Tag Archives: EK Books

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.

Easy Peasy – Ky Garvey/Amy Calautti


EK Books

February 2023

ISBN 9781922539441 


I think we’ve all been in the same mind set as Ruby at one time or another – and if we haven’t been ourselves, then we certainly have encountered the child who was! We can often think we have all we need, whether skills or knowledge, at our fingertips and resolutely reject offers of help. But truly, sometimes, we can all use a helping hand.

When Ruby’s dad gives her a magnificent pair of sparkly roller skates for her birthday present, she is not only over the moon with delight but completely confident that she can learn to skate without any assistance. Dad repeatedly offers his help when her attempts don’t end very well but it takes quite some time for Ruby to admit she probably could use some guidance.

A Daddy/daughter date to the skating rink is just the thing for Ruby to gain enough confidence and skill to manage on her own. How often have we, or children we have taught, been in this same position? Often it seems that rejecting offers of help is somehow a weakness when in fact it really is just the opposite.

Ky Garvey has crafted a seemingly simple story which will prove a great talking point in your classroom or library, especially with your littlies, and the colourful illustrations from Amy Calautti speak volumes – taking us all back to that time when the roller rinks were the funkiest place in town. I know my girls spent many happy hours under the disco ball with the music pumping at our local skate place (which is still there!).

This is a happy feel good story which would be not just a fun read-aloud but a really useful addition to your suite of resources for positive learning skills. Recommended for readers from around 4 years upwards.

Peace on Earth, good will toward all


Emily Gravett: Meerkat Christmas

Whatever, and however you celebrate I wish you all safe and happy holidays, from me and The Kid. Many thanks to all who follow and bother to read my reviews – which are haphazardly posted at best – and I’m thrilled to see that this year the blog has had well over 10 000 views!!!! Wow!! 2023 marks a decade since I decided to start collating the reviews I was doing in one place ,and began Just So Stories, and there have been many, many changes in my life since then. It looks like my full-time teaching days are over but will still need to keep earning somehow for a while to support The Kid so new adventures await.

Not only do I want to thank you all but also the wonderful authors, illustrators, creators and of course the publicists at various publishing houses who let me play in their world. I have a couple of Christmas reviews to write up and post today, and then about twenty more to catch up on (!!) after the festivities are done.

I do hope your own celebrations are filled with joy – The Kid and I will be in our happy place for three days (very like Kev in that illustration!) and ours will be slow and salty.

So long Picture Book Month 2022


Well it was a bit of a mammoth effort and one I haven’t undertaken for a few years but a new PB review posted each day of the month – whew!! Thanks for anyone who played along with me :-). Hope you discovered some treasures for your collections!! and of course, thanks to the publishers who are kind enough to let me read voraciously for them :-).

Now SO many others to catch up on – about 18 piled up from biographies to MG novels – lucky holidays are imminent!!

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination – Coral Vass/Nicky Johnson


Exisle Publishing

EK Books

October 2022

ISBN: 9781922539144

RRP: $24.99

Last week I was in a Year 1 classroom for the day and this was my choice to share with them. As our pre-reading chat I invited the kiddos to suggest what it might be about after showing them the cover and the [gorgeous] endpapers. Art, artists, drawing were all very astute suggestions. Then I read them Utzon’s quote on the title page: “The architect’s gift to society is to bring joy to the people from the surroundings they create.” and invited their ideas about what an architect does. Most responded with a variation on the artist idea but one bright little button told us ‘An architect draws and designs buildings’ so he got an enthusiastic round of applause when I confirmed his definition.

As we read about the little boy, Jørn, and his experiments with shape, form and structure, we discussed the concept of imagination and ‘dreaming’ in the sense of the ‘what could be’. By the time we arrived at a grown up Jørn submitting his magnicent idea to a competition in Sydney, some of the more aware children were starting to put things together and certainly at the point where the magnificent building is under construction, there were many excited cries of ‘It’s the Sydney Opera House!’. Clever little cookies :-).

There was some very keen discussion following on who had been to Sydney and seen the Opera House but they were most entranced when I told them that my Dad had taken me there as a child (late 60s) onto the building site and we walked around checking it out and bringing home a piece of broken tile as a memento (WHS wasn’t a thing back then!).

We wrapped up our session by talking about the importance of imagination for creating a future that is going to be great, for improving on things as they are and how that’s not only building things but being custodians to protect things as well. I wish it had been my own class so that we could have done some follow up activities such as those suggested in the teaching notes.

Both the text and the illustrations in this charming picture book are perfectly pitched to deliver both a learning experience about an important episode of our national history, with the creation of one of the world’s most iconic buildings and this amazing ability we humans have to imagine. I congratulate both Coral and Nicky for producing such an exquisite factional narrative for our younger readers.

Highly recommended for readers from Prep to around Year 4.

Extensive teaching notes and activities available

Toy Mountain – Stef Gemmill and Katharine Hall


Exisle Publishing


EK Books

RRP: $24.99

With Christmas literally around the corner this is a timely reminder about promoting sustainability, moderating our consumerism and caring for both our belongings and our earth.

Sam has much-loved toys with which to play and share with baby Max, some of them being handed down from his grandma but there are times he wishes he could have some new toys as well.

When the Tiny Toys factory is looking for a toy tester Sam is first to put his hand up and is delighted when the first box of shiny new plastic toys arrives. It really is like a dream come true and Sam welcomes the packages arriving daily. But it doesn’t take long at all before the packages and the new toys are piling up so fast that Sam doesn’t even have time to play with them properly. The toys are taking over his house, and spilling out of the windows and his old favourites are being buried in the heap of glittering glitzy gimmicky gadgets. Not only is Sam and his family in danger of being buried by the new toys just like the old hand-me-downs, but these new toys don’t even last! They just break or or stop working almost immediately. So now, its not even a mountain of toys but a mountain of plastic waste!

This is one great book to share with kids to illustrate and underline some very vital truths. Shiny and new is not always better. Today’s gifts are often tomorrow’s garbage. Quality is always quality, not matter how old. We live in a disposable culture but the tide is turning and many are returning to a more sustainable lifestyle. Children are fast becoming our most environmentally aware citizens and, after all, they are the ones who are going to lead the world in a very short time. It is paramount then that we as educators help to guide them to make meaningful choices and take an interest in the world around us.

The bright illustrations are a perfect foil for the text, which though simple, is eloquent and simple enough for children to discern the import of the message. It would make a super springboard for discussion into this topic whether around times like Christmas or just in a classroom setting.

Highly recommended for readers from Prep upwards – and no doubt, perfect for sharing in this lead up to Christmas.