Archive | March 2022

Emergency Emergency

Emergency Emergency

Emergency! Emergency!











Emergency! Emergency!

Rhiân Williams

Tom Jellett

Wild Dog, 2022

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


Sadly, our youngest readers are becoming all too familiar with emergency vehicles as they rush around the cities and the countryside in these times of floods and fire and other devastating events.  For many, it is the sight of those familiar uniforms that bring relief and hope as well as help.

In this rhyming story with its bold, colourful pictures, young readers discover that there are many more vehicles in the fleet beyond the usual fire trucks, police cars and ambulances as they are introduced to jet skis, helicopters, water bombers, drones and even the RFDS as each plays a unique role in particular situations from clifftop rescues to getting people off their rooftops.  

However, as entertaining and engaging as the book is, it is the teachers’ notes that really add extra value as they guide both parents and teachers through raising the issues of “what if” with their young children including keeping themselves and their pets safe; the role of 000 and when to use it; knowing what to do in case of a fire, being lost, and other critical situations they might find themselves; and preparing for a disaster.  Simple things like knowing your name, address and phone number to tell a police officer, or having a password that must be said if a stranger talks to you can be life-saving but can also be neglected as we hope they’re never needed. While the story itself touches on calling 000 it is these additional activities that open up essential conversations in a non-threatening scenario that add depth and make this book a valuable addition to a family’s safety preparations. Even moreso because its focus is on the familiar vehicles and people that we see in Australia. 

Hopefully, like learning CPR, there is never a need for them to use their knowledge but as the saying goes, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4











Brave the Storm: Skydragon 4

Anh Do

A & U Children’s, 2022

200pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

In this fourth episode in this series, Amber discovers that she cannot see the familiar purple glow that indicates the presence of insects. She has become used to summoning her insect friends and transforming into Skydragon at the first sign of danger, but now her powers are gone, and she’s just back to being just Amber again. Will she be able to get her powers back in time to help new friends defeat an old enemy?

Put a new Anh Do title on the New releases table and there is soon a list of reserves as children wait their turn to borrow it.  But put one from a really popular series and you are likely to be mobbed!!  Anh Do continues to be one of the most requested authors for those who are independent readers – he is one of a handful who needs nothing more than his name as the author to be a surefire hit.  So offer your students this new release and stand back and watch the negotiating and bargaining to be the first to read it… 

How to Count to ONE

How to Count to ONE

How to Count to ONE











How to Count to ONE

Caspar Salmon

Matt Hunt

Nosy Crow, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


You know how to count, right? GREAT! There are LOADS of fun things to count in this book. Whales, baboons, rainbows, pyramids…There’s just rule. You must ONLY ever count to ONE. So don’t even about THINK bigger numbers. OK?!

Following in the footsteps of a number of other books that really engage our youngest readers as they not only learn the concepts that are the book’s focus, but also a host of early reading behaviours, this is a masterpiece that ensures that the reader listens carefully to the instructions and then develops their visual acuity as they follow them, searching for that ONE item on the page they have to find and count.  They can’t be distracted by all the other things going on – there is just one of whatever it might be, such as the one duck rollerblading amongst all the other ducks.  Some are more obvious than others but there are also some tricky ones that will really make the reader focus on the picture’s detail, encouraging them to be discerning and also give illustrations more than just a brief glance.  There are always cues and clues within that enrich and enhance the text.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as being great fun for the young reader – and there is the chance for them to show their prowess with counting – if your school has a buddy system where older students become the companions of your youngest, this would be a great joint activity with the older kids creating their own page to contribute to a class book to share. Each little one could have their own copy as a memento of the relationship, and perhaps even be inspired to male their own page to share too. 

Books that teach so much in such a fun way are gold; books that keep on giving even moreso!  

Daddy’s Rainbow

Daddy's Rainbow

Daddy’s Rainbow












Daddy’s Rainbow

Lucy Rowland

Becky Cameron

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Erin’s daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles because, Daddy says, We can’t see rainbows without rain!’

But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn’t there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again?

Even though we wish it didn’t happen, there are a number of our students who are going to suffer profound  loss during their time with us, and are going to have to move through their grief.  This is a moving , poignant story that might help them understand that the grey days are normal an natural but, in time, they too will begin to see rainbows again.  But it takes time… 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan











The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.” 


Whisper on the Wind

Whisper on the Wind

Whisper on the Wind











Whisper on the Wind

Claire Saxby

Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin, 2022

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


As Ren lies dreaming in his bed in his bedroom in the lighthouse, a wish goes out his window as a whisper.  And reminiscent of the cumulative style of The House that Jack Built, that whisper makes its way across the waves to its recipient…

This is the wind
that carries the whisper
from Ren’s dream.

This is the sailor,

long at sea,
who catches it.

This is a story for any child (or grown-up) who, in any circumstance or situation,  has had to endure separation and longs for connection and reunion.  If ever there were a match made in heaven between author and artist, then Saxby and Racklyeft are it and the text and illustrations are so seamless that it would seem impossible for to stand without the other.  In themselves, they are examples of connection and reunion and celebration.  

While the nightly news constantly brings us images of families separated by fire, flood, pestilence and war, we must remember that we have children separated by less dramatic causes, and by sharing this gentle, stunning story we can nourish their hopes that their whispers on the wind will be carried and come true too. 

The First Tackle

The First Tackle

The First Tackle











The First Tackle

Rikki-Lee Arnold

Wombat Books, 2022

136pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Daniella Murphy is on a mission. All she has ever wanted to do is play rugby league, just like her three brothers. However, her grandma who has come to live with the family since Daniella’s mother died says no, her dad stays silent and the school bully just laughs in her face. Their message is clear – girls don’t play footy. But is this just being sexist or is there another reason?

As Daniella watches her older brother Jimmy practise with the Banford Saints she spies a girl playing!  One who becomes an even bigger hero for her than Kalyn Ponga because here is proof that girls can and do play rugby league! She is more determined than ever and so, against the adults’ wishes, she gets Jimmy to teach her to tackle – until an accident that lands her in hospital blows open the lies and the secrets…

This is an engaging read that encourages readers to follow their dreams, to not give up and not give in, even if they’re somewhat out of the ordinary – an inscription my mum wrote to me in a dedication in her book she wrote after she became the first female journalist to go to the Antarctic over 50 years ago, and one I’ve believed in since then.  So, at first, the grandmother’s attitude annoyed me because it seemed so sexist, so out-of-touch and so dated, particularly as I have a grandchild the same age as Daniella who is definitely not the girly-girl Daniella is expected to be.  But as the story evolves the reasons behind Grandma’s thinking emerge, her father begins to function as a father and even the school bully begins to reveal what’s behind his attitude (so common to many bullies) giving the story depth and currency.  

As the AFLW and NRLW reach their peak, young female league players might begin to wonder why the existence of the NRLW is such a revelation to Daniella, but, nevertheless, they will resonate with her determination and passion to play the game she loves as they immerse themselves in her story.  In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey included, “Begin with the end in mind so all your steps are in the right direction” and so it is common to have even quite young students start their school term with a goal-setting exercise and thus this book could be a useful read-aloud for them to identify not only their goal for the next 10 weeks or so, but also the things they need to do for themselves to achieve it.  Who are the people they need to approach for help, what actions and activities do they need to commit to, how will they know that they are making progress or even success?  What can they learn from Daniella’s realisation about having to do it for herself  rather than expecting it to be handed to her and from Steph’s revelation that “you can’t be what you can’t see”? Further teaching notes are available. 


Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Little Wombat's Easter Surprise

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise











Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Charles Fuge

Walker, 2022 

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Little Wombat is busy collecting eggs on his Easter hunt when he sees Rabbit hop by wearing a special Easter Bunny costume. It’s such a good costume that the tail and nose won’t come even off – but wait, is that really Rabbit? Or is it his new friend, Bilby?

In 1991,  the Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia (RFA) developed and registered the Easter Bilby campaign  to raise awareness of the damage rabbits do to native wildlife, and to raise money with royalties from Easter Bilby sales to fund research programs. In 1993, Haigh’s Chocolates in Adelaide stopped making chocolate Easter bunnies and made the first Easter Bilby, donating part of the proceeds to RFA.  More recently the Easter Bilbies have been made by Fyna Foods sold under the brands of Australian Bush Friends and Pink Lady and have been stocked by national chains and other independent stores. 

Aligned to this, in 1999 the  Save the Bilby Fund was established in 1999 to raise money and awareness to help stop the steady decline of bilbies. The fund helps support bilby conservation initiatives including a breeding program and a “bilby fence” creating a predator-free zone in Western Queensland. 

Dedicated to Tim Faulkner and his work with Aussie Ark ,Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise shines a new light on the both the plight of the bilby and the reasons behind Australia having such a unique interpretation of the familiar Easter Bunny both for the young audience and their parents who share it because they will be too young to remember the circumstances.  As in Swim, Little Wombat, SwimLittle Wombat tries to mimic the actions of his new friends Bilby and Easter Bunny only to discover he has his own unique talents that come in very handy for building friendships and having fun.

As well as being a fresh story about Easter in Australia, and helping children understand that we each have special abilities that we can use for the good of others, it is a great way to introduce another Australian species, sadly also endangered, and raising awareness (and perhaps money) that there are many who need our help.  

A Lighthouse Story

A Lighthouse Story

A Lighthouse Story











A Lighthouse Story

Holly James

Laura Chamberlain

Bloomsbury, 2022 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“On bright summer days, Eva visits her Grandad…

But this is no ordinary trip because it begins with a boat ride on a small boat to a rocky island because Eva’s grandad is a lighthouse keeper.  Eva loves her Grandad but she loves lighthouses almost as much as she bombards him with millions of questions about the what, why, where, who and how of these structures that seem to have their own mystical appeal.  

And so interspersed with the story of Eva and Grandad sharing the daily routine of maintaining the lighthouse, the reader is given all sorts of facts about them – who knew that even  their external paint pattern was so significant – their purpose, their location, their upkeep, their range, as well as cloud formations, stars in the night sky and the wildlife that surrounds the lighthouse. There is even the remarkable story of Grace Darling, the legendary lighthouse keeper’s daughter who rescued so many. 

Give me a book with a lighthouse on the cover and I can’t resist – I’m straight back to my childhood at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand where I grew up with the local lighthouse sweeping its reassuring beam over my bed in its rhythmic pattern each night, and on clear nights, the distant Dog Island lighthouse too.  So although my grandad wasn’t the lighthouse keeper, so much of Eva’s story brought back the best memories. 


Apart from me though,  this is a book that will resonate with so many who are familiar with lighthouses as there are over 350 of them dotted around our coastline. While there are no longer any manned, nevertheless they still hold an appeal and Eva’s  journey back into another time will help those who are fascinated by them, not only understand their function better but also have an even deeper respect for those who looked after them, and, through their efforts. so many others.  

The perfect companion to  The Lighthouse Keeper series – another favourite!  

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)











J. R. R. Tolkien

Little People, Big Dreams

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Aaron Cushley

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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


Ever since Sir Peter Jackson decided to turn the remarkable adventures of the fantastic people of Middle Earth into the most highly successful movie franchise, ordinary people have known the name of the original creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Even though John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote other stories in his lifetime, the creation of a whole new world  united in either the quest for or the safety of  the “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them” , remains his seminal work.

So for his story to be told in this popular series, recommended every time someone asks for biographies for young readers, will be a welcome addition.  

John experienced lots of change in his life from a young age. Moving from South Africa to a big city in England, he longed for the nature he grew up around. After the death of both of his parents, John found comfort in telling stories and building imaginary worlds with his friends. And he continued to tell stories for the rest of his life, creating epic tales of hobbits, dwarves, elves and wizards as J. R. R. Tolkien. Featuring stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the writer’s life, it is one that will be sought after as young readers clamour to know more about the man who is the epitome of this year’s CBCA Book week theme, Dreaming with eyes open….