Archive | March 3, 2022

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows

What Snail Knows











What Snail Knows

Kathryn Apel

Mandy Foot

UQP, 2022

232pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


“It’s just you and me, Lucy. We don’t need nobody else.” 

How many times had Lucy heard that as Dad packed up their old brown car again, and they moved to yet another caravan park and, for Lucy, a new school? It seems that since her mum died, she and her dad have been constantly on the move from place to place, school to school and if the memories themselves weren’t enough, there were the reminders at school where teachers asked students to make Mother’s Day cards or draw their family tree.  Lucy sees them as just a seed of a family, but desperately wishes there were branches like other families.   

So when she discovers Snail carrying his home on his back, a home he can tuck himself inside whenever things get tough, it seems like the ideal pet for her and so he joins them in his special box in the caravan.  And just as Snail becomes more used to his surroundings, gains confidence and tentatively comes out of his shell, so does Lucy.  Even though there are the usual adjustments to make as she starts yet another new school, gradually she starts to fit in and make friends as together the students investigate how they can help each other, their families and their communities under the sensitive and caring Miss Darling.  Does it really just have to be Lucy and her dad keeping themselves to themselves, or is there room for others as well?

This is a most poignant verse novel for young independent readers that will resonate with so many – Lucys who are the new kid, yet again, and who have already learned to build the defensive walls to protect themselves; teachers who have had new students start this year and who will have a host of reasons for starting a new school but will have “new kid” syndrome in common;  and students who are comfortable in their established friendship groups and are wary of how the dynamics will change if someone new enters…  And each will take something different away after having read it.

Written in the present tense from Lucy’s perspective each poem raises all sorts of issues that can be explored to help students understand the various perspectives and themes, while each blends into the next to build a potent story of loneliness, friendship, acceptance, and building and connecting with community. How can we each reach out to the new kid, our classmates, our families and those in the broader circle, particularly the lonely and the vulnerable, to build communities again, particularly after the isolation of the last two years?  Even without cane toads to conquer, could this rain and these floods on the East Coast, in fact, have a silver lining?


Piano Fingers

Piano Fingers

Piano Fingers











Piano Fingers

Caroline Magerl

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Isla and Bea are two sisters who share a love of music. Big sister Isla plays the violin (her honey fog machine) but Bea is waiting for her music to start. She knows it will because she comes from such a musical family but somehow binking on a triangle (no matter how dramatic it can be at the right place) just isn’t enough. And then she discovers the piano, “on tiny gold wheels… a baby mountain, smelling gently of mouse.”  

But even though it is big, it still doesn’t play the sweet music that Bea craves and so she declares, “The world is not ready for my genius”.

But, with the help of Maestro Gus, the cat ghost of the piano, Bea will make her sparkling debut and she and Isla will at last make beautiful music together. 

Over the years, Magerl has offered us some stunning stories including Nop, Maya & Cat and Hasel and Rose and this new one is no exception. Subtly exploring the theme of finding one’s own talent, the text is as lyrical as the music from  Isla’s honey fog machine and the illustrations as light as a touch on the keyboard. 

From one who, despite years of lessons and hours of practice, still has dreams of mastering the piano that has pride of place in the lounge,  this is an inspirational story that all hope is not lost.  Perhaps today is the day I will find my own Maestro Gus – perhaps not.  When it comes to music I don’t have the belief, the expectation, the tenacity or the  perseverance of Bea but young readers will enjoy her story and be encouraged as they realise that even those with natural talent (once they discover what it is) need to learn and practise and persevere.  Something that many will need to hear at the start of this new learning year.