Category Archives: Childrens books

Queenie in Seven Moves – Zanni Louise


Walker Books Australia

February 2023


Australia RRP:$16.99

New Zealand RRP:$18.99

So this is another that took some time to reach me but when it did I was immediately picking it up to read. Firstly, because of that gorgeous cover art but secondly because it’s Zanni Louise. Not only is she a fine writer, but she’s local (well, Bundjalung country is local enough for me!). And given, I usually receive an average of 8-10 books a week, it can not only take some time for me to get to some but also to read them. Not so this beauty. Binged it over two nights and loved every moment of it.

The rental crisis in Australia is so appalling – and The Kid and I are fully caught up in it (currently looking again for somewhere to live that’s affordable and not likely to be demolished soon) – and the ramifications of that for low-income earners, single parents, welfare recipients – or me – older women is totally horrendous. So Queenie’s dilemma with herself and her mum having to leave the little cottage they’ve always lived in and being shuffled from temporary lodging to temporary lodging, really resonated with me.

There would be many kiddos in this same situation and I know of one personally and another, as related to me by a colleague, who came to school so elated with the news ‘We have a house to live in!!’. So I was with Queenie every step of the way, staying with friends, staying with acquaintances, and, finally, staying with a potential step-dad, which of course has it’s own special set of anxieties. Watching Queenie blossom from a talented singer/songwriter, but one completely hamstrung by her anxiety, to a confident performer, with the help of her circle of friends – and her frenemy – is a lovely journey. It is one that will resonate with other children I am sure, whatever their particular strength and solace is.

This is a beautiful narrative, punctuated with feel-good moments, Queenie’s own unique approach to life and her music which gives her such a solid foundation and a supporting cast of memorable and lovable characters.

If I get the slightest chance, I’ll be sharing this with some middle-school kids but certainly I know that it will not take much reader advocacy to get this one moving in a steady rotation.

Highly recommended for your readers from around 10 years upwards.

Over 100,000 Australians will be homeless tonight. 42% of people experiencing homelessness are under 24 years old. Over 17,845 are children under 12 years old. There are over 9,700 homeless people in Brisbane on any given night (an alarming 1.97% of the population) The Salvation Army * 15% of the national average in Qld.

Evie and Rhino – Neridah McMullin. Illustrated by Astred Hicks.


Walker Books

October 2022


Australia RRP:$18.99

New Zealand RRP:$19.99

It’s no secret to regular readers of this blog that I love historical fiction. I love it even more when it has its basis in fact, and doubly so if it is Australian history.

Neridah McMullen stumbled upon a curious story from the past and, understandably, was both intrigued and yet also repulsed by its details. She has taken the bones of that history and woven a narrative that is gentle, endearing, utterly charming and one that will stand the test of time in Australian children’s books. You can read about the actual facts of the incident via the Torquay Musuem without Walls page, and, no doubt, will understand why such an event would spark a writer’s imagination.

Evie lives with her grandfather, a renowned ornithologist, in an big old ramshackle house on the sometimes wild coast of Victoria (surfers will all know the names Breamlea, Torquay, Bells Beach and Bancoora Beach). The pair are both grieving in their own way the loss of Evie’s parents, with Evie having become mute since their deaths. But Evie needs no voice to communicate the way she does with animals and when, walking the beach after a storm as is her habit, she comes across a rhinoceros, she is entranced – though she is not quite sure what kind of animal it is. Her first instinct is to help the poor injured beast and so she leads it calmly back up to the house and the stables where she decides that perhaps for the moment, Rhino should be a secret.

Naturally, it’s quite difficult – if not impossible – to keep a fully grown rhinoceros hidden from the other three pairs of eyes in the household, and soon Grandpa, Cook and Mr Duffer, the general hand, are all completely aware of Rhino.

As the narrative unfolds with Grandpa informing the Melbourne Zoo of the discovery of one of the animals lost in the shipwreck, the arrival of young Mr Henley, the discovery of the young monkeys also survivors of the disaster, the revelation that Mr Henley Snr stole Grandpa’s work, Evie regaining her voice and her love of life, the reader becomes ever more deeply involved with these characters – in particular, Evie and Rhino.Their affinity is a joy and the gentle flow of this story kept me entranced over several nights – as it will, no doubt, also keep your young readers similarly engaged.

It would make a splendid read-aloud for any class from around Year 3 to Year 6 and aside from the lovely characterisations, there would be much to discuss about the evolution of zoos, their role in preserving species and how we, as humans, must have an unwavering commitment to protecting all other animals. Astrid Hicks’ illustrations, particularly of the birds and animals provide a wonderful addition to the text.

It is easy to see why this has impressed so many people (adults) but it is my opinion that it will similarly impress kiddos – and that, after all, is the whole point is it not? Beautifully written and expressed, with themes of loss, love, friendship, honesty, authenticity, empathy and compassion, it is a must have for your mid-primary to early- secondary readers.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

Two Dogs – Ian Falconer


Harper Collins Australia

November 2022

  • ISBN: 9780008399863
  • ISBN 10: 0008399867
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB

RRP: $24.99

Vale Ian Falconer. 25/08/1959 8/03/2023

I think it’s actually quite ironic that I had put off reviewing this charmingly hilarious book. The news of Falconer’s death two weeks ago came as quite a shock to many and we are all the poorer for it. You may not have seen this wonderful tribute to him from the New Yorker and also this one from The NY Times.

All of us are familiar with the delightful Olivia books but perhaps not so many are aware that Falconer was also the creator of many New Yorker covers as well as a talented set and costume designer for ballet and opera.

He won the Caldecott medal for Olivia in 2001 and went on to create another dozen books in the series about a tiny pig with a big personality, a character he initially created as a Christmas gift for his niece.

Just as he did throughout the Olivia series, Falconer has embedded much sly humour in this final book about two rambunctious dachshunds which adults will heartily appreciate, but may escape your youngest readers. Those of us who have owned dachsies will immediately connect with the mischief these two make!

When Perry and Augie are left alone in the house one day, they decide they would much rather be outside. After some typical brotherly sniping, they manage to unlock the back door and let themselves out into the yard where they have the most marvellous of times – particularly, swimming in the pool, and the delight of all dachshunds – digging! Do they know they’ve been naughty? Well yes, they do and when they hear their human returning, it’s a swift retreat back to the house and the clever ruse of barking hysterically out the window, in their usual response to seeing an intruder in the garden. Of course, their owner is fooled and has nothing but praise for the two sweet innocent pooches.

I have now shared this book with numerous classes from Prep to Year 3 and the kiddos all rock with laughter at the thought of the dogs putting one over their owner. It is a joy to read and with Falconer’s signature understated illustrations becomes all the more amusing. The expressions on the two dogs faces are priceless and the children love that they can discern the two different personalities just from those.

Highly recommended for your readers from about Prep upwards and even much older children will enjoy the visual literacy aspect of this one.

Pasta – Felice Arena. Illustrated by Beatrice Cerocchi.


Affirm Press

28 March 2023
RRP: $19.99
ISBN: 9781922848604

I do wish you could see how tricky this lovely cover is, with its embossed shiny strands of spaghetti twirling with temptation. There would be very few kiddos who don’t both know and enjoy eating pasta and many of them will already know a few of the different types. Spaghetti, macaroni, lasagne, fettucine spring to mind immediately. But if you have known Italians, as The Kid and I have done, you will know that these are just the tip of the steaming bowl of delicious goodness and so many of the pasta names are just glorious good fun to say. Clever Felice Arena has put them together in a joyous rhyming romp through the menu, to which all children will love to bounce along.

I have not previously seen Beatrice Cerocchio’s illustrative work but her style is well suited to this rambunctious rumbustification with its bold colours, adroit details and expressive characters – and those endpapers!! Just delightful!

If you have a focus on food itself or perhaps looking at cultural differences, (or how these have been absorbed to become a vital part of mainstream Australia) this would be a great addition to your program. But like most great picture books, it is just pure good fun as well and I can easily envisage a read-aloud session that leads to some pasta art or some menu creations for a classroom restaurant or some crazy spelling lists. I do feel you should practise your Italian accent for a read-aloud session as the kiddos will delight in joining in with you, as well as providing the emphases in all the appropriate places!

Those of us of a certain age will remember a childhood in a typical WASP home sans pasta – I know I didn’t ‘discover’ spaghetti bolognese until the very early 70s (thanks to my big brother!). How marvellous that now we have this entire delicious smorgasbord of pasta varieties and dishes to play with as a matter of course!

Let me finish with a slightly amusing story on that note. Our Italian friend came to Australia in 1971, and he, and the friend he made on the ship, arrived in Sydney and set forth to find somewhere to eat on their first day. Neither of these two Italian men (almost still boys) spoke a single word of English, but found a cafe and recognised the word ‘spaghetti’ on the menu, so promptly ordered that. You can imagine their complete bewilderment (and horror actually) when plates of toast and tinned spaghetti arrived at their table. I did laugh a lot at the recount of this experience but really, thank heavens we’ve moved on from there! (also – where would our sense of pasta humour be without the famous Spaghetti Harvest Hoax?)

Buon Appetito! Enjoy your fill of Pasta – I highly recommend it to your readers from around Prep upwards. Ciao!

Mama’s Chickens – Michelle Worthington & Nicky Johnston


EK Books

March 2023

ISBN: 9781922539458

RRP: $24.99

When the news about Bruce Willis’ aphasia condition first came out, my family and friends will attest to the fact that I was devastated – given that I freely admit, and have done for years, that he is my ‘Oh yeahhhhhh’ guy and always has been. But more than that, I was so terribly sorry that someone who has made his living with speaking/acting would be faced with such a loss. Now, with recent news we understand that his condition is frontal temporal dementia.

This has been a catalyst not only for this progressive disease to become wider known but for sharing to the general public that dementia is not just an ‘old people’ disease. When you get to my age, sadly you are well acquainted with the terrible-ness of dementia, with perhaps parents, older relatives and now even friends, but not so many people are aware that dementia is not confined to younger people. I know someone who, over a decade ago, was in her early 40s when she was diagnosed but, in general, it has not been so commonly known.

I’ve also been aware for some time that Michelle Worthington was diagnosed in 2021.In fact, when I heard the latest revelations about Bruce’s diagnosis, I thought – oh same as Michelle 😦 … [plus three other friends]. Since that time, her own mission became to share more information and understanding around this condition in younger people. And Michelle is one of our own – that is, she’s a Brisbane creator, whom I have met and admired for a long time. I know how immensely talented she is, and how passionate she is about sharing a love of reading and writing, encouraging learning and education, and working towards ensuring that all young people have the power to make changes in their lives.

Essentially this is a simple story. Mama is not keen on chickens but accepts them into her family life, and, of course, grows to love them. As time goes on, she doesn’t always remember the chookies’ names, or sometimes she gets cross with them but each knows the other is still there, and still loving, and will always do their best in caring.

It is a story of acceptance of disability in the sure knowledge that even when a loved one can’t always respond in the way we expect or are used to, we know they still love us and we love them.

Michelle is a remarkable woman whose example to us all is, that while misfortune comes upon many of us, it is our choice whether to crumble beneath it or rise above it. I have long had admiration for her talent and creativity as an award-winning author. Now I have the utmost regard for her as a strong, resilient woman who does her best to share valuable insight to others. It takes a special kind of courage to put aside your own feelings for the good of others. How fortunate are we to have one such in our local area who will do her best to share information, understanding and empathy with her young audience.

Of course, as with any picture book the illustrator’s sensitive interpretation of the content adds volumes and Nicky Johnston has done just that. Look for yourself at the clever juxtaposition of chooks/children as the story progresses and the gentle grace of the characters.

Michelle Worthington – you are one in a million.

Highly recommended for your readers – and discussions- from around Prep upwards.

Hello, Emma Memma – Emma Memma


Penguin Australia

  • February 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761341045
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

We no longer have anyone little enough to be a Wiggles fan in our family – in fact, just recently I was recalling taking my oldest grandson to see the colorful four at the Kingaroy Town Hall (cost $5, and we all sat on the floor – circa 1997) but the last time I saw them, The Kid was around 3, so back in 2008.

Even so, not withstanding my lack of recent experience, you would need to have hibernated for a long time if you are not aware of the vivacious Emma Wiggle and her impact – along with the salient fact that she has now left the group.

What I did not know however, was anything at all about Emma Watkins, the person. A talented performer from the age of three with a love of dance embracing ballet, Irish, hip-hop, tap and contemporary, Emma has studied performing arts, film and media and has a Master in Media Arts and Communication. She is passionate about sign language and advocating for the deaf community, has completed her Diploma of Auslan and is currently studying a Diploma in Interpreting – while also undertaking her PhD focusing on the artistic and affective integration of sign language, dance and film editing. PHEW!!!!!!

Now her first book, written with her husband Oliver Brian, in a magical new series engages a whole new audience, as she transforms into her new persona of Emma Memma. It is going to delight not only her fans from her Wiggles chapter, but most definitely enlist a legion new ones who will love this exuberant new character with her trademark curls and orange and pink butterfly hair adornments. And true to her passion, Emma’s book is acccessible via Auslan, and is vividly visualised by illustrator Kerrie Hass, who has most emphatically brought Emma Memma to life in her drawings.

I defy anyone, small or big, to read this and not feel a buzz of happiness and pure fun. I foresee a real following for this character, and from what I can ascertain, it is very well deserved. Highly recommended for your tiny peeps from around 2 to 6 or so.

Check out the Q&A with Emma here.

February Give-away!


Honestly folk, can you believe we’re already two months into the year? Astonishing! Anyway the lovely Marie Miegel is getting the copy of The Silence That Binds Us…..I know you will find it compelling Marie!

I’m on a teaching contract until the end of this week guys, so nothing till the weekend but have a super give-away lined up for March!! Do stay posted!