Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Old MacDonald's Things That Go

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go









Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Jane Clarke

Miggy Blanco

Nosy Crow, 2016

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



This is a lively, quirky version of the traditional rhyme Old MacDonald had a Farm, except this time instead of exploring farm animals and the noises they make, it focuses on vehicles.  Cars, tractors, combine harvesters … all feature in this hilarious romp which have the farm animals helping out and having the most extraordinary fun. 

As with the original, it’s the rhyme, rhythm and repetition and the opportunity to join in with the noises that will make this a favourite while the big, bright, bold, hilarious illustrations add to the fun.  They are full of vignettes and detail that there are new things to discover and discuss with each reading.  Everything about this book invites the reader to join in and have fun too, from the first page where he’s armed with his banjo and all the creatures are joining in through to the delightful end!

Perfect for pre-schoolers as well as children who are learning English as their second language.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Emilia Mouse

Emilia Mouse

Emilia Mouse









Emilia Mouse

Elizabeth Hardy

Sophie Norsa

Little Steps, 2015

hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.95



Emilia Mouse lives in the attic, as many mice do.  But she is not a shy little mouse hiding in the dark in the dust or taking shelter behind the skirting board.  She is a brave, bold mouse on the lookout for adventure.  So when she climbs on some boxes and finds a whole orchestra of musical instruments, her eyes open in wonder and her heart fills.  Especially as there is a trumpet waiting to be blown. 

So dusting off the cobwebs

She held the trumpet tight

And with the deepest breath

Blew and blew with all her might


Emilia was startled;

The trumpet blast was loud,

Yet she knew the sound that she had made

Would always please a crowd.

But Emilia’s music playing also woke two very cranky cats who were very keen to see who had disturbed their sleep.  And while Emilia may be adventurous she finds there is a fine line between adventure and stupid when she challenges the cats and finds herself about to be a cat  snack. Her solution is ingenious and has the most amusing consequences which not only make the reader smile but also demonstrate the power of music as a universal language. 

This is a delightful story that is totally unique in its concept.  The author, Elizabeth Hardy, is a retired music teacher so the rhythm and rhyme of the language of the book come very naturally and really contribute to both the subject and the understanding of the story.  How else would you tell a music-based story?  The illustrations are by Sophie Norsa who has been nominated for a Crichton Award (for Yellow Dress Day) and, like Emilia, they are bold and brassy and a perfect fit for the text.  Mem Fox always emphasises the need to read aloud to our youngsters so they can learn the rhythms of our language so this is perfect for that but it also would be excellent for sharing with those who are learning English as another language. Cats, mice and musical instruments are common to all, the story will appeal to all ages and there are lots of opportunities for discussion about the wisdom of Emilia’s actions, unlikely consequences, making friends and so forth.

I can see and hear myself sharing this story and that, to me, is the hallmark of a great picture book.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda










And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Eric Bogle

Bruce Whatley

Allen & Unwin 2015

hbk., 32pp., $A24.99



Is there a more haunting tune about World War I than Eric Bogle’s classic And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Beginning with

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover

From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback, well I waltzed my Matilda all over

it tells the story of a young man, almost any young man of 1915 in Australia, who took up arms to fight in the war at a time when Australia was trying to meet its quota for Britain and to not fight for King and Country branded you a coward.

They gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

Throughout the song and the journey, from the ship departing, the slaughter of Gallipoli, the hospital for the wounded and the arrival of “the crippled, the wounded, the maimed…the legless, the armless, the blind, the insane” at Circular Quay there is the poignant refrain of the band playing Waltzing Matilda, the iconic song that many believe should be our national anthem as it connects us in a way like no other. And finally, as an old man, he sits on his porch and watches the parade with his comrades passing before him and he knows that soon, as more old men disappear, “Someday no one will march there at all”. But how proud and amazed would those who came home -and those who didn’t-  be to see that this is not a forgotten war, they are not forgotten heroes and rather than no one marching, each year the crowds at the annual commemorations wherever they are get larger.

However, the most provocative stanza is   

And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore

They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question.”

Written in 1971 at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, many were wondering that aloud and as the centenary of April 25, 1915 looms large, we may well all ask ourselves the same question again.

With superb illustrations by Bruce Whatley that show every emotion of the text –drawn with his left hand because he has discovered he draws “with much more emotion” with that hand –using the restrained palette that one associates with Gallipoli,  this is a book that has to be in your library’s collection as it will be a song known by everyone before this year is done.  However, this is so much more than one of Australia’s leading illustrators putting pictures to an iconic tune. There are teachers’ notes  that provide many ideas for exploring the content, its imagery and its images and publishers Allen & Unwin have released a book trailer that encapsulates it perfectly. The lyrics and music are available in the ABC song books of 1983 (Time to Sing) and 1989 (The Sing Book).

A memorable contribution to the collection of books on this topic. 

Let’s Play

Let's Play

Let’s Play











Let’s Play

Gabriel Alborozo

Allen & Unwin, 2014

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



It’s been a strange week – one of those ones where something you rarely think about keeps popping up in front of you.  No one on this planet could ever describe me as musical – when that talent was given out I was not only not behind the door, but I wasn’t even in the room  – but for the third time in three days there has been something significant about music that has caught my attention.  Firstly, this poster from The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra  about the importance of music in a child’s life came through my FB feed and I had to share it with my teaching colleagues, all of whom are talented enough to act on it.

Why music?

Why music?


Then there was a news report about research about the effect of music on literacy learning and today, the review book on top of my pile is called Let’s Play and is a delightful introduction to the instruments of the orchestra by Gabriel Alborozo.  I’m certain the elves were in my office last night and moved it up because clearly it was meant to be the next one!

In Let’s Play a group of very young children are introduced to the orchestra by a man who looks like the epitome of a stern conductor but who actually is much gentler than that as he isn’t bothered by the children moving and clinging to him as he takes them on a journey through the percussion section, the brass, strings and woodwind, and, finally, the piano and harp. His love and passion is clear and the children are just as fascinated as each gets to try one of the instruments.   However, this is not a dry, factual, encyclopaedic explanation.  As they go to each section, there’s a comment to each musician that adds an element of humour and individuality and the superb illustrations which tell the real story and lift it into the realm of the special and unique. While the conductor and the children are line drawings, the instrument is in colour and each page has the sound it makes interpreted in shape and colour, until the whole becomes joined in a celebration of both colour and sound which is “Magnifico!” 

There are so many reasons this book should be in your collection – it’s the perfect textual extension to Tchaikovsky’s Peter and the Wolf as well as the many online sites which enable students to hear the sounds as they see the instruments.  (My favourite has always been Energy in the Air: Sounds of the Orchestra created by two young boys for the Thinkquest Jr project but there are many others.) It is also the perfect stimulus to having the students interpret the sounds of the instruments and musical pieces into their own art pieces, which might then lead on to their thinking about the sorts of instruments or compositions which might accompany pieces of literature. 

While it’s clear the target audience for the text is early childhood, in the hands of an imaginative teacher it could be used throughout the school.  A treasure indeed.