The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends










The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

Eric Carle

Picture Puffin, 2019

12pp., board book., RRP $A16.99


Australia has some unique wildlife in a variety of habitats and Carle takes our very youngest readers on a journey through these with his iconic illustrations to discover some of them.  Using a lift-the-flap format, littlies will delight in discovering who lives where, identifying familiar creatures and meeting new ones. But where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?  

With its rich colours, interactivity and familiar theme, this is the perfect gift for the young reader just learning about the fun and excitement of books. 

Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life










Australian Sea Life

Matt Chun

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2019

36pp, hbk., RRP $A29.99


Even though Australia is surrounded by ocean, not everyone has the chance to visit it regularly and even fewer have had the opportunity to explore it as a scuba diver and really see the diversity of life under the waves.  (Believe me, it is a fascinating world and even more diverse at night.) So in this companion to the 2019 CBCA  shortlisted Australian BirdsMatt Chun has taken his talents beneath the surface to give us a peek at what is in the waters that enclose us.  

From the Great White Shark to the Dugong to the Weedy Sea Dragon, readers can explore and discover pictorial and textual descriptions of familiar and not-so creatures that are part of our natural seascape. The attention to detail is again superb, and while most children won’t recognise as many of the species as they might have in Australian Birds, this is the perfect time, with summer and beach holidays around the corner, to pique their curiosity raise their awareness and inspire thoughts of conservation.  

If Australian Birds inspired your class to be involved in this year’s Aussie Bird Count later this month, then perhaps there could be an in-school project to identify the marine creatures the students discover over summer. 

If we are to protect our planet and its inhabitants, knowing about them first so they are valued is essential and this is the perfect starter.

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Children Who Changed the World

Children Who Changed the World











Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Marcia Williams

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Have you heard of Malala Yousafzai?  What about Baruani Ndume?  Or Ryan Hreljac?

Forty years ago the UN declared that 1979 was to be the International Year of the Child  and as part of that. in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was proclaimed, setting out 54 equally important articles that 196 countries have agreed to follow so that each child, no matter where they live, has the support and protection they deserve.  

Using her iconic graphic format, Marcia Williams has explored the lives of 13 children, all born since the Declaration and all of whom have made a significant difference to the lives of the children in their home countries and beyond.  Each double spread is devoted to the pivotal work of the child under the banner of one of those UN rights.

Deliberately designed to inform children of their rights, Williams speaks directly to the reader in the introduction and encourages them to not only be aware of those rights but to take action when they see injustice or something that needs changing.  With our students being so aware of the global picture these days, and being involved in actions like School Strike 4 Climate this is an important and timely release to help our students know that they can make a difference and will.  Perhaps one of them will become the new Greta Thunberg, who has risen to prominence since the book was prepared but who not only deserves a place in it but also demonstrates that kids can be heard and supported and change can happen. 

This is a book that needs to be promoted to kids everywhere, to give them inspiration and hope that their voices will be heard.

Animology: The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts













Animology : The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2019

72pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Every part of me’s a letter!

Does that help you find me better?

Look very closely- can you see

The hidden letters that find me?

Sometimes letters may repeat

To make more eyes or fur or feet

Look back-to-front,

Look upside down,

Every letter can be found!

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve reviewed for a long time and one of the most fascinating. Paired with an informative verse about its subject, each illustration is created by using the letters of the creature’s name and the reader is challenged to find each one. From the vibrant mandrill on the front cover, the challenge is set to take a journey through the natural world discovering everything from swans to budgerigars, all cleverly constructed from their letters.  

Readers have to examine the details in each illustrations, honing their visual acuity skills amongst others, as Coote has had fun with fonts, their shapes and sizes to tease even the most discerning eye. One for those boys who like to gather round the same book and test themselves.  And having got the concept by looking, students can then be challenged to try for themselves, remembering that they not only have to spell the name correctly and use all the letters, but make the finished design resemble to creature!! Something very different for an art/biology lesson that could be a shared activity as the artists draw and the wordsmiths research to create the verse!

A significant step up from the usual look-and-find books for younger readers.


A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

A Curious Menagerie

A Curious Menagerie










A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

Carin Berger

Greenwillow Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


We’ve all heard of a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, but what is a group of giraffes called?  A murder of crows is a common trivia answer, but what about a mischief of mice?  Exploring collective nouns is always fun and in this book the ringmaster and the monkey investigate 64 of them opening up a menagerie of creatures for little ones to learn and perhaps wonder about and perhaps research their validity.  A parliament of owls?  Really?  That could either be flattering to some parliaments or insulting to some owls!

Berger has used her skills of making cut-paper collages to create fascinating illustrations and tying the collection together with the ringmaster and the monkey makes it a bit more engaging than the usual word book, especially the final pages!  One that will encourage small groups to share and delight in, and perhaps try to make up their own.  Would a group of koalas be called a cuddle?  Or a group of cockatoos a squawk?


Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Story Time Stars

Story Time Stars









Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Stephanie Owen Reeder

National Library of Australia, 2019

148pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Years ago, when Jackie French was asked by one of my students about how she created her characters, she told the class that the most important thing was to create someone that the reader cared enough about to want to know what happens to them. For without that emotional investment in the character, they won’t bother turning the pages till the end of the story.

So what is it that makes a character in a story so memorable that often as adults, we remember our childhood favourites, even to the point that we pass on those stories to our own children? Why they resonate with us is as individual as the characters themselves, but in this fabulous book, Dr Reeder has collected together some of the most well-known characters from Australian children’s literature, characters that have resonated with so many that we instantly know who they are and are transported back to those childhood memories with love and affection and a warm feeling of well-being. 

Whether it’s Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Mulga Bill, Grug, Koala Lou, Leonie, the Paw, or even the more recent Mr Huff, each is gathered here in chronological order to tell their stories, share their debuts, successes and encores so that we can not only get to know our favourites a little better, but also discover new ones waiting to be friends too. And perhaps consider who we might add to the collection.

Coinciding with the launch of the new NLA exhibition, Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature  presented in conjunction with  the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, this is another addition to the preservation of the creation and history of children’s literature in Australia and complements the  books, manuscripts, illustrations and ephemera from the NLA’s extensive collections alongside significant loans of the exhibition, which is free and open until February 9, 2020. A must-see and a must-buy for anyone with a love of Australia’s favourite storytime characters.  Most definitely Australia: Story Country.


Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There's a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!










Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Idan Ben-Barak

Julian Frost

A & U Children’s, 2019

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99


Quog the armless blob and Oort the gas cloud are on their way to Kevin’s party in their spaceship but they have run into some strife which they are having trouble fixing.  Being amorphous, neither of them have the means to open the spaceship door and so the reader is invited to help them.  Quog is fascinated by the reader’s hands which are first used to open the spaceship door, and then examines them more closely as other tasks are complete, discovering bones, muscles and nerves. As she investigates the purpose of each through the simple explanations offered, she grows her own so that she and Oort can get on their way to the party, once again.

This is another ingenious story from the creators of Do not lick this book to help our youngest readers understand how their body works.  Rather than examining the whole skeleton, just focusing on the hand, the body part that is helping repair the spaceship, the reader can interact with the text very easily without being overwhelmed.  By placing their hand on the picture and allowing Oort to look at it through x-ray type eyes, the bones, muscles and nerves are revealed and their function explained making it very interactive and engaging.  There is a more in-depth explanation about how to grow hands at the end of the book, but it’s what Quog does with her new hands that is the most appealing.

The original concept,  bright illustrations,  and cartoon-like format make this a book that will draw young readers back to it again and again as they learn more and want to know even more than that, perhaps taking them to other body books about their body parts and how they work. Non fiction for littlies at its best. (And just for fun, check out the origins of Oort‘s name! What about Quog?)

Frost, the illustrator, says  he uses his hands to “draw and write and make silly sculptures” while Ben-Barak uses his “to write, hug, scratch itchy bits and poke things to see what happens.”  What do you do with yours?


All Aboard! True Train Tales

All Aboard! True Train Tales

All Aboard! True Train Tales








All Aboard! True Train Tales

Pauline Deeves

NLA Publishing, 2019

120pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“I come from a railway family. My dad drives trains, my grandpa was an engine driver and so was his father …” 

Jack is 8 and he lives in the country in an old white house near the railway station, surrounded by wheat paddocks where the river that snakes through the town sometimes floods and cuts the town in half.  He loves nothing better  than visiting his Grandpa who had a full-sized red train carriage devoted to all his train memorabilia which is his passion, and together they are working to save the railway museum particularly on Open Day when visitors come to ride on the steam train and view the exhibits. 

The story of saving the museum is woven amongst Grandpa’s tales of happenings on Australia’s railways in the 19th and 20th centuries, all of them true, and interspersed with pages of information full of statistics, fun facts, quizzes and historic images from the NLA’s collection. Superbly designed, meticulously researched and well written by an experienced teacher and teacher librarian, this is a book for lovers of trains, independent readers who prefer non fiction but made more cohesive with Jack’s story so that even non-train aficionados can appreciate the history of episodes like the 1887 Hawkesbury crash, the Wirth’s Circus train and the plots and plans of bushrangers like the Kelly Gang and Frank Thomas.

Recently I have spent some time driving through central NSW and crossing railway lines that led to nowhere but overgrown grass, past tiny stations now abandoned, signs advertising railway museums and special steam train trips and avoiding the super-sized trucks that have taken over what were the veins that kept the freight in this country moving. It made me wonder about the stories of the past of both the towns and their trains, and so this is the perfect book to hook me into learning more. Perhaps I will join the hundreds of others who book a trip on the next steam train out of here. Others might like to investigate the role of the railway in the development of their town. Don’t forget as well as the resources available via the NLA, there is also a plethora from the National Digital Learning Resources Network.

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters









Sea Monsters

Sharon J. Yaxley

Forty South Publishing, 2019

46pp., hbk., $25.00


A walk along the beach is often characterised by the sound of the waves, the fresh air and the sheer exuberance of being able to move with such freedom as we pass rocks, seaweed and other detritus washed up by the tides. Being king of the castle, drawing pictures in the sand with sticks, feeling the texture of the sand and shells under our feet and the delight of beating the waves as they try to soak our clothes are just a few joys of this most pleasurable experience.

But what if we slowed down and took the time to look at what is there, to examine the shapes and colours and textures of the landscape? Where might our imaginations take us? Into a world of monsters or somewhere different?

Environmental activist David Suzuki says

Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.

Author/photographer of this new book for young readers, Sharon Yaxley has used this quote to describe the concept of this remarkable book for young readers, to encourage them to look more closely at the things in their world and let those things talk to their imaginations.  Tails, tusks, dark eyes, sharp noses and jaws with jagged teeth are all there in the seaweed, driftwood, rocks, sand… and when the tide crashes in and the wind does its work, they change into something different.  Looking closely, thinking about the object’s story and the story it could inspire all help to slow the child down in this breakneck world, to be curious and spark their wonder.

Even if your students live nowhere near a beach, this can still be the inspiration to take them outside and let them immerse themselves in what is there and imagine… Let’s take the opportunity to connect our kids to the real world so they want to protect it too. Extensive teaching notes aligned to many strands of the Australian Curriculum are available. 



Little Kids First Board Book: Space

Little Kids First Board Book: Space

Little Kids First Board Book: Space









Little Kids First Board Book: Space

National Geographic Kids, 2019

24pp., board book,RRP $A14.99


Little people have endless questions about their world, once they begin to explore it, and the world of the night sky is particularly fascinating.  So this latest publication from Nat Geo Kids which explores the basics of the solar system with amazing photographs, super-simple facts, and lively, age-appropriate language is perfect to introduce the very youngest to what is out there and spark both  their curiosity and imagination.

So often the board book format is restricted to learning the alphabet, colours and counting or to simple stories, so to have non fiction available in a way that it will stand up to little hands is a bonus. Let them learn that they can learn from books as well as the screen.