Archive | January 20, 2016

Australia to Z

Australia to Z

Australia to Z











Australia to Z

Armin Greder

Allen & Unwin, 2016

32pp., hbk., $A29.99


Australia to Z is Armin Greder at his uncompromising, most confronting best.  From the creator who brought us The Island which really turned a spotlight on our treatment of newcomers, comes this totally different alphabetical look at Australia which is just perfect for getting students to have a look at what it means to be Australian.  While ‘soft’ investigations focus on icons, anthems, heroes and food, Australia to Z takes a much tougher look starting with the A for Aborigine looking out and seeing a First Fleet ship on the horizon to the deliberately juxtaposed B for Boat People showing more recent arrivals. 

This is political commentary brought into the lives of children so they need to think and investigate…why has Greder chosen ‘calories’ for C, Ikea for I, and R for Rupert?  But there are flashes of humour to lighten it too, with K being for the kangaroo that springs from nowhere in the night to take out the front of your car, and the ominously raised finger of the umpire for O for Out!  And finally, there is Z for Zoo but the illustration is not what you would expect – but is perhaps the most poignant of all. This really is Australia under the microscope as the title page image suggests.

The choices make us think about how others see us, and with Greder being a Swiss immigrant, his perception may be sharper than others. But the inclusion of Advance Australia Fair almost as an appendix is a masterstroke – how different are the words we sing to the life we live?

Often in an ‘alphabet book’ the illustrations are more important than the text itself, but in this one the two are interdependent.  Yes the text is biting but it is the powerful illustrations that accompany it that add the extra punch.  Why are Rupert’s eyes blank? What does the picture of the Digger represent? With bold black strokes and a minimal palette, each image says all it needs to say and leaves a lasting impression long after the page has been turned.

Working in a highly multicultural school which has a significant population of children who come to learn English for the first time so they can work comfortably in their neighbourhood schools later, it never ceases to amaze me how these kids get along and understand each other so well without a common language let alone skin colour. There are many quotes and memes online that state “Children are not born racist –they learn to hate” and that is certainly my experience.  Using Australia to Z in a focus on identity and belonging would be a most powerful way to raise issues, investigate and discuss them because knowledge leads to understanding, understanding leads to tolerance and tolerance leads to acceptance.  Maybe this year’s Year 5 and 6 students will be a turning point as they create their own with the theme “what could be”..

Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Secret Santa









Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Pip Jones

Ellie Okstad

Faber and Faber, 2015

pbk, 80pp., RRP $A12.99



Squishy McFluff is so sweet, you’ll be smitten.
Such a clever and funny invisible kitten!

Imagine the fun of having a cat that only you can see, especially when it is really good at inventing great things to do like playing hide-and-seek at which he is world champion.  This is Ava’s luck.   She has a big imagination and is happiest when she’s playing with her cat, even though it can lead to trouble – which is exactly what happens in this latest addition to this series.

It’s nearly Christmas and Ava and Squishy are very excited.  But there are still preparations to be made, like buying the last minute things which means going into town where all is decorations and celebrations.  The trouble begins when Ava spots the wonky star at the top of the Christmas tree… The next day it is time to wrap the presents and when Mum says to wrap EVERYTHING, she is taken at her word… For someone who was trying to be good through all of December, this might not have a pretty ending for Ava, but she has one special thing she wants so she writes Santa a letter.

Young children will love this series from this English author as it holds many laughs and just a little bit of naughty. Written in rhyme it bounces along and Ella Okstad’s limited-palette illustrations are charming, capturing the essence of the text perfectly.

For those who can’t get enough of him, there’s a website with extra information and more fun and games at

This is something a little bit different to offer those just getting started on their independent reading journey who need a bit of support through short chapters, larger font and uncomplicated vocabulary – I think they will be eagerly awaiting the next adventure.  Perfect for putting aside for this year’s Christmas Countdown.