Archive | March 2015

I Don’t Like Cheese

I Don't Like Cheese

I Don’t Like Cheese










I don’t like cheese

Hannah Chandler

Lauren Merrick

Exisle Publishing, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.99



What do you do if you’re a mouse and you don’t like cheese?  Do you starve to death?  Or are you lucky like Mike and live in the house where the Walker family lives and daughter Ashley brings you a special treat for dinner each night?  No matter what type of cheese Mike’s mum gave him, he refused to eat it.  Instead he waited patiently each night for Ashley to bring him something yummy for his dinner And each night it was a taste from somewhere different- meat pie and tomato sauce from Australia on Monday; tacos on Tuesday; sushi on Wednesday… As well as the food there was also a little something from the featured country so Mike could have a little culture with his cuisine.

But on Friday night, along with his French croissants and crème brulée there was a note from Ashley telling Mike that she is going on holiday and won’t be able to leave him his dinner.  What will Mike do?

This is an appealing story that immediately brought to mind the amazing celebrations a local school has just had for Harmony Day where the children got to sample food from so many different countries, dress in their national costumes and participate in dance, craft and other activities.  It would be the perfect story to include in those, but it would also make an ideal platform for investigating just how broad the Australian diet is and the influence that the cuisine of so many places has on it. 

It was written by Hannah Chandler when she was just 11 years old in response to a challenge from the school principal as she tried to tempt fussy eaters.  From being bound and put into the school’s library collection word spread and this charming professional picture book is the result.  So it could also be used as inspiration for all the budding writers in your school. 















Shine: A story about saying goodbye

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2015

Hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.99



“Far, far away and long, long ago, on a beautiful planet, amongst the golden stars there lived a young horse.  He was so kind and bright, so sparkly and shimmery, that everyone called him Shine.”  Shine galloped with the other horses under the smiling moon until one day he met Glitter, the loveliest horse he had ever seen and soon Sparky and Shimmer had come to make a beautiful family.  But sadly and too soon, Shine had to return to the stars and Glitter, Sparky and Shimmer are heartbroken, crying an ocean of golden tears and climbing the high mountain of grief until they finally see and understand the overwhelming size of the love they shared.  And far above, the brightest star of all shines on them and brings them peace.

Trace Balla wrote this book for her niece and nephew when they lost their dad, suddenly and unexpectedly.  Even though it is so difficult to explain the inexplicable to young children, it gave them a moment of peace and beauty and moments are sometimes all you can get at such a difficult time. But it also gave them reassurance that they were still surrounded by love and hope that, in time, they would see their Shine shining down on them. 

We tend to think of death as adult-business but whenever an adult dies there is so often a young child deeply affected and trying to come to terms with the loss, not quite understanding the finality and perhaps blaming themselves for not being good enough.  Whatever the circumstances of the death, it is essential that the child knows they were loved deeply and will continue to be so, and this story not only shows that but celebrates it.  It acknowledges and allows the sadness of all those left behind, the grieving process is accurately depicted as a huge, steep mountain to climb that will take time but it also shows that it can be conquered and that there is still joy in the world.  Little people don’t have the vision to see beyond the horizon and so a story like this gives them some comfort that eventually the hurt starts to heal and the love shines through.  They have not been abandoned, they are not lost and they are still loved.

Because school is often the one constant in the child’s life at this time and particularly if the child is not involved in the final farewell process, it often falls to the teacher to provide the support that is needed and having a story like Shine to share gives them a starting point to share and talk with the child.  It is gentle, it is reassuring and based on the belief that “We all come from the stars, we all go back to the stars” it can be shared without risk of contradicting any religious beliefs.

Sadly, this particular copy will not be added to the collection at my school – it is on its way to a little person who needs it right now and who will get great comfort from it.  I thank Carolyn Walsh from Allen & Unwin for making that possible.


My Gallipoli

My Gallipoli

My Gallipoli









My Gallipoli

Ruth Starke

Robert Hannaford

Working Title Press, 2015

hbk., 48pp., RRP $A29.99


November. 1914.

“My name is Adil Sakin … I’m a shepherd and yesterday some army men came to my village and told us about the Great War and how we had to be soldiers… This is my Gelibolu”

April 25. 1915.

“Midshipman Peter Burch R.N.  waiting in the number four tow to take the Australian troops into shore… This is my Gallipoli”

Private Jusuf Demir, Sister Ellen Walker, Rifleman Tul Bahadur Thapa, Chaplain Bill McKenzie, War Correspondent C.E.W. Bean, Trooper James Lang – the list goes on with each telling their unique story that made this strip of land their Gallipoli. Stories from the New Zealanders, the Turks, the Gurkhas, the Aboriginals, the sniper, the stretcher bearer, the war graves commissioner – the threads that made up those eight months in that far-flung place are woven together into a rich and diverse tapestry that provide insight like no other.  It puts a human face on the conflict that shaped our history and brings it alive, putting the reader in the shoes of its narrators.  Well-researched, it is based on real people, events and places giving it an authenticity which is enrichedby the notes in the final pages, while Hannaford’s illustrations in a variety of media add a haunting, ethereal quality that echoes the valour and courage, despair and loss that pervade the text.

This is a remarkable picture book that focuses on all the events surrounding that fateful campaign, not just The Landing, and emphasises how deeply and broadly its impact was and continues to be.  Gallipoli is a story that has many more than just two sides and Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford have captured them dramatically and sympathetically.  War correspondent Charles Bean wrote about not being able to tell the true story because the newspapers and their readers wanted to hear about the victories, the heroism, the justification that this was a cause worth dying for, but now 100 years on the other stories can be told and they have been.  Now we know why we remember them –and always will.  Lest We Forget.

Georgina and Dad the Dragon

Georgina and Dad the Dragon

Georgina and Dad the Dragon











Georgina and Dad the Dragon

Katrien Pickles

Lauren Merrick

Little Steps Publishing, 2015

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A16.95



Every day Georgina has to fight battles armed with just her trusty sword and shield.  She is the greatest knight and is much loved by the Queen and King. Others who also want to be knights are inspired by her successful battles against Dad the Bear, Dad the Wolf and even Dad The Wicked Witch.  But her most dangerous battle is yet to come – for Dad the Dragon lived on the highest mountain and every day he flew down into the village to gobble chickens and burp fireballs. But has Georgina met her match this time?  When she jumps on the dragon’s back he wakes up and rolls over and grabs her, opening his fearful jaws to breathe fire.  Will she find somewhere to hide before he gets her?

This is a delightful story about the special relationship that daughters have with their dads and in an era where it seems princesses rule, it’s wonderful to learn that they can be knights too.  Giving little girls the message of girl power from an early age is so important – there are many more knights hiding under those princess dresses!  Apart from the sheer magic of a journey into the imagination, it also has a strong message about pulling our brave on and facing our fears. Even though this story has wicked witches and dragons, the illustrations are whimsical and in a soft palette so they are not scary and nightmare-making. 

Even if you don’t have little people visiting your library, this is one that is worth recommending to parents, your preschool and day-care families as you reach out beyond the library’s walls.  It is charming.

An Aussie Year

An Aussie Year

An Aussie Year










An Aussie Year

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK Books, 2013

hbk., 32pp, RRP $A19.99


Meet Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirri and Matilda – five Aussie kids from different backgrounds who lead the reader on a journey through twelve months of the Australian year. Comprising cartoon-like vignettes with captions, we follow the children through the months and seasons as they celebrate what is unique to them and also what is common to all Australian children.  From the slip, slap, slop of summer to back to school to the beginning of Ramadan the enormous range of cultures and ethnic backgrounds of our students are showcased providing a dozen different talking points on each double spread.

But the overwhelming theme is that of unity rather than diversity, of similarity rather than difference.  Regardless of who your family is or where they come from, everyone enjoys fishing off the jetty in summer, going to the footy in winter, or getting ready for Christmas in December. This is a book focusing on our inclusivity and how our nation has melded together into a multicultural one in which the celebrations, food, and languages of others enriches our lives and adds extra layers to them.  Each page offers the opportunity to explore and find out more – do hunstmen spiders really grow as big as tennis balls?; how can you have a yacht race in Alice Springs?; what is daylight savings time?; how do other children celebrate Easter? 

Apart from being a pictorial almanac of the things that Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirri and Matilda do throughout the year, An Aussie Year lends itself to a personal interpretation as its theme and style could be the springboard for a class calendar as each student contributes something that is important to them for each month.  Imagine how it engaging it would be if each child’s birthday was featured on a page rather than a string of cardboard cakes with candles that loses its appeal very quickly.  Imagine how much the children would learn about each other if each shared the things they liked to do or the events that are important to their family in a way that became an engaging read.  Imagine the sense of belonging that each child would have as their heritage is acknowledged and celebrated and their classmates understood them a bit better. Each month a particular country could be highlighted with food and stories and other lifestyle elements as national days are celebrated.

Harmony Day is coming on March 21.  This is the perfect book to be the focal point of your celebrations but rather than just one day it could be a year-round celebration.


Circle Square Moose

Circle Square Moose

Circle Square Moose









Circle, Square, Moose

Kelly Bingham

Paul O. Zelinksy

Andersen Press, 2015

Pbk., 32pp., RRP$A16.99


Books for preschoolers about shapes are not uncommon but rarely are they as quirky and as much fun to explore as this one.  Each shape in the book is linked to an everyday item but each explanation is invaded by a moose with a selfie-fetish. The narrator keeps telling Moose that he is in the wrong book but Moose refuses to leave, even when Zebra tries to chase him away and causes chaos as he does.   The narrator tries valiantly to carry on but the story is hi-jacked.

One of the hallmarks of a quality picture book is if you can hear yourself reading it aloud as you read it alone and this is one of those.  Another hallmark is if you can imagine the child’s reaction as the pages are turned and this is one of those.  This is a way of teaching shapes that will remain with the child for a long time especially if you encourage them to put themselves in the narrator’s place and get them to suggest and draw other items that could have been used and how Moose might have got himself into them.

Early childhood teachers will love this one!

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

We’re All Australians Now

We're All Australians Now

We’re All Australians Now










We’re All Australians Now

A.B. (Banjo) Paterson

Mark Wilson

Angus & Robertson, 2015

hbk., 32pp.,  RRP $A24.99


It is said that the events at Gallipoli throughout 1915 and later on the Western Front are what forged the bonds that forged our nation.  Even though the six states had united under Federation in 1901 there was still a lingering colonist attitude with a greater allegiance to the Mother Country than to the fledgling nation of Australia. 

At the outbreak of World War I, A. B. “Banjo” Paterson travelled to London to try to get a post as a war correspondent building on his reputation and following as a poet and writer that he had established in Australia.  When he was unsuccessful in that, he worked as a volunteer ambulance driver on the Western Front and eventually he became an officer in the AIF in the Middle East.  And from there he witnessed the coming together of young men from each state and disparate backgrounds into a unique and united force that took the enemy on under

Our six-starred flag that used to fly,

Half shyly in the breeze,

Unknown where older nations ply

Their trade on foreign seas.

So in 1915 he wrote an open letter to the soldiers that acknowledges their diversity and their willingness to put that aside to answer the call to arms.

The old state jealousies of yore

Are dead as Pharaoh’s sow,

We’re not State children any more

We’re all Australians now!

He recognises their bravery across all the theatres of the war from Gaba Tepe to the Battle of Cocos where HMAS Sydney defeated the Emden, and emphasises the pride those at home had in the boys overseas. 

And now we know what nations know

And feel what nations feel.

Even though this may have been one of Paterson’s less well-known poems, bringing it to life again in 2015 is a master stroke as we focus on our identity, who we are as a nation and what we stand for.  But, powerful as Paterson’s poetry is, the illustrations of Mark Wilson add so many more layers to the words that it’s like an onion – each reveals something more underneath.  There’s the little girl diligently knitting a sock yet thinking about the letter from her daddy juxtaposed with her daddy burrowed into a trench writing it; the vignettes of the soldiers from all over answering that call; the battle fields and mate helping mate – every single picture, every colour choice, every carefully-considered layout adds another thread to the tapestry that is woven between author and illustrator. Even the cover where the picture of the soldier picking poppies is more important than the title, the author and the illustrator underscores the focus of this book.

There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining and the lining of the centenary of this time in our history is that the very best of our authors and our illustrators are creating exquisite picture books that are so much more than the story of our heritage. We’re All Australians Now is in that top echelon of the best of the best and I would not want to be one of the CBCA judges having to decide this year’s picture book winner!     

Cinderella Stories Around the World

Cinderella Stories Around the World

Cinderella Stories Around the World











Cinderella Stories Around the World

Cari Meister

Carolina Farías, Valentina Belloni, Polona Kosec and Eva Montanari

Picture Window Books, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A16.95


It is said that every major culture in the world, with the exception of the Australian Aboriginal Peoples, has a version of Cinderella in the traditional storytelling collection.  In this book, Cari Meister brings together four of these – the traditional Cinderella that most children know from French writer Charles Perrault; Little Burnt Face from the Micmac tribe of North America; Yeh-Shen from China; and Rhodopis from Ancient Egypt.  Each story is illustrated by a different artist with each style being unique and bringing something different to the words.

An internet search for “Cinderella stories” brings up many hits demonstrating the popularity of this story as a vehicle for investigating stories and cultures from afar and it provides a fascinating insight into how the basic premise of the story we know so well and the lessons it teaches has been interpreted across countries and throughout time.

This is part of a series of books that view popular fairy tales through a multicultural lens- the others being Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Rapunzel – that provides a different entry point for students to not only study other cultures but also the fairy tale genre.  What does the left-behind glass slipper become in Ancient Egypt and whose fairy godmother is a fish? What are the common threads that link the stories, and given that fairy tales were first shared as didactic stories, what is the universal message that elders want the youngsters to know?

There is scope to use this book across the school. 

Use Your Imagination

Use Your Imagination

Use Your Imagination











Use Your Imagination

Nicola O’Byrne

Nosy Crow, 2015

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A13.99


This book is subtitled “But be careful what you wish for” and it is aptly so.  When Rabbit says she is bored, Wolf suggests that she writes a story.  “I am a librarian, you know, and librarians know a lot about stories.”  Rabbit is somewhat suspicious. 

“What big ears you’ve got!”

“All the better for listening to stories with, my dear,” said Wolf.

“And what big eyes you’ve got!” said Rabbit.

“All the better for reading with my dear,” said Wolf.

Immediately both Rabbit and reader are alerted to Wolf probably NOT being the sort of friendly, helpful librarian you find in your school, but Rabbit ploughs on and asks how a story is started.

“You need to use your imagination! It’s making up words and pictures to tell a story,” explained Wolf.   So Rabbit suggests something with space rockets, big explosions and lots of bananas, but Wolf, with a greedy grin on his face, suggests  a fairy tale with a baddie (bigger than a mouse) and so together they build a story, Rabbit innocent and Wolf guilty, continually urging Rabbit to use her imagination.  But just as Wolf thinks he has got gullible Rabbit right where he wants her, she uses her imagination and…

This is a unique story that carries the young reader right through to the huge four-page spread that provides the spectacular twist in the tale at the end.  The suspense is built through the pictures starting with the front cover where a shadowy wolf with sharp teeth looms over a recumbent rabbit and continues through the expressions on Wolf’s face as he thinks he has got the better of Rabbit.  So as well as being an entertaining story for our youngest readers, it provides an opportunity to explore the power of pictures and how they work with text to give it greater meaning. With older students, it also offers an opportunity to explore body language and how it adds so much to what we are saying or listening to, and the need for and the use of emoticons in our digital communications.  This could then be extended into an examination of adverbs and how we can express thoughts, feelings and actions in written stories that are not illustrated.  As a teaching tool, all you have to do is use your imagination!