Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, UK, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Triangle lives in a triangular house with a triangular door.   One day he decides to visit his friend Square and play a sneaky trick on him.  He walks past lots of triangles – small, medium and big – and past a lot of others that weren’t triangles any more until he got to a place where there were many squares.  When he finally gets to Square’s house he plays his sneaky trick, hissing like a snake because he knows Square is afraid of snakes.  

But he gives the game away when he is laughing so hard Square discovers him.  After glaring at each other Square chases Triangle all the way home – back past the squares, the shapes with no names and the triangles – and has the last laugh.  Or does he?

Often the simplest ideas and illustrations create the best stories and that is definitely the case with this, the first in a trilogy of stories about sneaky shapes.  Mac Barnett has crafted a charming story that will intrigue and make young readers think, while Klassen’s  iconic muted illustrations allow the storyline and the main characters to shine while still being a critical part of the tale. Being able to  convey everything through just the shape and position of the eyeballs is proof of a master at work and will encourage the reader to look even more closely at the illustrations, building those critical concepts about print that are so vital for early readers.

Perfect as a standalone, readalong story that will become a favourite, it also offers lots of things to talk about such as shape recognition but could also extend the more curious with question like “Why aren’t they triangles any more? What might have happened?” or “What would you call the shapes without names?” And the question posed on the final page will elicit a vigorous discussion as well as predictions about what will happen next. There might also be a philosophical discussion about whether Triangle and Square are friends and whether this is what friends do to each other. Why did Triangle want to trick Square; how sometimes the prankster doesn’t realise the impact the prank is having and  is it possible to still be friends if someone plays a prank on you?

Young children will delight in creating their own versions of Triangle and Square, perhaps as stick puppets, and making up their own adventures to tell.

Looking forward to the next in the series…













Lisa Stickley

Pavilion, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99


Little girls love to do handstands and Edith is no exception.  She is teaching herself and each day she gets a little better increasing her upside-downness by a second each day.  But each day something interrupts her concentration like the worm who popped up by her hand, the bird who used her hand for target practice and the spider that crawled down her shorts when she rested her legs against a tree.  But nevertheless she keeps on practising…

This is an interesting book – it’s tagline is “a kind of counting book” which it is as Edith manages an extra handstand and an extra second each day and the words and numbers are included in the illustrations.  But it is also intriguing because as she encounters each little creature the creature gives its perspective on how Edith has interrupted it, offering an introduction to getting young readers to see things from another point of view.  The worm pops his head above ground and sees “a giant hand next to my preferred popping up place”.  It could spark some discussion and drawing about how little girls and little boys appear to the creatures in their environment. Resilience is also a theme – how we must practise and practise to get better and not be deterred by trivial things like a spider in your knickers.

The appearance of the book is also interesting – harking back to a time when handstand competitions were features of recess and lunch break entertainment for girls of my era, the colours and style give it a definite retro feel.  Even the name ‘Edith’ suggests a bygone time. The illustrations are also what a child the age of the narrator might draw adding to the impression that this is, indeed a young girl telling her story, but the font, presented in the style of a young child might prove tricky for young readers  to start with. 

Even though this appears to be a counting book at first flick-through, there is much more in it that can provide lots of chat between child and adult and even tempt them to try a new skill.  I’m sure Miss 10 and Miss Nearly-6 eyes will boggle at the thought of Grandma being the school handstand champion a lifetime ago!!!

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 Crayons’ Book of Numbers

The Crayons' Book of Numbers

The Crayons’ Book of Numbers










The Crayons’ Book of Numbers

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins 2016

18pp., board book., RRP $A16.99


In 2013 Daywalt and Jeffers introduced us to a most unlikely set of heroes, or at least a set that they probably didn’t realise would become so popular they would become a series.  But that is what has happened to Duncan’s seemingly innocuous packet of crayons.  From the day they refused to be stereotyped any longer in The Day the Crayons Quit to their second adventure when they came home even crankier than ever in The Day the Crayons Came Home their stories and individuality have delighted young readers.  Now they are the stars of a number of board books for the very youngest readers beginning with getting them to count them as they find them.  Typically though, each crayon does not come quietly – there’s a comment from each one of them as they are discovered.

This is a lovely book for a parent-child exploration helping the littlest one learn numbers and colours at the same time and just delight in the joy of these clever, quirky characters.  Why can’t dinosaurs be pink? Why are red and blue so tired and worn out?  What else could green do apart from colour in crocodiles?  Lots to chat about and speculate on.


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.


Look and Learn Fun

Look and Learn Fun

Look and Learn Fun


Look and Learn Fun





Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

These are two of a series of activity and sticker books designed to help young children learn and consolidate the basic understandings of literacy and numeracy.  

While they do focus on those early childhood concepts and offer a range of activities for the child to complete, they do demand a certain level of fine motor skill development so that lines can be traced and small shapes coloured. While many of the activities are prescriptive there is stil the opportunity for some personal input and creativity Even though Miss 5 knows her colours and shapes, she still found them challenging and engaging and perfect for a wet afternoon when she was confined to bed with a nasty lurgy.  

Worth popping in the Santa sack.  

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary











Australian Maths Dictionary

Judith de Klerk

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Maths has always been a critical subject that is embedded in every aspect of life, not just a regular timeslot in the class timetable..  It is receiving an even greater focus as the buzzword of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sweeps across the curriculum.  Mastery of it is built on a spiral where one thing leads to another and another and another and if a basic is missed it can be difficult to fill the gap and the foundation can become shaky.

It is also, arguably, the subject that perplexes parents the most if it is sent home as a homework task because there is a perception that the way things are done now are not methods they are familiar with and the end result is frustration and a feeling of failure for both child and parent. The temptation to convince themselves they are no good at maths is so easy.

How much easier things would be if students had access to a maths dictionary in the same way they have access to a word dictionary; if they had access to a ready reference where they could look up a particular term and discover just what it is.  For example, what’s a scalene triangle and how is it different from an isosceles or equilateral one? If the problem tells the solver to ‘deduct’, what does that mean?  And what on earth is a “mixed number”?

This new publication from Dorling Kindersley is set out like a dictionary with clear definitions and diagrams and should be a must in every home and desk or tote tray.  While it doesn’t share particular processes, it does explain over 400 terms used in primary school mathematics and thus offers invaluable support to both children and parents in their quest to understand and master basic concepts, because not everything is possible on the calculator.  You need to have an idea of what you’re doing so you know the calculator is telling you the truth.  And it’s much quicker to access it than searching the Internet.

Definitely a publication to let teachers, parents and students know about.

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls









Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml

Random House, 2016

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



The little wombat from One Very Tired Wombat is back in a new counting book adventure!  But this time, instead of being kept awake by all the daytime creatures, it is his nighttime friends who are coming out to play.  Hopping mice, quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders and fruit bats are all there in their nocturnal romp from dusk till dawn until the ten little owls hoot a goodnight tune and signal that the sun is rising and it’s bedtime.

So many baby animals exploring their nighttime surrounds under the cover and care of darkness show the very young reader that this is not a time of rest for everyone and that for many creatures once the sun goes down is a time of safety and security.  They can speculate about why some animals feel safer at night and learn new words like ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’, perhaps even seeking to find out more about the creature that most appeals to them.  Anticipating how many creatures might feature on the next page is always fun as counting skills are consolidated and confirmed is a bonus.

Slightly older children might even do a compare and contrast with One Very Tired Wombat or use this as a model for a class book as they explore what other creatures prefer night to day, where they live and what they find on their nocturnal wanderings.

Renée’s exquisite scratchboard illustrations bring each creature to life in great detail and the rhyming texts provides a rhythm that’s going to ensure the little listener will be joining in enthusiastically.

For those of you in Melbourne, the book will be launched at The Little Bookroom at 759 Nicholson Street at 3.00pm, this Saturday August 27.  More details here

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids










Computer Coding Games for Kids

Jon Woodcock

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00


Way back when, in the dawning of the age of home computers which were huge and clumsy in comparison to today’s mini-marvels; which ran on cassette tapes; had green or amber font on a black screen and had no facility to display graphics, if you wanted to play a game you bought a book of instructions and carefully tapped the commands in, one keystroke at a time. It was the realm of the real computer nerd and if you were patient and precise, eventually you got to play the most basic of games.

Fast forward 30+ years and now our kids have computers in their pockets, on their wrists and even in their clothes.  And with the increased focus on science, technology, engineering and maths once again the red-hot buzzword in schools is ‘coding’ as students learn not to program a clumsy turtle that only went backwards, forwards and sideways, but to create and develop their own games to play, some in the hope that theirs will be even bigger than Pokémon Go!  

But no longer do they have to sit in solitary confinement painstakingly tap, tap, tapping. These days, the most commonly used development tool is Scratch™, a free program which “helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century”, and Dorling Kindersley have produced what might be the beginners’ bible in learning how to create a computer game.  Not for them the single volume, monochrome “pamphlet” that crossed your eyes just looking at it – this is a beautifully presented, full colour, step-by-step guide presented in the typical DK layout that is so user-friendly.  Beginning with an introduction that describes what makes a good game, the types of games and how coding works, it moves on to introducing Scratch, accessing it and then straight into making a basic game, eventually moving on to more and more complex tasks and challenges.    

Fifteen years ago I went to computer classes and tried very hard to make a cow jump over the moon using a program Macromedia Flash™.  Night after night it absorbed me until I gave up in defeat and despair – clearly I just didn’t have the brain for it.  So to test out Computer Coding Games for Kids I read through the introductory chapters, accessed Scratch™ and had a go at the first project – Star Hunter, “a fast-paced underwater treasure hunt.”  In just seven quick steps I had a cat that followed my mouse all around the screen and was ready to build the next part of the game. WINNER!  If I can do it, anyone can! So when the curriculum requires students to have a basic knowledge of coding, this has to be the go-to book for teachers and students.  Even the most confirmed luddite will succeed and the students will be having such fun as they read and follow instructions and learn without realising it that ‘coding’ will become a key part of the school day!   

In fact this book was going to be a donation to a school library I know but I think I will keep it because I can see hours of fun ahead for Miss 10 and Miss 5 and me on the wintery days yet to come for us and even those when it’s too hot to go outside.  Who knows, we may be the creators of the next Pokémon Go!

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure








LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – City


LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – Star Wars


Dorling Kindersley, 2016

Kit including hbk book and LEGO pieces, RRP $A39.99

An unusual review today but one deliberately chosen to alert you to a new series of books published by Dorling Kindersley and released here through Penguin.  Given the buzzword of the moment in school libraries is ‘makerspaces’ and there are constant requests to the forums I belong to for ideas about activities that can be offered, especially those which enhance the library experience as well as the design, make, appraise process, this series offers a wide-ranging solution.

While we are all familiar with the regular box of Lego bricks and paper instructions for making what’s inside (instructions which always get damaged or lost), the instructions for these creations come in a hardcover book with the LEGO pieces in a separate container which can be opened out to form the foundation of the adventures. They are enclosed in a sturdy slipcase which makes for easy storage. The box also has a pictorial list of its contents so putting them back should be easy. 

Each comes with a mini-figure and a vehicle related to the theme – City has a fireman and a firetruck while Star Wars has a rebel pilot and Y-Wing Starfighter – and the makers are encouraged to build them from the supplied bricks following the very clear, full-colour numbered instructions.  Then, within the book there are suggestions for building further adventures using their own bricks to create their own story.  Each is divided into chapters with clear pictures of the models that could be built to enhance the telling although instructions are not given because builders might not have the precise bricks used.  For example, in City which features Ed the firefighter there are clear pictures to build the fire station environment as well as suggestions for uniform lockers, a town map and a tool bench.  Each chapter then features a cityscape with a range of related suggestions for getting the imagination and creativity into top gear.

For those new to LEGO there is a pictorial ‘glossary’ identifying terminology with examples so budding builders can hunt through their existing LEGO collection to find the sorts of pieces they will need, as well as five pre-build checks which would make a handy poster to display in the makerspace.

  1. Organise your bricks into colours and types
  2. Be creative and substitute other bricks if you don’t have the exact one in the plan
  3. Research what you want to build by finding pictures on it in books or online
  4. Have fun and if something isn’t what you thought it would be, change it to something else
  5. Make a model stable to house the creations

While each of the books in the series would be perfect for an individual LEGO fan, their appeal for the library collection is that there are plenty of ideas and opportunities for groups of builders to collaborate and negotiate to build an entire scene that could then be photographed and used as an individual story stimulus, allowing each to create and achieve at their own level.

Whether your library or school has an existing LEGO collection or is just starting to acquire one, this series is an excellent starting point to giving its place in the makerspace and the curriculum focus and purpose, not just for the thinking and building processes involved but also those essential people skills of collaborating, negotiating, making suggestions tactfully, offering feedback and being a team member.   

A peek inside...

A peek inside…