Finding Granny

Finding Granny

Finding Granny









Finding Granny

Kate Simpson

Gwynneth Jones

EK Books, 2018

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


Edie’s Granny is a playtime Granny, a bedtime, story-time pantomime granny, as I’m not afraid of some slime Granny.” She loves Edie and Edie loves her.  But when she has a stroke and has to spend a long time in hospital, Edie is confused by her ‘new’ Granny. Her Granny doesn’t need help eating her dinner!

Gradually, Edie discovers that even though this Granny is a bit different in some ways, at her heart she is still the same – a love as fierce as a lion Granny.

With stroke being the third leading cause of death in Australia and one of the top 10 leading causes of death among people aged 45 and over, Edie’s predicament is one that is faced by so many of the children in our care and so this is a really important book that has to be in the collection.  It’s superbly chosen text describes Edie’s and Granny’s relationship perfectly in a unique way so that the reader automatically sees that this is a close and loving relationship; the wordless page that just shows the ambulance with its lights flashing; and the simple explanation by the doctor that Granny’s “brain isn’t working the way it used to” are all that is needed to set the scenario for the big changes and challenges Edie is going to have to face.  Coupled with illustrations that show the emotions that don’t need words, this could be any child who is confronted by this situation – any one of them could be Edie. 

I know from recent experience how confronting and difficult it is to see the impact of age and illness on a loved one and to come to terms with this ‘different’ person, establish a new relationship and burrow down to the love that is still there albeit not so evident at times – and that is as a mature adult.  So it is even trickier for a child, although, again from experience, they seem so much more able to cut to the chase and work with what they are presented with, just as Edie does.  Nevertheless, there can be some confusion about feelings -“That’s not my Granny,” says Edie when she first sees hers in hospital – and so to learn that these are natural, acceptable and shared by other children will bring comfort and together, like Edie, they can move forward and develop a valuable, if different, relationship that still has love at its core. 

A book that should spark conversations and bring comfort…

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid










Julian Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love

Walker, 2018

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


Going home on the subway with his grandmother, Julian spots three glamorous women dressed as mermaids and is immediately transported to his imaginary world living under the sea as a mermaid, at one with the creatures there.  He is pulled from his reverie as the train reaches his stop but the memory lingers and once he is home and his grandmother goes to have a bath, he uses the things in her apartment to transform himself – plant fronds for flowing, hair, lacy curtains for a splendid tail, and some lipstick. But then his grandmother comes out – will she scold him for becoming something so feminine or will she embrace his imagination and diversity?

In what is almost a wordless picture book, the reader has to immerse themselves in the pictures to really engage with this story that challenges the stereotype of being a mermaid being a girl’s dream and celebrates diversity, being true to yourself and accepted for that. 

One can imagine the eyebrows that would be raised on an Australian metro train should three glamorous women dressed as mermaids get on, each confident in themselves and their dress (reminiscent of the costumes of Priscilla, Queen of the desert)- but this is New York and instead of derision they encourage a young child to dream and then make that dream a reality. 

His grandmother, somewhat overweight but nevertheless flamboyant in her own style, is clearly very comfortable in her own skin, not driven by the expectations of others and definitely not the stereotype grey-hair-and-knitting that is so commonly portrayed in stories, and so it is not surprising that she embraces Julian’s desires and takes him to a place where he can truly belong. 

Because so much of the story is told in the illustrations, they have to be superb and they are. From the stunning undersea creature presenting the mermaid Julian with a coral necklace to the characters that Julian and his grandmother pass in the street, indeed even the women in the pool in the endpages, each with is imbued with personality and confidence and pride in who they are. 

This is a book that demands close reading and reflection so its riches are revealed; it is one that will raise questions and demand explanations; but to those who are like Julian and dream of things that are beyond the traditional stereotype bounded by gender, it will bring comfort and maybe confidence so they too can be themselves. 

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars










Grandmas from Mars

Michelle Robinson

Fred Blunt

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., pbk., $A12.99


Fred and Nell’s parents are off to an important meeting, as are many of the other parents in their town, and so the children are being left with Grandma. In lots of houses parents are saying,,,

“It’s school in the morning, they can’t be up late…

So: homework, a bath – and in bed before eight”

And the grandmas are saying…

“Eat up your greens”

Stop picking your nose.

Give grandma a kiss

What your grandma says goes.”

Meanwhile, on Mars the Martians are watching and they hatch a plan…suddenly the earth grandmas are beamed up and lookalike substitutes take their place.  Grandmas that encourage the children to eat junk food, stay up all night, and do all the forbidden things that have appealed for so long.  

But is it all fun?  Is this really Grandma? Is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue?” As the penny drops and the children realise not all is at it seems, they run… but can they escape?

Refreshing as it is to see grandmas who are not stereotypical little old ladies with their hair in a bun, wearing a cardigan and satisfied with sitting and knitting (a concept somewhat alien to today’s young readers) perhaps a grandma from Mars is a step too far as alternative! Young readers will delight in this rollicking rhyming story with its bright actin-packed pictures that introduces someone who, on the surface, seems more the sort of grandma they want  but then will be grateful for the loving grandma that they have. I know Miss 7 and Miss 12 will be counting their blessings after reading this! And they may just be grateful for the lessons they’ve learned…

Be careful what you wish for!

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha










A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2018 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Just before the family leaves on a holiday at the beach, they bury their beloved dog.  As Sascha grieves and dusk falls, she takes her bucket to the ocean’s edge to collect stones to take home to cover the bare mound that is her dog’s grave.  Among those she picks up is one that is particularly bright and shiny and as she looks up to the stars she begins to wonder and trace the stone’s journey to its resting place on the shore.  From a meteor that hurls itself to Earth in the time of the dinosaurs to being picked up by Sascha and eventually placed on her dog’s grave,  it has a long and fascinating history that reveals itself in a series of stunning illustrations in this wordless text, traveling through time and across lands. 

But, perhaps most important of all, although Sascha continues to miss her dog terribly, she begins to understand that nothing is truly lost – everything, even a stone and a dog, has a history and a legacy and is but one piece in the jigsaw that is both our own and the planet’s story.  We are more than what is happening to us in the moment – all that has gone before has shaped us and what we do now will change us for the future. 

Described by one reviewer as the “young person’s Shaun Tan”, this story has so many layers to explore and ponder with each visit – Becker’s decision to not add text means the reader has to impose their own making for a wonderful opportunity to reflect and consider and wonder. Against the background of the muted palette, the gold of the stone stands out like a thread weaving its way through a carpet, just as our own individual stories while being but one strand of a much larger tale, nevertheless stand out for us.

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?









Is It The Way You Giggle?

Nicola Connelly

Annie White

New Frontier, 2018

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


What makes you special?

Is it the way you look or something that you can do?

Is it the way you giggle or the way you wiggle?

This is a new take on a perennial topic that will encourage little people to think about what it is that makes them special.  With the entire text being in question format as though the author is speaking directly to the reader, it provokes thought about those things that are unique to us that make us stand out, going beyond the obvious of the colour of the skin, eyes and hair and starting to look at the inner person-their personality, their expertise  and their mannerisms.  Even those with low self-esteem will be able to contribute something and perhaps get a little lift that there is something special about them.  

Annie White’s charming illustrations in watercolour and pencil show that even within one family of four kids from the same parents and exposed to the same sorts of things, there is huge diversity amongst them which is accepted, appreciated and celebrated within the family. 

Extensive teachers’ notes offer new ideas about using this book with early childhood children but as a parent-child read-along, it’s a great opportunity for a chat about how the child and other family members are special and even what makes the family itself unique.

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)









Secrets & Spells


Hauntings & Hexes


Plots & Potions


Aleesah Darlison

Big Sky Publishing, 2017-2018

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

The tiny beach town of Mixton Bay isn’t Courtney’s idea of a holiday. In fact, she thinks it the sleepiest, most boring holiday place ever and the house she is to stay in is so ugly even a dog wouldn’t sleep in it. But now her grandmother, whom she never met and whom her father hasn’t spoken to for years has died and her house must be sorted and sold.  But once she gets there her curiosity takes over and she starts asking questions about her family’s history and why it has been so fractured.  Little does she know that those family secrets, magic and mystery, and the memory of her grandma Delia will result in a special holiday to remember.

 When she finds a mystical ‘Book of Spells’ with her name on the box, discovers Ink the talking cat and a new surfer friend, Justice who has a secret of his own, suddenly her life gets very interesting and is changed forever.

The Little Witch Series features wholesome magical stories with gentle elements of tween/teen romance. The stories deal with realistic family and relationship issues set against a backdrop of fantasy and magical escapism centred in the real world. Light-hearted and funny, this series feature a strong, independent and unique female lead character whom readers will relate to as she confronts familiar situations with new solutions, learning more and more about her family and herself as she does so. 

No matter what series Darlison writes she has a knack of creating totally believable characters who are great role models for young readers showing independence, imagination and ingenuity while still engrossing them in a compelling and intriguing adventure.  

The Adventures of Jellybean

The Adventures of Jellybean

The Adventures of Jellybean










The Adventures of Jellybean

Bill Condon & Dianne Bates

UQP, 2018

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95


If you’re over mowing the lawn and raking up the clippings, what is the best solution?  Get a goat, of course!


After much persuasion and many promises to their parents, best friends Rory and Trang get a goat. which they call Jellybean because of the brown splotches on  its white coat.  And so begins a raft of fun and adventures as Jellybean does its goat thing and Rory and Trang have to cope, as they have promised.  From keeping the neighbours awake the first night and having to learn to milk her, to making goat milk soap for the school fete fundraiser, this is a story that will keep newly independent readers absorbed from start to finish.

There are laughs and losses, a friendship is tested and formed when Jellybean delivers a huge surprise!

This is a feel-good family story that was sparked by Di Bates’s memories of a childhood growing up on a goat farm that is an excellent class read-aloud or bedtime story. Its characters are everyday kids that readers will relate to and while having a goat in the city might be beyond their means, they will still enjoy the fun and the luck of those who are able to have such a pet.

Loved it.

Teachers notes written by a practising teacher librarian in context with the Australian English  curriculum are available.

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!









I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

Daisy Hirst

Walker Books, 2018

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


Monster siblings Natalie and Alphonse love books and stories – picture books read to them by their dad, scary stories read by their mum, Granny’s stories , stories remembered and those made up.  It didn’t matter – they loved their books and the tales within them.  Natalie is so excited that she is going to learn to read…

“When I can read, I’ll have all the stories in the world whenever I want them.” 

“And you can read them to me!” said Alphonse.

But then Natalie got her first school reading book…

In this so-true story Daisy Hirst has captured the experiences of so many little people who can’t wait to go to school because that’s where “real reading” is learned and then have their expectations shattered because they get a book about a cat that like to sit on a mat. *But it isn’t a story… Nothing even happens to the cat.” And with no real story and the letters and words looking like “Scuttling insects with too many legs and eyes” how many other children are like Natalie and declare they “don’t like books anymore”, their reading journey over before it starts! Even all the encouragement that Natalie gets from her family doesn’t overcome the disappointment of a meaningless text. 

I could write a uni assignment based on this book alone but won’t.  Suffice to say that it must be made mandatory reading and discussion material for all those who determine the books and the programs we offer our very earliest readers to start their own reading story and the impact that those decisions can have.  The profound message in its seeming simplicity is enormous!

Who Hid the Socks?

Who Hid the Socks?

Who Hid the Socks?









Who Hid the Socks?

Rosemary Coombs

Lorraine Robertson & Warren Brown

Bullawai Books, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A15.00


Laundry day and everything is in the basket – but where are the socks?

David and Stephen are sent out on The Great Sock Hunt and find them in the most amazing places!

In the garage they peered around

and on Dad’s messy bench they found

cotton socks, wool socks,


Dave’s were in the tool box

from cleaning up his trike.

They tossed them in the wash and then set off to look for more.  

In the lounge room, inside a chair

were hidden with some of their underwear…

new socks, old socks


stripy, spotty, bold socks,

with cars and boats and bikes.

So many socks for just four feet but who has been hiding them?  Has Dobby been collecting them to free his house-elf friends or is there something else afoot?  Missing socks is one of the mysteries of the universe – there’s even a Lost Sock Memorial Day!

Image result for lost socks meme

But in this charming  story that rattles along at a great pace because of the clever rhyme and rhythm the answer is much more simple. And, as well as enjoying the tale, young readers can also have fun trying to find all the items in each illustration, using the lists at the back as a guide. 

Matching and pairing socks and counting them is a great early childhood maths activity but wearing matching socks is overrated IMO!

A lot of fun either as a bedtime read or a class activity, both the book and teachers’ notes are available directly from the publishers.

Pugs Don’t Wear Pyjamas

Pugs Don't Wear Pyjamas

Pugs Don’t Wear Pyjamas









Pugs Don’t Wear Pyjamas

Michelle Worthington

Cecilia Johansson

New Frontier, 2018

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


Tom is excited to go to stay with Aunt Roz because he knows she has a new friend called Ellie for him to play with.  But he is a little dismayed when he finds Ellie is a pug, and even more so when he discovers Aunt Roz treats Ellie like a human.  Perched between Tom and Roz wearing new pyjamas, Ellie listens to the bedtime story and the next day at the beach she wears a beautiful wide-brimmed straw hat.  

Wherever Roz and Tom go, so does Ellie pampered and acting like the furbaby she is.  Tom remains somewhat mystified but gradually he accepts Ellie as his friend, particularly as she makes friends wherever she goes – something that is difficult for Tom to do.  So one afternoon, when he is supposed to be looking after her in the backyard but is more intent on playing soccer and Ellie slips out through the unlatched gate, he is as worried as Aunt Roz about her and together they hunt through all the familiar places.  But neither he nor Aunt Roz expect to find her where she is…

There are lots of kids who, for lots of reasons, can’t have pets but who long for one and Ellie would be just the one they would choose.  A dog that is willing to be dressed up, can skateboard and climb trees would be the answer to many child’s prayers, particularly those who are lonely.  So this story will resonate with many and they will delight in Ellie’s adventures, especially the ending, and have lots to say about what they would do if they had an Ellie. Superbly illustrated with pictures that capture both Tom’s emotions and Ellie’s joy, this is a charming story about owning a pet and caring for it, possibly sparking discussions about whether treating pets as humans is the best thing for them.  Where is the line between animal and human drawn? Are there any human things (like chocolate) that dogs should not have?

A fabulous story for introducing a unit of work for early childhood about caring for pets and meeting their needs more than our own.   Children could create a photo wall of their pets explaining the things they like to do and share with them while learning about the no-nos.