A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch









A Patch from Scratch

Megan Forward

Penguin Viking 2016

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


Living a country life in the city is an appealing prospect for many.  Picking fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden bed instead of the supermarket shelves; having your own chooks to provide fresh eggs; recycling waste instead of sending it to landfill – all these things appeal to Jesse and his family and so they design, plan and develop their own patch from scratch.

Told from Jesse’s perspective, the story chronicles what would seem to be a real-life experience that shows all the aspects of creating an edible garden in a suburban backyard.  From Lewis’ desire to grow beans like Jack of beanstalk fame, to Jesse’s dream of fresh strawberries and even Mum’s longing for chooks each step is documented in text and illustrations that show what needs to be done in a way that draws the reader in and shows them that they can do it too.  In fact, once they start it’s amazing how many people become involved as seeds, seedlings and advice are shared and suddenly chores like weeding and watering become fun. Jesse starts a plant diary for his strawberries as he patiently waits for them to ripen.  But why are there five not six? And what is happening to the tomatoes and lettuce, leaving holes in them? How can the patch be saved from the robbers? 

As well as being so informative, particularly as more and more schools are developing kitchen gardens to supply the canteen, there are lots of other issues raised that will kickstart lots of investigations that should give greater understanding for the future of our planet.  Why are bees critical?  If pesticides wipe out bugs, what will the birds eat? How did people manage when there were no supermarkets? What happens to supermarket food when it is not bought? What are the essential elements that need to be included in the design of a chicken coop?

To round off the story, there is some really useful information and suggestions for finding out more as well as a flowchart of how the patch from scratch works. There is also a lot of information on the author’s page for the book and at the Kitchen Garden Foundation which supports this concept in schools.

Identified as a CBCA 2017 Book of the Year Notable and with sustainability being one of the cross curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum this is an essential addition to both the home and school library as we look to a better, healthier future 

The Chocolate Monster

The Chocolate Monster

The Chocolate Monster










The Chocolate Monster

Pip Jones

Laura Hughes

Faber & Faber, 2017

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



Oh my goodness!  A mighty tricky, sticky thief has been spotted on the loose.  It’s The Chunk.  He’s silent like a cloud, walks on tippy-toes, has HUGE hands and feet and a bulbous twitching nose.  His purple fur streaked with pink covers his gleaming eyes and even though he is very tall, he’s very good at disguise!  And his passion is chocolate – no matter where it is or how it is, he can find it and steal it.  

This is a lovely romp in rhyme searching out that elusive chocolate monster, that mysterious, invisible creature who manages to discover and devour any chocolate in the house or even the neighbourhood. Everyone is warned to be on their guard because who knows where he will turn up next – and with 100 000 chocolate bars as a reward, who wouldn’t be watching for it.

This is a hilarious standalone story that little ones will love but it also offers some great teaching opportunities, the first being to give the children the description of the monster without showing them Laura Hughes’s interpretation and challenge them to draw what the words suggest.  Even though they are all working with the same words, each picture will be different because of each individual’s previous experience so it is a great introduction to the notion that we all perceive events in a different way depending on what we already know and believe and our role within them.  As a follow-up, share A. A. Milne’s The King’s Breakfast and have the children draw the King!  

Back in the days when we could have fun at school, Year 3 did an investigation into chocolate which transcended curriculum borders and this book would be an ideal starting point for a similar investigation,  Why is chocolate so loved?  Would the book have the same appeal if it were a broccoli monster?  Does a chocolate a day keep the doctor away? Why, if not for a fly no bigger than a pinhead, would there be no chocolate? 

There are riches more yummy than chocolate itself in this book!

Sage Cookson (series)

Sage Cookson

Sage Cookson







Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape



Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth



Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise



Sage Cookson’s Singapore Sensation


Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

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

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

However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of.  In the first book, Sweet Escape  there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in  Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.

This new 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.  Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website  for more.  With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji








Our Dog Benji

Pete Carter

James Henderson

EK Books, 2017

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


Benji is a dog that eats anything and everything – no matter what, he has a go at it and even sits in front of the fridge each morning in the hope that it has exploded overnight.  Hus young master is not so adventurous – like many of his age he takes his time with new tastes and flavours and can be quite a fussy eater.  But he decides to follow Benji’s example and be a little more adventurous as he sees that these foods don’t kill Benji – although they might make his tummy rumble and cause a smell that no one can stand, not even Benji.  But there is one thing neither of them will eat…

Told with humour and colourful detailed pictures, this is a charming story for under-5s who aren’t quite sure when something unfamiliar appears on their plate.  But it is also an opportunity to talk to them about the things a dog should never eat and should never be given particularly pig products, milk, onions and chocolate because they are toxic to them.   Taking care of a pet is more than a daily walk and a brush every now and then.

Given the new research that shows the food that toddlers eat has a profound effect on their lives long-term particularly their likelihood of being overweight or obese, any books that start conversations with them about nutrition  and what they and their pets need to be healthy and active has to be a winner.  Thumbs up for this one.

The Baker’s Dozen






The Baker's Dozen

The Baker’s Dozen











The Baker’s Dozen

Aaron Shepard

Wendy Edelson

Shepard Publications, 2010

40pp., pbk.


Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies, which were made of gingerbread and iced just as people imagine St Nicholas to look like. When his made the cookies he weighed his ingredients meticulously and always gave his customers exactly what they paid for — not more, and not less. They were very happy and Van Amsterdam was very successful.

But one day a mysterious old woman in a black shawl came into the shop and demanded that Van Amsterdam give her thirteen biscuits because that was how many were in a ‘baker’s dozen’.  Van Amsterdam refused so the old woman left without her cookies but as she left she told Van Amsterdam “Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again.”

From that day, business went downhill and Van Amsterdam was left almost penniless and with no customers.  Then one night he is visited by St Nicholas in a dream and he learns a lesson about being generous.

This is a retelling of an old tale that goes back into history with the first recorded version being noted in 1896.  Accompanied by exquisite illustrations it brings yet another legend associated with Christmas to life and underscores the need to be unselfish at this time.  It includes a recipe for St Nicholas cookies and a Readers Theatre script  

Something a little different.



The Legend of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas






The Legend of the Christmas Cookie

The Legend of the Christmas Cookie









The Legend of the Christmas Cookie

Dandi Daley Mackall

Richard Cowdrey

ZonderKidz, 2015

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


It is the Great Depression and Jack is missing his father who has gone West to work, desperately – even moreso now that he knows he won’t be home for Christmas.  As he walks into the kitchen on Christmas Eve, he smells sweet bread and licorice but there haven’t been cookies in the cookie jar for over a year.  But tonight his mother has decided to make  traditional Christmas cookies for the needy at church, although Jack would rather have them for himself.  The wooden cookie boards with their Nativity moulds are brought out and as she bakes, his mother tells him the story of Christ’s birth through the shapes, just as was done in medieval times when people were too poor to go to school to read.

Next day, they take the cookies to church, but to Jack’s delight his mother has saved him the angel one that he liked so much.  But just as he is about to take a bit, there is a knock on the door….

In the Scwaben region of Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland these cookie moulds – or springerle moulds – were used to press into biscuit dough and this story is built on that. While not necessarily a regular custom in Australian homes, it is common in the US and it is yet another tale associated with the traditions of Christmas that is worth exploring and discussing the virtue of selflessness and giving rather than receiving.  It does have a strong Christian bent although the message of helping others in need is universal regardless of beliefs. The back flap includes a recipe for Christmas cookies and while the wooden moulds may be hard to obtain, there are enough Christmas shapes available to start a new family tradition.

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox










The Mix + Match Lunchbox

Cherie Schetselaar

Britney Rule

Exisle, 2016

102pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Imagine opening your lunchbox and finding almond joy popcorn; cream cheese pinwheels and a melon and grape fruit salad.  Or quinoa cookie bites, chopped Thai chicken salad and a homemade ranh dip.  Or any one of the 27 000 three-course combinations embracing whole grains, proteins and fruit and veggies that can be made from this glossy mix and match flip book.

With Term 4 here and another 10 weeks of school lunches looming, this is a timely release that lit up Miss 10’s eyes as soon as she saw it because there was nothing too difficult for her to make here.  

Beginning with an explanation of why a healthy lunch is important and then the role that the four food groups play in achieving it,  it continues with a section on the perfect lunchbox so that everything stays fresh and cool and then helps with time and menu management by helping to plan ahead and food preparation.  

Each suggestion comes complete with coloured photo and the recipe at the side using simple, easily available fresh ingredients  so that the lunchbox looks appealing, is healthy and satisfying.  No more dumping soggy sangers in the nearest bin!!

Having looked at it thoroughly, Miss 10 and Miss 5 (who could easily help because of the simplicity of the suggestions) were heard to say that they wished school was back already!

Definitely one to promote to parents not only looking for new ideas but also ways that will encourage the children to join in the preparation and perhaps start them on their cooking journey.


The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth











The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

Hollie Hughes

Leigh Hodgkinson

Bloomsbury, 2016

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



“I’m so famishing, I’m vanishing,” moaned the mahoosive mammoth  when he woke up early in the morning with an empty tummy.  But even though his friend Bug finds and feeds him an enormous amount of food through breakfast, a snack, brunch and lunch, and afternoon tea at the seaside the mahoosive mammoth is still hungry and nothing will satisfy the funny feeling deep inside.

But Bug is clever and realises why his friend is always hungry – and comes up with the perfect solution.  And Mammoth finally fixes that funny feeling inside.

This bright, colourful story-in-rhyme moves along at a fast clip and young readers will be astonished at how much food can be eaten by one creature in one day!  They will delight in the language – watch ‘mahoosive’ become part of their vocabulary – and have fun thinking of new snacks that might fix that funny feeling or imagining the consequences if the mammoth’s tummy does pop!

A fun read that will enchant young readers.


The ABC Book of Food

The ABC Book of Food

The ABC Book of Food









The ABC Book of Food

Helen Martin

Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2016

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


Just as cars and trains and boats and planes need fuel to keep them going, so do our bodies.  But while vehicles need only one sort of fuel, our bodies operate best on a variety of foods from a variety of sources so that all its myriad parts can operate with maximum efficiency.  Many young children, particularly those who live in the cities, go to the supermarket with their parents and carers and see their food being bought but they don’t often realise how it has got to be on the shelves in the first place.

This story-in-rhyme helps to explain the process and the journey from paddock to plate of some of the more common foods the children eat.  Starting with breakfast where eggs and milk are tracked, different staples for each meal are investigated in a series of clear vignettes that helps the very young child understand the connection between what they eat and where it comes from.

Using familiar scenes such as the breakfast table, a picnic and a family dinner there are many foods on display and while only a couple are featured in the explanations, there is plenty of scope to consider where others might come from.  If the bananas start on plants, what other foods in the pictures might come from plants?  Would they have a similar journey?  What about the cupcakes or the sausages?

There is also a page devoted to the common foods that some people cannot eat which makes food intolerances more ‘mainstream’ and perhaps better understood.

This book is an opportunity to start the children thinking about what they eat, what the best choices might be, sorting them into food groups, identifying and graphing not only their favourites but also mapping what they eat each day and maybe changing the proportions if their pie graph is a bit skewed.  It might even be the beginning of the child’s desire to produce their own food either in a home or school garden as well as introducing plant life cycles and the notion of seasonal produce.

This is the latest in this series of excellent titles which helps our very young children begin to understand the world around them as well as helping them understand the differences between fiction and non fiction.  

A peek inside...

A peek inside…