Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Star Wars Galactic Atlas











Star Wars Galactic Atlas

Tim McDonagh

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

80pp., hbk.,  RRP $A39.99


While Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel told the story of the original three Star Wars movie, this magnificent tome is for the aficionado who want to know more and understand more.  In full colour and measuring 37cm x 27cm, huge double-page spreads cover everything from Endor and Naboo to Tatooine and Yavin 4, at the same time spanning the epic stories, the strange creatures and the glorious vistas of the galaxy of long ago and far, far away.

It contains everything a fan wants to know about the worlds and creatures of the Star Wars universe. Facts about planets and characters are woven into complex, brand-new illustrations that will keep them  busy for hours.

Your Star Wars fans will love this.

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors









Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99


In 1911 John Flynn went to work on a mission more than 500 kilometres from Adelaide, the beginning of a journey for which thousands of people have been grateful for over the decades since then.  In what is still a remote area, Flynn was greatly disturbed by the lack of medical facilities beyond the metropolitan areas . Not satisfied with patients being treated by those with a rudimentary knowledge of first aid with support being sent in Morse code over the telegraph system, while doctors could take weeks to reach them using whatever transport was available.  Flynn knew there had to be a better way and so began his quest to find a solution.

Flight seemed the obvious answer but in those days both planes and pilots were hard to come by and it took 10 years of campaigning before his first plane was ready for service.  In 1928, his dream came true – he formed the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service using  a single-engine plane on loan from QANTAS< aptly named Victory.  Immediately there was a difference – 50 missions and 255 patients treated in a year.  

But they were not out of the woods yet – in fact they were a bit lost over desert landscapes navigating by landmarks because there were no radios in the planes. Even though it meant that they could only fly at night in extreme emergencies,  nevertheless the pilots put their craft down in the most amazing places and with Alf Traegar’s invention of the pedal radio in 1929 at last the people of the outback started to get the services they needed.

In 1955 the name was changed to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and one of Australia’s most iconic institutions  has gone from strength to strength now servicing rural and remote areas from 23 bases scattered around the country. 

The story of the RFDS is one that every child should know – from those in the cities where medical services on tap can be taken for granted to those in the Outback where lives depend on it daily.  It is a rich and rewarding story of success and Ivanoff has managed to cram so much information into just 32 pages while still keeping it personal and connected to its child audience.  Wood’s illustrations emphasise the isolation and enormity of the landscape adding weight to the extent of the issue and the importance of its solution.

As always with this series, there is a timeline at the back that encapsulates the milestones.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs











Discovering Dinosaurs

Simon Chapman

Bloomsbury, 2016

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


Can we ever have too many books about dinosaurs to entice our young people, particularly boys, to pick up a book and read?  

Certainly in my school library I put all those with the 567.9 classification on a special shelf so they were easily gettable (and put awayable) because they were in constant demand and it was hard to keep up with the requests.

But this new title by explorer Simon Chapman is not just another book of facts and figures and pictures.  Told in a semi-narrative style, Chapman tells the stories of  various paleontologists who made the various discoveries across the world and fills the pages with incredible illustrations, pop-outs, pull-downs, lift-the flaps and other devices that make this one of the richest, most intriguing books on this subject I’ve seen.  Every page is crammed with new discoveries to be made so the reader feels the anticipation of those early scientists as they pursued their quests.  

From the 3D-like cover through to its glossary on the endpapers it is the most sumptuous, luxurious publication you just want to keep running your hands over it and investigating each page thoroughly to what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Not only would this be a very welcome addition to a library’s collection, if I had a student who was passionate about this subject I’d be giving parents a heads-up that this might be an ideal item for this year’s Santa sack!

Big Picture Book Long Ago

Big Picture Book of Long Ago

Big Picture Book  Long Ago









Big Picture Book  Long Ago

Sam Baer

Wesley Robins

Usborne, 2016

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


Take a city, an English city, and then take a journey back through time and discover how people have lived and worked there over the centuries right back to its Stone Age camp beginnings.  

Interspersed with double-page spreads of how people travelled, what they wore and the structures they built, this is a Richard Scarry-esque picture book loaded with pictures and captions that will fascinate the young reader fascinated with history.  Or it might be the one that sparks an interest as the reader looks for the changes across the centuries and thinks about why they have occurred.

Even though it is very English-oriented, it could also be used as an introduction to compare the histories of Australia and England and examine why much of our life is still tied to that of the “Mother Country”, or comparing the Stone Age camp life with that of our traditional indigenous owners.  

More to this than meets the eye.

In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways

In Focus

In Focus











In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways

Libby Walden

Little Tiger Press, 2016

26pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Twenty years ago one of the most popular series of books in my library featured the cutaway illustrations of Stephen Beisty as the children were fascinated by being able to look beneath the outside of things to see what lay concealed and how these things worked.  In this fascinating book compiled by Libby Walden, ten illustrators have placed ten everyday subjects under the microscope to uncover what lies beneath their surface and produced 101 fascinating pictures that  are familiar to children and which will fascinate them for hours.  

Using the broad headings of Oceans, Home, Earth and Space, Landmarks, Nature, Everyday Objects, Buildings, Fruit and Vegetables, Animals and transport, they can explore the workings of everything from a shark to the Statue of Liberty to the inside of a banana in close-ups, cross-sections and cutaways.  They can even discover how their toilet works!

Even though the book nominally has 26 pages, each opens out to a double spread giving each topic six pages of fascinating information. On the exterior of the gatefold is an illustration of a number of objects and then by opening it, the interior of each object is exposed, a clever design technique that adds to the notion of peeking inside. Because the captions are brief and sometimes technical this is more suited to the independent reader who can use it as a starter to find out more, but nevertheless would still be good in the hands of an adult and child who is curious and just wants a simple explanation.

Another example of why and how we can keep our print collections vibrant and interesting.  A perfect adjunct for those with a makerspace in the library.

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks












Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks

Gina Newton

NLA Publishing, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99


Australia’s island geography means that our environment supports an amazing variety of unique wildlife many of which most Australians have never heard of let alone seen.  

But in this amazing, full-colour book the reader is introduced to a whole world of tree-dwelling kangaroos, a frog that looks like a turtle and birds that like blue as it spans 55 national parks and the habitats they embrace – woodlands and grasslands, forests, rainforests, arid zones, mountains, wetlands and waterways, coasts, oceans and islands. There is also a chapter devoted to the vast array of minibeasts that are found all over the nation.

Beautifully laid out with full-colour photographs, maps and diagrams, each habitat section opens with photographs of the featured national parks and a description of the habitat. Each animal has its own page, which has a stunning colour photograph of the species, a map of its distribution range, its conservation status and scientific information about the species. The information is divided into the following sections: ‘Fast Facts’ gives you all the vital statistics, such as size, lifespan and number of young; ‘Where Does It Live?’ tells you where in Australia you can find the species and provides details about its home; ‘What’s Its Life Like?’ tells you a bit about how the animal moves, behaves, eats and has young; and ‘Interesting Info’ has quirky and fascinating facts.

As well as providing easily accessible information about each creature, each page could serve as a role model for student reports when they undertake the ubiquitous investigation into our wildlife while offering some alternatives to the usual cast of kangaroos, koalas, platypus, echidnas and wombats.  With over 700 national parks covering 28 000 000 hectares of country and accounting for almost 4% of the land mass, it also offers scope for investigating why national parks exist, what they contribute to our ecological well-being and may even become the young person’s travel guide for the future.  

A superb addition to either the school or home library.

Australia: Illustrated

Australia: Illustrated

Australia: Illustrated










Australia: Illustrated

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2016

96pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Perhaps this is the time and place to have a disclaimer that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan.  Not just for her wonderful way with words and her exquisite illustrations but because no matter how often the topic of a text has been presented before, she always finds a way to present it in a unique way that totally engages her audience and makes them want to keep turning the pages. 

A prime example is This is Captain Cook in which the story of the explorer is presented in a way like no other that not only entertains but educates and is likely to have teachers and students begging to do a similar production.  Australian Kids Through the Years looks at Australian history through the perspective of children’s lives of the times and An Aussie Year  is the perfect accompaniment to Harmony Day and all those other times we celebrate the diversity of the children in our care and in our classes.

So it is no wonder I was excited to receive her latest book Australia: Illustrated.

Again, there have been many books that try to explore and explain what it is that makes this country unique; what it is that encapsulates the Australian identity; and what it is that deserves our attention and pride. So why another one?  What is its point of difference that will make it stand out and demand to be on shelves in libraries, classes and homes?

“Big, beautiful, and diverse” are the words McCartney uses to describe Australia, and they are the very words that could describe this book.  It is big and it is fat (criteria important to some of our junior readers); it is beautiful with colour, iconic illustrations and few words; and it’s diverse with its focus on a range of topics that don’t usually feature in these sorts of texts.  Each page is a vibrant explosion of colour and movement that celebrate our places and people in quirky ways like the Sydney Opera House portrayed as being made of chook feathers and little people running around trying to catch the chooks to get their feathers!

Beginning with an overview of the country as a whole, focusing on everything from our native and endangered animals to bush tucker, iconic foods, sports, weather and precious rocks, even our particular brand of English, it then moves on to examine each state and territory and their unique entities and emblems.  And yes, both Tasmania and the ACT feature as prominently as the bigger states. But this is not a whole lot of facts and figures accompanying the sorts of staid photos seen on calendars for tourists… each page is just bursting with cartoon-like illustrations and  few-word captions.  It is peopled with children – many modelled on those whom McCartney knows and who unwrap the miscellany of heritage that makes us so every child will find themselves somewhere -and so it is not too serious her love of words and zany humour is everywhere. Just check out the page featuring the Snowy Mountains in NSW!


Readers will adore looking at places they have been to or things they are familiar with – listen for the chorus of “I’ve been there”” when they see the BIG page – as well finding places and things they want to do or try.  Astute teachers might ask why a particular person or item has been included as well as seeking suggestions for things the students would include if they were to design a page or add to an existing one.  (They would have to research their suggestion so they could defend its inclusion.)

This is a superb book for examining the Australian identity and answering “What makes me Australian?” It works for all ages because of its format, including those who are learning English for the first time.  it would have suited this year’s CBCA Book Week theme Australia: Story Country perfectly as every illustration has a story behind it just waiting for the children to discover it. Younger students can just look at the pictures and use those to work out the words while older students may well be attracted to a particular illustration and want to find out more.  

For those of you in and around Canberra there is a launch of the book at Harry Hartog’s in Woden on  Saturday the 5th of November at 11am but for those who can’t get to that, there is a virtual launch with all sorts of activities from  24th to 31st of October 


Definitely one for the collection and one to promote to your teaching colleagues.  

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World











My Very First Book of Our World

Matthew Oldham

Lee Cosgrove

Usborne, 2016

12pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


One of the wonderful things about working with our youngest readers is watching them emerge like The Very Hungry Caterpillar from their self-centred world focused on their immediate family and surrounds into creatures who not only realise that there is a larger world around them but want to explore it oand take it on head on.  So this large-format board book is the perfect starting place to help Miss 5 and all those like her to start to learn about this planet they live on, how it works, how it is shaped and who they share it with.  

Beginning with a personalised explanation of night and day and how it and the seasons differ in different places, young readers them learn about the features and creatures of deserts, rainforests, polar regions mountains, rivers, coast, oceans and even under their feet. There are pages about wild weather (very appropriate right now) and volcanoes and earthquakes are explained in lanuage and diagrams that they understand.

Apart from answering their questions at a level that is accessible to them,  My Very First Book of Our World also starts to develop their information literacy skills as they start to realise that books contain information as well as stories and books can offer them the explanations they are seeking so it makes sense to them. As they see pictures of new worlds and unfamiliar places and creatures, their world continues to expand as they demand to know more and more.

As well as being a useful addition to the non fiction collection for early readers, with Christmas coming and parents and grandparents looking for suggestions for Christmas stockings, this is one to share with them.  Miss 5 will find it in her stocking!

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Felicity Brooks

Nikki Dyson

Usborne, 2016

480pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


This new release from Usborne, who are masters at putting together quality education resources, comes in perfect time for sharing with parents who are looking for something special for the Christmas stocking for that between-group who are a little old for toys but not quite ready for all the trappings of being a young adult.  Grandparents will LOVE it as a suggestion!

With so many thesauri and dictionaries on the market for this age group, there has to be a point of difference to make a new one stand out and having seen and used so many over my 40+ years of teaching, it’s hard to think what that might be.  However, Usborne have discovered it – scattered throughout the 480 pages amongst the 6000+ words are text boxes with all sorts of information about the words including spelling tips, word families, word origins and so on- each of which helps the child build their vocabulary and their knowledge of how words and English work so they can build on what they know to be even more proficient.  There are explanations about the s/z conflict in British and American English as well as things like the t/-ed endings and who uses which.  (Australian standards use ‘t’ but either is acceptable where there is a choice and the context and meaning is not changed).

There is a comprehensive “how to” introductory section which explains the features and layout of the book including how to use a dictionary generally, the different word classes such as nouns, adjectives and verbs and links to further explanations, activities and games for both the dictionary and the thesaurus which will extend the user’s knowledge and skills even further.In between the dictionary and thesaurus sections are pages about how to make plurals, and prefixes and suffixes, all serving to make this more than just a word finder. The plentiful, colourful illustrations are really useful and would serve someone learning English for the first time very well, particularly older students who prefer something a little more grown-up than basic alphabet books.

If you are looking for a new class set of this sort of reference text for the library, this one really deserves serious consideration – in the meantime, this copy will find its way to Miss Almost-Year-5.  It will be the perfect present for her.


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.