Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future









Stand Up for the Future

Puffin Books, 2019

208pp.. hbk., RRP $A29.99


There will be many teachers and teacher librarians who will skim the contents of this book and be unfamiliar with most of the names, but to our students they will be very familiar because in this companion to Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women and High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men the focus is the heroes of the younger generation -the inventors, the conservationists, the sports people, the entrepreneurs and innovators whose names are so well-known to the current generation and whose names will feature in the “Famous Australians” contents pages of the future.

Using the same format as the other two of a clear one-page bio and a portrait by one of Australia’s leading illustrators, each of them an inspiring and aspiring young illustrator, this books celebrates the achievements of those who can see a brighter future for this nation and its peoples, one that is inclusive, socially and environmentally aware, and compassionate. 

From my own hero Cameron Remess, who at the age of nine taught himself to sew so he could make teddy bears for sick kids in hospital and has now made over 1700 bears and established his own charity Kindness Cruises  to Baker Boy 2019 Young Australian of the Year, there is an amazing group of young people featured who shine in many areas. 

This is an exuberant, uplifting book that needs to be in every library collection and promoted so our students  can find new role models, new directions and even new dreams, as well as understanding that paths to success can change directions, present obstacles to be overcome and that “failure can be a source of learning and inspiration”.

As with the others, all royalties are donated to The Smith Family.

Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Little People, Big Dreams

Little People, Big Dreams









Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Muhammad Ali


Stephen Hawking


Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019

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

New to the Little People, Big Dreams series, young readers can delve into the lives of these two men who, in their own unique ways, made such a contribution to the world of sport and science respectively. Presented in a picture book format and focusing on the childhood events that shaped their future decisions and success, the series is an excellent introduction to the biography genre.

As a child, young Cassius Clay had his bike stolen. He wanted to fight whoever stole his bike, but a police officer told him to control his anger, and learn how to box. After training hard in the gym, Cassius developed a strong hook and a stronger work ethic. His smart thinking and talking, inside and outside the ring, earned him the greatest title in boxing: Heavyweight Champion of the World while Stephen used to look up at the stars and wonder what else was out there. After gaining his education at Oxford University, Stephen went on to make a groundbreaking discovery to do with black holes: Hawking radiation. Although his health was declining due to MS, Stephen was more determined than ever to study and share his findings with the world. With his trademark voice and wit, Stephen brought science to everyone and became loved around the world.

Rather than a dry book of facts and figures, this series is intended to show our young students that even the most famous people came from ordinary beginnings, often similar to their own, and that it was a dream and the perseverance, determination and resilience to chase it that made the difference.  Perhaps they, too, have such a dream and with such inspiration could one day find themselves being in a series such as tis.



The Extraordinary Life of …(series)

The Extraordinary Life of ...(series)

The Extraordinary Life of …(series)








The Extraordinary Life of …(series)

Michelle Obama

Dr Sheila Kanani


Malala Yousafzai

Rita Petralucci


Stephen Hawking

Esther Mols


Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Stephen Hawking …all contemporary heroes who have contributed much more than the average person to making the world a better place and who are the three initial subjects of a new series from Puffin called The Extraordinary Life of…  To be joined in June by Neil Armstrong, Anne Frank and Katherine Johnson, then later in the year by Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole,  this is a new series of biographies for young independent readers introducing them to those who have shaped their world.

Done with a monochromatic theme with lots of line drawings it combines the essential information of each person’s life with significant quotes that encapsulate their philosophy for doing what they do. 

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is”.  Malala Yousafzai

“You too can reach your dreams and then your job is to reach back and to help someone just like you, do the same thing. ”  Michelle Obama

“I am happy if I have added something to the understanding of our universe. ” Stephen Hawking.

Three different people doing different things but with a common philosophy that focuses on humanity as a whole.

Written in a style and format that fosters a desire to continue reading rather than dipping and delving to find facts, this series is a way to introduce young readers to biography as a genre and its focus on people whose names may well be familiar to the audience will draw in those who might not yet be aware of this type of non fiction. Thus they are not only learning about the person in focus but discovering a new genre that will open up new reading pathways and perhaps inspire them. While our collections abound with biographies, they might not appeal to young readers so a series that captures the current desire for short bursts of information presented in a non-traditional way deserves serious consideration for adding to your collection. 




DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories

DK Life Stories









DK Life Stories


Diane Bailey


Albert Einstein

Wil Mara


Helen Keller

Libby Romero


Katherine Johnson

Ebony Joy Wilkins


128pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

At last the people with the power of the purse strings are beginning to realise that not everything is available online, and what is there is unlikely to be at a reading level accessible to our developing readers, and publishers are responding to the resurgence in demand for quality non fiction resources in print format.  While DK have continued to produce quality print materials throughout this misguided era of everything having to be screen-based, their new Life Stories series, biographies for younger readers, is a welcome addition to a genre that can be the entry point to a world of inspiration for a new generation.

Currently comprising about a dozen  titles, including most of the usual subjects found in this sort of series, the one that caught my eye was that of Katherine Johnson, she who is now the famed NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of the best-selling book and movie Hidden Figures. Miss 12 was just awarded her school’s Science and Technology prize for her work in coding and so this is just perfect for inspiring her to maintain her passion and continue to break down barriers as she moves on to high school.  

Using accessible text, photographs and the usual DK production quality, this series tells the stories behind the celebrities bringing them alive for students who now understand that their world is much larger and older than they are and that many have gone before as pioneers, often against incredible odds, so that they can enjoy the life they do.  Perhaps others would eventually have done what Katherine Johnson did, but for Miss 12 who has the self-doubt and mood swings so typical of her age group, it is Katherine’s story of resilience and determination that is as important as her achievements, just as it is for all the others featured in this series, so it is inspirational on many levels.  When she feels overwhelmed, hopefully she will draw on Katherine’s story to find the courage to take the next step.

That sort of engagement doesn’t come from reading a dispassionate fact-and-figures webpage and so this book in particular and the series in general will be a superb addition to both private and school libraries this year.   















Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

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


On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker










The Tales of Mr Walker

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2018 

192pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99


On a beautiful autumn day, Mr Walker sat in the back seat of the car feeling very excited because he was going to be the Guide Dog ambassador of a park.  Even though he didn’t know what “ambassador” meant, he loved parks, especially rolling in the dirt and playing fetch with sticks.  

So he was really confused when the car stopped outside a tall building, and when he got out his paws slipped and slid on tile floors instead of gripping the grass he was expecting.  Turns out Mr Walker was going to be the ambassador for the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. Because of his larger-than-life personality it had been decided that he would be better meeting and greeting the hotel’s guests, including important people and celebrities and raising awareness of Guide Dogs Australia

Written in a chatty narrative that will appeal to all those who love stories about dogs, especially true ones, this book contains four illustrated stories about Mr Walker’s adventures at the hotel -where he still remains lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian oak bed.


All royalties from the sales of the book are being donated to Guide Dogs Victoria

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

Athena: The Story of a Goddess

Athena: The Story of a Goddess

Athena: The Story of a Goddess











Athena: The Story of a Goddess

Imogen Greenberg

Isabel Greenberg

Bloomsbury, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.00


Greece’s Mount Olympus is the home of the gods and goddesses, including Zeus, Poseidon, Hera and Aphrodite.  It was also the home of Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War and in this new picture book readers are introduced to her. From her extraordinary birth – sprung from the head of her father, in the midst of a thunderous headache – to her refusal to take no for an answer, she inspired powerful gods, goddesses and humans and determined the terrifying fate of those who dared to cross her path. 

Illustrated in graphic novel style, similar to that of The Story of Tutankhamun, it is more suited to independent readers who can manage the small cursive font. The stories associated with the Greek gods and goddesses, their amazing feats and their legacy continued in modern literature references have proven popular with the Year 3+ crowd over the years, and once they know about them they are hooked.  Perhaps this is the book that will spark a run on your 292.2 section! 

Teaching notes are available.

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf









In the Mouth of the Wolf

Michael Morpurgo


Egmont, 2018

160pp., hbk, RRP $29.99


In the village of Le Pouget, in the Languedoc region of south west France, Francis Cammaerts is resting after the celebrations for his 90th birthday come to a close.  As dusk turns to dark and the church bell strikes midnight, he thinks of those who have been a part of his journey to this ripe old age – those who raised him, supported him and had so much to do with the man he became.  And from those reminiscences comes a story of determination, danger, courage and heroism that would have gone untold if not for Morpurgo’s pen and Barroux’s brush.

One of two sons born during the Great War, Francis grows up to be a teacher while his brother Pieter is a burgeoning actor,  But when World War II breaks out, the brothers take very different paths. Frances believes war is futile and barbaric, that people should not descend to the level of the fascists and that only education and pacifism are the “way forward for humanity”. Pieter, however, believes that pacifism will not stop Hitler, that the cruelty of fascism had to be confronted and so he becomes a Sergeant Navigator in the RAF.  While he eventually goes to join a bomber squadron in Cornwall, Francis goes to Lincolnshire to work on a farm having justified his beliefs to a tribunal.  

But when Pieter is killed returning from an air raid over France and a bomb dropped by a German plane kills the family on the next farm including including baby Bessie, Francis begins to rethink his decision, particularly as he now has a wife and the birth of his own child is imminent.  He talks to Harry, his mentor from his teaching days – a conversation that changes his life forever as it leads him into the silent world of the secret agent working with the Resistance in France…

As with Flamingo BoyMorpurgo shines a light on the real story of war and its impact on ordinary people by taking an unusual perspective and telling the story through that.  This is not a tale of derring-do embellished with action scenes and special effects -although it could be that in the hands of another – but a quiet tale of remembrance and reflection, of the impact of the legacy of others on a particular life, when that life itself has left its own legacy.  Morpurgo has said, ” This book may read like fiction. But it is not. That is because it does not need to be.” It is the story of his own uncles.

Generously illustrated using family photographs which are included at the back of the book as well as biographical details of those who had such a profound impact within the story, Morpurgo has produced a story that not only tells yet another untold story of the war but one which has shaped his life too.  

One for independent readers  wanting something different, compelling and utterly readable. 

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.