We’re Going to a Birthday Party

We're Going to a Birthday Party

We’re Going to a Birthday Party











We’re Going to a Birthday Party

Martha Mumford

Cherie Zamazing

Bloomsbury, 2023

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


We’re going to a birthday party!
Come and join the fun!

Throughout the year there is not much that is more exciting for a little one than having or going to a birthday party, and in this new release, the bunnies  are gathering their friends together for the birthday party of a lifetime. But there is plenty to do in preparation and young readers will delight in lifting the flaps to help the bunnies find the essentials – perhaps, before they read, they might even make a list of the things they associate with birthday parties so they can check it off as they read and make sure the bunnies don’t miss anything.  

The familiar characters, the  rhythm of the rhyme and the excitement of lifting the flaps to discover what’s hidden underneath will make this a fun read, the perfect introduction to learning about why we have birthdays, building context-specific vocabulary, learning the sequence of the months and discovering when each other’s birthday is and graphing the information.  Riches indeed!

Julian at the Wedding






Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding








Julian at the Wedding

Jessica Love

Walker, 2020

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


Julian and his grandmother are attending a wedding. In fact, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to muddy puddles!  So when Mariola’s dress gets ruined, Julian has the perfect solution. But how will the grown-ups respond?

We first met Julian and his flamboyant grandmother in Julian is a Mermaid, a brilliant but controversial interpretation of being true to oneself. This sequel is just as good as it subtly shifts the narrative of convention so that the wedding being that of two brides is as normal as any other is almost unremarkable. After all, a wedding is just “a party for love.”

However, its impact may be more profound. 

The story behind Charles M. Schultz introducing a black character into the Peanuts comic strip has been well-documented and there are stories galore of how this impacted young black readers in the US, particularly.  Suddenly they were seeing themselves in literature in a new and positive portrayal. And so it may well be with children like Julian – those who don’t live in a conventional family; those for who two mums and two dads is the norm; those who prefer to be mermaids than superheroes. Here they are in a story that treats their situation as the norm and moves on to the real issues – ruining your bridesmaid’s dress at a wedding where, traditionally, you’re supposed to remain pristine!

Like its predecessor, most of this story is told in the stunning illustrations with the minimum of text, and they hold so many riches that the book demands to be explored again and again. Jessica Love won the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Klaus Flugge Prize for Julian is a Mermaid, her debut picture book and it is quite probable that this will be among the prizewinners too. 

Originally published November 3 2020

Updated February 2023

The Crayons Trick or Treat

The Crayons Trick or Treat

The Crayons Trick or Treat











The Crayons Trick or Treat

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2022

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


The hilarious crayons from  The Day The Crayons Quit are ready to celebrate Halloween! They want to go trick-or-treating, but they’re not sure what to say!

So Purple Crayon tries to teach the rest of the box the magic words to say when they ring their neighbours’ doorbells. (Hint: It’s NOT “Boo!”)

This is a story for young children who are noticing the preparations happening in stores for this not-so-traditional celebration in Australia but who are fascinated by it, its trappings and the concept of trick-or-treat.  While it is growing in popularity here, there are still many who mutter about it being an American thing but in fact, it is much older than that, dating back to  pagan times and the festival of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season  then gradually morphing into All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day as Christianity spread throughout Britain, and its familiar celebrations were taken by the Irish to the USA.

Written as a conversation between the crayons themselves, the font used means that this is one for adults to share with littlies, which opens up opportunities to talk about the origins of trick-or-treat as well as the importance of using manners. 


Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business











Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 12.99


Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

Willa plunges headlong into party planning and things immediately start to go wrong. Why don’t older people look forward to and celebrate birthdays as enthusiastically as the young?  She’ll need all her problem-solving skills (with the help of Tae, her best same-age friend, and her trusty sidekick Woof) to save the celebration!

Can Willa pull off the surprise?

This is the second in this new series from popular Jacqueline Harvey, with the third, Grandparents for Hire due in January, ensuring young readers do not have to wait long between reads for the next episode to whet their appetite.  As with the first, it is created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  

In my review of the first one, Mimi is MissingI suggested offering it to a reluctant reader and asking them to read it and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, and so this could be the consolidation read – is the series living up to expectations?  To extend their thinking, you could invite them to think about what more they learned about the characters in this new story and have them build a summary of characters such as this, so others can get to know them and follow the relationships…

This could then become part of a bigger display called Select-A-Series created by students summarising their own favourite series to persuade others to extend their reading horizons, as well as giving real purpose and context for reading as they become more critical readers, encouraged to pause and think about what they are reading rather than skimming the pages and looking for what’s next.   To add depth it could become part of a poll to find the most popular series for the year, making and building on the display for the entire year ensuring student-centred learning and participation.  

Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare is currently spruiking a proposal for providing teachers with lesson plans, returning to a cookie-cutter approach that focuses on the subject rather than the student, so this could be a way of providing something that meets curriculum outcomes but in a highly personalised way, 

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!

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding













The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

Katrina Nannestad

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2022 

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Imagine being a young girl travelling the world in an old wooden caravan pulled by a horse that decides where they will go and which seems to have magical powers that mean borders and mountains and oceans are no barriers.  And that caravan is full of books, because it, too, has a magic that means that it is like a Tardis with so much more on the inside than appears on the outside. 

That is the life of 10-year-old Miriam-Rose Cohen (who prefers Mim), her father and little brother Nat, Coco the cockatoo and Flossy the horse.  They travel to wherever they are needed, wherever there is a child in need of a book to make their world right again because “the line between books and real life is not as clear as people suppose.”

This time, in the second in this series,  Mim has arrived on a charming Greek Island, where a wedding is about to take place. Everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except the bride and groom. Mim knows they’re here to help Anjelica, the bride. To stop the wedding. To set her free to follow her dreams. If only Anjelica would read the right book, the one Mim gave her. If only she would stop reading the wrong book…

The first book in this series captivated me from the get-go and this one was no different.  Young readers will delight in meeting Mim and Nat and their dad again as well as travelling to a completely different country and they have the third, due in early August, to look forward to.  Could there be a better life?

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Little Wombat's Easter Surprise

Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise











Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise

Charles Fuge

Walker, 2022 

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Little Wombat is busy collecting eggs on his Easter hunt when he sees Rabbit hop by wearing a special Easter Bunny costume. It’s such a good costume that the tail and nose won’t come even off – but wait, is that really Rabbit? Or is it his new friend, Bilby?

In 1991,  the Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia (RFA) developed and registered the Easter Bilby campaign  to raise awareness of the damage rabbits do to native wildlife, and to raise money with royalties from Easter Bilby sales to fund research programs. In 1993, Haigh’s Chocolates in Adelaide stopped making chocolate Easter bunnies and made the first Easter Bilby, donating part of the proceeds to RFA.  More recently the Easter Bilbies have been made by Fyna Foods sold under the brands of Australian Bush Friends and Pink Lady and have been stocked by national chains and other independent stores. 

Aligned to this, in 1999 the  Save the Bilby Fund was established in 1999 to raise money and awareness to help stop the steady decline of bilbies. The fund helps support bilby conservation initiatives including a breeding program and a “bilby fence” creating a predator-free zone in Western Queensland. 

Dedicated to Tim Faulkner and his work with Aussie Ark ,Little Wombat’s Easter Surprise shines a new light on the both the plight of the bilby and the reasons behind Australia having such a unique interpretation of the familiar Easter Bunny both for the young audience and their parents who share it because they will be too young to remember the circumstances.  As in Swim, Little Wombat, SwimLittle Wombat tries to mimic the actions of his new friends Bilby and Easter Bunny only to discover he has his own unique talents that come in very handy for building friendships and having fun.

As well as being a fresh story about Easter in Australia, and helping children understand that we each have special abilities that we can use for the good of others, it is a great way to introduce another Australian species, sadly also endangered, and raising awareness (and perhaps money) that there are many who need our help.  

Bluey: Easter

Bluey: Easter

Bluey: Easter











Bluey: Easter


Puffin, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


It’s Easter! Bluey and Bingo think the Bunny has forgotten them again, until a clue takes them on an egg hunt . . .

But these are not ordinary written clues that might be tricky for them to read – these are clues that make them (and the reader) think hard about where they have to look next.  But one has them stumped and another takes them to a most unusual place where they have to put their brave on..

And yet, there is still no secret stash.  Are Bluey and Bingo so insignificant they are forgettable-again?

There is no doubting the popularity of Bluey and Bingo and to have them feature in a story like this that is not only a situation that young readers will resonate with but also involve them as they help Bluey and her sister solve the clues is perfect.  So while they can see the episode itself online or on television, rather than a fleeting glimpse,  this print version gives them the chance to take their time, to study the clues and work them out engaging them closely with the illustrations and the story, giving them satisfaction when they finally make the connections.  The value of this blue heeler family in the lives of our littlies cannot be underestimated. 






The Unfunny Bunny

The Unfunny Bunny

The Unfunny Bunny











The Unfunny Bunny

Adrian Beck

James Hart

Puffin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99


’Twas the night before EASTER
When I spotted the BUNNY!
So I offered to help
Make the EGG HUNT more FUNNY!

Like many other families, this one has gathered en masse at the beach house but with the rain tumbling down it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the fun holiday they had planned.  But when the mischievous little kid finds the Easter Bunny hiding eggs in the house, they decide to take matters into their own hands and help out, hiding the eggs in places that are significant to each recipient. But not only are the placements accompanied by an explanation, they also all the worst puns of the season…

Pop’s on a health kick, which he finds unappealing.

So we placed all his eggs up near the ceiling. 

He’ll have to do some hare-robics!”

While the new Easter Bunny is carried away with the pranks and the  jokes, they finally notice that the real Easter Bunny is not amused, and perhaps there should be a re-think of the  plans… Perhaps the funny bunny isn’t so funny after all. 

From the rollicking rhyme, to the predictable puns to the perfect illustrations this is a story that needs to be read aloud to an audience because the groans of those who get the incessant plays on words will just add to the atmosphere. Even though the Easter Bunny has heard them all before, the listeners will not and they will delight in the fun and the joy as they add to them with their own (while learning a bit more about how our language works.)  And because James Hart has cleverly depicted the main character as gender-neutral, each child will see themselves being the Easter Bunny’s offsider and wondering how they could play similar pranks. 

But this is more than just an “hare-larious” story that opens up opportunities for the more serious to explore puns in particular and humour in general – it’s just plain fun and while Easter may again look different for many this year because after the fires and the pestilence, many are now coping with floods, it it still those strong family connections that glue us together whatever the circumstances.  

One to share year after year…



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!