Just Like Me

Just Like Me

Just Like Me









Just Like Me

Tess Osborne

Zoe Osborne

Little Steps, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Zoe is delighted when a new girls starts at a her school and she is just like her.  She has a favourite doll, a pet dog and a naughty little brother just like she does. It is lovely to have a friend with so much in common.

But the story in this story is in the illustrations rather than the words as the reader is likely to pick up that Zoe’s new friend is not quite like her.  Or they may not, depending on what they have been taught because this book is designed to demonstrate that little ones do not see difference like colour or disability.  They see the way people are like them, rather than unlike them and that to look for difference is a learned behaviour.

But books like this can be a two-edged sword, thus moving them from their intended audience of little ones to use with older students because they can debate whether such books actually teach young ones to look for difference in their peers.  With the words saying one thing and the illustrations another so the message of the book is grasped, does this then contribute to that learning about difference? If they didn’t see it then, will they look for it now?  Or does it just consolidate that it doesn’t matter – kids are kids everywhere?  Food for thought.


A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal











A Different Sort of Normal

Abigail Balfe

Puffin, 2021

240pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


It begins with a poem, the last stanza of which says,

This is for ANYONE

Who has ever felt out of place

You don’t have to be the “odd one out”

You’re unique and that’s just great.

It continues with a childhood memory of a Punch and Judy birthday treat that she hated and when she later asked her mum why, her mum said, “I wanted you to be a normal child.  I didn’t want you to be an outcast like I was.”

The blurb says the rest…

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*.

This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself.

There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.

If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in . . . this book is for you.

While there are a lot of books that explore autism so others can have an insight, such as Annabel’s Dance; The Chalk Rainbow; and A Boy called BAT this is the first I’ve read that is written by someone on the spectrum for others on the spectrum.  It maps her journey through childhood through a time when she didn’t know that there was a scientific reason for her difference, just all the while feeling confused, unwanted and left out.  

It is a unique book, one for children and adults alike and made all the more poignant because of its honesty, truthfulness and lack of sugar-coating.  The author explains her reasons for sharing her story and while she had to navigate the world alone because she did not have a diagnosis, to help others pave a different path she has produced a poster that helps us to be an ally to those we know. 

Even though it is written directly to encourage children who are autistic to understand that while they ae unique, what they experience is not unique to them and they are not alone, it is one for anyone who has anything to do with children.  Because if we don’t understand we can’t empathise.

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp











The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

Paul Russell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2021

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


Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s mind doesn’t work like that of most children – it’s almost as big as his name!  When he is asked about the colour of the ocean, his is not the first hand up to answer because he is thinking –  he knows that the top can be green or blue depending on the sky, that the waves crash white but in the depths where no sunlight reaches it is black as the darkest night; he’s heard of the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the Yellow river; he knows that algae can turn oceans green, brown, red or blue – but by the time he has decided on his answer the teacher has picked someone else.  

The most ordinary, everyday things spark deep questions to ponder on and consider but while he is doing that, his teachers, his friends, his family have all moved on.  Except his mother – she seems to have the patience to appreciate the moment, be in the here and now and understand her son’s need to wonder and takes the time to let him have the time. 

This is a unique story that follows Bowen as he grows up, always the outsider because of his propensity to look at all the angles, to see the world through a different lens. And it is not until he is grown up that his thought processes come into their own, and are at last appreciated. Bowen finds his place in the world.

There are many children like Bowen who don’t “fit the mould”. who take a different path to their peers and who often fall by the wayside, succumbing to all sorts of mental health issues as they struggle to be what other people expect rather than themselves, doubt their self-worth and underestimate their potential. The teachers’ notes  offer great insight into the story behind this story and suggest how we can put ourselves into Bowen’s shoes by putting ourselves into one of the situations he finds himself him and using a variety of thinking tools such as De Bono’s Six Hats to gain a new perspective.  Instead of paying lip-service to diversity we can experience it and develop greater understanding and empathy. 

Bowen Bartholomew Crisp’s incredibly busy mind shows the need for us to open ours and even enables us to do so. 

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World











Mina and the Whole Wide World

Sherryl Clark

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


More than anything else in the whole wide world Mina wants her own bedroom . And it’s almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it’s hers.

But then Mina’s parents take in an unexpected guest, and give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She is so devastated by her loss and she doesn’t care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay. Her loss is almost too great to bear. 

At school, the other kids call Azzami names but throughout the bullying, he stays silent.  Mina wishes he’d stand up for himself especially after she ends up in strife for hitting Oliver, the worst of the culprits.  But although Azzami doesn’t speck he draws and he as a tale to tell in his drawings,  a tale made all the more poignant when Mina goes with him to visit his very sick mother.  For the first time she really thinks about the life and loss of the quiet boy, what he has seen and escaped from, the death of his father and the illness of his mother, being the least of them, and gradually the loss of her own bedroom is put into perspective. 

This verse novel for younger readers is an important addition to the collection and a vital inclusion to any study of refugees because it gives the silent among our students a voice.  Even though Azzami himself doesn’t speak, his silence is powerful because it echoes that of so many of those we teach who have experienced trauma and fear that we will never know.  Sadly, there are those like Oliver in every class who cannot cope with difference and manifest their lack of understanding and empathy through a display of power and disdain, but there are also Minas who have a more open mind and benefit by finding friendship and tolerance and gratitude. And there are also wise teachers like Ms Smart who know when to step back and when to step up.

This is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this “whole wide world” and the teachers notes will help guide students’ awareness, knowledge, understanding, compassion and tolerance so that the conversation about acceptance, diversity, and caring for others has a new tone.  In addition, there is much to be learned about Clark’s choice of format, vocabulary and using only Mina’s perspective as a vehicle for  a narrative that needs to be had (seemingly over and over, even though refugees have been a critical part of this country’s fabric and fibre since the end of World War II). 

Look for this among the award nominees in 2022.  


What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did on Thursday


What Zola Did on Friday


What Zola Did on Saturday


What Zola Did on Sunday


Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

This great series for newly independent readers continues with the  release of three new titles and concludes in September with What Zola did on Sunday.

Readers first met Zola, her cousin Alessandro and her friends last year in What Zola Did on Monday  when she roped her Nonna into helping rebuild the community gardens and as her adventures continued in subsequent books, so the community got to know each other and bonded. And so in these latest releases, even though she continues to get into strife – forming a band and upsetting a cranky neighbour, painting Nonno Nino’s little yellow boat; helping Nonna with her prized tomatoes; and joining in the fun of the St Odo’s Day fete – she still manages to bring the community together so that instead of being isolated individuals as they were to start with, there are now friendships and love and laughter.

Inspired by her own daughter who was intelligent but reluctant to read, Marchetta has written this series with its humour, relatable characters and all the supports for those building their confidence with novels, so that others can grow as her daughter did. She has taken parts of her daughter’s character and family members and events and melded them into stories that not only her daughter was able to relate to, but just about every other child in Australia.  While there is a vast variety of characters, settings and plots in children’s stories today (as opposed to the good vs evil didactic tales of the past) those that resonate with readers, particularly reluctant ones, are those in which they see themselves, where they can put themselves into the events and become a participant rather than an observer.  So creating something with a big family, cousins who live in the house behind you, a hole in the fence to climb through so you can play together and a street of diverse interesting neighbours to explore means that this has wide appeal for so many. 

It’s a perfect series to binge-read during this lockdown and inspire the children to get to know their communities better when they are allowed out to play again. There are teachers’ notes available  and Thursday has an activity pack that could be used as inspiration for children to build their own for the others in the series. 

Zola, her friends and their adventures have become a friend over the last 18 months or so and it’s sad that the series is complete, but I’m glad they were in my life. 


All About Diversity

All About Diversity

All About Diversity











All About Diversity

Felicity Brooks

Mar Ferrero

Usborne, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“Being different from each other is called DIVERSITY”  and this entertaining book explores a range of ways people can be different such as what they look like, where they live, the sorts of families they live in, the foods they eat and the way they spend their time.  Using a two-page spread , lots of illustrations accessible text and speech bubbles, its design encourages the young reader to explore each vignette and learn something new each time. There is also a glossary to explain some of the trickier words as well as notes for the grown-ups that explain why promoting diversity and inclusion is critical for the healthy well-being of our children.


A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Although this is a topic that early childhood teachers focus on each year this books gives a real focus and explanation to those aspects that their students are most aware of, making it an excellent foundation for an ongoing unit of work.  Inspired by the stimuli provided, children could create their own class pages featuring themselves and their lives making it a powerful resource for both social and language development.