Dog Stories

Dog Stories

Dog Stories











Dog Stories


Jules Faber

Random House Australia, 2016

185pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


What happens when you ask leading authors such as Nick Falk, Sofie Laguna, Tristan Bancks, Jacqueline Harvey, George Ivanoff, Aleesah Darlinson and half a dozen others to write a short story featuring a dog? You get a volume of twelve stories starring magic dogs, invisible dogs, hacker dogs, and all sorts of others that will keep dog lovers reading for a long time.

There are stories about Bad Buster, The Dog Kisser, Susie the Wonderdog, The Dog who Forgot and even The Magic Piddle that will appeal to the newly independent reader with their larger font and manageable word count, and illustrated by Jules Faber.  The quality of the authors mean the quality of the story is guaranteed and even though they are brief, the reader is still left feeling satisfied that they have been entertained and perhaps even seek out other works by the authors.

With summer holidays here and children looking for something to read that doesn’t need too much effort and concentration, short stories are the answer. They can be the bridge between formal instructional texts and fully independent reading of self-selected novels so their value should never be underestimated.  So if you have a dog-lover who is looking for something short but satisfying, this is the ideal solution.

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate










Snot Chocolate

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2016

165pp, pbk., RRP $A14.99


The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”

But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”

With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group.  Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.

Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.”  However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.  

Parents,  teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.

Read what Morris Gleitzman has to say on the value of short stories.

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm










Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Margaret Hunt

Gris Grimly

Balzer & Bray, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99


Way back when, fairy tales involving all sorts of terrifying, evil creatures that were all eventually defeated by the powers of good were told to children as a way of exhorting them to make the right choices and stay on the straight and narrow.  

In 1812 German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began gathering and publishing the tales in a collection that eventually spanned seven volumes.  Right from the beginning there was criticism of their content because even though they were marketed as ‘children’s tales’ they were deemed too gruesome for children and changes were made so that some of the scarier elements were softened, such as making the wicked mothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel in stepmothers (an image which modern stepmothers still battle.) Over the years, more and more changes have been made with the myriad of interpretations and reprints until we have the more acceptable versions we have today.

But in this collection Gris Grimly, (an apt name) has faithfully reproduced the original text of forty one tales, some familiar and some not-so, and adorned them with his own inimitable artwork. “The result is a Grimm collection unlike any other, set in a world that is whimsically sinister, darkly vivid, and completely unforgettable.”

This is probably not a collection  that you would pick up and read to a Kindy kid as an introduction to fairy tales or a before-the-bell time-filler but it could be one to give a slightly older child who is craving the horror stories being read by older siblings or peers. It might also be the collection that you share if you are doing a comparison of versions of the same tale and how they have changed or been changed or if you are investigating childhood of different eras and want to look at the literature of the times and the purpose for it.  

Scary for some, sweet for others.

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies










Gumnut Babies

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99



One hundred years ago the first edition of May Gibbs’ iconic Gumnut Babies was published – the forerunner to her classic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In this stunning centenary edition which echoes the original layout, fonts, illustrations and colours, a new generation is introduced to the stories of The Gumnut Babies, the Gum Blossom Babies, The Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo. 

On all the big Gumtrees there are Gumnut Babies.  Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything.  Perhaps that’s why their eyes are so big… They are full of mischief and are always teasing the slow-going creatures; but they hurt nothing and are gentle, for they love all the worlda.

Born in 1877 in England and coming to Australia at just four years old, May Gibbs spent years observing the bush and its creatures as her family farmed in both South Australia and Western Australia and she claimed she “could draw before I could walk”.  She excelled at botanical drawing and has said, “It’s hard to tell, hard to say, I don’t know if the bush babies found me or I found the little creatures”.  The Gumnut Babies made their first appearance in 1913 as part of the illustrations for Ethel Turner’s The Magic Button and gradually the bushland fantasy world grew with the writing and publication of a number of stories, including the publication of Tales of  Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918.

Gibbs was a fierce protector of the environment and these stories are guaranteed to have young readers begin to appreciate all that lives in our unique natural landscape.  Her legacy lives on through Nutcote as well as her generous gift of leaving the copyright of all her works to Northcott which provides support to those with disabilities and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance which supports the 34 000 people living with this condition in Australia alone.    

Apart from being a classic of Australian literature the May Gibbs website  offers activities and lesson plans; there is a stage production of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie currently touring the country and the State Library of NSW has an online exhibition of her works.

A fitting centenary tribute to a true Australian classic.

A century apart... Gumnut Babies then and now

A century apart… Gumnut Babies then and now

The Selected Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles

The Selected Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles

The Selected Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles












The Selected Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles

S.A. Wakefield

Desmond Digby

HarperCollins, 2016

215pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Deep in the Australian bush, in rubbish heaps along dusty roadsides live the Bottersnikes. They are extremely lazy and so rather than building nests, digging burrows or even looking for hollows in trees for shelter, they just cover up with the detritus of the rubbish heaps that are so often found along country roads. Much of the time they just sleep, blending into the landscape with their green wrinkly skin, cheese-grater noses and long pointed ears that go red when they are angry.  But should something need doing, they would rather spend their time trying to catch the cheerful Gumbles to do it for them than do it themselves.

The Gumbles are polite, always ready to lend a hand but also rather naïve so they are perfect prey for the indolent Bottersnikes.

The adventures begin when one morning when a thistle growing through his watering can wakes the King of the Bottersnikes but instead of just pulling it out, he roars for someone to open the door of a nearby rusting car so he can move into that. Being who they are the Gumbles who were passing by agree to help, and the King realises that they could be very useful servants in the future.  So he orders the other Bottersnikes, who have been woken by his roaring to grab them.  And when they do, they discover that Gumbles can be squashed into any shape without being hurt, even flattened to pancake thinness, but they can’t return to their regular shape without help.  By squishing them into the empty cans that are lying around, they can be kept as slaves, on hand for whenever there is something that needs doing!

Trapped and forced to work for these odious creatures was not what the Gumbles had planned but unable to get out of the cans, their future looks sealed.  But the King did not see a little Gumble – Tinkingumble, a wise little creature who has ‘tinks’ which come to him with the sound of a spoon tapping a glass, who was fiddling with a can-opener and worked out how to free his friends.  So when the Bottersnikes went to sleep for the night, the Gumbles escaped although their giggling nearly thwarted their plans. 

While they do escape successfully and free themselves of the cans, which they neatly put in an official rubbish bin, the Bottersnikes are now aware of them and their potential and so the book comprises a series of discrete, complete stories of Bottersnikes vs Gumbles that have delighted the children I’ve read them to over the years.  The stories are a wonderful springboard for environmental studies focusing on understanding the effect of our actions on the environment and how we manage and protect resources as well as an excellent basis for collaborative mural-making project as the children create their own Bottersnikes using Wakefield’s description and junk materials and Gumbles by stuffing and stitching pieces of old stockings. Each day we collected the rubbish scattered in the playground and added it to the mural and after just one week we had a powerful statement to present to the rest of the school that had a significant impact on the litter problem.  

With a recent television series and movie (have a sneak peek) which give great scope for exploring the interpretation of the same story through different media, this story, which has been out of print for some time, is now firmly back into the lives of our younger readers. 

Super Sports Stories for Kids

Super Sports Stories for Kids

Super Sports Stories for Kids










Super Sports Stories for Kids

Patrick Loughlin

Random House, 2015

196pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Imagine having to make the choice between swimming naked because your swimmers have come off or stopping to save your modesty but lose your chance to get to the national championships.  Or riding the best wave of your life because your life depends on it.  Or having the spotlight on you as you, the master of the miss-hit, have to play the best handball player of all time in the duel for court rights for a week…

These are all scenarios from this book of twelve exciting short stories focusing on a range of sports that teach the characters about themselves as well as their sports.  Each story is action-packed with high stakes, over and done with in a few pages, but leaving the reader feeling satisfied that they have just read a quality story.  With sport such a focus of life during the Australian summer, this is a great new release by the author of both the Billy Slater and Glenn Maxwell series that will appeal to both boys and girls. The final story about an everlasting football match in heaven is unique, showing the power of Loughlin’s imagination to make this collection different, to move it away from other more mainstream short story collections and keep even the non-sporty reading. He really has scored a goal with this one.


Awesome Animal Stories for Kids

Awesome Animal Stories for Kids

Awesome Animal Stories for Kids











Awesome Animal Stories for Kids

Aleesah Darlinson

Penguin Random House, 2015

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Author Aleesah Darlinson’s lifelong love of animals shines through in this collection of short stories that is just perfect for the newly independent reader to curl up and enjoy. 

There are twelve delightful stories that embrace animals of all kinds from the real to the fantastic, the large to the small – each unique and for the lover of the animal story genre, a treasure trove for the imagination.  Each story is complete and long and detailed enough to make a great stand-alone read for those few minutes that can only be filled by a story.

My personal favourite is that of Swoop, the story of Kasey’s care for a baby magpie who has fallen out of its nest.  Living in the bush and with a couple of Mother Magpies who bring their new babies to visit each day and care for them for months, it is a heart-warming story that has many a lesson to learn.  Kasey wants to keep Swoop as her personal pet rather than letting be the wild bird she is and so she puts her in a cage.  Some days she would forget to let her out and poor Swoop would stay imprisoned just listening to the call of the other wild magpies.  When Swoop doesn’t return home one night, Kasey is heart-broken but her mother is wise. 

“You have to learn to let go, Kasey…Sometimes that’s what being a mum means… You’ll always be her mum. But she’s grown up now.  It’s best to let her come and go as she pleases, otherwise she won’t want to come home at all.” 

It’s a hard lesson for a little girl to learn but nevertheless Kasey has to learn it.  And she is rewarded in the end.

Other stories include the legend of Alvorado, King of Cats; Sea Sprites and Rock Pools (perfect for those having a beach adventure this holiday); Orphan Foal which is a heart-wrenching story of survival and the hilarious Pig-napped.

I love Aleesah’s writing.  Not only does she always tell an engaging story but each one has a depth and integrity to it that means it lingers in the mind of the reader well after the last page is turned. Miss 9 stuck her nose in this on Christmas Day and that was pretty much the last we saw of her!  No greater recommendation can be made.



Once Tashi Met A Dragon

Once Tashi Met A Dragon










Once Tashi Met a Dragon

Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2015

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A14.99







Tashi and the Golden Jawbone

Tashi and the Giant Squid

Tashi and the Big Scoop

Tashi and the Magic Carpet

Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg
Allen & Unwin, 2015
64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

It was with great delight, but not surprise, that when I returned to working in a primary school library after a protracted absence I discovered that the favourite series amongst the students in Year 2 – the ones who are just starting their independent reading journey – was Tashi. Every day they asked for new stories or put existing ones on reserve. So they are going to be very excited to know that there is not one, not two, but five new additions to the adventures of this delightful little character who is so clever, resourceful and brave as he confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace.

Once Tashi Met a Dragon is a picture book beautifully illustrated in colour by Kim Gamble that is just delightful. In it, Tashi finally meets the dragon that he has heard stories about forever. Usually it lives on the mountain in a palace of gold and each year it sends the rains so that the villagers can thrive. But this year, the rains haven’t come and only one person is brave enough to venture forth to find out why…

The other stories –Tashi and the Golden Jawbone, Tashi and the Giant Squid, Tashi and the Big Scoop and Tashi and the Magic Carpet – have been inspired by the original stories created by Anna Fienberg and her mother, but are the novelisations of episodes from the popular television series on ABC3. True to the original story concept, these have coloured computer-generated images created by Flying Bark. Rather than having two stories in the one book as the original print series does, these are augmented with 20 pages of puzzles, games and activities providing extra fun and encouraging greater understanding.

Back in the days when I was co-ordinating Read Around Australia I ran a book rap based on all the Tashi novels published at the time. Small groups of students selected one story and had to write a synopsis and then pose a series of questions that would challenge the thinking of other students around Australia who had to answer them. What they discovered was that each story threw up a number of ethical questions that could be discussed and debated and so they became so much more than an introduction to fantasy and an easy read. Now a whole new audience can discover the magic meaning.

For a complete list of all the original Tashi books as well as more fun and games go to or you can check out the new look, including a trailer at

Once Upon an Alphabet

Once Upon An Alphabet

Once Upon An Alphabet










Once Upon an Alphabet

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2014

hbk., 112pp., RRP $A29.99



“If words make up stories and letters make up words, then stories are made up of letters.  In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the letters.”


And that’s just what this fabulous book by Oliver Jeffers is all about. He has taken the concept of a picture book and viewed with through a new lens.  So instead of the traditional 26 letters accompanied by pictures of words starting with the letter, heretThere are 26 stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, each short, succinct, imaginative and complete. Here’s an example…

“Bernard and Bob lived on either side of a bridge and for years had been battling each other for reasons neither could remember.  One day Bob decided to fix thing so Bernard couldn’t bother him anymore, by burning the bridge between them.  But Bob learned an important lesson that day. He needed the bridge to get back.”  Characters like Owl and Octopus appear and reappear throughout the stories adding continuity especially as Z returns us to Edward the astronaut’s problem of the first page!  The cartoon-like illustrations that are Jeffers’ trademark are more about illustrating the story than emphasising the sound of the letter, another departure from the more traditional format of an alphabet book and the whole has a wonderful mix of humour and quirkiness that it will appeal to all ages..

This is so much more than an alphabet book to entertain littlies, although it does that very well.  There is the opportunity to introduce the concept of alliteration – Danger Delilah is a daredevil who laughs in the face of Death and dances at the door of Disaster – and explore how it can be used to add meaning and depth to a story. Students could also be challenged to create similar short stories – telling a tale in two or three sentences that still contain a traditional story structure. 

Every time I dip into this book I find more to delight me – adults and children alike will love this one.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…