The Big Flood

The Big Flood

The Big Flood









Juliet Nearly a Vet: The Big Flood

Rebecca Johnson

Kyla May

Puffin, 2016

84pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Juliet and her best friend Chelsea love animals, and Juliet KNOWS she will be a vet.  Problem is, she’s only ten years old so she has a bit of time before she can go to university and start the study.  But she’s getting a head start by helping her mum in her veterinary practice, keeping her vet diary meticulously and making sure her emergency kit is always on hand. Chelsea is also an animal fanatic but her dream is to be a world famous trainer and groomer. 

In this, the 11th in this series, Juliet and Chelsea are involved in rescuing a variety of creatures after rain has deluged the land and left it flooded.  The first task is to get their neighbours’ alpacas to higher ground and while the cria goes willingly on the boat, its hembre (mother) is a little more hesitant.  Once that task is complete, they head for home but Juliet is sure she spots movement on an island and wants to stop. However, her mother is anxious to get back to the surgery in case neighbours have brought in any emergencies and so Juliet is left frustrated.

She is determined to confirm what she saw and so with the help of Chelsea and her dad (who is afraid of animals, particularly mice) she sets off in Chelsea’s brother’s canoe to investigate.  And sure enough, there is a whole menagerie there including mice, lizards, stick insects and an echidna who is struggling to breathe.

This is a series that is loved by young girls who love animals and who are independent readers. The combination of strong, independent girls who are “clever, almost grownups” and animals mixed with a touch of humour is  unbeatable. It’s written by Rebecca Johnson who is the author of so many of those delightful junior non-fiction titles photographed and published by Steve Parish, and illustrated with cute pictures by Kyla May.  Interspersed throughout are excerpts from Juliet’s vet diary which actually include some interesting facts such as those about the alpacas and which could be a model for the other Juliets in the offing.  There’s also a quiz at the end of the book that enhances the learning.

All the books in the series are listed here. If your library doesn’t have them they are a worthwhile investment because they tick so many boxes for the Year 2-4 reader.

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls









Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml

Random House, 2016

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



The little wombat from One Very Tired Wombat is back in a new counting book adventure!  But this time, instead of being kept awake by all the daytime creatures, it is his nighttime friends who are coming out to play.  Hopping mice, quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders and fruit bats are all there in their nocturnal romp from dusk till dawn until the ten little owls hoot a goodnight tune and signal that the sun is rising and it’s bedtime.

So many baby animals exploring their nighttime surrounds under the cover and care of darkness show the very young reader that this is not a time of rest for everyone and that for many creatures once the sun goes down is a time of safety and security.  They can speculate about why some animals feel safer at night and learn new words like ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’, perhaps even seeking to find out more about the creature that most appeals to them.  Anticipating how many creatures might feature on the next page is always fun as counting skills are consolidated and confirmed is a bonus.

Slightly older children might even do a compare and contrast with One Very Tired Wombat or use this as a model for a class book as they explore what other creatures prefer night to day, where they live and what they find on their nocturnal wanderings.

Renée’s exquisite scratchboard illustrations bring each creature to life in great detail and the rhyming texts provides a rhythm that’s going to ensure the little listener will be joining in enthusiastically.

For those of you in Melbourne, the book will be launched at The Little Bookroom at 759 Nicholson Street at 3.00pm, this Saturday August 27.  More details here

Rescue Ark

Rescue Ark

Rescue Ark











The Rescue Ark

Susan Hall

Naomi Zouwer

NLA Publishing, 2014

36pp., pbk., RRP $A18.99



The animals went in two by two,

Hurrah, Hurrah,

The animals went in two by two,

Hurrah, Hurrah,

The possums and the potoroos

Were yawning and getting ready to snooze,

And they all snuggled into the ark

To find a safe place to be.


The children are so distressed at the waste and rubbish littering the ground, the polluted land and the dry rivers which threatened that habitats of Australia’s creatures that they built an ark to rescue them. Then they travelled around Australia to find the creatures that needed their help most.  From the orange-bellied parrot of Victoria to the Spectacled Flying Fox of Queensland to the Gove Crow Butterfly to the native bee of Western Australia, the most endangered of our creatures get on board, all of whom are looking for a safe place to be.  Each is listed as ‘critically endangered’, ‘endangered’ or “vulnerable’ according to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act  and each has their story and situation described in the pages at the end with illustrations from the  NLA collection and other publications.

Using the familiar rhyme and rhythm of the well-known children’s song, and beginning with a map of the ark’s destinations around Australia and then a series of clever collages, readers are introduced to some of Australia’s lesser-known creatures and how they are suffering because of human impact on the landscape – a powerful way to inspire a new generation to be more aware and to right the wrongs of previous ones.  With Clean Up Australia Day as strong now as it was when it began in 1989 (7092 sites were officially registered for this year’s clean up on March 5) there is clearly an awareness that there is a need to do better if our children’s children are to see these unique creatures.

The good news is that in the story the ark sails the seas “for many a day” but eventually can return to our shores because the children have achieved their goal of making the land safe for them again.

This is not just a book for pre-schoolers – it has great scope for introducing elements of the Australian Curriculum focusing on human impact on the environment and sustainability.  While most are familiar with kangaroos, koalas and our other unique iconic wildlife, telling the stories of the less visible is critical if we are to improve our conservation record.  Australia has more than one million known species and a huge proportion of these are endemic to our shores, yet “Australia has the highest loss of mammal species anywhere in the world”.   So even though this book was published in 2014 it remains very relevant not only as a springboard to an investigation and community action but also as a model for the students to create their own version of the rhyme or to design a partition in the ark that would meet the needs of their chosen creature.

Teaching notes, including blackline masters of the creatures, are available. 


Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance











Dance, Bilby, Dance

Tricia Oktober

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.95


Baby Bilby would love to dance.  Everything around him seems to do so, even the ants on the swirling leaves and the willy-willies.  Even Bilby’s shadow dances.  Will he be able to?  He’s doing quite well and delighting in the shadows he makes until a big scary shadow looms over him…

On the surface this is a most charming story beautifully illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, perfect for preschool with its simple text, colour and movement. But it has the potential to be so much more if the reader starts to explore the concepts of movement, wind patterns and shadows and how they change.  The ending also offers scope for discussion.

One of the reasons I love Oktober’s illustrations is her eye for detail and these are no exception.  Bilby is very appealing yet very realistic while the meticulous detail of the contents of the willy-willy contrast perfectly with the ballet shoes on the emus!

Can’t wait to share this with Miss Nearly 5.















Rosanne Hawke

Robert Ingpen

Wombat Books, 2015

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



In 1875 Ernest Giles is determined to cross Australia from east to west and he knows that camels are the key to his success.  Sir Thomas Elder of Beltana Station set in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is charged with supplying the camels for this new expedition providing the impetus for this award-winning story about an Afghan camel driver’s son, a protected English girl and a small but determined camel named Mustara.  Every day Mustara and Taj look out “onto a sea of yellow-red dust and stones. The sand rolls and shifts. Taj’s father says it is like the waves of the ocean and the spinifex bushes are little boats blown about by the wind.” Taj really wants to go with his father on the expedition and is determined to prove that both he and Mustara are capable of undertaking the arduous trip across the desert. However when a sandstorm blows up, he finds himself drawing on all his resources to keep Emmeline and himself safe.

An Internet search will yield both background and teachers’ notes for this new paperback edition of the original published in 2006 that will introduce a whole new audience to the remarkable stories of the Afghans and their camels and their place in Australian history.  Perfectly illustrated by the masterful Robert Ingpen, it has to be included in your collection for this year’s Book Week theme Australia: Story Country because it is part of the story of our country. 

The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo

The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo

The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo











The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo

Nicki Greenberg

Allen & Unwin, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99


Last year when Rudolph was too sick to lead Santa’s sleigh, Santa made the mistake of getting his cousin Ruby to do the job and she created havoc in the homes near Granny’s place and so when the opportunity to leave her behind arose, Santa grasped it.  This time when the family go away to spend Christmas with Granny and Pa, they leave Ruby at the zoo.

Poor Ruby.  She feels lonely and abandoned at the zoo which is quiet and no fun at all. When Polly the cockatoo tells her that the zoo is the worst place to be on Christmas Day, she is even more disheartened.

Oi, red nose!” a voice squeaked. “Don’t make such a fuss!

There’s no joy at Christmas for any of us.

No parties. No presents, no jingle bells here,

At the zoo it’s the lonesomest day of the year.”

Dismayed that even Santa doesn’t visit on the one day in the year that the zoo is closed, Ruby dreams up a plan to bring some fun and Christmas cheer to her other inmates.  It starts with finding the spare key to the cages and finishes in disaster as Ruby does not understand the concept of a food chain.  Amidst the chaos, Ruby spots Santa high in the sky with his trusty, reliable, well-behaved reindeer and immediately knows that this is the answer to the problem.  Or is it?  Because Ruby’s solutions often lead to bigger problems…

Nicki Greenberg has created another fun story which rollicks along in rhyming verse pulling listeners and readers along towards its crescendo.  The action-packed pictures all add to the atmosphere of mayhem and bedlam and you wonder if calm will ever be restored to what should be the most peaceful night of the year. 

Young audiences will be drawn into this story with Ruby becoming a favourite character so they will demand that it be read over and over.  But that’s okay because there is so much in both the text (like the echo of that other famous Christmas poem) and the pictures that each read is a new adventure.  Definitely in the Christmas Countdown collection along with the original story.  A double dose for special children.

A Very Wombat Christmas

A Very Wombat Christmas

A Very Wombat Christmas









A Very Wombat Christmas

Lachlan Creagh

Lothian Childrens, 2015

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Tis the night before Christmas, and deep in his burrow,

Wombat is busy getting ready for tomorrow.

The stockings are hung by the campfire with care,

In hopes the Bush Santa soon will be there.

He’s done lots of cooking including a special Christmas pudding made from his nanna’s recipe and no ghost gum has ever looked so beautiful.  But as he checks his gift list he realises that he hasn’t got a present for Emu and it is too late to get to the shops.  What will Wombat do?  He can’t have Emu thinking he doesn’t care.   But nothing seems to be just right until he has an idea…

Brightly illustrated, the pictures in this book tell the story more than the text in a divine riot of colour and movement.  Written in rhyme to the beat of Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” it moves along at a great pace that young children really respond to. 

This is the latest in a series about Wombat and his bush friends – you can see the others here  – and it is perfect for that Christmas Countdown readalong.

We Wish You a Ripper Christmas


We Wish You A Ripper Christmas

We Wish You A Ripper Christmas










We Wish You a Ripper Christmas

Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion

Roland Harvey

Scholastic Australia, 2013


We wish you a ripper Christmas

A full-bore ripper Christmas,

A deadset ripper Christmas

And a snappy New Year!

There is something about Christmas in Australia that inspires authors and illustrators to take traditional, well-known northern hemisphere songs and put a unique Aussie twist on them.  We Wish You a Ripper Christmas, which belts along to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, is another example. Taken from the chorus of a previous song on their earlier book and CD Fair Dinkum Aussie Christmas the authors (aka Bucko and Champs) have created a new story that is perfect for sharing around the tree on Christmas Eve.

High above the farmhouse out in the bush, Santa Wombat is heading our way.  He has his list of who-wants-what in his hand to check it when out by the windmill, disaster strikes!  It flutters off on the breezes and without it no stockings can get stuffed.  Santa Wombat searches high and low for it while gangly emus play cricket with the red kangaroos and koalas hang tinsel and Christmas tree lights. Dingoes, galahs, even the possums are all part of the cast but the list is nowhere to be seen.  Then suddenly…

Accompanied by Roland Harvey’s iconic illustrations, this is a great romp through Australia’s countryside that will appeal to young and old alike.  With a CD included you just know that there will be a new version of the more familiar song being sung this year, particularly as it has a karaoke track.  Buchanan and Champion have been creating Christmas songs for Australian kids for a long time and this is a fantastic addition to the repertoire.

Once I Heard a Little Wombat

Once I Heard a Little Wombat

Once I Heard a Little Wombat











Once I Heard a Little Wombat

Renée Treml

Random House, 2015

24pp., board book, RRP $A14.99



Once I heard a sugar glider bump, bump, bump

Riding gentle breezes with each jump, jump, jump.

I called to little glider, “Won’t you stay, stay, stay?’

But little glider went along her way, way, way.

Little kangaroo would love someone to play with but each of the creatures she meets is too busy to stop.  Until little wombat comes stomp, stomp, stomping along.

Based on a traditional nursery rhyme, Renée Treml, the artist behind books like Colour for Curlews and The Great Garden Mystery, has created this delightful rhyming story for the very young which has great appeal.  As well as the rhythm and the rhyme which are so important for tiny tots to hear, her scratchboard illustrations introduce a range of baby Australian animals that will become so familiar to them as they grow older.  Perfect to read to a babe in arms, it also encourages the older child to interact with the text as they scritch and scratch, growl and prowl as each new creature is introduced.

Parents of the very young would love to know about this book so they can add something new to the nightly read-along session, and parents-to-be would love to receive it as part of Baby’s first library.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside










The Eagle Inside

Jack Manning Bancroft

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare 2015

Hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.95


It is Jimmy the honeyeater’s first day at flying school and just like all new students he is somewhat anxious.  Would there be other small birds?  Would they sip nectar like him or would they be worm eaters? As he approaches the school he is surrounded by birds of all sorts and sizes- all much bigger than he is.  Full of fear and doubt already, his anxiety is increased when Cockatoo almost crashes into him and immediately blames Jimmy. “No one bumps into me and gets away with it” screeches Cockatoo who demands Jimmy’s lunch. The other birds laugh at him and Jimmy feels so humiliated he huddles at the bottom of the tree and cries.  School is not a place for him.

But then Eagle takes him under his wing and Jimmy (and the other birds) learn a lot of lessons about self-belief, individuality and the eagle inside. 

In his dedication to this book, the author writes. “If you have ever felt alone, undervalued or doubted yourself, this book is for you.  No matter what people say, you can be what you want if you are willing to believe in yourself and back it up with hard work, hard work and more hard work.”  This is a story for everyone who has ever felt intimidated by situation or circumstance, showing that we all have our strengths and an eagle inside.  It’s perfect for the preschooler about to journey on to “big school” but also a reaffirmation for those about to start any new journey into an unknown word.

Renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft has interpreted her son’s words in her distinctive style full of colour, pattern and movement which put Jimmy’s tiny size perfectly in perspective, not only emphasising the reasons for his concerns but how we all feel when we are intimidated if not humiliated. The natural symbiosis between mother and son is evident in the relationship between the text and illustrations and it is no wonder that Ms Bancroft has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards for 2016!

An early contender for the next CBCA Picture Book of the Year nomination, in my opinion!