Monthly Archives: April 2016

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat – Emily McKenzie



Category:Picture books


Allen & Unwin


Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016

RRP $15.99

Stanley is most definitely not your average moggy. He doesn’t do any of the usual cattish things like chasing mice or having hassles with dogs.  He’s not even lazing around sleeping in the sun all day. In fact, he’s always busy knitting.

He knits beanies and balaclavas, socks and scarves, neck warmers and trunk warmers, onesies and woolly jumpers for all his friends.

One day Stanley spies a poster for a grand knitting competition inviting all comers to knit their wackiest woolly wonder. Naturally Stanley is determined to win!

He starts to knit – and knit and knit. All his friends are mad with curiosity. What is it Stanley is making? A giant knitted rainbow? The guesses are many and varied and still Stanley keeps knitting until he runs out wool – oh no!  What on earth can he do? There is only one option so Stanley immediately starts unravelling all his friends’ lovely handknits much to their chagrin.

The day of the competition arrives and there is no sign of Stanley in the hall. His friends are none too pleased that their lack of warmth was to no advantage when suddenly they all realise that Stanley is outside in a gigantic knitted hot air balloon ready to whisk them all away to apologise for his unravelling.

Of course, such a splendid woolly wonder is a winner and Stanley ends up with a lifetime of supply of wool with all his friends being more than amply clothed.

This is a fun read for little people with lots of colour and surely a great opportunity to introduce some knitting to children whether finger, French or regular!!

Middle School: Going Bush –James Patterson



ISBN: 9780143781219

Published: 01/03/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

Rafe can’t be more excited. He’s been selected to join a very special Young Artists group along with a very select few youngsters from around the world. They are all to meet up in Australia and take part in an extraordinary all-expenses paid experience investigating ancient Indigenous art, making their own art and being taught by famous Brushes McGarrity.

Of course Rafe’s last Aussie experience did hold a few untoward happenings but this is such an awesome honour and he will get to see his great friend Ellie again. He can’t wait!

Naturally, things just can’t possibly be that simple – not with Rafe’s form.  With a huge hungry looking crocodile in a place it should not be, something very odd about the famous rock paintings supposedly discovered by McGarrity, sneaky and secretive goings-on in the dead of night and some very interesting international companions there is lots to occupy Rafe, Ellie and their new friend Denny which has nothing at all to do with being young art talents.

This latest episode will further consolidate the legion of fans that have enthusiastically embraced the Middle School series. I have noticed that even reluctant readers gravitate to these so they definitely deserve some promotion in your library.

Recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards.

The Shadow Keeper – Abi Elphinstone




  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 320 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471122705 |
  • February 2016

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 19.99


The second in this exciting series sees the central character Moll Pecksniff and her companions living in secret in a cave by the sea where they plan their next move in the battle against the evil Shadowmasks. Now that Moll realises the import of her destiny as the Bone Murmurer and her history, including the fate of her parents, she is determined to prove her worth.


She knows she must find the Amulet of Truth at all costs. It is the only thing that will wield the necessary power over the enemy.


But how to do this when faced with mer-people, wicked smugglers and seemingly impossible coded messages?

Of course, her trusted friend Siddy and the enigmatic wildcat Gryff are right by her side but what of Alfie, the strange boy who came to their rescue and seems to be their ally?


Again the reader is immersed in the thick of the action with this wondrous and exciting tale. As all good quests must be it is filled with thrills, suspense, mystery, secrets, bravery and treachery. The Old Magic must be saved and only Moll can achieve this and must before the dark magic overtakes them all.


This is every bit as gripping as the first instalment with all the requisite good and evil that befits a great story of its type.


Any reader will be left breathless and be impatient for more there is no doubt.


Highly recommended for middle school readers upwards.


Read a snippet here.

Izzy the Invisible – Louise Gray, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson



Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781848125094

Publisher: Bonnier

Imprint: Piccadilly Books

Pub Date: March 2016

RRP $14.99


Just imagine if you could be invisible whenever you like – most children would love this!

This new story which is perfect for beginning independent readers comes from a mystery author so to speak. The publisher’s notes tell us that Louise Gray is a new pseudonym for an author of over ninety books and sales of over $3 million dollars.

Izzy is a very sweet little girl who is rather curious and quite lively. She lives with two busy working parents and a rather bossy older sister. It is her Nana Lin who is her real kindred spirit. Nana is a retired science teacher who has quite a menagerie (which is perfect for Izzy who is not allowed pets) and still messes about with her various experiments. Her latest is a concoction called Vanishoo which she hopes will make things become invisible but it’s just not working out. That is, until Izzy accidentally knocks an extra ingredient into the swirling liquid bubbling on the stove – and promptly vanishes!

Luckily, it’s not actually a permanent condition. It seems that a feather from Nana’s parrot  Perky makes Izzy visible again as long as she keeps hold of it.

Not surprisingly Izzy’s parents are none too thrilled with this development and harass Nana to come up with an antidote.  While they await this impatiently, Izzy does make good use of her new ability by giving some nasty teenagers a good wake up call, helping a neighbour and making peace with her big sister.

All in all this is a fun read with some solid family messages about trust and doing the right thing.

Recommended for young readers of about 7 years upwards.

Guest Blogger – Aleesah Darlison


Ideas Are All Around Us

By Aleesah Darlison


A great story often starts with a simple idea.

Ideas for stories bombard me each and every day.

Ideas are everywhere I go. In everything I see and do. And in everything I hear.

If you’re interested in writing stories, you can find ideas in the world around you too.

You see, stories abound in all the many subtle nuances of our life – you just have to keep your eyes and ears and mind open to them.

And then, of course, once you have them you need to keep them.

Ideas can be like butterflies floating on the breeze, fragile and zippy, here one minute and gone the next.

Collecting your ideas in one place is always a good … well, idea. You may not use them today. You may not use them tomorrow. But one day, when you’re scratching around for something to write, trying to find inspiration to breathe renewed life into your lacklustre first draft, those little ideas that you collected days, weeks, months or even years ago will come to your rescue.

I run loads of writing workshop for children and adults, many of which focus on collecting ideas. Discovering and expanding on ideas are two of the most difficult processes that face writers of all genres. Yet they shouldn’t be.

PLC_March2016_Zoo Ball Launch

Why? Because collecting ideas is fun! And if you learn a few basic techniques for the collection of ideas, it makes your story writing that much easier and enjoyable too. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child, these simple story idea collection techniques apply to everyone.

Here are just a few of my best tips for those wanting to discover the ideas that exist in the world around them:

  1. Keep a book in your bag or on your desk and add something to it each day. This might be a thought or an observation; a sign you’ve seen; details of a poster; a drawing or photo; a newspaper article or comic. Anything you like.
  2. Visit a café or shopping mall and sit somewhere you can see other people. Write down details of people you see who interest you. What do they look like? How do they walk? What are they wearing? Who are they with? Record conversations you overhear.
  3. Go for a walk along the beach. Take your notebook or phone/voice recorder with you. Start walking and let your mind wander. Record things you see, think, hear. You might even be lucky and have storylines or characters reveal themselves to you as you walk. This is one of my favourite ways to get ideas flowing.
  4. Think back to when you were a child (this is a particularly good exercise if you’re writing for children). Write down ten places you went to that were fun. They might have been everyday places where you lived or they might have been places you visited on holidays. Expand on your list by adding details of what you liked, or didn’t like, about each place.
  5. Select one of your ideas or images and use it to create a mind map. Put the word or image in a circle in the middle of your page and then write or draw any ideas that come to mind in branches connected to the main circle. Mind mapping is also called brainstorming and I find it’s a fabulous way to kick-start ideas into solid storylines.

There are many more ways you can collect ideas for stories, but these are a great start for beginning writers.

Happy Idea Hunting Everyone!

Best wishes

Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah’s latest release is a picture book titled Zoo Ball. It’s a humorous, rhyming story about a boy called Ned who takes his ball to the zoo and then promptly loses it! This is where all the animals get into the action, passing the ball around, and it’s also where the fun and frivolity starts…

‘Don’t bounce that ball, Ned,’ Mum warned.

‘Don’t bounce that ball at all.’


‘We’re at the zoo to see animals today,’ Dad said.

‘So put the ball away.’


But Ned didn’t listen to Mum or to Dad.

Instead he bounced and bounced and

BOUNCED the ball he had.

He bounced it low, he bounced it high,

He bounced it right into the sky…

 Zoo Ball cover_Med res

Zoo Ball is a very original book in that it’s illustrated completely by Australian school children. The publisher, Wombat Books, developed a competition that was entered by students across Australia. Each entrant could choose to illustrate a single page or double page spread of the book. Winners for each page were chosen and the overall winning entrant also got to illustrate the front cover.  In this way, the competition and the book has created twenty-three new, young published illustrators.

Aleesah had this to say about the inaugural Wombat Books Illustration Challenge:

“It’s been a fantastic initiative and it’s really blown me away to see how talented children are,” Aleesah said. “It’s my hope that, given this start in picture book illustration at a young age, some of these illustrators will go on to become picture book illustrators when they grow up.”


And now a little bit about Aleesah….

Aleesah Darlison is an award-winning Australian children’s author who writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, friendship, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. In 2012, she was shortlisted for the same award for her picture book, Warambi.

Since commencing her writing journey six years ago, Aleesah has written over thirty-five books including Zoo Ball, Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine, Awesome Animal Stories for Kids, the Netball Gems Series, the Unicorn Riders Series, the Totally Twins Series, Ash Rover: Keeper of the Phoenix, Little Good Wolf, Puggle’s Problem, Little Meerkat, Spidery Iggy, and Mama and Hug.

Travelling throughout Australia and overseas, Aleesah delivers talks and workshops to children and adults at preschools, schools, libraries, bookstores, literary festivals and writers’ centres. She is currently Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre Kids and YA Literary Festival. When Aleesah isn’t creating entertaining and enchanting stories, she’s usually looking after her four very energetic and imaginative children.

For information about Aleesah’s creative writing workshops and author talks, visit her website at:

or check her out on Facebook:

To purchase copies of Zoo Ball, visit the Wombat Books website:

Feluga_Tully Festival_March2016




All-Stars bind-ups


Glenn Maxwell 1 and 2 Bindup – Patrick Loughlin

Lucky Break

Academy All-stars

ISBN: 9780857988867

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


Glenn Maxwell 3 and 4 Bindup

State Showdown

World Domination

ISBN: 9780857988881

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


RRP $19.99


In more double your fun your young cricket devotees will be able to indulge in these two new bindups in the Glenn Maxwell series. Previously I reviewed the first two titles on this blog.

Books 3 and 4 take young Will’s playing ambitions to new highs – and lows. Will finds it hard to believe that his dream has come true when he finds himself playing at the hallowed MCG in the T20 National Youth Shield. He has been working on his positive thinking and his technique but suddenly finds himself struggling in his play. His rhythm has completely left him and he despairs of even making it through. He looks to his mentor Maxi to help him settle down and get back into the swing.

Book 4 holds even more excitement as Will and his team mates travel to England and the home of cricket to play in the T20 Youth World Championships.  While Will may be in seventh heaven having been selected not just for the team but asked to captain it, he is also a mass of nerves and misgivings about his ability to lead the team successfully. This is particularly so when he needs to somehow meld together the players from different states and overcome their rivalries. Again he looks to Glenn for advice and sagacity in his quest for the best.

These are just perfect reading for your cricketers, be they boys or girls, and with two for the price of one, you can’t go wrong putting them on your shelves.

Recommended for readers from around ten and up.






You Choose… Flip Me #1 & #2


You Choose Flip Me! 1 and 2 – George Ivanoff

The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove

Mayhem at Magic School


You Choose Flip Me! #3 & #4

ISBN: 9780857989536

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99



You Choose Flip Me! 3 and 4

Maze of Doom

The Haunting of Spook House


ISBN: 9780857989550

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’

RRP $19.99

If you have kept up with this blog you will have read my reviews of the You Choose… series previously. For those who have not purchased these great titles here’s the opportunity to double the fun with two bind-ups each with two stories.

These particularly appeal to reluctant boy readers but have equal attraction for those who just want a bit of a spooky read – and there are plenty of those! I have secondary students trying to inveigle me into ‘shifting’ some titles from the primary library as they think they are ‘too scary’ for the younger ones. Really it’s just because they want to read them again!

It’s unfortunate that I never seem to successfully navigate my way through these – I always end up SPLAT in some way or other! Fortunately, others seem to have more luck – or is that skill?

The series is now up to #11 so this is a great time to stock up on the earlier titles and start promoting them.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 4 and up.

Goblin Mafia Wars [City of Monsters #2] – DC Green



Ford St Publishing

April 2016

ISBN 9781925272208

RRP $18.95

You would think that as a royal hume dude your life would be one of complete luxury not to mention stressfree. Think again! PT (Prince Thomas of Monstro City) and his Dead Gang friends are embroiled even deeper in nasty situations and deadly – or is that undeadly? – circumstances; their quest to find the eggs of the last dragon, Kalthazar,  as well as trying to avert complete goblin civil war and annihilation of all other species, thwarting the evil plans of the horrendous Dr Franken, removing the usurper Prince Robbie and just a few other issues.

Following the toxic altercation at Fire Mountain with the goblins’ attack and Kalthazar’s limping escape to the Isle of Giants, the Gang minus friend Zorg begin a trek which first of all sees them navigating through the Dead Zone. Yowsers! This is one extremely bogus territory where even monsters like the Dead Gang are in very real danger of being exterminated – not least of all by their erstwhile compadre Scarab, the super-strong mummy gal.  She’s kind of ticked off about Zorg and decides that PT in particular is totes responsible.

Surviving this and then a very unnerving train ride back to Monstro City, the Dead Gang faces yet more monstrous mayhem. While PT manages to conduct some very delicate negotiations– and some highly skilful bluffing – with the rival goblin factions (think Sopranos style goblins!), his plans are sabotaged by the appearance of a chocolate popcorn gobbling older/younger idiot savant (without the savant) brother Prince Robbie. Rumour has it he has been cryogenically preserved by famous Dr Franken for the past ten years and not in fact stolen by the Vampire Queen. Looks like vampiric Stoker is not PT’s brother after all – or is he?

And just what is Dr Franken’s dastardly involvement with the goblin factions and the mentally deranged Prince Robbie? How did he get that dragon egg? And what the web is with all those freaky arms? Trapped in small cages in the evil doctor’s ‘hospital’ things look grim for this grimmest – and often grimiest- of gangs, with no apparent hope of escape. Spoiler alert – yet they do along with an about-to-hatch dragon egg!

DC Green has provided readers with another rip-snorter yarn about these highly idiosyncratic monster teens who have their own methods of solving problems. Their combined abilities and wacky take on situations along with their staunch support of each other prove more than a match for their adversaries.

High humour rating and all the excitement of fast-paced action will prove yet again to be a winner with readers from around 12 and up.

If you missed the first volume you MUST go and get it! Can’t wait for the next instalment – write faster DC!

Oh and PS – completely buzzed about that quote on the back cover!!



Lulu Bell collections – Belinda Murrell



Lulu Bell’s Amazing Animal Adventures – Belinda Murrell – illustrated by Serena Geddes

ISBN: 9781925324358

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99


Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn
Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort
Lulu Bell and the Tiger Cub
Lulu Bell and the Pyjama Party


Lulu Bell’s Fantastic Holiday Fun – Belinda Murrell – illustrated by Serena Geddes



ISBN: 9781925324372

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99



Lulu Bell and the Koala Joey
Lulu Bell and the Sea Turtle
Lulu Bell and the Pirate Fun
Lulu Bell and the Circus Pup



Regular readers of this blog will already know how well loved the Lulu Bell books are in this house. They are far and away Small’s favourites. David Attenborough may reign supreme for her viewing but it is Lulu Bell who wins outright when it comes to our nightly reading time.


In fact as I did not have the complete collection, having not reviewed earlier ones, the missing titles were one of the gifts in her Santa sack. She just adores them. And why wouldn’t she? She and Lulu Bell are about the same age and they both just are passionate about animals. In fact Small wishes she too lived in an animal hospital! (Mind you our growing menagerie must come close to having as many occupants!)


Each bind-up comprises four favourite titles from this successful series and whether you are introducing these to newly independent readers or ‘topping up’ your series collection they will be highly prized additions to your shelves.


Lulu Bell lives with her parents and younger brother and sister in a beachside town where normal daily life with family and friends becomes an adventure. With a dad who is the local vet and living next door to the surgery, animals abound both at home and also on holidays.  Lulu and her friends are just regular kids and their exploits, problems and solutions all resonate easily with young readers.


I was very surprised to find that in my new library there was only one title on our shelves – soon fixed that problem! I know they will be a huge hit with our little girls.


For more information on this series as well as Belinda’s other outstanding titles check out her website.


Lucky visitors to the Newcastle literary festival were blessed to be able meet both Belinda and Serena there. I was positively peeved that we missed out!  Hope they bring this to Bris Vegas sometime!

Pugly Bakes a Cake – Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Gemma Correll





ISBN: 9780857635990

Publisher: Nosy Crow

Imprint: Nosy Crow

Pub Date: March 2016


I guess we all know that pugs are pretty cute (and pretty fashionable) right now. If I hadn’t got a toy poodle myself I probably would have got a pug – although my eccentric teaching colleague who had a wardrobe of outfits for hers and attended all the ‘pug parties’ in Brisbane at one time did kind of put me off a little.


Moving right along, newly independent readers are going to love this book. It’s a HOOT! Last night I read this aloud straight through to The Divine Miss M who is having a sleepover and she thought it was great! She was able to predict and infer as I read which was pretty impressive as well.

Pugly and his nemesis Clem (Clementine) the cat are rivals for the undivided attention of their owner Maddy who is eight years old.

Being a pug (no offence to pug owners), Pugly is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and Clem can very easily put it over him. Especially as Pugly’s only ally is Clive the fish – and Pugly doesn’t speak or understand fish-bubble.

Inspired Pugly decides he is going to the first dog to ever bake a cake and thus win paws down The Great British Bake Off, be on TV and meet the Queen (as you do when you’re famous). This plan will seal his status as Maddy’s favourite pet he is sure.

However, with Clem ‘advising’ him chaos reigns in the kitchen and elsewhere, as Pugly heeds all Clem’s ideas, goes mental at the Evil Squirrel outside on the fence and more.

This is a laugh a minute book and not only proved a terrific read aloud (took about half an hour or so) but perfect for those readers beginning their individual reading journeys. Lots of capitalised words and extra large fonts give them the opportunity to incorporate tone and expression into reading as well.

Get onto this one – it will be a great favourite with Year 1 to around Year 4 for sure!