Monthly Archives: June 2016

Mrs Whitlam – Bruce Pascoe



Magabala Books

Author: Bruce Pascoe

Published: Jun 2016

ISBN: 9781925360240

Ages: Middle primary, Upper primary, Young Adult


I am very quickly becoming very enamoured of Bruce Pascoe’s writing for young people (not to mention for adults). He is really deft at making his young adult characters believable and contemporary without relying on current vernacular or props to make them so.


Marnie is horse mad but from a family that precludes her from owning one of her own. But a woman in her town who has sadly lost her daughter gives Marnie not only the horse but all its tack. Unfortunately, even owning her own horse and being a competent rider doesn’t quite cut it with the other teens at pony club. Their attitude towards an Aboriginal girl in their midst is far from welcoming particularly when she is riding a Clydesdale called Mrs Whitlam.


However Marnie has a strong family and her own inner strength. When she and Maggie (aka Mrs Whitlam) rescue a child from the surf and seals a growing friendship with George Costa, the Golden Boy of the school, she becomes a heroine and her acceptance in a worthy circle of friends is confirmed.


This is an evocative text which illustrates the sometimes sly racist attitudes in Australian towns but is never ‘preachy’ which makes it all the more powerful.

Marnie and Maggie make a formidable duo and not least of all because of their individual strengths and loyalty.
Highly recommended for readers in Upper  Primary to Lower Secondary.

Popcorn Movie Time: The BFG


Last night we were fortunate enough – myself & Small, her little cousin The Divine Miss M and her BFF – to attend a preview 3D screening of Spielberg’s The BFG. Some reviews have claimed it didn’t translate well and if anything was ‘too faithful’ to Roald Dahl’s much-loved novel. I don’t need to explain the plot so will just comment on the movie.

Well this family didn’t find it so. I think, if anything, it is because it is so faithful to the book that it works.

Ruby Barnhill as Sophie is just the right kind of dorky to play the bespectacled orphan with pedantic tendencies who is plucked from her bedroom by a huge but kindly giant.Mark Rylance plays his part as the BFG with an endearing and appealing manner.

The BFG’s fellow giants – gargantuan in size and vile in persona – are suitably ferocious but with enough comedic touches to render them less scary than might be supposed.

The climactic scenes at Buckingham Palace with Penelope Wilton portraying a very Dahl-esque Queen Elizabeth are terrific. And by far the children’s favourite part of all was the frobscottle drinking followed by whizpopping. The corgis shooting up the stairs powered by their own emissions are hilarious – this thoroughly endorsed by Small today. 🙂

If you are a Dahl fan you will approve and if you have young children there is nothing in this that would be too terrifying.

Love the BFG’s cave/cottage and his room of dreams – and the ubiquitous snozzcumbers are truly revolting!

A huge shout out to Dot Tonkin of Random House Australia for extending the invitation!

It was a real high point in our holidays. Make sure you rush out to buy the new edition of the book. Our library will be featuring a Roald Dahl display following the holidays – and of course leading up to Roald Dahl Day in September.


The Snow Wombat – Susannah Chambers – illustrated by Mark Jackson



ISBN: 9781760113810

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

June 2016


RRP $24.99

Those of us in tropical Queensland rarely, if ever, get to experience the High Country under its wintery blanket of snow.  I was hoping to take Small there these holidays to visit friends, snow and wombats but alas! The expense of plane fares was too much for our budget.

At least we will be able to have a vicarious experience as we follow a joyful young wombat gambolling and rolling in a very snowy expanse.

Little ones will love the rhyming text (though I will be interested to see how many will predict that ‘bum’ will rhyme with ‘gums’!) which spreads over pages allowing plenty of opportunity to guess what is coming up next.

Although the terrain may be unfamiliar to many children they will readily identify this as an Australian landscape with recognisable road signs and vegetation and animals. The endpapers are a gorgeous map of Wombat’s meandering and are going to be absolutely fabulous for my new unit with Year 3 looking at fictional maps!

To my mind this is a must have both for those kids who live in this area (which it seems rarely features in children’s books) and also those who never get to put on a jumper!

An absolute cracker of a read aloud with beautiful text and illustrations as well, I highly recommend it for readers of Prep age up to around Year 3 (or beyond!).


This Girl That Girl – Charlotte Lance



ISBN: 9781760291709

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: June 2016

RRP $24.99


A great little book for young readers around 4 years up that explores the differences but also the similarities between people.

Two girls who live next door to each other are seemingly poles apart in their personalities and behaviours. One is restrained and tidy and organised although her dad is eccentric and colourful and wacky. The other is eccentric and colourful and wacky although her dad is restrained and tidy and organised.

It would seem that never the twain will meet until one day both neighbours decide to build treehouses. While the dads may approach their process in very different ways each aided by their respective daughters who do likewise, the end results are both surprising and revealing!

The vibrant illustrations and lavish use of colour and line add real liveliness to this book.

Recommended for early readers around Prep upwards.

Let’s Play – Hervé Tullet



Allen & Unwin

ISBN 9781760292980

Imprint: A & U Children

April 2016

RRP $22.99


Make no mistake – I beg to review each of Hervé’s books! And they never leave this house. My Small and Miss Mouse would miss them too much. They are re-read over and over each time with as much delight as the first time!

The fun and magic continues with Let’s Play as readers are invited to join a winsome yellow spot in a play journey filled with loops and swirls, light and dark, colours and counting, jumping and hide-and-seek.

Using the reader’s finger as a ‘driver’ the spot takes us on a wild adventurous romp, each page leading on to the next magical experience.

Although they need no recommendation, I cannot endorse these enough for both your own shelves and your library shelves. Luckily their sturdy covers and high quality pages withstand all the repeated handlings of love!

Read more about Hervé Tullet here.

Ollie’s Odyssey – William Joyce




Simon & Schuster Australia

  • Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  • 304 pages
  • ISBN 9781442473553
  • April 2016
  • RRP $27.99


This is a Hans Christian Andersen-style tale of magic and wonder that echoes of the same tenderness as works such as The Velveteen Rabbit.

When Billy is just a baby he has a problem with his heart which makes his parents fearful and anxious until they know the outcome. To assuage her fretting, Billy’s mother creates a special toy for him. Made of soft textured fabrics and containing the ‘bell’ heart from her own favourite childhood toy, Nina the dancing doll, Ollie becomes Billy’s best friend and most treasured companion. In short, he is Billy’s favourite and as Billy grows up, strong and happy, Ollie shares in every single A-venture.

Running parallel to the story of Billy and Ollie, we discover a dark world of hidden menace with a history stretching back to a carnival where Nina the dancing doll once entranced Billy’s mother. In those days a very popular sideshow attraction was the Bonk-a-Zozo, one of those games where patrons try to win a toy by hitting a target.  In its heyday, toys came and went regularly but there was always a happy communal feeling to the booth with Zozo the clown, the target, reigning benevolently over all.  Then the dancing doll arrived but was hung so discreetly that few customers noticed her. However Zozo had eyes only for her – and she responded with her own eyes – as no words ever passed between them. As time goes by the carnival becomes less and less popular and on a day that changed the course of events forever, a little girl came with her father and won the prized doll. Taking her away, she claimed her as her favourite toy and Zozo’s clown heart hardens and his thoughts turn dark.

Zozo makes it his mission to recruit the Creeps whose only mission is to steal the favourite toys of all children – including Billy.  When Billy is made to attend a BORING wedding with his parents, he secretly takes Ollie with him but disaster strikes and Ollie is toynapped.

The ensuing rescue mission is filled with drama but as it must, love and bravery triumphs. ‘Never has a journey of ten blocks been so epic.’

The story is beautiful and the artwork enchanting. A beautiful hardcover with glorious glossy pages, this is a testament to books being a work of art in themselves.

Browse inside the pages here.

This is a book to treasure. As a sustained read-aloud it will engage its audience from the very beginning and I predict lead to much discussion about the demonstrated values and philosophy.

Highly recommended for children from around 8 to 12.



My Dog Dash – Nicki Greenberg



ISBN: 9781760110673

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

May 2016

RRP $24.99


This is an absolute hoot of a book and I can’t wait to read it aloud (with Small in the house and Miss Mouse sleeping over, it will be a great opportunity this weekend)!

If you’ve ever owned a puppy you will be all too familiar with the peccadilloes of Dash as his young owner shows him off and enjoys her beautiful pet.

Dash is not a very good pupil at puppy school, is a bit slobbery and tends to make a mess (with help of course!) in the house but is very friendly  and loves walkies time. When Dash goes missing everyone is out all night looking for him only to find that Dash has met another ‘dog’ up the road – PUPPIES!

Now if you want to know what makes this so different from other dog stories, I’m not going to tell you.  Suffice to say that when you see it, you will understand the hilarity!

This is a prime example of illustrations adding far more meaning to the text.

Highly recommended for little humans in need of a few chuckles!

Mad Magpie – Gregg Dreise



Magabala Books

May 2016

ISBN 9781925360066

RRP $24.99

Once again Sunshine Coast author and illustrator Gregg Dreise has produced a sumptuous and vibrant take on traditional Aboriginal morality tales. Continuing with his series featuring birdlife Mad Magpie follows a theme of bullying and resilience. Drawing on inspiration from his Elders Gregg relates the story of a magpie called Guluu who is continually harassed and teased by butcher birds.

Of course Guluu’s reactive defence of anger just does not impact on his tormentors and the plaguing continues.  He consults his wise Elders seeking advice. Old Dinewah the emu, Bulul the mopoke owl and Gulayaali the pelican explain that being ‘tough and angry’ will not solve his problem. They advised him to stay calm like the water flowing in the river and to ignore the butcher birds.

“The butcher birds act tough because they’re in a group. They think it’s funny to see you get angry. Show them how a creature can be strong on the inside.”

As so many others have found in similar circumstances this is not easy and Guluu continues to be frustrated and feel his anger rise.

Until he decides to sing, just as he used to before he became so angry all the time. His loud birdsong completely drowns out the jeering of the bullies and they give up and fly away.  Standing proud and alone Guluu demonstrates that just one can overcome many.

In time even the butcher birds learn to sing and the community achieves a harmonious and bully-free life together.

Sing! Dance! Laugh! Love!


We can all learn from the lesson of Mad Magpie.

Highly recommended for children from around the age of four upwards. If you have not seen Gregg’s other books do yourself a favour and seek them out. I have previously reviewed both Silly Birds and Kookoo Kookaburra and also warmly recommend them to you.

With my Small’s proud Wiradjuri heritage these are all firm favourites in our home.

Click on the image to read an article from First Nations Telegraph.



Calling out -Aspiring Indigenous Writers/Storytellers/Illustrators


Are you an aspiring Indigenous writer, storyteller and or illustrator who wants to progress your professional development? Our Australian Indigenous Creator Scholarships might just be what you’re looking for. Get your application in for 2016 now. Submissions close 15th July.

Magabala Books – Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publishing house.

My Life & Other Exploding Chickens – Tristan Bancks. Illustrations by Gus Gordon.



ISBN: 9780857985316

Published: 01/03/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

Ok so Tristan’s My Life.. books should come with a warning about snorting aloud. Tom Weeks is back with his brand of bizarre daily life to make readers laugh out loud.

Tom’s invitation to go to the circus with the love of his life Sasha is exhilarating on the one hand yet terrifying on the other due to his phobia about clowns.  His worst nightmare turns into more than just having to look at those evil clowns.

Then there is his arch-nemesis Stella’s brilliant homework scheme which naturally involves tricking Tom into a kiss.

There is also my favourite image – the guinea pig sized head lice chomping on a bathroom door. Although Lewis’ mutant nits did get a tad creepy later when they were big enough to attack the police car!

And then the Library Ninjas (which is rather coincidentally the name of my library monitor team!) who ruthlessly pursue Tom after he finally returns his overdue book – after five years!

Of course there’s more – I always wondered where all the odd socks went to I have to say and no My Life would be complete without input from Tristan’s fans and the interspersed ‘lists’.

All in all, another hit for those readers who want the wacky side of life delivered up to them complete with scabs.

Highly recommended for kids from around 8 years upwards.