The Dam

The Dam

The Dam









The Dam

David Almond

Levi Pinfold

Walker Studio, 2018

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


It looks like death will come to this valley as the dam is almost completed, and when it is and the waters rise, so much will be washed away, drowned and never seen again.  In tribute to all that have gone and for all that are still to come, the musician sings and his daughter plays her violin as they wander through the empty houses that were once homes. But even though the physical things may be gone or going, the music plays on, locked in the memories as new opportunities await.

Forty years ago when a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland,  UK, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place.  But while much of the natural landscape was lost, a new one was created, one which brought new activities and adventures and allowed for new memories to be created.

While this is the story of a dam in the UK, it could be the story of places in Australia like Adaminaby, moved in the 50s to allow for the creation of Lake Eucumbene, nine times larger than Sydney Harbour and part of the might Snowy Hydro scheme that changed Australia forever.  Yes the valley was drowned, and as droughts wrack this country, sometimes, as now, remnants of what was lost rise from the deep, but in its place is a haven for fishers, boaters and artists, and the influx of European refugees who came to help build it changed the shape of Australia forever.

It could be the story of parts of the South Island of New Zealand as dams like Benmore and Aviemore reshaped that landscape as the need for electricity grew; parts of Tasmania where building dams on Lake Pedder in the 60s and the proposed damming the Gordon below the Franklin River in the 70s shone the brightest spotlight on the environment and its conservation that this country had seen.

It could even be the story of those living near Badgery’s Creek where Sydney’s new airport is at last being constructed after 50 years of talk.  It could be the story of 1000 places where human needs have outweighed those of Mother Nature and “progress” moves inexorably onwards and outwards.  

But this is not a morbid book, despite its dramatic, monochromatic sombre palette, vignettes of things lost like fleeting memories and the haunting text which is like music itself.  While it is a memorial to those who have gone before it is also a promise that there will be new life, new different memories  waiting to be made and celebrated just as the change in colours and mood of the illustrations indicate. 

Change throughout our lives in inevitable – some visible and dramatic, others not-so and more subtle – but each alters the path that we have planned or dreamed of.  While this book might be overtly about a true story of the Northumberland wilds, it is a conversation starter for all those who are facing life-changing circumstances, physical or emotional.  The musician and his daughter chose to remember through a musical tribute but were also ready to embrace the new landscape, illustrating that it is how we deal with and embrace that over which we have no control that shapes us.  “That which doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger” has never been more apt. 

Play This Book

Play This Book

Play This Book










Play This Book

Jessica Young

Daniel Wiseman

Bloomsbury, 2018

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


Seven instruments sit alone on a stage –  guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trombone, drum, maracas and cymbals – waiting to be played so there can be a show.  But without the reader lending a hand, there can be no band.  And so how to play each instrument and the sound it makes becomes the focus of this interactive book featuring lots of different children introducing each instrument. By the end of the story, all the instruments have been tested and are brought together in a grand cacophony of sound appreciated by the audience.

This is a wonderful opportunity to acquaint young readers with some common musical instruments and the invitation for them to “play” them will be irresistible.  Interactive in a similar fashion to the Hervé Tullet books like Press Here, this one will engage very young readers as they return to it again and again. 

The importance of music in a child’s life cannot be underestimated and is encapsulated in this infographic from The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra  and this research from the University of Canberra so Play this Book would be an important addition to your early music teaching resources. A natural follow-on would be Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf supported by Energy in the Air: Sounds of the Orchestra  To round out the experience, Birdsong by Ellie Sandall gives the children the opportunity to make their own music by using their voices and their bodies!



As is proclaimed in another classic, “Let the wild rumpus start!”



Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)







Lottie Perkins (series)

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2018

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Movie Star




Pop Singer


Fashion Designer



Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each book – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of this new series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

This is a new series for young girls who are becoming independent readers, with its large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations supporting their efforts.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. Something new for this age group who are transitioning between basal readers and novels with the first two books available now and the next two to come in November 2018.


The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra











The Walkabout Orchestra

Chloe Perernau

Quarto, UK, 2018

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


The orchestra have an important concert to play… but all the musicians have gone walkabout! But each has sent a postcard to  the Maestro saying where they are. So the challenge for the reader is to help him and his faithful assistant find them using the clues in those postcards.

From Reykjavik to Rio young readers will enjoy this search-and-find tour of the world that introduces them to the instruments of the orchestra as they test their powers of observation using the pictures of each in the introductory pages as a starting point.

With busy pages that test the eye (although not quite as busy as Where’s Wally?) this book encourages readers to examine the details in things rather than just glancing quickly at them and moving on.  To add to the mix there is a little yellow bird on each double-spread with his own quest that adds a further challenge.  All eventually come together in a concert hall with some interesting audience members, and for those who just can’t find them, an answer key is provided.

While this ostensibly introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, it works better as a search-and-find book which is much more fun and informative.  

A great addition for those who have pored over Where’s Wally and who are looking for a new challenge in that collaborative reading activity that is so important to emerging readers, particularly boys.





Pete the Cat – Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete








Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

James Dean

HarperCollins, 2017

18pp., board book., RRP $A12.99


From posts sent to a US teacher librarian network, Pete the Cat is one of the most popular characters for preschoolers and now our youngsters can meet him and his friends in this new tabbed board book.  With each character having its own tab, little fingers can easily turn to the page that they are seeking – a very early manifestation of the role of an index in the information literacy process!

With a strong emphasis on songs and music and a myriad of online resources to enrich and enhance the child’s experience, this little cat is sure to become a favourite here too. 

Disney Pixar Coco: The Essential Guide

Coco: The Essential Guide

Coco: The Essential Guide










Coco: The Essential Guide

Glenn Dakin

DK, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Hundreds of young people are going to Coco the latest holiday release from Disney Pixar, the story of a Miguel a young Mexican boy who loves music even though it is banned in his family.  On the eve of Dia de los Muertos, the night ancestors return to the Land of the Living, a magical incident takes Miguel to the Land of the Dead where he discovers a family secret that explains the ban.

While Miguel doesn’t want to fight his family, music is his passion and he needs to find a way to be able to express it in his home. 

This new release from DK enables those young people to explore and understand the movie more thoroughly as it introduces the settings and the characters as it moves through the significant parts of the plot.  It even has a double-page spread which sets up Miguel’s’ dilemma – should he follow tradition or should he follow his heart?

One of the surefire ways to get young children to transition between screen and print is to offer them resources that feature their favourite screen characters so there is a feeling of familiarity and connection already, and when those resources enrich and enhance the screen experience as brilliantly as DK do, then they have to be valuable.  From the popular sugar skulls which decorate the endpapers through to the vivid, full-colour illustrations, many using graphics from the movie itself, through to the enticing layout, small snippets of information in text accessible to the target audience and a voice that talks directly to the reader, this is a book that will extend the movie experience long after its 100 minutes on the screen.

Common sense media offer a review of this movie (and many others) so parents can determine if it is suitable for their child.

Lucky Button

Lucky Button

Lucky Button












Lucky Button

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Foreman

Walker, 2017

176pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


May 8th, the one day of the year that Jonah dreads because it is the anniversary of the accident that left his mother in a wheelchair two years previously and left him as her carer.

He regards it as ‘the day the music died’ because despite her love of music and American Pie being her favourite tune, his mother has not played or sung since the accident.  Jonah himself loves to sing and has been given an important role in the upcoming school play because of his voice. However, because of having to care for his mother – a fact he keeps secret although his teachers are aware of it and are compassionate – he finds it hard to fit in at school, has no friends except for the thread of one with Valeria, a newly-arrived Russian girl, and is teased and bullied because of his name.

During play practice one of the other boys deliberately injures him, and after being attended to by the school nurse, Jonah flees to the school chapel, his place of refuge where he can cry, and yell out his anger and sing his heart out till he gets back to a place of balance.  There on the floor he finds a brass button and as he picks it up, the church’s pipe organ begins to play and a remarkable story that impacts him profoundly unfolds…

As with stories like The Fox and the Ghost King, Morpurgo weaves the facts of history with the fiction of his imagination into an engaging, memorable story and Lucky Button is no exception.  Focusing on the story of Nathaniel Hogarth, an orphan of the Foundling Hospital, created by Thomas Coram in 1739 with help from William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel, music becomes the centre of the story as the young boy is befriended by the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister during their time in England. Sensitively illustrated by Michael Foreman, this is a story for newly independent readers who like historical fiction and something a little bit different.

If You’re Happy And You Know It

If You're Happy And You Know It

If You’re Happy And You Know It









If You’re Happy And You Know It

Barbara Szepesi Szucz

Zonderkidz, 2017

20pp., board book., RRP $A15.99


There are few little ones who don’t learn this catchy tune very early and love to move to it as they follow the actions. So this new board book version, sturdy enough to survive the repeated readings it will get, is perfect for involving them in the reading process and helping them understand that they can be readers too. Asking about what makes them happy them for other actions that they can do to demonstrate their feelings is always a winning activity.

All sorts of creatures having fun together in the park  portrayed in a childlike way with happy expressions and bright colours will attract their attention and before long, instead of being a first-read at bedtime it will be an all-day favourite.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake











Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ready, Steady, Hatch









Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ben Long

David Cornish

Ford Street, 2017

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


Way down yonder in the pumpkin patch, ten little eggs were beginning to hatch.  As they did, they danced and twirled – it was time to go and see the world.  But the last little chick gets distracted by a large cherry, unseen by the others who marched on to meet their mother.  But she was very concerned when she counted them because that morning there were ten and now there were only nine! So with Mother Hen in front they set out on a hunt to find the missing chick.  But no matter how or where they searched, they had no luck until…

This is a rollicking romp in rhyme which will appeal to young readers as they enjoy the language, the search and the charming illustrations which add so much action and sound you are drawn into the story. The rhythm of the rhyme is reinforced as the chicks march to the musical notes and then drum on logs and stomp their feet trying to bring the little one out of hiding.  

There is something about the theme of Chooks in Books that has always appealed, perhaps because it lends itself to lots of research such as investigating whether chickens are the only creatures that start life as eggs as well as lots of artwork for there are so many ways to create chickens to build a class mural to retell the story, surround with chook facts, and build a wall of Chooks in Books stories. Imagine how much easier the concept of 10 and ordinal numbers will become as the children identify the subtle differences between the line of chooks and then line themselves up like the chickens and march or run or creep around to the beat of a drum.   

Ben Long and David Cornish have created a story that will capture the attention of little ones and reaffirm their understanding that there is much fun to be had between the pages of the book.