This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson










This is Banjo Paterson

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


The final verse of one of Australia’s most iconic poems reads…

And down by Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

Their torn and ragged battlements on high,

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

At midnight in the clear and frosty sky,

And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word today,

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

But what is also “a household word today” is the name of the man who wrote those words – A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

In this brand new book, written and illustrated especially for younger readers, Tania McCartney and Christina Booth tell the story of a man whose legacy of stories of life in the Australian bush told in rich, evocative language and distinctive rhyme and rhythm lives on more than 150 years since his birth. 

Born on February 17 1864 and named Andrew Barton Paterson he was known to his family and friends as Barty, the eldest of seven children in a typical rural Australian family of the time.  He grew up with a deep love of horses, particularly one called Banjo, and even when he moved to the city to attend high school and later become a journalist and a war correspondent, he never lost his love of the bush.

There is more than a hint of truth in the words of Clancy of the Overflow…

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all…

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy

Like to take a turn at droving, where the seasons come and go…

But the focus of this book is not Paterson’s poems but his life, particularly that of his childhood and the influences and circumstances that shaped him, his writing and his subsequent place in our literature, history and hearts. Tania has drawn on a plethora of rich research material, much of it held in the National Library of Australia, to present this story so that even this year’s Kindy kids who may well be learning the words of Waltzing Matilda for the very first time, can be inspired to not only know about the person who wrote them but also to see that they weren’t created overnight by a grown-up who just decided to write them,. Instead it was the stuff of the poet’s childhood and the things he learned as he grew up that made him able to write so richly, and maybe they can acknowledge their own talents and build on them. Perhaps, even at their young age they are good at words or drawing or making things and they can follow that passion now – they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

“Even children in early education need to be exposed to inspiring and life-altering stories of real life people that once so deeply affected–and continue to do so–our lives, our history and where we are going.” (McCartney, 2017)

What sets this book apart from others on the same topic and with a similar audience is the parallel visual storyline that accompanies it in Christina’s watercolour illustrations.  These are not just mere depictions of Paterson’s life that add a visual element to the words – these add extra layers to the words by showing kids of the 21st century playing in the backyard and doing the modern-day equivalent of what Banjo would have done in his time. Drawing on their own childhoods (and that of nearly every other child in the world), McCartney and Booth went back to the world of dress-ups, role-play and story-telling, further underlining the concept that this is as much a story of the reader’s life and dreams as it is that of Paterson’s.  Immediately there is a connection not just between prose and illustration but also between creators and reader, a connection that is vital to engage the mind and the imagination and the what-if.  (You can read more of the thinking behind the illustrations here.)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The first collaboration between McCartney and Booth was This is Captain Cook and I venture to say that this will be as well-received and as successful. As well as the factual material and excerpts from poems that are included at the back (as is common with books published by the National Library), Tania is currently running a virtual launch of the book on her blog where the backstory of the book’s creation is being told.  Day 6 includes links to some great resources as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the K-3 Australian Curriculum  There is also a free real-life launch at the NLA in Canberra on February 11  or for those not near the national capital you can join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library, and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items, along with original artwork by Christina Booth!


And, as an added extra, for those of you are fans of Paterson and his work there is the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange, NSW from February 16-26, 2017 or you can visit his childhood home.

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas






The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034


Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!


Colours of Australia

Colours of Australia

Colours of Australia











Colours of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2016

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


That eerie time just before dawn as the sky lightens and the stars are fading rapidly.

That split second of sunrise as the shards of light spread new life on the landscape.

That changing palette of oranges and yellows as the sun marches across the zenith on its inexorable journey , textures are in sharp relief and stones shelter and slumber.

That sheltered, filtered coolness as a few rays reach down through the canopy to the soft, sensitive plants on the forest floor.

Those subtle changes as the day draws to a close in a hush of blue, indigo and violet as gentle showers fall and sometimes thunder rumbles.

That all-consuming blackness of night as the sun takes its rest and only shadows remain.

In this visually stunning new book by one of our nation’s leading indigenous artists, the colours of the day stride through the pages capturing and encapsulating the patterns, the moods and the moments of what we so often take for granted, or just don’t see.  Bancroft always brings the beauty of nature into focus in her paintings and her evocative text, leaving an impact that forces us to look around and start to view what she sees – perfection in the natural shape, lines and layers of the landscape – through a new lens. Even if we do not have the talent to interpret the landscape and tell its story in the wonderful way of Bancroft, at the very least we can drink in this book and look with new eyes and better understand the connection to the land that our indigenous people enjoy and celebrate so well.

She has used the colours of her homeland west of Grafton, NSW as her inspiration but are they the same colours  that would be seen in other parts of Australia?  Are we united by them or is the landscape different but no less beautiful?  Have you students observe and paint what they see during the course of the day to discover the answer. 

As always from this creator, superb.















Graeme Base

Penguin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Thirty years ago in 1986 an armoured armadillo avoiding an angry alligator appeared from the pen of one of Australia’s most iconic illustrators.  It was followed by beautiful blue butterflies basking by a babbling brook and a host of other creatures including eight enormous elephants expertly eating Easter eggs; horrible hairy hogs hurrying homeward on heavily harnessed horses; meticulous mice monitoring mysterious mathematical messages; and even zany zebras zigzagging in zinc zeppelins.  

For this was the magical, mystical, marvellous Animalia – an alliterative alphabet book  and which, after selling more than three million copies worldwide and spawning a television series, is now celebrating its 30th birthday and a whole new audience is set to wonder at its creativity, its detail, its colour and try to spot the tiny Graeme on each page.  It is indeed a feast of vivid visual literacy. And underneath the familiar dust cover which so cleverly hints at what is inside is a glamorous golden cover AND a fabulous poster of the lazy lions lounging in the local library.  (Great role models for reading!!!)

Since Animalia’s  original publication we have come to associate Graeme Base with intriguing stories woven around the most scintillating illustrations  and if this is your first introduction to his work, you will be on the lookout for his other works.

Congratulations Graeme – thank you for bringing us these superb creatures and creating such riches for our young readers. 



Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma











Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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



What’s next when the fun and focus of Book Week is over?  A new Mr Chicken adventure of course!!


With his insatiable appetite for travel, Mr Chicken, Citizen of the World, takes us on his latest exploits.  This time he is in Rome and from endpaper to endpaper it is a feast of fun.  Armed with his Very Frequent Flyer card, a list of things to see and some handy phrases, Mr Chicken arrives in Rome keen to explore his childhood dreams of Ancient Roman life and places.  With his guide Federica he’s off to see some ruins and meet some real Romans, although the departing view of him on Federica’s Vespa is a bit disturbing and is one of those things that can never be unseen!

As with his previous visits to Paris and London, he visits the main tourist sights, often becoming more of an attraction than the attraction itself.  The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain (where he takes a dip to cool off much to the entertainment of the crowds) are all on his itinerary and provide endless opportunities for photographs. But what would Italy be without gelato and pasta?  And which pasta – spaghetti, cannelloni, penne, tortellini, papalina or tagliatelle?  Or all of them? Decisions, decisions. Left on his own for the afternoon, he takes a nap and his dreams take him to the Rome of long ago where he is the star until…

Luckily his nightmare is interrupted by the return of Federica who is taking him to her family for dinner,  This time Mr Chicken is in charge of the Vespa and brings a whole new meaning to the madness of traffic in Rome.  But all too soon it is time to say “Arrivederci” to this fascinating place and create an album of all those selfies he took.

In his iconic style that is so familiar to younger readers, Leigh Hobbs has once again created the most enjoyable ‘travelogue’ of one of the world’s greatest cities and as well as offering a wonderful adventure with the indomitable Mr Chicken that children will love, he’s also provided a terrific teaching tool to show our youngest students that there is a world beyond their town.  Some of the best lessons I’ve ever given have focused on Mr Chicken’s adventures as we’ve read the books, used Google Earth to explore each city and its significant places and then wound up with examining our local community for the places Mr Chicken would have to see if he came to our town.  Superb for exploring built and manmade features, discussing those things that are unique to the area and getting the children to not only discover their surroundings but also draw them and tell their stories.

Now Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017, Leigh Hobbs has come from behind his drawing board to be in the spotlight and is a perfect candidate for an author/illustrator study.  There’s an interview with him from Story Box  and a Q&A with ABC Splash at / ; an interview with The Australian and Mirrors Windows Doors /; and soon there will be a plush toy available too.  He’s even produced the Story Calendar which features all his characters – Mr Chicken, Mr Badger, Old Tom and Horrible Harriet and which inspires readers to explore a new type of story every month!

So if you’re concerned that the current spotlight on the library might dim soon, Leigh Hobbs and Mr Chicken are guaranteed to turn it back to full beam.

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection







Charlie and the Chocolate Factory






Roald Dahl

Puffin, 2016

pbk., RRP $A16.99

On September 13, 1916 one of the greatest children’s authors of all time was born and in just 43 days there will be great celebrations to mark the centenary of his birth.  There are many events planned, particularly in the UK but to mark the occasion here, Penguin Random House have relaunched a number of his most popular books, bringing the works of this word wizard into the world of a new generation.

Originally written in 1964 and already over 50 years old, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is arguably the best-known of Dahl’s creations having been made into a movie in both 1971 (under the title Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and in 2005. It was also converted to an opera The Golden Ticket in 2010 and a musical in 2013.  It is the story of poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket who wins one of five golden tickets (along with Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregard) to visit the mysterious, magical chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willie Wonka and the adventures that befall them. 

Matilda is the story of child genius Matilda Wormwood who loves to read and study but who is regarded by her ignorant, self-absorbed family as a freak and a scab.  This does not deter her in any way for she is smart enough to see them for what they are.  It also features the lovely Miss Honey and the frightening, stereotypical principal Miss Trunchbull who has her own reasons for being so nasty that the children live in fear of her.  This has also been made into both a movie and a musical. (Tickets to the Brisbane production of this are part of the Readathon prize)

In 1982, Dahl wrote The BFG introducing us to Sophie, the Big Friendly Giant, a host of very unfriendly giants and his wonderful way with words that speak directly to his audience.  Few children would not know what a whizzpopper is and be able to explain its cause and effect  particularly after the release of the movie that was such a hit in the recent school holidays.

Dahl’s writing career spanned five decades and during that time he brought love and laughter, mystery, mayhem and magic into the lives of millions – telling stories that engage adults as much as children.  These three are just a tiny portion of those he wrote and having been translated into 55 languages, there would be few who would not know of his genius and had a little light brought into their lives because of it.  Publishers Penguin Random House have launched a readathon competition to celebrate this milestone but for me, it will be about sharing my favourite story (George’s Marvellous Medicine) with Miss 5 whom I know is going to make a reading friend for life

Zoo Ball

Zoo Ball

Zoo Ball









Zoo Ball

Aleesah Darlison

Australian Children

Wombat Books, 2016

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



Ned loves his big, bright bouncing ball.  So much so, that he takes it to the zoo and even though his parents warn him not to bounce it, he just can’t help himself. Everywhere he goes he bounces it … right into the kangaroos starting a wonderful adventure for the animals as they get in on the game and send it from one to the other.  From kangaroo to lion, to penguins to pelican…from tiger to toucan and tapir too.  Even into Ellie Elephant’s poo!!  Ned, his mum, dad, Aunt Lucy and the zookeeper follow, trying to retrieve it but they are always one step behind and all the while the ball is continuing its journey giving animals and crowd alike fun and joy.  Then Ned has an idea…

This is a joyful story that bounces along in rhyming text providing as much fun for the reader as it does for the zoo creatures.  But the unique feature is its illustrations.  Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally. Now, twenty aspiring illustrators have their work included and acknowledged in a story that will be very popular with young readers. Even the cover is by a young illustrator, Alyssa Teoh, who also has an illustration in the book.

However, as well as inspiring those who were successful to continue, this book will also inspire other young artists.  Sadly, children are often only exposed to the ‘perfect’ artwork of adults and never believe their own is quite good enough.  We have all heard the plaintive questions, “Do you like mine, Miss?” and “Is this good enough?” as they seek reassurance for their efforts so this is an excellent book to celebrate the beauty and worthiness of children’s art. It should be on hand to show them what can be achieved even by children. That what they produce is valid, valued and valuable. One of the young artists said, “I entered the Zoo Ball Challenge following Aleesah Darlison’s visit to our primary school at the beginning of 2014,” she said. “Aleesah was really passionate about her writing and I am really passionate about my drawing. I thought immediately that this was the challenge for me.”

Aleesah’s passion for writing comes through every story she writes and to be able to inspire our students to read, write and draw as she does, is a special gift to be treasured. You can read more about how the project evolved in an interview with Aleesah at Kids Book Review  

I hope this book is really successful so that Wombat Books are inspired to host a similar challenge in future.

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!

Meet…Banjo Paterson

Meet... Banjo Paterson

Meet… Banjo Paterson








Meet… Banjo Paterson

Kristin Weidenbach

James Gulliver Hancock

Random House, 2015

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



I currently have a display in the library based on “A Poem in Your Pocket Day” which includes teachers sharing their favourite poems for the students to illustrate.  When I asked the teachers to share their favourites, I was surprised to find how many had selected a poem by Australia’s most iconic poet, A. B (Banjo) Paterson.  That this book, the latest in the Meet… series, then arrived for review was totally serendipitous.

While most children know of Banjo Paterson’s works, at the very least through learning the words of Waltzing Matilda, not much is known of his life generally and the things that shaped him and made him such a devotee of the life of ordinary Australians.  So this journey through his life told by Kristin Weidenbach and accompanied by the detailed artwork of James Gulliver Hancock is an important addition to any library collection.  With snippets from his poems like Clancy of the Overflow illustrating his life and yearning to be away from “foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city” we are connected to his life and his writing and understand their beauty and power that meant they were loved by the ordinary person who, in those days, would not normally read anything let alone poetry.  Just as he wrote in The Man from Snowy River that the ride would be talked about everywhere and always, so Paterson’s poems spread throughout the bush so that they are now part of the Australian psyche.

The Meet…series is a must-have in school libraries as it brings the lives of our heroes and history-makers to life through accessible, illustrated texts in a way that brings the biography genre to life.  They add an extra layer to an historical study and the accompanying teachers’ notes open up new ideas for exploration.  Because Paterson was writing during World War I, and although too old to enlist he drove an ambulance in France and was in charge of the Australian Remount Squadron in the Middle East,  this could be a timely opportunity to introduce his works to students.  We’re All Australians Now would be an ideal starting point. Teaching notes are available.

Any Questions?

Any Questions?

Any Questions?











Any Questions?

Marie-Louise Gay

Allen & Unwin, 2015

hbk., 60pp., RRP $A19.99



For the students, an author visit to their school is often better than a visit from Santa because instead of just once a year, they get to revisit the warm, fuzzy feelings every time they pick up a work by the author. 

For the author, it might not be so memorable but the authors I know say it is always fun and often inspirational.  Take the visits that Marie-Louise Gay has made.  She knows she is going to get a barrage of questions, questions she hears each time from each audience like “What inspired you to write this book?” and “Where do your ideas come from?’ and “Where does a story start?”

It is this last one that has inspired this unique book from this talented author/illustrator.  Where does a story start.  “A story always starts on a blank white page… and if you stare long enough at a blank piece of paper, anything can happen…”  A white page could become a snowstorm, old yellowish paper might take you back to the time of the dinosaurs and purple paper could put you in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Or sometimes a story will start with words and ideas floating around, captured, recorded, saved or discarded.  And so it begins to build… who lives in this setting and what might happen to them?

Capturing the beginnings of a story in text and graphics helped by those children who were asking the questions, Ms Gay takes the reader on a journey through the imaginative process that is as creative as her ideas.  Then having taken those ideas and shaken them and turned them upside-down she discovers that her central character is a shy, young giant with birds nesting in his hair.  And for a few pages she tells his story until something happens and the story is turned over to the children to continue as a collaborative effort.  Then she steps in again to finish it.  Except the children don’t want it to end and are inspired to write another one.

This is a most intriguing book that invites the reader’s imagination and interaction.  Text and illustrations are integral, particularly the words of the children and this might make it tricky to share as a whole-class read-aloud but it is perfect to share with a small group about to start on the writing process.  Young writers often sort out their ideas by drawing first and the concept of letting the colour of the paper suggest the setting is inspirational, particularly if you are focusing on the meanings of words like setting, characters and plot.  Have a brainstorm session of possibilities with various sheets of coloured paper, have them draw the setting then think about the characters that would fit into it and from there develop the story.  It works! It brought those ideas to life in a way that breathed life into my explanations and allowed them to explore them in a really practical way.

This book will excite teachers as much as it inspires their budding writers.  There is a queue of reservations for it!