Vet Cadets (series)

Vet Cadets

Vet Cadets









Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1)

Rebecca Johnson

Puffin, 2017

180pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves. 

Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..

From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet  comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories. 

To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces. 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too










Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


Just after midnight on November 14, 2016 the earth under the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island started to shudder and shake.  Once again an earthquake was reshaping the landscape as immovable forces fought for supremacy 15 000 metres below the surface – not just a regular shake that Kiwis are used to, this one was 7.8 on the Richter scale meaning widespread movement and damage.

Fast asleep in their paddock in the Clarence Valley on this bright moonlit night were two cows and a calf, who soon found themselves the subject of news footage around the world as the shaking and quaking split their sleep and their surroundings asunder and left them stranded on an island two metres high and 80 metres from where they started. 

Told in rhyme, Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too tells the story of the three animals and how they were rescued, a story that will fascinate young readers.  Imagine if the chair or the carpet they are sitting on suddenly moved and fell away and they were left stranded so high they couldn’t get down! 

While there were many stories of the quake and its impact on the landscape and the people, just as there are about recent devastating weather events in Australia, we sometimes forget about the impact on the wildlife that such phenomena have. The destruction of their habitat, their dislocation from familiar food sources, their deaths and injuries are often overlooked as the human drama plays out.  There was concern that the seal colony at Ohau Point (where I had been with my grandchildren exactly a year earlier) had been destroyed and with the seabed being lifted 5.5metres in places, also concern for the marine life off the coast.

So bringing this true story to life in a picture book that will endure much longer than a short television news clip not only tells the story of the cows but also puts a focus on other creatures who endure the trauma as humans do.  What happened to the sealife, the birds, the kangaroos and all the other creatures during Cyclone Debbie and the resulting floods?  How do they survive during devastating bushfires?  What can be done to save them, help them, and restore their habitats?  What are their needs? Even Kindergarten students can start investigations along those lines, giving meaning and purpose to the ubiquitous studies of Australia’s wildlife so they go beyond mere recognition.  

 While Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too might appear to have a limited audience and timeframe, used as a springboard it could be the beginning of something much greater. And that’s without even going down the path of the cause of earthquakes and how such events give us the landscapes and landshapes we are familiar with, or considering what’s in that floodwater they want to play in!


Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee









Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90


Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen.  Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.”  This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not.  But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world.  However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.  

Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken.  Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy,  And then she meets a pig…

This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels.  It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.

Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.  


Mrs Dog

Mrs Dog

Mrs Dog











Mrs Dog

Janeen Brian

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Five Mile Press, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.95



Once, not so long ago, Mrs Dog rounded up the Woolly-Heads on the farm, but now, as time has caught up with her as it does with everything, she just follows Tall-One and chases shadows.  But one day she finds a tiny lamb, abandoned by its mother because it is so small and weak, and she carries it home to be its foster mother, caring for it as though it were one of her own puppies from a long-ago litter. Gradually, with milk and a cosy blanket from Tall-Two, Baa-rah grew stronger and it was time to see the big wide world.  But even though Mrs Dog could teach him to beg and belly-crawl and pounce, she could not teach him to bark.  It sounded like he was trying to spit out a fly!

Mrs Dog also taught Bah-raa the dangers of the farm, especially the steep cliff that overhung the river where only Beaky-Wings, the fierce magpies, came back from if you went too close.  And it is one of the Beaky-Wings who swoops Mrs Dog, arrow-sharp beak aiming for her eyes that sends Mrs Dog over the cliff!  Bah-raa searches everywhere for her, eventually gathering her courage to go closer, closer to the edge and peer over…

How will she save the one who saved her?

This is a page-turning, charming story that has more layers than a bed in winter.  It’s about ageing and how there is purpose even though the working life might be over; there is change as roles develop and evolve; there is trust between two not normally friends; there is belief, determination and compassion as older nurtures younger; there is courage as the love is reciprocated and from deep within Bah-raa draws on the most important lesson she learned – how to bark!

While on the surface it is a story about an ageing dog and a young lamb, in many ways it reminded me of the remarkable relationship that developed between Miss Then-8 and Ms 87 as her hospital stays became longer- a relationship that I’ve seen replicated so many times as wrinkles and ageing, aching joints are made invisible, outshone by the love between elder and youngster and the special sparkle that it brings. There wasn’t a dry eye when the young one found the courage to tell the congregation of her love for the older one at the funeral. 

Superbly illustrated in intricate detail and a soft palette that add real life to the story, it is a story of hope and love that will lift any heart. Janeen Brian is a master story-teller and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall is the ideal illustrator for a book that should be on the awards lists in the future.

Teaching notes are available but it just provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to talk about their relationships with the older people in their lives and the special things they do together.

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Old MacDonald's Things That Go

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go









Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Jane Clarke

Miggy Blanco

Nosy Crow, 2016

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



This is a lively, quirky version of the traditional rhyme Old MacDonald had a Farm, except this time instead of exploring farm animals and the noises they make, it focuses on vehicles.  Cars, tractors, combine harvesters … all feature in this hilarious romp which have the farm animals helping out and having the most extraordinary fun. 

As with the original, it’s the rhyme, rhythm and repetition and the opportunity to join in with the noises that will make this a favourite while the big, bright, bold, hilarious illustrations add to the fun.  They are full of vignettes and detail that there are new things to discover and discuss with each reading.  Everything about this book invites the reader to join in and have fun too, from the first page where he’s armed with his banjo and all the creatures are joining in through to the delightful end!

Perfect for pre-schoolers as well as children who are learning English as their second language.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt

We're Going on an Egg Hunt

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt









We’re Going on an Egg Hunt

Laura Hughes

Bloomsbury, 2016

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



Just in time for Easter comes this charming lift-the-flap story of the Easter Bunnies as they set off on an egg hunt to the familiar rhythm and pattern of similar stories.  They have 10 eggs to find but have to get through the farm and the lambs, the chicks, the bees and the ducks safely to gather them.  Then just as they find the largest one of all, there is a nasty surprise waiting for them…

Miss 4½ did enjoy this story.  She loved that she knew the pattern and could join in as we read it and the interactivity of lifting the flaps to discover things apart from eggs added to the intrigue.  The climax brought just the right amount of suspense and she loved the ending, although she wondered if there would be eggs for children this year because the bunnies ate them all.

She is very much in that ‘reading-like behaviour’ stage of her progress in being a reader – started Kindergarten this year well-prepared and full of expectations – and I wasn’t surprised to peek in and see her successfully retelling the story to herself several times, and even though she knew what was coming she delighted in it each time.  That has to be a thumbs-up!

Annabel’s Dance

Annabel's Dance

Annabel’s Dance









Annabel’s Dance

Diane Jackson Hill

Lois Bury

Wombat Books, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99



High in the mountains lived a mob of sheep – ordinary sheep with wool the colour of whipped cream growing in neat tight crinkles.  With them lived Annabel who was the colour of a mud puddle and whose wool was straight and spiky.  She couldn’t just stand and nibble grass all day – her legs went every which way, she flipped head over heels, she was always wriggling and jiggling.  She was picky with her food because the grass prickled her tongue , she hid at shearing time and loud noises hurt her ears. No matter how hard she tried, Annabel just didn’t fit into the mob and they shuffled her to the outside. 

“Hazy mazy, oops a daisy, wriggle your ears but don’t go crazy,” she’d tell herself whenever she felt alone or was trying to be brave.

Because she hid every time it was shearing time, for six years her wool grew and grew and grew. But even though it kept her warm and protected her from bumps, she couldn’t see or hear very well and one day…

Annabel is super-sensitive to the world around her and even when Farmer Shanks tries to help her, she can’t cope and makes a dash for the mountainside.  But he is determined  and calls in extra help, gives her headphones to block out the sound of the shearing machine and even puts a bucket of strawberry clover nearby so she can imagine herself still out on the mountainside. 

Annabel is like those students we have who are somewhere on the autism spectrum, whose sensitivities are so heightened they can’t cope with being touched or hearing loud noises, yet all they would like to do is be part of the mob. To belong. But instead of their differences being accepted and their needs catered for, they are shunned and left to themselves until eventually there is a catastrophe. 

This is a humourous but poignant story that can be read on its surface level as being about an eccentric sheep or it can be explored more deeply to talk about how we, as people, are all unique each with our special needs and preferences.  But some differences are not through choice and we need to be more tolerant and more inclusive, make allowances and reach out to help those who are struggling or marginalised through no fault of their own – just as Farmer Shanks did.  There are many Annabels in our classrooms as there are many more children on the spectrum than those who qualify for special assistance so, as teachers, we need to vary our practices, help the child develop physical or mental strategies to cope, and inform the other students so they understand what is happening.  Indeed, under federal legislation, we are obligated to do so but the crux of this book is that it puts us in Annabel’s world in a way few others stories do and gives some insight into a world that is too noisy and smelly and busy for some.  

King Pig

King Pig

King Pig










King Pig

Nick Bland

Scholastic Press, 2013

hbk., RRP $A24.99


King Pig thinks he is just that – an autocratic leader who can get his minions, the sheep, to do anything they want.  But while he could make them do such things as strap boards on their backs so he has a ramp into his sheep-free palace or pull down the branch of the apple tree so he could pick the fruit, and scrub his castle he just couldn’t make them like him.  No matter how loudly he shouted, they didn’t listen properly; no matter how hard he tried to get their attention, the more they ignored him. Viewing himself in the mirror one day, he decided that a fancier set of clothes might be the answer. So he invited them into his castle and there they set to work.

To discover whether this works and if there is any way this arrogant pig can make friends, you need to read this brilliant book by one of Australia’s most popular authors.  And you need to read the pictures as well as the words because the two not only work perfectly in harmony to tell the surface story, but they also tell a story of their own about power and bullying, making friends, arrogance and humility, do clothes maketh the man? – all great discussion starters that will help children reflect on the sorts of qualities that are shared and valued by friends.

Nick Bland has that unique gift of being able to tell a tale within a tale without being overtly didactic.  The story can stand alone as entertainment without delving deeper and his appealing illustrations inject humour that tickle the fancy of even the youngest audience. When I recently reviewed The Runaway Hug  I suggested that Nick Bland be the focus of an author/illustrator study (including links to some useful resources) and King Pig reinforces this belief.  With a growing body of work to his name, Nick is becoming  a well-known name amongst our younger readers and new stories are greeted with delight and appeal across the board because of the levels at which each can be read.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…