Digging Up Dad And Other Hopeful (And Funny) Stories

Digging Up Dad

Digging Up Dad











Digging Up Dad

And Other Hopeful (And Funny) Stories

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Over 30 years ago, Morris Gleitzman was so overtaken by an idea for a story that he says came from nowhere that by the time the afternoon was up he had the outline completed and the journey of Two Weeks with the Queen had begun. Not only was it life-changing for Morris, but it had a profound effect on children’s literature at the time for while there were many authors writing wonderful stories for young readers, this one was contemporary, featured characters and situations that resonated with its audience, and his way with words appealed to boys who were on the cusp of being able to read but turning away from it as a leisure time activity.  

As well as a host of other novels, his iconic Once  and Toad series, Boy Overboard and Girl Underground, and his collaborations with Paul Jennings, Gleitzman has also written anthologies of short stories including Snot Chocolate , Pizza Cake , Give Peas a Chance, and Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories Digging up Dad is the latest addition to that collection and once again, readers are treated to short stories that are contemporary, realistic, real-life incidents that focus on children helping adults to be their best selves.  The title story is particularly poignant as Rose battles the problem of having to leave their rented house – the only home she has ever known – and leave her dad behind because his ashes are scattered in the garden. 

Gleitzman says he enjoys writing short stories. “You get to play with enjoyable and interesting and sometimes silly ideas that are not quite big enough for a longer work. Perhaps ‘not quite big enough’ isn’t the right way of saying it. Perhaps ‘not quite sensible and believable enough’ is closer. Some short stories grow out of very big ideas, but when you’re only asking readers to hang in for a few pages you can present those ideas in a slightly more exaggerated and comedic way. In a way that, if stretched over a couple of hundred pages, might well have readers thinking, hang on, that’s not very believable and not even that funny any more.”

And so are they perfect for readers who need a break from intense novels, often analysed until there is no enjoyment left, or who just want a short interlude from life while they re-gather their thoughts.  Teachers also love them because they’re perfect for filling in those final few minutes and with Gleitzman’s work, you know you are presenting quality literature that is likely to build a taste for his other works.  

There is a reason that books by Morris Gleitzman did not stay on the shelves and there was always a long reserves list;  why he won the Young Australian Readers’ Award in 2002 for Boy Overboard among many other awards over time; and why, 20 years on, he is still writing for kids and entertaining and delighting them.  If your students haven’t met him yet, then now is the time to ensure they do. 



The House on Pleasant Street

The House on Pleasant Street

The House on Pleasant Street











The House on Pleasant Street

Sofie Laguna

Marc McBride

A & U Children’s, 2022

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


Alby and his family are new on Pleasant Street. Their house is perfect, with a great tree to climb, and a pool. Their pet, Delia, is still in training, but she’s settling in just fine. So why can’t he make friends?  Particularly when tonight is Halloween – Alby’s favourite night of the year – and trick-or-treating is much more fun with other kids…

If ever there was an example of the words saying one thing and the illustrations portraying something very different, then this is it.  Award-winning illustrator Marc McBride has really put an unexpected spin on Sofie Laguna’s words but if you know his style through books like Deltora Quest and have taken a peek at his website, then you will have an inkling of what to expect in this new collaboration with his wife.  There is so much happening on each page in the exquisite details that this is a book best savoured alone so there is plenty of time to explore the world that has been created and then read again and again with more and more to discover.  

It’s funny, it’s entertaining and it’s utterly unique!

Jigsaw: A Puzzle in the Post

Jigsaw: A Puzzle in the Post

Jigsaw: A Puzzle in the Post












Jigsaw: A Puzzle in the Post

Bob Graham

Walker, 2022

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


When a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle mysteriously arrives in the post, the Kelly family take on the challenge and settle in for what becomes weeks and weeks of fun. But when they get to the end, there is one piece missing- is there anything more frustrating.

The astute reader will have followed the illustrations and knows what has happened to it, but the Kellys don’t and so they start what seems to be an endless and pointless search.  Will they find it and complete the puzzle?

Readers familiar with Bob Graham’s writing know that there is always more to the story than the text and the devil is in the detail so they will know to look closely at the illustrations and to read between and beyond the lines.  What is the significance of Katie and Kitty writing a thank you letter to their anonymous benefactor and putting it in the post? For those for whom he is a new discovery, these teachers’ notes will help unpack its many layers to reveal a story of the unquenchable hope and optimism and faith of young children. 



The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Bug Hunt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt











The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


There are two phrases that, when seen on the cover of a book for littlies, guarantee an engaging and enjoyable read that will help them understand both the world around them and the power of books.  They are “the Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Eric Carle” . And while we sadly lost Carle to kidney failure almost a year ago, his work lives on in books like this whose tantalising , colourful, familiar illustrations entice children to open them and discover what’s inside.

This one encourages them to look up, look under, look inside  and look closely to discover the minibeasts that live in their world so that they will appreciate both the bugs and the environment as being their home.  Its lift-the-flap format ensures there are lots of surprises and of course there is always the challenge of finding that elusive very hungry caterpillar on each page.  

If you missed celebrating The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day earlier this year on March 20, perhaps May 23, the first anniversary of his death, could be the day to celebrate the life and legacy of this man who has touched so many lives since we first met the VHC in June 1969! 

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)

J. R. R. Tolkien (Little People, Big Dreams)











J. R. R. Tolkien

Little People, Big Dreams

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Aaron Cushley

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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


Ever since Sir Peter Jackson decided to turn the remarkable adventures of the fantastic people of Middle Earth into the most highly successful movie franchise, ordinary people have known the name of the original creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Even though John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote other stories in his lifetime, the creation of a whole new world  united in either the quest for or the safety of  the “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them” , remains his seminal work.

So for his story to be told in this popular series, recommended every time someone asks for biographies for young readers, will be a welcome addition.  

John experienced lots of change in his life from a young age. Moving from South Africa to a big city in England, he longed for the nature he grew up around. After the death of both of his parents, John found comfort in telling stories and building imaginary worlds with his friends. And he continued to tell stories for the rest of his life, creating epic tales of hobbits, dwarves, elves and wizards as J. R. R. Tolkien. Featuring stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the writer’s life, it is one that will be sought after as young readers clamour to know more about the man who is the epitome of this year’s CBCA Book week theme, Dreaming with eyes open….


Round the Twist

Round the Twist

Round the Twist












Round the Twist

Paul Jennings

Puffin, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Thirty years ago, if you wanted to capture the kids’ attention, particularly boys, through books, no teacher was without a copy of one of the latest Paul Jennings short story collections.  Unreal, Uncanny, Unmentionable, Un-anything – pull it out at any time and you immediately had their undivided attention.  Here, in a few short pages, was someone who mentioned the unmentionable and who brought a blush to the face of many a sensitive teacher (part of the appeal of the stories).

And then Jennings invented the Twist family, fourteen-year-old twins Pete and Linda, eight-year-old son Bronson, and father Tony, a widowed artist who makes sculptures. They live in an old lighthouse on a rugged part of the Victorian coastline and their madcap adventures became one of the most popular on television at the time, and which is now enjoying a resurgence on streaming services.  Beginning in print form first (the new release has the original cover) Jennings agreed to work on the television series in partnership with Esben Storm and this gave him the unique insight into how the series was made that is included in this latest release which includes three of the original stories.

Because of the popularity of both Jennings himself, and the series which ran for 11 years, there is a generation of Australians who not only know his name but can attribute their reading success  to his works and so they will be delighted that such a significant part of their childhood is now opening up for their own children – if, indeed, it ever disappeared.  Fun for fun’s sake! 



The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas






The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034


Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!


The Curse of the Vampire Robot

The Curse of the Vampire Robot

The Curse of the Vampire Robot












The Curse of the Vampire Robot

Graeme Base

HarperCollins, 2021

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


Deep in the Scottish Highlands, many years from now …

Gertie Gif, a lowly cleaning droid from the village of Loch Lan, sets out on an heroic quest to liberate her fellow robo-folk from the curse of a legendary, battery-draining laptop who lives in the castle on the hill.

Will Gertie and her little software-wolf companion succeed in cleaning out the vampire’s corrupted heart?

Or will the Curse of Voltoid remain forever hanging over the valley?

In this new release from the amazing Base, he combines an old-fashioned tale of good versus evil with 21st century techno-speak to produce an intriguing, clever story that marries the very old with the very latest.   In a castle high on a hill overlooking the valley dwells the dreaded Voltoid , “a giant laptop, black as night, with wings and pointy teeth” who sweeps down into the village to drain the resident robots of their power in order to recharge his own. Then, as in true tales of old, an unlikely hero volunteers to confront the enemy and in in clever rhyming text, an epic encounter ensues.

“In time, the tale become a myth and finally a meme

with feature films and merchandise…

A total data stream. 

Deviating from his familiar full-colour illustrations, this time Base has kept to black and white but with the typical exquisite detail that make his illustrations as rich as both the concept and the text.  This is one for more mature readers who can appreciate the subtlety of the words and the connections between them and the pictures. 

So much food for thought…                              

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface's Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories











Silky’s Story

Enid Blyton & Jeanne Willis

Mark Beech


Moonface’s Story

Enid Blyton & Emily Lamm

Mark Beech



Hodder Children’s, 2021

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

The Magic Faraway Tree with its ladder at the very top leading through the clouds to wondrous lands of adventure and magic has been a favourite for generations and has always been my go-to read-aloud when introducing young children to the concept of series with their continuing settings and characters. 

Now, almost 80 years later , two new stories about two of the favourite residents of the Faraway Tree have been created to introduce this magical world to a new generation of  young readers and have them clamouring to read more.

In Silky’s Story, the children arrive at The Tree to discover it silent, its leaves on the ground, its fruit eaten and, as they climb, they follow a trail of mess, mud and fruit stones.  Their friends are all frightened and Silky the fairy is missing!  It seems that the Land of Roundabouts and Swings has arrived at the top of the tree and an unusual and seemingly unpleasant visitor has come down the tree causing havoc and taken Silky back to the Land with him…

Meanwhile, in Moonface’s Story, it is Moonface’s birthday and he wants to hold a party for all his special friends. Of course, birthday parties always require cake but when he tries to bake a cake  it ends up burnt. Will he find help in one of the wonderful lands at the top of the Faraway Tree?

Lavishly illustrated in bold colours, both books make both the perfect bedtime story as well as taking the child to ‘old worlds, new worlds and other worlds.’  The perfect entrée to the main course of the complete collection – The Enchanted Wood ,  The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree


The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection











The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

Enid Blyton

Hodder Children’s, 2020

638pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Imagine being able to walk to the woods at the bottom of your garden where the leaves of the trees whisper to each other that you are there and find yourself at the bottom of a tree that has the most remarkable inhabitants like Moonface, Silky and Dame Washalot living in its branches and a revolving world of magical lands at its top, high in the clouds.  That is what Joe, Beth and Frannie (PC’ed from the original Fanny) discover when they move to the countryside and  discover that their new house lies next to the Enchanted Wood! And in that wood stands the Magic Faraway Tree where they have so many amazing encounters and adventures.

This collection comprising all three books in the series – The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree – is now, once again, on offer to parents, teachers and independent readers to share.  Over my 50+ years in teaching, I’ve lost count of how many children I have shared this magic with. Apart from transporting the children to new worlds of imagination and wonderment, it was my go-to read-aloud when they were ready for a serial that had continuous characters and settings so they were familiar with the background, but still needed a complete story within each session.  

There is a reason that Blyton’s stories (over 700 books and about 2,000 short stories) have not dated and have sold over 500 million copies and have been translated into other languages more often than any other children’s author and remain in print more than 50 years after her death.  Apart from being childhood favourites of previous generations and thus handed down through families like fairytales, her imagination gave her readers the wings to fly away from whatever circumstances they were in to a world where anything was possible, anything could happen and usually did.  In series like The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven,  Malory Towers and Noddy, there were no everyday constraints on the characters and they could become heroes in the most mundane of circumstances, resonating with the audience in ways many authors have envied and tried to emulate since. 

Visiting a new world every read, this is truly a perfect collection for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and because my own grandchildren have had this series on their bookshelves for many years, I know just which family needs this copy to start their tradition.