A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita's Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge









A Clue for Clara 


Rita’s Revenge


Allen & Unwin, 2020-2022

320+ pages, pbk., RRP $A16.99



A scruffy chook, literally henpecked by the other hens, Clara has become addicted to the detective shows she sees on the humans’ television and now she wants to be a famous detective like her hero Amelia X with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore, but  being small and scruffy chook no one takes her seriously. But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal. 

And having solved the crime and prevented the theft of some sheep, but in the process having made the ducks look less than the courageous creatures they perceive themselves to be, the ducks are ticked off and are seeking revenge.  They decide they are going to make Clara’s life a misery but brave as they profess to be, none is willing to lead the charge.  Until Rita, in disgrace for offering poetry at the recent Talent Night, volunteers in an effort to seek redemption.  But But Rita finds more than revenge on her mission. She uncovers a dastardly plan to chook-nap the clever chicken that will take them both a long way from home.  But her unlikely friendship with a small human and the help of some street-smart birds just might save the day and inspire an epic poem!

This is a LOL duo for the newly independent reader who likes something completely wacky and entertaining, written in an easy-to-read unique diary format with plenty of other textual supports while being thick enough to impress peers!  Both see the human world through a different lens offering interesting insights as well as hilarious observations and misinterpretations, but more than that, they validate the importance of being yourself regardless if that is a little different to the norm and the expectation of others.  Young readers who see themselves as being a little outside whatever is currently accepted amongst their peers will delight in seeing both Clara and Rita rise above the pack (flock?) to triumph. 


Who’s This Little Chick?

Who's This Little Chick?

Who’s This Little Chick?











Who’s This Little Chick?

Auntie Aldang

Little Steps, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


When a little chick hatches from a little rock in their garden, Jay and Essie go on a mission to find her family.  Assuming that because she hatched from an egg. they go to the chicken zoo to search.  But while they find all sorts of different chickens, none of them are the little chick’s parents.  Will there be a happy ending?

Told in rhyme, this story follows a familiar theme of searching for a parent by comparing the baby’s characteristics to those of the adults, but this has the twist of introducing young readers to some of the different species of chooks that there are, beyond those that are more familiar.  Some of very strange but sadly, this little chick isn’t like them at all.

As well as that aspect, young readers can also consider whether chickens are the only things that hatch from eggs, and they could even start to compare their own looks to those of their parents so they can see the various features they share that make them a unique blend of genes. 

Was the little chick even a chick? Perhaps a story that initiates the discussion about where they came from. 

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million










Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin, 2021

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Former Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester first introduced us to Noni the Pony in 2011 and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  This was followed by another adventure Noni the Pony Goes to the 2014 and then Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey  in 2018. So she has become a favourite of  many preschoolers over time, and this new adventure, written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, will become a favourite too, particularly if today’s preschooler has an older sibling who remembers the earlier stories.

Little people know that learning to count is a sign that they are growing up and Noni the Pony is no different.  So as she watches her farm  friends play and frolic, she counts them – all the way to a million!! And while most counting books just introduce the words for one to ten, this one includes the concepts of dozens, hundreds, thousands and a million – as the stars shine overhead on what has been a very busy day.  

Featuring all the vital elements that help develop young readers’ concepts about print, this is one that they will be able to read to themselves within a very short while because the illustrations support the text so well, adding another layer to their belief that they will be a successful reader.  Who could ask for more?

The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd









The Bird in the Herd

Kathryn Apel

Renée Treml

UQP, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


There’s a bird in the herd that stalks as it walks, eating slugs and the bugs that the herd stirred. 

After half a century as a teacher, most of it spent focusing on teaching our youngest readers to read, I am quite vocal with my criticism of the current push to have phonics as the basis of instruction and while I could write much about why, I won’t.  However, this is a clever and quirky read which mainly relies on rhyme, rhythm and  repetition to carry it along but central, and most importantly, there is a charming story at its core. 

Beginning with a bird stalking a herd of cows to snap up the slugs and bugs they disturb, the scene is tracked back through all its elements – there is so much more than just the cows wandering along the track- with a repetition reminiscent of The House that Jack Built until an ignorant, impatient idiot  upsets everything.  So rather than the traditional set of disconnected pictures with sentences declaring the cat sat on the mat and the frog sat on the log, this is one that young readers can not only apply their new knowledge of phonemes but can actively engage with Treml’s illustrations and their existing knowledge of farm animals to read it for themselves.  They learn that the best books tell a story that is worth reading, that the words and pictures are integral to each other and this reading thing is something they can master. Such empowerment. If only all that we asked our beginning readers to read were as good as this…

Teachers’ notes are available.

Early One Morning

Early One Morning

Early One Morning










Early One Morning

Mem Fox

Christine Davenier

Puffin, 2021

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


Early one morning a little boy wakes up with a particular thing on his mind for breakfast, and so he sets off in search of it.  What follows is his quest as he travels around all the familiar objects and animals found on a farm until at last he has success.

If anyone knows what is needed to create a story that will engage the hearts and minds of our youngest readers and ensure they fall in love with the written word, then it is Mem Fox. Here, she has taken a very ordinary, everyday concept combined it with a very familiar character and using just the right amount of carefully chosen text she has crafted a story that will most definitely become a favourite.  The illustrations are perfect, not only helping to make the text predictable so the reader feels empowered but the little chook following the boy adds humour as well as the clue to his search.  As the little chap visits the truck and the tractor and the sheep and the ponies, he doesn’t see he is being followed and little ones will be shouting, “Look behind you!” much like they do the villain in the pantomime, while at the same time I hear the music to this version of Rosie’s Walk!   Two for the price of one!  Chooks in books – always a winning combo.

As well, it opens up the opportunity to investigate where our food comes from and how it gets to our plates. Lots of learning all round. 


The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!










The Thing That Goes Ping!

Mark Carthew

Shane McG

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


In the faraway town of Figgy-tra-ling, you may hear the faint ring of a thing that goes ping!

But this ting’s hard to find though its sound is quite loud

As the thing that goes ping can get lost in a crowd.

If you wish to know where you can find this ping thing

Let’s ask the good people of Figgy-tra-ling…

And so begins the quest to  discover this thing that goes ping, whatever it might be.  Moving through the town using rhyming couplets that instantly reminded me of a recent favourite, The Dingle-Dangle Jungle, the reader is taken on a journey that introduces a variety of creatures in a range of settings around the farm until eventually that thing that goes ping is revealed.  And it is a satisfying solution that makes the trip worthwhile!

This story works on a number of levels for all ages, particularly younger readers who are not only learning the names of common creatures but who revel in the sounds and rhythms of our language.  The rhymes roll off the tongue in a most satisfying way and with the repetition of the phrases and the very supportive illustrations they will not only be joining in but also be predicting the next text. Perfect for early reading behaviours, encouraging readers to suggest, write and illustrate their own resident of Figgy-tra-ling who could help the quest.  It is also excellent for using with students for whom English is an additional language as not only can they connect the English words with creatures they readily recognise, but again, the predictive text and the rhyme will help them explore the language easily.   As well, there are comprehensive teachers notes, song lyrics and even card games to download, making this the complete reading experience. 




















Esmeralda’s Nest

Esmeralda's Nest

Esmeralda’s Nest










Esmeralda’s Nest

Robert Moore

Mandy Foot

MidnightSun, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Esmeralda, the saddleback sow, is acting quite strangely. Each day, regardless of the weather she roots around the farm collecting a variety of objects that she takes back to deposit under the cattle ramp. What is causing this strange nest-building behaviour?

From the engaging endpapers that offer interesting information about pigs and piglets this is a charming story for young readers about a week in the life of a pig as she prepares to give birth.  Like the farmer and his children, the reader wonders what Esmeralda is doing with all the treasure she is collecting but it all makes sense at the end. Young readers can learn the days of the week, and perhaps predict what the next day will be, what its weather will be because that changes daily, and what Esmeralda might find that day.  And all the while the endless round of farm chores carries on in the pictures which are packed with detail for the sharp-eyed reader. City students can get a glimpse of rural life that they might be unaware of – particularly the role the children play!

For anyone teaching an introductory unit about farms and farming, this is a perfect accompaniment to exploring what is, to many, an unfamiliar environment with something new to explore on each page. 

Ten Sleepy Sheep

Ten Sleepy Sheep

Ten Sleepy Sheep









Ten Sleepy Sheep

Renée Treml

Puffin, 2020

24pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


Dusk on the farm and it’s time for the animals to go to sleep and so in this gentle countdown book, each settles down for the night.  

The ideal bedtime book to draw the curtains on the day for our youngest readers, the rhyme and rhythm will lull them off to sleep just as it does the sheep, the calves, the koalas and all the other little creatures who need their rest. 

Featuring the iconic soft drawings that we’ve come to associate with Treml’s work , this would be the ideal gift for a new mum and dad to start their little one’s reading journey.  

Let’s Go! On a Tractor

Let's Go! On a Tractor

Let’s Go! On a Tractor









Let’s Go! On a Tractor

Rosalyn Albert

Natalia Moore

Catch A Star, 2020

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99


Let’s go on a tractor
All around the farm
Past the duck pond, through the fields
Behind the big red barn.

This is a new addition to the Let’s Go series, this one taking our youngest readers around the farm on a tractor. 

The series focuses on two children enjoying rides on a variety of transport. Familiar topics, catchy rhymes and colourful illustrations not only make for an enjoyable read that they will be able to retell themselves endlessly, but also promote what can be expected from story books. It also helps build vocabulary as not all will be familiar with farm life, riding a train or a ferry, or travelling on a rocket so when they encounter other books with those sorts of settings, they are able to bring their knowledge to the page, predict what they will see and what might happen, as well as being in a better position to get their mouth ready for unknown words.

We should never underestimate the role that these sorts of readers have in our children’s literacy as they develop those early concepts about print, and by using sturdy, durable board books we can start that process earlier and earlier. This is just one of a number of series from this publisher that is bringing quality stories to our youngest readers.

Are These Hen’s Eggs?

Are These Hen's Eggs?

Are These Hen’s Eggs?










Are These Hen’s Eggs?

Christina Booth

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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


In “one sunset, two, one sunrise more” Hen’s eggs will hatch. Snuggled down deep in her nest under the trees, she waits patiently but then the storm hits and the next morning she cannot find her eggs.  All the farm creatures help her search, amassing a collection of eggs – but are they all Hen’s eggs?  When they do hatch there are some surprises, particularly the final one but that doesn’t stop Hen loving them all anyway.

This is a charming story that can spark all sorts of investigations about hens, eggs, how they are made, their sizes, shapes and colours, the range of creatures that come from eggs and the names of baby creatures. But it is also a story about helping others after loss, unselfishness as Duck gives Hen one of her eggs to cheer her up, and unconditional love when something entirely unexpected is added to the mix. Can a happy family be a blended mix of heritage, culture and parentage?

Christina Booth always gives us great stories like One Careless Night, Welcome Home and Purinina; A Devils’ Tale that cause us to ponder on big picture things and this is no exception.