Little Horses

Little Horses

Little Horses











Little Horses

Deborah Kelly

Jenni Goodman

Wombat Books, 2024

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


Out in the bay, where sailboats glide

Little horses drift and glide

Changing colours so predators pass

In gardens of sponge and coral and grass

In the calm peaceful waters, disturbed only by the rise and fall of the tide, little seahorses spend their lives swaying with the movement of the water, occasionally spotted by sharp-eyed scuba divers who are lucky to see them amongst the seaweed. They give birth and raise their young in a way that only seahorses do, continuing a cycle that is generations old.

But then a storm hits the bay and the seahorses are swept away from their home by the tumbling, crashing waves to a barren place where there are no sponges, coral and grass until…

Inspired by true events when severe storms hit Port Stephens, NSW between 2010 and 2013 and almost wiped out the fragile population of White’s Seahorses (hippocampus whitei) – so much so that it was declared endangered on the IUCN list – this story tells the story of how scuba diver David Haraski spotted two seahorses beginning to build a new home on an old lobster pot that had also been swept away bit which was starting to sprout new corals and sponges. With the adage, “If we build it, they will come” in mind, in 2018 Haraski  built and placed the first seahorse hotel onto the Port Stephens seabed – and it worked.  Haraski the tried his concept in Sydney Harbour where there were other endangered populations and now these seahorses hotels are springing up around the world, including a dedicated breeding program at Sydney Sea Life.

This is such a positive spin on how humans are working to save the environment and its creatures that it deserves a place in any library collection to support the environment and sustainability curriculum. The gentle rhyme has a rhythm that mimics the wave movement, building to a crescendo when the storm hits, and all set against eye-catching artwork that is so lifelike.  There are notes about both the seahorses themselves and the seahorse hotels to add context and whet the appetite to know more and explore further.

With summer beach holiday memories still fresh in the mind, this is the ideal time to encourage students to think what lies below the yellow sands, beneath the rockpool calm and beyond the sparkling waters and used together with Beach Song and Voice of the Sea, there is the trifecta of storybooks to form the basis of the investigation.




Voice of the Sea

Voice of the Sea

Voice of the Sea











Voice of the Sea

John Williamson

Andrea Innocent & Jonathan Chong

Puffin, 2024

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


Described as “an unrequited love song to the ocean, a national anthem of the sea”, this is the picture book version of the iconic song by one of Australia’s most loved musicians that has become so integral to the campaign to conserve the oceans that it won an ARIA award.

With references to global warming, overfishing and the risk of losing some of our incredible marine wildlife a turtle swims through what were once pristine waters, narrowly escaping the clutches of a plastic bag already filled with precious creatures, lamenting, “Where did it go? Where has it gone, your love for me?” From the time that the first European settlers landed, the oceans of this country “girt by sea” have been exploited and now, with the personification of the ocean as a friend in need, students are encouraged to think of how we can preserve this natural wonderland – how we can give rather than take.

Written specifically for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, there are both teachers’ notes and a free education kit  to encourage not only an awareness of humans’ impact on the ocean but also how we can embrace it as a friend again including investigating the projects already in place like The Accidental Penguin Hotel.  the seahorse hotels and others that they might become involved in, offering hope for those who are concerned about the planet’s future. 

This is most definitely one for any collection, and the perfect starting point for any investigation of the oceans, it creatures and their challenges. 


The Worm Book

The Worm Book

The Worm Book











The Worm Book – Nature’s Recycler

Karen Tayleur

Guy Holt

Wild Dog, 2024

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


It begins with a riddle…

What animal has no bones but can move, has no lungs but can breathe and has no eyes but can see?

And it continues with a fascinating exploration and explanation of the humble worm,  creature so familiar that we pay it little attention but one which is vital to the health of the planet because it is Nature’s recycler.  Yet, while we are probably most familiar with the garden worm that inhabits healthy soil, compost heaps and worm farms, there are, in fact, about 20 000 species of worms (1 000 of them native to Australia)  ranging from a roundworm smaller than a pinhead to the giant earthworms of Gippsland, Victoria.

With its accessible text and stunning photographs, this is a companion to The Frog Book introducing young independent readers to some of the less exotic creatures around us but which have such a vital role to play in establishing and maintaining a robust and sustainable environment. Old as I am now, I can still recall my primary school investigation into these creatures and learning two words which my 6-year-old self would insert into adult conversations with glee – ‘hermaphodrite’ and ‘invertebrate’. And jaws would drop when I could explain their meaning – read the book to find out if you don’t know.  

With its strong emphasis on the worm’s role as nature’s recycling machine, it offers instructions about both composting and building a worm farm, both projects that can easily be done at school actively involving students in protecting and promoting these little wonders. 

Beach Song

Beach Song

Beach Song











Beach Song

Ros Moriarty

Samantha Campbell

A&U Children’s, 2024

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


A day at the seashore can be full of surprise, wonder and excitement.

Leap through the waves like a dolphin.
Glide through the water like a fish.
Soar along the sand with the seagulls.
What will you do when you go to the beach?
So many students will be reflecting on their recent holidays, perhaps even writing about them, and for many that will include a stay at the beach.  So sharing this lyrical journey of the writer’s day at the beach, moving like the lizard moves, burrowing like the crab burrows, blowing like the whale blows… can serve as an inspiration both for their memories and their writing.  Often recounts of times gone by are little more than “and then” stories, but to see how both author and illustrator have used words and pictures to celebrate the joy of being at the beach can only stimulate their creativity as they think about what they really saw. MAybe even inspire them to look at the beach with fresh eyes next time as they take time to be in the moment.


Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen











Ruby and the Pen

David Lawrence

Cherie Dignam

EK Books, 2023

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Ever since her husband died, Ruby’s mum has tried to manage her grief with a series of boyfriends, each weirder than the last.  Ruby has named the current one Dodgy Dave and not just because he is sending her to boarding school in another state. Grounded and confined to her room, Ruby sneaks out to her favourite markets one last time to sell some of her cartoons and have a little pocket money for the trip, and through a series of mysterious circumstances comes home with an unusual old fountain pen, inscribed with the words manibus futuri meaning  “the future is in your hands. “

Being an excellent cartoonist, Ruby is fascinated by the pen but it is not until she gets to her new school and is being bullied by students and staff alike that she discovers it powers – whatever she draws comes true. But while she is able to protect herself from the bullies through her drawing, she discovers that Dodgy Dave and Mr Lemon, the principal, are in collusion in a very dodgy plan and it is going to take more than the stroke of a pen to disrupt it.  And although that leads her to making some friends, she also finds that there are things like relationships that need more work than a funny/nasty drawing.

With its Trunchbull-like characters and the theme of kids triumphing over adults, this is an engaging read that despite its humour in both text and illustrations, has some powerful undertones about relationships and how they can be much more complex to make and maintain than just having a magic wand to fix problems.

And to cap it off, it concludes with Ruby throwing her pen into the sea and it being purchased, again from a mysterious market stall, by a boy named Xander who loves to draw superheroes

Orlando’s Garden

Orlando's Garden

Orlando’s Garden












Orlando’s Garden

Stephanie Paulsen

Valery Well

Little Steps, 2023

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


Orlando lives in a light, bright apartment that has a large balcony where he plays with his trucks and diggers most days, in amongst the plants that his parents have planted in pots and containers..  But mostly he loves going on walks with his parents and discovering all the different plants they see on the way.  He is fascinated by their diversity – their colours, shapes, sizes and textures – so when he plants a bean seed in his sandpit and it sprouts, it is just the beginning of a whole new world of discovery for him.

Including some beginner-gardener activities, this is a story designed to inspire young readers to take an interest in growing things and perhaps even grow their own.  Even if they only have a balcony, there are many things that can be grown in pots – all they need are the right conditions and someone who cares enough to nurture them. 

The rise in school kitchen gardens and the support available for them including how they are integral to the sustainability and environmental strands of  the curriculum  shows that there are many children who are interested in growing things, particularly if they can eat the produce when it is ready, and Orlando’s story is not only an inspiration to get started but also shows that even those living in flats and apartments can join in the fun.  (In fact, he probably grows more there than we can here on acres of thin mountain soil exposed to all weathers.)

As the new term looms, and planting season for many things is on the horizon, this could be one to kickstart some initial planning, particularly using the initial guide from NSW Department of Education.


The Deep End: Real Facts About the Ocean

The Deep EndReal Facts About the Ocean

The Deep End
Real Facts About the Ocean











The Deep End: Real Facts About the Ocean

Drew Sheneman

HarperCollins, 2023

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


Despite the wild weather that has plagued Australia’s east coast recently, many will have enjoyed a beachside holiday and some will have wondered about what actually lives in that deeper water out beyond the breaking waves.

So they will enjoy this exploration and explanation told in a mixture of regular text and cartoon illustrations as Brownbeard the pirate, his first mate Alan the parrot and a knowledgeable scientist take them on a journey that spans the development of the discovery of the deep from those who first dived to find food to the development of modern sonar and submersibles, the things they found and saw and the legends that they sparked.  There is an introduction to some of those mysterious creatures that can survive the incredible pressure of being kilometres below the surface, as well as the cold and the permanent darkness.  But as well as the humour there is also a serious side as it is revealed that on a recent trip to the Challenger Deep, the deepest known part of the ocean on the planet, a plastic bag was discovered floating in the depths and the darkness, raising awareness that despite its size and still being relatively unexplored, the ocean is in danger. 

This is a unique way of piquing the interest of curious readers, all of which is factually accurate, and sparking a desire to learn more through more conventional presentations. 



Where are all the Christmas Beetles?




Where are all the Christmas Beetles?

Where are all the Christmas Beetles?










Where are all the Christmas Beetles?

Suzanne Houghton

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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


Once upon a time, not so long ago, our kids looked forward to summer barbecues because it meant they were going to be bombarded by those shimmering green and gold beetles with the sharp little feet that clung to skin and clothes.  And rather than being afraid or squealing in surprise, they knew they were Santa’s special messengers and if they whispered what they wanted for Christmas, the beetle would take the request straight back to Santa. 

But now those kids want to share that Christmas ritual with their kids and there are fewer and fewer beetles to be seen!  There are no tell-tale dead patches in the grass where the grubs have eaten the roots,  they aren’t high in the gum trees either and they’re not even buzzing around the street lamps like they used to do.  Where have they all gone?  

In this beautifully illustrated book that brought back so many memories of Christmases past, the author/illustrator speculates on what might have happened to them.  Could it be the changing weather? The drought? The floods? The loss of habitat?  Scientists don’t know for sure yet and have initiated the Christmas Beetle Count for sightings and photos to be shared but before students get involved in that there are really useful notes at the back of the book as well as teachers’ notes that can help them become junior scientists and help solve the mystery.

After all, what’s Christmas in Australia without Christmas beetles and how will Santa ever know just what to leave underneath the tree? 















Sarah Darwin, Eva Maria Sadowski

Olga Baumert

What on Earth Books, 2023

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


Since human life emerged on this planet, people have speculated on how it all began with many communities developing creation stories to explain what they didn’t know or understand – stories that still guide life today in some places.  But in the mid 1800s, two scientists – Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – independently developed a theory known as evolution by natural selection,  and in this easily accessible, beautifully illustrated book, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin explains the theory –  what it is and how it works.

Feature spreads explain the important things that you need to know, a timeline plots the history of life on Earth., maps and charts show the Tree of Life, and extensive back matter includes a glossary, and index, a bibliography and the whole is backed by both the Natural History Museum in London and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin making it a model of authoritative presentation. As well as what has gone before, there are also sections on how humans have changed their own worlds, how evolution continues to influence adaptation and survival and a suggestion as to what the future holds, as long as we are willing to learn from the past.  

As well as being an excellent introduction to the history of life on this planet spanning 4.5 billion years, this is also an important addition to both the environment and sustainability curriculum and collection because “The better we understand evolution, the better we can protect the planet”.



Ruby’s Repair Cafe

Ruby's Repair Cafe

Ruby’s Repair Café











Ruby’s Repair Café

Michelle Worthington

Zoe Bennett

New Frontier, 2023

32[[., hbk., RRP $A26.99


If you broke something, tore something or just needed something to go again, then you (and everyone else in town) went to The Repair Café and Ruby would mend it for you.  It was the busiest shop in town, long before the phrase “reduce, reuse and recycle” was mentioned.  That was until the new department store opened next door and suddenly everyone wanted new and shiny and, instead of going to Ruby’s, the local tip filled with ditched and discarded stuff.  Sadly Ruby’s Repair Café  had to close down even though the stink from the tip wafted over the town and the piles pf garbage threatened to bury it! 

But one night a huge storm sweeps through the town causing immense damage – even though it destroys so much, can it be the thing that saves it?

This is a captivating and original  story that not only focuses on the environmental message but also has a touch of David and Goliath about it as the big chain store swallows up small business. a story playing out in rural towns like mine almost every week.  (We’ve just seen our beloved pet shop close its doors because of one of the arrival of one of the chains.)  So, as well as consolidating the message about our impact on the planet through our incessant demands for new and shiny, it has the potential to introduce students to that old biblical story and start them thinking about shopping locally and supporting all those mum-and-dad businesses in their neighbourhood. Just as they are aware of their environmental choices, can they also be more-informed consumers?  Is price necessarily the most important factor? 

Young children will appreciate the solution of how both Mr Bigg and Ruby resolve their dilemma but they might also start to look at their own habits, particularly as Christmas draws near and there is going to be another wave of stuff to swamp them.