Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle's Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes











Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle

Penguin, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A19.99


Children learn their mother tongue by listening to it, playing with it and sharing it and hence rhymes like those in this book have endured over generations because of the rhythm and repetition than encourages them to engage all their senses.  Added to that there is often the bonus experience of sitting on the lap of a loved someone and sharing something that goes beyond the exchange of sounds and syllables.

There would be few young children who are not familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and so to have this little critter wandering in and out of the pages of this book, illustrated in Carle’s distinctive style and palette will have surefire appeal.  Add to that, the fun of lifting the flaps to discover what is underneath and all in all this is a wonderful addition to the libraries of our youngest readers.  

Five rhymes feature – “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” – carefully chosen because each focuses on something the little one can relate to and by using the technique of not disclosing the final line until the flap is lifted, there is plenty of opportunity for the child to predict what might be uncovered, thereby not only showing off their existing knowledge but also having power over the print!

Ideal for those who know the VHC already but for those who don’t, it opens up a whole new reading experience as they discover his adventures!  There’s a reason the little character has endured since 1969!

The Odds: Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run











Run, Odds, Run

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

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


Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

In this addition to this series, The Woman in the Suit is here. She wants to know about the ten odd characters who escaped Kip’s imagination and now live with Kip and her dad in their two-bedroom apartment and she’s asking questions Kip doesn’t want to answer.


The problem is … Lance the rabbit and Ninja-Nina are duelling, Racer’s trying to drive, Booster the rooster wants to leave and Unicorn and the family cat are not getting along. Kip is hiding secrets from her dad, Diana the dinosaur keeps giving her a fright and the Woman in the Suit seems to know their every move.

Fans will be delighted that this is a series that is going to continue and even moreso with the news that Stanton has signed a new 13-book deal with his publisher – his popularity with his audience proven by becoming one of just a handful of Australian authors to reach the million book-sale mark – and that there is a new series coming in March. Much fun and laughter (with serious, solid undertones) to look forward to. 

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)











Space Detectives


Extra Weird Creatures


Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is overrun with cosmic chaos! Boys have two heads, dogs have three tails and even aliens who normally have six arms are growing extra ones!  What is going on? Can Connor and Ethan get to the bottom of this intergalactic mystery?

This is the second in this  series  for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen. With the third episode, Cosmic Pet Puzzle,  coming in August 2022, the beginning of the new school year is the perfect time to entice those emerging readers into continuing their reading with series written and formatted just for them.  This is one to recommend. 


A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes












A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children's Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing













Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Andy Jones

Olaf Falafel

Walker Books, 2021

176pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Over my 50+ years working with children, and particularly following my passion for developing their literacy skills, I have been exposed to as many “magic bullet” pedagogies for getting them to write well as there are theories of child development.  From a tightly structured approach where the writer is given topic, focus, essay-length and limited vocabulary to the revolution of the freedom of Donald Graves’ ‘process writing” – his books are still on my shelf – and back again, the one constant is that putting pen to paper is an individual task, and the ‘best’ approach is as unique as the individual doing the writing.

Some find writing to be their preferred way of expressing themselves, others like to sing, dance, paint or just talk. Of the writers, some like to write fiction, others prefer mon fiction; some like to draw first, others loathe drawing; some like to let the thoughts run free and edit at the end, others like to fix as they go… 

So this book is not a one-size-fits-all that a parent can give to their child and envisage another J. K. Rowling; it is not a step-by-step guide for a teacher to follow as their writing syllabus for the year; and it is certainly not a tool to teach all those obscure technical terms and techniques so beloved by today’s English teachers and curriculum writers. What it is is a guide for those who already like to write to help them hone their skills and develop their ideas. Begun as a way to amuse the author’s daughters on wet days, it presents a monster as a muse – because monsters are “exciting, unpredictable, powerful” – and by speaking directly to the reader, they are encouraged to work through the book (or dip and delve if they choose) engaging in a series of exercise and story prompts to learn the basics of stories, developing characters, settings and plots as they develop their vocabulary – all the fundamentals of story writing but at their own point of need and their own pace.  

With its easily accessible text and myriad of cartoon-style illustrations it takes the would-be writer on a personal journey of development, tapping into their existing desire to write.  However, while it is not that do this-do that guide for the busy classroom teacher, it is one that is more than worthwhile having because it offers explanations and explorations that the teacher can pass on to the student to encourage them to try new things, to delve deeper and expand their horizons.  It encourages originality and diversity rather than the cookie-cutter approach and there’s none of that technical jargon in sight.

Being the child of journalists, I could use a typewriter before I could use a telephone and it was expected that both my brother and I would be able to put words on paper as easily as we spoke. But even in such an environment, one of us went much further than the other and neither of us wrote in the style of our parents.  Certainly, my preferred genre is non fiction and mastery of my imagination eludes me.  But with this book in hand, perhaps I could try again and find a new path… 

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney











The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

Margaret Wild & Dan Wild

Donna Rawlins

Walker Books, 2021

25pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


Martha Maloney is on an excursion with her class to the Museum of Famous People – it’s a visit she has looked forward to all term because she has a unique way of exploring the life and times of those who have gone before.  Although her long-suffering teacher Mrs Souza warns her that “eating and drinking is absolutely, totally forbidden here”, Martha doesn’t hear a word because she is off having meals with the various folks she finds -King Henry VIII, Princess Marie Antoinette, Queen Nefertiti , Emperor Claudius, and Emperor Puyi travelling not only through time but also countries. 

Accompanying the spectacular illustrations is a commentary by Martha about the person and the banquet she finds herself at as well as the menu and fascinating endnotes that give a few facts about her host and the food of the time, all held together by the increasingly overwhelmed Mrs Souza who, as any teacher knows finds keeping lids together on an excursion is like the proverbial herding cats.

So far this review year, there has been a thread of discovering history – Our Country: Ancient Wonders; BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began; Earth is Big; Australian Backyard Explorer; and  The History of Everywhere , each giving a different perspective and offering ways to help our students explore times past through their various lenses and interests.  The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney continues this trend offering a new way to investigate a people and their times, either expanding on those offered by the creators or by selecting someone at a different time who interests them. They could even compare the tables of the rich and famous of the time with those of the ordinary people, investigating the choices and the differences; compare the banquet of Henry VIII to that of Emperor Puyi and examine the menu’s variety  and what were considered delicacies where while comparing them to a similar occasion here… For those wanting a more modern and immediate focus they could compare what were considered festive foods in the time of their great-grandparents to what they eat (in the 50s, roast chicken was the Christmas table treat)  and perhaps even develop an extra entry for the book based on a 21st century treat.  They could investigate the food of their classmates and how it varies from what their own dinner table looks like, perhaps even culminating in an international food fest and recipe book!

If we consider food to be the essential common denominator across time and place, there is endless inspiration in this unique book that I believe will feature in many awards lists this year. 


Curious About Crocodiles

Curious About Crocodiles

Curious About Crocodiles











Curious About Crocodiles

Owen Davey

Flying Eye, 2021

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


“The term ‘crocodile’ or ‘crocodilian’ is used to describe the roughly 26 species of the order Crocodilia. This order includes species known as ‘true crocodiles’ as well as alligators, gharials and caimans.” And to demonstrate the difference the first page of this fascinating book shows profiles of the differing heads of each species so before a page is turned something new has been learned.

Did you know that crocodiles can live to be over 100 years old, and can climb trees to sunbathe? They can even sense the vibrations from a single drop of water falling from the mouth of a drinking wildebeest over twenty metres away.

This is the seventh book in Owen Davey’s fascinating series which includes Bonkers About Beetles and Crazy About Cats  as well as Fanatical About FrogsMad About Monkeys , Obsessive About Octopuses, and  Smart About Sharks.   

While crocodiles traditionally evoke some degree of fear, the likes of Steve Irwin and Matt Wright, and perhaps even the early Crocodile Dundee, have taken them out of the swamps and the estuaries and given them a profile which means young readers are fascinated by them.  So this book with its clear explanations and multitude of diagrams is a great starting point for answering all those questions that little ones invariably have. 

After years of experience working with little ones and watching their reading habits, I know that the boys, particularly, like to borrow books about the scariest, fiercest, largest creatures – perhaps as some kind of personal armour – and so this one not only fits perfectly into that category but offers them much to investigate, learn and share in a very accessible format.  

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where's George's Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?











Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


George is looking for Mr Dinosaur but he can’t find him anywhere and he’s distressed.  So Mummy Pig suggests they retrace their steps through the day, but no matter how promising things look, what’s revealed under the flap is not Mr Dinosaur.

In a book reminiscent of the advertisement for a particular brand of car in which a family retraces their steps in search of Gonzo the missing toy rabbit, little ones can not only follow George’s search as they resonate with his rising distress but they learn that there can be a logical sequence of events to follow rather than throwing a tantrum. So that when they misplace something, parents can draw on George’s experience to guide them in theirs.

Again, the use of a familiar plot, favourite characters and a lift-the-flap technique mean the book will engage even our youngest readers and those crucial concepts about the value of print will continue to develop.  There’s something special about quietly observing Mr Nearly 3 taking himself off to a quiet spot and retelling himself the story using his own vocabulary as he recounts George’s adventures.  But there was also something disconcerting when at the conclusion he said, “I bet his mum put it there out of her bag,” suggesting that maybe he had been exposed to that advertisement once too often!

While We Can’t Hug

While We Can't Hug

While We Can’t Hug











While We Can’t Hug

Eoin McLaughlin

Polly Dunbar

Faber, 2020

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


Hedgehog and Tortoise are the best of friends. They met when each was trying to find someone to give them a hug but now this nasty disease has hit the world, they are not allowed to hug each other any more. And that makes them sad.  But then Wise Owl shows them that there are many ways to show your love even if you can’t actually touch each other,

This is the sequel to The Hug, and is equally as heart-warming. Even though it was published a year or so ago it is a timely then as it was then with similar social distancing still being in place, although the pandemic is not mentioned because there are many reasons why friends might be separated and unable to hug each other.  And while Hedgehog and Tortoise offer a number of suggestions for connections, no doubt the children can offer more and can have fun doing so, putting them into practice so they can catch up with many different unseen people.  Remember when people put teddies in their windows so little ones could see them on their daily walk?  If not then, why not now? It all goes to telling each other we are seen and loved and thus, protecting and promoting our mental health. 















Gareth P. Jones

Loretta Schauer

Egmont, 2021

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


Rabunzel has a teeny tufty tail, a twitchy nose and two wide brown eyes. She also has VERY long ears – so long that her mother worries they will make her easy bait for the hungry creatures of the forest.

The answer? Rabunzel must be kept safe … in towering hutch, high in the sky. Here Rabunzel, bored to bits,  waits grumpily for her mother’s daily visit with carrots and fresh lettuce, letting down her ears so she can climb up the tower.

But one day, it isn’t her mother who climbs up Rabunzel’s very long ears…

Usually I’m wary of these fractured versions of fairytales because they can be a bit silly, but this new series is subtitled Fairy Tales for the Fearless and it has a feminist twist which sits with Neil Gaiman’s message perfectly.

With its rhyming text and lovely pictures, it is an entertaining story in itself and Rabunzel’s solution for dealing with the hungry animals and her rejection of her “saviour” Flash Harry Hare offer lots of discussion points that can initiate some critical thinking of other stories that our girls, particularly, are dished up as essential reading – still! It can also pose some provocative questions to challenge the thinking of some of our boys.

This video clip is the perfect accompaniment and summary…



And if you’re looking for more in this vein, this is from A Mighty Girl… The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess    ‘These princesses are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued – more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves! Fans of independent princesses will also appreciate our collection of girl-empowering dolls, which includes several of the princesses depicted in these stories, as well as our collection of dress-up clothing which features several independent princess outfits. Our clothing section also features a Princess Alternative section with shirts depicting both independent princesses and alternative princess themes. For a diverse selection of more empowering fairy tales, visit our Fairy Tale & Folklore Collection.”