Minecraft Stonesword Saga (Series)

Minecraft Stonesword Saga Series

Minecraft Stonesword Saga Series

Minecraft Stonesword Saga Series

Mojang AB

HarperCollins, 2023

144pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Someone–or something–has turned the Evoker King to stone. And now a new player, Theo, has joined the team on their quest to return their former enemy to normal. But  and elements of his code have turned into new and terrible bosses that threaten the digital world of Minecraft

Those who are fans of this popular video game will know much more about the characters and plot of this series than I, and so perhaps the fairest review would come from one of them including a recommendation of whether it is one for your library’s collection.  Flagged as being for the 8+ reader and with all the hallmarks of a junior novel that supports the emerging independent reader, it is perhaps one to offer to capture those who are captured by the screen game to entice them to the depths of plot and character offered by print, as well as the ability to share and discuss the same adventure with friends over time.  

Game On: Shrinkle

Game On: Shrinkle

Game On: Shrinkle










Game On: Shrinkle

Emily Snape

EK Books, 2023

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Game-obsessed Max in having a very, very bad day. After being pranked by his brother Liam in front of his class, he is now being looked after by their crazy neighbour Miss McBoob. 

But things get even worse when Liam starts playing Shrinkle on Miss McBoob’s phone because the app suddenly shrinks both him and Max to the size of a minifigure and their house, once so familiar, is now a treacherous landscape! Everyday objects loom large and even the cat is more like a tiger! Can they scale sofa mountain, escape Miss McBoob’s snoring mouth and outsmart the now-enormous pet cat? And will they stay tiny forever? Can they actually work together to beat the game?

Written to draw reluctant readers into print stories, the author says, “Reading should be a pleasure and it was my aim to write books that pull you in and hook you from the start. Hopefully, then you can’t help being moved by the characters as they grow and develop. I love comedy in books, but funny books also have to have heart, believable characters, and a great plot that keeps you reading till the very end.’

Using a modern premise of being drawn into a game, with characters not unlike themselves, and the sort of fast-packed , immediate action including countdowns, levels and time limits, this is the sort of story that will pull even reluctant readers away from their screens. They might even like to speculate on what might happen if they (or Liam and Max) were drawn into their own favourite game, a concept which, in itself, might spark story-writing and a group display of possibilities. Some might like to be inspired by the Lego Masters television series and recreate the world of their game, while others might prefer to broaden their horizons and explore the world, of The Borrowers, a classic series by Mary Norton that dwells in the realm of ordinary becoming extraordinary. 

Funny Kid Next Level

Funny Kid Next Level

Funny Kid Next Level











Funny Kid Next Level

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

176pp., pbk, RRP $A4.99


Every kid wants to laugh, but Max is the boy who can make it happen.

He’s not the smartest kid; he’s not the fastest kid; he’s not the prettiest kid; but he might just be the funniest kid you’ve ever met.

In this novella from the unstoppable Matt Stanton, Max, like most of his mates, has been swept up in the craze for the new video game sweeping the school. He really wants to be the champion but can he get the time and access to beat the mystery pro gamer? 

Toilet snoozes, student protests, parent-teacher nights that go horribly wrong and an epic courtroom battle against Max’s baby sister are just some of the things in store for Max and his friends in this Funny Kid adventure.

The perfect length (and price) for a quick holiday read, Funny Kid fans will be happy to spend a few hours with this and then spend some time learning how to draw Max and Duck, the Stanton way.

Girl Geeks (series)

Girl Geeks (series)

Girl Geeks (series)









The Hackathon


Game On


Alex Miles

Puffin Books, 2019

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

From the Girl Geek Academy website…

What would the internet look like if there were more women building it?

  • By the age of 6, children classify jobs as male and female.
  • By the age of 8, they are limiting aspirations
  • By 13 many of them have already ruled out career options that don’t fit with gender stereotypes.
  • By ages 16-17 60% of girls aspire to stereotypically ‘female’ jobs.

So the mission of the Girl Geek Academy is to increase the number of women and girls in tech, games, making, robotics, 3D printing, aviation, drones and space by teaching one million women
to learn technology by 2025. Launched by five women with the aim of making girls in STEM and IT the norm, they are developing a series of initiatives aimed at those from five years old up to mature women, one of which is this new series of books that put geek girls in the spotlight and in charge.  They show that technology is fun and girls are awesome, with each focusing on each of the girls, Hamsa, Eve, Niki and Maggie and their particular talents – hacker, hipster or hustler. With characters that young girls such as my Miss 13 will recognise, they take everyday situations that arise in schools and show how the girls use their strengths to solve them, demonstrating that being a ‘geek girl’ is as normal as being any other sort of girl.  It’s just one part of who they are.

As well as this new series (four in the pipeline so far) there are many other programs and resources available on the academy website to support and enable the development of digital technologies in the school and across the curriculum so this is both a series and a website that could and should be promoted widely to staff and students.  So often, geeks don’t see the library as having anything for them, particularly when there is still such an emphasis on books and reading, so this is yet another way to reach out to that long tail – all those potential patrons that a library has but who don’t use the facility because they don’t believe it has anything to offer them.

Well-written, illustrated and as perfect for the newly-independent reader as it is for those whose appetite for reading is never sated, this is a series with a difference and with huge potential. 


100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding











100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

Alice James

Usborne, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Did you know that out of 30 million emails sent in the time it takes to tread this line, 20 million of them will be spam?

That a champion mathlete can add ten 10-digit numbers in their head in 13 seconds?

The first computer game for two players was based on playing tennis and was created over 60 years ago?

These are just some of the interesting facts that are shared and explained in this fascinating new book from Usborne that is so easy to explore, navigate and read.

Way back when, in a time when I did not teach maths well and avoided it if I could, I was presented with a class of eight-year-olds who were as turned off the subject as I was.  In the days when text books and workbooks were the norm and the curriculum comprised going through said books which were cheaply produced, unattractive and unappealing, it was no wonder that those for whom maths was a mystery were not enthused to participate.  However, I was a successful “language arts” teacher and so in the interests of my students, I had to invigorate my interest and so I examined what I did well in my whole language classroom and translate it into a whole maths classroom.  By the end of the year, we were all thriving, I’d written many articles about my approach and even had several book contracts lined up!

The secret was to show the kids how maths related to their everyday lives, in both overt and obscure ways so that it became apparent that it permeates everything we do.  We started with a focus question of “What would we do without numbers?” and delved into the history of number and so on, and things just flew from there. This book, 100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding would have been a godsend in those days as even though its focus is computing and coding, there is enough in it to build a lesson a day for almost an entire school year and that doesn’t include the offshoot investigations that would take you off on a tangent! I can envisage those eight-year-olds of 30 years ago pouring over it!

There are often queries to teacher librarian forums about how to engage with the maths teachers to show that the library offers them something, and the usual answers of teaching the Dewey Decimal System pop up, but imagine the interest there would be if you shared a fact a day and invited explorations as part of your library displays!  Those who see libraries as being about books and reading and therefore not for them would be engaged and their learning could go off in any direction, while not even realising they are engaging with reading, books and information literacy.  Sort of like hiding vegetables in cakes.

Don’t buy this book and hide it away in the 004 section.  Buy it and use it as the basis to turn students’ attitudes towards maths, computing and coding into something positive!

Get Coding 2! Build Five Computer Games Using HTML and JavaScript

Get Coding 2! Build Five Computer Games Using HTML and JavaScript

Get Coding 2! Build Five Computer Games Using HTML and JavaScript










Get Coding 2! Build Five Computer Games Using HTML and JavaScript

David Whitney

Duncan Beedie

Walker Books, 2018

224pp., pbk, RRP $A16.99


Thirty years ago, I proudly showed off my first home computer to visitors – a Microbee-in-a-Box – because it was such a novelty to have such a thing in a home.  With its amber screen, mini floppy disks and text-only technology it was a step up from my friend’s BBC model that ran on cassette tapes, but such a long way from the devices and their capabilities that our students are so familiar with now. 

With 1988 classroom lessons focusing on manipulating a robot turtle around a pre-determined path with the only programming being done as students recorded the path it took on paper using  basic Logo language, to creating webpages using Microsoft Front Page and Macromedia Dreamweaver which required a basic knowledge of raw html, to trying (unsuccessfully) to make a cow jump over the moon using Macromedia Flash, the Web 2.0 world of drag and drop was not only a blessing for me but opened up the world of creating information as well as consuming it for anyone with a computing device. 

Now coding is an official part of the Australian Curriculum, the behind-the-scenes world of the computer screen is coming alive for even our youngest students. There are  even coding competitions for kids (Miss 12 is an enthusiastic participant) and thousands of youngsters are intent on creating the next Minecraft or Fortnite. So this new book which teaches them to create five new games using HTML and Javascript so their games will run in a web browser will be a welcome addition to their libraries, as well as that of teachers tasked with teaching this topic.  So much more engaging to have an authentic project so that new knowledge is embedded in context.  

With its straightforward introduction and each game/mission having its goals clearly articulated, users can begin at their particular ability level so that their development is based on a solid platform of understanding. With plenty of illustrations and instructions (a far cry from the confusing, monochromatic books I remember buying in the 80s and never mastering), this is a book both for beginners and the more-advanced as even the initial mission has suggestions for extensions.

Miss 12 will be delighted to see this in her Christmas stocking. 


Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids










Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

John Miller

Chris Fornell Scott

Quarry Books, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A27.99


Apparently, 74 million people play Minecraft each month, one of those is Miss 12 who is now hooked on coding, and many of whom are in schools where the game is being used in many scenarios as part of the everyday learning experience.  For some time, the teacher librarian networks I belong to have been peppered with queries about how it can best be used and so a book that specifically focuses on its use in the science, technology, maths and engineering strands will be of great value to teachers whose students are clamouring for these sorts of experiences but whose personal knowledge and skills of the game are not as developed as those of those they teach.

Beginning with a thorough explanation of what Minecraft is, how it works, how it can be used and played and purchased so that parents and teachers understand its value both in school and beyond – the book’s focus is ‘to connect the Minecraft player(s) in their life with STEM learning…to help bridge the gap between game-play and engaging STEM concepts” –  it moves on to six themed quests, each of which presents four labs, which, in turn, have two parts – an out-of-game activity that requires hands-on exploration and an in-game building and crafting activity.

Quest 1: Pistons, Rails, and Redstone
Quest 2: Construction Zone
Quest 3: The Sky is Not Your Limit
Quest 4: Rocks, Minerals, and Gems
Quest 5: Cycles in Science
Quest 6: Engineering Challenge

In terms of the quality of content, Miss 12 would probably be a better reviewer than I, but in her absence, this review by a Minecraft expert suggests that it is “outstanding” and gives a comprehensive tour of the contents and layout.  The credentials of the authors also convince me of its authority. However, as a non-Minecraft person who wears a teacher’s hat, it would seem to me to be the perfect tool to not only capture an audience who prefer gaming to reading but also to use its user-friendliness to explore things not necessarily intellectually or physically in the teacher’s toolbox.  Added to that is this article which shows that onscreen adventures are leading children to discover their origins in print.  

I’m beginning to see what all the conversations have been about and why there is such excitement about this game that demands so much more of the student than pressing buttons or manipulating levers.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids










Computer Coding Games for Kids

Jon Woodcock

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00


Way back when, in the dawning of the age of home computers which were huge and clumsy in comparison to today’s mini-marvels; which ran on cassette tapes; had green or amber font on a black screen and had no facility to display graphics, if you wanted to play a game you bought a book of instructions and carefully tapped the commands in, one keystroke at a time. It was the realm of the real computer nerd and if you were patient and precise, eventually you got to play the most basic of games.

Fast forward 30+ years and now our kids have computers in their pockets, on their wrists and even in their clothes.  And with the increased focus on science, technology, engineering and maths once again the red-hot buzzword in schools is ‘coding’ as students learn not to program a clumsy turtle that only went backwards, forwards and sideways, but to create and develop their own games to play, some in the hope that theirs will be even bigger than Pokémon Go!  

But no longer do they have to sit in solitary confinement painstakingly tap, tap, tapping. These days, the most commonly used development tool is Scratch™, a free program which “helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century”, and Dorling Kindersley have produced what might be the beginners’ bible in learning how to create a computer game.  Not for them the single volume, monochrome “pamphlet” that crossed your eyes just looking at it – this is a beautifully presented, full colour, step-by-step guide presented in the typical DK layout that is so user-friendly.  Beginning with an introduction that describes what makes a good game, the types of games and how coding works, it moves on to introducing Scratch, accessing it and then straight into making a basic game, eventually moving on to more and more complex tasks and challenges.    

Fifteen years ago I went to computer classes and tried very hard to make a cow jump over the moon using a program Macromedia Flash™.  Night after night it absorbed me until I gave up in defeat and despair – clearly I just didn’t have the brain for it.  So to test out Computer Coding Games for Kids I read through the introductory chapters, accessed Scratch™ and had a go at the first project – Star Hunter, “a fast-paced underwater treasure hunt.”  In just seven quick steps I had a cat that followed my mouse all around the screen and was ready to build the next part of the game. WINNER!  If I can do it, anyone can! So when the curriculum requires students to have a basic knowledge of coding, this has to be the go-to book for teachers and students.  Even the most confirmed luddite will succeed and the students will be having such fun as they read and follow instructions and learn without realising it that ‘coding’ will become a key part of the school day!   

In fact this book was going to be a donation to a school library I know but I think I will keep it because I can see hours of fun ahead for Miss 10 and Miss 5 and me on the wintery days yet to come for us and even those when it’s too hot to go outside.  Who knows, we may be the creators of the next Pokémon Go!

Lift-the-flap Computers and Coding

Lift-the-flap Computers and Coding

Lift-the-flap Computers and Coding














Lift-the-flap Computers and Coding

Rosie Dickins

Shaw Nielsen

Usborne, 2015

16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99



Among the stated outcomes of the Digital Technologies strand of the Australian Curriculum for students in Foundation to Year 2 are the ability to “recognise and explore digital systems (hardware and software components) for a purpose” and “follow, describe and represent a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve simple problems”.   So right from their first years of formal schooling, our students are expected to be able to understand the parts of a computer, use software and begin to mainuplate the devices to meet their needs. 

This book with its myriad of flaps to lift and explore is perfect for introducing this age group to what computers are and how they work.  Starting with “What’s a computer?” and an explanation of what coding is, it moves on to show how computers think including lots of interactive activities that encourage the reader to participate and thus gain a better understanding of the focus topic.  For example, the binary code is explained and then the reader is challenged to convert decimal numbers to binary with the answers under the flaps.  Pictures via pixels are explained and so are colours.  There’s even a treasure map to help Pixel the Pirate hunt for treasure while  teaching about writing instructions and flow charts. The flaps reveal answers, explanations and things to think about ensuring that the reader is actively engaged in their learning.

The more I delved into this book the more I went back to my early days of learning to program a turtle using Logo and even earlier still to when we bought books with the coding for games in them and we put these into our basic computers which ran on audio tapes!  This book encourages kids to explore and use Scratch which is so highly recommended by my computer guru colleagues and just continues on with so much inof and fun that I’m surprised it hasn’t been written before! 

But even if you buy multiple copies of this for your students, you should also consider buying it for those teachers who feel daunted by the requirements of the curriculum because apart from helping them understand the technical aspects of computers and coding, it offers a myriad of ideas for supporting the learning within the classroom using activities that don’t require a device.  You might also like to scour your TR section for all those books about encouraging logical thinking and problem solving that were so common a few years ago because they are all grist to the mill, and also return to the basics of the information literacy process of

  • What am I being asked to do?
  • What do I already know?
  • What more do I need to find out?
  • Where can I find that information?

So even if writing a million-dollar-making app is beyond the reach of many nevertheless they will have had lots of scaffolding and experience in thinking logically, posing and answering questions and solving problems – which all the futurists says are the essential foundation skills for the future.


Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out

Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO's Day Out

Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out











Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out

Cartoon Network, 2015

124pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95


BMO is the cutest, tiniest little robot in the Land of Ooo but the future of Ooo is in the hands of the reader because at the end of each chapter it is up to the reader to decide what happens next.  By solving riddles, puzzles and codes the reader can alter the characters paths thus leading them on to new adventures.  It’s a chance to let BMO be the hero for once.  Along the way the reader gathers Adventure Minutes and the challenge is to read the book many times, make different choices and try to better the number of Adventure Minutes gained.

A new take on the popular Choose Your Own Adventure format, written in the present tense to increase the pace and sense of urgency, this is likely to appeal to those who enjoy cartoons and computer games and can visualise the action. They will enjoy its interactivity as they try to solve the puzzles and the challenge to gain Adventure Minutes gives that competitive element that is a characteristic of the gaming environment.

If we are looking to capitalise of the interest in cartoons and computer games that our younger readers are so familiar with, offering them that in print format may be the way to hook them into a whole new world of adventure.