Scientists Who Changed the World: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking











Scientists Who Changed the World: Stephen Hawking

Anita Groy

EK Books, 2021

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


Stephen Hawking advanced our understanding of the universe more than any other scientist of his day. He spent his entire career chasing the idea of the “Theory of Everything: to explain the entire universe relating to the Big Bang Theory. His book A Brief History of Time was designed to explain physics to the general public, not just scientists, and this made him one of the most famous scientists in the world. 

This new additions to this series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and that they all started as ordinary kids, just like the readers. 

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to Hawking , his discoveries and his their early life and how that influenced the path he took. But when I think of Hawking, the image I see is him in his wheelchair having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease at 21, and speaking by controlling a computer with his cheek after he lost the ability to speak.  That alone, as a model of resilience, of one who never gave up, whose body may have failed but his brain didn’t, is a reason to share his story with our students. 

When other teacher librarians ask for suggestions for biographies of contemporary people that are interesting and accessible for primary students, this series is always mentioned.  So it’s one to have in your collection as the fascination with science grows exponentially at a time when we are so dependent on it. 


A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal











A Different Sort of Normal

Abigail Balfe

Puffin, 2021

240pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


It begins with a poem, the last stanza of which says,

This is for ANYONE

Who has ever felt out of place

You don’t have to be the “odd one out”

You’re unique and that’s just great.

It continues with a childhood memory of a Punch and Judy birthday treat that she hated and when she later asked her mum why, her mum said, “I wanted you to be a normal child.  I didn’t want you to be an outcast like I was.”

The blurb says the rest…

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*.

This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself.

There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.

If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in . . . this book is for you.

While there are a lot of books that explore autism so others can have an insight, such as Annabel’s Dance; The Chalk Rainbow; and A Boy called BAT this is the first I’ve read that is written by someone on the spectrum for others on the spectrum.  It maps her journey through childhood through a time when she didn’t know that there was a scientific reason for her difference, just all the while feeling confused, unwanted and left out.  

It is a unique book, one for children and adults alike and made all the more poignant because of its honesty, truthfulness and lack of sugar-coating.  The author explains her reasons for sharing her story and while she had to navigate the world alone because she did not have a diagnosis, to help others pave a different path she has produced a poster that helps us to be an ally to those we know. 

Even though it is written directly to encourage children who are autistic to understand that while they ae unique, what they experience is not unique to them and they are not alone, it is one for anyone who has anything to do with children.  Because if we don’t understand we can’t empathise.

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp












Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Jane Smith

Big Sky, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


On a trip to Sydney before being sent to boarding school in Brisbane, country girl Carly Mills visits the sights and sites of Sydney’s past with her new friend Dora. At Customs House they are refused admission because the exhibits are being changed. but when Carly picks up two shawls that drop off a trolley she is told to keep them as they are probably being discarded.

But what she doesn’t realise is that hers has a magic of its own when she puts it on- it transports her back in time to meet some of the influential women in  history.

In this, the fourth in the series, Carly is in London on holiday and finds herself transported back to the mid-19th century where life and expectations for women were very different from modern times and she meets the iconic “lady with the lamp” Florence Nightingale recognised as being the founder of modern nursing, travelling with her to the battlefields of the Crimea.

Much has been written about Nightingale and her exploits and achievements over the years, but with nurses so much in the frontline of this new battle with COVID-19, this is a timely release that allows young independent readers to learn about the early beginnings of this profession and how far it has come because of the courage and determination of women like its subject. 

 This  series mixes fictional characters like Carly and real-life women who have shaped the world, thus bringing history alive in a more personal way. By becoming involved in the narrative, perhaps even putting themselves in Carly’s shoes, the reader understands how the lessons the characters learn can be applied to the modern world. Other in the series focus on Caroline Chisholm, Dr Lilian Cooper, and Dame Nellie Melba, with Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Miles Franklin to come.  

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton's Endurance:  An Antarctic Survival Story

Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story











Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Joanna Grochowicz

Allen & Unwin, 2021 

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest and victory over Sir Robert Falcon Scott. the fascination with Antarctic exploration was not over. Irishman Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott’s original expedition in 1901-1904, turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. 

Thus, in August 1914, Shackleton and his men set sail for Antarctica, where they plan to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. But in January 1915, his ship, the Endurance, becomes locked in pack ice, slowly being crushed before the shore parties could be landed and, later, sinking without a trace. With no help available, to survive, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men must undertake a trial even more extreme than their planned crossing of the frozen continent. Their aim is to make it home against tremendous odds, with only lifeboats to cross the heavy seas of the South Atlantic. And so the crew camped on the sea ice until it disintegrated, and eventually launched the lifeboats aiming for South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles (1,330 km). As well as the ice and the ocean their constant companions were hunger, exhaustion, and uncertainty but  Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills drive them on.

This is an extraordinary tale of leadership, courage and teamwork made all the more remarkable because it is a true story, and while at the upper end of the readership for this blog, a story that will entice and engage those who crave these sorts of real-life adventures.  Told using narrative non-fiction the reader becomes one of the characters experiencing the events as the meticulously researched historical facts are woven into a compelling story.

A companion to Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey a journey which inspired my own mother throughout her life and led her to become the first female journalist to visit the ice , and Amundsen’s Way,  this is the third in this trilogy of tales from that Age of Antarctic Exploration that take the reader back into a world of curiosity and faith, courage, determination and resilience, well before technology made such exploits “safe”.  

Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories

Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories

Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories











Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories

Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury, 2021 

192pp., pbk., RRP $a14.99


Women have been responsible for many of the world’s most groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Kate Pankhurst tells the stories of some incredible female scientists whose hard work and persistence changed our understanding of science, and transformed people’s ideas of what women can do.

As a child Mae Jemison imagined herself reaching for the stars and that’s exactly what she did: she became the first African-American woman to go into space. When Elizabeth Blackwell was told women weren’t allowed to be doctors, she didn’t take no for an answer. Tu Youyou spent months on a remote island during the Vietnam War to try and invent a treatment for malaria – and she did it. Other women whose stories are told include Marie Curie,  Janaki Ammal, Caroline Herschel, Katia Krafft, and Rosalind Franklin so readers are introduced to some new names as well as those more familiar.

Including comic strips, family trees, maps and more, Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories is a celebration of women who made some of the world’s most important scientific breakthroughs.

This is another in this series by Pankhurst , a descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, who looks at the impact of women in several apparently male-dominated fields, some of which are also available in picture book format. If our girls are to be inspired to reach great heights, it is empowering if they read of others who have done so and understand that perseverance and resilience are essential. 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me










More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

Tayla Harris and Jennifer Castles

A & U Children’s, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Sunday, March 17, 2019 and Tayla Harris goes to work as normal, just as she has every other day. But this was to be no ordinary day – not only was it the last round of the AFLW home-and-away matches to determine which team would be in the finals, but it was the day Tayla was propelled into the media in a way she never sought nor wanted.

During the match, she kicked a goal and photographer Michael Wilson snapped the action as it happened.  Ordinarily, it would be no big deal but when it was published online to showcase her amazing athletic ability, suddenly the faceless trolls who hide behind their keyboards decided she was fair game and the photo went viral, along with a plethora of nasty comments that turned it into something it was not. Rather than being a photo of an athlete at work, it became a war of words – a war that hit the headlines here and overseas. And because 7AFL chose to remove the photo rather than hold the trolls accountable, it attracted even more attention. 

The photo...

The photo….

In this frank and very personal memoir of that time, Harris speaks directly to the reader about the impact that it had on her as an individual and as a footy player and her concerns for herself, her family and the families of those who felt it was OK to write what was essentially sexual abuse. She notes that she was “lucky” because she had a manager, a family and a community who rallied around her to support her through the furore, but she is very concerned for those who suffer similar bullying and do so, alone and often in secret. 

Whether readers are footy fans or not, know who Tayla Harris is or not, this is a powerful story that shows the power of social media and the consequences of those faceless remarks that so many seem to think they have the right to make.  For our girls wanting to aspire to the highest level of sport, it is inspirational; for those who are suffering at the hands of these anonymous cowards it offers hope and guidance; for those who write such trash, it is an eye-opener into what their words can do.  For Tayla, it resulted in a statue in Federation Square and a boost to women’s football that was unprecedented, but sadly, for some like Dolly Everett it is a burden too tough to bear.  That’s why, despite not usually reviewing books for the age group that this is written for, I’m sharing Tayla’s story because this is a story that needs to be heard over and over and over – until the haters and trolls are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The statue... (Daily Mail, UK))

The statue… (Daily Mail, UK))



Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls










Super Sporty Girls

Puffin Books, 2020

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


The publication date of this book was timed to capture the inspiration for sport that would be generated by the 2020 Olympics, but, as we know, even bigger world events have overtaken that one and they have been postponed.  Nevertheless, the timing is still appropriate as we emerge from the more rigid parameters of lockdown and people are itching to get back outside, connect with others and  get moving.

Using the format of a young girl wanting to get involved in something but not sure what and musing on what she likes to do and how that could marry with a sport, the reader is introduced to 18 of Australia’s young, contemporary sportswomen who are at the top of their game and providing inspiration for young girls. Apart from the household names like Ash Barty and Sam Kerr, there are others who are not so well known yet, including Paralympians. individuals and team-players.

The world after Covid-19 is predicted to be very different, perhaps one where the value of movement, exercise and fresh air will not be taken for granted and we will find our young girls with a thirst for activity, adventure, friendships, and developing new skills that could take them down new paths well beyond their dreams. 

Scientists who changed the world (series)

Scientists who changed the world

Scientists who changed the world







Scientists who changed the world(series)

Charles Darwin


Rachel Carson


Sir Isaac Newton


Anita Grey

EK Books, 2020

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

It could be said that never before in the lives of our young students, has science been at the forefront as it is at the moment.  Every night on the news and in other programs they have access to, science is featured along with the obligatory white-coated scientist as there are reports of progress in the race to a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, the disease keeping them trapped inside. The importance of research, testing, trials and all the other vocabulary associated with the discipline is becoming a natural part of their vocabulary and there would be more than one little one who now has aspirations of finding that one thing that will save mankind.

So this new series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and so if immunology and epidemiology don’t appeal, then there are endless other facets that might. The first three in the series introduce us to a physicist, a marine biologist and an anthropologist, all of whom changed the world’s thinking with their discoveries .

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to each including not just their discoveries but also their early life that influenced the paths they took. With at least three more in the series planned (Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Stephen Hawking) this is a series that will be a most useful addition to the library’s collection because of its modern presentation and timely release as children return to the classroom with big dreams of adding their names to the list of world-changers.


ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front










ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

Allison Marlow Paterson

Big Sky, 2015 

52pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


In the years of 1914-1918 over 330,000 Australians served their country in a war far from their homeland, more than 60,000 of them died. Five of these Australians were brothers; three of them were destined to never return to the home they loved.

The Great War brought enormous sorrow to families all over the world. In Australia there were few who escaped the fear, nor the tragedy. This is the story of the Marlow brothers. This powerful children’s book brings their story to life for future generations. It is a tragic tale of mateship, bravery and sacrifice; a heartbreaking account of a family torn apart by a devastating war. It is a pledge to never forget.

Based on the original title Anzac Sons; the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars, this important children’s book compiled by the granddaughter of a surviving brother tells the true story of brothers’ service, the impact on the family and community and weaves through the facts and history of the Great War and battles.

Combining beautiful prose and imagery including photographs, maps, letters and facts, the book will reach children of a variety of ages. Children, teachers and parents can read the letters her ancestors wrote from the trenches, walk in their footsteps and remember all those who have served throughout the generations to defend our freedom and our way of life. This and Dreaming Soldiers have been released as a special 2020 ANZAC Day book pack with a number of accompanying resources.  Details are available here

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here


To The Bridge

To The Bridge

To The Bridge









To The Bridge; the journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Corinne Fenton

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Little Lennie Gwyther is fascinated by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but unlikely to ever see it because it’s a long way from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in NSW.  And even less likely because the country is in the grip of the Great Depression and money is tight for train fares.  But when his father his hospitalised and Lenny takes up the responsibility of running the family farm, his parent decide to reward him for his hard work.  Lennie knows what he wants to do but because train fares are so expensive, he decides to saddle up his horse Ginger Mick and begin a journey that is the stuff of legends, 90 years later. So much so, that he is remembered in his home town with a statue to tell his story

Both Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean have created a sensitive reconstruction of Lennie’s quest, bringing to life a time of great hardship for families that might be being echoed in homes again now.  But Lennie had a dream and he was able to make it come true, so perhaps this will offer some hope and comfort to a new generation facing an uncertain future. Lennie’s story is one worth sharing, even moreso now.  Why not set up an opportunity for students to investigate stories of kids who achieved their dreams like Lennie and maybe share the dreams of their own?