Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas

Roald Dahl's The Twelve Days of Christmas

Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas










Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas

Puffin Books, 2019

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


The Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas has had many versions and interpretations over the centuries including originally being a game in 19th century to being a catechism song for young Catholics forbidden from practising their faith in England, but one thing is for sure – none is quite like this version that combines the traditional  lyrics with the literature of Roald Dahl. 

 . . on the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Three Naughty Muggle-Wumps, Two Smelly Twits
and Matilda in the library!

Focusing on the stories that have been children’s favourites over the years, “This gloriumptious book is packed full of:
– whipple-scrumptious recipes for festive feasting
– tricksy pranks guaranteed to get you on the naughty list
– amazing chrimbo activities to impress (or prank) your family
– jolly jokes that are even better than the ones in the crackers.”

Each day centres on a different book and there are activities, recipes, stories, poems and a host of other things that will keep the Dahl fan fascinated and occupied once the anticipation and excitement of December 25 has passed.  Combine it with a gift pack of the books themselves – Matilda, The Twits, The Enormous Crocodile, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach, The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, George’s Marvellous Medicine,  Esio Trot, The Witches and a couple of twisted tales – and you have the perfect gift for the fan or to introduce a new reader that will keep them entranced for the whole holidays!



Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?











Is It Halloween Yet?

Susannah Chambers

Tamsin Ainslie

Allen & Unwin, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Emily is a big fan of Halloween and begins early to pester her family about the preparations for it.  But they are very busy with their everyday lives and don’t really have time to get involved, so Emily has to do much of the preparation herself, including making the jack-o-lantern from a watermelon because Halloween is not pumpkin season in Australia.  Will she be able to get her family involved eventually?

Told entirely in dialogue with Emily’s speech in red and that of the other family members in black, with touches of humour and a need to read the pictures as much as the words, 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.. Each of the symbols in the story that Emily refers to. and those associated with this time of year has an interesting story behind it and its association with the festival, so this is a chance to help our young readers pose questions about them and then try to discover the answers.  While some schools do not like students delving into the paranormal, nevertheless they do feature heavily in historical periods and religions so information is vital. It is  also a great opportunity to indulge in all the crafts that are associated with this topic as students seek different ways to display their new knowledge, and instructions for folding an origami bat are offered on the last page.

So much more than candy and fancy dress!

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters









Sea Monsters

Sharon J. Yaxley

Forty South Publishing, 2019

46pp., hbk., $25.00


A walk along the beach is often characterised by the sound of the waves, the fresh air and the sheer exuberance of being able to move with such freedom as we pass rocks, seaweed and other detritus washed up by the tides. Being king of the castle, drawing pictures in the sand with sticks, feeling the texture of the sand and shells under our feet and the delight of beating the waves as they try to soak our clothes are just a few joys of this most pleasurable experience.

But what if we slowed down and took the time to look at what is there, to examine the shapes and colours and textures of the landscape? Where might our imaginations take us? Into a world of monsters or somewhere different?

Environmental activist David Suzuki says

Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.

Author/photographer of this new book for young readers, Sharon Yaxley has used this quote to describe the concept of this remarkable book for young readers, to encourage them to look more closely at the things in their world and let those things talk to their imaginations.  Tails, tusks, dark eyes, sharp noses and jaws with jagged teeth are all there in the seaweed, driftwood, rocks, sand… and when the tide crashes in and the wind does its work, they change into something different.  Looking closely, thinking about the object’s story and the story it could inspire all help to slow the child down in this breakneck world, to be curious and spark their wonder.

Even if your students live nowhere near a beach, this can still be the inspiration to take them outside and let them immerse themselves in what is there and imagine… Let’s take the opportunity to connect our kids to the real world so they want to protect it too. Extensive teaching notes aligned to many strands of the Australian Curriculum are available. 



Playing with Collage

Playing with Collage

Playing with Collage








Playing with Collage

Jeannie Baker

Walker Books, 2019

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


On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”.  Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.

But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to.  Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous.  And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.

As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall.  They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over.  But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”

By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works  to examine them in closer detail.

In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.

She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.


Disney Ideas Book

Disney Ideas Book

Disney Ideas Book









Disney Ideas Book

Elizabeth Dowsett

DK, 2018

200pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


Whether its 101 Dalmatians, Coco, The Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse or Tangled, every child has a favourite Disney movie, and in this super-sized activity book there are  projects to accompany more than 50 of them!

 Listed firstly by the type of project and then by the movie, young readers can easily find their favourite and soon find themselves making Elsa’s sparkly cape, Buzz Lightyear’s Wings, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, Belle’s book garland or even doing the boogie with Baloo. Each activity is related to a character from the movie, has a list of the equipment needed, if any, and clear step-by-step instructions so that young readers can follow the steps independently.  There are templates, tips, tricks and explanations and the typical DK layout makes it accessible to all ages and abilities, although some may need adult assistance. 

Each activity provides a procedural text to follow, which could be used as a model for students to create their own, while others like the parachuting soldiers from Toy Story offer science to be explored and explained.

With so many activities, this one book could form the basis of your STEM and craft curriculum for the year, while being the perfect addition to the family entertainment library as the long summer holidays loom.  No computer screens required!