Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma











Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Clementine Rose is a sassy young girl who was delivered not in the usual way at a hospital but in the back of a mini-van in a basket of dinner rolls.  Living in the magnificent mansion in Penberthy Floss with her mother, her Aunt Violet, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and pet teacup pig, Lavender, Clementine Rose has had many adventures that her readers can really relate to, making her a favourite with newly independent readers.

In this new story, Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma, Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

When the first in this series, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, was published in September  2012 I introduced Miss Then 6 to it and she was enthralled because here was a feisty young heroine whom she could relate to and each new addition to the series was greeted with much anticipation.  As the series progressed along with her reading skills, she would read them eagerly to her younger sister.  Now she is 12 and moving into high school she has moved on but now her young sister is an independent reader herself and I’m sure she will love this new episode as much as the others, even moreso because she will be able to read it for herself. 

Jacqueline Harvey has certainly created a character who resonates with her readers and as the new school year isn’t that far away,  this is a series to introduce to a whole new group of newly independent readers looking for something that will engage and intrigue as they meet Clementine and her friends.   As my friend Sue Warren says on her Just So Stories blog, “Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!” Exactly what I would have said (and have, in previous reviews.)

If this series in not yet in your collection, seriously consider adding it if you want to capture young girls looking for a great read.

Mince Spies

Mince Spies

Mince Spies










Mince Spies

Mark Sperring

Sophie Corrigan

Bloomsbury, 2018 

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


Something or someone is destroying all the sweet Christmas treats in the supermarket and so the Mince Spies are sent on a mission to discover what is happening.  With puff pastry jet packs, shortcrust walkie-talkies and squirty whipped cream they foil the villains – with a bit of help from Santa.

This is a fun romp written in rhyme that moves along at a fast pace that little ones will like, although its outcome might be a little obscure for Australian children whose Christmas is in summer and thus whose Christmas dinner might not be laden with the winter vegetables familiar to English children. Nevertheless, something a little different from the regular Christmas story fare. 

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake











Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Hazel Edwards

Deborah Niland

Puffin Books, 2018 

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


That thump, thump, thump on the roof is not the man fixing tiles that my daddy says it is.  It’s the hippopotamus getting ready for Christmas and he’s as excited as I am.  He’s up there making a big Christmas cake, writing his long list for Santa, doing his special Christmas cake dance, doing all the things my family is doing to make Christmas extra special again. He even sings carols by candlelight!

This is another heartwarming story in this series about the hippopotamus that lives on the roof, first released 35 years ago with There’s a Hippopotamus on our roof eating cake  and which has delighted generations since then. With both the boy and the hippopotamus involved in many of the activities prior to Christmas that young readers will recognise, this book will bring lots of joy as together they share their experiences, compare them to what happens in their home, talk about why things might be different and generally just get wound up in anticipation of the Big Day.  There’s even a free activity pack to download for even more fun. 



Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson's Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather









Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sally Murphy

Celeste Hume

New Frontier, 2018

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world sharing their knowledge of food and cooking with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, and lucky Sage gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this new addition to the series, the Cooksons are off to Townsville but there is a cyclone looming and Sage is quite concerned about their safety.  Even though it is the perfect opportunity to research a weather phenomenon as part of the schoolwork she has been given to do, nevertheless the grey skies, stormy seas and increasing wind are frightening, particularly when they have to evacuate their hotel rooms for the safety of the makeshift shelter downstairs.

This is the 7th in this series for young, newly independent readers who like adventure and cooking together.  As well as a yummy recipe for mango cheesecake dessert cups included, there is also Sage’s website with more recipes and activities to explore.


The Magic Pudding – centenary edition

The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding











The Magic Pudding

Norman Lindsay

HarperCollins, 2018

208pp., hbk., RRP $A49.99


Written a century ago to settle an argument with his friend Bertram Stevens who believed children liked to read about fairies while  Norman Lindsay believed they liked to read about food, The Magic Pudding is now celebrating its 100th anniversary with this new slipcover edition.

Written in four slices,  it tells the story of Bunyip Bluegum the koala, Sam Sawnoff the penguin and Bill Barnacle the sailor who have a magic pudding called Albert who reforms into a whole pudding no matter how much of him is eaten. 

Albert is cranky, has bad manners and is always demanding that he be eaten because that is the only thing gives him pleasure. As they travel together, they meet Possum and Wombat who want to have Albert for themselves and the newly-formed Noble Society of Pudding Owners then embark on a series of adventures trying to defend Albert from being stolen regardless of the dastardly tricks that the Pudding Thieves try.


With such an original, funny and intriguing plot it is no wonder that The Magic Pudding is considered one of five great children’s classics in Australian literature along with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Blinky Bill , The Muddleheaded Wombat and Dot and the Kangaroo.,  This collector’s edition also  includes a section, ‘From the Publisher’s Archives’ that contains a fascinating collection of correspondence between Norman Lindsay and his publishers, Angus & Robertson. The letters have come from the A & R Archives held in the Mitchell Library and were selected with the assistance of Lindsay’s granddaughter, Helen Glad, who also wrote a short biography of him especially for this book.

Perfect for starting a child’s collection of quality Australian stories so they learn about their literary heritage.

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks










Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty


Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost




Sage Cookson's Christmas Ghost

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost









Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

65pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Sage Cookson, daughter of globe-trotting celebrity chefs Ginger and Basil, is on the move again.  Sad about leaving her best friend Lucy behind for Christmas, nevertheless she is excited about going to Western Australia where her parents are going to be supervising the creation of the world’s largest pavlova in an attempt to break the record for this dessert, currently held by its country of origin, New Zealand.  

Too large to be baked in conventional ovens, the action takes place in a disused brickworks where the kilns are large enough to accommodate it, and there will be live crosses to its creation and success (or otherwise) during the annual carols by Candlelight program broadcast on television in the eastern states.  Despite a definitive ruling,  this concoction of sugar and egg whites has been the subject of dispute since it was first created and served in 1927 in honour of ballerina Anna Pavlova’s visit to the two countries in the 1920s and this becomes the centre of the conflict.  Are all the little things going wrong or going missing the work of a malevolent Christmas ghost or a saboteur…

This series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem. Will she get to the bottom of this mystery and enable Australia to claim the record or will it stay where it belongs, in New Zealand?  Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun. Learning to make proper pavlova is something we Kiwi kids learned at our mother’s elbow, but there is a recipe included (very similar to the original, proper one) that more adventurous young cooks might like to try.

Healthy Kids Cookbook

Healthy Kids Cookbook

Healthy Kids Cookbook










Healthy Kids Cookbook

Dorling Kindersley, 2017

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


So many cooking shows get huge ratings on television and so much has been written about the ‘obesity crisis’ amongst our students that it is clear that food is a dominating force in our lives and the interest in it has never been higher. Gradually the tide is swinging towards the healthy end of the scale as we try to nourish our bodies but still cope with the hectic lifestyle we impose on ourselves and our kids. Even the famous ‘Golden Arches” is now producing healthier fast foods that are getting a nod, if not the tick of approval, from nutritionists.

But if we are going to make and have sustainable change in our diets, we need to start from the beginning and get children knowing and appreciating what they are putting into their mouths.  If they are actively involved in the growing and preparation of their food they are more likely to build habits of good nutrition that will last them a lifetime.  Experience has shown me that those children who are subjected to a healthy food regime imposed on them by well-meaning parents are usually the first to grab the “naughties” at parties as they seek to taste the ‘forbidden fruit’.

So to have a cookbook that is directed specifically at children cooking for themselves is very appealing and as usual with DK publications, both the content and the presentation are directed squarely at the child.  Beginning with a brief explanation of why  a balanced diet is critical and other things that all budding cooks need to know, it is set out with lots of photos, simple captions and just the right amount of information to inform but not bore.  The recipes follow a similar sort of presentation with stunning full colour photos to help understanding but also to make the most ordinary food look good – we know we eat with our eyes first. Who knew a rainbow salad could be so tempting?  Or how many good things could be packed into a pita pocket? Or even that so many vegetables could be included in yummy cakes?  Parents will love this book!!!

With plans for the new school year already on the horizon, this could be the centrepiece of a display encouraging our students to nourish themselves throughout the year, and perhaps even encourage the establishment of a cooking group so they can learn and hone their skills and tastes in a community atmosphere. 

Definitely one for the two budding chefs in my life…














Suzanne Barton

Anil Tortop

Bluebell Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


There are lots of tantalising tastes and smells at the community food markets – crusty French bread, buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss, peanuts, walnuts, all kinds of nutty nuts… but the most tantalising of all is dad’s spicy, dicey stew. Made with spices, herbs, almonds, apricots, lemons and some other secret ingredients, it not only draws in the market-goers but also a cute little bird called Meeka who samples it every day and sings with delight.

But Meeka also likes to sample all the goodies from the other stalls and is friendly with all the other cooks and sellers so when Meeka goes missing, there is great consternation.  Finally found with a bulging tummy and feeling very sick from eating all the non-bird food, Meeka is placed in one of the tagines used for the spicy, dicey stew to recover and then disaster happens…

New author Suzanne Barton crowd-funded this charming story that gently suggests that we really should not feed our pets and wildlife human food because it is not the best for them and that Mother Nature really has a better diet for them.  Anil Tortop’s gentle pastel illustrations bring the busyness of the markets to life in a series of vignettes that tell as much of the story as the text.  Certainly there are two crucial pictures that are not referred to in the words on which the story hangs, and which demonstrate the links between words and pictures in quality picture books.

Young children will enjoy this story – you can hear them gasp when they see what the little girl does with Meeka and encourage their predictions of Meeka’s fate and they will like the rhythm and rhyme of the food words.  They can share their favourite foods and maybe taste each other’s and then investigate why it is not a good idea to indulge our pets and wildlife as they discover just what they should be eating.

Debut story, debut author but hopefully not the first-and-only.

Icky-foodia: The Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food










Icky-foodia: The Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food

The Listies

Puffin, 2017

210pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


When the blurb of the book begins, “It’s a CROOKBOOK full of INGROSSIENTS to make every kid into a DISASTERCHEF. It contains smelly and just plain horrible words, scribbles, COOKING DESTRUCTIONS and a guide to the world’s worst RESTAURWRONGS. Full of made-up history, bonkers definitions, food unfacts and packed with illustrations …” then you have an idea of what this book is like and who its target audience is. If the blurb doesn’t warn you then the realistic cockroach on the front cover should.

This is an “alphabetical guide to disgusting foods, horrible recipes and weird meals”  that will appeal to those who like the weird and wacky and almost-naughty and who don’t particularly like reading but cope with tiny bits of information and lots of visual features. 

The follow-up to Ickypedia which became a stage showThe Listies are comedy duo Matthew Kelly and Richard Higgins whose aim is to make kids laugh using the sort of humour that boys of a certain age relate to.

While not necessarily having a lot of literary merit, if you want to entice reluctant readers into the world of books this may be the bait you need.