Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson's Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather









Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sally Murphy

Celeste Hume

New Frontier, 2018

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world sharing their knowledge of food and cooking with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, and lucky Sage gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this new addition to the series, the Cooksons are off to Townsville but there is a cyclone looming and Sage is quite concerned about their safety.  Even though it is the perfect opportunity to research a weather phenomenon as part of the schoolwork she has been given to do, nevertheless the grey skies, stormy seas and increasing wind are frightening, particularly when they have to evacuate their hotel rooms for the safety of the makeshift shelter downstairs.

This is the 7th in this series for young, newly independent readers who like adventure and cooking together.  As well as a yummy recipe for mango cheesecake dessert cups included, there is also Sage’s website with more recipes and activities to explore.


Total Quack Up

Total Quack Up

Total Quack Up









Total Quack Up

Sally Rippin & Adrian Beck

James Foley

Puffin Books, 2018

262pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Put two of Australia’s favourite authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck in charge of gathering together some of their author-mates like Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks,  Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton so each can contribute to a book of short stories to raise funds for the Dymocks Children’s Charities and the result is a Total Quack Up.

Criminal cats, superheroes, pigs dressed in footy gear, crazy robots, hippos who love the beach and birthday parties that end in disaster are all features of this collection of short stories designed for younger independent readers who not only like funny stories but also still need a little support as their reading skills develop.

As part of the process, Penguin Random House ran a writing competition for young writers and the winner, 12-year-old Ella Wallace has her story Who Blocked Up the Dunny included.

All the royalties from this book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities, a group of initiatives created to support children’s literacy within Australia encouraging students from priority schools “to cultivate a love for books and read every day “just because they want to”. Quite simply it’s about getting great books into kids’ hands!”  So, apart from the fun of reading that your own students will have, your money will go to help others experience that too. 

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History











Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Pamela Freeman

Sophie Beer

Lothian Children’s, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


What do these women have in common  -Mary Reibey, Tarenore, Mary Lee, Nellie Melba, Edith Cowan, Tilly Aston, Rose Quong, Elizabeth Kenny, Annette Kellerman, Lores Bonney, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and Ruby Payne-Scott?

Some of the more familiar names may provide a clue, but all of them are Australian women who have made a significant contribution to the national or international stage and all feature in this new book written by Pamela Freeman, known for her passion for keeping women’s stories alive. With at least one representative from each state or territory, except the ACT, these women are “the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.” 

Designed for younger readers who are just learning about those who have gone before, each has a brief biography written in easily accessible language that outlines their reason for being in the book and a full-page portrait.  Links to further information for each one are provided in a user-friendly way on the final pages so that those who wish to explore further can, while those in the ACT might like to investigate which of the women from that territory have made a difference and should have been included. 

There is a growing body of work that not only introduces our students to the women who have shaped this country but also challenges our girls to consider what their story will be. This is no exception and the author admits that choosing just 12 was difficult. But it is refreshing to see some new names amongst those dozen. Teachers’ resources are available

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names











The Dog With Seven Names

Dianne Wolfer

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


A tiny dog, the runt of the litter, is born on a remote cattle station. She shouldn’t have survived, but when she is given to Elsie, the station-owner’s daughter as a Christmas gift, and is called Princess, she becomes a cherished companion. Life is perfect … until War arrives.

With Japanese air raids moving closer, Elsie’s family leaves the Pilbara for the south and safety. But the small dog has to stay behind. Found by Stan and Dave, two drovers intent on signing up for the Army, but who have a mob of cattle to deliver to Port Hedland, she becomes just plain “Dog”. But tragedy strikes and she is taken under the wing of a flying doctor,who calls her Flynn, and becomes a hospital dog and experiences the impact of war on north-western Australia. She witnesses wonderful and terrible things and gives courage to many different humans… 

But through all her adventures and many names, the little dog remembers Elsie, who girl who loved her best of all. Will she ever find her again?

Told through the voice of Princess, this is a heart-warming story that not only tugs at the heart-strings but also brings to life the events of the early 1940s and their impact on north-western Australia, a region as historically remote to many as it is geographically,  in a way that alerts children but doesn’t scare them. 

Many of Dianne Wolfer’s books have an historical theme which brings the past to life for young readers (Light Horse Boy was a CBCA Honour Book in 2014 and Nanna’s Button Tin is a Notable for this year) and once again, her thorough research is a hallmark of this new release.  There is a timeline of the events of World War II aligned to the events in the story as well as other historical notes, all of which not only add authenticity to the story but also provide new pathways for interested readers to follow.  

Independent readers who like animal stories will adore this. 

The Magic Pudding – centenary edition

The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding











The Magic Pudding

Norman Lindsay

HarperCollins, 2018

208pp., hbk., RRP $A49.99


Written a century ago to settle an argument with his friend Bertram Stevens who believed children liked to read about fairies while  Norman Lindsay believed they liked to read about food, The Magic Pudding is now celebrating its 100th anniversary with this new slipcover edition.

Written in four slices,  it tells the story of Bunyip Bluegum the koala, Sam Sawnoff the penguin and Bill Barnacle the sailor who have a magic pudding called Albert who reforms into a whole pudding no matter how much of him is eaten. 

Albert is cranky, has bad manners and is always demanding that he be eaten because that is the only thing gives him pleasure. As they travel together, they meet Possum and Wombat who want to have Albert for themselves and the newly-formed Noble Society of Pudding Owners then embark on a series of adventures trying to defend Albert from being stolen regardless of the dastardly tricks that the Pudding Thieves try.


With such an original, funny and intriguing plot it is no wonder that The Magic Pudding is considered one of five great children’s classics in Australian literature along with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Blinky Bill , The Muddleheaded Wombat and Dot and the Kangaroo.,  This collector’s edition also  includes a section, ‘From the Publisher’s Archives’ that contains a fascinating collection of correspondence between Norman Lindsay and his publishers, Angus & Robertson. The letters have come from the A & R Archives held in the Mitchell Library and were selected with the assistance of Lindsay’s granddaughter, Helen Glad, who also wrote a short biography of him especially for this book.

Perfect for starting a child’s collection of quality Australian stories so they learn about their literary heritage.

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

Help Around the House










Help Around the House

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2018

198pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Eleven-year-old Ludo is on his way to live in Canberra because his father has just been elected as the new Independent federal representative for Culliton, but beginning with being seated in business class he is overwhelmed by the luxury and ostentation that come as part of a federal Member’s salary and entitlements.

A boy who lives (almost) strictly according to Scout Law and his deceased mother’s mandate of helping others, Ludo vows to turn things around and get the politicians to understand and act on how much their generous remuneration would help others who are not so fortunate, particularly the homeless.  But it is not as easy as it seems and while his father is off on a fundraising trip, Ludo, with his new Scout friend Henry, soon finds himself embroiled in the seedier, selfish side of Canberra’s political life, hampered by Mike, his father’s aide who can see no further than votes, the next election and power, but helped by Mrs B, the housekeeper who knows more than a regular housekeeper might. Ludo is determined to ensure that fairness and justice prevail, even though that finds him out late at night, bending some of the rules instilled in him by his mother with whom he has regular ‘conversations’ and who Gleitzman says is modelled on his own mother who died while he was writing the book.  She is certainly a strong guiding presence for Ludo in a place where moral principles seem to have departed, and while the ideals learned from her may get shaken at times, nevertheless, Ludo’s core beliefs about who he is and what he should do are unshaken.

This is the latest release from the current Australian Children’s Laureate (his next is the finale to the Once series) and like all his books since his first, The Other Facts of Life written in 1987, this is a cracker.  Over 30 years of writing for children. children whose  own children will be getting ready to share his work with their children, and Gleitzman still has the rare gift of combining credible, likeable characters in almost-plausible situations with a message softened with humour.  Ludo who sees life through the idealistic eyes of a typical 11-year-old who has been brought up in kindness and selflessness and who has absorbed the tenets of Scout Law into his psyche learns some tough lessons about the reality of life, particularly how personal perceptions shape responses, while his father also has to reassess his future as the truth about political life becomes apparent.  Given the recent events in federal parliament, this is particularly relevant as questions are asked about who among our young people would want to become a politician.

Having spent 30 years living in Canberra, this book has a personal connection and even though some of the places are fictitious,  many of the events in the story are not and Gleitzman’s exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations and motivations was unsurprising to this somewhat-jaded senior citizen.  But to the young reader, perhaps meeting Gleitzman for the first time,  it may be disappointing that adults are so self-centred but the ending is uplifting and will reaffirm their belief in the basic goodness and good intentions of most adults.  A page-turner! 

The Champion Charlies (series)

Champion Charlies

Champion Charlies






The Champion Charlies

Adrian Beck

Random House, 2018 

152pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


The Mix-Up


Boot It


The Knockout Cup


The Grand Finale



Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team and Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.  But this season they’re both playing in the same mixed team.

Is there room for two champion Charlies on the one side? Can they get past their rivalry to help form the greatest football team Jindaberg Primary has ever seen?

Developed in partnership with Football Federation Australia and released in time for the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans will enjoy this new series, particularly those who are newly independent readers as there is a lot of textual and graphic support to sustain their efforts. With characters the reader can relate to, familiar obstacles to overcome and an in-built rivalry as well as the external one of playing another team, each episode builds up into a page-turning climax that makes you want to find out what happened.

There are four in the series – The Mix Up, Boot It, The Knockout Cup and The Grand Finale – each leading on from the other and fans will be happy that the final two have now been released! 

Currently soccer-mad Miss 7’s favourite series, they have been the perfect bridge into novels for her and she is eagerly waiting for these new ones to be in her mailbox so she can find out what happens and put what she learns into practice on the field! 

Another great series focusing on Australian sports and familiar names that not only encourages our children to read but also get outdoors and play.

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition













The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2018

272pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


A century ago, as the war that had shaken the world and shattered so many families was finally drawing to a close, an Australian artist who specialised in satirical cartoons and social commentary gave the world her now-iconic work about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the two little gumnut brothers who set off on an adventure to see a human. 

May Gibbs  had completely changed her focus from her earlier work and because of ill-health moved to Sydney where she fell in love with the natural bushland of the Blue Mountains. In 1914 the Gumnut Babies made their first appearance and quickly became popular with Australians at home and in the trenches as her range of works were included in Red Cross parcels, bringing sentimental reminders of home to the troops.

Now a committed conservationist, Gibbs brought the world of the Australian bush alive for those who were far from it as she tells the tale of how Cuddlepie is rescued by Nut from the spiderweb and taken home to meet Snugglepot and they became foster brothers and lived together side by side until they became “strong and fat as you see them in the pictures.” Enthralled by the stories of Mr Kookaburra about humans and their ways, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie determine that these strange creatures are  something they want to see and so one very hot night, “when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn’t hear his father’s snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house.”  Decking themselves in  in feathers from an old nest to look like birds and fly, by sunrise they were far from home. And so the adventures began…

And a century later, little ones are still captivated by the stories and the characters who helped them on their way like Mr Lizard,  Mrs Fantail, Little Ragged blossom, Little Obelia, the evil Mrs Snake and, of course, the big bad Banksia Men. 

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie has never been out of print since it was first published and this new centenary edition is an heirloom to be treasured, and certainly the perfect gift for any baby born this year.  All of her original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned  and it features a fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these  stories.

Included is a biography of May Gibbs that reveals her remarkable life and talent and how deserving she is to be regarded as one of Australia’s most treasured illustrators, artists and children’s authors.

In her will, May Gibbs left the copyright of her works  jointly to The NSW Society for Crippled Children (now known as Northcott) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance) with payments for the rights to use her designs going to these charities and so her legacy continues in a practical way.  Nutcote, her harbourside home in Neutral Bay, Sydney is now a house museum that can be visited by the general public.  There is also a travelling exhibition celebrating her life and work with a selection of original and reproduction artwork from her children’s books and other works from the State Library of NSW that is currently on tour.  (These photos are from its stay at the Queanbeyan Library, NSW -apologies for the poor quality.)

As teacher librarians we talk about finding THAT book for each child that will transform them into a lifelong reader – THAT book for me was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie shared with me as a little one recovering from the mumps by a loving grandmother.  Over 60 years on and the magic has not faded! Who would ever have imagined I’d be reviewing the centenary edition!!!   #fanforlife

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach











The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

R. A. Spratt

Puffin, 2018

275pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Feisty, feminist April is twelve; pedantic, peace-loving Fin is 13;  shy, stuttering Joe is 16 and they are the children of a brilliant paleontologist mother and a bumbling botanist father.  When their mother is captured at an Eastern European airport and imprisoned for being an international spy, her boss Professor Maynard intervenes, blows their house up and whisks the children away just seconds before the Kolektiv come to do the same thing.

Driving through the night, they are taken to their father’s farm near the tiny town of Currawong, a man who is as vague as their mother is smart and whom they haven’t seen for eleven years and scarcely remember because he is terrified of his wife. He is so nervous and passive that he lets his young neighbour Loretta Viswanathan practise her show jumping in his garden, despite her crashing into and ruining his carefully collected and nurtured plants.

Forced to change their name, and urged by Professor  Maynard to fit into the community so they are safe, they find themselves having to don a school uniform – which includes a skirt for April which deeply offends her principles of choices – and rushed off to school along with Pumpkin, April’s companion dog to help her with her anger management issues but which has more issues than she does.

But how are they going to fit into a town that has a giant potato (that looks like a big poo) as its main tourist attraction and where the Currawong Annual Cockroach Races are one of the biggest events of the year and the greatest hero to have emerged was a long-ago lawn bowls champion who is still honoured?  Can independent, street-wise city kids become country kids? Can they put their personal differences and continual squabbling aside to unite and keep themselves safe?

This is the first in a new series from the author of Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins and which promises to be just as engaging and intriguing as its predecessors.  Because she draws on her own experiences, family, and surroundings, Spratt has a knack of making the quirkiest of characters credible so that the reader immediately connects with them and wants to find out what happens as they navigate their way not only through “normal life” but also the adventures and mysteries that befall them.  Inwardly, they want to be like Friday and her cohort and it will be no exception with this new family.  Funny, sassy, smart, independent, resilient with a strong sense of their own self and their place in the world, April, Fin (aka Sharkfin) and Joe (aka Peregrine but he forged a new birth certificate)  will quickly become the new aspirational heroes for the 10+ age group who are independent readers.

With two more additions already planned for release in January and August next year, Miss 12 (who adored Friday Barnes and begged me to buy her the whole series) is going to have her Christmas holiday reading sorted, as will all the other Friday Barnes fans!

The Peski Kids, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach will be launched at The Little Bookroom in Melbourne, today August 22.


High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men

High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men

High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men











High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men

Random House Australia, 2018

2018., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Despite Australia’s relatively short history, there have been some amazing men emerge from the ranks who have contributed so much to this nation and the world.  In this fabulous companion volume to Shout Out to the Girls, young readers  can not only learn the stories of familiar names like Adam Goodes, Andy Griffiths, Jonathan Thurston and Hamish and Andy but they can also discover less familiar people like Vincent Lingiari, Weary Dunlop and Mei Quong Tart.  Even Australia’s current Local Hero Eddie Woo is featured, making this a celebration of contemporary Australians as much as it acknowledges the accomplishments of those who have gone before.

As in Shout Out to the Girls. it is not just the story of the “poster boy” that is told, but also an acknowledgement to all the others in a similar field who have contributed and continue to do so, but just not with such a high profile.  For example, Hugh Jackman is featured but there is a high five to the “chameleon performers who entertain us and show us others’ lives and worlds.”  There is an atmosphere of inclusivity that recognises that there are many Hugh Jackmans, Mick Fannings and Troye Sivans but not each can have a place unless the book were to be E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S.  Within those credits the biographer has picked out an essential element of character that goes beyond the personal prowess in sport, acting, music or whatever so that it speaks to a wider audience.  For example, while Mick Fanning is  highlighted, it’s not for his surfing achievements but as an example of “the resilient guys who achieve awesome physical feats and get back on their boards after being knocked off”.  Jonathan Thurston exemplifies “the men who wear their colours with pride and use their renown to change the world for the better.”

Whoever they are and whatever their story, each has a clear one-page bio and a portrait by one of Australia’s leading illustrators, themselves all men whose work should be celebrated, making this a book that will attract the young reader out of interest rather than just being a resource for “Investigate the life of a famous Australian”. It has its place as a kickstart for that sort of inquiry as young researchers are led to learn more about their chosen hero, but more importantly it will affirm and inspire. While there may be many who aspire to be the next YouTube sensation like Troye Sivan, perhaps there will be another Jordan Nguyen who has developed a mind-controlled wheelchair or David McAllister who was born to dance and didn’t let gender stereotyping stand in his way.

This is an exuberant, uplifting book that needs to be in every library collection and promoted so our boys can find new role models, new directions and even new dreams.

As with Shout Out to the Girls, all royalties are donated to The Smith Family.