Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends









Old Friends, New Friends

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2018

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


It’s a new school year and there is a whole class full of old best friends to greet and play with.  But excitement and fizzy tummies disappear when she realises that her new class is full of children whom she doesn’t know.  There is not one familiar face amongst them.  The happy tummy bubbles pop, turning to cartwheels instead; her smile dims and her hands are soggy.

But then she remembers some advice from her mum about being brave, and her grandfather about finding a smile somewhere, and tells herself that her very best BFF will always be herself and suddenly the light begins to shine and a whole world of possibilities opens up.

As the new school year gets underway, many children will be finding themselves in a classroom where they know no one whether that’s because of the way things have been sorted or moving to a new school and it can be a daunting and overwhelming proposition. So this is the perfect book to share to help children like that feel they can make the first step towards making friendships and that a class of 30 kids they don’t know is just 30 opportunities to open up new possibilities.  This is the advice I’ve given to Miss Moving-On-To-High-School because the strategies are just as relevant there.

When someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for a focus on friends and friendships and so the team who gave us When I Grow Up and First Day have done it again, with their finger on the pulse of what it is like to be a littlie.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown










Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Jeff Kinney

Puffin Books, 2018 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Lots of kids live on Greg Hoffley’s street, but because it is partly on the flat and partly on the hill, loyalties are fiercely divided and any peace is an uneasy truce. Those on the flat think they own the street, refusing to let those from higher up play there, but then the tables are turned when it snows and those from down below want to come uphill to enjoy sledding.  “if you live on Surrey Street, you’re either a HILL kid or a NON-hill kid and there’s no switching sides.”

After a miserable week of bitterly cold days which have been a trial for Greg as he had to face walking to school while other friends’ parents drive past; indoor recesses where people sneeze their germs over him; worrying about frostbite because he is so skinny; navigating perilous footpaths and a host of other dangers that made his life more than difficult, his life is made more miserable because he’s in trouble for not digging the driveway clear, even though he did have it done but because he tried to renege on the deal he had made with some neighbourhood kids, they piled all the snow back again! So when the weekend comes and he’s looking forward to a lie-in and playing a few video games, he’s dismayed to discover that his mother decides he needs to spend the day outside being active, and even locks the door so he can’t come back inside.

And that’s when the conflict starts… but the end result is a great lesson in dealing with differences, problem solving,  strategising, co-operating, knowing when to compromise, all life skills that are so important.

Greg Hoffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 10 years ago  and this 13th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those books that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong.




Maddie’s First Day

Maddie’s First Day

Maddie’s First Day










Maddie’s First Day

Penny Matthews

Liz Anelli

Walker, 2018

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


Today is the day that Maddie is going to start big school.  She has her uniform ready, including the big red hat she likes best; her backpack has her pencil case, painting smock, lunch box with lots of yummy food and water bottle – and just in case, she has hidden Blanky at the bottom.  Before she catches the train to work, Mum plaits her hair and then it’s off with Dad to join the rest of the new children.  She feels so grown up that she doesn’t even hold his hand, but once she gets to school and she can’t see her friends Maya or Charlie amongst all the children, she starts to worry and he tummy starts to feel wobbly. 

To help her feel better, she takes Blanky out of her backpack just as Maya appears. Maddie’s tummy feels wobblier than ever and it gets worse as the morning goes on, especially when Maya tells Charlie and their new friends Hossein and Henry about Blanky.  But then Charlie shares a secret with her…

As the new school year looms there will be many preschoolers like Maddie who are looking forward to being grown up but whose tummies are also a bit wobbly.  This is a perfect book to share with them as it works through the little things in Maddie’s day that will be familiar to them, as well as those big feelings of being overwhelmed, nervous and a little bit lost. Anelli has used real schools as the basis for her real-life illustrations so that the youngest readers will recognise the surroundings – the whole story is such a familiar one that the fact that Maddie’s dad is the primary carer and the family is not the typical white middle-class family usually portrayed in such books goes almost without notice.  

While this is just one of many stories about a child’s first day at school, the more of them that children hear before the big day, the more relaxed they will be about it.  They will understand that all their friends are feeling just the same as they are and there is a lot of comfort to be gained from that. And if taking Blanky or a favourite toy to school makes it easier, then so be it.  Let them do it.

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry










Invisible Jerry

Adam Wallace

Giuseppe Poli

EK Books, 2018

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


People don’t notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don’t say sorry. If he makes a joke, no one laughs. He never gets picked last for sports teams — but that’s because he never gets picked at all. It’s like he’s invisible. Even though, like most kids, he doesn’t want to be so different that he stands out, he hates being invisible.  He really would like to be part of the crowd, laughing, smiling and having fun but that’s hard if you’re quiet and  shy.

But then along comes Molly… and not only does she change Jerry’s life, she enables him to change the lives of others.

There is a fine line between being the centre of attention and perhaps putting a target on your back for bullies and being so introverted that you’re not even noticed. Most kids seem to work within a happy medium between the two but there are always the extremes – like the Bell curve of distribution.  Sharing this book with young readers can help make those in the middle more aware of those like Jerry who don’t have the confidence to step forward, or who are ignored when they try, while at the same time, give the introverts the opportunity to reach out to someone who is just like them and who is probably feeling as unhappy as they are. Whilst we don’t all have or want to be in the limelight, sometimes it’s necessary to cast a light into the shadows.

From the front cover of this book where the line between Jerry and his peers is drawn with the title dividing him from them, the placement of Jerry in the illustrations underscores his isolation and the gentle palette reinforces the light touch that Spark author, Adam Wallace has used to portray a common situation that can be dark and overwhelming.

Another wonderful story for your mindfulness collection. 

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Finding Your Path: A happy start to school











Finding Your Path: A happy start to school

Amba Brown

Finding Your Path Books, 2018

30pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


A new school years is just over the horizon and next year’s Kindergarten students are starting their transition visits to “big school”. So this book by Positive Psychology author Amba Brown is ideal for preparing them for what to expect when they begin this next phase of their young lives, particularly as anxiety about making this move is common and natural. 

Written in rhyme with bright bold pictures, it will capture their attention and help allay any fears they might have. Explaining some of the things they will learn and encouraging them to try hard, use their manners and smile will reassure the most concerned, making this transition full of the fun, excitement and anticipation that it should have. 


Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear










Me and My Fear

Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


In the beginning her constant companion Fear is small, just big enough to keep her from doing things that would be harmful or dangerous.  But when she moves to a new country where she doesn’t know the language, the neighbourhood, the school or those she meets there, Fear grows and grows until it all but cripples her.  She feels more and more lonely and isolated each day, her self-confidence disappears and she hides herself away, full of self-doubt and beginning to loathe this new place as she begins to believe that she is too different to be understood, accepted and liked .  But a little boy is watching… can he lead her back by helping to shrink Fear?  And what does she discover about all the children in her class, indeed, everywhere?

This could be the story of any one of the children in our care, even those who have not had to emigrate to a new country and a whole new way of life.  While this companion to The Journey shows that the plight of refugees is not necessarily resolved as soon as they reach a new country, anxiety about the unknown, even the known, plagues many of our students, some to the point that they cannot get themselves to school, and so this book which demonstrates the power of how reaching out, being friendly, having empathy and making connections (even if that is your own biggest fear) can lead a troubled child back to a more normal world, where Fear is natural but it is a normal size.

The soft, retro colour palette reinforces the gentle tone of the book, and even though Fear grows and grows, it is not a black, dark, formidable, force but more a white, soft, marshmallow-like character that is not physically threatening . It maintains its shape even as it grows suggesting that its core remains the same, rather than becoming an overwhelming fear of everything.

Recommended in many lists as one that can help children not only begin to understand and overcome their own fears, but also one which can help others make the first step of reaching out and embracing those who seem isolated, this story is one that has many roles to play within the curriculum.

Little Owl’s First Day

Little Owl’s First Day

Little Owl’s First Day








Little Owl’s First Day

Debi Gliori

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


It’s Little Owl’s first day at preschool and he really doesn’t want to go.  He is not excited and really dawdles through his morning routine, but with some bribery and persuasion he eventually goes.  But he makes it very plain that he would rather stay home with Mummy and Little Owl.  No matter what Miss Oopik offers him, he is not enthusiastic.  While he participates his mind wanders so as he builds a rocket from scraps he imagines Mummy and Little Owl are going to the moon in their rocket while he is left behind; when she suggests playing with the musical instrument he imagines them spending their time playing in a rock band; and the water play suggests they are off on a pirate ship!

Will Little Owl actually settle into preschool, make friends and begin to enjoy himself?

As our youngest children start their transition days to preschool, many will be like Little Owl and be worried about leaving their mums and siblings.  So this is the ideal time to share this story to acknowledge their concerns and reassure them that most little ones are afraid of the things they don’t know – they are not alone in their concerns. Meeting other children as well as book characters who feel as they do can offer support and give that boost of courage that is needed.

Debi Gliori always hits the right notes with her stories for little ones and Alison Brown’s soft, gentle illustrations are the perfect accompaniment.

The Champion Charlies (series)

Champion Charlies

Champion Charlies






The Champion Charlies

Adrian Beck

Random House, 2018 

152pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


The Mix-Up


Boot It


The Knockout Cup


The Grand Finale



Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team and Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.  But this season they’re both playing in the same mixed team.

Is there room for two champion Charlies on the one side? Can they get past their rivalry to help form the greatest football team Jindaberg Primary has ever seen?

Developed in partnership with Football Federation Australia and released in time for the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans will enjoy this new series, particularly those who are newly independent readers as there is a lot of textual and graphic support to sustain their efforts. With characters the reader can relate to, familiar obstacles to overcome and an in-built rivalry as well as the external one of playing another team, each episode builds up into a page-turning climax that makes you want to find out what happened.

There are four in the series – The Mix Up, Boot It, The Knockout Cup and The Grand Finale – each leading on from the other and fans will be happy that the final two have now been released! 

Currently soccer-mad Miss 7’s favourite series, they have been the perfect bridge into novels for her and she is eagerly waiting for these new ones to be in her mailbox so she can find out what happens and put what she learns into practice on the field! 

Another great series focusing on Australian sports and familiar names that not only encourages our children to read but also get outdoors and play.

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT










A Boy Called BAT

Elana K. Arnold

Charles Santose

Walden Pond, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Bixby Alexander Tam, known to those who know him as BAT because of his initials, his love of animals and the way his arms and hands flap when he gets excited, prefers life to be logical, predictable, routine and without surprises. He’s not good with noise (so wears his sister Janie’s earmuffs often), doesn’t like the mushy texture of some foods, is sensitive to the feel of fabrics on his skin and finds it difficult to make eye contact and hold casual conversations. Clearly, to even a non-teacher who doesn’t know the signs of being on the autism spectrum, this is a little boy with  special needs. But Bat is not unhappy or frustrated – his mum, sister and teacher are sensitive to his needs, his peers seem to accept him for who he is, and although his father, whom he stays with “every-other-Friday” seems to struggle a little with his non-sporty son, generally Bat is content and just gets on with things.

But when his mum, a vet, brings home a newborn skunk that needs special care, Bat comes into his own, devoting his life to caring for the kit and planning how he will be able to keep it and care for it beyond the initial few weeks before the local wildlife refuge can take over. He needs to show his mum that he is responsible and committed enough, even contacting a skunk expert for advice. 

This is an engaging story that shows the reader the world through Bat’s eyes but which is not patronising, sentimental or emotional.  Bat’s autism adds a different and interesting perspective to the relationships between the characters but the concept of an eight-year-old taking care of an orphaned animal and hoping to keep it longer is a story that could be about any young person.  I believe that all children should be able to read about themselves in stories, and those about autistic children are rare, so this one which has such a solid, familiar storyline so every reader can relate to it while learning about the world through unfamiliar eyes, is a must-have.  Its sequel Bat and the Waiting Game is also available in hardcover. 





Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater









Boy Underwater

Adam Baron

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old, is the third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint), second best at roller-skating. Even though he has only one parent while his friends have two or even four, he is  fit, healthy and totally normal in every way.  Yet, despite living in Lewisham in south-east London he has never been swimming.  His mum has never taken him near a pool, a lake, a river, the seaside – always brushing away his request with seemingly plausible excuses. 

So when his teacher says that the class will be starting swimming lessons the following Monday, Cymbeline is somewhat daunted.  He doesn’t even own a pair of swimmers!  But encouraged by his best friend Lance (named after the disgraced cyclist) and goaded by the class bully Billy, he agrees to a race against Billy in the pool.  Naturally, things end very badly for Cymbeline, not the least of which is losing the swimmers he found in his dad’s things in the attic, but it is the response of his mother who is called to the pool that is the most startling of all.  

As a result of this incident, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital taking Cymbeline’s beloved soft toy Mr Fluffy with her.  And Cymbeline is forced to stay with his rich Aunt Millie and Uncle Chris , to whom he is a burden, and cousins Juniper and Clayton who make it clear they want nothing to do with him. Totally alone, his mother hospitalised and not well enough to see him, and no cuddly toy to take to bed to comfort him, Cymbeline is bewildered and scared but determined to find out what is wrong with his mum to have had such an extreme reaction.  Surely the world seeing his willy isn’t enough to provoke such a response. And why has she taken Mr Fluffy?   Befriended by super-smart Veronique and even Billy, who has his own issues at home, Cymbeline is determined to get to the bottom of things.  And when he does, it becomes clear that adults really should paint the whole picture when they tell a child something big, not just the bits they think the child can handle.  Sometimes honesty can prevent a lot of heartache – the child isn’t left to fill the gaps with their own, often wild, imagination.

Written in the first-person in a voice that really echoes that of a 9-year-old boy, this is a story that will engage the independent reader with a storyline that has some meat to it and is totally credible. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty issues, this is done with a light hand, humour and empathy, providing an insight into the lives of some of the children in our care that we might not always see. Families falling apart for whatever reason is a common story, sadly, and it’s not always the teacher, in this case Mrs Phillips, who is the confidante.  Many children, like Cymbeline, are carrying  unseen burdens.   

For me, a quality novel is one that engages me to the end and I can hear myself either reading it aloud to students or book-talking it.  Boy Underwater is indeed, one of those.