Graeme Base 

Puffin, 2019

48pp., hbk. RRP $A26.99


The fish that live in the pond beneath the dragon-moon are happy. They know the moon will keep them safe. But it was not always like this . . . There was a time when they looked to the skies with fear.

In this stunning new picture book, Graeme Base, creator of so many stunning picture books including Animalia , has crafted a story about being and belonging, about having to leave to discover who you are, with undertones of the ugly duckling but so much more than that. Set in China, it tells the story of a baby fish who is found and taken in by a family who care for him, but as he grows and grows and grows, understand his feeling that he doesn’t fit in and needs to undertake a journey to discover where he does. It will resonate with lots of students who feel where they are isn’t quite the best fit for them, whether that is physically, sexually, culturally or whatever is making them uncomfortable, yet despite its dark palette it offers hope and possibility.

You can learn more about the story behind the story here., but expect this one to be on the 2020 awards lists.

The Bookworm

The Bookworm

The Bookworm









The Bookworm

Debi Gliori

Bloomsbury, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99



Max really wants a pet.  But all his suggestions are met with objections from his parents, or indeed, Max himself.  Puppies chew things, kittens make awful smells; penguins melt; sharks have too many teeth and dragons don’t exist.  Goldfish are boring; birds too chatty; wasps unfriendly and flies, while friendly, have revolting habits.

But then Max discovers the ideal pet – one even his parent approve of – or is it?

There are lots of stories about children wanting pets and having to search for just the right one, but this one is a little different with an ending that surprised even me (and I’ve read a lot of endings!) Of course a book with this title is always going to appeal to a teacher librarian, but I also love Gliori’s work and knew it would be more than just an intriguing title. I wasn’t disappointed.

Something quirky and just right for our young readers who want to combine both reading and the perfect pet! 


My Dad is a Dragon

My Dad is a Dragon

My Dad is a Dragon










My Dad is a Dragon

Damon Young

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

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

Some dads pull billycarts

painted blue and black.

But my dad is a dragon…

I sit upon his scaly back!

Dads do some amazing things in their lives and this is a celebration of their diversity whether they have “pointy pencils for designing bridges” or “tough trolleys for hauling heavy fridges” but what if your dad was really different? What if he were a dragon?

Often the acknowledgement of Father’s Day in schools is overshadowed by the celebrations of Book Week or it is kept low-key because so many children do not have live-at-home fathers, but nevertheless the role of a dad in a child’s life is critical and so this is the perfect book to add to your collection about families and diversity.  Superbly illustrated by Peter Carnavas, who himself might be considered a dad who is different because his daily life is not that of many fathers, this opens up the scope for a discussion on how dads are different and how they show us they love us.  Because even if the dad is not on the scene full-time for whatever reason, it is a rare dad who does not love his kids. Maybe it is that very absence that is the demonstration – protecting his children from a life of arguments and hostility after a relationship breaks down.  It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on how our dads influence our lives and the choices we make.  How many sporting heroes have followed their father’s footsteps?  How many budding architects or musicians or whatevers have fathers who have led the way?

One of a series of stories that takes a light-hearted look at family relationships, nevertheless, there is more to this than meets the eye.

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2










Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Garth Nix & Sean Williams

Allen & Unwin, 2018

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Independent readers who are lovers of fantasy, particularly tales of yore, will love this second in the series about Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor.  

First introduced in Have Sword, Will Travel, when Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, and much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight, this new adventure begins with an action-packed scene when Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor defend an old man named Egda, a warrior named Hundred  from the bilewolves who have already attacked their village. But Egda and Hundred are not who they appear to be at first sight, and with their trusty and talkative swords, Biter and Runnel, they are plunged into a quest that will take them to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Not being a great fantasy fan – Harry Potter and the tales from Middle Earth being my limit – I was nevertheless engaged to the end with this new series by these master storytellers who have written several series in collaboration as well as their independent writing.   So those who like this genre will be more than thrilled with this new release that is exciting, fun, and which could so easily have them as the super hero characters.


The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears










The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

Alastair Chisholm

Jez Tuya

Walker Books, 2018

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


When it’s time for Jamie’s bedtime story, his Dad begins to tell an age-old fairy tale about a prince in a faraway land full of dragons, wolves and princesses in distress. But inquisitive Jamie can’t help but add to his dad’s story, and the prince is soon joined by an evil-eyed witch who turns people to jelly, a broccoli-wielding ninja frog and a jewel-thief, lock picking princess. It may not be the story Dad set out to tell, but together, he and Jamie create something much more energetic and hilarious than they could have alone.

Familiar to nearly every parent who has set out to tell their little one a bedtime story only to find that their child has very definite ideas on what the story should be about and what should happen, this is a lovely story that incorporates all the familiar characters of traditional fairy tales but with a modern twist. Young listeners will enjoy Jamie’s interruptions as they relate to him and learn that stories can be whatever you want them to be.  It just takes some imagination.

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright











Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Mark Sperring

Ed Eaves

Bloomsbury, 2018

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


Meet Norman the Brave:
He’s in need of some knaves
to help him get ready for royal parades.

It’s amazing just how much work there is to do to get ready for a royal parade – not just catching his horse and squeezing him into his armour, but darning his socks and ironing pants as well!  And if that’s not enough, there are dragons and bandits and brigands to ward off on the way to the parade ground!!!  But there’s a catch – and it may not be the job for you.  In which case…

This is a rollicking rhyme through medieval times that is full of fun and humour that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  The text is superbly set off by the bright. bold pictures which are packed full of detail and fun, but sadly Norman’s behaviour may well resonate with some.  He is the Queen Bee while his knaves are just his drones and his treatment of them is unbecoming but common.  

So if the little ones decide that being a knave for a knight is not for them, they can speculate on what it might be like to work for a …

Fun and funny!



There’s a Dragon in Your Book

There's a Dragon In Your Book

There’s a Dragon In Your Book











There’s a Dragon In Your Book

Tom Fletcher

Greg Abbott

Puffin, 2018 

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99



There’s an egg in your book!

It looks ready to hatch.

Whatever you do, don’t turn the page…

With such an intriguing introduction of course you are going to page – I can’t believe you did that! – and suddenly there is a dragon in your book.  A baby dragon who, when her nose is tickled at the author’s invitation, sneezes and sets fire to the book!  Oh no!  How are we going to get the fire out?

This is the most charming, fun, interactive book for little people that I’ve seen for a while.  The conversation between the author and the reader immediately invites the child to interact, use their imagination and just delight in this story that celebrates everything that is fun and enjoyable about books and reading, reinforcing their understanding that reading is something pleasurable to do.  

The saying on one of my Storybook Cushions is “Dragons breathe fire and magic into stories” and this one certainly does – but in the nicest way with child-friendly illustrations that depict a happy baby dragon that will not frighten little listeners before bed. 

Interactive, imaginative and fun – what more do little people need in a story?

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story










There Is NO Dragon In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Most stories about dragons have the dragon capturing a princess and fighting the brave knight who comes to save her.  But that’s not what this story is about because the dragon has gone off in a huff in search of a story where he is the hero not the villain.

But each time he enters a story – The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red riding Hood – he is told the same thing. “No! There are no dragons in this story!”

And then he spies a boy climbing a beanstalk. But just as Jack tells him the same thing, the giant captures the dragon and suddenly the dragon doesn’t want to be in the story!  But just as he seems doomed, the giant sneezes and blows out the sun…  Can the dragon be a hero at last?

This is a charming, colorful romp through a lot of childhood favourites that young children will delight in recalling and discussing the various forms the villain takes if it is not a dragon.  They will connect with characters and settings they know while the left-to-right direction of print is emphasised with the vivid and clever illustrations.  Older children can venture down the path of learning about stereotypes and how preconceived notions can lead to unfounded expectations, perhaps even starting to gather a collection of stories where the stereotype is challenged and then starting to examine their own prejudices.  

Quality stories always have lots of layers to suit lots of readers – this is one of those.














Henry Cole

Katherine Tegen Books

288pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Naming Day at the school on The Hill -an old rubbish dump on the edge of the woods – is the most important day for the students because it is then that they get their surnames based on their expertise in particular disciplines such as metal craft and weaving.  Chipmunk Twig, who prefers to read discarded picture books rather than the old instruction manuals preferred by the other students, is struggling to excel and seems destined to become a lonely Errand Runner. Shamed and embarrassed he runs away, falls into a river and when he reaches the shore he finds a golden egg from which hatches a dragon.  And suddenly his fortunes change – or do they?

Miss 11, an avid reader, was drawn to this book on a recent visit because it is the sort of story she likes and she immediately put her nose into it. However her comments afterwards suggested it did not live up to expectations.  Even though the writing is descriptive,  she said she was glad there were the pictures to help because her imagination wasn’t drawing them for her.

She felt that the storyline did not match her predictions and there were several gaps that were unexplained such as how Twig got back upriver; what is making Char the dragon so sick; enemy Basil’s change of heart and how Lily, banned from seeing Twig manages to accompany him on the final adventure.  She wasn’t keen on the up-in-the-air, to-be-continued ending which left the story unresolved until the sequel Bayberry Island is read. Sadly, Grandma didn’t have it. Perhaps if she did and all the loose ends were tied up she might have enjoyed it more.

Friendship and the ethics of keeping animals captive and cheating to achieve a goal are the themes of this story but to Miss 11, the target audience for the story, they were lost in her confusion of the story.

Unusual for me to publish a less-than-positive review but when you have the critique of the intended audience, it’s hard to ignore it.  

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart











The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis

Bloomsbury USA, 2017

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Bored with being confined to the cavern on the mountain and faced with another 30 years of the same until her scales are hardened, baby dragon Aventurine squeezes through a secret exit to take herself off to find the world and a human to eat.  As she wanders down the mountain because she damaged her wings in her escape, her sensitive nose not only picks up the smell of a human but also of something else, utterly delicious and tantalising – and dangerous…

For the human is a food mage and in order to protect himself from being Aventurine’s dinner he tempts her to try his delicious chocolate drink.  Suddenly, instead of being a fearsome dragon with glittering silver and red scales towering over the human, Aventurine finds herself transformed into a little girl with tiny, blunt teeth, no fire, and not a single claw to use in battle, prostrate in front of this now gloating tall man who leaves her to her own devices.  

Trying to stand but failing, Aventurine tries to crawl back up the mountain to her family but when her Grandfather doesn’t recognise her as he flies overhead and indeed, shoots a warning burst of fire in her direction, she realises she will have to try to make her way to the city to find a life and satisfy her insatiable craving for chocolate.

But how can a penniless, naive girl with the thoughts and heart of a dragon survive the betrayal, deception, trickery and unknown ways of humans in a large busy city obsessed with money, class and position?

Suitable for a read-aloud or a read-alone for an independent reader, this is a unique, intriguing tale with a strong female protagonist who learns a lot about herself as both a human and a dragon as she navigates the unfamiliar world of Drachenberg. For those who like adventure tinged with fantasy this is something new.