Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon









Touch the Moon

Phil Cummings

Coral Tulloch

 A&U Children’s, 2019

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


July 21, 1969 seemed like a pretty ordinary winter’s day in much of Australia and elsewhere.  Smoke drifted from chimneys, ice clung to the windscreens of cars, breakfast was served, dogs waited to be walked… But there was something different about this day. In the days before breakfast television was the norm, televisions were turned on and tuned in to an event happening a quarter of a million miles away and the whole world was focused on it.  Man was about to touch the moon!

But as life slowed in anticipation, something else began to happen.  For the first time in the tiny town of Peterborough, 200 km north of Adelaide, snowflakes began to fall. The dilemma between watching world history, indeed space history, being made and playing in snow for the first time ever was such a tough decision to make.  Which will win?

As we lead up to the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, this is the author’s autobiographical account of a momentous day in history, both for the world and for him. He was torn between going out to play in the snow or watching the events unfolding on television but even if it hadn’t snowed in Peterborough it was still such a momentous day that there would be few who were alive then and are alive now who can not remember where they were and what they witnessed.  And that is the purpose of his writing the story – for older generations to “share with children their experiences and memories and encourage children to ponder and be excited by the endless possibilities in their future.” 

Beautifully written and superbly illustrated the story inspires the reader to think about what a whole new world would look like for them. Would it be seeing snow, the ocean, the city or the desert for the first time? Would it be imagining what the world would be like on the centenary of the anniversary in 2069? Would it be having a brother or sister or being disease-free or something else they longed for that would be life-changing? Have they already experienced such a change? So much scope for talking and writing and dreaming, pondering and wondering just as Cummings wanted!















Mark Greenwood

Terry Denton

Puffin, 2019

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


July 21, 1969 and like so many Australian children, Billy stared at the moon in amazement through his telescope wondering if it was really possible for man to land on the moon. Nearby, in a sheep paddock , a much larger telescope was also trained skywards as Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on board, made its historic voyage.  

For the three days between launch and landing Billy taught his little sister and brother all about how to be astronauts, building models, making spacesuits, using the bath to experience lunar gravity and recreating the Command Module in their bedroom. And as that large telescope in the field nearby beamed live pictures of the landing, the whole family sat transfixed in front of their television and watched and wondered. 

Man’s first landing on the moon was one of those momentous occasions in history when those who were alive can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing, and all collectively wondering whether the astronauts would make it back to Earth safely.  Greenwood and Denton have taken this event and woven the facts and details into a stunning story that will not only bring back memories for many but also introduce the emotions and intricacies of the event to new generations who take space exploration for granted, perhaps even having it on their to-do list. Using their own memories as the basis for the story- it was near Denton’s birthday and he was convinced it was some sort of special birthday present – they have created a story that shows the power of imagination coming true as generations of children throughout the centuries have looked at the moon and wondered “what if…?” What dreams will this story inspire?

A great story in itself, it is also the perfect springboard to investigating the event as the 50th anniversary approaches and there is also an activity pack to accompany it. 

Star Wars: Meet the Heroes and Villains (series)

Star Wars: Heroes & Villains

Star Wars: Heroes & Villains






Star Wars: Meet the Heroes and Villains (series)


Ruth Amos


Darth Vader

Ruth Amos


DK, 2019

64pp., hbk., RRP $A9.99

May the 4th and what more appropriate date to review the new Star Wars series from DK as we celebrate 42 years of this enduring series, and even moreso because of the recent death  of Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca. Even more fitting, the first of four in this series which introduces young readers to the key characters of the franchise, features Chewbacca and they can learn of his journey from Han’s smuggling sidekick, to loyal Rebel fighter and co-pilot to Rey in the Millennium Falcon.  They can discover the languages he speaks, why he makes howling noises, which planet he comes from and what makes him lose his temper.

Similarly, they can meet one of the most famous villains of film, Darth Vader and discover who he is; how he becomes a Sith; and why he wears a mask. They can learn fun facts about Sith Lord Darth Vader – including his amazing battles with rebels and Jedi heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker! and follow his journey from Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker to the dark side of the Force alongside Darth Sidious. Discover what Force tricks Vader uses, who he works for, which lightsaber he uses, and what planet his secret base is on.

Featuring a simple Q&A format using child friendly language this series, which also includes the lovable R2D2  and the sinister Stormtroopers   includes movie stills from the original trilogy, prequels and the latest sequels, allowing young readers to explore the amazing world of far, far away and a time long, long ago which continues to capture and fascinate their parents and grandparents!

This series can introduce them to the people and places and have them well-prepared for the upcoming release of the ninth and final episode of the film franchise, Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker in December.








Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse











Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall

Orchard Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. As the seasons pass and the waves rise and fall, outside, the wind blows; inside, the lighthouse keeper writes, and the rhythms of his life unfold. But change is on the horizon…

Whatever the season, whatever the weather, the lighthouse keeper must keep the light going to warn ships of the dangers nearby. and this stunning book by Australian illustrator Sophie Blackall takes the reader back to a time in history when men lived on these far-flung beacons, isolated from civilisation and charged with keeping the ships and their sailors safe, regardless of whatever might befall them.  Set on a lighthouse on the tip of Newfoundland, the story unfolds of the loneliness and the joy of a typical lighthouse keeper who has a duty above all else. 

In 2016, Blackall was  awarded the Caldecott  Medal, the first Australian to receive if for her work on Finding Winnie  and now, in 2019, she has won it again for Hello Lighthouse. “Masterful ink and watercolor illustrations illuminate the story of a lighthouse and the family inside. Stunning images of the lighthouse in all kinds of weather alternate with views of intimate interior detail and circular motifs. Blackall’s skill with composition, line and close attention to detail have created an exquisite book. “

But apart from the quality of the illustrations, this is a book that will resonate with so many who are familiar with lighthouses as there are over 350 of them dotted around our coastline. While there are no longer any manned, nevertheless they still hold an appeal and this journey back into another time because regardless of its position, life was pretty much the same for all those who tended the beacons.  

Something very different that deserves a place in any collection. 

Yahoo Creek An Australian Mystery

Yahoo Creek An Australian Mystery

Yahoo Creek An Australian Mystery











Yahoo Creek An Australian Mystery

Tohby Riddle

A & U Children’s, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


From time immemorial the stories passed through the generations of all cultures have included tales of creatures that appear to be a mixture of human and ape, large and hairy and always elusive. 

Throughout the first century or so of Australian settlement by Europeans, the pages of colonial newspapers were haunted by reports of a bewildering phenomenon: the mysterious yahoo or hairy man …

But what was it? 

Yahoo Creek breathes life into this little-known piece of Australian history – which, by many accounts, is a history still in the making. Using many newspaper extracts dating back to the early 1800s  both within the pages and on the endpapers, words by Ngiyampaa Elder Peter Williams who shares the perspective of the Aboriginal peoples who have been seeing these creatures for millennia, and his own haunting images using a palette of inky blues to add to the mood and the mystery, Tohby Riddle explores the ongoing mystery of yahoo encounters. 

Also known as a yowie, this is a book that sucks you in to read all the reports and begin to wonder whether this really is an imaginary creature – it achieves its purpose of beginning conversations about history, storytelling and truth.  

Intriguing, absorbing and utterly mystifying!

Sea Bear: a journey for survival 

Sea Bear

Sea Bear: a journey for survival










Sea Bear: a journey for survival 

Lindsay Moore

Greenwillow Books, 2019

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


Imagine you are a polar bear.

Your coat is thick. Your teeth are sharp.

Your front paws are paddles, your back paws are rudders, and you can swim for miles.

Your home has always been the sea and the ice.

A sea bear, far north in the Arctic, hunts and naps and raises her young. She moves with the ice, swimming, running, stalking seals, resting. She follows the rhythm of the sea and the seasons.

But what happens when those rhythms change? What happens when there is no ice?

Told from the perspective of a female bear, the reader is taken on a journey of the Arctic seasons starting in spring when the ice is thick and the baby seals numerous, through to summer when the water warms and the ice melts, making it too thin to stand on and the seals more wary and quicker. Smelling land on the offshore breeze, the bear starts to swim to shore for food but it is a long arduous and perilous journey filled with lots of other creatures of the cold seas.  But above all, polar bears are patient and so she continues knowing that the world will turn, the time will pass and winter will come again. Courage, determination, resilience – even in the animal kingdom.

As well as the evocative text, it is the illustrations which make this book a stand-out.   Using a palette of a myriad of blues, the reader is treated to all the moods and times of this wonderland -starry night skies, ocean depths and shallows, the aurora borealis, the breaking ice pack and isolate seashore. While it could be a story of any sea bear, using the first person builds a connection with the reader so we are invested in her survival as well as that of all her kind. Her companions of the deep become less threatening as they pass by each other as Moore’s illustrations reflect her Master of Science in Medical and Scientific Illustration.

A page of information about sea ice and polar bears and another introducing the creatures she passes on her journey to shore add to the value of this book which shines a light on the plight of Arctic (and Antarctic) creatures as global warming continues and the amount of sea ice declines each year

A valuable addition to your environment and sustainability collection.


Fiona The Hippo

Fiona The Hippo

Fiona The Hippo










Fiona The Hippo

Richard Cowdrey

Zonderkidz, 2018

30pp., board book, RRP $A13.99


On January 24, 2017 a baby hippo was born six weeks premature at Cincinnati Zoo, the first born there for 75 years.  With a birth weight of just 13kg compared to the normal 25-54 kg she was cared for by zoo staff with the help of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, being bottle fed with milk from her mother supplemented by baby formula.  Named after the Shrek heroine, Fiona had to be strong enough to learn to walk and swim and so she was kept separate from both her parents Bibi and Henry as well as the other zoo animals. Even though she was not expected to live, Fiona showed remarkable resilience and by the time she was six months old she was her expected weight and able to join her parents and the other zoo animals.

In this endearing book, Richard Cowdrey has retold Fiona’s early days with humour and stunning illustrations, repeatedly referring to her tenacity with the phrase, “I’ve got this!”  As well as introducing her to an even wider audience than the Internet sensation she became, there is also a thread of courage, determination and perseverance that might inspire others, including adults, facing difficulties to keep going, one step at a time.

Today is her second birthday – no doubt she is there ready to blow out her candles.



47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees








47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 


It’s a Story, Rory!

It's a Story, Rory!

It’s a Story, Rory!











It’s a Story, Rory!

Frances Watts

David Legge

HarperCollins, 2018 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99



Hey, Milly, why are we on this blank page?’

‘It won’t be blank for long. We’re going to be in a STORY, Rory!’

Rory the fox is puzzled because he has never been in a story before and he’s not even sure how one works. Luckily his friend Milly the chook knows a  little bit more and with the  helpful voice of the narrator explaining how stories work, they have an adventure that will  entertain as much as it educates.

This is a brilliant companion to the fabulous Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, the CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2008. In that, Parsley Rabbit explained all the parts of a book to young readers, and in this new one, Watts and Legge have teamed up again to talk young readers through the structure of a story.  Explaining the role and purpose of the narrator, the characters, the plot, and the setting; discussing the need for description (which can be achieved with words or pictures or both combined); creating an event which engages the reader and to which the characters should react; building anticipation; introducing the concept of genre to determine how the story will proceed; and drawing the story to a conclusion which satisfies both the characters and the reader are all done as Rory’s and Millie’s adventure unfolds on the pages. 

Illustrator Legge has said, “The line between writer and illustrator was well and truly blurred to the point where I’m not sure where some of the ideas for both words and pictures came from,” and this is very evident as the link between the text and pictures and the narrator’s explanation and the characters’ adventure is seamless. Whereas Parsley Rabbit focused on the child as a consumer of stories making it easier for them to navigate their way around a physical book, this one concentrates on the child as the creator of stories, helping them move from the blank page to something that has all the essential elements that engage a reader. For those who want to read the story behind this story, Frances and David discuss it here

As both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I can envisage having this book as the basis for my entire writing program for a class for a year, satisfying nearly every outcome of the English strand of the Australian Curriculum.  Imagine giving every child a blank page and inviting them to either draw an original character or describe one (depending on their preference for words or pictures) and then passing that page on to either have words or a picture added.  That’s the start of a collaboration that could go on and on as the characters become real as the other elements are explored. Further teaching notes are available

If there is one book that you are going to add to your teaching toolbox this year, this should be it.  Ask for it in your Christmas stocking!





The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker










The Tales of Mr Walker

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2018 

192pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99


On a beautiful autumn day, Mr Walker sat in the back seat of the car feeling very excited because he was going to be the Guide Dog ambassador of a park.  Even though he didn’t know what “ambassador” meant, he loved parks, especially rolling in the dirt and playing fetch with sticks.  

So he was really confused when the car stopped outside a tall building, and when he got out his paws slipped and slid on tile floors instead of gripping the grass he was expecting.  Turns out Mr Walker was going to be the ambassador for the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. Because of his larger-than-life personality it had been decided that he would be better meeting and greeting the hotel’s guests, including important people and celebrities and raising awareness of Guide Dogs Australia

Written in a chatty narrative that will appeal to all those who love stories about dogs, especially true ones, this book contains four illustrated stories about Mr Walker’s adventures at the hotel -where he still remains lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian oak bed.


All royalties from the sales of the book are being donated to Guide Dogs Victoria