Archive | February 2024

Pokemon Story Quest – Hometown Hero

Pokemon Story Quest - Hometown Hero

Pokemon Story Quest – Hometown Hero












Pokémon Story Quest – Hometown Hero

Farshore, 2024

128pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


The blurb says, “Ash, Pikachu and friends head out on an adventure to discover an unusual Pokémon in the cold mountains of the Crown Tundra. Meanwhile Lillie searches for her lost father. Will they all succeed in their quests?

Find out in this exciting chapter book, with a puzzling twist. At the end of each chapter, readers will have to complete an activity to tell them where to find the next part of the story.”

I am the first to admit that I know nothing about Pokémon and Pikachu and company so reviewing this book is w-ay- out of my depth, but I do know that there is a whole world both in and out of the story that has captured the imagination of kids and adults alike, if the experiences of my granddaughters and D-I-L are a guide. And so, like The Goblin’s Revenge, this and any others that are proposed in the series has a place in the library’s collection for those who prefer gaming to reading and who think that there is nothing relevant to their interests in the print-focused library.

In the meantime, I ventured into this unknown world to discover just what it was about, and perhaps get inside the head of those I love to understand what on earth they are on about and so this explanation from Wikipedia was very helpful, and I can now see why Miss 12, particularly, and her mum seem to have no trouble swapping between the real world and the fantasy, even sometimes blurring the lines completely. They would not be alone… 

The Most Amazing Thing

The Most Amazing Thing

The Most Amazing Thing











The Most Amazing Thing

Ian Hayward Robinson

Matt Shanks

A & U Children, 2024

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


It’s wet. gloomy, indoors day ad Henry is stuck inside with nothing to do.  His dad is tinkering with his telescope, his sister is doing an experiment, his brother is meditating and his mother is working on her novel.  None of these were activities to include Henry, and so he asks his mum for a suggestion.

“Why don’t you draw me the most amazing thing?” she suggests.

But what is the most amazing thing.  Henry is baffled and all the other family members have a different answer. Is it life, like his sister says?  Is it the universe like his dad says? Or is it the mind like his brother says?  Or is it something else entirely? So, at the risk of disturbing his mum again, he asks her… and she gives him the most amazing answer.

Little people often have big questions and this is an intriguing way to introduce them to the idea of wondering and imagining, as it would be so easy to have them ask Henry’s question and draw their responses before the story is finished.  Are they as bamboozled as Henry?  Do they draw what his mum suggests?  Why does each draw something different? Can there be many answers to the same question, whether it’s the one posed by Henry’s mum or something else?  What is perspective and what role does that play? Do all questions have answers?

Author Ian Hayward Robinson was a tutor in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and taught Philosophy of Education at Coburg Teachers College and so it seems appropriate that his first picture book for children opens up so many questions for little ones to consider and explore. 

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch

The Big Book of Little Lunch











The Big Book of Little Lunch

Danny Katz

Mitch vane

Walker Books, 2024

464pp., pbk, RRP $a19.99


That break known as “little lunch” or “recess” is only 15 minutes in the school day so really, what can happen in such a short time?  Ask any teacher who has ever been on playground duty and you will discover the answer is – a lot! And in this collection from the Little Lunch series are 18 stories that are perfect for those venturing into the world of novels because of their relatable characters and events and text/image balance, the reader discovers what teachers already know- it can be the most significant 15 minutes of the day.

Set in a suburban primary school in Australia each highlights  the adventures of a class of Year 5 students  Manny, Debra-Jo, Tamara, Rory, Atticus and their friends and their teacher Mrs Gonsha during morning recess as relationships ebb and flow over what seems like the most innocuous events. And whether it’s Tamara Noodle hogging the monkey bars, fighting over what kind of sandwich Manny was eating or Batty becoming SUPER BATMAN GUY, each provides an engaging read that not only has heads nodding but also offers opportunities to discuss how the issue was or could be solved without argument or violence.   

The series was first released 20 years ago, was made in to a TV series, still available on iView, in 2015-2016 and is as popular now as it was then because the characters and the things that happen essentially don’t change.  The issues a teacher deals with on the playground today at recess will be similar to those I dealt with all those years ago.  Now bound into a big book, it also includes all sorts of bonus activities to stretch the brain.

Apart from just being a fun read, Danny Katz shows that writing about every day stuff, the stuff you know about and have done can be just as entertaining as the most far-fetched fantasy, and thus the stories in the book could be a basis for a writing exercise for a class. Start as a class exercise by posing a common problem and then asking, “What if ABC said or did XYZ instead?” “How else could the situation have been dealt with?” offering scope for individual scenarios and responses.  Then have them really observe what happens in the playground, analyse the relationships among those involved and how the dynamics made the incident worth watching, show them how to disguise real-life by giving the characters new identities and then have them create their own story for an extra addition to the series. 

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki











Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Jeffrey Alan Love

Walker Studio, 2024

240pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Through movies like Thor and Thor Ragnarok, and the television series Loki many of our emerging readers are familiar with and interested in the gods of Norse mythology (whose names are remembered in our days of the week).  And while there are many online resources discussing and debating the similarities and differences between the legends and their screen interpretations – indeed between the modern and ancient stories themselves – nevertheless, interest is high and this book is the ideal way to capitalise on that.

The author of this collection, Kevin Crossley-Holland is viewed by the likes of Neil Gaiman as being an expert in translating and retelling these tales of old, having translated Beowulf from the Anglo-Saxon and his stories of King Arthur have been translated into twenty-five languages.

These stories tell of Odin, with his one eye (the other in order to see everything that happens in the world( who is the god of both war and death and the ruler of Valhalla, a place of near-perpetual food, drink, pleasure, and battle where fallen warriors go in the afterlife; his son Thor who, with his mighty hammer Mjölnir is the god of thunder and lightning; and Loki the god of mischief, trickery, and deception. 

With its dramatic illustrations, this is one for independent readers with an interest in the stories behind the stories, ancient myths and legends, the Vikings themselves, even those from the north of the UK whose past ties with Scandinavian countries are strong. A dip-and -delve book, it would be an excellent one to share in those odd moments when a good story that will captivate even the most rambunctious boys is required.

Jawsome: Licence to Rock

Jawsome: Licence to Rock

Jawsome: Licence to Rock











Jawsome: Licence to Rock

R. J. Timms

Albert Street, 2024

272pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Deep under the ocean in the Shallow Side of Chumville Finley the reef shark lives with his dentist parents Su and Shi, and his siblings, Dash, Smash, Crash, Flash , Splash and Bash.  During the day Finley goes to school with his mates Hunter the tiger shark, Gnash the pointer shark and Gilleon the lemon shark, but at night, they are secretly the super-famous rock band JAWSOME!

In this, the second in the series, the band is off to play at Euro-fishin, and international music competition, where there will be bands like Swim Shady and Mertallica. But at the airport as departure time draws closer, Gnash (aka Gnarly Gnelson) hasn’t turned up, and a phone call to his parents reveals that he is missing. Immediately suspicious, and the police not taking the matter seriously, the band members find themselves deep in mystery and intrigue which includes  stopping evil A.B.B.A. (Alliance of Brutally Bad Anglerfish) agents from destroying the ocean. Then, in the second story, unmasking a strange new band called the Killer Wails, that everyone seems to follow, and having to use all their rockstar skills to save Chumville from becoming mindless zombies.

This is a fun series for those emerging readers who like a light-hearted read, peppered with pun humour and plenty of illustrations.  Verging on a graphic novel because so much of the action happens in the illustrations as it does in the text, it will also appeal to those students who like to be seen with thick books – it has over 300 pages because of the large font and copious graphics.  With most of the puns printed in bold, it is also a good opportunity to investigate that literary technique and how its use adds humour to many situations, as well as identifying the common elements and themes of such stories so readers start to understand the concept of genre, in this case the tropes of spy stories. 

Released at a time when so many of our students are swept up in the Swifties craze as Taylor Swift tours the nation, this is an engaging and enjoyable read on many levels that will have wide appeal. 

The Goblins’ Revenge

The Goblins' Revenge

The Goblins’ Revenge











The Goblins’ Revenge

Andy Prentice

Tom Knight

Usborne, 2024

288pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


For 93 years the land of Sibele has been ruled by the evil wizard Darkmoon, and now he is hunting down the last few rebels who dare to oppose him, and the only one who can save them and end his reign is the reader. With a horde of undead warriors on the trail and a series of blood-curdling dangers ahead , it would be a terrifying task for anyone – but you’re just a goblin, which makes things even more challenging. Confronted by menacing monsters, ghostly magic and a thrilling race against time in this spectacular fantasy adventure gamebook, the reader becomes the hero whose decisions and choices determine the outcome.  

Decades ago the choose-your-own adventure genre hit the shelves and were an instant success with those who like to insert and immerse themselves in the stories, and this 21st century version combines that genre with the gaming craze, combining three loves of the current generation – video games, fantasy and a story in print which becomes a new adventure with every choice made. 

It begins with instructions on how to play complete with items, weapons and abilities, a logbook to keep track of the relevant details of the quest as  well as all the other things needed to play a game and complete a quest in this modern era.  There are crucial picture puzzles to solve along the way, and although a computer is not needed to play, there are links to an online dice roller if physical dice (needed to play the combat system) aren’t available as well as a printable logbook.

I am the first to admit that this is not my sort of game and my granddaughters gave up in frustration as they tried to teach me some of theirs, but nevertheless, this seems to be something that teacher librarians should be aware of so they can capture the imagination and minds of those engaged by this sort of activity, thus demonstrating that the library has resources that are relevant to them. In fact, while the publisher suggests this is suitable for 9+, it could be one to give to your gamers for feedback on suitability both for reading /comprehension age as well as future releases in the series.  

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday












Amanda Commander: The Blues-day Tuesday

Coral Vass

Heidi Cooper-Smith

Wombat Books, 2024

80pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Amanda Caomhánach (aka Amanda Commander)  is nearly nine and likes nothing more than hanging out with her two best friends Lucia Cazzoli (aka Rainbow Fudge) and Mai Le (aka Plum Flower). Together they make up the Dolphin Squad meeting at their beachside HQ and solving problems like why Amanda didn’t receive an invitation to Eve’s birthday, the only one in the class not to have one.

This time, Amanda has a tough time fitting back into the friendship groups at school after having a sick day, and so, when Eve has several days off, Amanda is determined she will not face the dame issues, even if it means she, herself, is excluded.

This is the fourth in this series for the newly independent reader, particularly girls, which focuses on the sorts of issues that eight and nine year olds face as they navigate the world of greater independence and making and maintaining friendships. Thus, it will resonate with many who will see themselves in the stories, and start to think about what they might do in the same circumstances.  If someone returns to school after an absence or is new to the school, how will they respond so the transition is smooth and welcoming.

Using all the textual devices that support those making the transition to novels, this is a series that will be a sound stepping stone.  

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students











Inside Story – Creative Writing for Students

Sue Lawson & Jodi Toering

Guy Holt

Wild Dog Books, 2024

64pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Whether our students know it as “written expression”. “composition”, “exposition”, “essay”. “creative writing” or any of the other terms story-writing has been tagged over the generations, the first thing that they ask a published author is, “Where do you get your ideas from?”

And whether it’s a set topic with perfect spelling and grammar expected from the get-go, or the free-range experience of ideas first, editing later promulgated by the likes of Donald Graves and Lucy M. Calkins,  there are those who love to write and do it well, and those who struggle and find it a chore.  Whether the focus is product or process, there will be teachers who find this a tricky topic to teach and students who find it hard to achieve – just as those who find music, maths or any other subject tough going. Nevertheless, there is an expectation by society that students will be competent readers and writers having passed through the school process, being able to express themselves well verbally and in writing so others can understand their meaning and intent and so we must do what we can, AI, Chat GPT and text-speak notwithstanding.

So this easy-to read practical guide will be a boon to both teachers and students, because, regardless of any external aids that might be imposing all sorts of new considerations, those aids cannot edit or alter or improve a blank page.  But where to start to make those first marks on the page, whether they be with a pencil on a scrap of paper or keystrokes on a computer screen?  One of the first things the authors say is that you DON’T have to start at the beginning – either the beginning of the story of even the beginning of the book. If characters interest you, then look at the section that helps you develop credible characters that the reader cares enough about to want to find out what happens to them; if visualising and description is your thing, then start there… Thankfully, through the teaching of Graves et al., writing is seen as a process of refinement over time (unless you are sitting a standardised test where you have to get it right first go or else) and so this little handbook offers ideas and tips for getting started and keeping going, particularly for those whose imaginations might need a kickstart. 

In a nutshell a story has a complication and a resolution – a problem and a solution, made more interesting by the impact they have on those experiencing them,  and there are suggestions for story starters, ideas for creating the characters  who will be participating (even how to name them appropriately), tips for setting the scene – all the elements that complete and engaging story and all written in a style and language that directly addresses the reader so they are itching to get started, whether as teacher or writer. IMO, just acknowledging that we each have a different way of getting started is critical – some prefer to start with the end in mind and work back; others prefer to have the ‘what-if’ identified and work outwards; others  (like me) prefer to have the opening sentence set in place and flow from there.  There is no one way and no right way. 

Next to my storybook cushions, my author kits with engaging covers and basic tools of the trade are the biggest sellers on my little market stall as budding authors pester parents to purchase one, and apart from hearing, “My child loves to read”, hearing “my child loves to write” gives me the biggest tingle.

So if you have a child who loves to write or are a teacher who is not sure where to start to enthuse students, this little book is for you. 


How to Find a Rainbow

How to Find a Rainbow

How to Find a Rainbow











How to Find a Rainbow

Alom Shaha

Sarthak Sinha

Scribble, 2024

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


Reena and Rekha may be sisters, but when it comes to the weather, they couldn’t be more different.  Reena hates rainy days because she sees them as grey and gloomy, depriving her of being outside painting all the bright and beautiful things.  Whereas Rekha loves the smell of wet earth and the solitude of being outside when everyone else is in.

As she splashes in the puddles she sees a rainbow, and knows immediately that it is something Reena will want to see.  But by the time Reena joins her, the rainbow has disappeared.  Where can it be?  Will they find it again?

There is a saying, “Without rain, there can be no rainbows”, and this charming story can be read on two levels – that of two sisters in search of a physical rainbow and that of emerging from a gloomy emotional episode and beginning to find joy again.  It offers scope for investigating the science of rainbows (as well as instructions for creating one) , but also helps young readers understand that even if siblings or friends don’t like the same things, there are still ways to come together.  With much of the story carried in the dialogue which is assigned directly to each character, and an original style of artwork, this is a story of two red pandas that offers much to young readers learning to explore the world around them so that they will be looking forward to the next rainy day to explore for themselves. You could even teach them the word “petrichor” which is the grown-up word for the smell of dry earth as rain hits it, and watch them impress others with their knowledge! 

Sensational Australian Animals

Sensational Australian Animals

Sensational Australian Animals











Sensational Australian Animals

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Cher Hart

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


These days, when we read the word “sensational” we usually take it to mean “causing great public interest and excitement” but if we take it back to its original meaning of “relating to sensation or the senses” then we arrive at the core of this new, unique offering from CSIRO Publishing and Stephanie Owen Reeder.

For this is not just another book about Australian animals to join those already in the 590s section of your collection. Reeder begins by asking which sensations we associate with Australia – the sight of a flock of galahs, the sound of shrieking cicadas on a summer afternoon, the smell of koala pee raining down from a eucalyptus tree? Or perhaps the taste of prawns on the barbecue or the feel of a mosquito sucking your blood? By using our senses we navigate and make sense of the world around us, and so too do those creatures with which we share the landscape and environment.

And so it is through each of the senses that the reader learns about these creatures with the book divided into sections captioned The eyes have it, Did you hear that, Follow your nose, That’s tasty! and What a feeling. Each section begins with a diagram and brief explanation of how the human version of the organ works, and then explores how various creatures use their senses to navigate, survive and thrive in the natural world, including the super-senses like echolocation and electroreception.  From the large and common to the tiny and uncommon, hundreds of creatures have their secrets exposed in short paragraphs accompanied by detailed illustrations.  While the text is accessible to the independent reader, Reeder respects their intelligence by using or introducing the more sophisticated terms such as “otoliths” and “salivary glands” with each printed in bold type to indicate that it is explained in a glossary at the end.

A dip-and-delve book that will keep the budding naturalist intrigued for hours, this is most definitely one to add to the collection.