Archive | January 2019

Johnny’s Beard

Johnny's Beard

Johnny’s Beard









Johnny’s Beard

Michelle Worthington

Katrin Dreiling

Little Pink Dog Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


Johnny was very proud of his magnificent, splendiferous, long, red beard and he spent many hours grooming it and making sure it was perfect. He washed it and combed it every day, and each day he walked over the hill and back again so he could enjoy the feeling of the cool breeze blowing through it, or it keeping him warm on cold, foggy days. 

On one cold winter morning Johnny met a twitchy little mouse on his walk and when he asked it what was wrong, the mouse told him its home was too cold and it would freeze when the snow came.  So Johnny invited the mouse to his house for the winter and soon the mouse was snuggled up in his wondrous beard.  Then he met a jittery rabbit who had the same problem so Johnny offered the same solution.  And then he met a shivering raven… and a family of hedgehogs… 

While the animals were all snug and warm, Johnny’s beard was tangled and it stabbed and pecked and tickled and poked.  What is he to do?

This is a charming, funny story that will have little ones imagining all the sorts of things that could have taken up residence in Johnny’s beard, while enjoying the descriptive language that bring both the beard and its residents to life. Katrin’s interpretation of the beard as so long and so thick and so red just adds to the appeal, setting up an opportunity for little listeners to describe the beards of those they know. 

However, it reminded me of the Edward Lear poem There was an old man with a beard and thus, a natural way to introduce little ones to his fun poetry. (He, himself, seems to have sported s splendiferous beard.)  What fun it could be to illustrate this poem as a group, or consider what Australian bird could have nested in it, while learning about rhythm as they try to fit the words in to maintain the beat. As well as learning the format of the limerick, there is also scope to explore rhyme beyond the familiar device of word families and examine all the combinations that could rhyme with beard such as feared, jeered, weird, scared, laird, paired and so on.  Young children love to explore language this way and have something interesting to contribute to the dinner-time conversation.

Given that many of his other poems, like The Owl and the Pussycat  and The Jumblies also inspire mind-pictures not only is there scope for lots of artwork but they are the perfect bridge between nursery rhymes that are familiar to the children and more ‘serious’ poetry within a natural context.    Enjoying the nuances of our language through a new medium as a natural extension of what they already know and love seems to be a win-win for me!

So what seems like just a fun story with bright pictures could lead to so much more and for that, this deserves a place in your collection and promotion to your teaching colleagues. 

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party










Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

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

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World











Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Sam Maggs, Emma Grange & Ruth Amos

DK, 2019

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Superheroes continue to be as popular as they first were when they were introduced in comic form in the 1930s.  The historic nomination of Black Panther for the Golden Globes Best Picture award, the first in this genre to be nominated, and the current success of Aquaman at the box offices around the world, attest to this and this new release from DK focusing on the female heroes of the Marvel world demonstrates that women can also save the world.

It features 50 of the incredible female Super Heroes from the Marvel Comics universe, classified according to whether they are predominantly determined, daring, compassionate or curious , and inspires women of all ages to be powerful, passionate, and persistent.

In graphic novel format, the collection profiles dozens of aspirational female comic-book characters, all of whom use their strength, intelligence, and courage to help others. Fierce fan-favourites such as Captain Marvel, Gamora, and Jessica Jones feature alongside little-known faces from all corners of the Marvel comic-book universe. Young girls will also discover modern, diverse heroes they can relate to and look up to, including America Chavez and Kamala Khan. 

Illustrated with stunning comic-book artwork, each short biography is carefully curated to focus on the character’s abilities and achievements. This book for girls and women of all ages will create new fans of comics, as well as inspiring comic-book creators of the future. Further reading suggestions are given for each character, so readers can follow the adventures of their favourite hero into the panels of Marvel’s finest issues.

While all of those featured were created in the imagination of an author,  nevertheless they can encourage our girls to think about real-life heroines – those that inspire them to be braver, stronger, more influential – and examine how they achieve this without those superhuman powers of their fictional counterparts.  And while people like Anne Frank, Helen Keller and Florence Nightingale will always feature in “famous women” studies, there are thousands of more contemporary figures whose stories can be investigated and told, perhaps in the style of those in this book. Perhaps such investigations may even persuade our girls that they themselves are mighty and have the qualities that will make them their own superhero.

One for inspiration and aspiration.

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories

DK Life Stories









DK Life Stories


Diane Bailey


Albert Einstein

Wil Mara


Helen Keller

Libby Romero


Katherine Johnson

Ebony Joy Wilkins


128pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

At last the people with the power of the purse strings are beginning to realise that not everything is available online, and what is there is unlikely to be at a reading level accessible to our developing readers, and publishers are responding to the resurgence in demand for quality non fiction resources in print format.  While DK have continued to produce quality print materials throughout this misguided era of everything having to be screen-based, their new Life Stories series, biographies for younger readers, is a welcome addition to a genre that can be the entry point to a world of inspiration for a new generation.

Currently comprising about a dozen  titles, including most of the usual subjects found in this sort of series, the one that caught my eye was that of Katherine Johnson, she who is now the famed NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of the best-selling book and movie Hidden Figures. Miss 12 was just awarded her school’s Science and Technology prize for her work in coding and so this is just perfect for inspiring her to maintain her passion and continue to break down barriers as she moves on to high school.  

Using accessible text, photographs and the usual DK production quality, this series tells the stories behind the celebrities bringing them alive for students who now understand that their world is much larger and older than they are and that many have gone before as pioneers, often against incredible odds, so that they can enjoy the life they do.  Perhaps others would eventually have done what Katherine Johnson did, but for Miss 12 who has the self-doubt and mood swings so typical of her age group, it is Katherine’s story of resilience and determination that is as important as her achievements, just as it is for all the others featured in this series, so it is inspirational on many levels.  When she feels overwhelmed, hopefully she will draw on Katherine’s story to find the courage to take the next step.

That sort of engagement doesn’t come from reading a dispassionate fact-and-figures webpage and so this book in particular and the series in general will be a superb addition to both private and school libraries this year.   


Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden









Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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


Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.


47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees








47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 


DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation










DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Being the daughter of journalists who were sticklers for correct grammar, the structure of our language was drummed into me from an early age and I have to say that all these years on, I’m still what is commonly called a “grammar Nazi.” In fact, just this morning I corrected this image on a friend’s Facebook feed stating that it should read, “What would you do if you knew you COULD not fail?”

And with the return of the “back to basics” of the English strand of the Australian curriculum where even our youngest students are expected to know what “rime and onset” are, the syntax of our language can be overwhelming.  Thus, having a ready reference text that helps young children understand the common parts of speech like nouns, verbs and adjectives and supports their growing knowledge of more obscure things like prepositional phrases, fronted adverbials and reported speech will be a welcome addition to any young student’s collection, (and perhaps, even their teacher’s.)  

While text speech and spelling seems to have overtaken much of our everyday writing, being able to put words on paper that carry a message over time still remains part of that which makes us human and so grammar and punctuation both have a vital place in our learning if we want to be understood by others. 

But although the more formal aspects of writing might seem daunting to those moving on from writing random thoughts and having an adult interpret and transcribe them for them, students are reassured that they know much of what they are going to learn already because every time they speak they use grammar – the purpose of this book is just to show them the different kinds of words and how they fit together.  There’s a clear explanation of how to use the three parts of the book – parts of speech, sentences and clauses, and punctuation – as well as a demonstration of what grammar and punctuation are and how they are critical to both speech and writing. 

We are all familiar with memes like this…

so teaching young children from the get-go the difference is essential if they are to realise those big dreams.

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes First Children’s DictionaryFirst Science EncyclopediaFirst Maths GlossaryFirst Encyclopedia and First How Things Works Encyclopedia, and is going to be a valuable addition to Miss 7’s writing toolkit as she enters the new phase of her formal education. 


DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary









DK First Reference Dictionary

DK, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


I love this time of the year – the madness that is Christmas is over, the new school year is becoming real and it’s time to reflect on just where Miss 7 and Miss 12 are at with their learning, and how much they have accomplished in the past 12 months.

This year, Miss 12 begins the whole new adventure of high school while Miss 7 moves into Year 3, already an independent reader and wanting to start writing her own stories.  She has a big imagination and big dreams just like May Gibbs so this new Australian dictionary from DK is going to be the perfect addition to her desk.  As part of the generation that believes having a broad vocabulary and using and spelling it correctly is critical for engaging the audience and getting the message across, I believe dictionaries are an essential part of the writer’s toolkit and this one is perfect for the budding storyteller.

With more than 4,000 words and definitions, and featuring a full alphabet on every page to make finding words easy, colourful photographs that bring words to life, and helpful information on word families, spelling and writing, this essential dictionary for Australian children is the perfect reference book, both for home and at school. Each entry provides the part of speech and the word’s plural while the definition is in everyday English so that it is accessible to the user.  It acknowledges that the user has moved on from junior picture dictionaries so there is not a picture for every entry, allowing space for exploring the words that children of this age use. 

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation, First Maths GlossaryFirst Science Encyclopedia and First How Things Work Encyclopedia., all of which will be important additions to Miss 7’s bookshelf this year as well as being extremely useful in any library collection as they could be the central focus of teaching this age group the value of reference tools and how to identify the cues and clues to use them.   Alphabetical order is an essential skill that reaches well beyond understanding how a dictionary works, but the dictionary is the ideal place to master it. 

The Suzie K Diaries (series)

The Suzie K Diaries

The Suzie K Diaries










The Suzie K Diaries

Show Stopper


Happy Camper


Susie K likes science instead of netball and has the class goldfish for a best friend. But Susie’s mum finds it hard to believe that she’s happy that way. She’s constantly trying to push Susie (with the best of intentions, of course!) to be something she’s not. And the last thing Susie wants is to disappoint her mum…

In these two new releases in this series her mum again puts her into situations that are unfamiliar to her.  In Happy Camper Susie’s mum is overjoyed about the upcoming camping trip… only Susie doesn’t know the first thing about outdoor survival. But rather than disappoint her mum, she goes and just uses her logical brain to solve the problems that arise using her forumla of 

  1. Identifying the problem
  2. Analysing the problem
  3. Finding a solution
  4. testing the solution

Similarly, in Show Stopper  her mum is convinced that Susie will be the star of the school talent quest, even though public performance is the thing that sends shudders up Susie’s spine.

This is a  series that supports newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as many of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering, even though it is the parent’s ambition that is causing the problem! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.


This entry was posted on January 7, 2019, in Picture Book.

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge Lodge









Hodge Podge Lodge

Priscilla Lamont

New Frontier, 2018

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99


The Pigwigs who live at Hodge Podge Lodge are obsessed with acquiring new things.  Pa Pigwig loves to order items online; Ma Pigwig is always shopping; Master Pigwig spends all his money on junk food and Little Miss Pigwig collects all sorts of bits and pieces.  But with new stuff comes packaging – paper, string, tape, plastic wrap, boxes, bottles… the list is endless and sadly the Pigwigs did not do not get rid of it. They just drop it wherever they like and it piles up.  So one day when a big wind sweeps in, it all ends up in the nearby woods proving disastrous for the creatures that live there…

While we are gradually becoming aware of the impact of plastic bags on out marine life, there are still so many other issues with the careless disposal of all sorts of waste that we must acknowledge and this book helps us think about this.  A box might be a nice house for a mouse until the rain collapses it; fishing line can tangle around legs and beaks; paper can blind if it’s flying around… So this is an excellent story that really highlights the message about the amount of rubbish we generate and what happens to it, particularly at this time of gift-giving and summer holidays, in a way that even youngest readers can understand.

Reduce, reuse, recycle are the new 3Rs that we need to continually introduce and reinforce with our youngsters and Little Miss Pigwig’s examples and solutions just might be the inspiration for a cleaner 2019 in your family and your school.