One and Everything

One and Everything

One and Everything











One and Everything

Sam Winston

Walker, 2022

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


Once there were many stories in the world. Some had beautiful sunsets, some lived at the bottom of the sea, and some were simply about dogs. Until one story decided that it was going to be the most important story ever. It called itself the One and started to consume every other story in existence. Soon it seemed that the One was all that was left … or was it? Because inside the One’s tummy, something was happening—the other stories, combined into new words, become a Voice. Pushing back against its captor, the Voice gets the One to understand that it is actually Every Story, not merely a single one. Will the One be angry and turn on the others, permanently silencing them for ever, or will it heed the words of the Voice and create magic?

At first, this looks like a book for little people, but then the storyline seems to be an allegory for political power for older students, and then you read the endpages and find it is something completely different and you return to pay much closer attention to the illustrations which rather than being randomly coloured dots whose patterns are actually symbols  of 50 different scripts (the written symbols for spoken language) of languages once spoken around the globe.  Given that it’s estimated that there are currently more than 7000 languages spoken, these fifty are but a sample of those that have already disappeared, but inspired by the Endangered Alphabets project, aimed at preserving cultures by sharing their unique scripts, Sam Winston has used writing systems such as cuneiform, Canadian aboriginal, Egyptian hieroglyphs and ogham to illustrate this book, as well as including a fascinating explanation of those languages, where they come from and a challenge to find them used in the story. 

Given today is Harmony Day, this is an ideal story to use as a springboard to explore the languages spoken in the classroom or school, and perhaps even invite someone to share a story from another culture.  Students could interview their parents and grandparents to investigate what their favourite stories and authors were, and then see which ones are still popular today – some of today’s parents will recall the excitement of the initial publication of the Harry Potter series!!!


Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok











Ten Blocks to the Big Wok

Ying-Hwa Hu

UQP, 2023

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


It’s ten blocks through Chinatown to the Big Wok, Mia and Uncle Eddie’s favourite restaurant. On the walk there, Mia counts all the interesting things she sees – one giant panda, two lion statues, three toy turtles…. But will she remember how many dumplings to get for Grandmama?

This is a joyful journey that not only has the anticipation of some delicious food at its destination, but also highlights all the things that we can see if we take the time to look and don’t whizz past in the car.  Added to the symbols and words for counting to 10 in Mandarin is the little kitten who joins them as they step out of the house -and gets his reward!  Little ones will enjoy finding him in each of the stunning illustrations. Not only will there be many who will delight in seeing themselves in this story, but the author has included notes about each of the things that Mia and Uncle Eddie see and their place in Chinese culture,so all readers will learn something.

There is also a chart that shows the Mandarin symbols, words and their pronunciation for one to ten which could inspire creating similar charts for all the other languages spoken in the classroom, perhaps even an investigation into the story of numbers, in itself a fascinating study that links research and mathematics. For those just beginning to learn to count, go on a maths walk around the school or neighbourhood and take photos of the groups of items discovered to create your own “ten blocks” story. Add captions that emphasise the numbers, numerals and words. 

The Month That Makes the Year

The Month That Makes the Year

The Month That Makes the Year











The Month That Makes the Year

Inda Ahmad Zahri

Allen & Unwin, 2023

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



This month is different from the others.
It starts with the sighting of a new crescent moon.
‘Slow down, be kind to yourself and think good thoughts.’
This month, we learn to do big things by changing one little thing at a time…

For Deenie, the youngest member of a Muslim family, it is her first time to fast during Ramadan. She wonders how she will survive without food or water until sunset but although she faces some   challenges, by the end of the month, she learns that there is a lot more to Ramadan than giving up food and water.

This year, 2023, Ramadan is expected to begin on Wednesday 22 March, following the sighting of the moon over Mecca and last 30 days ending on Friday 21 April, with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr starting on Saturday 22 April or Sunday 23 April. While fasting is not compulsory for children, it is seen by many as a rite of passage as they come to learn “patience, gratitude, self-control, mindfulness and a sense of solidarity with everyone on the planet” as well as “strengthening [their] faith on [their] bond with Allah” and thus there will be many in our school communities who are going through this period of denial and for whom, as teachers, we must make allowances, not the least of which is ensuring other students have some idea of this important time in the lives of their classmates.

Told in the first person by a Muslim who has practised the tradition since being a child, its narrative format makes this a personal story that connects to both those of the faith, and those outside it.  Other Muslim children will enjoy seeing themselves in a book that acknowledges their beliefs while showing that it is a struggle to go without and there will be times that they, too, might falter but that there is much that can be gained by distracting their thoughts from hunger and thirst.  Sharing it with all our students will also raise awareness with non-Muslim children helping them to understand not just why their friends might be unable to participate as they normally do, but also the deeper reasons. As well as the enlightening introduction, there is also a glossary to help students understand not only the meaning of some of the terms but also their deeper implications.

From the first year of school, the Australian Curriculum has outcomes explicitly supporting “students to recognise the emotions, abilities, needs and concerns of others [and to] develop their understanding about how respecting the perspectives, emotional states and needs of others is essential to social interactions” and this is an ideal book to meet that goal. It might even be an opportunity for all to share their own religious beliefs, customs and traditions so that they can provide a foundation for investigation throughout the year as they occur.  

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember











A Day to Remember: the Story of ANZAC Day

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2014

pbk; RRP $14.99


April 25, 1915 is a date imprinted on the Australian psyche.  In fact, some say, that despite the political calendar of January 1, 1901, this was the day that Australia became a nation.

Much has been written for students to help them understand the events and the significance of this day, and in a way, this book honours that because after providing an outline of those events on that Turkish beach, author Jackie French and illustrator Mark Wilson trace the commemoration of that day from its shaky, tentative beginnings of parades in Australia, New Zealand and London in 1916 to the huge crowds that now gather annually to honour those who have served their country in this way.  At intervals throughout Australia’s history, French and Wilson pause on April 25 and examine what was happening on that day. We learn about the vast difference between the excitement and anticipation when the troops left in 1914, and their return in 1919; the touching story behind the advent of the Dawn Service and how men only were allowed to attend in case the women’s crying disturbed the silence;  the desperation of many veterans left jobless as drought and the Depression hit; and then Australia is plunged into war again. 

Throughout the book, tribute is paid to all those in the conflicts that Australians have been involved in as well as their peacekeeping roles.  There is the sad reminder that after the Vietnam War which had so divided the nation’s young, so few marched  and watched that perhaps “no one would march at all.”   But awareness was growing behind the scenes through teachers teaching Australia’s history and the recognition of the sacrifices of Australia’s young people through iconic songs like Eric Bogle’s “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and Redgum’s “Only 19.”  In 1985 the Turkish government officially recognised the name  Anzac Cove and in 1990 the first dawn service was held there, attended by those few veterans of the original conflict who were still left to honour.

Being at Anzac Cove for the Dawn Service has become a pilgrimage for many; an item on the bucket list for others. Ceremonies are  held wherever Anzacs have served and suffered and wherever their sacrifice can be acknowledged. Who can imagine what the centenary in 2015 will be like?

IMO, this is Jackie French and Mark Wilson at their best. As the granddaughter of a Gallipoli survivor and the daughter of an ordinary New Zealand soldier who spent his war as a POW in Germany after being captured on Crete, the words and illustrations of this beautiful, haunting book touch me in a way I find hard to describe. Jackie grew up, as I did, “with the battered and weary of World War Two around me, men still scarred in body and mind by Japanese prison camps or the Burma railway, women who had survived concentration camps” and “saw boys of my own generation march away as conscripts, while I marched in anti war demonstrations” and yet we know so little about where Australians have served or how often they have. 

The story of 100 years of history is a difficult one to tell, and even more so in a picture book, yet it is encapsulated perfectly in this partnership. On the one hand, the text could not live without the pictures and vice versa; yet on the other, both media are so perfect within themselves that they stand alone. Jackie and Mark give their own interpretations  in their teachers’ notes I can do no better than that, but if you only have the money for five books this year, this HAS to be one of them.

Lest we forget.

Originally reviewed as a hardback April 16, 2012

Updated February 2023


Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country











Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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


Welcome, children!
Nangga! Nangga! Yakarti!
Tonight will be our Ceremony.

Our family gathers as the fire burns.
The smoke rises up as we take it in turns . . .
Then clapsticks tap – one, two, three –
but a stick is missing! Where could it be?

Joyful and full of fun, Ceremony invites young readers to celebrate the rich traditions of dance, family, community and caring for Country from the world’s oldest continuous culture, helping them to better understand what is meant when they recite the Acknowledgement of Country or hear the Welcome to Country. 

While there are over 350 First Nations groups in Australia, each with different languages and customs, this particular one is from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. 

Using stunning illustration and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages)  the preparations for and the ceremony itself highlight that Adnyamathanha  society is divided into two moieties. membership passed on from mother to child and your father must be the opposite moeity, and that your moeity determines all the important aspects of life including who can be married, special knowledge possessed and relationships  with others.  It is an exciting time for the children as they get ready and while the story is carried along in rhyme, it is also full of humour and surprises.  

Like its predecessor, Somebody’s Land  Ceremony is designed to teach young children and families about Australia’s First Nations history and it has done this very well.  A must-have. .


Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism












Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Racism

Jordan Akpojaro

Ashley Evans

Usborne, 2022 

14pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


While the issue of racism has bubbled along in the background of schools for decades, the recent rise and focus on the Black Lives Matter movement has brought it forward into the loungerooms and lives of our students and many have many questions. This is to be expected if we accept the premise that “race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour” particularly when ‘race’ itself is defined as “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences.” (Britannica, 2022

Therefore this book is a timely release that uses a simple lift-the-flap technique to answer children’s questions in a way that they will understand.  For example, while the Britannica definition can be easily unpacked by an adult here it is explained as “treating people differently and unfairly based on their skin colour, where they’re from, their religion or their family traditions.”

From ‘What’s wrong with the idea of ‘race’? and ‘Why is life harder for people with darker skin?’ to ‘Don’t ALL lives matter?’ and ‘What’s racism got to do with me?’ this book tackles powerful, pertinent questions in a direct, accessible and thought-provoking way. Even if the reader has not encountered racism, they learn why it is everyone’s problem to solve, and how we can all be part of the solution.

There is also a blog post  that offers guidance about how to talk to children about racism because “even by the age of two children begin to notice skin colour and other differences in appearance” and there are also the usual Quicklinks to help the reader understand more deeply. 

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border











Playing At The Border

Joanna Ho

Teresa Martinez

HarperCollins US, 2022

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


“Feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another, Yo-Yo Ma played a solo accompanied by an orchestra of wind and water.” 

On April 13.2019, on the  US banks of the Rio Grande he played a piece of music hundreds of years old to an audience on the opposite banks in Mexico to show that building bridges is so much better than building walls.  

But this is more than just a story of one man playing a cello alone to be heard by a few – this is the story of a renowned cellist, himself a blend of cultures as he was born to Chinese parents in France and raised in the US. Because his fingers were too small for a double bass, as a little child he chose the cello – and its particular blend of international origins is woven into both the story and the music.  And from its strings comes the music dancing ‘over rocks and rivers and walls into the sky”, born in Germany 300 years before, lost,  then found in Spain, and renewed in the US to unite those who had once been one but who were now separated…

Connecting cultures and countries through music was Yo-Yo Ma’s ambition when he began the Bach Project in 2018, reviving the rare cello solos which “create the sound of harmonising melodies on one instrument” there was as much symbolism as there was entertainment on that day in 2019 when the people of two nations momentarily joined together again, in defiance of the rhetoric and actions of the then POTUS. And in Johanna Ho‘s text, which is as lyrical as the music itself, we discover that there were many more than just two nations involved in making it happen. 

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes












A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?

What Do You Do to Celebrate?












What Do You Do to Celebrate?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2021 

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


In every corner of the globe,
as years begin and end,
there are many ways to celebrate
with family and friends.

Thanksgiving in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November heralds the beginning of a season of celebrations around the world, as calendars draw to a close and preparations for a new year begin.  No matter where in the world you live, there is something to mark the passing of time and in this book created by the team behind What do you call your grandma? and What do you call your Grandpa?  the reader is taken on a journey around the globe to share significant celebrations with other children. Whether it’s skating to mass each morning in Caracas Venezuela, waiting for the littlest camel of the Three Wise Kings to bring treats on Epiphany or just visiting the displays in the shop windows of Sydney, children around the world share those end-of-year traditions.

Each double page spread is vibrantly illustrated with a description of the festival in rhyme, and further explanation offered in the final pages. While some of the experiences may be familiar, so many are not but the joy is that it is likely to touch the heart of at least one of our students and at last they are seeing themselves and their culture in a book shared by their peers.  Beyond that important connection, the power of this book lies in its final verse…

So many traditions to mark the year.

What about you – what brings you cheer?

Presents, dancing or is it cake?

What do you do to celebrate?

This sets up the perfect opportunity for our students to investigate and share those things that they do in their homes offering the opportunity for the perfect end-of year activity that goes beyond the more common Christmas Around the World. It acknowledges the different ways our families celebrate this time, builds connections and understanding and provides an authentic vehicle to put all those information literacy skills into practice. 

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday











What Zola Did on Sunday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021 

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Ever since we first met Zola a year ago,  readers have been following her adventures as she brings her community together and now all the connections reach their pinnacle at the St Otto’s Community Fete. Their is the stall of the knitting group that Zola and her nonna belong to; her friend Leo’s mum is going to be givng a demonstration about how police dogs work in the community; her other nonna will be hosting the organic produce stall and her mum will have the cake stall.  As well there are competitions and all sorts of other attractions.  Will Zola be able to get through the fete without any of the drama and strife she seems to attract?

This is the final in this series that has had young readers enthralled and Zola and her friends have become friends of the reader too.  And for those who have not yet met Zola, then there is a treat in store.  A must-have for anyone with a reader who is just embarking on novels but needs the textual supports as well as the familiarity of characters and situations to consolidate their skills.