Archive | March 28, 2022

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.