Archive | April 2024

Lily Halfmoon (series)

Lily Halfmoon (series)

Lily Halfmoon (series)










Lily Halfmoon (series)

The Magic Gems 


The Witches’ Council


Xavier Bonet, translated by Marie Trinchan

A&U Children’s, 2024

80pp., graphic novel, RRP $A17.99

Nine-year-old Lily Halfmoon has just moved to the town of Piedraville. New house, new school and … new powers?

Surprise – Lily is a witch! She must learn magic, and find her animal guardian and gemstone, while keeping her new identity a secret. Not even her family can know.

Protecting the people of Piedraville from evil is no easy task. Especially when a dangerous creature is on the loose. Will Lily finally discover her gem’s unique power with the help of her new friends, Gigi and Mai, all without attracting attention? But a mysterious person is after her rare moonstone, and if they get their hands on it, it could threaten everything Lily holds dear. Will Lily have the strength to fight for what she believes?

The concept of ordinary children discovering magical powers as they become more independent, having to find their particular protective talismans and staving off those who want them is becoming a familiar trope in literature for the emerging reader, but nevertheless, as the enduring popularity of Harry Potter demonstrates, it is one that remains popular and with a constant stream of newly independent readers emerging, discovering it, it will continue to fascinate.   

So with its familiar themes, what sets this series apart?  Firstly, it is in graphic novel format so the reader has to be able to cope with that format, although this one has more dialogue to carry the story than others, the panels track left to right in a logical sequence and it is in regular font, rather than all capitals, making its appearance more familiar, as well as ‘regular’ pages that add more information and background – so, all in all, making it a solid introduction to this popular format. It also has potential to become a sought-after series, as in The Magic Gems, as well as the plot and premise being introduced, the characters and their relationships are established setting the platform for any number of adventures to come, particularly given the cliffhanger ending..  


This is Skateboarding

This is Skateboarding

This is Skateboarding











This is Skateboarding

Hannah Wilson

Peter Phobia

Farshore, 2024

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


While the name Tony Hawk may be familiar to some, the name Arisa Trew will be well-known to many of our students as this young Australian has just been named the action sportsperson of the year at the prestigious Laureues Awards, up there alongside the likes of tennis player Novak Djokovic and footballer Aitana Bonmatí. At the age of 13, Arisa became the first female to land the notorious 720 trick in skateboarding competition, a feat first performed by skating great Tony Hawk in 1985.

And with the Paris Olympics in view, she will be among the topline skaters displaying their craft for a generation of young athletes who are embracing those non-traditional sports and inspired by them, setting their own goals to make their dreams come true. So this new book that is a guide to all things skateboarding celebrating celebrate the rise of the global skateboarding scene, from the streets of LA to its first Olympic Games and including iconic skateparks ,gravity-defying tricks,  trailblazers, activists and medal-winning champions, and how skateboarding has influenced everything from shoes to art and urban design will be a perfectly timed addition to the collection.

With bite-sized pieces of information in amongst the many illustrations, the text speaks directly to the reader encouraging them to express their individuality in so many ways.

With COVID restrictions keeping us indoors in 2020-2021, many were introduced to skateboarding as an Olympic sport as we watched it at the Tokyo Olympics, and marvelled at how young some of the leading competitors were, as well as their athletic ability..  Since then the sport has grown in both stature and followers, particularly for women, and with Australian names sure to be at the forefront in the Paris competition, skateboarding is going to be an in-demand subject as studies of the Olympics generally, step up.   

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky











Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Tylissa Elisara

Dylan Finney

Lothian, 2024

185pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


In the fifty-fifth burrow of Bushland Avenue in a beautiful clearing on Kangaroo Island where the arching gum trees kiss, is the home of Wurtoo, the hariy-nosed wombat. His is the one at the end with the big red trapdoor and large gold doorknob and a myriad of tunnels because he loves to extend it, so much so that it can take awhile for him to get to his front door. It even has a library where he has just four books that he cherishes – a book of fairytales that has taught him all about love; a plant encyclopedia that told him where to find his favourite muntrie berries and wattleseeds;  a cookbook which helps him make them into something delicious, and a fourth, his favourite, which had stories as old as time and in particular, a map of a most sacred place, the Forest of Dreaming. And it fuelled his dream to follow the map across the water to the mainland, climb the ancient tree to the heavens, and marry the love of his life, the sky.

But first, he needs to find the courage because right now, he can barely leave the burrow without his nerves getting the better of him, because having led such a solitary life, the thought of meeting other creatures terrified him. And so , despite being nocturnal by nature, he chooses to go out in the daytime so he can be unseen, and each day he makes a pilgrimage to the lighthouse for a picnic.Little does he know, that on this particular day his life will change forever because he inadvertently saves Kuula the koala from a bushfire, and acquires the adventure companion he didn’t know he needed.

With Kuula by his side, Wurrtoo finds the courage to leave the safety of his burrow and sets out on an epic journey to cross the island, reach the mainland and climb to the top of tallest tree in the Forest of Dreaming. But it’s fire season, and danger and strange creatures lurk behind every gum tree. To make it, the pair must face their fears together, learn the importance of friendship and discover the power of wombat wishes.

Described as an “Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh”, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated novel for independent readers by the 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara, and it is worth reading for the power of the descriptions of the landscape alone.  Immediately, the reader is transported into Wurtoo’s world, akin to Tolkien’s description of the home of Bilbo Baggins, and relate to his ambitions, desires and fears.  It is one for those readers who love adventures and quests, and with traditional First Nation stories, knowledge, food and culture woven seamlessly into the tale, it becomes one that not only engages and entertains, but helps the non-indigenous reader better understand that incredible connection to Country that exists for those who are.

There is also the underlying universal theme of building trust, facing your fears, accepting those you meet for who they are, so friendships are built on similarities rather than differences, that will speak to many readers, perhaps encouraging them to think that if Wurrtoo can do this, so can they.  

For me, the mark of a story that works, is hearing myself read it aloud to a class of students, and this one is one of those rare ones.  So with teachers’ notes available to enhance and enrich the experience, this is definitely recommended as a read-aloud for Years 3-4.  Something different, inspiring and Australian.

Mia Megastar

Mia Megastar

Mia Megastar










Mia Megastar

Ada Nicodemou & Meredith Costain

Serena Geddes

Puffin, 2024

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Meet Mia!
Her life is pretty interesting and amazing. She’s the only kid in her class who lives above a shop. And not just any shop – everyone knows Costa’s is the best place for groceries and the yummiest pastries. She has a cute-but-annoying little brother, Yianni, and the best friends ever. Oh, and her mum plays the worst pranks. Mia loves dancing and singing and is always putting on a show. And she’s ready to step into the limelight . . . this year will see Mia get closer to her dream of becoming a megastar.
But the road to stardom is not without a little drama. . .

Loosely based on her own childhood, this is the first in a three-part series  for young independent readers by Home and Away star of 22 years, Ada Nicodemou.  With the upsurge in online opportunities where anyone with ambition (if not talent) can showcase their abilities, there are many of our young students who will relate to Mia’s aspirations and who will find, like Mia (and someone close to me) that it involves a lot more than a camera and an internet connection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Characters that appeal because the reader can put themselves into the lead role, an attractive layout with many visual features including acting tips from someone who has proven herself, and the promise of more to come in July and October, make this a series that is going to appeal to a large number of newly-independent readers who are looking for something new to pass the cold, winter months.  My aspiring young performer has grown through the phase now, but I know this will find a willing and wanting audience at the local primary school.  













Lauren Loftus

Lauren Gero

Little Steps, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95


Early 2020 and the whispers about a disease that is about to overtake the world are becoming louder and louder and within a few weeks, “the world has turned outside-in”.  While approaches to its impact varied greatly, there was a common thread of encouraging people to stay indoors and not visit each other, and this book reminds little ones of they were brave and kind inside by staying inside.  Even though it meant not seeing loved ones and not going to school, by staying at home they were caring for others because they didn’t put them at risk. 

One might wonder about the relevance of this book four years on, particularly as a conversation with the principal of a large primary school suggests that there is little to no talk of COVID and its restrictions at the time, although there are other issues that have arisen.  But, it does have value in the school library collection if it is used as a way to show children that they do have experience of overcoming overwhelming situations and if they are faced with such circumstances in their personal lives again, they do have the wherewithal inside to face them and deal with them.  By reminding them of their personal experience, and how with the love and caring of those around them they were able to both survive and thrive, that they can do it again no matter what might be thrown at them.  So rather than being a story about the pandemic it becomes a springboard for consolidating their resilience.

One Minute’s Silence

One Minute's Silence



One Minute’s Silence

David Metzenthen

Michael Camilleri

Allen & Unwin, 2019

48pp., pbk RRP $A16.99



One minute’s silence is the traditional way of honouring the memory of those who have died, particularly military personnel.  And during that one minute’s silence, we are urged to think about those who have fallen and the sacrifice they have made for their country.  But what do you really think about?  Are you like the bored, disinterested Year 12 students who open this story? Do you think about the feats and fears of our soldiers and what they did?  Do you ever think about what it was like for those on the other side of our bullets and bayonets? For, in this powerful picture book, we are encouraged to do just that, to consider what it was like both for those who made that fateful landing on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915 and those whom they were fighting against.

“In one minute’s silence you can imagine the grinding in your guts as the ironbark bows of the Australian boats bumped the stony shore of Gallipoli on the twenty-fifth of April 1915…when twelve thousand wild colonial boys dashed across the shivering Turkish sand in the pale light of a dairy farmer’s dawn lashed with flying lead.

But can you imagine, in one minute’s silence, lines of young Turkish soldiers from distant villages, hearts hammering, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in trenches cut like wounds…firing on strangers wading through the shallows intent on streaming into the homeland of the Turkish people.”  

This remarkable retelling of the events that  form the focus of the annual commemorations of those eight fateful months in 1915 starts with a picture of that group of senior students who have been asked to observe one minute’s silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – Remembrance Day in Australia. Their expressions of here-we-go-again-we’ve-been-doing-this-for years have been captured perfectly in the pencil strokes of Michael Camilleri and one might wonder what this book has to offer that has not been done before. But then the narration begins and as the events unfold the students are drawn into them, gradually realising the youth and ordinariness of those who were embroiled in this conflict over 100 years ago. These were kids just like them. They can put themselves in the picture, as Camilleri has. However, not only do they see themselves in the Australian uniform, but their attention is also drawn to the youth and the ordinariness of those on the other side and their perspective. They are no longer just a faceless enemy responsible for the deaths and maiming of these students’ bygone family members. The futility of war is apparent…

“In one minute’s silence you can imagine the solitary day when these men without weapons, sharing cigarettes and shovels as they buried their dead in the cool Turkish earth…and the sound of the wind and waves, and quiet talking, replacing the crack, boom and blast of war.

But can you imagine the fierce Anzacs and the fighting Turks quietly returning to their trenches after this one day of truce then firing at each other that afternoon, although they truly knew that the other M.Ed.(TL) were not so much different after all.”

Metzenthen has done a remarkable thing in this story – he has provoked the reader into walking a mile in another man’s shoes; a mile that is thought-provoking and enlightening.  The juxtaposition of the Australian and Turkish experience which really serves to emphasise their similarities is masterful. Camilleri’s illustrations are equally as powerful. The scene is set on the front cover where two boys – one Australian, the other Turkish – eye each other off and every image within is just as potent.   Could there be anything more evocative about death than a double-page spread of a very large fly surrounded by hundreds of its cousins? Unless it’s the picture of men retreating over a hill that has hundreds of bodies beneath their feet? The imagery used to help students understand the difficult concepts surrounding war is outstanding.  Michael Camilleri has provided information about the extraordinary research and thought that underpin each image at 

Teachers notes are available and it is also one of the feature texts in the PETAA Lest We Forget collection for those with membership. Since its original publication in hardback form in 2014, as predicted this book has won a number of prestigious awards including

  • Winner, CBCA Book of the Year, Crichton Award for New Illustrators, 2015, AU
  • Winner, Prime Minister’s Literary Award – Children’s Fiction, 2015, AU
  • Runner-up, CBCA Picture Book of the Year, 2015, AU
  • Short-listed, The Nib Anzac Centenary Prize for Literature, 2015, AU
  • Short-listed, Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Children’s Literature Award, 2016, AU
  • Short-listed, Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards – Children’s Books, 2016, AU
  • Long-listed, CBCA Book of the Year, Eve Pownell Award for Information Books, 2015, AU

This it is an essential addition to any collection of resources about this period in our history.

Originally published November 11 2014

Updated April 1, 2023 and April 25, 2024


Some Families Change

Some Families Change

Some Families Change











Some Families Change

Jess Galatola

Jenni Barrand

EK Books, 2024

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


For most children, their family is their safe haven and they expect it to be the same format/structure. arrangement that they know for ever and ever.  And, in the past, that was usually the case with perhaps the addition of a baby or the death of an elderly relative the only changes to their world. In the 50s, the term “nuclear family” was coined and it commonly consisted of two adults, a male and female, who were married, had 2.4children of their own making with the adult male being the patriarch. And sadly, for many, this remains the “norm” embedded in their social, cultural or religious value systems meaning that those who choose or have to live outside of that model can be ostracised if not condemned and the casualties are many.

Today’s lifestyles mean that this is very different from even the time when I was a child and to some kids, change can be confusing and challenging, and if the change is not a positive one, they can shoulder the responsibility and begin the “If only I…” tail-chasing blame game.  And so this book which covers scenarios including single-parent families, blended families, and the loss of a loved one, can be a reassuring guide for children experiencing such transitions using gentle verse and illustrations that clearly show a photo of any family in the class will be different to the photo of any other.  As Ms Molly said, so wisely in Heather has Two Mummies, “It doesn’t matter who makes up a family, the most important thing is that all the people in it love one another very much.”

The core Foundation Year unit of the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of the Australian Curriculum calls for children to know and understand “the people in their family, where they were born and raised, and how they are related to each other” and thus this book is an essential part of that understanding as they learn that not only are families different but also that theirs might change. 


The Montessori Child

The Montessori Child

The Montessori Child











The Montessori Child: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Capable Children with Creative Minds and Compassionate Hearts 

Simone Davies & Junnifa Uzodike

Workman, 2024

278pp., pbk., RRP $A32.99


There would be few educators of young children who have not heard of Maria Montessori whose work with severely intellectually impaired children 120+ years ago not only led to profound changes in their treatment but a whole change in teaching children generally, which underpins education facilities in 154 countries and over 15 000 schools specifically applying her methods.

But it would seem that an approach to education that “inspires children towards a lifelong love of learning, by following their natural developmental trajectory [so they] become confident, responsible, independent learners, who trust in their own abilities” (Montessori Australia Group) would be the underpinning outcome of any education system, and thus, this book should be in the toolbox of any educator of the primary school child, regardless of where they teach or the curriculum they follow.

Following on from The Montessori Baby and The Montessori Toddlerthis book, whilst written primarily for parents, has so much to offer the teacher who so often takes on many of the roles and responsibilities that were once exclusively the parents’ domain.  The introduction explains why this is a way that suits every child, everywhere “regardless of their family constellation” . It is about learning how every child is unique and how to foster their individuality, making adjustments as necessary but also raising them with respect in a holistic way that works across the cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual domains. And so when little ones come to us wanting to know about their bodies, or divorce or death, or religion, or the big-picture concerns like climate change, there are suggestions for doing this that can be readily adapted to the classroom situation.  

I have always believed that if you want a child to be responsible, you give them responsibility; if you want them to be respectful, you give them respect; if you want them to be honest and reliable, then you trust that they will be… And fundamental to the Montessori belief is that when children are given independence and trust, that there is an expectation they will succeed, the tools and the models to achieve that success and the encouragement to build on their abilities, it’s amazing what they can achieve.  So with advice that is underpinned by evidence and examples, experience and practical activities, this is a book for both parents and teachers, and would be an ideal gift for those aspiring to be both.  

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper











The Last Zookeeper

Aaron Becker

Walker Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


In a not-so-futuristic time, the Earth has flooded and the waters continue to rise. The only signs of humankind are the waterlogged structures they left behind. Peeking out from the deluge are the remnants of a zoo, home to rare and endangered animals like elephants. giraffes, tigers, pandas  and rhinoceroses, who have hung on and clung on despite everything. Tender-hearted NOA is a huge construction robot who has found a new mission as the caretaker of the zoo’s beleaguered inhabitants, and despite towering above them, they trust him.  Bracing for the next storm, NOA builds an ark from the wreckage around him and together they go in search of new land, only to almost perish as that anticipated storm hits while they are at sea.  But then something miraculous arrives, and NOA not only discovers sanctuary for those he has saved, but something even more profound…

 Described by the publisher as a “luminous sci-fi parable for our changing world”, the only words in this masterpiece are a quote from primatologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall,..

Only if we understand, can we care.

Only if we care, will we help.

Only if we help, shall all be saved.

But within the illustrations is a powerful story that is a parallel to the biblical story and which offers so many riches to explore, particularly by those who are so well aware of the need to protect and preserve the environment and the prospect of the impact of climate change.  So while younger readers may interpret this as a futuristic retelling of Noah and his ark, more sophisticated readers will bring all their own existing knowledge and experiences to tell their own tale as they examine the details embedded in the illustrations creating a unique, very personal story unimpeded by the text of another.  And while it may seem to be a story of gloom and doom that could be depressing, there is a twist that references the other biblical story of the Garden of Eden that offers hope that perhaps not all is lost in the post-apocalyptic world… 

Reviews of this amazing work abound and each suggests a new aspect, element or interpretation that could be explored including discovering Becker’s other work, The Tree and the River, which is a “time-lapse portrait of humankind – and our impact on the natural world”, making both of these core texts for older readers who, having asked what-if now want to consider what-next. So while most are touting it as suitable for ages 4-7, to me this is one for older readers who have an understanding of the current environmental uncertainty and who can bring that, as well as their knowledge of the biblical stories and the universal human need for hope to the table so they can really appreciate the beauty and value of Becker’s work.  

Oh, Olive!

Oh, Olive!











Oh, Olive!

Lian Cho

HarperCollins US, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Olive Chen believes she is the most magnificent and brilliant artist in the whole wide world, and certainly, for one so young, her paintings are full of movement and colour. Her parents are also artists—serious artists—who live in prim and pristine monochromatic world while they paint prim, proper, and perfect shapes. They know Olive has the talent to follow in their footsteps. But Olive likes to smear, splatter, splash, and even lick. Painting squares and triangles is not her style and no matter how hard they and her teacher try, Olive cannot paint a shape, much to their disappointment and disapproval.  But Olive’s classmates love her riotous splashes of colour and she decides to teach them her technique. With a brush in each hand, Olive cascades through town with her friends in tow, painting what she wants to, what she feels—until she reaches her parents’ pristine art museum. . .

The story of parents trying to mould their children in their own image, expecting them to be mini-mes, with the same likes and dislikes is a common one and so this story which celebrates individuality and creativity is probably as much for the adult who shares it as it is for the little one who hears it. Despite being a common trope in children’s literature, Olive’s ability to ignore the wishes of the adults in her life and be true to herself regardless, is one that many children would like to have – rather than being torn between who they are and who they are expected to be. 

Older readers might like to draw comparisons between the endpages – the front being the monochromatic linear images of the town representing the rather dull version of ourselves that we might be if conformity and obedience to expectation become the driving force or the vibrant freeform version of the back images if we let our true selves shine through, identifying the details, differences in and demeanour of the various characters before and after Olive and her friends have swept through.    They could also examine and track how line and colour are used throughout to depict the characters and their moods making them as integral to the story as the words themselves.

Quality picture books deliver more and more each time they are read, and this is one of those.