question re the burning library – and the choices people would make or how they would interpret the question – whether their favourite book or whether the book they have the most emotional attachment for example. That led me to think about a book I treasure that was a Sunday School prize received by my dad in about 1929 which I still have – it would never be reprinted and is almost a curiosity – and that gave me an idea for a whole new blog post which I will write on the weekend when I have a little more time and a better laptop to work on!

Teddy Edward’s Winter Holiday


I think I would have been about 7ish when this was a gift and I fell in love with it. There was something so appealing about the little fuzzy toys posed in the snow that made me just love them. Teddy Edward himself, his friends Jasmine the rabbit, SnowyToes the panda and Bushy the bushbaby all cavorting in the snow and in front of their chalet. If memory serves me it was the only storybook I had ever seen with photographic illustrations, and they somehow made it all so much more real. According to Wikipedia a television series was made based on these books, but I have never seen it nor any other books about Teddy Edward and his friends. But I do still have this very well worn favourite of mine and plan to share it with Small very soon.