Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent











Antarctica The Melting Continent

Karen Romano Young

Angela Hsieh

What On Earth Books, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Antarctica is one of the most isolated and harshest environments on the planet, often referred to as “the final frontier”. 

From her harbourside home in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, as a young girl in the 1930s my mum would watch the ships head southwards to the ice, literally the next stop after they left the safety of the port of Bluff.  And she began to dream. In 1968, after years of dedication and hard work, she broke the “petticoat ban” and she too, joined those sailing south from Bluff – on a converted fishing trawler that was the precursor to the luxury liners of today, as Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered Antarctic tourism and she became the first female journalist to go south.

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

Fifty+ years on and it is so different – or at least the getting there is, and the presence of women is no longer a novelty and the issue of where they might go to the toilet no longer a primary barrier!

Today, in the southern summer, tourist trips leave regularly for the ice, although most often it is via South America to the Antarctic Peninsula as the crossing of the Drake Passage is usually only about two days while scientists are there all year round and women work alongside the men.  So, this new book provides an up-to-date view of this isolated continent in a narrative that draws on the author’s own experiences as well as extensive research and interviews with scientists, combining a unique personal perspective with up-to-date information about the land and its inhabitants, the investigations being undertaken and the discoveries being made such as studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet. There is still so much to learn and do and the book’s scope offers many opportunities for students’ interest-driven investigations.

While most of its readers probably won’t have the wherewithal to afford a trip on one of the many ships that have made it a bucket-list destination, perhaps this book will inspire them to take another route under the Australian Antarctic program and dare to dream – just as my mum did all those years ago! For that truly was “Dreaming with eyes open…” 



Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World











Amazing Activists Who Are Changing Our World

Rebecca Schiller

Sophie Beer

Walker Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


In the USA school students are walking out of school to protest the lack of gun control laws; in Australia, they walked out of school in 2021 to protest the lack of action on climate change… The names of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists are as well-known to them as those of their favourite singers and movie stars as the mantle of protest moves from its traditional university setting to the classroom.  

But who are they inspired by? On whose shoulders do they stand? 

Defining an activist as one who uses their knowledge, skills and energy to make the world a better place by protecting human rights, ending prejudice and inequality and protecting the planet from harmful human activities so all its creatures are safe, this book introduces young readers to 20 people who have made a significant contribution to changing the world – some names familiar, others not-so – including Sonita Alizdeh; Rachel Carson; Favio Chavez; Mahatma Gandhi; Jane Goodall; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr; Nelson Mandela; Wangari Maathai; Aditya Mukarji; Emmeline Pankhurst; Autumn Peltier; Boyan Slat; Gareth Thomas; Harriet Tubman; William Wilberforce; Ai Weiwei Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as well as both Yousafzai and Thunberg.

Each person has a double-page spread that includes an outline of what they have achieved, the core motivation for their actions, the particular powers that they employed, as well as a significant quote to inspire the readers to continue their work.  There is also an activity suggested so that this can be done so the reader begins to realise that no one is too small to make a difference. For example, they are encouraged to build their public speaking powers so when they have something important to say they can speak out with confidence as Mahatma Gandhi did, or perhaps create something that will solve a problem as Boyan Slat did when he was confronted with an ocean of plastic rather than marine creatures on his first scuba diving trip.

Conservative, right-wing, middle-aged men in suits (and those who follow them) condemned those children who left their classrooms to protest – they should have stayed there to study and learn –  yet it could be strongly argued that those same children were actually putting their learning into practice, determined to make the world a better place for themselves and others, because “there is more to life than increasing its speed” as Gandhi said.  By introducing our students to those who have gone before, and those who are already forging a new path, through books such as this,  Children Who Changed the World , and others, perhaps we can plant the seeds that will grow the future.  Encourage each to “dream with their eyes open.” 


Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!

Get Me Out of Here!











Get Me Out of Here!

Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes

Pauline Deeves

Brent Wilson

A & U Children’s, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


The publisher’s blurb for this fascinating book reads … “

Full of crims, crooks and rascally runaways, this fun and light-hearted non-fiction title is a colourful celebration of our convict past Meet the convicts behind Australia’s most rascally, dastardly prison escapes. Gifted geniuses or total goofballs? You be the judge! Featuring Moondyne Joe, Mary Bryant, and a guy who put on a kangaroo skin and hopped away (literally), this fun and engaging collection brings our country’s early colonial past to life.”

And, indeed, it is a ‘fun and engaging’ read for older students who want to know the stories behind the stories of some of those whose names have become a familiar part of our history, 

But, IMO, the ‘fun and engaging’ is found in the stories surrounding the stories behind the stories, which reflect that author’s experience as a teacher librarian and an understanding of not only how students like to read but what they want to know.  

To begin, each person’s story is told as a narrative, some in the first person, and as well as their story, there is also a short explanation of what happened to them after their exploits – whether their escape was successful,  they were caught and punished or…  There are also two pages of Fun Facts after each chapter that expand on the circumstances of the time. For example Mary Bryant ‘s story is followed by information about female convicts and alerts the reader to other stories that could be followed, while others include explanations of vocabulary and other tidbits that add colour and interest. There are the usual glossary and index as well as suggestions for further research that offer other child-friendly books to explore.

Each chapter is set on bold background colours with lots of cartoon-like illustrations that will appeal widely.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…

All in all, this is an intriguing book that will add insight and understanding into our past in a way that is not the usual dry recounts full of facts and figures.

Women Who Led the Way

The Women Who Led the Way

Women Who Led the Way











Women Who Led the Way

Mick Manning

Brita Granstrom

Otter-Barry Books, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


“From Aud the Deep-Minded, an early voyager to Iceland, and Sacagawea who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition across the USA, to Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest, this book shows the incredible courage, determination and power of women explorers over the last 1200 years. These women have led the way exploring lands, oceans, mountains, skies and space, but have also made pioneering discoveries in the fields of science, nature, archaeology, ecology and more. The lives of these women, told as personal stories, are an inspiration to us all.”

As I looked back over the increasing number of reviews for books that showcase women who have changed the world in some way, none of them have focused on female explorers breaking through that traditionally male domain peppered with names like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Abel Tasman, James Cook, Robert Falcon Scott and Edmund Hillary. (Even the Australian Museum’s Trailblazer collection is predominantly men.)

In fact, when I looked through the contents page, there were only three names of more than 30 that were familiar, yet here are the stories of women who broke new ground in so many areas including being the first to cycle round the world, the first black woman into space,  the first to look into space and discover eight comets…  One wonders why they are not household names like their male counterparts.

However, apart from a brief mention of Nancy Bird Walton, there were no Australian names suggesting that perhaps there have been so many women to choose from that Australia’s heroes were overshadowed.  Where are Kay Cottee, Jessica Watson, Emily Creaghe, Lady Jane Franklin, Jade Hameister, Robyn Davidson,.. even my own mum, Dorothy Braxton, the first female journalist to travel to Antarctica and the first female to set foot on some of its hallowed places in 1968 (although, to be fair, she was a Kiwi through and through)?

Dorothy Braxton, Scott's Cross. Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton, Scott’s Memorial. Antarctica, 1968

So, as well as learning about these trailblazers, the book needs an Australian companion so we can set students the challenge of not only researching someone suitable and retelling their story in the same format as the book – brief personal accounts and which include an inspirational quote – but also pitching for their contribution to be included. Obviously, such a book can only have limited entries so students would have to argue why the contribution of their selection changed the world while the rest of the class would take on the role of the editor choosing.

Alternatively, it could be ties to this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Dreaming With Eyes Open and students could write about why, in the future, they would be included in such a collection.  What will be their legacy? 

Books like this, apart from always introducing the reader to new heroes, open up so many more possibilities that can make each of us an explorer in our own way.  


Fantastically Great Women Artists and Their Stories

Fantastically Great Women Artists and Their Stories

Fantastically Great Women Artists and Their Stories











Fantastically Great Women Artists and Their Stories

Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury, 2022

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Over half of all the visual artists working today are women, but the paintings and sculptures shown in many galleries and museums tell a different story because they’re usually the work of men. Ask people to name a famous painter and they can tell you any number of males, but rarely a female. 

In this book, the latest in this series, Kate Pankhurst tells the fascinating stories of some of history’s most talented female artists including Amrita Sher-Gil, Elisabeth Le Brun, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Faith Ringgold, Frida Kahlo, Kathe Kollwitz, Dame Laura Knight and Peggy Guggenheim.

Including comic strips, family trees, maps and more, this is a book that will inspire and empower our girls with artistic ambitions to continue so they can tell their own stories in the future.  And when asked to name a famous painter, there will be female names amongst the responses, not just a deluge of familiar male names. 

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci's Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention











Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Jake Williams

Pavilion, 2022

96pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Whether you’re looking into art, architecture, engineering, mathematics, music or just about anything else, the name of Leonardo da Vinci keeps cropping up. Born in 1452 in a small town in Tuscany Italy, more than 550 years later his inventions and discoveries live on being the foundations of many of the things we take for granted.  Known now as a polymath – someone whose knowledge spans many different areas and subjects – he was responsible for so much more than the Mona Lisa

This new book written to introduce the man , his talent, skill and world to young readers who are as curious as he was, is a fascinating read that follows his life, his discoveries and their continuing impact in a way that is easily accessible and full of illustrations. Through his passion for sketching and note-taking that left a legacy of “wild ideas, futuristic inventions, fearsome creatures and beautiful works of art”, the author has pulled together an authoritative, engaging biography not just of the man but his contribution to his society and ours.

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….


Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different

Dare to be Different











Dare to be Different;  Inspirational Words from People Who Changed the World 

Ben Brooks

Quinton Winter

Hachette, 2022

208pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


The words in Dare to be Different have great power, just as the phrase itself does as it challenges the individual to stand apart from the crowd, to be proud of whatever it is that makes them unique and celebrate it.  Not always easy, and particularly not when you’re at the age when the natural desire is to fit in, to be one of the in-group, to conform and be anonymous but at the same time to have and follow heroes who do have the courage to shine.

In this compendium, Ben Brooks has brought together 100 people who have all in some way or another used words to do wonderful things, rather than sporting prowess or heroic deeds.  Some may have changed a single life, while others have changed the course of history for almost everyone on earth. But whether their effects were big or small, these individuals’ speeches, letters, poems, songs, stories, and advice prove one thing: words can make the world a better place. It includes personal letters that were written for just one reader to help guide them through life’s journey; and others that were intended for millions of people to hear about grand declarations of war, peace or new discoveries.

From Plautus’ plays about the power of laughter to Selena Gomez’s speech about bullying; and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters of encouragement to his daughter, Scottie, to Bambi, the mysterious graffiti artist who sprays words of truth on walls, there is something to be learned from every quote in this inspiring and illuminating book.  It contains the words of wisdom that children will love to hear, about kindness, bullying, or whether it’s OK to sometimes eat chocolate for breakfast, and allow them to feel more secure about themselves and accept that who they are is enough. Not everyone has to be a headline.

Each double-page spread gives a background narrative pitched at the reader’s level and includes a significant quote that offers a life message that might be just what the child needs to hear at the time.  For example, Selena Gomez says, “You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a like, by a comment…”; founder of the charity Sight Learning at just 14, Yash Gupta says, ” Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It’s just a matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that”; while Yoda reminds them that “Size matters not. Look at me, Judge me by size, do you?”

While many of those included do have an international profile like Desmond Tutu and Dolly Parton, most do not, just being acclaimed for having made a significant difference in someone’s life, somewhere, reinforcing that it is ordinary people from ordinary places who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that allow them to make that difference. So, as well as the positive affirmations from those that have, it offers a belief that we all can.   It also shows that you don’t have to set out to make a difference, or to receive recognition, acknowledgement or acclaim. and that sometimes your impact can be invisible and unknown. Many years ago I taught a quiet, shy young lad, one whom, honestly, I had all but forgotten until he told my BFF, his prospective employer, that it was my words about believing in himself and being able to do whatever he dreamed that had led him safely through university to a career that he loves!   Sometimes just being who you are and following your passion can be all the different you need to be.




The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything











The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

Mara Rockliff

Daniel Duncan

Walker, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


A century ago, as Britain emerged from the horrors of World War I,  Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. Instead of spending any pocket money on sweets, she bought tools. She could make anything. She could fix anything. And when she took a thing apart, she put it back together better than before. When Beatrice left home to study engineering, she knew that as a girl she wouldn’t be quite like the other engineers – and she wasn’t. She was better. Still, it took hard work and perseverance to persuade the Royal Aircraft Establishment to give her a chance. But when World War II broke out and British fighter pilots took to the skies in a desperate struggle for survival against Hitler’s bombers, it was clearly time for new ideas. Could Beatrice solve an engine puzzle and help Britain win the war?

This is the intriguing story of a remarkable woman whose dismissal of other’s opinions about what women should/could do, and whose ingenuity, persistence, and way with a wrench (or spanner) made her quite unlike anyone else, adding to the growing list of remarkable women whose ground-breaking stories are only just being told. For even though she changed the course of the war and was awarded an OBE , she retired 20 years later never having held a top post in the Royal Aircraft Establishment because even then in 1969, those jobs were only awarded to men.  Shilling is another woman to introduce students to when they are looking for heroes to investigate and model, and because this has a clear explanation of the problem with the Hurricanes and Spitfires and how it was solved, it will appeal to those with an interest in engineering and mechanics as well.  

An extended biography and selected resources for further exploration round out this amazing story. 


Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again













Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again

Michael Rosen

Tony Ross

Walker, 2022

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


Imagine being so sick that you can’t get out of bed, not even to go to the loo.  So sick that it takes three people to even sit you up and that in itself is so exhausting that you beg to be allowed to lie down again, and, when you do, you lie there almost paralysed from the effort it took.  That as much as you want to just lie there, those around you persist because they have faith that you can do this, and s-l-o-w-l-y. s-l-o-w-l-y you begin to share that belief. And even though it takes every bit of strength you have,  and it’s painful and oh-so tiring, your determination overwhelms the desire to just sleep forever, and you begin to move forward.  Literally just baby steps to begin with, but each one a little longer than the last until at last, you are really kicking goals. Your best friend is a walking frame, then a wheelchair, then a walking stick and your greatest achievement could be going to the toilet all by yourself with no helpers – when to be able to do something as natural and necessary as a wee without spectators becomes a red-letter day!   

This is the story of children’s author Michael Rosen, he who gave our children We’re Going on a Bear Hunt amongst so many others, superbly illustrated by Tony Ross who has taken the edge off the seriousness of Rosen’s situation with his perfect artwork, as Rosen recovered from COVID 19 in 2020.  

But it is my story too for in 2021 I found myself following exactly in Rosen’s footsteps (but for a different reason, struck down by the rarest of rare allergies) and sadly, it is also the story of so many of our children who, for many reasons, find themselves on that uphill climb where each metre gained is worthy of celebration. 

However, while I understand Rosen’s journey so well (I’m still kicking goals twelve months on as I recover, so although I can now toilet and shower myself, I still have challenges to face like having the strength to squeeze the nozzle of the petrol pump to fill my car), and I acknowledge that what we have been through has been traumatic both physically and mentally (because staring down death has that effect), what shone through this story for me was his hope, his perseverance, his determination, his courage, his resilience and his faith that he would triumph, once he was able to accept that the doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists were all on his side and that family and friends were cheering for him, literally every step of the way. That for all we like to think we are self-sufficient, perhaps an island, it is the love, connections and support of and with others that infuse us with the wherewithal to keep pushing. 

And for that alone, we should be sharing this story with our students, many of whom are facing seemingly insurmountable battles and helping them understand that it can be an hour at a time, a day at a time, a step at a time and while that step might be a backward one, we believe that they will go forward again.  Yes, we each have an inner strength, stronger than we ever realise until we have to draw on it, but it is that encouragement and belief of those we love that is the driving force to keep trying.  It may not be a physical illness such as Rosen and I had, but for the child it is just as serious and devastating, and thus the need for our support is as vital as Sticky McStickstick in their recovery. And to go a little further, once recovery eventually occurs, to realise that there will be unexpected long-term impacts to deal with so that while Sticky Mcstickstick might spend most of his days in a basket just in case, he still needs to be there both as a support for when we fall and as a reminder of all that we did and learned as we recovered. 

And for me, as well as my own Sticky McStickstick I now have this book  – a story of a journey undertaken and conquered by so many more than me and Rosen.