Tag Archives: reading

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities – Deborah Abela


Penguin Australia

  • 2 August 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761044021
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

From the opening paragraph this brilliant book simply sparkles with magic and adventure – unsurprisingly, for those of us who have followed Deborah Abela’s writing career for years!

My first encounter with this joyful creator was when, as the organiser of an extravaganza showcase at Marrickville Library, way back around 2004, I invited Deborah )who had just hit the kid lit lists with her Max Remy serie) to be our special guest for the kiddos. She was a huge drawcard then – and still is!

Your readers of such books as Inkspell and Pages & Co are going to flip out about this one. It has everything needed to enthrall and excite middle graders: a reluctant and self-doubting hero, a feisty girl to organise things, a sweet guardian, a nasty villain, a dubious pillar of society with a very strong-minded daughter – and a completely endearing pet mouse who will steal everyone’s heart – all tied up in a world of literary magic like no other.

Arlo Goodman has lived with his uncle Avery, in the bookshop, since his mother was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. When bolshie Lisette, runs into the shop and promptly hides from a particularly intimidating pursuer, Arlo’s quiet – and rather dull – existence is suddenly turned upside down. It appears his mother has left him a grimoire – a mysterious book in which the stories written are magically realised – and his own story is to help understand just how brave he truly is. Lisette’s grandmother has also died, under terrible circumstances, and now the girl’s inherited ability to magically write the stories of the grimoire is being sought by wealthy and sinister business tycoon, Marcellus, via his brutal henchman, Silas.

Mystery and adventure, humour and pathos all mix together to create this abundantly glorious new narrative from one of middle schoolers’ favourite writers. I, for one, would like to see more adventures from Arlo, Lisette and Herbert – just saying!. Congratulations Deborah on another superb read! Highly recommended for your kiddos from around Year 4 to Year 7.

Read more about Deborah’s wondrous writing during lockdown here and if you are a Sydneysider, get thee to the Glee party!

The Magical Bookshop – Katja Frixe. Illustrated by Florentine Prechtel. Translated by Ruth Ahmedzal Kemp.



September 2021

Imprint: OneWorld

ISBN: 9781786075666

RRP: $14.99

Such a sweet and happy book this is! Translated from the German with great dexterity while retaining just the right amount of that quirkiness of expression that European children’s books often have, this is just a delight from start to finish.

Mrs Owl’s bookshop is full of magic and it is Clara’s favourite place to be. She loves her family very much but it can get very noisy in a full house. The bookshop gives Clara a space to just be – curled up in a favourite spot with a favourite book or chatting quietly with Mrs Owl, not to mention Mr King, the mirror, and Gustav, the cat – both of whom also talk! They are the greatest comfort to Clara, especially now when her very best friend forever, Lottie, is moving away. It’s all because Lottie’s father has a new girlfriend and Lottie’s mum does not want to stay in the same town as the new couple.

How can the two girls bear to be separated? It is just not fair. And then there’s Clara’s new teacher who might be pretty but Clara is not convinced of her friendliness. New boy Leo is no substitute for Lottie in the classroom and all in all, things are feeling pretty grim. Then there’s the very worst thing about this new year, is that someone is determined to close down the bookshop with some very nasty tricks and underhanded actions.

It soon becomes apparent that even with Lottie gone, Clara still has friends and those friends need her help badly. Maybe, in doing that, things might just get a little easier to bear in the light of Lottie’s move so far away.

This has such a lovely feel of friendship and community about it and readers from around 7 years upwards will enjoy it for not only the mystery but also the humour and magic.

Highly recommend for independent readers from around Year 2 upwards.

7 Steps to Get Your Child Reading – Louise Park




Allen & Unwin

February 2020

ISBN 9781760524678

RRP $24.99 Au

Louise Park is not only a highly regarded writer of over 250 books including popular series, with a career spanning 30 years, but also a recognised literacy expert and educational consultant with a passion for supporting Indigenous children, ESL students and at-risk learners.

Now Louise has lent us the benefit of her wide experience and knowledge and provided parents a ‘primer’ so to speak for establishing successful reading routines with children from the earliest age upwards. This is no dry text book but is written with a conversational tone and  packed with easy to digest tips and strategies for all who pick it up. Whether new to this  notion of setting a child on the reading path or with some experience any reader will find antidotes for this hitherto uncharted territory of a generation of children who are often more familiar with swiping, pinching, tapping of devices than page-turning. Not that Louise ignores the potential of digital reading but rather illustrates the ways to make the most of all forms of reading to give children the foundation for literacy success and enjoyment.

As educators we already know that the boundaries have shifted and most of us see this on a daily basis. Those of us of a certain age who have been teaching for quite a long time definitely recognise the changes in our youngest students coming into Prep and the ensuing and often compounding difficulties faced by some as they make their way upwards throughout their year levels.

Rather than despairing over this, many of us are determined to do all we can to ensure that our students have every opportunity of success not only at the point in time but in the future. As readers of this blog will know, my own young person has had a rocky road in conquering her difficulties in reading and the joy in seeing her now not only confidently reading but enjoying it is a reward in itself. I believe that we, as teachers of literacy, want this for every single one of our charges and certainly, in my role as teacher-librarian, this is always the goal in mind for my library users. It’s not always easy but Louise’s book addresses the issues for children with difficulties as well which is a real bonus for those raising kiddos who struggle.

The chapter headings will give you a good sense of the outline and the topics covered address all aspects:

Introduction: Generation Alpha
That reading thing
Step 1: Talking their way to literacy
Step 2: Reading their way to literacy
Step 3: Linking writing and reading
Step 4: Taming the tech and making it count
Step 5: Harnessing the power of book ownership
Step 6: Embracing two reading philosophies
Step 7: Finding just-right books for any age
Difficulty learning to read, write and spell

This is a book that should be promoted to parents with vigour and copies should be available from all school libraries. I have already shared that promotion with our school community and know that there will be many parents who take it up in order to offer their own children the best start possible.

I cannot endorse this book enough. In my opinion it’s a must not only for your library but as a down-to-earth reference for all parents of growing readers.




Hooray for Book Week!



We wear ourselves out getting ready for it – with planning over months and are thoroughly but satisfyingly over it by the time it’s done and yet we wait impatiently for the next year’s theme so we can do it all over again!

Our preparations have been underway for weeks and our library looks super, our costumes are ready, the activities, quizzes and competitions sorted and we are ready to rock and roll.

So it’s seems fitting as I try to catch up with so many reviews that I present some of this year’s picture books that feature stories, reading, writing and books – here we go!

It’s a Story, Rory! – Frances Watts & David Legge

x293 (1)

Harper Collins

July 2018

ISBN: 9780733335938

ISBN 10: 0733335934

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

List Price: 24.99 AUD

Like so many of my colleagues Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books remains a staple in the first few weeks of the year as we introduce our littlest library users to the wonders that lay in front of them. Now we have a further addition to our program that will delight and inform young readers. In my opinion this is perfect to use as we introduce our Year 1s to narrative writing. It presents all the necessary structure of a story in a manner that is both entertaining and humorous.

Our clever narrator takes Rory and Millie on an adventure through – well, an adventure! Readers discover the purpose and role of characters, plot, setting, description and genres whilst being thoroughly engaged in the developing storyline. With humour, witty dialogue and fabulous illustrations beginning writers will be well equipped to undertake their own narrative journeys.

Highly recommended for readers from six years upwards.

The Magic Bookshop – Natalie Jane Prior/Cheryl Orsini

x293 (2)

Harper Collins

September 2018

The Fairy Dancers is simply stunning … making it the perfect keepsake gift book’ – Children’s Books Daily

ISBN: 9780733338328

ISBN 10: 0733338321

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

List Price: 19.99 AUD

When Ben spends a rainy afternoon at his grandfather’s bookshop he expects to enjoy some biscuits and reading but certainly has no idea that he will be whisked away on adventures that are both wildly exciting and seemingly unknown to Granddad. Discovering a tiger, spending time in a lighthouse, becoming part of a magician’s act this collection of short stories illustrate perfectly the worlds inside books which only require the reader’s imagination.

If you are looking to enthuse younger readers and light up their own imaginative writing this is a perfect choice for a read-aloud. For children who are ready to move beyond easier picture books and ready to tackle something a little more challenging it will be an engaging read with lots of fun moments.

Recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.


Sebastian and the Special Stack of Stories – Kelly Hibbert/Sue deGennaro


Harper Collins

June 2018

ISBN: 9781460753460

ISBN 10: 1460753461

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 24.99 AUD

When you are the smallest of all in a house full of kids and it’s time for some stories, the best place to be is cuddled up close to Mum. This rollicking rhyming book which is chockfull of some terrific onomatopoeia will have little ones bouncing along as its read.

Sebastian is the tiniest with several big brothers with whom to contend but he can carry the stack of books all the way to the sofa while the bigger boys all jostle and scramble for their favoured spot. There’s not much room left when Sebastian finally gets there except for that one tiny spot right next to Mum’s lap and what better place to be?

A fabulous read-aloud for little ones from as young as 2 years old.

It’s Not Scribble to Me – Kate Ritche/Jedda Robard


A great companion book to the one above as it’s also rhyming and full of wonderful language that will delight the little listener. As parents we’ve probably all experienced those random scribbles that seem to appear on furniture, floors and walls – if we’ve been lucky they’ve been done with something washable! – as grown-ups it’s sometimes easy to feel a little frustrated with the resulting artistic efforts.

But this book reminds us that these early efforts from our little people truly are the beginnings of their imaginative expression and while it’s unlikely any of us are going to advocate such decorative house-styling or even endorse it we can all probably find some ways to allow these early creative moments free rein which will satisfy both sides of the equation.

A delightful picture book which will no doubt lead to many hours of ‘not scribble’ I highly recommend it for readers from 2 or 3 years upwards.

My Storee – Paul Russell and Aska


EK Books

November 2018


RRP $24.99

This is for all the children out there who have wonderful stories to tell but are constantly reminded in one way or another of their ‘inadequacies’ to write them down. My girl Miss K is not dyslexic (well she could be but it’s not part of her official verification) but has struggled with language difficulties all her life. At 14 she is now beginning to read and write more confidently albeit still at about a Year 1 or 2 level. As a Year 1 teacher my children ‘wrote’ every day from day one (before the days of official Prep you understand) – their stories consisted of drawings usually at first but soon with attempted text approximations and moved on through invented spelling and so on as their confidence grew. They were never ever made to be feel inadequate but their efforts always recognised as worthy of sharing.

This is a book that should be shared over and over again with children and parents both. We need to start rejecting the negative restrictions and pressures put upon our children to be perfect and never ever make a mistake. Some of us spend half of each day encouraging our students to take risks and just express themselves in a way that will be positively received.

Highly recommended for children, parents and teachers from around six years upwards.


Just because you can’t spell doesn’t mean you can’t write



Pages & Co : Tilly and the  Bookwanderers –Anna James



Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008229887

ISBN 10: 0008229880

Imprint: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks

On Sale: 18/09/2018

List Price: 9.99 AUD

Ever since Tilly’s mum disappeared when she was tiny, her home has been with her Grandma and Grandpa in their house/bookshop Pages & Co. Inevitably, given that circumstance, Tilly is the ultimate bookworm and constantly loses herself deep in a book, particularly her favourite ones like Anne of Green Gables. She wouldn’t be the only person in the world to do so but the day she happens to encounter Anne herself in the middle of the bookshop would definitely set her aside from the mainstream of readers. It is, after all, one thing to imagine ourselves as part of our favourite book and another altogether to have the characters come out from the book and then lead one inside their story. It seems however that Tilly is a bookwanderer, like her mother and grandparents and many others before her. It might sound thrilling and exciting and definitely is, but can also be dangerous and downright fatal at times as Tilly, and her friend Oskar find out when they both find themselves on the Hispaniola being threatened by Long John Silver.  Particularly it’s sinister when a strange character named Enoch Chalk keeps re-appearing both in real life and in fictional as if he’s stalking Tilly.

This is a superbly original story with a delightful cast of characters and some ingenious plot twists. As a debut novel it is certainly an appetizer for more from this author.  It is imaginative and beautifully written with some great imagery.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

“Our stories are how we will be remembered- so we’ve got to make sure ours are worth telling.”

Donalyn Miller


What a super afternoon – two hours of Donalyn plus a really delightful chat to her before the session started!! AND the new book (released in November) Game Changer – which I will read and review ASAP for the benefit of all! If you do get the opportunity to hear Donalyn you should!! Many thanks to Scholastic for enabling almost 100 people to attend this event in Brisbane!


Piggy – Trevor Lai



Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781681190655

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Imprint: BLM Children’s USA

 January 2017

RRP $19.00


What’s not to love about a cute little pig who loves to read so much that he’s never made any friends?  Piggy has always been so immersed in his books and the library that it is almost a disaster when he comes to the last book and realises that he is actually quite lonely.

The little cutie goes looking for something to amuse himself and spies a sweet cat reading her book. Perhaps this could be a friend? Piggy tries everything he can think of to get the little cat’s attention including some spectacular moves but nothing works.  Then he figures he should try sharing the happy ending of his last book with her – and of course that works! The two become special friends who read AND play together.

The illustrations are every bit as charming as the text – as one might expect from an animator – very much in the cartoon style but with real appeal for little ones.

This is a really sweet book about forming friendships and would be perfect for little ones from around kindy age upwards.


Six lessons on young adults’ literature from a 13-year-old


An interesting article brought to my attention by friend and colleague, Barbara Braxton The Bottom Shelf and 500 Hats – thank you for sharing BB!

To publishers, there are two kinds of young readers: children, and young adults. But in that extremely fluid period between 12 and 18, it is probably necessary to further separate young young adult readers from the the now-legendary YA segment.

Welcome, then, to YYA readers. Whose brains and bodies are both changing furiously almost by the day, to whom the age of 16 represents a sort of adult stasis standing at the edge of their current existence of mental and physical turmoil.

What do they read? More important, what would they like to read? Are publishers right in assuming that 13-year-olds want to read about other 13-year-olds? That stories should be set in schools and homes? That adventure and fantasy are hot buttons to success?

Here are six conclusions drawn from an avid reader who happens to be closing in on his thirteenth birthday.

The people, not the story
The most important thing is to have complex, three-dimensional characters. At least, the kids must be that way. Each of them must have a distinct, unique back story, specific characteristics and inclinations, and unusual quirks that make them stand out. Twists and turns in the plot, breathless storytelling, laugh-out-loud humour – all of these are welcome, but they’re worthless without characters that readers can relate to. That doesn’t mean they have to be like their readers – it only implies authenticity of personality, thoughts, emotions and situations.

The kids must be older
Nobody under 18 likes to read about people their own age. The present has problems enough of its own – only the future, when they will be independent of the tyranny of grown-ups, holds any promise. So, the books have to be about older kids, bringing in a taste of what it’s like to be 16 if you’re 14, or 15 if you’re 13. The corollary of marketing YYA books: target books about 13-year-olds to 11-year-olds, and so on.

Where’s the dark guy?
At least one of the kids in there has to have a dark side to them. If anything, this is what YYA readers identify with – that delicious streak of devilry which will forever elude them in real life. It’s almost normal for a 13-year-old to secretly imagine herself or himself as having a natural penchant for doing bad things. Such a character in a book immediately captures their interest. The character had better be pivotal, though, and not just thrown in for the sake of moral diversity.

Sarcasm is mandatory
No boy or girl is worth reading about unless their tongue is razor-sharp. Politeness is for nerds. Kids want to read about kids who can put people in their place with in-your-face sarcasm. Preferably older people, but definitely everyone who’s not a friend. The whole idea is to have the characters in the book do the things that the kids themselves know they can’t. Because parents. And cutting-edge comebacks to adults lie at the core of many YYA fantasies.

Lifehacks are cool, lessons are not
YYA readers are very interested in the outcomes of their own lives. They may prefer reading about older kids, but it is in order to understand where their own existences might be headed. Real-life problems that authority figures find difficult to touch on – ethics (rather than morals), sexuality, emotional choices, for instance, all underlined by the bewildering confusion in teenage brains – are great things to read about, especially if the characters in the story can come up with smart ways of dealing with them rather than following their parents’ or teachers’ dictats.

Past, present or future; real or fantasy
The actual setting and nature of the story doesn’t matter. It’s a myth that YYA readers only want to read about contemporary kids in a contemporary, urbanised and globalised world, or fantasies involving those same kids in a world populated with strange creatures, magic, gods, and other fantastic elements. Just about any situation is fine, so long as the rules set out above are met.


The Nanny Piggins Guide to Conquering Christmas – R. A. Spratt


The Nanny Piggins Guide to Conquering Christmas – R. A. Spratt

Random House Australia Children’s

November 2013

ISBN 9780857980922

RRP $15.95

Also available as an ebook

ISBN 9780857980939

Where most of us are merely content to survive Xmas, the inimitable Nanny Piggins ably provides us with a foolproof guide to triumphantly trouncing Christmas into submission.

Interspersed with a hilarious Christmas story, Nanny Piggins (with the aid of her trusty assistant R. A. Spratt) supplies pig-approved recipes, handy hints for everything from fashion to how to get the best results from Santa and festive games.

If you think Christmas with your relations is abysmal, just reading about the scrimmage between the deadly dull Green extended family and the wildly eccentric Piggins clan will definitely give you some relief.

Readers who have not yet encountered the subversive and flamboyant Nanny Piggins can read this as a stand-alone, though will no doubt be rushing the shelves to catch up with the first eight books in the series.

Wacky and wonderful, this handy compendium would be a perfect addition to your Christmas reading list/display – or a very suitable alternative to boring socks and undies for any reader 8-12 years on your Xmas shopping list.


Holiday Fashion Advice

(From the desk of Nanny Piggins)

If you are an adventurous cook and decide to flambé your turkey, don’t forget to wear a fireproof hat. It doesn’t matter how delicious your meal is, if you burn all the hair off the front of your head while cooking it, that is what your guests will talk about on the way home.