The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef











The Great Barrier Reef

Helen Scales

Lisk Feng

Flying Eye Books, 2021

88pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Covering nearly 400,000 square kilometres, the incredible ecosystem that is the Great Barrier Reef is not only one of the natural wonders of the world, but is the only one large enough to be distinguishable from outer space. And given its location in the Coral Sea just off the coast of Queensland, it is one that every Australian child knows about from a young age.

Thus this new release from Flying Eye Books, a publisher which specialises in non fiction for younger, independent readers will be a great addition to the collection as it explores this enchanting place, its animal inhabitants, and the peoples who have embraced it as a centerpiece of their cultures. Readers learn about how the reef came to be, its place in the world, and  most importantly, what we can all do to help ensure that the Great Barrier Reef will be around for future generations to discover!  Dramatic, biologically correct illustrations accompany easily accessible text making it the perfect companion for Everest, the other in this series about the world’s natural phenomena.  


Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO's A to Z of Biodiversity

Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity










Amazed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity

Andrea Wild

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

112pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99


Australia is a most diverse continent with a huge variety of natural wonders from its regular bushfires to jumping spiders to zombie worms and in this fascinating book designed for curious young independent readers over 100 are examined and explored. Inspired by the specimens and stories from the CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia (which is home to more than 15 000 000 natural history specimens), photographs, diagrams and easily accessible text offer the budding young scientist an introduction to the tiniest microscopic organisms to those much larger, from the familiar like joeys to the one-off magpie nest made of coathangers.  

With its alphabetical layout, contents page, and glossary it is easy to navigate and there are comprehensive teachers’ notes which guide the reader to discover how and why species get their scientific names to pressing and preserving their own plant specimens.

This is a marvellous dip-and-delve book that both teacher and student will find fascinating as they find something to accompany or satisfy their curiosity. A whole new world of discovery awaits.















Kelly DiPucchio

Raissa Figueron

Katherine Tegen Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A 29.99


Oona the mermaid and her best friend Otto the pufferfish love to search for treasure on the ocean floor, … but often they find trouble instead.

Messy trouble.

Tricky trouble.

Even shark-related trouble.

That’s never stopped them though! So when Oona spies a beautiful crown caught in the sand at the bottom of a narrow crack she was determined to have it.  But does she have the courage to dive right in and fetch it from the dark, murky depths where who knows what might be waiting for her? 

This is an engaging story that has the unusual twist of Oona actually giving up on retrieving the crown but then continuing with how that made her feel and her resolve returning.  We all know the feeling of dissatisfaction when something we desire, tangible or not, remains just out of reach. We have to consider whether it is a walk-away thing or whether it’s an occasion to rethink our strategies so we can attain or achieve it. So, by not having Oona reach her goal, the author opens up the discussion about what we can do it we don’t win.  In this success-oriented world where children are rewarded just for turning up to something they have committed to, they don’t often have the opportunity to learn to lose, to experience the feelings that that entails and how to not only deal with the loss but also those feelings. 

The other element that sets this apart from other stories about mermaids is the illustrations, for Oona is not the stereotypical pretty white mermaid with long golden locks and fish-scale tail and Otto is not a cute rainbow-fish type companion, so that also could lead to an exploration of stereotypes, their impact on our perception and how something that is completely different from what we were expecting can impact on our reading.  Does the diversity enhance the experience or distract from it?

This is a book for a range of ages – it could be just a story about a mermaid or even a discussion about how the “treasure” she finds ends up in the ocean, it could be the springboard to much more. 

Music for Tigers

Music for Tigers

Music for Tigers










Music for Tigers

Michelle Kadarusman

Pajama Press, 2021

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


“The first sound I hear in the forest at the bottom of the world is Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. There’s a movement in the violin concerto that’s meant to mimic the sound of birds. When I step off the bus in the Tarkine bush, that’s exactly what I hear. An orchestra of birdsong descends like musical rain from the Tasmanian treetops.”

Shipped halfway around the world from Toronto to Tasmania to spend the summer with her mother’s eccentric Australian relatives, middle schooler and passionate violinist Louisa is prepared to be resentful. All she wants to be is a violinist, not a biologist like her mother but her mother has discovered that the family-run sanctuary is about to be destroyed and thinks Louisa needs to know more about her heritage.

Life at the family’s remote camp in the Tasmanian rainforest is intriguing, to say the least. There are pig-footed bandicoots, scary spiders, weird noises and odours in the night, and a quirky boy named Colin who cooks the most amazing meals. Not the least strange is her Uncle Ruff, with his unusual pet and veiled hints about something named Convict Rock. 

Finally, when Uncle Ruff gives Louisa her great-grandmother’s diary, she learns the truth: Convict Rock is a sanctuary established by her great-grandmother Eleanor-a sanctuary for Tasmanian tigers, Australia’s huge marsupials that were famously hunted into extinction almost a hundred years ago. Or so the world believes. Hidden in the rainforest at Convict Rock, one tiger remains. But now the sanctuary is threatened by a mining operation, and the last Tasmanian tiger must be lured deeper into the forest. The problem is, not since her great-grandmother has a member of the family been able to earn the shy tigers’ trust. 

As the summer progresses, Louisa forges unexpected connections with Colin a young lad on the autism spectrum; with the forest;  and-through Eleanor’s journal-with her great-grandmother. She begins to suspect the key to saving the tiger is her very own music. But will her plan work? Or will the enigmatic Tasmanian tiger disappear once again, this time forever? 

This is an intriguing read for independent readers who are looking for something different, and something that will stay with them long after the last page is read. The Tasmanian Tiger remains an mysterious, elusive creature which fascinates because of the sporadic “sightings” and suggestions that it may not have become extinct when the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Acknowledging the expertise of the land’s traditional owners, it is one that has the preservation of the environment at heart, but also the changing nature of people and families as they learn more about who they are.

Written for readers at the upper age limit of this blog, I, as an adult, was engrossed and I could hear myself reading it to a class of entranced listeners. 


Coco, the Fish with Hands

Coco, the Fish with Hands

Coco, the Fish with Hands











Coco, the Fish with Hands

Aleesah Darlison

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2021

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


Deep in the estuary where the river meets the sea of the Derwent River in Tasmania lives one of the most endangered species in Australia – the tiny spotted handfish, so named because they use their “hands”  to walk along the sand and silt of the sea floor rather than using their fins to swim. So endangered that it is the first marine fish in the world to be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  

It is Spring when we first meet Coco and it is a busy time for her because she needs to find a  sea squirt that will be safe to lay her eggs and she only has a few weeks in which to do so, find a mate and then guard them until they hatch.  And even then they are not safe because even though she can lay 80-250 eggs each year, there are still only about 3000 spotted handfish in the wild in the world – all in that remote river in Tasmania! Existing since the time of the dinosaurs, yet now threatened by invasive seastars, pollution and climate change, Coco and her babies have more than hungry fish to worry about.  

This is the first in a multi-book series that will introduce our youngest readers to some of Australia’s most vulnerable wildlife, particularly those that are scarcely known.  And with her usual gift for words, Aleesah Darlison has crafted a story that is full of information (and supported with fact boxes) while being entertaining in itself.  Coupled with illustrations that are visually appealing whilst still being biologically correct, this is a fascinating introduction not only to this little-known creature but also to the power of print in non fiction.  So many of our littlest readers are fascinated with the unusual world around them (talk to my friend’s little person about pangolins) yet there is not yet a lot that reaches down to their level of literacy so they can access it for themselves.  Simple but accurate vocabulary which respects their intelligence and knowledge, a large font, engaging illustrations and attractive layout, with a page summarising the key points as the finale make for a combination that will be a winner with readers and teachers alike. Given there is another book on the same subject shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for 2021 this will be an excellent addition to the collection to satisfy the curiosity of those clamouring to know more. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


The Tindims of Rubbish Island (series)

The Tindims of Rubbish Island (series)

The Tindims of Rubbish Island (series)

The Tindims of Rubbish Island (series)

The Tindims of Rubbish Island


The Tindims and the Turtle Tangle


The Tindims and the Ten Green Bottles


The Tindims and the Floating Moon


Sally Gardner

Lydia Corry

Zephyr 2020-2021

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

Since the days of the Vikings, the Tindims have lived on Rubbish Island, recycling debris salvaged from sunken pirate ships and galleons. They have always lived in secret, caring for the creatures of the sea and helping messages in bottles to find the right tides. But now as plastic threatens to overwhelm their island home, the Tindims make contact with children for the first time ever to show them how to turn rubbish into treasure…

Join Skittle, her furry pet Pinch, her parents, Admiral Bonnet, Mug, Jug, Brew, Captain Spoons,  Granny Gull and Barnacle Bow on  Rubbish Island where they seem to find a use for every piece of rubbish that the ‘Long Legs’ throw into the water. For years they have lived by their motto: ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’.  Wander through its warren of underwater rooms, including a toothbrush library and a hospital for sick fish, climb its terraces overlooking the sea and scale Rubbish Mountain. Set sail with them on their first ocean adventure as they show keen young human ecologists how to help protect our planet for the future.

With the current focus on the environment and its sustainability, this is the perfect series to share with newly independent young readers who are looking for an engaging read that relates to their world but with a little bit of magic and escapism thrown in.   Described as The Borrowers-on-Sea , these tiny creatures turn trash into treasure. The first in the series introduced the characters as they deal with the menace of plastic; the second  is about Ethel B Dina, who looks after the fish hospital and loves to sing, needs ten green, glass bottles to complete her musical Bottleramma. But she is surrounded by too many plastic bottles which do not make music.  The third continues the tale of the bottles and finds Barnacle Bell and Granny Shell in trouble  as the terrifyingly tall Bottle Mountain tumbles into the sea and they are left clinging on tightly as they float off over the waves; while the fourth, due in September 2021, features a glow-in-the-dark squid, drawn by the light of the moon, has wandered far from its friends on the ocean bed to the lake on Rubbish Island. The Tindims are puzzled by their new shiny lake, but with the help of Spokes, Barnacle Bow and a rather special invention, they discover the squid and try to help it on its way home again.

The series is modern ,focuses on a theme that is close to the heart and minds of its target audience, that of making this world a better place by thinking globally and acting locally. There are not a lot of things that our youngest readers have the power to improve or change, but being environmentally conscious is one of them so this book which inspires them to be more aware is certainly within their realm. As well as the usual supports for young readers transitioning to more complex novels,  it is printed in dyslexia-friendly font with pictures on every page and perfect for the reluctant reader.


Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles (series)











Little Environmentalist: Gardening


Little Historian: Dinosaurs


Puffin, 2021

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

Joining this popular series for young readers wanting to know more about their world, are two new titles.  Gardening joins its earlier companion Composting  to help young readers learn about plants, their needs and how they can care for them, while Dinosaurs is the latest in the Little Historian collection.

A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for over 80 years, Puffin has developed this series to introduce our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in the perfect size and format for little hands. Voiced by Puffin Little and speaking directly to the reader in a narrative style which ensures engagement, there is much to carry interest and open up new fields to explore.  The contents page and glossary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into addressing their unique needs as emerging readers as well as tapping into subjects that appeal. 

Teacher librarians are reporting a real upsurge in young readers seeking non fiction written for their interests and abilities, particularly if they are collected together in one place in a series box,  and so collections like Puffin Little have a significant role to play in helping children understand that books have a role to play in their search for information and understanding of the world, ad  that not everything is available on the internet and certainly not at their level of understanding. Allen Lane, the founder of Puffin, began with a dream of establishing a publishing house to produce quality literature for children, beginning with four non fiction titles for children who had been evacuated to the country to keep them safe from German bombing and invasion.  Now, 81 years on, his dream is still being realised. 

Fourteen Wolves

Fourteen Wolves

Fourteen Wolves












Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

Catherine Barr

Jenni Desmond

Bloomsbury, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


If a writer or a movie-maker wants to add eerie, sinister atmosphere to a story, then the howl of the wolf is guaranteed to send shivers up the spine.  For the wolf has its own kind of magic, one that springs from fairytales and legends, from history and mythology going back to the story of Romulus and Remus  and even today, in a wolf-less Australia, wolves are the older boy’s dinosaur in the same way a dolphin is the older girl’s unicorn. 

So this true story about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in the USA will fascinate many.  Once, wolf packs  roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, but the loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of the United States by the early 1900s, leading to their being declared endangered.  In the Yellowstone National Park, as in many other areas, the ecosystem started to collapse. Enormous herds of elk swarmed the plains, bears starved, rabbit families shrunk and birds flew away to new homes. Plants vanished, trees withered and rivers meandered.

But in 1995, Yellowstone was designated one of three areas where these creatures would be reintroduced under careful supervision and management and this is the story of that homecoming.  Examining the landscape without the wolf as the primary predator, to the tracking and capturing of the first wolf and its mates to return, their reestablishment and the recovery of the landscape, this is a story that not only tracks the first 14 wolves but also demonstrates the important role that  all species have in the protection and survival of the planet.  Even where there is conflict between humans and predators it is critical that we learn to live alongside each other.

Written for independent readers as a narrative rather than a collection of facts and figures, this is one to suggest to those who want to know more about the creature that has captured their imagination and teamed with this information from the US National Park Service, you will be offering them a fascinating learning experience that could inspire them to even further investigation such as the story and impact of the eradication of the Tasmanian Tiger. Engrossing. 

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward












The Amazing Case of Dr Ward

Jackie Kerin

Tull Suwannakit

Ford Street, 2021

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


In the late 18th and early 19th centuries as more and more of the world was opened up by explorers like Captain James Cook, the botanists on board the ships were almost as important as the captains and the names of people like Sir Joseph Banks became just as famous as the adventurers themselves.  For as well as discovering the new lands, from them came new plants that could be eaten, used as medicines or for building things, offered delightful perfumes or provided shade.

But for every one of the plants that survived the long sea journey back to England, twenty others died as they were uprooted from their natural habitat and transported with little thought for their needs across windy, salty oceans.

From his home in a dirty, smoggy suburb of London where nothing seemed to survive the conditions, Dr Nathaniel Ward read about these exotic plants, their names and the adventures of those who sought to bring them to England, while, at the same time, those who had moved from England to other countries, particularly Australia, were desperately seeking the plants of home, something that would be familiar and help overcome the homesickness.  But one day when Dr Ward placed the pupa of a moth in a jar with some soil and sealed the lid, intending to watch it transform, he made a discovery that revolutionised the transportation and survival of plants forever as well as having a significant impact on the landscape of Australia.

Our library collections are often replete with books that salsify the curiosity of the animal lovers among our students yet somewhat lacking when it comes to those whose interest is in the plant world so this will be a welcome addition.  Despite being heavily based on fact, Kerin (author of Gold!)  tells the story in an entertaining manner and Suwannakit’s illustrations are both botanically correct and engaging making it an intriguing picture book that spans both fiction and non fiction.  If you yourself do not know of Dr Ward’s invention, read this and I promise you won’t look at a terrarium in the same way again and you will also have the basis for a series of fascinating science lessons.  Teachers’ notes are available.

The Tale of the Whale

The Tale of the Whale

The Tale of the Whale











The Tale of the Whale

Karen Swann


UQP, 2021

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


‘Where land becomes sky

and the sky becomes sea,

I first saw the whale and

the whale first saw me …’

Imagine going for a ride on the back of a humpback whale and seeing all the sights beneath the waves – mountains and valleys carpeted in colour and full of intriguing creatures. “An ocean in motion, a bright, busy land..”

But this is no romantic joyride – the whale has a reason for taking the child (and the reader) on this journey. Because when its tummy rumbles and he opens his mouth wide, and half of the ocean is swallowed inside, it is not packed with krill and other whale delights but with rubbish, particularly plastics, thoughtlessly tossed away by humans and now inside his tummy where he tries to digest it in vain.  That then causes the child to look with new eyes at the creatures he had seen – the turtle tangled in a plastic bag; the seagull with the six-pack ring around its neck… the sea is really just plastic soup.

Even though our students are becoming more and more aware of the issue of plastic being disposed in the ocean through stories such as these and teachers using them to raise awareness in carefully constructed units, the problem continues to grow causing phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, solutions begin with awareness and this lyrical and sensitively illustrated story is a must-have addition to your collection that supports these investigations. If just one child teaches their adult to think before they throw, then that is a win. 

Teachers’ notes supporting the environmental aspects of the story are available.