Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds










Hooray for Birds

Lucy Cousins

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99


Can you imagine…just for one day…you’re a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!

Ask a little child what birds can do and they are bound to tell you that they fly.  But in this exuberant book by Lucy Cousins we learn about all the other things they can do – and that the child can do too.  They can start the day by shouting cock-a-doodle-doo, hop, peck, swim and stretch, stand very tall on just one leg waddle like a penguin and run like an ostrich, puff out their chest and then bid the day farewell with a tuwit tuwoo. 

As well as responding to the vibrant colours and bold illustrations on solid colour backgrounds, young readers will delight in doing the things that birds do, flapping their wings, exercising their lungs and generally just having a lot of fun as they are introduced to a flock of different birds, some familiar, some not-so. It soon becomes clear that birds come in all shapes and sizes and colours and can do all sorts of things and make all sorts of noises. Even though there are not the familiar magpies, kookaburras and emus that might be found in a book of Australian origin, nevertheless roosters, swans, peacocks and flamingos are very recognisable and will help the child learn about the diversity of our feathered friends..    Combined with a simple rhyming pattern the distinctive pictures will help the child become a role-play reader as they engage with the book on their own.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Full of fun and energy, this will ensure a menagerie in the house for sure!

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee









Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90


Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen.  Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.”  This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not.  But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world.  However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.  

Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken.  Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy,  And then she meets a pig…

This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels.  It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.

Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.  


This is Captain Cook

This is Captain Cook

This is Captain Cook










This is Captain Cook

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2015

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



Miss Batt’s class have been studying Captain Cook and instead of the usual posters and PowerPoint shows, they have turned what they have learned into a play to be presented to their parents as living history. 

The story opens with all the usual flurry of such events as the audience greets each other and gets ready to be entertained, while the children sort themselves out on stage.  The first scene is of Captain Cook’s childhood, and there are the usual latecomers, those with nerves, the “hi dads” and one frightened chook – all resonant with anyone who has produced or attended a school play.  As we follow Cook’s life and adventures through the voice of the narrator, the actions of the children and some very clever props, there is much for the reader to learn about this remarkable man.  And throughout, the chook (who has now escaped the arms of its keeper) is causing concern for the stage hands and humour for the reader.  Its encounters with the kiwi, the kangaroo and the penguin are priceless and as it becomes more and more agitated the audience who have been patiently watching their offsprings’ performances become a little distracted. 

This is the most unique way of presenting old material in a new light that I’ve seen for a long time.  There have been dozens of books about Captain Cook because of his place in our history, and yet McCartney and Booth have created something new and interesting that will engage the audience as well as teach them and perhaps even have them clamouring to produce something similar as they delve deeper into his life.  Even though the text itself is written in a style reflecting that of a narrator so there is little embellishment on the basic facts (apart from Cook’s love of shiny buttons), the details in the illustrations bring the story to life. Unlike some pictures books, there has clearly been a close collaboration between autor and illustrator as characters, props, movement, speech bubbles and, of course, the chook add animation and understanding so that even the very young (or those just learning our language and history) will begin to get a sense of who this man was.  For it is a story about the man – the mariner, the father and the adventurer – and not that of the impact that such exploration had on the lives of indigenous peoples.  That is a discussion for an audience much older than the one intended for this book.

However, it could serve as a model for understanding what a biography is, the sort of information that that genre contains, the range of sources that can be used to gather it and check its veracity,  and even a model for the children to write their own play about someone else. Such an approach would incorporate many strands of the curriculum, differentiating it so each has something to offer and show students that history need not be dull and boring.    

It is also the perfect introduction to the National Library of Australia’s collection of artefacts relating to Cook, his journeys and his life and there are pages at the back that show some of what is available in the library and online. Teaching notes are available.


Definitely one for the collection.

Mr Chicken Lands on London

Mr Chicken Lands On London

Mr Chicken Lands On London








Mr Chicken Lands on London

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A9.99


“Mr Chicken couldn’t wait another minute, so he finished his breakfast, collected his camera and flew to London.  London was his favourite city in all the world.”

And so begins another adventure of this quirky character who, five years ago, showed us the sights and delights of Paris and whose size and shape made him instantly recognisable.  Using his Union Jack parachute to land gently in the River Thames  (luckily his camera was waterproof) he checks into the Savoy Hotel and, after a good night’s sleep , a full English breakfast and a quick review of facts and figures about London, he visits his special friend, Her Majesty the Queen for morning tea and makes an impromptu balcony appearance.  But he can’t stay long – there is so much to do before lunch and tourists keep stopping him to take their photo.  After lunch, sumptuous as usual,  his sightseeing continues with all the iconic spots on his itinerary until he is so tired he needs a quick nap before dinner. Then the night’s entertainment begins!  And come midnight, after a hectic day, he finally feels he has London to himself as he walks, in the light of the fall moon, down the Mall to the House of Parliament. 

Once again, Leigh Hobbs has packed as much into this story as Mr Chicken packed into his day in London and it’s such a fast pace that you get breathless just thinking about it.  Even reading his schedule on the endpaper is enough to overwhelm you and its forecast by the map of the city on the front endpaper.  But of course, this isn’t just a travel guide to London – Mr Chicken is the star of the show and Leigh Hobbs’ humour is evident in every picture.

This book is so much richer than its text and pictures.  Like Mr Chicken Goes to Paris it’s an opportunity for young students to understand that there are places beyond those that are familiar to them and compare them to their home town. 

Using the book as the impetus, we used Google Earth to “fly” us to London and the functionality of that app to view the places that Mr Chicken visited, so we were really inside the story and able to develop an understanding that each place has its unique iconic features, environments and activities that attract locals and visitors alike.  Then we asked the question, “If Mr Chicken came to our town, what would be the unique places he could visit and things he could do?” sparking an investigation into the natural, built and heritage features of our local environment which offered so many cross-curricular avenues to explore that continued to engage the students for some time. Like Mr Chicken, they identified the must-sees and must-dos, photographed and drew them, mapped them and created an itinerary for visitors to our region.  Amazing learning for Year 1 students!

Even without its use in this way, Mr Chicken Lands on London will be a winner with students as its predecessor continues to be, and I do hope it’s not another five years before he goes on another journey.  But to see why we might because of the work involved, have a look at this video where Leigh Hobbs demonstrates his craft.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Banjo and Ruby Red


Banjo and Ruby Red

Banjo and Ruby Red










Banjo and Ruby Red

Libby Gleeson

Freya Blackwood

Little Hare 2013

hbk., RRP $A24.95



Is there anything better than chooks in books? I’ve been building units of work around that theme for years and I’ve just discovered the BEST one to add to my collection.

Old Banjo is a chook dog. He sleeps in the sun with one eye on his charges as they peck and scratch and discover goodies that only chooks delight in.  And each evening, when he gets the signal, Banjo barks and the chooks come from everywhere, scampering and scurrying to be safe on their roosts from the night creatures.  All except Ruby Red.  From her perch on top of the woodheap, she defies Banjo with an arrogance and aloofness that just o-o-z-e-s from the illustrations.  Ruffling her feathers and stretching her neck to stare at the sky, she shows Banjo who’s top of the pecking order! 

It’s a game they play every day until one day, there is no Ruby Red on top of the woodheap.  Banjo is baffled and searches and searches until he finds her, lying still, feathers flat, eyes closed…

Enriching the story are the superb illustrations of Freya Blackwood.  Here’s a snippet of how she did them…”Yes, the colour palette is an odd one – I didn’t really choose it, it just developed this way. I think there were a few colours I had in mind and the rest just got there by trial and error. I used oil paint this time, on watercolour paper. It was lots of fun! The brown you see in the photos is just the gum tape used to tape the paper to watercolour boards. ”  She blogs about the creation of her artworks  here and tells a little more of her story here .

This is a remarkable story of a relationship between a dog and a chook that might seem difficult to believe, if I hadn’t seen it with my dog Ebony and our chooks, Steggles and Ingham. 

Because they were here before she was, she’s grown up with them and thinks she is one of them.  Being the same height, they often eyeball each other and see who gives in first, and all three run to the gate when they hear the sound of a familiar motor.  Ebony runs at them full tilt, either dodging at the very last minute or leaping over them.  The chooks just stand there, unfazed, knowing that a quick peck will bring her into line. They are the triumvirate ruling this household daring any other creatures to set foot into their domain. There’s been more than one night when Ebony, who is well named, has been locked in the chookhouse in the dark! So it’s no wonder I love it, and Miss 7 and Miss 2 begged me to give it to them after we barked and squawked our way through it together.

The award-winning combination of Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood would be reason enough to buy this book – neither needs any introduction as the creators of the best of literature for young readers – but its subject has made it a personal favourite. Miss 7 and Miss 2 might just have to love it while they are here…

a peek inside

A peek inside