Monthly Archives: July 2016

Little People, Big Dreams series



Walker Books

A new series to me – and the first two that I’ve seen fit the “Mighty Girl” criteria perfectly. Easy to read biographies with simple text, interesting illustrations plus facts and photos at the end of each these are eminently suited to young readers from as young as six upwards.


Amelia Earhart – M Isabel Sanchez Vergara/Mariadimantes

ISBN: 9781847808851

September  2016

RRP $19.99

This traces the life of Amelia Earhart from her first experience with planes and subsequent determination to be a successful female pilot at a time when this was unheard of. She broke world records and became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and later the Pacific. In 1929 she became president of the Ninety-Nines an organisation dedicated to supporting other women to become pilots.  Sadly in 1937 her attempt to fly around the world was her last flight. When fuel ran low during the trip she tried to reach Howland Island but failed. Exhaustive searching found no trace of the plane or Amelia but her bravery and trailblazing inspiration lives on.



Maya Angelou – Lisbeth Kaiser/Leire Salaberria

ISBN: 9781847808905

September 2016


As a little girl growing up in southern USA Maya experienced all the prejudice and intolerance one has come to expect in the 1930s. After a traumatic attack by her mother’s boyfriend Maya stopped speaking for five years but was encouraged to find her words again by a family friend through reading and writing.  Determined to rise above the racist attitudes that she grew up with, Maya pursued dreams of a career. A dancer, singer, actress, writer, director, journalist, producer, teacher and civil rights activist, Maya’s words have been an inspiration to many. Her 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” remains a classic milestone in literature. Her books and poetry continue to resonate with a global audience who turn to her voice for hope and encouragement.


I look forward to reading about Coco Chanel and Frida Kahlo in the same series.

I will be promoting these vigorously to our primary girls and highly recommend them to you for your collection.

Fabish: the Horse that Braved a Bushfire – Neridah McMullin/Andrew McLean



ISBN: 9781925266863

Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

August 2016

RRP $24.99


When we read of the most calamitous events in history it is the displays of courage and heroism that lift us up from despair and provide us with hopefulness for the future. In many cases it is the bravery of humans that so inspire us but at times it is an exceptional animal.

Fabish was not a very successful racehorse during his days on the racetracks but he had a big heart and smart sense which he put to the very best of use during the horrific Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.

Following his retirement from racing, Fabish became a ‘mentor’ for yearlings at Tampirr Farm not far from Healesville. He proved perfect for the job as he kept them steady and showed them what was expected of potential champion racehorses.

When the raging bushfires began their deadly encroachment across the district trainer Alan knew he would be hard-pressed to keep the stabled horses safe and decided to risk saving Fabish and the yearlings by releasing them from their paddock.  He had no idea just how ferocious those fires would be and when at last the danger passed and he surveyed the wreckage of the property he despaired of ever seeing Fabish or the yearlings again. Yet miraculously as the smoke cleared and the ash drifted down from the hills came Fabish leading his seven young charges, all of them without even a singed hair.

An amazing true story which has a powerful impact and is so beautifully illustrated by Andrew McLean, whose talent for portraying the Australian landscapes is unsurpassed.

Highly recommended for readers from around seven and up and would certainly earn its place in any learning situation focused on natural disasters or Australian history.

Below is a photo and extract from the Let’s Go Horse Racing website in 2010 when Fabish was honoured before the start of the Healesville Picnic Races.

A year ago this Sunday fire roared through the township of Narbethong, approximately 21 kilometres from Healesville, and across Tarnpirr Farm, a 500 acre horse property owned by trainer Cliff Brown and his father Don.

Amazingly, none of the valuable racing stock on the property was lost, nor injured, thanks to the bravery of trainer and farm manager Alan Evett and the instincts of Fabish.

The 14-year-old grey gelding, who was prepared by premier trainer Mick Price during his racing career, sprung into action to save seven yearlings he was ‘mentoring’ in an outer farm paddock.

famish and the yearlings

The Shark Caller – Dianne Wolfer



Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780143780557

Published: 01/08/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


RRP $17.99

I have never been to Papua New Guinea but strangely I have had so many numerous vicarious experiences with this near neighbour.  I have, particularly in the last few years, met so many people who have lived or worked in PNG and I feel as though I have some slight acquaintance with the people and the culture.  Further, my family ties with First Australian culture and history have given me some additional knowledge of Indigenous cultures.

But this marvellous book has opened my eyes to a completely new culture and spirituality.  The writing is evocative and transformative – for the duration I was in the Islander culture.

Izzy (Isabel) and her twin Ray are the children of a ‘mixed’ marriage with a traditional Islander mother and a ‘foreign’ father.  For the first few years of their lives they were raised in the New Ireland community and have many strong memories of it but their parents removed them to Australia. Izzy often feels as though she doesn’t quite ‘fit’ the Western culture to which she has been transplanted and when her parents divorce she struggles even more. Then in a tragedy her brother Ray dies in a bizarre incident at the beach. For three months Izzy is at a loss to deal with her grief and when she and her mother return to New Ireland so that Ray will have a proper Islander farewell she thinks perhaps there might be some respite from her terrible sorrow. She knows the heritage of their ‘shark calling’ but has no idea of the depth, history or cultural beliefs that her clan embraces in this.

For Izzy her return to New Ireland truly is a ‘coming home’ and as the full implications of being a twin in the shark calling tradition unravel Izzy is pulled into the mysterious world of her ancestors. The results are courageous and frightening, inspiring and full of despair and utterly mesmerising.

This is a powerful book both in its own narrative right but also a hugely beneficial adjunct to curriculum studies of our near neighbours and creating a greater cultural understanding.

I look forward to being part of the blog tour for this amazing novel in the upcoming weeks and can highly recommend it to you for your collection for older readers – probably Year 6 upwards. You will find teaching notes here and check out Dianne’s website here.

A novel ten years in the making and a superlative example of the quality of our Australian children’s literature.


So Wrong – Michael Wagner and Wayne Bryant




Billy Goat Books

August 2016

ISBN 9780994251756

RRP $14.99


Having a problem reaching those reluctant readers? Well I guess we all have at times. So how to solve the problem is the question.

Put a fiendishly naughty author and illustrator together and watch them create what can only be described as outrageously subversive humorous writing that fools kids into thinking they are not seriously reading!

So Wrong is less a book than a collection of snack-sized craziness which will fool any reader into wanting more of this reading thing.

There are short stories which it would be reasonable to say include the universal appeal of toilet humour to a fairly high degree. My favourite is definitely The Veree Hungree Caterpooper.   There are some fantastically hilarious satirical advertisements – the Parental Attitude Adjuster would be a highly sought after product. Interspersed throughout are some dubious snippets of life advice from a reputedly successful Life Coach for Kids. And of course the pages are lavishly illustrated with a huge variety of visual jokes as well.

“Its Mad magazine meets Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton…”

Both Michael and Wayne were reluctant readers themselves and decided that they would partner up to create the sort of book (and indeed series) they would have liked to read as kids.

It won’t be just your reluctant readers queuing up for this one – it’s going to be a hit with every kid who likes to laugh at general silliness and a bit of naughtiness.

Coming up soon on this blog will be a Q&A to find out more about the So Wrong concept and this mad pair will be on Kids WB this coming weekend.Check out Billy Goat Books here.

Highly recommended for all readers who snort out loud laughing.

Be a Friend – Salina Yoon




August 2016

ISBN 9781408809093

RRP $14.99


There are plenty of children who are different in some way or another and often they are subject to being ‘left out’. Dennis is quite an ordinary boy but he communicates in somewhat an extraordinary way. When his classmates do ‘show and tell’ Dennis mimes his news. Other children climb trees but Dennis would rather ‘be a tree’.  The other children just don’t get Dennis and he becomes invisible and so quite lonely.

Then Dennis meets Joy and a perfect friendship is born. When Dennis kicks an imaginary ball Joy returns the serve.  They don’t need words to express their friendship and Dennis realises that being a bit different is absolutely OK! In fact, it’s something very special.

We all know those children who don’t quite fit the ‘mould’ that others expect them to and this book would be a beautiful way to reassure them that they don’t have to and build their self-acceptance and self-worth.

Highly recommended for your young readers aged around 6 and upwards – and lovers of mim

Marge in Charge Isla Fisher, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans




Allen & Unwin Australia
ISBN 9781848125339


Imprint:Piccadilly Books

Pub Date:August 2016

RRP $14.99

Comedian, actress, mother and now author, Isla Fisher takes domestic anarchy to a new level with these stories about a baby sitter who is definitely not average. Jemima and Jake do not want a new babysitter. They especially don’t want one that looks so old, so sensible and so small. But as soon as their parents leave the house and Marge is in charge look out! Things get crossed off Mummy’s list and others are added – and they are definitely not what Jemima and Jake would expect!

As soon as Marge takes off her hat and reveals her long rainbow hair, the children suspect that things might be more fun than they had expected. They certainly are when the kitchen becomes a zone for anything goes, the bathroom is filled with soapy foam, pet snails are allowed to race on the table and Marge uses hair dye as a face mask – and that’s just the beginning. It’s rather like hiring the Cat in the Hat to be a babysitter in fact.

Isla Fisher has been telling her three children bedtime stories all their lives and this was the genesis of Marge in Charge. As one might expect from a household that includes Sacha Baron Cohen the results are hilarious and full of the uproarious unconventionality that children love.

Highly recommended for readers around 8 and up and this would definitely make a fun read aloud – perhaps you could include some discussion about ‘rules’ *wink* !

You Choose… – George Ivanoff


RRP $14.99

Oh George, why do you do this to me? I continually bomb out – repeatedly. I must be the most hopeless ‘choose-your-own-adventurer’ ever! But they are great fun – and the kids are eating them up. I have a bunch of girls who just love the interactivity of this series – and I know that boys are just as wild for them. Hopefully they’re better survivors than I am!


You Choose 9: Extreme Machine Challenge

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

ISBN: 9780143780199

Published: 27/06/2016


Of course if you are attending the Extreme Machine Expo the highlight would be actually getting to drive one for real, rather than just the simulator demos.  After all, it must be safe right? So which should you choose? Motorbikes, helicopters, jets, speedboats – so much variety it’s mindboggling.  You are so excited by all the possibilities you don’t even notice those strange characters at first.  But strange things are afoot and suddenly you are in the race of your life.


You Choose 10: In the Realm of Dragons

ISBN: 9780143780212

Published: 27/06/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Naturally anyone who has always been obsessed by dragons is going to try and prove a legend about them. When you find out about the rumours of dragons right near your school camp you just have to try and discover the truth. And wow! When you come across two peculiar looking eggs, maybe the legend really is true! But just because you love dragons doesn’t mean they are going to love you right back does it?

(Axel Scheffler’s) Flip Flap Pets – Axel Scheffler



July 2016

Allen & Unwin

Imprint: Nosy Crow

ISBN 9780857636805

RRP $ 15.99

Flip flap books have always been popular with kids as they make all kinds of crazy combinations.

I knew this one was going to be a sure fire winner at our house for sure because we are the household with the menagerie. I was right! Small went crazy when she saw so many of her own pets included in this fun book including cat, lizard, budgies, goldfish and even stick insects!

We have had loads of fun going back to this again and again and trying out all the different combinations with many giggles (there are 121 possible combos!). Somehow I don’t think this one is going to make it out of the house as my review copies mostly do!

“What do you get if you cross a lizard with a budgerigar? Well, that would a lizerigar!”

Look out for the others in this series: Farm, Safari and Jungle. I guarantee they will entertain for many hours!


My Feelings – Sarah Jennings




August 2016

ISBN: 9781408869048
Imprint: Bloomsbury Activity Books

RRP $12.99

As Small continues with her counsellor and actively begins to articulate her feelings, increasing her emotional awareness (which is very much helping her work through many issues including grief and anxiety), this little book is a very timely review.

Designed for younger children, it could just as easily fit in with any early learning situation or home circumstance. It is a very attractively presented board book with each page ‘tabbed’ by an appropriately expressive face for each feeling.

“When you feel sad…or worried…


Have a cake daydream.

Take deep breaths.

Tell someone.

These can help you if you feel sad or worried.

It can just take time to go away.”

The illustrations are colourful and reassuring for any little person and the reading of this could open the way to some very beneficial conversation about the feelings faced by smaller humans who are often unable to articulate their inner feelings.

Highly recommended for home or school bookshelves for readers from 3 upwards.

Six – M. M. Vaughan



Simon & Schuster

  • Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN 9781481420709 |
  • May 2016

This is speculative fiction for your young readers at its best. If you have kids who are into the whole premise of technology and scientific discoveries at their best – or worst – they will gobble this up.

Parker Banks hates that he has to move to America. His mum is dead, his father is determined to take up a new job working for some secretive organisation. His little sister Emma seems quite reconciled. Even her congenital deafness doesn’t deter her from making new friends. Their father’s invention of a communication implant so that Emma can ‘hear’ all Parker’s and their dad’s thoughts – a great bonus, though some might think it is simply natural telepathy.

Just as Parker thinks he can’t take any more, his father who has been working overtime on his project is kidnapped and suddenly his and Emma’s safety are jeopardised by the ‘Six’ mystery.

His only friend Michael, along with a trusty chauffeur/factotum, is his ally as he and Emma determine to rescue their dad.

A complex, fast-moving plot with twists and turns make this a riveting read.

Just how close are we to some of the scientific surprises in this story I wonder?

Take your kids from ten upwards into a world of future possibilities with this. They won’t be disappointed.