My review for Aleesah’s newest book in this fab series is now live on Kids Book Review – why not check it out!
- Published: 31 August 2021
- ISBN: 9781760899233
- Imprint: Puffin
- RRP: $19.99
The battle to save the Mary River has been building momentum for years now and the residents of the Mary Valley are resolute in their determination to save the river, the environment and the wildlife. Paramount in that wildlife is the incredible and utterly adorable Mary River turtle, and thankfully, awareness of this species and its tenuous grasp on continued existence has become far more of a focus.
Aleesah Darlison is passionate about conservation and environmental issues, and her dedication to bringing information to the attention of children, in an entertaining and engaging way, is always impressive. With this second in the Endangered Animals series – Coco, the Fish with Hands being the first – Aleesah demonstrates, yet again, her skill in blending fact with fiction into endearing stories which children just love.
The Mary River turtle is a marvel for many reasons. Many children know, and of course LOVE, the fact that Mary River turtles breathe through their bottoms – I have often enjoyed sharing that snippet with many – but reading Poppy’s story will increase their knowledge of the other amazing aspects of this unique creature’s attributes. For an animal whose family history reaches back millions of years to be so critically endangered, due to the thoughtlessness of humans, will spur children to their own indignation and, no doubt, in many instances, act as a call to arms for their own campaign to help the turtles.
Aleesah’s delightful text about this little punk rocker and her search for a suitable new waterhole in which to nest,accompanied by Mel Matthews’ bold and colourful illustrations, will once again delight the readers.
This really is a must-have series for your collection and I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the next instalment in what is going to be a highly valued resource for units of work, raising social consciousness and, just as importantly, joy in nature. If I were still in a classroom I could see a whole river scene mural happening with the lifecycle of Poppy and her friends and the whole splendid wilderness of the Mary valley pictured. What a learning experience that could be!
Highly recommended for readers from around 5 years upwards – easily shared with older readers as a springboard to environmental studies.
Penguin Random House
- ISBN: 9781760899226
- Imprint: Puffin
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 32
- RRP: $19.99
Yesterday at the EdSummit conference Brisbane, I had the great joy of hearing the amazing Aleesah Darlison deliver a lively and engaging presentation called “Saving the Environment through Story”. Uber-talented Aleesah has long been a huge advocate for the environment and has repeatedly taken up the cause of various creatures through her creative work. And what better time to write this review than following that experience on this, World Environment Day!!
This new series from Penguin/Puffin is going to be a real winner with little people, their parents and educators as it explores hitherto not-so-well-known Aussie critters.
First up is the adorable and really very special spotted handfish which is found only in the Derwent estuary near Hobart, Tasmania. Young children will love to hear about Coco and while this is not a narrative in the traditional sense it has a strong sense of story mixed in with the fascinating facts. These sweet and interesting little fish are critically endangered and it is imperative that we all do what we can to protect and conserve the most humblest and smallest of creatures – because they all have their important role to play.
Highlighting the information which is presented in such a palatable and easily accessible way are the absolutely tremendous illustrations from Mel Matthews. Having read the book last weekend, and then listening to Aleesah yesterday my mind immediately raced as to the many possibilities for activities, inquiry and action that one could undertake with kiddos. For those who are looking to focusing on Australian species and taking an active stance on conversation this series is going to be absolute gold, in my opinion.
I’m so thrilled to be able to count Aleesah amongst my literary friends – her talent, generosity of spirit and genuine commitment to educating and encouraging children to take up the challenge of protecting our fragile environment.
Read more about the series here and find teaching resources here – our junior library is about to populate a gifted fish tank with inhabitants and I think this is going to be a perfect accompaniment to that real-life activity.
I cannot recommend this highly enough and am so looking forward to seeing the forthcoming series titles!!! Well done Aleesah on another evident success!!
Penguin Random House Australia
Aleesah Darlison continues her hilarious new series with these two new episodes in the adventures of Phillipe, Lloyd and Elloise, those daring LOL agents who are afraid of nothing – well almost nothing. Kids love the antics of rather hapless Philippe and Lloyd who are generally getting themselves into dangerous scrapes with narrow escapes – usually saved from complete disaster by the help of Elloise, g-llama-rous and efficient daughter of Head of LOL, Mama Llama. Packed with action as well as very funny wordplay these have already proven to be a big hit with junior readers who will be very excited about the new missions coming their way.
Undercover Llama #3
- ISBN: 9781760894191
- Imprint: Puffin
- RRP: $9.99
A disastrous and almost deadly failed mission to recover missing secret files from some not-so-featherbrained chickens has done nothing to enhance Phillipe’s cred with Mama Llama and he’s getting close to being de-activated as an agent. In fact, if not for the support of the lovely Elloise defending him it’s likely he might not have been given a reprieve. Now the trio are going undercover and not just any ordinary kind of investigation either. They are going to pose as band members of world famous pop star, Bruno Llamars!
On tour in Chickenlovakia the agents find themselves once again embroiled with the rogue chickens but there also appears to some monkey business involving Bruno’s manager, Wally Chimpopo.
Can they salvage their reputations and recover the missing files? Only time will tell and in the meantime they must sort out the bad eggs from the good ones.
Rogue Llama #4
- ISBN: 9781760894207
- Imprint: Puffin
- RRP: $9.99
As if Philippe doesn’t have enough trouble keeping out of strife, he’s dropped well and truly in the llama doo-doo when he follows an unreliable rat informant and is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. When Mama Llama demands he turn in his badge, Phillipe is determined to clear his name. So it’s off to hunt down the rat who ratted him out, first to Ratopia and then to the last place one would look for a rat, good or bad, Catagonia. Surviving on his wits alone – never a good move really – Philippe finds himself in a tight place but luckily his friends Lloyd and Elloise haven’t yet given up on him and their timely intervention saves the day. Once again the trio are on the trail of that smelly badger Bottomburp, mastermind of criminal mischief and parp-er of extraordinary vileness.
And with a little bit of luck and the surprising but useful intervention of a very cranky whale, Phillipe is able to redeem himself and once again take up his place as LOL’s leading and best-looking llama.
So much fun to be had with these! Don’t forget to check out Aleesah’s page for some llamazing activities as well – your kiddos would love to have a whole llama-filled book party!
Highly recommended for young readers from around six years upwards.
Visit Aleesah’s webpage here
Well… Aleesah’s new series is bound to be a hit with junior/middle primary readers with galloping (I’m not sure llamas actually gallop but still…) plots, high octane humour and loads of adventure. I knew that James Bond is currently having a contemporised make over but I’m thinking that Phillipe Llamar is going to give the super suave secret agent a real run for his money once the word gets out! After all, he’s got the good looks and the extravagant fringe (thanks to extensions) – in fact he oozes style. Of course it’s a bit of a shame he also often exudes incompetence but still, one can’t have everything.
These new stories make great use of innumerable llama puns (driving Llamaborghinis) and other word play such as the names of countries (Chickenlovakia and Crowatia) which kiddos will find highly amusing and no doubt will emulate with gusto.
#1 The Golden Llama
In which we are introduced to Phillipe, his sidekick Lloyd, Mama Llama the big boss of the League of Llamas agency, a beautiful but suspicious lady llama and some very dastardly badgers led by General Bottomburp (I know, right!?).
Phillipe’s mission is to retrieve stolen files regarding SPIT (Space Precision Initial Test), a highly sensitive initiative of the Llama Republic Space Agency, Bottomburp’s office deep within the badger’s mansion. His plan to do this whilst everyone is deep in food and dance at a huge ball is a good one but things do go awry. However Phillipe salvages the operation, if not his dignity, but there is more in store as the badger cohort retaliate with a llama-napping and the theft of the Llama Republic’s most significant monument, the Golden Llama.
#2 Llama Impossible
It wasn’t until I read this second instalment that I found a reference to James Bond..
If James Bond was a llama, he’d be Phillip, albeit slightly more clumsy and conceited…….hah! that cracked me up after my earlier mention!
A speeding train with failed brakes driven by a rotund llama chockfull of choc-cookies and a nasty gecko who appears to be a baddie, a martial arts academy full of badgers who like to beat up llamas, arson, a robbery at Tiffanllamas & Co Jewellery Store and more – it’s all in a day’s work for Phillipe and his trusty comrades, all the while protecting his famous fringe. Are all these incidents the work of Bottomburp, who is reputedly holidaying in Papua New Guinea Pig, or are the llama agents being misled?
It seems that when the intrepid pairing of Phillipe and Lloyd become a trio with the lovely Elloise that things work out with great satisfaction – perhaps a little wonkily along the way but still all’s wellama that ends wellama.
Trust me, your kiddos are going to lap these up like llamas eating gardenias – or badgers eating worms. I would recommend for readers from around 7 years upwards.
Empowering Resources is an independent publishing company dedicated to informing, discussing and enabling both children and adults to engage in ‘meaningful dialogue’ about important social issues.
Aleesah Darlison is an award-winning author (and resident of the beautiful Sunshine Coast!) who is unafraid to tackle topics which will raise awareness and be thought-provoking reads.
Domestic abuse is one of those issues which is so prevalent in our society that it is completely frightening and it is no wonder that so many voices are being raised to address this insidious and often fatal flaw in our so-called civilised modern world.
Running from the Tiger is a powerful and purposeful combination of author’s voice and topical problem which could be shared, with caution, with any person trapped in a cycle of abuse.
Eleven year old Ebony is the oldest of three girls. Mum is expecting another baby and Dad, who does not deserve that appellation is a misogynistic drunken no-hoper who takes his inadequacies out on his family. In particular, Ebony cops the brunt of his physical and mental abuse. Isolated from true friendship and with no one to share her frightening home life (her mother being totally ineffectual) Ebony suffers in silence.
But when new girl Teena arrives at their small country school, Ebony finds her first real friend. Both girls have secrets and both girls discover in each other strength which grows as their trust and friendship deepens.
Aside from the actual violence of Ebony’s father, a disturbing thing is the fact that to her community this ongoing abuse is invisible. Even those who might suspect – or indeed, Teena’s father who confirms her tragic circumstances – do nothing to help her. Having experienced this type of situation first-hand I would urge anyone who suspects that something may be amiss with a child or even adult should report their concerns to appropriate agencies.
With Teena’s support Ebony begins to find her voice and resilience to stop her father. I would have liked to see him hauled away to some kind of Azkaban personally.
This is realistic fiction at its grittiest and most confronting. I suggest that this be reserved for senior primary students and be prepared to debrief if necessary. I can certainly see it being used by guidance officers for children who are coming to terms with such home situations and in need of extra affirmation that sometimes standing up for yourself is the only way.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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 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: