We Are Matildas

We Are Matildas

We Are Matildas











We Are Matildas

Shelley Ware

Serena Geddes

Puffin, 2023

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


Jazzy dreams of being a football star and playing for the CommBank Matildas one day. She has a plan to get there . . . now all she needs is a team. But she soon learns that there is more to being a successful team than skills and drills, an aspirational name  and an individual’s dream.

As interest in the FIFA Women’s World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand in July continues to grow, the focus on soccer as a sport also gathers momentum and so there will be many young girls who will be thrilled to read this story and perhaps begin to build their own dream.

But, regardless of the sport, there are many facets to being a team player that are explored in this book with the emphasis being on being together and having fun.  Even though the ending is somewhat predictable, nevertheless there is much that can be discussed including what if the team had lost.  What did they learn about themselves, each other and working together that would have made them winners anyway?  


Kirra the Koala

Kirra the Koala

Kirra the Koala











Kirra the Koala

Beverly Jatwanti

Sarah Demonteverde 

New Frontier, 2023

32pp., 9bk., RRP $A16.99


Each day Ling cycles to the local koala sanctuary to help care for the orphaned and injured creatures but her attendance is threatened when her bike is damaged beyond repair and there won’t be another one till her birthday in five months.  But when the call comes that a bushfire has destroyed the local habitat she finds herself in a dilemma.  Walking to the sanctuary is not a problem but does she let a local lad keep a baby joey in exchange for a ride on his new shiny red bike? 

Kirra the Koala is the fifth book in the ‘Together We Can Change The World‘ series. A series of seven stories, covering seven continents, with seven important virtues; Love, Courage, Compassion, Kindness, Integrity, Respect and Gratitude. Each book highlights a fundamental core value, whilst simultaneously encouraging children’s responsibility towards Planet Earth. The books’ protagonists are an endangered species from each continent, including Tala the Bengal Tiger.  All author royalties go to Wildlife Vets International

The Hats of Marvello

The Hats of Marvello

The Hats of Marvello











The Hats of Marvello

Amanda Graham

Lavanya Naidu

HarperCollins, 2023

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


In the small Australian country town of Mount Dry, Olive is preparing for her starring role as a narrator in the Year 5 play. It’s a really big deal for her and she is very excited so she is determined to shine  and so she needs the perfect costume. She is delighted when she finds the perfect top hat at the local op shop, but when she gets it home she discovers it has a secret.  A talking rabbit called Robbit unexpectedly pops out – and a rabbit is something that Olive has always longed for but can never have because they are considered pests on farms and her grandfather has repeatedly refused her requests.

Olive faces a dilemma – how can she obey her grandfather who is trying to rid the farm of rabbits altogether (and is obliged to by law) and still help Robbit who tells her that 100 of his friends have been kidnapped by the wicked Reynard  and need to be rescued?   Her hat is one of a magical set that allows the rabbits to travel between hats through time and place and so when they turn up on the farm  does she hide and protect them so they can go back to Wilby’s Magic Shop in England or does she tell her grandfather?

As well as being torn between Robbit’s pleas and her grandfather’s beliefs there is also the question of how a magician’s hat turned up in an op shop in rural Australia and so Olive is drawn into a mystery that becomes much more exciting than the school play.

Although this is a book that is based on mystery and magic, it is set against a backdrop of people and places that are very recognisable as they face familiar, real-life problems.  Olive has choices to make but there are many elements influencing her options and she has to navigate these while trying to make the right decision to suit everyone.

Short chapters and illustrations make this an intriguing read for independent readers, but one which has some more complex layers that will provoke thought and consideration, and perhaps even further investigation into the impact of introduced animals on the Australian landscape, particularly those species which have become feral.

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war











Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Robin Cowcher

Walker Books, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Left! Left! Left! Right! Left! We make our way in the dark.

On the one hand feet make their way to a commemorative service; on the other soldiers’ boots take them to the battlefront. 

As we commemorate ANZAC Day, this book reminds us that Australians have been involved in wars since before we were even officially called Australia and that our presence is known and respected in wartorn countries even today.

Each double-page spread with its simple text and evocative illustrations juxtaposes the people at the commemorative ceremonies with soldiers in conflict throughout our history. From the title page where the family hurries out the door into darkness through to the endpapers with the iconic poppies that we associate with remembrance in this country the reader is taken on a journey through our military history in such a sensitive way. 

As the Dawn Service moves through prayers,  the raising of the flags, the lighting of candles, the placement of wreaths and poppies, silences and the familiar bugle call of The Last Post and Reveille so too we move through time –  The Boer War, World Wars I and II. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor, Afghanistan, Ukraine – whether as combat troops or peacekeepers, Australians have had a role committing hundreds of thousands of men and women, each of whom deserves our respect and gratitude. While each page just has one factual statement of what is happening, the  illustrations bring a depth and dimension that inspire emotion and memories as the two marry together perfectly. From the sprig of rosemary somehow surviving the stomp of boots on the first page to the ghost-like images marching with the people on the last, there is a sense that this is an enduring commitment by military and civilian personnel alike.   One could not stand without the other.   

Thumbnail sketches of each conflict are provided at the end of the book and teachers notes’ are also available for those who want to use this as the first step in a deeper investigation for both History and English. It may even inspire some students to investigate the role that their family has had in the Services and given our multicultural population there may be students who have personal experiences to share that might give a unique insight that can’t be gleaned from picture books, no matter how stunning they are.

Something a little different to share this ANZAC Day, not only to remember the huge contribution that has been made but also to acknowledge those who have served and continue to serve so that those students who have had or still have family in the military forces understand that they are included in the thoughts and prayers.  The services are not just for the sacrifices made long ago on faraway battlefields by generations unknown, but for everyone who has served in the short 120 years of our united history.

We hear the sweet songs of morning. And we remember them.

First published March 24 2018

Updated April 25 2023


Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers











Australia Remembers

Allison Paterson

Big Sky, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99


As the annual commemoration of ANZAC Day  approaches, and once again our attention turns to remembering Gallipoli, the Western Front and all those who have been part of our armed services in whatever capacity, this book, the first in a series from the author of ANZAC Sons explores the concept of commemoration – what it is, how we do it and why it is so important.

There would be few towns in Australia that do not have a war memorial, one that becomes the focal point for commemorations on April 25 and November 11 each year. But many of our young students do not realise the significance of this place so this book which explains the background of conflict, the history and meaning of ANZAC Day, the significance of the elements of the ceremonies,  and the role of Australia service people in war and peace since they were first called to support the “mother country” in 1914 with simple accessible text, coloured photos, and an appealing layout will be a wonderful addition to your library’s collection.

With a Table of Contents, glossary, index and bibliography it is a wonderful model for those learning about using the cues and clues to find the information they want, but what set this book apart are the frequent quotes about its various topics that have been collected from children who are the age of its target audience, offering their own insights into what these events mean for them. There are also questions to ponder and activities to do, including teachers’ notes so students understand the importance of a ceremony so significant that even in the dark days of the pandemic we stood in our driveways to honour those who have served. 

First published October 23, 2018

Updated April 24, 2023

The Anzac Billy

The ANZAC Billy

The ANZAC Billy











The ANZAC Billy

Claire Saxby

Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

Black Dog Books, 2019

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


At first they said the war would be over by Christmas, but another Christmas is coming and it’s time to fill a billy for Dad who is overseas with the rest of the Australian troops, somewhere in Europe. Into the tin, which is not only airtight and sturdy enough to withstand the sea journey but can also be used by the recipient for cooking, the little boy puts his favourite things – butterscotch, a fish, the last walnuts from the tree, a bar of chocolate and a pair of hand-knitted socks. His mother and grandmother also put in things, more practical than the little boy’s but packed with just as much love. And then it is time to send it on its way – will it reach the little boy’s father or find a home with another soldier?  Whichever, there is a letter and that’s what matters. 

This is a tender family story, one known by so many families in so many places at the time, of waiting for a father, a husband, a son to come home from war safe and well. Meticulously researched and illustrated in great detail in water colours as gentle as the story, it provides yet another glimpse into what life was like a century ago as families came to terms with what it meant to have the men overseas, and the sending of these special hampers was common. 

The centenary of World War I has provided us with a wealth of stories for young readers, each unique and each helping the young reader to understand life in this different and difficult time, bringing history to life in a way that resonates with them. As well as the teachers’ notes available for this book, there is much to explore and compare in this story to life 100 years on and the opportunity to speculate about what might go into a soldier’s billy today. 

An essential  inclusion in your ANZAC collection.

First published April 25 2019

Updated April 23, 2023

The Beach They Called Gallipoli

The BeachThey Called Gallipoli

The Beach They Called Gallipoli











The Beach They Called Gallipoli

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99



On April 23, 1915 on a beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula, seagulls swooped as fish flapped silver in the nets… a peaceful, tranquil scene.

But it was to be the last day of peace for that Turkish beach for a long time for on April 24, 1915 the ships came.  And less than twenty four hours later, blood-stained foamed fringed the grey waves of a grey sea under a grey sky.  For eight, long tragic months the conflict lasted as more ships brought more men and took away the broken bodies of the wounded, while leaving many more who would never leave this beach and its sentinel cliffs.  “A land with few names had new names now: Anzac Cove, Quinn’s Post, Rhododendron Ridge, The Apex, Farm and Lone Pine.”  Names etched into our history along with the courage, the compassion and the comradeship that we associate with them.

On December 21, 1915 the beach was again silent and empty, a tranquil place. Perhaps the seagulls and the fish had not yet returned, but the waves still rolled in onto the shore, just as they had done for months, years, decades, centuries. But months, years, decades, a century on we remember… Lest We Forget

Among the plethora of publications that have been written  to commemorate the centenary of the events of April 25, 1915, this is a standout.  By focusing on the place, the author brings a range of perspectives about the people – the fishermen, the residents,  the many nationalities who fought and those who defended.  The blood that was shed mixes and mingles into a story of a battle with no heroes or winners – just people and the futility of war.

Superbly illustrated by Bruce Whatley with collages of photos, paintings, drawings, diagrams, artefacts, symbols and flags, it is a masterful insight into the campaign – its before, during and after. The sounds and sights and smells are brought to life through the skilful selection and arrangement of the vignettes that emphasise that while the place shaped the events, it is the people who created and encountered them and their consequences.  There is no favouritism – it is written and illustrated as though the landscape is the observer witnessing men from everywhere trying to master it – as though that were ever going to be possible.

While such rich imagery leaves little to the imagination, it inspires the imagination.  This was not the remote-control driven warfare that invades television news bulletins today – this was face-to-face conflict of a type that breeds the legends that have endured for so long.  And all the while, the waves lap on the beach.

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, as author and illustrator, are a match made in heaven.  This could be one of their most important collaborations yet and I predict it will be high on the awards lists this year.  It is an essential resource in your commemoration collection. Comprehensive teaching notes which include links to a host of significant resources are available. 


First published November 20, 2014

Updated April2, 2023

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda











And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Eric Bogle

Bruce Whatley

Allen & Unwin 2015

hbk., 32pp., $A24.99



Is there a more haunting tune about World War I than Eric Bogle’s classic And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Beginning with

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover

From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback, well I waltzed my Matilda all over

it tells the story of a young man, almost any young man of 1915 in Australia, who took up arms to fight in the war at a time when Australia was trying to meet its quota for Britain and to not fight for King and Country branded you a coward.

They gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

Throughout the song and the journey, from the ship departing, the slaughter of Gallipoli, the hospital for the wounded and the arrival of “the crippled, the wounded, the maimed…the legless, the armless, the blind, the insane” at Circular Quay there is the poignant refrain of the band playing Waltzing Matilda, the iconic song that many believe should be our national anthem as it connects us in a way like no other. And finally, as an old man, he sits on his porch and watches the parade with his comrades passing before him and he knows that soon, as more old men disappear, “Someday no one will march there at all”. But how proud and amazed would those who came home -and those who didn’t-  be to see that this is not a forgotten war, they are not forgotten heroes and rather than no one marching, each year the crowds at the annual commemorations wherever they are get larger.

However, the most provocative stanza is   

And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore

They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question.”

Written in 1972 at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, many were wondering that aloud and as still engulfs parts of the world and threatens Australia’s future, we may well all ask ourselves the same question again.

With superb illustrations by Bruce Whatley that show every emotion of the text –drawn with his left hand because he has discovered he draws “with much more emotion” with that hand –using the restrained palette that one associates with Gallipoli,  this is a book that has to be in your library’s collection as it is a song that should be known by everyone before this year is done.  However, this is so much more than one of Australia’s leading illustrators putting pictures to an iconic tune. There are teachers’ notes  that provide many ideas for exploring the content, its imagery and its images and the full lyrics are available via an internet search

A memorable contribution to the collection of books on this topic. 

First published April 21 2016

Updated April 21 2023 

Logan’s Big Move

Logan's Big Move

Logan’s Big Move











Logan’s Big Move

Logan Martin & Jess Black

Shane McG

Puffin, 2023

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


It’s tricky moving to a new place and knowing no one but the local skatepark offers a way to get to know the locals, and so Logan and his brother head there as soon as they’ve helped with the unpacking.  While his brother is inspired by the tricks of the skaters it is the BMX riders who attract Logan’s attention and he decides he’s wants to be just like them.  But even though he gets a coach, learns what to do, practises hard until he thinks he is ready to join his new friends at the park, he discovers there are a few more lessons to learn, including a really important one…

Inspired by the true story of Australia’s BMX freestyle Olympic gold medalist and 2021 Sports Dad of the Year, Logan Martin, this is a story that will appeal to young readers as the characters are all anthropomorphic with Logan himself portrayed as a lion, so that is a stand-alone story without knowing the backstory, but also those who have become fans of the athlete himself as he showed during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 why BMX freestyle is a legitimate Olympic sport. 

“Gold Coast’s Logan Martin started freestyle BMX at the age of 12 after following his brother, Nathan, to the Crestmead Skate Park. Spending most of his spare time there, Martin started showing real talent at the age of 15, entering competitions with his parents, Donna and Sean, taking him to the events and buying bikes and parts. Logan first travelled overseas in 2012, where he won the first international event he entered. Martin won the International Festival of Extreme Sports (FISE) World Series title in both 2015 and 2016, following those titles up by claiming the inaugural BMX Freestyle world title at the UCI Urban World Championships in China in 2017. A stellar 2019 followed, which saw Logan win dual X Games gold, the Urban Games gold, and a World Championship silver behind teammate Brandon Loupos. He also built a BMX ramp in the backyard of his home to prepare for his Olympic run during lockdown. At the 2020 and 2021 National Championships in Melbourne, Martin won gold, and added a second career rainbow jersey when he took out the 2021 UCI World Championships in France. The culmination of Logan’s career so far was claiming gold at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.”

Not all the sporting heroes of our students are footballers or cricketers even though there is a dearth of accessible stories about those who make the heights in other fields so this is an important addition to the collection for those who know who Logan Martin is, and who are inspired to be like him, just as he had his own role models to aspire to. More mature readers might also like his autobiography Logan Martin: Journey to Gold opening the door to a whole new genre of non fiction for them.



The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater

The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater

The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater











The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater

Coral Vass

Jess Racklyeft

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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


Once upon a time, the soft warbling melody of the regent honeyeater would “bounce of trees, skim across billabongs and echo through woodlands.” But, as “trees turned to towers, billabongs to buildings, and the woodlands to carparks…and forests turned to farms” many birds flew away, never to return. But when Regent felt the urge to sing the song to attract a mate that had been passed from father to son for generations, he couldn’t remember it.  And there was no one to remind him.  He searched the forest listening to the songs of others for a hint of the tune, he even tried out a few of them himself, but no one came…

How will the species survive if he can’t remember the tune, and have a son of his own in time…

Once found frequently in the woodlands of south-eastern Australia, the regent honeyeater  is now found only in three regions –   around Chiltern-Albury in north-east Victoria, and at Capertee Valley and the Bundarra-Barraba region in NSW – and is officially listed as “critically endangered” with an estimated overall population of just 350-400, probably less.  So this lyrical, beautifully illustrated story is another brilliant wake-up call for young readers not only about the impact of urban sprawl on this species in particular, but on our birdlife generally.  Accompanied by some basic facts and a timeline stretching back to First Nations peoples, young readers learn about the importance of bird-song in perpetuating a species and how the loss of potential mates can have devastating consequences. But all is not lost and there are programs in place to preserve and increase those that are left including a national plan  largely co=ordinated by Birdlife Australia.

As with all these publications for young readers, once again the plight of a likely-unknown species is brought to their attention, offering an insight not only into the diversity of Australia’s indigenous wildlife but also the threats they face and what even young individuals like them can do about it.  So even if this is not a species relevant to their particular region, little ones can investigate those that are and what it is that they might be able to do (or not) to ensure there is a future for them.

Both Coral and Jess have provided a unique approach for developing an awareness, if not an understanding, that is engaging, helping all of us to realise that those bird calls we hear every day but take for granted, have both meaning and purpose for the birds that sing them.  They are more than just melodies for our pleasure.