Archive | May 2019

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

The Dictionary of Difficult Words










The Dictionary of Difficult Words

Jane Solomon

Louise Lockhart

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2019

112pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


From the time a little one first says a recognisable word like “mum” or “dad”, a great fuss is made as new words are added, two-word phrases become sentences and so on until new words added to the vocabulary are so frequent that the novelty wears off.  Memories are made when words like ‘spaghetti” and “hospital” are mispronounced or the loss of the front teeth make talking tricky. We make a fuss when big words like “tyrannosaurus” are learned and understood but generally after that initial flush oral language is taken for granted as successes in reading and writing take over.

But whether we speak or write, listen or read, the fundamental unit of communication is the word and in this collection of over 400 words, lexicographer (a person who writes dictionaries) Jane Solomon brings together a range of words that are long, short, common, not-so, fun-to-say, tongue-trickers, have beautiful meanings or weird ones so those with a fascination language can add to their own lexicon. Some of the words like “sesquipedalian” are very old and not in common use; others like slugabed are more recent and one is amazed they are more than just an in-family term.

But whatever its age or origin, each word has a guide to its pronunciation and an easy-to-read meaning so that even the most reluctant reader can understand what is meant by Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? Many words are illustrated with some words getting special treatment with a full-page spread, and unlike other dictionaries which try to cover every word, the careful selection of these means that the layout is clear and open and very easy to read. It’s chatty style, such as the notes about how to read it, engage the reader and it’s perfect for those who are newly independent readers or well-practised.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Lots of teachers and teacher librarians love to challenge children with Word-of-the-Day tasks and this would be the perfect source for those words while encouraging students to use more conventional dictionaries to discover the meanings.  But as a stand-alone book in itself it is fabulous because of the serendipitous nature of opening a page and learning a host of new words just because. Even wordsmiths will have fun with this, especially the aspiring sesquipedalians!



Mr Walker (series)

Mr Walker (series)

Mr Walker (series)







Mr Walker Gets the Inside Scoop


Mr Walker and the Dessert Delight


Mr Walker Braves the Night


Mr Walker and the Perfect Mess


Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., hbk. RRP $A14.99

We first met Mr Walker, the lovable labrador who is the ambassador for Guide Dogs Australia at the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne in The Tales of Mr Walkera CBCA Notable Book for 2019. And now he is back in four separate stories this time, continuing his adventures as he meets and greets the guests and managing to get himself into mischief at the same time.

In Mr Walker and the Dessert Delight, there’s a special anniversary celebration happening at the hotel and everyone is excited – especially Mr Walker! A famous chef is flown in for the event, and although she is all smiles and sweet delights, Chef Remy is none too pleased about sharing his kitchen. Mr Walker smells trouble . . . big trouble indeed, while it’s all systems go as the staff prepare for the arrival of an important reviewer in Mr Walker Gets the Inside Scoop.

Jess Black creates two more wonderful stories out of his antics in the other two books which are due in August and all are accompanied by the delightful artworks of Sara Acton who captures him perfectly, together making a fabulous series of stories that will capture the hearts and minds of newly independent readers, especially those who love stories about dogs. 

While the stories themselves are developed from actual events, the author has put the familiar disclaimer about the names, characters and so forth not bearing any relation to anyone real so this could be an opportunity to discuss with readers why authors should do this and the need for them to respect other’s privacy if they are writing or telling stories.  It’s OK to write this but not that… 

Destined to be an in-demand series in your library… 




Happy Birthday Wombat

Happy Birthday Wombat

Happy Birthday Wombat










Happy Birthday Wombat

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2019

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


There are a few modern characters in Australian children’s literature that are a must-have in the literary and literacy journey of every young reader, and one of those is Mothball the wombat. It is 16 years since we first met her in 2003 in Diary of a Wombat and here she is, back again in a new adventure. 

Today is her birthday and while her human friends are set to enjoy a party for her, birthday parties seen through a wombat’s lens are different to those through a child’s lens. A jumping castle may be fun for the children but it’s an enemy to vanquish to a wombat!   The result is an hilarious adventure that combines the minimal text of Mothball’s thoughts with the classic illustrations that tell so much of the story, and which thoroughly engage the young reader as they follow Mothball’s day.

Anyone who follows Jackie’s Facebook page will be aware of the adventures she shares about Wild Whiskers and friends, and knows of her love for and affinity with these creatures, including that they bite and they can be very destructive.  But her portrayal of these characteristics as being almost childlike in their single-mindedness not only appeals to the audience for whom she is writing, but also raises awareness of these creatures in our environment, encouraging a love to protect them from an early age. Living in the country as I do, sadly wombats are often the victims of cars and I will never forget having to pacify Miss Then-3 when she saw “Mothball” on the side of the road and clearly in wombat heaven. It took a lot of talking to assure her it was a distant cousin who hadn’t learned the road rules and Mothball was very happy still living with Jackie near Braidwood.

Long may she go on to have many more adventures that will bring such delight and empathy to our very youngest readers.

For those who need to satisfy curriculum outcomes, teachers’ notes are available.





Little White Fish (series)

Little White Fish  (series)

Little White Fish (series)






Little White Fish (series)

Guido Van Genechten

Catch A Star, 2019

board book, 16pp., RRP $A12.99


Originally published in Belgium and The Netherlands in 2004, and well-known throughout Europe, the Little White Fish series is now available to tiny Australian readers. With its bright illustrations set against a black background it is immediately eye-catching and appealing and with its simple, repetitive text about familiar situations, our very youngest readers will be able to listen to it and then be able to tell themselves about Little White Fish’s adventures – the precursor to “real” reading. 

Featuring Little White Fish, Little White Fish is so happy and Little White Fish has a party , each book has a storyline that will be familiar and each builds on the other, consolidating the characters and the knowledge that the child has learned. 

Something new to encourage the very young away from the screen and into books, and with their board book format, able to withstand the treatment they will get. 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal











Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2019

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


“Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has been chronicling his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals . . . and counting. But it’s finally time for readers to hear directly from Rowley in a journal of his own. In Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Rowley writes about his experiences and agrees to play the role of biographer for Greg along the way. (After all, one day Greg will be rich and famous, and everyone will want to know his life’s story.) But Rowley is a poor choice for the job, and his “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess.”

There would be few primary school readers (and even those a little older) who do not know the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , one of the pivotal series to get boys reading that I’ve encountered throughout my teaching career. So this new addition to the collection, in which Greg’s life is viewed through the lens of his best friend, is a welcome new chapter with a twist.

But as well as just being a fun read, one that so many can relate to, it’s also a chance to explore the concept of perspective.  Do others see us as we see ourselves? It reminds me of an advertisement on television where a fellow is called to a meeting and is giving himself negative self-talk  – this one…

But the reality is significantly different. So this book could be an opening into examining how others perceive us and perhaps tapping into someone’s mental health by having friends write about their friends. A skilled teacher who knows the students really well might have them write about themselves first and if necessary have conversations with the school counsellor.  Food for thought that might get someone who is struggling to open up.

But for those who just adore Greg and Rowley and their adventures, they can find out more about their creation here.



Pirate Pug

Pirate Pug

Pirate Pug










Pirate Pug

Laura James

Eglantine Geulemans

Bloomsbury, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Pug and Lady Miranda are off to the seaside! Pug is dreaming of naps under the beach umbrella, but when a little mishap means he has to wear an eyepatch, things quickly get a lot less snoozy! Soon Pirate Pug and his ragtag crew of friends find themselves on the trail of buried treasure. They have to reach the island where X marks the spot before the other pirates beat them to it. There’s just one problem – Pug is scared of water!

This is the fourth adventure in this series for newly independent readers who are ready for novels, but who still need the support of illustrations, short chapters and a larger font.  Pug gets himself into all sorts of adventures, often with humorous outcomes, and young readers who like something a little wacky will enjoy both this stories and its predecessors. 

Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril

Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril

Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril










Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril

Candice Lemon-Scott

New Frontier, 2019 

102pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Best friends Ebony and Jay are the Eco Rangers,. They love helping others and looking after the environment  rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured wildlife through their local conservation centre. So  when they rescue a frightened-looking pelican covered in fuel, they know something terrible has happened. Why is the sea full of petrol? And where does it come from? As they start investigating, they end up getting into big trouble. 

The recent election campaign and student protests show that the environment and its future is the key issue in the minds of our young people, and the concern extends to even our youngest students who are well aware of concepts such as climate change, pollution, and recycling. So this new series, with its sequel Microbat Mayhemfocusing on the rescue of some tiny bats due on June 1st, will appeal to newly independent readers who have an interest in the world around them and a focus on how they can help make it better.

Drawing on her own interest in wildlife and participating in two koala rescues, the author has created a series that is real, contemporary and allows young readers to imagine themselves in the roles of the Eco Rangers and perhaps even inspire them to take action.

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger










Arthur and the Tiger

Sophie Beer

Puffin Books, 2019

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


Arthur’s circus is full of daring performers.

The Acrobat can soar like an eagle. The Strongman can lift a car with one finger. The Jugglers can breathe fire like dragons. But Arthur has never been brave enough to learn any daring circus tricks. He would prefer to have a picnic and tea with his friends.

So what will Arthur do when a terrifying tiger joins the circus? Especially when his father, the Ringmaster tells him he is to be the tiger tamer!

This new book from Sophie Beer with its bright illustrations with a rather retro look focuses on Arthur facing his fears and overcoming them, albeit with a little help from the tiger itself. Even though  community rumours have built up the fear to fever pitch, perhaps, in reality, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

It also takes readers back to a time when the circus coming to town was a huge event, animals were allowed to be part of the acts and part of the appeal was seeing them as wild creatures being subjugated by humans even though they were supposedly wild and fierce and scary. In fact circus public relations traded on this to attract the crowds so if older students were investigating animal rights in relation to recent news events, this could be a valuable resource to examine another perspective. Similarly, the way the citizens of the city respond to the news of the tiger, each adding to or twisting the story could also be the basis for a discussion about fake news, particularly in light of the current election.  

Good picture books span age groups – this is one of those.

The Encyclopedia of Animals

The Encyclopedia of Animals

The Encyclopedia of Animals










The Encyclopedia of Animals

Tim Harris

Chartwell Crestine, 2019

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Discover the lifestyles, habitats, and behaviours of the animal kingdom in this new Encyclopedia of Animals written for independent readers who want to find out more.

Each page of this comprehensive guide is packed with amazingly detailed scientific artworks, full-colour photographs and text, captions and key fact boxes highlighting features of the animal’s anatomy, diet, and genus of familiar and not-so creatures of this planet.  Map icons illustrate the animal’s distribution around the world

Rather than being alphabetical order like a traditional encyclopedia, this one is divided by class and family with each section clarifying the distinguishing traits of the animals, so to find a particular species the young reader has to use the contents and the index pages and each section has a coloured tab for easy reference, all  contributing to their understanding about how non fiction texts are arranged and navigated easily.  

This is more than a beginner’s guide to the animal kingdom but the layout and language make it very accessible to young readers who are discovering the importance and permanence of print resources.

Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books

Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books

Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books











Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books

Megan Daley

UQP, 2019

244pp., pbk., RRP $A27.95


In the early days of European settlement in this country, establishing schools became a priority particularly for those with a religious bent because they believed it was imperative that the emerging generation of children be able to read and understand The Bible and thus not follow their parents’ errant ways. That was a school’s key purpose. Decades and generations on and while society has changed, and schools themselves are almost unrecognisable from those early institutions, the expectation that a child primarily attends so they can learn to read has not. 

Right from preschool children are tested on their literacy development and judged according to it, underlining the importance that is still placed on being able to read and write. Five year olds head off on their first day of ‘big school’ fully expecting to be able to read by the time they come home and are often disappointed that they cannot. However, research and experience has shown that schools alone cannot be the child’s primary teachers in this critical endeavour. It is a partnership between home and school and those who make the best readers are those whose roots in reading extend back to birth. Indeed, author Mem Fox has stated that the illiteracy problem in this country could be solved if children just heard 1000 stories before they come to school (which can be achieved in three years with a favourite, a familiar and a first-read as the regular bedtime routine) and the concept of the ‘million word gap’ is not new.

So this book from Megan Daley, a respected, qualified teacher librarian (we must have qualifications in both teaching and librarianship), which explores how parents can help to raise readers is a valuable contribution to the lives of new parents, particularly in these days of the screen being a dominant feature in children’s lives.  For those who can read it is hard to remember not being able to do so; for those who can’t read or don’t like to it is tricky to overcome the personal prejudices that already exist, so to have a “manual” that helps explain some of the best practices and what underlies them is eye-opening.  

While there have been a number of books on this sort of topic in the past, many have been written bu either authors of children’s books or university lecturers, This one is by a practising teacher librarian who is in touch with what is happening both in and out of school as Megan has two daughters.  She examines the place of the school library in the child’s reading journey while at the same time encouraging parents to attend book launches; getting involved in Book week while setting up a book-themed bedroom; explaining the most popular genres of young readers while offering tips to host book parties and be “best book-givers”. Interspersed with the user-friendly text are comments from some of Australia’s favourite children’s authors as well as suggestions for books to support the young reader as they grow their literacy skills.

For the teacher and the teacher librarian, this is a refreshing read with lots of tried-and-true and new ideas and perspectives in amongst the host of academic and professional reading we have to do; to parents it’s a simple explanation of the what, why and how of raising a reader so both child and parent fulfil their expectations..

One to encourage staff to read and to include and promote in your parent library.