Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Grandma's Treasured Shoes

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes










Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Coral Vass

Christina Huynh

NLA Publishing, 2019

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Grandma has oodles and oodles of shoes.

Walk to the park shoes

Dance in the dark shoes

Fun shoes and sun shoes

Out and about shoes

Splash in the rain shoes

Fancy shoes, 

Plain shoes,

But her favourite shoes 

Are her worn and torn shoes

From a time long ago

And a land far away. 

For they are the shoes of her childhood in wartorn Vietnam, a time when her childhood was like that of others until the night she and her family have to flee with just the shoes on their feet.  They are shoes that take her on a terrifying journey to a new land where she is given new shoes to wear.  But she never forgets or discards those old shows with the memories and stories they hold for her.

Beginning with a rhyme and rhythm reminiscent of Frida Wolfe’s poem Choosing Shoes , this is a story that could be that of the grandmother or grandfather of any number of our students who have come to Australia as refugees, but in particular those who fled the Viet Cong and arrived here in boats in the 1970s. (But not always to the welcome that Grandma gets.) Using the shoes as a vehicle to tell the story of the fear and the flight, both author and illustrator have introduced the young reader to the story of refugees in a sensitive, non-confrontational way.  They have put themselves in the shoes of those who have had to flee their countries and imagined that regardless of the country, “that each shoe would have a different tale of danger, hardship, sacrifice and the cost of freedom to tell.”

This approach is rich in possibilities for a wide age group – children could tell the story of their shoes’ daily journey while those who have been in Grandma’s situation might feel comfortable about telling their story through the perspective of their shoes.  It could also serve as a lead-in to a series of lessons about perspective and how the different role a person has in a situation alters how the story is told. For example, what might be the glass slipper’s version of the Cinderella story? In a time when immigration is once more in the news as the tragedy in Christchurch starts debates again, older students might even examine the different responses by those such as Jacinda Ardern (#theyareus) and Donald Trump (building the wall).

As usual with NLA publications, there are pages of information at the back, these ones outlining the history of refugees in Australia and in particular, those who came from Vietnam in the 70s, the grandmothers and grandfathers of so many of our students. Perfect for Harmony Day celebrations or any focus on the multicultural nature of this country.



Grandma’s Treasured Shoes from STYNA on Vimeo.

52 Mondays

52 Mondays

52 Mondays









52 Mondays

Anna Ciddor

Allen & Unwin, 2019

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Melbourne in the hot summer of February 1964 , in the hot car on the way to Nana and Zayda’s and Anna clutches the library book she can’t wait to read. It’s called Hitty: the life and adventures of a wooden doll and it not only inspired young Anna to own her own antique doll, a dream that lasts 52 Mondays, but also inspired the older Anna, the author, to tell the tale of the joys and disappointments of her real-life childhood search for the doll.

Based on her own life and following the success of The Family with Two Front Doors  which tells the story of  her own family, the Rabinovitches who “dance, laugh and cook their way through an extraordinary life in 1920s Poland”, the author takes the readeron a journey through the life and times of children growing up in 1960s Melbourne.  No computers, no Internet or social media, in many homes, not even a television set – just the day-to-day adventures of children who had to seek and make their own fun.  For those like me it is a trip down memory lane to the days of warm school milk, Mr Whippy, and desks in rows in schools, while for more modern young readers it is an insight into the lives of their grandparents -something very different to that which they know.

Whichever, it is a very readable story about a little girl with a dream, parents who understand and support it, the  highs and lows of following it, and the determination and resilience  required to achieve it. 



Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky









Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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


“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 



Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover









Kensy and Max: Undercover

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2019

400pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


The third in this series which includes Breaking News and Disappearing Act , twins Kensy and Max have adjusted to the disappearance of their parents, and are comfortable in their new life as part of the important Pharos organisation, headed up by their grandmother, Cordelia. 

In this adventure they are back in London for no time at all before things begin to heat up – quite literally. As a result, Granny Cordelia ships them off to Australia on an undercover mission. The twins find themselves planted in a posh Sydney school where first appearances prove to be deceiving.

What seems like a straightforward assignment turns into something so much bigger. Kensy and Max must employ all their spy skills – the fate of their parents, and who they’ve been searching for, depends on it.

When I gave Miss 12 the first two in this series all other Christmas presents were forgotten as she sat and devoured them, and then re-read them on the long bus trip to the Australian Jamboree near Adelaide just a couple of weeks later. Regardless of what anyone else might say, there is no more powerful review than that of the intended audience and to me, Miss 12, who is a discerning reader, has said it all.

Perfect for your up-and-coming independent readers who want characters they can relate to and events that they can picture themselves being involved in and emerging victorious of course, as they  try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.














Maya Newell, Charlotte Mars and Gus Skattebol-James

Tom Jellett

Allen $ Unwin, 2019

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


It’s nearly time for Mardi Gras and wrestling-loving Gus wants to go as a wrestler, just like his heroes who are big and tough with really huge muscles. But his mums are uncomfortable with this, trying to help him understand that there are other ways to be strong.  They don’t want him to think that muscles and being able to conquer others is the only way to be good, smart and popular.  They try to persuade him to change his mind, and to perhaps be like sister Rory who is going as a dinosaur.  However Gus tries to persuade Rory to change her mind and he starts to teach her all about wrestling… until Rory gets hurt and wrestling is banned.  That night Gus has a dream and he learns that there is more than one way to be a wrestler…

While this story has a different family structure to the more conventional ones, which means that some of our students can actually see their own lives reflected in an age-appropriate story, it is not the overt theme of the story.  Rather the focus is on how we can all be wrestlers in our own way, even if we never enter a ring!

The back story to this book is as intriguing as the story itself,  From the website…

“Maya and Charlotte spent 8 years making a film about the experiences of children in same-sex attracted families, Gayby Baby. To get the film and its messages out there in the world, Maya and Charlotte did all kinds of funny things – they once crashed a TV talk show, another time they staked-out a morning news show to try and get on air, and one time they made a live video from a rollercoaster! Even when fighting for important issues, they always try to have fun. They also took the film, and a group of Gaybies, to share stories and discuss policy with our nation’s leaders at state and federal parliaments. 

One of the kids they followed around for 3 years making Gayby Baby, is their co-author, Gus Skattebol-James. These days, Gus isn’t obsessed with wrestling, but he is a black belt in Aikido (a Japanese martial art) and is mad about skateboarding. Now that Gus is almost a grown up, he is finishing his HSC exams and next year he wants to travel the world. “

However, because the whole concept of gay relationships might be controversial in some school communities  it is essential that having stories about members of the LBTQIA+ communities within the collection be addressed in the Collection Policy so that should there be challenges there is documentation that supports the decision.  Those who need to address this can read The Censor’s Hat and The Tricky Topics Hat and follow the links to the Sample Collection Policy  which offers wording that can be used.


Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup









Sleep Tight, Platypup

Renée Treml

Puffin Books, 2019

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


Alone in his burrow, the baby platypus wakes up and is disturbed by the shadows and noises of the night.  He calls out for his mummy who has been out searching for food, and after giving him a big hug she takes him outside to show him the night.  At first all he can see is darkness but when she encourages him to look more closely, he sees other things that are familiar to him during the day and starts to understand.  When the wind blows, she encourages him to listen carefully to the sounds and again, he starts to distinguish those that are familiar and his fear dissipates.  

Superbly illustrated in her distinctive style, the creator of gems like Wombat Big, Puggle Small, Ten Little Owls, Once I heard a wombat, One Very Tired Wombat and Colour  for Curlews  has designed another gentle story for young readers which not only introduces them to another of Australia’s unique creatures but also helps dispel fears they might have about the night – perhaps even offering human parents a strategy that could help their little ones.  

With its soft, gentle palette of purples portraying the night, rather than the more usual starkness of black, its sensitive text that reflects just how a mother would soothe a frightened child and its universal theme of a fear of the dark, this is a winner on so many levels.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

An activity pack with some lovely activities to enrich the book and help them understand their fears is available. 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly












Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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


At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)










How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

Lauren Child

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

208pp., hbk., RRP $A 19.99


“These stories are about the days when the Bobton-Trents had it cushy, very cushy indeed.”

The Bobton-Trent seniors certainly know how to make the most of their extravagant wealth – socialising, doing things, buying things and generally being more than a little bit … irresponsible…

Luckily for them, their son Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent is an exceptionally intelligent, talented and sensible child.

Unluckily for Hubert, this tends to mean that a lot of his spare time is spent steering his rather unruly set of grown-ups out of trouble. So oblivious are they, they don’t realise that their lavish lifestyle means that their money has run out. even when the Bobton-Trents and their guests sit at a bare dinner table, waiting for an hour and 22 minutes for the maid to serve them, unaware that the staff has left.  They are also unaware of their only child’s immense talents –  he phones his parents at the age of one, reads at two and-when he tumbles into the pool at age three-discovers that he is “”a natural swimmer – and when their financial situation becomes clear to him, he tries ways to raise money through schemes like hosting board game sessions and opening the mansion up for tours, but all his schemes fail because his parents just spend the proceeds. It even becomes his decision to sell the mansion and downsize to an apartment!

Lauren Child brings her unique combination of story-telling, illustration and humour to this new series of books for the newly-independent reader.  Even though the message about money not necessarily being the happiness-bringer it is reputed to be may be lost on the target audience, nevertheless young readers will delight in the outrageous lifestyle and Hubert’s constant vigilance and tactics to keep the family afloat. Those who are a little older might like to think about how income is derived and disbursed and the sorts of decisions that must be made. 

With the second episode Alien Beings due later this year, this is a series that will become very popular as the word spreads among your students. 














Carrie Gallasch

Sara Acton

Little Hare, 2018

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


 As soon as the blossoms appear on the cherry tree in Spring, the children are eager to pick the fruit.  But, “It’s not time yet.” As the weeks pass and the cherries develop, the children indulge in all sorts of outdoor pastimes, but “it’s not time yet.” Until it is…

This is a joyful story of anticipation and family rituals as the extended family all take part in the waiting and the eating.   Young children will delight in recognising events that are familiar to them as well as starting to understand the passage of time, a complex concept for little ones.

The gentle words and pictures complement each other, just as they did in Stitches and Stuffing  and this has the potential to become a favourite. 


Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins









Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers

Lauren Child

HarperCollins, 2018

192pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


First published in 1934, Mary Poppins was the greatest success of Australian born Pamela Lyndon Travers.  It gained a new lease of life when Disney produced a musical movie adaptation in 1964 starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and introducing the world to songs like A Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chiminee and of course, Supercalifragilisiticexpialidocious.

Now, with the release of Mary Poppins Returns in late 2018, the stories of this magical nanny are being discovered by a new generation and so the publication of a reimagined, abridged edition of the original, beautifully illustrated by Lauren Child, is the perfect way to build a bridge between the movie and its original premise.

When seemingly staid and upright Miss Poppins arrives to be the new nanny for the Banks children – Jane, Michael, and the twins, John and Barbara – it seems that nothing much will change from previous nannies.  Good behaviour is encouraged, misbehaviour punished and order and routine are important.  But within her stern exterior are some magical powers such as being able to slide up banisters, float in the air, step into pictures, stick stars on the sky, and talk to animals. Mary takes the Banks children on a series of magical adventures, such as using a magical compass to travel around the world, and suddenly the children find themselves forming a relationship with her that they don’t have with their busy, neglectful, upmarket parents..

Lauren Child has created an edition of this classic tale that is perfect for this time and generation and which should have pride of place in any collection featuring classics which are being introduced to a new generation. It is excellent as an independent read-aloud but would also be great as a bedtime read-along, introducing younger reaers to the concept of novels with chapters that continue the story with the same characters.