The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas




The Tooth Fairy's Christmas

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas









The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas

Peter Bently

Garry Parsons

Hodder Children’s, 2014

32pp.,  pbk., RRP $A15.99


It’s Christmas Eve and when the Tooth Fairy gets a message from Robin Redbreast that Little Tim Tucker has lost a tooth, it puts an end to her hopes and plans for an early night at home.  Outside a winter’s gale is blasting and she is tossed every which way, ending up lost.  But in the distance she hears a strange sound and into sight comes Santa and his sleigh.  He rescues her but that is not the end of her adventures… will Little Tim Tucker wake up to a nice surprise or will he be disappointed.

Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are such an integral part of the early lives of children the world over so to have two of the three team up and help each other has to be a good combination that will appeal to our very young children.  Working together, Santa and the Tooth Fairy show that all sorts of problems can be overcome – each has skills and that special something that when put together as a team can solve all sorts of dilemmas.

Bright glossy pictures, imaginative layout and rhyme and rhythm move the story along making an original and intriguing adventure story that will delight as the Christmas Countdown continues.

Peter Pan and Wendy

Peter Pan and Wendy

Peter Pan and Wendy










Peter Pan and Wendy

James Barrie

Robert Ingpen

Walker Books, 2017

64pp.,. hbk., RRP $A27.99


Over a century ago James Barrie wrote a story about a boy who could fly and who never grew up; who had adventures on an island called Neverland and introduced us to characters like Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and the croc with the clock!  

Since then it has become a classic, republished many times, made into a stage play and movies and now it has been reworked into an abridged version superbly illustrated by Robert Ingpen so that another generation can delight in it.  

With its modern language and stunning pictures, new life is breathed into Barrie’s words  making it the  perfect bedtime read-aloud story to introduce young children to the original tale, or to be read alone by the newly independent reader, and is a must for both the library’s collection and the Santa Sack.  Given her grandfather is named Barrie after this author because of the impact of the story on his parents, I know just whose tree this will be under.  


Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Professor Astro Cat's Solar System

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System









Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Dr Dominic Walliman

Ben Newman

Flying Eye Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Professor Astro Cat is the smartest cat in the alley, in fact so much so, he’s got a degree in just about any discipline under the sun.  In this, the latest in a series to help younger readers understand science better, he takes young explorers on a journey around the solar system, visiting each planet and explaining its various features in simple to understand language and appealing illustrations that will answer the questions and pique the interest of those who want to know more.

From the time they are able to distinguish night and day, little ones want to know more and so this is an excellent beginning book that will help them understand how things work. In keeping with the demands of the young and the potential of the digital environment, there is also an app which has a four-star review from Common Sense Media

With the heavy emphasis on STEM in the curriculum and the NSW government investing $80 000 000 in STEM over the next three years this would be a worthwhile investment for your collection for littlies.


Little i

Little i

Little i










Little i

Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books, 2017

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


The alphabet letters were quite happy being what they were until one day Little i’s dot fell off.  It rolled down a hill, tumbled over a cliff and splashed into the sea.  Little i felt weird and the other letters felt confused because now Little i looked like a number and you can’t make words with numbers.  

So Little i decided to find his dot and starts off on an adventure that takes him to some interesting places. His question mark boat takes him across the seas until he finds an island that has a remarkable sea passage that passes a spectacular exclamation point waterfall, through the cold dark parenthesis tunnel (with asterisk gems), through the field of lovely comma sprouts, across the spine-chilling hyphen bridge to the very edge of the land where his dot completes his journey like a full stop at the end of a sentence.  But when Little i puts his dot back on he feels strange, setting his quest and his story up for an imaginative and fun end.

With bold shapes and colours, this is one of those books that seems really simple on the surface but then you wonder what sort of mind could make such a story. But then he did write Red, A Crayon’s Story.  Not only is it clever it is brilliant, so rich in so much for the very young reader. Little i feels incomplete without his dot and that he doesn’t really belong in the alphabet, just as some children feel adrift if they haven’t got their mum, a special friend or a favourite toy by their side and so talking about Little i’s story may help them realise that they can not only survive without that security blanket but be even better for being brave enough to leave it behind.  Self-confidence in who we are is such a critical part of growing up.

It is also wonderful for those who are just beginning to understand that words are constructed from letters – Hall shows this by having the letters in the words do their talking; distinguishing between letters and numerals; and maybe starting to wonder what the other marks on the page are. There is a myriad of talking and teaching opportunities as the children demonstrate their knowledge of those initial concepts about print that are part of early kindergarten assessments.  Yet, whatever level the child is at for looking at the technicalities and tools of language, overall and throughout there is an engaging story and a satisfying finish which have to be at the core of anything we share with little ones if they are to love stories and reading and all that they offer.

If this were Australian, I’d be looking for it during Awards Season 2018!  

Unicorn Princesses (Series)

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses










Unicorn Princesses (series)

Sunbeam’s Shine


Flash’s Dash


Emily Bliss

Bloomsbury, 2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Unicorns are Cressida Jenkins’s favourite thing so when she meets one in the woods behind her house, one who needs her help and invites her to the Rainbow Realm, her greatest wish comes true.  

In Sunbeam’s Shine a blundering wizard-lizard casts a spell that accidentally robs Princess Sunbeam of her magic yellow sapphire. Without it, she loses her powers–the ability to create light and heat. The only way to reverse the spell is for a human girl who believes in unicorns to find the yellow sapphire and reunite Sunbeam with her gemstone. Sunbeam ventures into the human world and enlists Cressida’s help.

In Flash’s Dash, the annual Thunder Dash is approaching, and Princess Flash has opened the race to non-unicorns for the first time ever! Cressida is the first human girl invited to participate, but Ernest the wizard-lizard accidentally casts a spell that covers the race track in sticky, pink goo! 

Is Cressida able to help her new friends out?

Judging by requests by students and parents in forums I belong to, unicorns are the in thing of young girls and so a new series about them will be very popular, particularly one that is designed to be read independently by emerging readers or read aloud to those not quite there yet.  Illustrated and with a heroine who probably personifies the inner wishes of the reader to have their own special unicorn,  it is a light read that encourages them to find the magic in stories and they will be looking for the next additions to the series.

Tashi Storybook

Tashi Storybook

Tashi Storybook










Tashi Storybook

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


If I were asked to name one of the most popular series for newly independent readers that has endured over my time as both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I would undoubtedly answer, “Tashi” and now it is time for another wave of emerging, newly-independent readers to get to know this magical little fellow who has such big adventures.

This special selection of stories includes Tashi and the Baba Yaga, Tashi and the Genie, Tashi and the Big Stinker, Tashi and the Haunted House, The Book of Spells, The Three Tasks, Tashi and the Phoenix and a brand new story Kidnapped!   Tashi, the imaginary friend of Jack, is a delightful little character who is so clever, resourceful and brave as he confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace, often having an ethical dilemma to come to grips with as he seeks a solution.

Not only is he a lovable character, the short stories and the amazing monochrome illustrations that break up the text are perfect for starting newly-independent readers off on their journey through novels giving them the confidence and satisfaction of reading a “chapter book” for themselves.  Tashi and his adventures have been the springboard for many a young reader over many years and this new selection will no doubt encourage many more.

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin










Snow Penguin

Tony Mitton

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


Way down south at the very bottom of the world a little penguin is very curious about what the world is like beyond the icy, snowy rookery. But as he gazes seaward on the edge of the ice he doesn’t notice that the ice is cracking and suddenly he finds himself floating amidst a world of creatures that he hasn’t seen before. Blue whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions – all are new to him and potentially dangerous.  But even though he is not afraid of them, as darkness draws in and the sea turns from blue to black he is worried about getting home to his family.  Will he be safe or will he be someone’s dinner?

This is a charming story that particularly appeals because of its subject and location. But apart from that it is beautifully illustrated, with almost realistic creatures but with a touch of whimsy that make them seem friendly so you know the cute little penguin will be okay.

Told in rhyming couplets that keep the rhythm smooth and soothing, this is a gentle book perfect for bedtime and introducing young readers to some of the unfamiliar creatures that share this planet with them – and the curious penguin.

Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins









Billy and the Minpins

Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2017

112pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


Billy’s mum is always telling what to do and what not to do to be good,  But all the things he was allowed to do were boring, and those he was forbidden were exciting.  The one thing he was not allowed to do was to never ever go outside the gate all by himself and certainly to never go into the Forest of Sins  which he could see from the loungeroom window.    His mother painted a fearsome picture of the beasts that lived there – Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Vernicious Knids and most terrifying of all, the Terrible Bloodsuckling Toothpluckling Stonechuckling Spittler- and told him that while many went in, none came out.

Billy figured this was just mother-talk to keep him from breaking the rules so when one day The Devil whispered in his ear, he could resist no longer and out the window he climbed, through the gate he went and into the forest he disappeared…

Roald Dahl is  master storyteller and he loved to write stories for children that made them not only the heroes but also in defiance of the adults in their lives, so this is Dahl at his best.  While not as well known as some of his other works, it is nevertheless just as gripping and intriguing and engaging as the others.  This new edition is the first time that Quentin Blake has done the illustrations for it in his iconic style and as usual he has brought Dahl’s imagination and words to life.  They are liberally scattered throughout the text, breaking up both the words and the tension so that this is a perfect version for the newly-independent reader venturing into the world of “chapter books’ while, at the same time, introducing fans to a not-so-familiar story.

To me, the perfect novel is one I can hear and see myself reading to my students and just as The BFG captured me from the get-go so did this.  This needs to be on your read-aloud list for 2018.  

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout








Jump and Shout

Mike Dumbleton

Peter Carnavas

Little Book Press, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP$A14.99


Is there anything better than a family picnic in the park where you can walk and run, jump and shout and climb and swing and then flop and drop at day’s end?

This is a rollicking adventure perfect for preschoolers who will recognise themselves in the story and will love to join in all the actions as they relive a special day out they have had, right through to the very end!

Written in rhyme with each word cleverly illustrated to show what it says, this is one that a little one will soon read independently as the content is so familiar. Dumbleton and Carnavas   really know how to reach our younger readers and start them on their adventures in reading.

Those of you familiar with The Little Big Book Club and Raising Literacy Australia and their work with early childhood literacy will be glad to know that Little Book Press is its new official publishing house and there is already an extensive catalog of titles perfect for preschoolers, many of which have been reviewed on this blog.  


The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock









The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.