Women Artists A to Z

Women Artists A to Z

Women Artists A to Z









Women Artists A to Z

Melanie LaBarge

Caroline Corrigan

Puffin, 2020

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


As International Women’s Day approaches, this is a timely release of a collection of international women artists spanning a variety of genres including painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. The work of each is succinctly summarised in the title of each double-page spread such as F is for Flower (Georgia O’Keefe), O is for Opposites (Hilma Af Klint), Q is for Quilt (The Gee’s Bend Collective) and Y for Yarn (Xenobia Bailey). While there is just a paragraph describing the thrust of their work, there are more detailed biographical notes about each in the final pages as well as a provocative question about each inspiring the reader to think and do according to the medium or concept that captures their attention.  For example, aspiring quilters are challenged to consider who in their community they would like to work with on a collaborative piece.

Australian artist Mirka Mora is featured (A is for Angels because these found their way into work so often) but this could serve as a model for students to create their own spreads with a focus on the works of Australian artists. Rather than just retelling the artist’s life, the challenge becomes the summation of their works. Definitely one to share with your art faculty. 


Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs









Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Laura Greaves

Puffin, 2019

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Dogs have been living with and helping humans for around fifteen thousand years. All those years ago dogs were either hunters or guardians, but these days, dogs can do all kinds of amazing jobs. Often our first thoughts about working dogs are those who are assistance dogs or those on farms working with cattle or sheep, perhaps even Oddball who protected a penguin sanctuary from fox attacks,  but in this collection the stories of over 30 dogs are told, each one different and unique.  There is Bailey the border collie became the Assistant Director of Seagulls at the Australian National Maritime Museum;  Caesar, the footy mascot for the Western Bulldogs;  Mr Walker who became a canine ambassador at a Melbourne hotel and Molly Polly, the Aussie silky terrier, who  saves lives.

Written for independent readers, each “biography” features a fact file that the reader can use to determine if this is a dog they want to read about today, and for those like Oscar  who have their own online presence , there are links to follow to find out more. While many of the dogs are Australian-based, the author has also included stories of dogs from other places like the Akaroa Dolphin dogs in New Zealand and Rowdy who is a vitiligo ambassador in the US. 

This is definitely a dip-and-delve book that will not only appeal to dog lovers, but perhaps also to reluctant readers who are still developing their skills because the chapters are short, it is non fiction and the subject is a universal one. Perhaps they could even add a chapter about a special dog they know.

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay


Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay












Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Alexandra Stewart

Joe Todd-Stanton

Bloomsbury, 2019

64pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99


Prior to the lunar landing 50 years ago, climbing to the top of Everest was seen as perhaps the greatest physical feat that had been achieved.

In the late morning of May 29th 1953, the sun was shining brightly on the roof of the world, a gentle breeze was blowing and two men were there to witness it for the first time ever … Their names were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and the roof of the world was Everest.

This is the breathtaking story of how two very different yet equally determined men battled frost-biting temperatures, tumbling ice rocks, powerful winds and death-defying ridges to climb the world’s highest mountain. Join these two unlikely heroes on the most amazing of adventures and discover the impact of hundreds of men and women that helped Hillary and Tenzing achieve their goal. But triumphs can be marred with tragedy as not everyone who climbs Everest survives …

With a  foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, this  book combines fresh and contemporary illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton with Alexandra Stewart’s captivating writing and has been published to concide with the celebrations of f Edmund Hillary‘s birth in New Zealand on January 20, 1919. This unique narrative tells the story of how Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their mark on the world from birth right up to their final days and the impact they’ve had on Nepal today.

Perhaps because Sir Edmund became a friend of my mother’s and once took her down Aoraki (Mt Cook in New Zealand) on the back of a skidoo so she could be home in time for my birthday, Everest has always held a fascination for me. So to learn about the story behind the climb that made him a household name at a time when New Zealand was not, has been a most fascinating read.

Something to capture the imagination of those who like their superheroes to be real.

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature










The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

Pierre-Jacques Ober

Jules Ober, Felicity Coonan

Candlewick Studio, 2019

104pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


From the publisher… “About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war. The war was supposed to last months. It lasted years. It is Christmastime, 1914, and World War I rages. A young French soldier named Pierre had quietly left his regiment to visit his family for two days, and when he returned, he was imprisoned. Now he faces execution for desertion, and as he waits in isolation, he meditates on big questions: the nature of patriotism, the horrors of war, the joys of friendship, the love of family, and how even in times of danger, there is a whole world inside every one of us. And how sometimes that world is the only refuge. “

Published to coincide with the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, one of five treaties formulated at the Paris Peace Conference as part of the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War, the readership of this book is older than what is normally reviewed for this site, despite its sparse text.  However, it is a new and important addition to any collection about World War I  and there will be primary school students who will appreciate the conceptual issues it raises as they become more aware of “the difficult truths of humanity”.

Written by a Frenchman now living in Australia, and illustrated by miniature reenactments of the scenes that have then been photographed, the book is the winner of 1st Prize at the Prix Sorcières 2019, France’s most prestigious award for children’s books.   The story is based on true facts and its connection to the author and the illustrators and their processes have been detailed in the final pages. 

Different, intriguing and utterly absorbing,



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. 






Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future

Stand Up for the Future









Stand Up for the Future

Puffin Books, 2019

208pp.. hbk., RRP $A29.99


There will be many teachers and teacher librarians who will skim the contents of this book and be unfamiliar with most of the names, but to our students they will be very familiar because in this companion to Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women and High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men the focus is the heroes of the younger generation -the inventors, the conservationists, the sports people, the entrepreneurs and innovators whose names are so well-known to the current generation and whose names will feature in the “Famous Australians” contents pages of the future.

Using the same format as the other two of a clear one-page bio and a portrait by one of Australia’s leading illustrators, each of them an inspiring and aspiring young illustrator, this books celebrates the achievements of those who can see a brighter future for this nation and its peoples, one that is inclusive, socially and environmentally aware, and compassionate. 

From my own hero Cameron Remess, who at the age of nine taught himself to sew so he could make teddy bears for sick kids in hospital and has now made over 1700 bears and established his own charity Kindness Cruises  to Baker Boy 2019 Young Australian of the Year, there is an amazing group of young people featured who shine in many areas. 

This is an exuberant, uplifting book that needs to be in every library collection and promoted so our students  can find new role models, new directions and even new dreams, as well as understanding that paths to success can change directions, present obstacles to be overcome and that “failure can be a source of learning and inspiration”.

As with the others, all royalties are donated to The Smith Family.

Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Little People, Big Dreams

Little People, Big Dreams









Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Muhammad Ali


Stephen Hawking


Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019

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

New to the Little People, Big Dreams series, young readers can delve into the lives of these two men who, in their own unique ways, made such a contribution to the world of sport and science respectively. Presented in a picture book format and focusing on the childhood events that shaped their future decisions and success, the series is an excellent introduction to the biography genre.

As a child, young Cassius Clay had his bike stolen. He wanted to fight whoever stole his bike, but a police officer told him to control his anger, and learn how to box. After training hard in the gym, Cassius developed a strong hook and a stronger work ethic. His smart thinking and talking, inside and outside the ring, earned him the greatest title in boxing: Heavyweight Champion of the World while Stephen used to look up at the stars and wonder what else was out there. After gaining his education at Oxford University, Stephen went on to make a groundbreaking discovery to do with black holes: Hawking radiation. Although his health was declining due to MS, Stephen was more determined than ever to study and share his findings with the world. With his trademark voice and wit, Stephen brought science to everyone and became loved around the world.

Rather than a dry book of facts and figures, this series is intended to show our young students that even the most famous people came from ordinary beginnings, often similar to their own, and that it was a dream and the perseverance, determination and resilience to chase it that made the difference.  Perhaps they, too, have such a dream and with such inspiration could one day find themselves being in a series such as tis.



The Extraordinary Life of …(series)

The Extraordinary Life of ...(series)

The Extraordinary Life of …(series)








The Extraordinary Life of …(series)

Michelle Obama

Dr Sheila Kanani


Malala Yousafzai

Rita Petralucci


Stephen Hawking

Esther Mols


Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Stephen Hawking …all contemporary heroes who have contributed much more than the average person to making the world a better place and who are the three initial subjects of a new series from Puffin called The Extraordinary Life of…  To be joined in June by Neil Armstrong, Anne Frank and Katherine Johnson, then later in the year by Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole,  this is a new series of biographies for young independent readers introducing them to those who have shaped their world.

Done with a monochromatic theme with lots of line drawings it combines the essential information of each person’s life with significant quotes that encapsulate their philosophy for doing what they do. 

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is”.  Malala Yousafzai

“You too can reach your dreams and then your job is to reach back and to help someone just like you, do the same thing. ”  Michelle Obama

“I am happy if I have added something to the understanding of our universe. ” Stephen Hawking.

Three different people doing different things but with a common philosophy that focuses on humanity as a whole.

Written in a style and format that fosters a desire to continue reading rather than dipping and delving to find facts, this series is a way to introduce young readers to biography as a genre and its focus on people whose names may well be familiar to the audience will draw in those who might not yet be aware of this type of non fiction. Thus they are not only learning about the person in focus but discovering a new genre that will open up new reading pathways and perhaps inspire them. While our collections abound with biographies, they might not appeal to young readers so a series that captures the current desire for short bursts of information presented in a non-traditional way deserves serious consideration for adding to your collection. 




DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories

DK Life Stories









DK Life Stories


Diane Bailey


Albert Einstein

Wil Mara


Helen Keller

Libby Romero


Katherine Johnson

Ebony Joy Wilkins


128pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

At last the people with the power of the purse strings are beginning to realise that not everything is available online, and what is there is unlikely to be at a reading level accessible to our developing readers, and publishers are responding to the resurgence in demand for quality non fiction resources in print format.  While DK have continued to produce quality print materials throughout this misguided era of everything having to be screen-based, their new Life Stories series, biographies for younger readers, is a welcome addition to a genre that can be the entry point to a world of inspiration for a new generation.

Currently comprising about a dozen  titles, including most of the usual subjects found in this sort of series, the one that caught my eye was that of Katherine Johnson, she who is now the famed NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of the best-selling book and movie Hidden Figures. Miss 12 was just awarded her school’s Science and Technology prize for her work in coding and so this is just perfect for inspiring her to maintain her passion and continue to break down barriers as she moves on to high school.  

Using accessible text, photographs and the usual DK production quality, this series tells the stories behind the celebrities bringing them alive for students who now understand that their world is much larger and older than they are and that many have gone before as pioneers, often against incredible odds, so that they can enjoy the life they do.  Perhaps others would eventually have done what Katherine Johnson did, but for Miss 12 who has the self-doubt and mood swings so typical of her age group, it is Katherine’s story of resilience and determination that is as important as her achievements, just as it is for all the others featured in this series, so it is inspirational on many levels.  When she feels overwhelmed, hopefully she will draw on Katherine’s story to find the courage to take the next step.

That sort of engagement doesn’t come from reading a dispassionate fact-and-figures webpage and so this book in particular and the series in general will be a superb addition to both private and school libraries this year.   















Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

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


On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.