Monthly Archives: June 2018

Alice-Miranda in Scotland [#17]– Jacqueline Harvey



Random House Australia Children’s

ISBN 9780143786016

May 2018

RRP $16.99


What could possibly be more delightful than our favourite BFF immersed in Scotland’s culture and icons?  The inaugural Queen’s Colours leadership program for children is kicking off in the land of Burns, Bruce and Braveheart and Alice-Miranda (after a tricky start) as well as friends from near and far are part of the cohort.


With some colorful and memorable new characters to entertain as well as some tricky puzzles to solve along the way, the kids are bound to have loads of fun and great experiences.  Whether its caber tossing or Highland dancing the leaders of the future are keen to have a go and earn some points for their team. Of course, as always there are a few less-than-positive participants although after one initial hiccup this is not the ubiquitous Caprice causing most of the upsets. A rather nasty cousin of Alice-Miranda’s bestie Millie, one Madagascar Slewt is quite the most obnoxious child and makes no bones about her indifference to rules, socially acceptable behavior or consideration of others. What a toad!  Even Alice-Miranda has difficulty overlooking her appalling behavior.


Despite that negativity the program is going pretty well until  the intrusion of a real ‘monster’ as well as the fabled one in Loch Ness which threatens in a very real way the safety of Alice-Miranda and her team. Fortunately some resourceful thinking and some daring courage will save the day and as always, Alice-Miranda’s innate compassion and empathy for others shines through.


I hardly need to recommend this as the series is perpetually ‘off the shelf’ in our library, one returned copy being snapped up by another borrower time and time again. However, the alacrity with which my review copy was pounced upon for two extremely keen sisters demonstrates admirably the popularity of this character and her stories.

Little Lunch: Triple The Games– Danny Katz/Mitch Vane



Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781760650278
Imprint: Black Dog Books
March 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $12.99

The kids from Little Lunch really do crack me up! As I’ve said before I reckon I’ve taught every one of them at one time or another.  The fun continues for fans of the popular TV show with this latest instalment of another three stories.

Sport-obsessed Tamara needs to find a new walking buddy for the school walkathon. Her last year’s partner, Melanie, is definitely off the list for stopping to rest and, for goodness sake, tie up her shoelaces. Of course, Melanie has taken herself off the list anyway because when she fell Tamara didn’t even stop to help her up. But finding a suitably competitive buddy is difficult and after all this is all about winning and getting your name on the gold cup – oh and of course raising money for the school’s African sponsor-child.  Still, despite her obvious sporting superiority, Tamara finds it difficult to find the right applicant and things start to look a little desperate.

And on the note of competitiveness is the school talent show.  Rory’s plan to shut the girls into the toilets so that he can resume his rightful place as Atticus’ magic assistant does not quite work the way he imagines it will and so the chaos continues with identical songs, costumes and snarky sniping until of course it all unravels relatively neatly – well, sort of.

Definitely my favourite is Rory declaring himself Prime Minister. Since he spends most of his time outside the principal’s office he’s taken on acting as a deputy principal but feels he has more to offer. The ensuing anarchy, Mrs Gonsha’s attempts to divert the drama into learning about democracy and the hilarious outcome is worth the read. Vote for Rory!

Highly recommended for your readers from around 8 years upwards!

Found – Fleur Ferris



Random House Australia Children’s


July 2, 2018

RRP $19.99

With her customary skill Fleur’s new novel launches into full-speed adrenaline-rushing action from the outset.  Had it not been the end of term and my exhaustion levels peaking I would have binge-read it in one sitting!

Seventeen year old Beth Williams has lived all her life in the quiet rural town of Deni. She and her parents have a farm not far from the town and are an integral part of the community. While Beth often wishes her mum and dad were not so over-protective and even strict, she knows that they only want the best for her. She’s aware that a lot of her friends are pretty intimidated by her martial arts instructor father – ‘Bear’ by nickname and  pretty much bear by nature but all in all the biggest worry she has is telling her folks that she has a boyfriend. Jonah is a fellow karate student in her dad’s gym and they are a perfect match.

Just as she is about to broach this delicate topic with her father he literally disappears before her eyes – abducted by some unknown people in a plain white van – and then all hell breaks loose. Beth and her mum Lucy are thrown into frightening but controlled response mode and Beth begins the discovery of her parents’ true identity – as well as her own. Now she realises the real purpose behind the family living on a farm with Beth learning many skills not usual for a teen – driving any kind of vehicle, handling weapons, survival tactics and strategy.

It’s a nightmare from which she is unsure they will emerge unscathed and indeed, it seems they will not – that is, not all.  But if nothing else, she is her father’s daughter – in more ways than one – and she will not cower in the face of danger and threat.

The tension of the narrative is held superbly throughout with the characters well-drawn and arousing empathy despite some deadly past mistakes.

Highly recommended for readers from around 15 years upwards – some language may offend some institutions but is always completely in context in my opinion.

Dolls of Hope – Shirley Parenteau




Walker Books

March 2018

ISBN: 9780763677527
Imprint: Candlewick
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

A companion book to The Ship of Dolls this continues the little known history of the Friendship Doll project of 1926, this time from the Japanese perspective. Chiyo Tamura has been raised in a very traditional rural Japanese family and has never imagined that she might ever leave her small village. However, when her older sister becomes engaged to a neighbor,  wealthy landowner, Chiyo is sent to Tokyo to a girls’ boarding school. In Tokyo she discovers that Japan is undergoing a cultural shift as the old ways are abandoned and new Western ways are adopted.

She also becomes involved through her school in the Friendship Dolls project when her school is selected to receive one of the special little visitors and even has a hand in crafting the reciprocal gift doll Miss Tokyo.

But there are many dramas, both small and large, along the way as Chiyo struggles to adapt to life in the school and the city, and deals with the inevitable school bully.  Chiyo’s own perception of her own ‘worthiness’ that is her self-esteem and confidence increases as she grows in personality and skills.

Altogether this is a charming book, a very enjoyable read and certainly explored a piece of history of which I was completely unaware.

I highly recommend it to readers from around ten years upwards who will have no difficulty connecting and empathizing with Chiyo.



Empathy and Books for Children



At present our Junior School is focusing on developing empathy with our children and particularly the value of books/shared reading in this process (yay!) so it seems apt to collate some of my current review picture books that fit this agenda.


The Day War Came –   Nicola Davies/illustrated by Rebecca Cobb


Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781406376326
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $24.99

Nicola Davies’ #3000 Chairs campaign came about as a result of her poem published in The Guardian which highlighted the UK Government’s 2016 refusal to allow the entry of 3 000 unaccompanied child refugees as well as her notice of a refugee child being refused admittance to a school because ‘there was no chair for her to sit on’.

Since the poem was published the campaign has been taken up by hundreds of citizens in an unprecedented show of solidarity for the children whose lives have been torn apart by war, famine and persecution.

Now in this beautiful book form readers are invited to see for themselves the tragedy of other children for whom life has taken an almost hopeless turn. With the help of those who truly care and organisations such as Help Refugees and the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Network we can all, each of us, make a difference.

Without being graphic or violent enough to distress young readers, this book gently shows the way in which an innocent child’s life can be completely and utterly turned upside down in a minute.

Highly recommended for young readers from around Year 1 upwards.



Waves – Donna Rawlins/Heather Potter/Mark Jackson


Walker Books Australia

June 2018

ISBN: 9781925381641
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

In a similar vein and for older readers is this beautiful narrative nonfiction book which traces the often perilous journeys of child immigrants to our country from the arrival of First Australian Anak 50 000 years ago to Abdul, his mother and brother seeking asylum in the present time.

For each and every one the vast distance travelled, for some leaving behind not only home but family has been a tremendous and often fraught undertaking. The early European explorers and later settlers, including convicts, the child immigrants from the UK during World War II, the post-war Jewish families, Italians and Dutch assisted passage, the throngs of Vietnamese refugees and the continuing stream of those escaping deadly circumstances are all included. Though the characters are fictional their journeys are realistically described.

As well as each child’s short narrative the book includes factual information at the end making this a superb book for teaching units on Refugees and Immigration.  The glorious illustrations by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson are filled with rich and informative details. Teaching notes are available here.

This is a must have for any primary library and a worthy addition to the classroom curriculum

Ruby in the Ruins – Shirley Hughes


Walker Books Australia

April 2018

ISBN: 9781406375893

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

Shirley Hughes brings her long expertise to this beautifully evocative picture book which focuses on a little girl’s experience in the aftermath of the London Blitz and the long separation from her daddy. Not surprisingly for so many children during the long years of the war, fathers were often a rather blurry mystery and the reality when they returned home would be quite confronting for little ones.  It would be very difficult for many of our students to even imagine this though there would be some in similar positions now if they have parents serving overseas.

Ruby feels shy with her father, she’s surprised how ‘large’ he is, she doesn’t like sleeping up in the shabby attic instead of with her mother and all in all perhaps is a little disenchanted.

But when she goes adventuring with her playmates amidst the rubble of bombsites and hurts herself it is Dad who rescues her, bandages her knee and doesn’t even rouse on her. For the first time Ruby realises what having a dad around can mean.

Filled with warmth and love this is destined to be another of Hughes’ classic picture books.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 2 upwards.



Cloud Conductor – Kellie Byrnes/Ann-Marie Finn


Wombat Books

May 2018

ISBN: 978-1925563344

Price: $24.99 Hardback


Frankie is adventurous and busy and blessed with the gift of a wonderful imagination. This is an immense positive as she deals with her ongoing illness and not only can she imagine herself away from her bed and hospital room but realises she can also inspire the other children to create their own fantastical adventures.

Being a cloud conductor means you can create symphonies of animals running across the sky or listening to the music whispering on the air.

Healthy and hardy children can often find it hard to comprehend what it might mean to be chronically ill and may not always feel the level of empathy we might hope for from them.

This is a gentle and lyrical way to explore this idea and perhaps consider how we can also inspire our friends when things are not going so well.

Recommended for readers from around Year 1 upwards.



Visiting You : a  Journey of Love – Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Andrea Edmonds


Exisle Publishing


RRP $24.99

As a little child and his mother take their trip to visit their own loved one the child is curious about fellow travellers and asks them ‘Who are you going to visit?’.

Such a simple question which reveals to the reader one infallible truth – that love is everywhere. No matter how different people might look – large, young, old, tattooed – we are all connected in a universal human experience. And under a mother’s supervision, the child’s ingenuous conversations reveal this as a father explains how he loves to play with his little girl or an old man visits his much-loved wife in the cemetery or a mother goes to see her injured son at the hospital.

Such a story encourages readers to look past the differences and seek out what makes us similar and how we are part of a community wherever we live.

A beautiful exploration of acceptance and the power of love.



Along Came a Different – Tom McLaughlin



May 2018

RRP $21.99

ISBN: 9781408888926
Imprint: Bloomsbury

Children’s Books


Following on that theme of accepting differences this is a very lively and rather amusing take on this topic.

Reds love being red. Yellows love being yellow. And Blues love being blue. The problem is that they just don’t like each other.

Soon the sparring colours are establishing rules to keep everyone and everything separate so they don’t have to put up with each other and it’s all a bit silly really. But that all comes crashing down when yet another colour comes along who actually likes everyone  – no matter what they are!

And then before too long another and another and finally a whole rainbow of colours when everyone realises, just a little embarrassed, how ridiculous the whole separate thing was.

This is a really fun and light way to have children start a discussion about acceptance others no matter what their outward appearance or differences.

Highly recommended for Preps upwards.

Sleep Sense – Dr Katharina Lederie



Exisle Publishing

May 2018


RRP $29.99

In this, her first book, international sleep expert Dr Lederie has given readers a highly accessible overview of not only the importance of sleep but the ‘mechanics’ of how our body utilises sleep and its various functions.  This is not a book designed to baffle the layperson but rather a very readable and often amusing look at how our sleep function works, why it is so important and how we can improve our sleep.

For someone like me, inveterate insomniac, there are many useful strategies that are readily adoptable as well as reliable advice for when sleep – or lack of it – becomes a chronic problem.

Dr Lederie looks at each of ‘three pillars’ of sleep in turn:  physical health, mental performance and emotional wellbeing giving overviews of sleep disorders, providing advice for how to generate healthy sleeping habits.

If sleep issues are a part of your life, this would be an excellent starting point to identify problems and establish new regimes to improve your sleeping patterns.

I would highly recommend this as a beginning to you working towards a healthier sleep – and lifestyle – improvement.

The Silver Hand – Terry Deary



Bloomsbury Australia

July 2018ISBN: 9781472929488
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education
Series: Flashbacks

RRP $14.99

We all know Terry Deary’s expertise in bring history to life – witness the success of Horrible Histories. Now he turns his hand to a lesser explored part of history in the closing days of the First World War, examining this through the eyes of two children.  Aimee Fletcher is the daughter of a French woman and an English father, living in Bray, Northern France. Aimee’s father is M-i-A and her mother, as she discovers, is a valued member of the White Lady group – a dedicated and successful espionage network working to defeat the Germans. Marius is a young German boy who has learned much about healing from his grandmother and determines to go to help the soldiers if he possibly can.  These two meet as the ebb and flow of Allied/German occupation in the last days of the war play out.

With formidable skill Deary presents significant historical figures to young readers including a young angry Adolf Hitler, Baron von Richtofen aka the Red Baron and General Haig as the battered German army, starving and disassembled, try to claw back some dignity and the Allied forces push them further.

Amidst this the two youngsters are caught up in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game of spies, traitors and valuable information and play their part with a growing respect for each other.

Readers will gain a useful background to the motivation behind the Great War and its ultimate resolution – which sadly, also lead to the Second World War, whilst seeing it in terms of personal experiences.

This would be a superb addition to a ‘read around’ fiction collection for the First World War as well as for those children who enjoy historical fiction.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Bring on the Empty Horses, so the old saying goes…….


…though these are far from ’empty………..


As my village knows Miss Small has now been riding for about 18 months and is about to compete in her second show tomorrow (last show she got a first in her class of Beginner Rider!) so despite a lifetime in almost total ignorance of riding, except for some childhood excursions with my horse-mad cousin, I am now plunged into a new world.


As a teacher-librarian I am well aware that the love of ‘horsey’ books never diminishes and as it happens I’ve acquired quite a few over the past few months – all of them delightful!

First up, the continuation of Starlight Stables:

Starlight Stables: Brumby Rescue (Book 5) – Soraya Nicholas




January 2, 2018


RRP: $12.99

This delightful and engaging series continues with young Poppy bidding on an extremely beautiful brumby at auction, fully convinced she can tame him. Everyone else thinks she’s crazy!  The task proves more difficult than Poppy could imagine but this series is about determination and passion and Poppy is not about to give up on her dream. And as usual, Aunt Sophie is ever helpful. After a few contretemps, she suggests a camp out at the Barmah Muster and thinks it’s possible that Storm could be up for it, given enough training. After all, it will allow Poppy to take Storm to his own stamping grounds and maybe give her the edge she needs to truly win his confidence with her.

While Poppy works with Storm when she can, Sophie also trains him while Pops is at school. Together they make a formidable team of rider and horse. Even though Poppy adores her pony Crystal, there is something so special about wild Storm that excites her so much that she is determined to make him just as awesome as the other horses in the stables.  When Storm begins to respond, Poppy and Sophie both know they have a very special horse on their hands. Roll on the Barmah Muster!

Starlight Stables: Barmah Brumbies (Book 6) – Soraya Nicholas




January 2, 2018


RRP: $12.99


What could possibly be more exciting for three horse-mad girls than a five day trail ride through a national park camping out and spotting wild brumbies? Well of course, not much!  Not only do the girls get to experience a fabulous adventure but they also learn much about the origins and history of the brumby population and also, why some locals would rather those wild horses be gone from the bush. In the process there is also much to be learned about other introduced species such as the fox and while measures to contain these seem cruel to the girls, there is much sense in what is being done to preserve the native wildlife. For sensitive animal-loving children this can be a very fraught issue indeed and this book will do much to balance the argument.

Of course, adventures abound during the trail ride and the girls are up for almost anything – whether it’s ‘allowed’ or not.

Children who love horses will adore these books because they are not only necessarily ‘horsey’ but chockfull of horsiness, friendship, challenges and the Australian setting.


Competing for the Cup: (Ride: Book 2) – Bobbi JG Weiss


Walker Books

ISBN: 9780763698553
Imprint: Candlewick Entertainment

May 2018

RRP: $14.99

Apparently this is derived from a show on Nickelodeon, of which I plead ignorance, but feel that it’s possible I will be searching out DVDs before Christmas. I’ve not read the first in the series but it seems that young Kit Bridges has relocated to England (from USA) with her father Rudy, following her mother’s death. Rudy has taken on a position at an elite equestrian boarding school and Kit is now a pupil there. All in all, it’s been difficult for them both but there are positives, one of which is Kit’s favoured horse TK. However, TK is a tad problematic and while Kit is keen to overcome any difficulties, there is a great deal of pressure from the Head of School due to the need to keep the school’s standing right up in the higher echelons of riding. Needless to say, as a boarding school and a new girl therein, there are also other more personal problems with which to deal.


All in all, this is a pleasant but not demanding read and somewhat lacks the overall excitement and energy of other similar series. Despite that, it goes without saying that the horsey kids will still love it and there are plenty of both boy and girl characters with whom to become engaged.


The Promise Horse – Jackie Merchant


Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650568
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Release Date: July 1, 2018

RRP: $16.99


I really loved this book. It’s not just horsey but explores many nuances of family life and relationships. Harry is pretty upset when she and her parents move from the city to the country to be nearer her grandparents. This is  not because she doesn’t love her grandparents nor because she doesn’t want the promised horse as ‘recompense’ for the move but moreso because she hates being the new kid in school – especially the overly tall, gawky red-headed kid with the dead sister. Harry still hears Sissy constantly – a problem for her parents and clearly the counsellors but Harry knows that she is not ready to let Sissy go.

The ‘promised horse’ appears in the form of a borrowed ex-show horse called Marksman who is as out-of-place as Harry due to his huge size. Accustomed only to the school ponies in the city, Harry has her work cut out for her as she learns to gain confidence with Marksman and override the helicopter concerns of her mother. She also has to deal with a school bully who also rides but when she sees Billy’s problems with his father, she develops real insight into his attitude.

Harry’s progress working out issues with bullying while making new friends, her mother’s grief and her own reluctance to let go of Sissy makes for compelling reading for both boys and girls. The horsey readers will also really appreciate the details of Harry’s training and first gymkhana.

Fabulous read for kidlets from around 8 years upwards.


Horses Wild & Tame – Iris Volant/Jarom Vogel


Flying Eye Books

ISBN 9781911171324

January 2018

RRP : $27.99


I just LOVE the Flying Eye non-fiction books that come my way and naturally this one was extremely well-received by both myself and Miss Small. Always elegant and a visual treat, these books are the kind to be pored over at length. This one traces the origins of the horse and then explores the many variations, legendary incarnations, domesticity, uses and evolution of this superb animal. It includes interesting information such as the formation of the hoof and famous or iconic horses and will beguile a horse lover for hours.  This is Jarom Vogel’s first foray into illustration and is both striking and engaging and a wonderful match for the text.

This is one that will not make its way to the library shelves but remain firmly on our own so that Miss Small can continue to revel in its beauty and revelations.