AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity










AFL Factivity

Michael Panckridge

Puffin, 2017

48pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


ANZAC Day has come and gone and so that means it’s officially time to be indoors more often than not and watching footy on telly is a sanctioned activity.  

For those who follow AFL this bright colourful, carefully constructed factivity book is the ideal accompaniment as fans of all ages can test their knowledge, learn new things and participate in some brain-tingling activities that focus on their favourite sport.  Some of the activities are challenging, such as writing a player profile for the back of the Crunchy Crispies cereal pack; others will require some research while there are also the usual word searches and the like.  However, it can also be used as a teaching resource as many of the activities can be made open-ended, having students apply the challenges to a sport of their choosing or to have them create a similar challenge for their chosen sport.Developing your own crossword involves a lot more than just completing one.

Hooking kids into learning by engaging them with their passion is a surefire way of getting them to learn-by-stealth so even the most reluctant readers can find something that will help them understand reading does have a purpose, it can be fun and it IS for them.  A double sheet of stickers at the end could add to the motivation!





Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League






Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Switch Hit Showdown

Captain’s Clash

Double Delivery

Bowling Blitz

With the cricket season well under way and the very popular Big Bash League looming, this is a series that will appeal to all fans of the format, both boys and girls.  Each book is a separate entity focusing on fans of two of the teams in the league – Switch Hit Showdown features the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades; Captains’ Clash is Sydney Sixes and Sydney Thunder; Double Delivery is Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat and Bowling Blitz, the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers. Each has passionate cricketers involved in a local competition and having to find a way to work together to overcome obstacles.

Panckridge, well known for his sports adventure books, has cleverly included players of both genders in the stories acknowledging that cricket is not a male-only sport and the WBBL and our national women’s cricket team the Southern Stars are gaining a much higher profile and respect as their success grows.

Written for independent readers, each book includes tips about the focus skill – batting, all-rounder, fielding and bowling as well as a profile of the two teams.  Double Delivery even has instructions for Dice Cricket that can be played when you can’t get outdoors.

A great series for those who love their sport and demand to read about it. 




Ellyse Perry (series)

Ellyse Perry (series)

Ellyse Perry (series)






Pocket Rocket

Magic Feet

Winning Touch

Double Time

Sherryl Clark with Ellyse Perry

Random House Australia, 2016

145pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

With the Southern Stars and the Women’s Big Bash League now getting greater coverage on prime time, mainstream television, the name of Ellyse Perry is becoming one that is widely known and recognised.  So it is pleasing to see a series of stories that focuses on her sporting career from the choices she had to make at high school through to her current success becoming a part of the literature available to newly independent readers.  While there have been other series of this ilk such as Glenn Maxwell and Billy Slater there have been very few focusing on the prowess of Australia’s female sports stars.  Ellyse who plays both soccer and cricket at the elite level is a wonderful focal point for inspiring young girls to continue their sport after they leave primary school and she shows that with care and good choices, you can do all that you want. Boys will also enjoy reading about one of Australia’s leading lights.

Pocket Rocket and Magic Feet are available now just in time for the Christmas stocking and Winning Touch and Double Time will be available in early January ready for the long January days after the excitement of Christmas is over and our children are looking for something new.



Meet… Don Bradman

Meet...Don Bradman

Meet…Don Bradman









Meet…Don Bradman

Coral Vass

Brad Howe

Random House Australia, 2016

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


The latest in this excellent series of biographies for younger readers focuses on Don Bradman who is regarded by so many as Australia’s greatest cricketer – so much so that there was a question about him in the first version of the test that those aspiring to be Australian citizens have to answer. 

Born in Cootamundra on August 27 1908, Bradman spent his early years practising his batting by hitting a golf ball with a cricket wicket against the family’s rainwater tank.  As it bounced off the curves of the sides in all directions, he hit it again and again and again.  (The noise must have driven those round him nuts!)  At the age of 12 he went to Sydney with his dad to see an Ashes match and there the dream was born … one day he would play on that ground.  By then, the family was living in Bowral, NSW and he was the scorer for the local senior team, sometimes even playing for them.

But when he turned 14 and left school he was too old for the school team and too young for the senior team so he turned to tennis instead.  But cricket was his love and as soon as he was old enough he returned to it … continuing the journey that would make him a household name even for non-cricket loving people and have him named by the Wisden Cricketers Almanack (the cricketers bible) as the greatest cricketer of the 20th century.

This is the 10th title in this series which is a must-have in school libraries as it brings the lives of our heroes and history-makers to life through accessible, illustrated texts in a way that brings the biography genre to life. Telling the story of an ordinary person whose story and legacy live on well after their death, each adds an extra layer to an historical study and the accompanying teachers’ notes  open up new ideas for exploration.  Each tells a story rather than just providing clumps of facts and figures, and is suitable for newly-independent readers as well as for those for whom English is a struggle. They also provide a model for younger students for writing a biography providing a purpose for reading and research and demonstrate a story of courage, persistence, resilience and perseverance showing the reader that these are the qualities needed for success.

The question about Bradman may have been replaced in the citizenship test but nevertheless, his name is one that is soon learned by every aspiring cricketer and one whose record they would love to emulate.


Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven

Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven


Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven

Mark Greenwood

Terry Denton

Allen & Unwin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


It’s the 1860s in the Wimmera district of Victoria and Aboriginal stockman Unaaarrimin (aka Johnny Mullagh) is watching the white settlers play “a curious game called cricket”.  When he is invited to play he hits the ball so hard he splits the redgum bat!  And so begins the remarkable story of the first Aboriginal cricket team and the first Australian team to tour England.  Johnny introduced his fellow stockmen to the game and they were so good that soon they were beating the local white settler teams and invited to play in the city at the MCG!  An English cricketer, Charles Lawrence spotted them, recognised their potential and proposed a tour of England.  But his plans were thwarted when the Board for the Protection of Aborigines refused to let them go claiming “These men might not survive the voyage.”

Undaunted and driven by the money-making opportunity of the novelty of such a team, Lawrence did not give up, continuing to coach them and all the while hatching a secret plan to smuggle Johnny and his mates to England.  After eight days of sneaking through Victoria to Queenscliff, they were taken by longboat to a steamer bound for Sydney and from there, under the cover of darkness they boarded the Parramatta bound for England. 

The tour of England was both triumphant and tragic.  Viewed initially with fascination and later admired for their ability, the team played 47 games in six months with 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws.  Mullagh scored 1,698 runs and took 245 wickets.  But racism reared its head, Bripumyarrimin (King Cole) got sicked and died, the players were tired and they were all homesick.  And so they returned to Australia, but unlike today’s teams, “there was no triumphant welcome” – and each, apart from Mullagh,  went their own way back to the bush and anonymity, at home in their country.

Mark Greenwood is the master of telling the back story, the unknown or unheralded truth of those who should be Australian heroes, and this book is no different.  Once again he stands up for the Aboriginal people who were denied their identity, their heritage and their dignity to shine a light on our original cricketing heroes, and bringing to life a team of characters and personalities, not just facts and statistics.  Who knew they had to sneak out of the country like criminals? Who knew they donned traditional gear at the end of the match to entertain crowds with their “tricks” so they could make a little extra money?

Terry Denton also brings each of the players to life with his iconic illustrations.  Double page spreads, vignettes – each one helps the reader picture the action as well as the emotions. Even though the text is written in the third-person in a ‘reporter-like’ fashion, the astute reader marries both words and pictures to get to the purpose that drives this story-telling.   The endpapers are poignant – showing the delight and excitement of the cricketers as they leave on their long sea voyage to the individual portraits that gives each a name and an identity, going a little way to restoring the dignity they deserved but didn’t get 150 years ago.

This book is rich in so many areas for discussion and investigation and comprehensive teaching notes are available.    

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.


Netball Gems (series)

Netball Gems

Netball Gems









Netball Gems: Pivot and Win



Netball Gems: Defend to the End


Lisa Gibbs and Bernadette Hellard

Penguin Random House, 2015,

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Written in association with Netball Australia by sisters Lisa Gibbs and Bernadette Hellard who have been involved in all aspects of netball for many years, these are the third and the fourth in this series which began with Hooked on Netball and Chase Your Goal with four more additions planned for publication this year.

Similar in format to several series featuring cricket and football that have proven to be really popular, each title focuses on one of the team members as they face personal and game challenges as they pursue their dream to play for the Diamonds, the Australian national team.  Throughout the stories the girls learn the intricacies of one of the fastest growing sports in Australia while, at the same time, learning how to deal with life itself.  Pivot and Win sees Lily trying to prove herself as a contender even though she is short – something she has no control over – while in Defend to the End, New Zealander Maia is homesick and feels that she doesn’t belong.  Even the way they play netball is Australia is different from the way she has mastered and she needs to almost start again.

Packed with tips and drills that budding netballers can try, this series will inspire all those young girls with dreams to work hard to achieve them.  Certainly Miss 9 said she can’t wait for her season to start again so she can try out some of the things, although if she ever achieves her dream of playing for the Diamonds there could be conversations with her grandmother about whether Australia or New Zealand are the world champions!  Regardless, this series has captured her imagination and provided her with some great reading for some time. I know it will be popular with readers from about Year 3 who enjoy netball and are ready for a longer story.

Izzy Folau (series)

Izzy Folau (series)

Izzy Folau (series)











Izzy Folau: Chance of a Lifetime


Izzy Folau: Reality Check


Izzy Folau: Pushed to the Limit


 Izzy Folau: Standing Tall



David Harding & Izzy Folau

Random House Australia, 2015

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

With the Super Rugby competition for 2015 decided, the Bledisloe remaining in the hands of the All Blacks and the Rugby World Cup in full swing, this new series featuring champion Israel Folau will be just what younger rugby fans will adore to read as the follow the progress of their favourite teams.

Its two stars, Daniel and Sione have both been picked for the Valley rep team to play at the State Championships.  But they couldn’t be more different with Daniel from an affluent family, attending sports-mad Barker College and having all the confidence in the world while Sione is from the other side of the tracks where his school holds a mufti day to raise the funds for him to attend the selection camp and he’s so lacking in self-confidence that he doesn’t go to school that day.  But both have been picked and are off to camp to be coached by Izzy Folau. 

As the series follows them through their training to the final match, as well as great tips about playing football there is also a strong undercurrent of sportsmanship, friendship and what it means to be a team member as well as believing in yourself, even when you’re angry and frustrated and you don’t reach the heights you were sure you could. Folau tells the boys, “I’ve changed sports a few times and every time I did there were people who weren’t happy. Without meaning to I upset fans, the media, and, worst of all, my teammates.  Each time I had to walk into a change room filled with people I didn’t know to play a game I wasn’t too sure about.  I found it hard to be happy and relaxed sometimes, but I did my best to make it work.  I trained,  I was nice to people, I was a good teammate. You know why?…If I didn’t, I might as well have gone home.  It’s the same for you guys.  If you can’t chill out, have fun and be proud of your achievements, then you might as well think about going home.”

This is a series for the young fan who is an independent reader who wishes they had the opportunities that Daniel and Sione and their teammates have.  But even if they don’t realise the dream of having Izzy Folau as their coach, there is much to learn and enjoy from this series.

Stuff Happens: Jack

Stuff Happens: Jack

Stuff Happens: Jack

Stuff Happens: Jack

Tony Wilson

Puffin, 2014

pbk., 96pp., RRP $A9.99



It’s recess time and Mr Atherton tells the boys they can stay on the oval to play as long as they play sensibly and behave. He will be back in ten minutes and head back to the school across the road. 

But a lot can happen in ten minutes – especially if you’re a group of Year 5 boys unsupervised on an oval.  As Mr Atherton walks away they realise he has taken all the soccer balls with him and being very aware of the school rule of NO TACKLING the boys wonder what they will play.  Then Jack suggests You Play, You Pay where the boys see who can kick their shoes the longest distance.  The loser then had to run until he’s tagged but boys being boys this soon degenerates into a roughhouse and stacks on game which comes to a sudden end when Jack gets flattened by Fadi and hears his arm crack as he goes down.

Mindful of the consequences if it’s discovered they were playing roughly Jack urges his friends to tell the principal that they were playing a chasing game not a tackling one.  But when he returns to school he finds that this has had dire consequences for Fadi and he has to wrestle with the choice of telling the truth and risking all the boys being excluded from a clinic by their favourite A-league soccer team or let Fadi bear the brunt of the punishment that is really having a massive impact on his mental well-being.

This is an intriguing read that throws up a range of issues that young boys will relate to and empathise with.  We know that “boys being boys” can have accidental consequences but, in this story, it is the unforseen ones that cause the dilemma and set up all sorts of discussions about what Jack should do and whether Principal Davies was fair, and so on.

There are now eight books in the Stuff Happens series, each written by a leading Australian author who has a sound track record of writing stories that boys enjoy.  What appeals most is that each takes a very ordinary situation that everyone can relate to and builds a story from it that is both engaging and entertaining as well as thought-provoking.  Each is also a great demonstration in writing about what you know – taking an ordinary everyday event and building it into a story.

This is a series that really appeals to boys – there is a list of reserves for each one at the local school I know – and getting them enjoying reading with such quality stories is a match made in heaven.

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Emily Eases Her Wheezes











Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Katrina Roe

Leigh Hedstrom

Wombat Books, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.99


Emily the Elephant is so full of energy that she scarcely stopped.  She would whizz around on her scooter, leap and twirl like a ballerina and bounce on her trampoline for hours.  She loved to be active.  But every now and then she had to sit still and look on because her asthma made her chest tight and her breathing difficult.  At first her friends were frightened of her coughing and wheezing but she reassured them that they couldn’t catch what she had.  But it really irked her to sit and watch but when she disobeyed her mum and jined in, she ended up in strife and needed her puffer.  Until one day she discovered a sport that she could join in, one which really helped her strengthen her lungs and improve her breathing.

As the school year gets underway, there are going to be many like Emily in classrooms – kids who can’t join in because of this disease and for whom all teachers must have training in how to deal with it if they are presented with a child having an attack.  Because 1 in 10 Australian children suffer from it and it is a common reason for children needing emergency medical care, it is essential that we all understand the potential seriousness of an asthma attack and that students and teachers alike know that it is something that cannot be ignored.  In this picture book written for younger readers, everyone learns something.  Emily learns that even when she thinks she’s okay she still needs to take it easy; her friends learn that it’s not something to be frightened of and they can help Emily; and the reader learns that while this is a treatable and manageable disease, a person suffering an attack needs to be taken seriously.

Children, particularly those in their first year of school who have not had exposure to large groups of children where there is likely to be an asthmatic need to know that while it might be scary it’s not catchy, and those who are sufferers will enjoy reading about themselves in a book just like other “normal” children and will feel less marginalised. Liegh Hedstrom’s charming illustrtions lighten the message somewhat – can you imagine an elephant using her bed as a trampoline?  There is a also comprehensive overview of asthma provided by a leading paediatrician that the parent reading the story aloud will find enlightening and reassuring

Wombat Books have a history of publishing books that need to be written and shared (Marty’s Nut Free Party ; Happy Pants; Coming Home) but which might not make the mainstream, big publishers’ lists and Emily Eases Her Wheezes is an important contribution to this.