On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species

On The Origin of Species











On The Origin of Species

Sabrina Radeva & Charles Darwin

Puffin, 2022

56pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


On The Origin of Species has been the definitive explanation of the theory of evolution since it was first published in 1859. 

Pulling together Charles Darwin’s observations from his travels around the world and his groundbreaking – and controversial – explanation of how species form, develop and change over hundreds of thousands of years, On The Origin of Species is as relevant and important now as it ever was.

So, this first ever picture-book retelling of  Darwin’s work  through stylish illustrations and a simple, easy-to-understand text brings evolution to the younger generation. Interspersed with relevant quotes from Darwin himself, and accompanied by many illustrations, this is a sample explanation demonstrating its ease of access…

“For most of human history, many people believed that everything in the world was created all at once. They thought that plants. animals. and people were always the same as they were now. But there were a few clever and curious scientists [such as Georges-Louis de Buffon and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck] who challenged this idea… ” But it was the travels and studies of Charles Darwin whose work and theories have endured. “In his book, Darwin explains that species are groups of living things that look alike and can have babies together,  But even if they belong to the same species, no two animals are exactly the same.”  

Even for those who have different beliefs about life’s first beginnings, this is a must-have in the school library’s collection if we are to provide students with a variety of viewpoints, and it is the perfect adjunct to those books that I’ve reviewed so far this year that may have created a curiosity about this planet and its inhabitants…

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began

Australian Backyard Naturalist 

Earth is Big

We are One: How the World Adds Up

Australian Backyard Explorer

The History of Everywhere

The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Atlas of Amazing Migrations

Ouch! Tales of Gravity

The Same But Different

It also helps them understand all those books that have the “same but different” theme – having explored this work, they will understand the why that underpins the message. It encourages them to develop their own powers of observation and thus the discoveries they make so as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes , the endpapers also offer an immediate challenge. As well as the narrative, the book also includes an appendix (unusual in a primary-school text), a glossary and other elements that underpin the development of information literacy skills. 

 While, for some, this book may raise more questions than it answers, it is nevertheless an important addition to the library’s collection as we cater for those with a deep-seated curiosity about where they have come from. 

The Same but Different

The Same but Different

The Same but Different











The Same but Different

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


“I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t… Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me.” Dylan Alcott Australian of the Year 2022.

Nobody who heard Alcott’s words during his acceptance speech could have failed to have been moved by his passion for making a difference for those with disabilities and such was their power in lifting both his profile and his message, that two days later Channel 9 delayed their main nightly news bulletin so we could all witness his final appearance in the Australian Open in its entirety.  And while the match’s result didn’t go to script, nevertheless his message was underlined as time and again the cameras focused on young wheelies in the crowd – all there to watch one who was already a hero and a voice, but one whose voice has just become infinitely louder!

Ever since the UN General Assembly declared 1981 to be the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) with a focus on “a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities”. slowly, slowly progress has been made and now, as libraries have a real focus on the diversity of their collections, children are seeing themselves in the books they read and the movies they watch.

So the release and review of this book is timely. It explores the ways in which we’re all unique as well as the similarities we share. Using everyday examples, clear explanations and colourful illustrations by Sarah Jennings, this book prompts children to broaden their perspectives and rejoice in their differences while accepting those of others as what makes them unique. Including double-page spreads that focus on how we look, where we live, the languages we speak, what our families are like and what we believe in, it can start important conversations with children about diversity and inclusion. Early Years expert Molly Potter also provides a glossary of terms and notes for parents and carers offering advice on tackling prejudice right from the start.

It took 62 years for the AOTY award to be given to a person with a disability, and Alcott says his purpose is “changing perceptions”  – as educators we can start with our youngest students with books like this.

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes












A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat











Winston and the Indoor Cat

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


Winston is an outdoor cat and because that’s all he has ever known, it suits him perfectly.  Then he spies the Indoor Cat and thinks that it is trapped so he devises a plan to free it so it, too, can enjoy the outdoors as he does.  But the Indoor Cat soon learns that it prefers the indoors – can the two ever be friends?

In the vein of the old story of the town mouse and the country mouse, this is a story that introduces the concept of being able to be friends even if you have differences in beliefs, values and habits.  Both the simple but powerful text and the gentle illustrations in their subtle palette convey a tone of harmony even though the cats are distinctly different.  

A good one for the beginning of the school year when new classes are formed and friendships forged even though everyone is a unique individual. 



The Mountain

The Mountain

The Mountain











The Mountain

Rebecca Gugger

Simon Röthlisberger

NorthSouth, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


The bear knows exactly what the mountain looks like—a forest. The sheep, octopus, and ant also know the mountain. It’s a meadow! It’s surrounded by water! It’s a maze of tunnels! The chamois and snow hare have their opinions too. It seems the mountain looks different to every animal. How can that be? And whose point of view is right, particularly when bird challenges them by asking if any of them have actually been to the top of it to investigate…

Reminiscent of the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant this is a great story to demonstrate how we each see things through the lens of our own experience and form opinions based on our relationship to an object or situation.  It’s why witnesses to an incident can each have a different account because different things have different priorities for them or their personal experience throws something into sharper relief. It’s why this Kiwi who grew up with the rugged, jagged Southern Alps as her stage setting now sees the current backdrop of the Snowy Mountains more as rolling hills, even though she knows and understands the geological differences. 

Thus, it is a wonderful way to explore the concept of perception with even young students – read them The King’s Breakfast by A. A. Milne and have them draw the king then compare and contrast the drawings so they begin to understand how their preconceived ideas influenced their drawing.  Continue with either the description of the BFG (Dahl) or the hobbit (Tolkien) and discuss how, even when they were working with identical words, each drawing is different. Have them retell Little Miss Muffet from the spider’s perspective and venture into the world of stereotypes and even “judging a book by its cover.” 

One book – so many options.  Perfect! 

Green is For Christmas





Green is For Christmas

Green is For Christmas











Green is For Christmas

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99


When Green Crayon claims that green is the only colour for Christmas, other crayons let him know that there would be no Christmas without them either. No candy canes or Santa without Red, no snow without White, no bells or stars without Silver and no cookies or reindeer without Brown!  Can they come to some agreement or will their Christmas be ruined because of their squabbling?

The mark of a great storyteller is one who can not only take a simple concept and turn it into an entertaining story, but who then opens up all sorts of questions that the reader can muse about, perhaps even investigate.  For example, crayons’ opinions aside, why are red and green the colours that are traditionally associated with Christmas, and having discovered the answer to that, ask if this holds true for Australia.  Are red and green the predominant colours of our Christmas period or would it be better to use the blue of the sky and the gold of the beaches, or maybe even the sage green of the bush?

Daywalt and Jeffers are developing a growing body of work featuring the iconic Crayons, seemingly simple in concept and appearance but each offering much to inspire our youngest readers to think deeply and investigate just how and why their world works.  Green is For Christmas is a worthy addition. 


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.