Search Results for: shine

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine










Collecting Sunshine

Rachel Flynn

Tamsin Ainslie

Puffin Books, 2018

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


Mabel and Robert are enjoying walking in the park, collecting things in their paper bag.  Leaves, stones, seedpods, berries, flowers and sticks – they all go into the bag.  But disaster strikes when it begins to rain and Robert decides to collect the raindrops.  The bag disintegrates and their collection falls on the ground!  Mabel is despondent but Robert soon cheers her up – he has another way to collect things.

The is a charming book for early childhood readers that turns an ordinary walk into an adventure and will inspire them to do the same. Before the rain, Mabel and Robert just collected things they could pick up and put in their bag, but without the bag they have to use their senses and really start to experience the beauty of the park so this could be the beginning of a sensory walk through the playground.  But first they can use their sense of sight to spot the budgie and the mouse hidden in each illustration, helping them to hone in on the detail in the illustrations – an essential early reading skill!

As cheery as its title.

An activity pack is available.  


Rudolph Shines Again





Rudolph Shines Again

Rudolph Shines Again












Rudolph Shines Again

Robert L. May

Antonio Javier Caparo

Little Simon, 2015

40pp., hbk.


It’s a dark and snowy Christmas Eve so once again Santa wants Rudolph to lead the way for the sleigh as his nose shines bold and bright. 

But the other reindeer are jealous and not content with just laughing at Rudolph and calling him names, they are really mean and make him carry the heaviest loads, even using him as the ball when they played football!

Rudolph is so sad and whinges and whines so much that the light on his nose goes out!  With no reason to stay to help and full of self-pity, he leaves the comparative safety of the North Pole for somewhere where he is unknown and unrecognised.  And there he meets some rabbits whose babies are lost in the forest and at the mercy of foxes and wolves. Completely forgetting his own troubles, Rudolph promises to find them – but can he do it without his shiny nose to light the way? Of course he does and with the rescue comes a realisation that is brighter than any nose could be!

Written in 1954, this is the sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but unlike the original which May wrote to entertain children as part of a department store promotion, this one has a stronger message about there always being someone worse off than you, perhaps inspired by his family circumstances as his wife died from cancer as he worked on the original.  While not necessarily the time for an in-depth discussion, nevertheless young children will feel Rudolph’s pain at being bullied and might think about the feelings of others that they tease.  They will also draw encouragement from Rudolph being able to get things in perspective and go back to face his tormentors knowing that he is strong and has a lot to offer.

This new release is stunning with its beautiful artwork bringing another dimension to the story, also told in rhyme, and making a special duo of books for the Christmas Countdown. 














Shine: A story about saying goodbye

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2015

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



“Far, far away and long, long ago, on a beautiful planet, amongst the golden stars there lived a young horse.  He was so kind and bright, so sparkly and shimmery, that everyone called him Shine.”  Shine galloped with the other horses under the smiling moon until one day he met Glitter, the loveliest horse he had ever seen and soon Sparky and Shimmer had come to make a beautiful family.  But sadly and too soon, Shine had to return to the stars and Glitter, Sparky and Shimmer are heartbroken, crying an ocean of golden tears and climbing the high mountain of grief until they finally see and understand the overwhelming size of the love they shared.  And far above, the brightest star of all shines on them and brings them peace.

Trace Balla wrote this book for her niece and nephew when they lost their dad, suddenly and unexpectedly.  Even though it is so difficult to explain the inexplicable to young children, it gave them a moment of peace and beauty and moments are sometimes all you can get at such a difficult time. But it also gave them reassurance that they were still surrounded by love and hope that, in time, they would see their Shine shining down on them. 

We tend to think of death as adult-business but whenever an adult dies there is so often a young child deeply affected and trying to come to terms with the loss, not quite understanding the finality and perhaps blaming themselves for not being good enough.  Whatever the circumstances of the death, it is essential that the child knows they were loved deeply and will continue to be so, and this story not only shows that but celebrates it.  It acknowledges and allows the sadness of all those left behind, the grieving process is accurately depicted as a huge, steep mountain to climb that will take time but it also shows that it can be conquered and that there is still joy in the world.  Little people don’t have the vision to see beyond the horizon and so a story like this gives them some comfort that eventually the hurt starts to heal and the love shines through.  They have not been abandoned, they are not lost and they are still loved.

Because school is often the one constant in the child’s life at this time and particularly if the child is not involved in the final farewell process, it often falls to the teacher to provide the support that is needed and having a story like Shine to share gives them a starting point to share and talk with the child.  It is gentle, it is reassuring and based on the belief that “We all come from the stars, we all go back to the stars” it can be shared without risk of contradicting any religious beliefs.

Sadly, this particular copy will not be added to the collection at my school – it is on its way to a little person who needs it right now and who will get great comfort from it.  I thank Carolyn Walsh from Allen & Unwin for making that possible.


Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles

Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles

Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles











Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles

Mark Kurlansky

Jia Liu

Bloomsbury, 2020 

176pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


The drought and the bushfires have certainly taken their toll on the wildlife of this country and the devastating effect on the environment is nightly news.  But while the trees are slowly recovering there are some species that never will, species that we seldom give a lot of thought to in the way that koalas and kangaroos capture our attention.  For just as their habitat has been destroyed so has that of the insect world, although theirs is an ongoing worldwide invisible demise.

While there is acknowledgement that the planet’s life-givers, bees are disappearing, they aren’t the only species at risk. Populations of fireflies, butterflies, and ladybugs have all been declining in recent years, too. This middle grade nonfiction explains the growth, spread, and recent declines of each of these four types of insects. Exploring human causes to natural occurrences Mark Kurlansky shows just how much bugs matter to our world. While it might be a natural instinct to swat a fly or a mosquito and deliberately eliminate those that carry disease, each life contributes to another life and in this book the author explores that interdependence and why it needs to be preserved. 

An interesting perspective and insight into the insect world that shines a new light onto a world we don’t often think about. 

The Princess Rules

The Princess Rules

The Princess Rules










The Princess Rules

Philippa Gregory

Chris Chatterton

HarperCollins, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Princess Florizella was friends with some of the princesses who had studied the Princess Rules, and behaved just as the Rules said they should. Florizella thought their hair was lovely: so golden and so very long. And their clothes were nice: so richly embroidered. And their shoes were delightful: so tiny and handmade in silk. But their days bored her to death…”

Instead, Princess Florizella rides her horse, Jellybean, all over the kingdom, having adventures of her own…

Originally written for her daughters in 1989 when the concept of rebel princesses as heroines was scarcely heard of much beyond Munsch’s  The Paper Bag Princess Philippa Gregory has reimagined this collection of three stories for her granddaughters and created a thoroughly modern tale.  “I’m much clearer that she’s up against something worse than a bad fairy at a christening – the ‘rules’ that try to persuade bright multi-talented children into stereotype notes. Florizella and her BFF Prince Bennet find their own paths around giants, wolves and (of course) dragons.”

With humour that stabs at convention and stereotypes and their consequences, Gregory has created a feisty heroine who will appeal to today’s newly independent reader who may once have dreamed of life as Aurora or Belle or some other Disney princess but who will no doubt much prefer to be Florizella instead.  

With a growing call for diversity in children’s literature, movies and other arts, the issue of stereotyping is a topical one so while this book may have a predominantly young female audience, it also has the scope to be a platform for exploring this topic among those much older. And Gregory’s experience as a writer shines through so it would not be considered as a twee, sugar-coated read beneath that older audience. It may even lead them to her more grown-up novels.  

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies










All Bodies Are Good Bodies

Charlotte Barkla

Erica Salcedo

Little Hare, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


I love hands!
Hands that are white and hands that are brown,
Freckles mean sunshine has sent kisses down.
Short fingers, long fingers, bendy or straight,
Hands to clap, or high-five your mate.

Even though the human body comprises the same elements, each is unique. No two are the same unless you are an identical twin.  In this superbly illustrated book, each body part such as hands, hair, eyes and even tummies is featured while those characteristics which make them unique are celebrated.  It doesn’t matter if your nose is long and thin or short and flat or even turned up like a pussycat, we each have one and each does its special job.

With its bouncy rhyme and positive message about accepting the diversity and differences which make each of us special, it actively promotes the acceptance of the body regardless of shape, colour, or size so that we appreciate our individuality and are inclusive in our choices. When even our youngest readers are aware of their physical appearance these days and start to develop their relationship with their body, this is a critical message that encourages the positive mental health mindset so essential to developing resilience and empathy and offering lots of scope to collect and interpret data as the children compare and contrast their differences. 


Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures

Fauna: Australia's Most Curious Creatures

Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures












Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures

Tania McCartney

NLA Publishing, 2019 

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Eyes, legs,  tails and tongues peek out at you from the cover of this new book from Tania McCartney, beckoning you to open it and discover who they belong to. The intrigue is repeated on the endpages, enticing the reader to search for the whole that matches the snippet as they are introduced to a variety of Australia’s unique indigenous creatures. Given that Australia is home to more animal species than any other developed country, and 87% of the mammals, 45% of the birdlife, 93% of the reptiles and 94% of the amphibians are only found on this landmass, it would be impossible to highlight every single indigenous creature so McCartney has made a judicious selection of familiar and not-so so that there is a well-rounded introduction to tempt the reader to discover more.

From those that are already extinct through to those of least concern, each creature is identified with its conservation status as well as a range of interesting, easily-accessible facts and illustrations, several of which show McCartney’s quirky humour. With an animal family tree that helps show how the puzzle pieces fit together, two indices and a comprehensive glossary this is something more than just “a tourist’s guide to…” offering budding naturalists who are independent readers something that is written for their level and also has enough information to satisfy and spark their curiosity  including breeding and feeding habits, physical characteristics, habitat and other unique features that will leave them wanting to discover more, while trying to match those vignettes to their owners. 

Usually books about this topic can be dry and cold, but the combination of text and illustration that is so uniquely McCartney make this warm and engaging and one to treasure. She has called is “a labour of love” and that shines through.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…













Lupita Nyong’o

Vashti Harrison

Puffin, 2019

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


Sulwe was born the colour of midnight – not the colour of dawn like her mother; the colour of dusk like her father or even the colour of high noon like her sister Mich. No one in her school was as dark as Sulwe and while Mich was called “Sunshine’ and “Ray ” and “beauty”, Sulwe was called “Blackie’ and “Darky” and “Night”, names that hurt her so she hid and wished with all her might that she could be lighter like her sister.  But not even wishing, using an eraser on her skin, Mama’s makeup, eating only light-coloured foods or even praying made the slightest difference.

Desperately unhappy, she finally told her mother how she was feeling and her mother gave her some great advice but it is not until she has a magical nighttime adventure and hears the story of Day and Night that she finally gets some self-belief.

In some ways mirroring the experiences of the author, actress Lupita Nyong’o , this is a story deliberately written to inspire those who look different to look inside themselves for their beauty. While “what is on the outside is only one part of being beautiful…[and] it’s important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror …what is more important is working on being beautiful inside.” With body image still playing such a key role in our mental health, any story like this that helps our young readers begin to feel positive about themselves as early as possible before the ignorant taunts of others do their damage, has to be shared and discussed.  Highlighting how Sulwe felt when she was called names, asking what if Sulwe was in this class, listing the mean names directed at students that are heard in the classroom and playground and their impact on their peers might be what is needed to confront the bullies with the impact and power of their words, calling the behaviour for what it is could be the tough love that some of our students need.Starting with the fiction but transferring it to reality, having the students be in the shoes of Sulwe, can be the most powerful teaching tool.  This is a story that is not just about empowering the individual, it’s about awakening the collective. 

The Runaways

The Runaways

The Runaways










The Runaways

Ulf Stark

Kitty Crowther

Gecko Press, 2019

144pp., pbk., RRP $A18.99


Grandpa is stuck in hospital with a broken leg and a heart that is coming to the end of its working life.  Used to being an engineer on the great ships of the seas,  being confined to a bed is making him cranky and cantankerous and he swears at everyone, continually pushes the alarm buzzes because he is bored and complains about the food.  “Not even the water tastes any good.” Only young Gottfried, his grandson, finds pleasure in visiting him and understands the reason for his moods.

And so he hatches a plan to get Grandad out of there, on one last adventure…

This is a heart-warming family story that captures the frustration of the elderly who know their end is coming and want to be anywhere but in a hospital as well as the ideality of youth whose imaginations are not constrained by the realities of what is safest – they think of ‘what if” and deal with ‘what now ‘ and ‘what next’ if and when it arises. Gottfried’s plan to give his grandfather one last simple pleasure has to be complex and he does worry about whether sometimes it’s OK to lie and the consequences, but his love for Grandpa is stronger than any obstacles.

Written by a renowned Swedish author and set in Stockholm, this is, nevertheless, a universal story, one that many of us with ageing parents and grandparents will relate to. The unusual illustrations done with coloured pencil bring colour into what is otherwise a drab life for Grandpa but Gottfried’s love for him shines through, making it an uplifting story about how both deal with end-of-life issues. Something special.


Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began

Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin's brilliant career began

Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began










Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began

Libby Hathorn

Phil Lesnie

Lothian Children’s, 2019

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


Imp is a wild child, roaming the paddocks of the farm where Miss Franklin is employed as governess to the Davis children. Disdained by them as a “real naughty girl” they have been warned by their mother to keep away from her, although Florrie has struck up a friendship of sorts, and dismissive of learning to read and write as a “waste of time”, nevertheless she continues to hang around the schoolhouse and gradually a trust builds between her and Miss Franklin.

Miss Franklin, who had taken the job to help her family out of financial difficulties, has bigger dreams than being a governess, and when she eventually confesses these to Imp, Imp gives her some advice that changes her path and her life forever.

Written about Miles Franklin, author of My Brilliant Career,  and namesake of two major literary prizes, this not only shines a light on the author’s early life but demonstrates how famous people start out as very ordinary and it can be just chance that sets them on their path to fulfil their dreams. And while most of us have dreams, sometimes it’s the most unlikely thing that gives us the impetus to pursue them and the courage and determination to make them come true.  Even though Imp’s dream was nowhere near as grand as that of Miss Franklin, she too was able to take the first steps towards achieving it. The endpapers tell her story! So as much as Libby Hathorn and Phil Lesnie have captured Miss Franklin’s story, it is also an encouragement to anyone to take and chance and chase what they want.