What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What's at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?











What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

Tania Cox

Jedda Robaard

Lothian Childrens. 2018 

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



When a young child discovers a piece of rope lying on the ground, she pulls it with all her might but cannot release it.  Even when the monkey offers its help and they pull together, it does not reveal its end. Kangaroo and Gorilla come to help without success and it is only when Hippo adds his enormous weight that the secret is revealed as the rope finally gives and they all end up in a tangle on top of each other.  But is what they find what they are expecting? Or want?

Delicately illustrated with gentle watercolours. this is a charming book for early childhood about curiosity and co-operation which opens up the world of stories to young readers. The predominant use of questions means they will have fun predicting what could be at the end of the rope, something so enormous it defies such huge effort, as well as suggesting who will be the next to say, “Would you like some help to see?” as each creature is larger than the one before. The concept of enlisting others to work together to help solve a problem is strong and no doubt the children will share instances of when they have worked with others to reach a solution beyond them as individuals, as well as the feelings of frustration and crankiness when they can’t sort it for themselves.  An opportunity to talk about resilience and perseverance, perhaps.

The overhead perspective of what the rope might be attached to will encourage them to look closely at the picture, reinforcing not only the relationship between text and pictures in quality picture books, but also the need to look for cues and clues in the details.  More experienced readers might even investigate the use of perspective in pictures so that a story’s message is enriched and enhanced. 

And with the ending left hanging, so to speak, they might like to imagine what happens next.  Engaging with texts such as this which demand the child’s involvement and encourage them to predict based on both the context and the illustrations is such a vital foundation of early reading behaviour, teaching the child they can be an active participant in the story rather than just a passive viewer and thus enhancing their enjoyment.

Seemingly simple on the surface this is rich in rewards and possibilities with comprehensive teachers’ notes available.

Goat’s Coat

Goat's Coat

Goat’s Coat











Goat’s Coat

Tom Percival

Christine Pym

Bloomsbury, 2018

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


Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat,

Who was terribly fond of his lovely new coat

The pictures on the wall and the clothes on their stands in Alfonzo’s hallway show a goat who has a keen eye for fashion and one for whom sartorial splendour is important.  So to have a new coat with “bright shiny buttons all made out of glass and a collar the colour of freshly cut grass” -such a stunning contrast to the thick yellow weave of the coat itself – is something that is very important to him. As he walked through the streets showing it off, he felt very proud as people admired him.

But as he walks he hears cries of despair from creatures in distress who really need his coat more than he does.  Will he be able to part with it?  Of course he does – he may be a fashionista but he is also generous and gradually, bit by bit, his coat goes to helping others until not even the collar is left.  So when he gets caught in a blizzard on his way home and he curls up in a cold ball beneath a boulder to keep warm, all looks very grim for him until…

Tom Percival’s clever rhyming text works perfectly with Christine Pym’s illustrations as young readers need to refer to the pictures to see just why Goat’s coat gradually looks tattier and smaller until there is nothing left.  There are lots of opportunities for predicting how he might solve each creature’s problems and even what those problems might have been so it’s great for helping early readers learn to engage fully with both text and pictures to immerse themselves in the context of the story as much as its content.  There is also a great opportunity for parent and child or teacher and class to discuss what Goat did and think about his actions after reading to deepen awareness of not only the story but how people help each other.

Deceptively simple, richly rewarding.


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.  

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish








My Best Friend is a Goldfish

Mark Lee

Chris Jevons

Carolrhoda Books, 2018 

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“If you ask me, a best friend is the best thing in the world .  Best friends enjoy the same things. They play together all the time. and they always get along with each other.”

So it was never going to end well when one wanted to be the captain of the spaceship and the other, the captain of the pirate ship.  Harsh words are said, a friendship is split and a new best friend has to be found.  But dogs, cats, hamsters and even goldfish have their drawbacks as best friends and so…

This seamless combination of text and illustrations challenges the concept that many little people have that best friends are like peas in a pod, liking and doing the same things at the same time and never being different.  Is it possible to have different ideas and do different things and still be best friends? If someone disagrees with us, does that mean the friendship is doomed or does it offer an opportunity to explore and respect the differences, perhaps even learn something new?  Can we have more than one friend at a time? How is a best friend different from a regular friend? While in this book the friends look similar, is this a pre-requisite to being friends?  How do shared values and beliefs affect friendships? Is it OK to be angry with or disappointed in or surprised by your best friend?

“What is a friend?” is a perennial topic in early childhood education and this book can take the conversation a step further by having the children consider those sorts of questions. Having friends is about being a friend and there are many facets to that.


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.

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf









The Perfect Leaf

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2018 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


In the centre of the local town there are huge trees, planted generations ago and now the source of the most stunning leaf show in autumn that children and adults alike love to swoosh through, making them scatter, building piles to fall into and have some great free fun on Mother Nature.  

And so it is with Elly and Mai on this “cold-sun sort of day, this wind-in-the-branches day.  Both are in the park and they meet as they kick their way through the rustling, crunching piles, each searching for that perfect leaf and eventually finding something even more special.  Is there a perfect leaf to be found?  Is it yellow as butter or red as a summer apple? Delicate as gold or crimson velvet? Like a warm flame on a winter’s day of rain or like the sun on your face on a day so cold that your breath steams like a dragon’s? Does it matter if there is a tear, a mark or a hole or do they all have a special magic?

The language, the pictures, the colours of this story make the fun of playing in autumn leaves that we all remember burst from the page in a joyous celebration of childhood delight.  Young readers will readily relate to Elly and Mai and their special quest while adult readers will have a smile of reminiscence. Apart from the riot of colour, Andrew has also hidden lots of little woodland dwellers in the shapes and shadows pictures – you can find the list in the teachers’ notes  – so the reader is encouraged to not only look at the details in the picture but also to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them so that something like a pile of autumn leaves becomes a full sensory experience.  Perhaps they, too, will find the magic as Elly and Mai did. 

Each time I receive a book with Andrew Plant’s name on it (The Poppy, Spark and Glitch) I look forward  to something special – and this is no different. A wonderful kickstart to asking “Why do the leaves change colour?” and all the STEM activities associated with that.

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different

Along Came a Different








Along Came a Different

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2018

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


The Reds loved being red- to them being red was the most important thing and it was The. Best. Thing. Ever.  But when, unexpectedly, their space was intruded upon by Yellow, things changed.  The Yellows (who thought being yellow was The. Best. Thing. Ever) didn’t like the reds  and the conflict began.  And when along came a Blue (who also believed that being blue was The. Best. Thing. Ever.) things deteriorated even further.  There seemed to be no common ground at all – none of them liked each other and demarcation lines were drawn as the insults and grievances grew.  Eventually a set of rules was constructed and things settled down, but then unexpectedly…

Is there any way at all that each group can learn to live with and get along with each other?

Using colour, shape and whimsical illustration, McLaughlin explores the concept of judging others based on their appearance and how flimsy the arguments for discrimination really are.  While each colour has its unique features, there is common ground and much to be said for the symbiosis that occurs when there is co-operation, collaboration and even harmony.

Discrimination based on perceived differences is an adult concept that most young children do not even notice unless an adult points it out.  This book is the perfect conversation starter so that when they do encounter prejudice they have this experience to draw on so they can see the stupidity of it and reject it.  Life should be about friendship, inclusivity and acceptance and McLaughlin demonstrates this perfectly.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective (series)











Dotty Detective (series)

Clara Vulliamy

Harper Collins, 2017+

176pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Super Secret Agent


The Paw Print Puzzle


The Midnight Mystery


The Lost Puppy


The Birthday Surprise


The Holiday Mystery 


Meet Dorothy Constance Mae Louise, or Dot as she prefers to be called! She and her best pal Beans and TOP DOG McClusky love to solve mysteries and in this new series written especially for the young almost-independent reader, there are plenty of mysteries to be solved!

Inspired by their favourite television character Fred Fantastic, Ace Detective, Dotty and her best friend Beans have formed the Join The Dots Detective Agency.  They have special badges that they wear underneath their coat collars so they don’t blow their cover and are ably assisted by Dotty’s dog McClusky to solve mysteries that seem to occur.

Guided by Fred Fantastic’s tenets of

  • Stay Frosty. Always be on the lookout
  • Follow That Hunch. If you’ve got a funny feeling you may be onto something important
  • Use Your Noodle. Think
  •  A Light Bulb Moment. A sudden genius idea
  • Get Proof.  You must have the evidence before you can solve your case
  • Jeepers Creepers Use your Peepers

In Super Secret Agent  mean girl Laura seems set on sabotaging the school talent show, Dot is determined to find out how, and save the day…

In The Paw Print Mystery  Dot starts hearing strange noises at night she’s convinced there must be something SPOOKY afoot. But before they can prove there’s a ghost on the loose, Dot and Beans have to follow Ace Detective Fred Fantastic’s golden rule: GET PROOF. Easier said than done when the suspect appears to be invisible!

In The Midnight Mystery Dot and Beans can’t wait for their school trip to Adventure Camp where they will do lots of exciting activities like zip-wiring, grass tobogganing and roasting marshmallows round a campfire! But once they arrive, strange things start happening. Could mean girl Laura could be up to her old tricks in a bid to win the Adventure Camp Prize…? It’s up to the Join the Dots Detectives to find out!  Meanwhile, TOP DOG McClusky is entered into a local dog show! Will he keep up his training while Dot’s away and win the prize for handsomest pooch?

Last week of term in The Lost Puppy and the children are looking forward to the School summer fair. Dotty and best pal Beans will be looking after pet’s corner, starring McClusky and his two canine pals: Geoffrey and the little sausage dog puppy, Chipolata. But just days before the fair disaster strikes – Chipolata has gone missing.

The Birthday Surprise has Dot’s trusty sidekick, Beans and TOP DOG, McClusky are keeping secrets from Dotty while The Holiday Mystery (due July 2018) Dotty and Beans are SUPER excited about their summer holiday together. It’s going to be SO much fun. Beaches, BBQs and best of all NO SCHOOL! But there’s no rest for the Join the Dots Detectives who soon have a campsite case to solve…

This is a new series that is perfect for the newly independent reader with its layout, illustrations, larger font, shorter chapters and humour.  The pace is rapid and the use of a variety of fonts highlights key ideas and actions without the need for a host of words.  Girls will relate to her feisty nature but boys will also find the situations familiar and appealing. 

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery









The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

Deborah Abela

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


In Yungabilla, Australia, Toronto, Canada and Wormwood, England three young people are receiving invitations to an event that could change their lives forever.  Having proved their ability as champion spellers, each has been invited to compete in the Most Marvellous International Spelling Bee in London. But, like all children, each is unique and faces their own difficulties in getting to London.

India Wimple who won Australia’s  The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee is so shy that she cannot compete without her family by her side but the organisers will only pay for the contestant and one chaperone; Canada’s champion Holly Trifle’s family is reminiscent of the Wormwoods in Dahl’s Matilda and see her competing only as a way to promote their weight-loss business; while bullied, lonely Peter Ericksson hopes that maybe his absent dad will see his face on television, recognise him  and come home because it’s been 2922 days since he walked out and left a dad-sized hole in Peter’s life.

With incredible insight into the lives of children, Deborah Abela has crafted an engaging, unputadownable story that weaves the  lives of India, Holly and Peter together as well as the familiar faces of Rajish and Summer as they compete while trying to get to the bottom of some mysterious mishaps.  

Independent readers will relate to all three characters – if they are not mirrors then they will know someone like them – and will become engrossed as they follow their struggles to overcome their personal obstacles as much as their competitive ones.  Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the characters is the most important way to ensure the page is turned to see what happens to them and Abela has the ability to do this in spades.  Miss 11 is going to LOVE this sequel.