The Earth Book

The Earth Book

The Earth Book











The Earth Book

Jonathan Litton

Thomas Hegbrook

Little Tiger Press, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99



“In the vastness of space lies a tiny sphere that orbits an ordinary middle-aged star in a quiet backwater of the Milky Way.  It’s one of billions of trillions of worlds, yet it is the only one that we know supports life… let’s go on a voyage of discovery to the four corners of the globe.”

Beginning with the beginning of the planet’s existence and told in a narrative style suitable for the newly independent reader who likes to read non fiction rather than dipping and delving for specific information, this is a beautifully illustrated book that takes the reader on a journey through physical earth, life on earth, the regions of the earth and the human planet.  

With its retro colour palette, diagrams and pictures it reminds me very much of a similar book I used to pore over 60 years ago and which I still have, such was its importance to my understanding of the world.  While today’s youngsters have television and the Internet to take them on similar journeys, nevertheless there is comfort and security in having something on hand that can be referred to over and over on demand; that gives enough information to satisfy a curiosity while also being a springboard to seeking further understanding if that is required.  

However, the illustrations are not as clear as might be expected for a ready reference resource of this type and being unpaged, and lacking a contents page and an index make its use more a personal one than an essential element of a library’s collection.  It is one to recommend to parents who are looking to boost their for home libraries so their children can start to understand what this planet is and how it works. It may become as loved as mine did and decades on form part of a collection of adored childhood reads. 

As world events and personal dramas seem to envelop us, books like this tend to put mankind and indeed Earth into perspective in the scheme of things and we are left with a wonder and an awe of this ‘third rock from the sun” as well as a sense of hope that despite everything and everyone, this place will endure for our lifetime and that of several lifetimes to come. 


Ollie’s Treasure

Ollie's Treasure

Ollie’s Treasure









Ollie’s Treasure

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2017

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


When Ollie receives a letter from his grandmother in the form of a treasure map, he is very excited.  What could his treasure be?  Could it  be a new truck? Or walkie-talkies? Or maybe that game he had been wanting forever?  Full of excitement and anticipation he sets out on the trail – looking for the tree with the biggest leaves and gazing at the sky; smelling the brightest yellow rose that reminds him of Gran; wiggling his toes in the grass by the fountain then listening to the tinkle of the water as it splashes; and tasting a plump, red, ripe strawberry in the bowl on the picnic blanket.  Finally, he has to lie down and look upwards – and there is in treasure.  But it is not what he thought it would be and he is angry and disappointed until he notices the note that Gran has written…

This is a wonderful story about finding joy in the simple things that are all around us just by using our senses and taking notice of what it always there. Beautifully illustrated in a gentle palette that accentuates the text, young readers could have fun talking about what they would consider to be treasure and whether it has to take the form of a physical object and discuss whether Ollie was right to be disappointed and angry when his was not what he expected. They could talk about their own favourite sights, sounds, smells and surfaces and perhaps, as a class, identify a sensory treasure trail around the school, map and travel it, taking photos and writing about their discoveries.  On a more personal note, some might even get their own treasure map from their own grandmothers!

An original story with a wonderful message.

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook






Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook



Dangers and Emergencies




Maps and Navigation


Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99


Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge









The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls


128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  


Millie Loves Ants

Millie Loves Ants

Millie Loves Ants









Millie Loves Ants

Jackie French

Sue deGennaro

Angus $ Robertson, 2017

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


Ants are the most numerous insect in the world -scientists estimate there are more than 10 000 species and maybe 100 000 trillion individuals – which is a good thing because Millie the echidna loves them.  No matter where they are – on the path, beneath the bath, in the kitchen, in the shed, on a picnic, in the bed – Millie is on an endless quest to eat as many as she can.  Whether it’s a hunter ant, a soldier ant or even a queen flying before rain, she is on their trail because she is on a special mission…

Echidnas are not uncommon in the bush environment from rainforests to dry sclerophyll forests to the arid zones and with their formidable spines and remarkable ability to grip the ground, even hard concrete so they cannot be disturbed, it is no wonder they are are the oldest surviving mammal on the planet today. Knowing that author Jackie French lives in the bush environment in south-east New South Wales, one can imagine her watching an echidna snuffle across her backyard on the trail and this delightful book being born as she pondered its search and brought it to life in rhyme. 

While Millie continues her dogged pursuit, which is such a steady but remarkably speedy pace,  artist Sue deGennaro adds movement and humour in her portrayal of the ants who are as clever as they are numerous.  We’ve all seen them carrying food bigger than they are but who would have thought they could manoeuvre four cupcakes and a suite of garden tools!! And in amongst the frivolity there is a lot of information about the benefits of these tiny creatures to our landscape and lives, even if we do see them as pesky annoyances in the sugarbowl! 

Having endeared us to the ants through these charming pictures, we then discover the reason for Millie’s journey and hearts melt all over again – while a lesson in life is learned. We need food to provide food.  Little readers will not only understand echidnas a little more after experiencing this book but they will also view ants in a different light and perhaps take time to observe and think about what the ants are doing before hitting them with a spray or a foot.

Extensive teachers’ notes are available as well as a poster but this copy is winging its way to Queensland for Miss Almost 2 just for the share joy and delight of the words, the rhyme, the pictures and her love of stories that is already well-cemented because of tales like this.

A frequent visitor

A frequent visitor


Storm Whale

Storm Whale

Storm Whale











Storm Whale

Sarah Brennan

Jane Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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


Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …

Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves  crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury.  In fact they are delighting in it.  But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.  

Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,

Far from the cradling ocean swell,

Far from the peace of the ocean deep

Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.

Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,

Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…

Dark as a demon, dull of eye

Waiting in silence to drift…or die

All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin.  But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate.  Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on.  Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…

Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times.  While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant.  This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.   

The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.  

A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.

Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things!

Animal Activity

Animal Activity










Animal Activity: Cut, fold and make your own wild things

Isabel Thomas

Nikalas Catlow

Bloomsbury, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


It’s not often a book comes with a warning that it will self-destruct or a header about how to wreck it.  But that is what will eventually happen to this one if the budding mini-Attenborough in your midst makes the most of it.  

Full of fascinating facts about the natural world, it contains all sorts of make-and-do activities which require cutting, folding and pasting so that eventually while there might not be much of the book left, the reader will have their own jungle of plants and menagerie of bugs, fish, dinosaurs and a whole lot of other creatures. There is even a checklist to determine whether something is living or not (or ever has) to help the beginner start their exploration of the world around them…

  1. Does it move?
  2. Does it eat?
  3. Does it respire?
  4. Does it poop?
  5. Is it sensitive?
  6. Does it grow?
  7. Does it reproduce?

With winter closing in and the outdoors not the most appealing place to be, this would be the perfect alternative to screen-watching as little minds and fingers are kept busy following instructions and learning to be more observant of and careful in their environment.  



Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream

Dream Little One, Dream









Dream Little One, Dream

Sally Morgan

Ambelin Kwaymullina

Viking, 2016

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


“When Moon shines and earth breathes a breath of deepest night dream, little one, dream into the peace of a wonderful world.”

As the first fingers of light of the rising sun bring new life to a new day, the creatures begin to stir and go about their business.  The bird soars, the koala climbs, the dolphin glides – right through the day till the moon comes again and the lizards settle down to dream.

Written with the lyrical notes of a lullaby this is a soothing, gentle tale of lives not seen by busy, rushing people as the day passes through its phases.  Creatures of the skies, land and water have their own rhythm that has nothing to do with school or work or sports training or music practice – they are in peace and harmony with the world that surrounds them, suggesting a sense of routine and calm  that we might well envy, perhaps be persuaded to observe.

Sally Morgan has a gift for selecting words and putting them together in a way that reaches the soul and demands we take time to breathe, relax and reflect.  Accompanied by bright, stunning, striking illustrations that are in direct contrast to the gentle vocabulary, rhythm and repetition of the text, just as nature’s lives are in contrast to that of humans, this is the perfect bedtime story to draw the curtains on the day, to slow the heart and take little ones off to Dreamland.

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

What's Where on Earth? Atlas

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas










What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

DK London, 2017

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99



This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.

Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife.  Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.  

Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat.  While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.

Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away.  Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015!  Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to. 


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!
















Anna Walker

Viking, 2017

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


For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.

Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle.  There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs.  There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away.  No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.  

But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it.  It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment.  But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest.  But the forest is closed.  And then Mae spots something that changes things…

Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.  

Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does.  Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring…   Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…

A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list.