Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Poppy – Andrew Plant


The Poppy – Andrew Plant

Ford St  Publishing Pty Ltd

March 2014


RRP  $26.95 HB $16.95 PB

ISBN 9781925000313 HB 9781925000320 PB

Another stunning new picture book for everyone’s Anzac Day collection, particularly suitable for younger readers 9+ but also eminently suitable to use with older students as an exploration of this particular aspect of the First World War. Many will already know of the history of Villers Bretonneux, a village in Northern France, where Anzacs achieved the impossible and saved the village from complete annihilation by the German invaders. Not without a great cost, the Anzacs suffered huge casualties in their successful action. You will find much rich historical material around this significant piece of history, including a documentary which I recall watching in recent years, now available on YouTube in episodes.

Through over 70 beautiful colour paintings and a simple but moving text, Andrew Plant has retold the story, focussing on the part played by Victorian schoolchildren who helped rebuild the village school after the war. This single act of compassionate action has resonated through time as the Victoria School continues to be a focal point of Villers Bretonneux, for both locals and for those making a pilgrimage. In the ‘pay it forward’ style, the village children responded in kind when the devastating Ash Wednesday totally destroyed Strathewen Primary School in 2009.

The individual illustrations boxed in a black background tell much of the story, making this a highly effective visual text. Andrew Plant has handled this piece of history with a gentle finesse, creating a non-fiction text that will speak volumes to all readers.

As the centenary commemorations of the First World War and the Anzacs begin, this book will prove an invaluable addition to any collection and is a fitting tribute to those who not only sacrificed their lives, but those who did whatever they could to help Villers Bretonneux recover from the tragedies.

Highly recommended for all readers 9+ – This one is a must for your 2014 collection.


Meet the Anzacs – Claire Saxby/Max Berry


Meet the Anzacs – Claire Saxby/Max Berry

Random House Australia Children’s

February 2014

ISBN 9780857981929

RRP $24.99

Also available as an ebook

ISBN 9780857981943


With perfect timing as we approach the centenary commemorations of World War 1 and the Anzac legend, this new picture book in the Meet… series (which includes Ned Kelly, Saint Mary MacKillop, Captain Cook and forthcoming Douglas Mawson) has been beautifully executed with younger readers in mind. The simple but eloquent text describes the beginning of the Anzacs as young men in Australia and New Zealand enlisted and their subsequent travels and experiences leading up to Gallipoli.

Children from around six and up will be able to grasp the sense of excitement first felt by these  young men, trace through the boredom of seemingly endless training and drills and realise (without any graphic detail) the awful realisation that battle engagement brought the corps.

The inclusion of a timeline at the close of the book will provide more able readers with interesting, and calamitous, facts.

Linking to the national curriculum examining historical skills, knowledge and understanding, World War 1 and the role of key groups in Australian history and society, this would be a valuable addition to any library’s Anzac collection.

Many of us have struggled in the past to find suitable material for our younger students in promoting awareness of this significant chapter in our history. This book fits the bill to a high standard.

Highly recommended for children from Prep upwards.

Useful Links:

Two Wolves – Tristan Bancks


Two Wolves – Tristan Bancks

Random House Australia

March 2014

ISBN 9780857982032

RRP $16.99

There is possibly nothing quite as exciting as being able to read a book before anyone else and when the book is as terrific as this, the appeal is even more so!

From the outset Bancks draws his characters and setting so finely that we are aware immediately of relevant details. Ben Silver is a young boy with a penchant for all things police and loves making his own stop-motion police movies with a battered old video camera. In a home environment clearly not at the upper end of the social scale, Ben is in his room making his latest epic, and minding his little sister Olive when the police come knocking at the front door looking for his parents. When Ben tells the police that his parents are still at work at their car wrecking yard, they leave without explanation, leaving Ben wondering what is happening. Just as he picks up the phone to call his parents, they arrive with a screech of tyres and frantically whisk both children with a few possessions into the car, claiming they are going on a ‘holiday’.

The ensuing action which often becomes dark and disturbing as these errant parents attempt to cover up a $7.2 million bank bungle in their favour awakens Ben to the failings of both mother and father – and also brings out his strongly protective care of little Olive. When Ben and Olive are abandoned by both parents, he uses all his instincts to bring them both safely through  frightening and dangerous experiences alone in the bush, until finally managing to get them both back to civilisation and their grandmother.

An old man tells his grandson that there is a battle raging inside him, inside all of us. A terrible battle between two wolves.

One wolf is bad – pride, jealousy, greed. The other wolf is good – kindness, hope, truth.

The child asks, ‘Who will win?’

The grandfather answers simply, ‘The one you feed.’

A rite of passage novel that will capture readers, particularly boys, aged 10 and up, I highly recommend this and believe it would be a gripping ‘read aloud’ which would lead to many conversations around ethics and values.

Tristan Bancks and Two Wolves book trailer

Teacher’s notes available here:

Australia’s Greatest People & Their Achievements – Linsay Knight


Australia’s Greatest People & their Achievements – Linsay Knight

Random House Australia Children’s

November 2013

ISBN 97880857980205

RRP $24.95

Here is one of those very useful books which can earn a place on the library shelves or for an award prize with equal ease.

Very attractively packaged and with loads of information on people from both historical and contemporary times, it’s a perfect book for dipping into or for students to find the first ‘kick off’ for a biographical research project.

As well as both brief and fuller informational text, quotes, break out boxes and quick fact pages are interspersed throughout. Broken up into sections from Pioneering Australians to the Arts to Science to Social Justice and more, this covers a wide range of both well known Australian achievers as well as those not so well known – something I found particularly interesting.

Along with the companion book Australia’s Greatest Invention & Innovations, this comprehensive text would be a very useful addition to primary school libraries in particular.

Recommended for Middle/Upper Primary – preview the book here at Random House


The Spotty Dotty Lady – Josie Boyle


The Spotty Dotty Lady – Josie Wowolla Boyle/Fern Martins

Magabala Books February 2014

ISBN 9781922142108

RRP $17.95

At a time in our society when many vulnerable people are living isolated and lonely existences, The Spotty Dotty Lady is a story which gently promotes compassion for younger readers and examines the way in which nature and emotion/s are interconnected.

This second collaboration between Josie Wowolla Boyle (West Australian singer, storyteller and artist) and Fern Martins (sculptor, printmaker, artist in pencil, pastel and watercolour) is a vibrant explosion of watercolour illustrations which will easily capture young people.

A sad and lonely lady discovers a very unusual flower bud in her garden and is intrigued by it. She carefully waters the plant with its fat spotty bud and soon more appear. She is so taken with the gorgeous spots she begins to transform her entire house, beginning with her teacup, by painting colourful dots all over. As the spotty buds unfold to reveal even more gorgeous spotty flowers, her dot painting takes over her entire house, as she imagines each dot to be a special friend.  When the postie comes along and is delighted by the now spotty house, he cheerfully spreads the word all around the neighbourhood and suddenly people from all up and down the street are coming to see the happy looking house and meet the owner. They don’t just stay and look however, soon they are asking the Spotty Dotty Lady to paint their own teacups – and stay to drink tea out of them. No longer the sad and lonely Spotty Dotty Lady,  her actions transform the entire street as it becomes the happiest place to live for all.

This lovely picture book would be a marvellous starting point for many discussions around ideas such as empathy, communities, connectedness as well as inspiration for Nature & Art activities.

Highly recommended for younger readers +Image

More about the author Josie Boyle here and also here:

The Debt Series – Phillip Gwynne



Phillip Gwynne


The Debt

Allen & Unwin

RRP: $14.99

Instalment #1: Catch the Zolt

January 2013 | ISBN 9781742378442

Instalment #2: Turn off the Lights

February 2013 | ISBN 9781742378435

Instalment #3: Bring back Cerberus

March 2013 | ISBN 9781742378596

Instalment #4: Fetch the Treasure Hunter

June 2013 | ISBN 9781742378602

Instalment #5: Yamashita’s Gold

September 2013 | ISBN 9781742378619

Instalment #6: Take a Life

December 2013 | ISBN 9781742378626

Since his blasting onto the writing scene with the award-winning Deadly Unna (1999: Book of the Year – Older Readers) Phillip Gynne has proven his ability as an outstanding writer, particularly for the YA market. In this new series, he sends the reader on a thrilling ride with all the verve and adrenalin rush of series such as Conspiracy 365 (Gabrielle Lord) and Alex Rider (Anthony Horowitz).

Dominic (Dom) Silvagni, is a reasonably typical Gold Coast teenager – albeit from a very privileged but outwardly normal family. Their home in the elite gated community of Halcyon Grove is a show piece and Dom, along with his parents, older sister Miranda and younger brother Toby lack for nothing.  His much loved paternal grandfather Gus, is close at hand and is Dom’s coach – both of them with a passion for middle distance running – despite Gus’ having lost a leg in a ‘shark attack’ at a young age.  He has also grown up almost next door to the love of his life, Imogen, who sadly has lost her father and been left with her slightly unhinged mother .

Dom’s regular schoolboy existence at the top notch Gold Coast Boys Grammar comes unstuck on the night of his fifteenth birthday when his father, David, and grandfather Gus initiate him into the Silvagni family inheritance – an ancient debt owed to the  ’Ndrangheta – a Mafia-style organisation from the old country.  Each male child from the Silvagni is required to pay back the debt in six instalments – or lose a ‘pound of flesh’. With each successfully completed instalment the inner thigh of each Silvagni male is branded until the mark of repayment is whole. With growing horror Dom realises that his grandfather’s missing leg was not the result of a shark attack, witnessed by his incomplete branding… becoming acutely aware that this is no joke, but a very dangerous and deadly serious undertaking.

When presented with the opportunity to review the final Instalment #6, I commented that I had not read the full series – and fortunately, I was lucky enough to do so. This is definitely a series to be read in sequence, as we follow Dom’s heart-racing exploits and watch him develop skills, acquire both allies and enemies and despite all odds, complete seemingly impossible tasks.

Throughout, the reader becomes aware, as does Dom himself, that there is much more to this deadly challenge than just the Herculean assignments set.  What really happened to Imogen’s missing politician father? Why does Dom’s own father insist he has never been to Italy, nor speaks ‘wog’ yet is overheard talking fluent Calabrese? Why does his Californian mother have cosy chats with Roberto, the gardener? How is it possible that the same taxi driver keeps turning up just when he has need?

Loaded with all the thrills and spills that will particularly appeal to teenage boys – fast cars, private jets, an unending number of useful smartphone apps, heroic action, daring rescues plus more – and with a knock out ending, this will enthral readers from 12 years up.

The Debt website

A SMH interview with Phillip Gwynne about the series:

#6 Instalment Book Trailer