Grandad’s Camper





Grandad's Camper

Grandad’s Camper










Grandad’s Camper

Harry Woodgate

Andersen Press , 2022 

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


There’s nothing she loves more than to visit her Grandad, snuggle up on the sofa and listen as he tells all about the amazing places he and Gramps would explore in their camper.  But these days, Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…

This is a delightful story of a little girl’s relationship with her grandfather, a bond that those of us who have been fortunate to experience it never forget.  But this story has a twist because there is no grandma – rather there is Gramps, her grandfather’s much loved partner. And while it is a reminder that there are many definitions and designs of “family” – the rainbow flag on the camper on the cover is an indicator- it is the little girl’s complete acceptance of the situation that is heart-warming because it shows we have come a long way, albeit there is still a way to go.  So while gender diversity is not the obvious in-your-face focus of the story, it is the memories that are so inextricably bound together by Grandad’s and Gramps’ relationship that are at its heart. 

Family diversity is so widespread and little ones need to see theirs in stories, so this is another opportunity to share and celebrate. 

Originally published March 4, 2022

Updated February, 2023

Walking Grandma Home

Walking Grandma Home

Walking Grandma Home











Walking Grandma Home

Nancy Bo Flood

Ellen Shi

Zonderkidz, 2023

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


When Grandma tells Lee she will soon be “going home,” Lee is confused. Isn’t Grandma already home But as Grandma’s health gets worse and her death approaches, Lee learns what it means to “walk Grandma home” to heaven, while also reflecting on his good memories and dealing with his grief alongside his extended family. 

Written by a child psychologist and counsellor this is a touching and relatable story about a young boy’s grief to help young children  understand what it means to lose a loved one and how to process their own emotions of fear, grief, and joyful remembrance.  It includes a page that explains the child’s perspective to help parents and caregivers to process the child’s emotions in a healthy and loving way and personalise the story to the child’s own experience.  

Sadly, this is a situation that many of our young ones face -just this week there was a request for suggestions for titles for a child who was angry that her grandfather was in a wheelchair and succumbing to dementia when her friends’ grandparents weren’t – and thus any books like this that can be added to our collections to help ease and explain the situation have to be welcome. And while each incidence is unique and can be overwhelming for the child involved, perhaps being able to read such stories and have their experience and emotions validated will help a little. 


The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly











The Sun and the Mayfly

Tang Tang

Zhang Xiao

Little Steps, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


As Little Mayfly is born in the depths of the lake, moving upwards through the water she greets the sun who is rising over a new day. 

“Hello”, she says, ” you are amazing. You light up this world as soon as you wake up. Who are you?” 

Sun tells her but when it learns that Little Mayfly only lives for one day and when it’s journey is over so will be her life, it has no words because it knows just how brief a day is.  But to Little  Mayfly, a day is a lifetime and there is so much to see and do, and even though she learns that she is going to miss out on things like the tadpole turning to a frog and the flowers booming., she remains cheerful and optimistic, determined to make the most of the time she does have.

Tagged as “an uplifting story about the power of positivity and making the most of every day” this is an enchanting story from a leading Chinese author that not only introduces young readers to the passage of time and encourages them to make the most of their time, it also helps them start to see the world through a different lens – an abstract concept that is tricky for little ones.  It is like that saying that not stepping on the ant makes a huge difference to the ant, if not the walker.  If we only have one day, do we spend it in despair or delight?

Even though the reader longs for a happier miraculous ending as the sun gradually sinks in the west, the inevitable happens and so this is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of life cycles  the tadpole’s is illustrated in the story but in a joyful way – and so the focus becomes not the inescapable but what can be done in the time we have.  Definitely one for the mindfulness collection and to inspire positive  mental health. 

The Rabbit’s Magician

The Rabbit’s Magician

The Rabbit’s Magician











The Rabbit’s Magician 

Shae Millward

Andy Fackrell

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


When Koala, Echidna and Quokka each invite the newcomer rabbit to play with them, Rabbit continues to gaze at the moon and politely declines explaining that he is waiting. When Owl asks what Rabbit is waiting for,  Rabbit explains that he is waiting for his magician friend The Great Albertino who used to perform all sorts of magic tricks, and while he would practise new tricks for days at a time to perfect them, he also told Rabbit that everything was just an illusion, a trick of the eye. 

But this time, when Albertine disappeared into his room he didn’t return and now Rabbit is waiting… 

It is up to Owl to explain the concept of death to Rabbit but to show him that even though Albertino might not return in the way Rabbit expects, nevertheless he is always there.

Given the focus on dying these last few days with the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and today’s National Day of Mourning, this is a gentle and exquisite way to help our youngest understand the concept for whom it may well have sparked many questions.   It was mentioned during broadcasts that 17 000 people had died in the UK alone, since Her Majesty’s death, and so this is something that our children face in their families even though it is not on such a grand scale, something that can be bewildering, can be guilt-inducing, and definitely something that stirs unknown emotions. 

To be able to answer the questions through such a sensitive, beautifully illustrated story,  will be welcomed by both teachers and parents at this time and help our little ones understand and accept things just that little bit better.   


The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow











The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


When Jackdaw Crow is found underneath an apple tree, orphaned as a tiny baby by a lightning strike, he is taken to Direleafe Hall, where its principal Mrs Beekman, raises him as her own son.  But for all that he is loved and cherished, Jackdaw, as the only boy in that school for girls,  never feels quite content as he feels there is something missing in his life, comfortable though it is.  

Then he overhears a conversation between two of the kitchen girls, one saying that he was responsible for the death of his parents for if he hadn’t been such a crier, they would never have taken him outside to see the storm that killed them; but it is the words of Angharad that ‘clung to his soul’ – “How can a baby, brand new and pure, be blamed for anything? A baby ain’t done nothing yet. A baby has no dreams or calling…” 

And so he sets out to find his calling, the reason he was spared when his parents weren’t.  But when he befriends Angeline, a wildling girl who knows her destiny lies with the circus, he ignores the wisdom of the ghosts of Nell, Florence and Lucy and tries to save her from the brutal Mrs Bristleroad, even though Angeline is determined to save herself – that is her calling- he goes too far and loses sight of what’s most important.

This is the third  in this intriguing trilogy which includes The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn and The Ballad of Melodie Rose both of which also incorporate the themes of lost, lonely souls seeking friendships, struggling with who they are and their reason for being but learning to remain true to themselves regardless, (familiar themes for the readers who face the same issues), but whether it is the beginning or the end of the sequence depends on how you interpret the powerful epilogue which draws the circle together. 

As with its companions, Gordon’s evocative language and phrasing draws the reader in to this other-worldly experience, even those like me who are not particular fans of this genre, and there is much wisdom and food for thought between and beyond the lines, as well as along them.  I loved Wonder Quinn so much that I kept it and now I have all three to pass on to both Miss Almost 16 and Miss Just 11 because I think that each of them, despite being different in both age and taste, will thoroughly enjoy them.  Just as it is a timeless piece of writing, so it is a timeless read.  

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!












Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins, 2022

368pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99


Ten years ago, we first met 11-year-old Ben in Gangsta Granny  who was bored beyond belief when he was made to stay with his grandmother because he thought she was the boringest grandma ever: all she wanted to do was to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben didn’t know about his grandma.

1) She was once an international jewel thief known as The Black Cat.

2) All her life, she had been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needed Ben’s help…

Now, in this long-awaited sequel, it is a year since Ben lost his Granny and his days as an international jewel thief are over, only the memories live on and he is now dreaming of becoming a plumber. But then something inexplicable happens. World-famous treasures are stolen in the dead of night and the clues point to none other than The Black Cat? But that’s impossible…?

With a bevy of characters from the original as well as some new ones, ranging from a suspicious librarian (who is a relative of Mr Parker, the leader of the neighbourhood watch group who all think that Ben is connected to the robberies) to the Queen (who needs no introduction), Walliams has created his first ever sequel which will not only embrace a new generation of readers, but delight those who remember and loved the original.  There is a great message that reminds us that just because somebody has died, it doesn’t mean that they’ve disappeared from your life and your heart. There are all sorts of settings and signs that recall happy times shared and memories are recalled. Despite being 368 pages, it is perfect for young readers as it is liberally illustrated and the typical Walliams’ humour carries the story along at a fast clip.  Maps and diagrams help the reader understand the setting and the circumstances and all in all, this is a perfect read for the upcoming holidays… 

Daddy’s Rainbow

Daddy's Rainbow

Daddy’s Rainbow












Daddy’s Rainbow

Lucy Rowland

Becky Cameron

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Erin’s daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles because, Daddy says, We can’t see rainbows without rain!’

But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn’t there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again?

Even though we wish it didn’t happen, there are a number of our students who are going to suffer profound  loss during their time with us, and are going to have to move through their grief.  This is a moving , poignant story that might help them understand that the grey days are normal an natural but, in time, they too will begin to see rainbows again.  But it takes time… 

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly











Saving the Butterfly

Helen Cooper

Gill Smith

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Older sister and younger brother have fled their homeland, the only two to survive the perilous boat trip to safer waters, where helping hands gave them sanctuary. And even though they had nothing from before, except each other, older sister said they were lucky because they could have lost so much more. 

But while younger brother didn’t think about that for long and began to make new friends and learn new things, older sister dwelt in the past – she felt she shouldn’t forget and gradually a shadow fell over her mind, as dark and gloomy as their meagre surrounds.  Until one day, younger brother captures a butterfly and brings it home. “Set it free!” cries the older sister, but in its panic it bashes into the walls… Eventually it tires and settles on her hand and doesn’t leave, as though it senses her pain.  Older sister knows what she must do but does she have the courage…

This is a poignant story, sadly a repeat of so many times when people have had to flee their homes, and even today, it is happening again… It reminds us that there is so much more to starting again than the relief of reaching a safe harbour.  Matching the lyrical text are stunning illustrations whose palette mirrors the mood perfectly, contrasting the darkness of older sister’s thoughts and feelings with the hope offered by the bright butterfly.

With so many of our students having found themselves in the predicament of both older sister and younger brother, this is an insight into that long period of adjustment, the grief and fear that must be worked through, and the changes that must be made so we can be more sensitive to the needs of these children.  It is so much more than just a story about refugees. 

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow











An Eagle in the Snow

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Foreman

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


November, 1940. Coventry has been bombed by the Germans and Barney and his mother have been left with nothing so they are on the train to London on their way to family and shelter in Cornwall.   But just as a neatly-dressed stranger enters their compartment, a lone Messerschmitt 109 begins strafing the train.  The engine driver makes a desperate dash to an upcoming tunnel, eventually stopping the train safely inside. 

But Barney is terrified of darkness and with no lights he can feel his panic rising.  The stranger has a box of matches but there are just five in it, and so, to distract Barney he lights one and begins to tell him a story…

There are two taglines on the front cover of this book, the first being “One moment that could have saved the world from war.”  And that is the story that the stranger tells Barney and his Ma.  An extraordinary tale based on the true story of Henry James Tandey, VC, DCM, MM, the most highly decorated private in the British Army in World War I, Morpurgo wrote the story after hearing of Tandey’s exploits and, like most of his stories, was compelled to  write it so that the unimaginable courage shown by those who have gone before becomes real for those of us who come after.

Which leads to the second tagline, this one from Jackie French- “Brilliant. Historical fiction at its most magnificent.” Because if there is an historical fiction novel with either Jackie French’s or Michael Morpurgo’s name on it then you know that not only are you in for a meticulously researched, intriguing read but that you will be changed for having read. And so it is  with this story.  Tagged as “the man who could have stopped World War II” Tandey’s story is woven into a narrative that reaches deep into the soul of anyone with direct ties to the carnage of the 39-45 conflict and makes them wonder how their own life might have been different if their father/uncle/brother/friend had not had to spend their youth in the hell that was Europe at the time. 

But this is not a facts-and-figures biography, although there is a brief synopsis of Tandey’s life included as a postscript – Morpurgo has taken the facts as they are known and woven them into a narrative that is as compelling for the reader as it is for Barney and his Ma.  Is there ever a time when doing the right thing could be the worst mistake you ever made?

This is a story for independent readers who enjoy real historical fiction (as opposed to a story set in another time) and who are ready to be entertained and educated at the same time.  It’s an easy read technically, but I, for one, wanted to know more and so new avenues have been opened for me to explore.  Not the least of which is once again, considering how my dad’s experiences as a POW in Stalag VIIIB and being force-marched across Poland as part of the German’s human shield shaped him and consequently, me.  

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home












Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it.