First Day

First Day

First Day









First Day

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2014

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


It’s a day like no other – the first day of school.  Together mother and daughter get ready  – waking early, having a special breakfast of pancakes and fruit salad, getting dressed,  new shoes, washing and scrubbing, packing bags – all the routines that will become familiar as the novelty wears off and school becomes the place you go to every day.  

But while this is a theme that has been done in so many ways in so many stories, this one has a particular twist that will not only heighten its appeal to parents but also give pause for thought.  Is it only the child who is encountering new environments and experiences?

Daddo has a knack for taking the unusual within the usual and turning it into a story while Bentley’s illustrations are just perfect.  

One for both preschool and school libraries that can be used to provoke discussion on those transition days, encourage new friendships and perhaps even initiate a follow-up, catch-up, how-are-you-coping meeting that can help overcome anxiety and isolation in the community.


Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash










Hickory Dickory Dash

Tony Wilson

Laura Wood

Scholastic Press, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Mother Mouse  – the one in the rhyme, the one that climbed the clock at one, then ran back down – is frantic with worry and in a desperate hurry to find her two bold sons.  They had been playing outside in the moonlight when the cat pounced quite unannounced and they scarpered for safety.  Now  Mother Mouse is searching the house for them with the cat hot on her tail.

Where can they be?  They are not in the playroom or the kitchen; not the pantry or the garage or even the backyard.  Every room in the house is visited in this desperate dash,  as wherever she searches the cat is there, ready to pounce but being bamboozled each time  either by mouse savvy, swiftness or circumstance.  

Finally, exhausted and sobbing after two hours of searching, Mother Mouse sits on the verandah almost without hope – and then she has an idea…

Even if this hadn’t been selected for the 2018 National Simultaneous Storytime  it would have been an automatic hit with a wide range of readers.  As with his first book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon Wilson has drawn on a familiar nursery rhyme and given it new life with his own twist and message of perseverance and the lengths a parent goes to for the love of their children. Clever rhymes move the story along at a dashing pace and with the cat in hot pursuit, the reader wonders if this will have a happy ending.  As well as the suspense there is also humour – the cat’s fate in the nursery will produce a LOL moment- as each time Mother Mouse narrowly escapes a horrible fate.  Laura Woods’ illustrations  use so many different perspectives  that we can feel Mother Mouse’s fear as well as using light and shade cleverly to bring the house at midnight alive and  put critical elements in focus. 

Suggestions for using the story as part of NSS 2018 are available but as May 23 draws closer there are bound to be more and more available as it lends itself to many facets of the curriculum, including maths.  But even without formal curriculum-related activities, this is just a rollicking read that is likely to become raucous as the children are drawn into to its almost vaudeville-like humour.  Watch out, Mother Mouse!


Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus










Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA Publishing

136pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


What better way to share Australia Day than a look back to a significant part of our past when travelling circuses were a major source of entertainment, particularly in rural areas, and that of the Wirth Brothers was one of the most well known.  

Focusing on May Wirth, who as a seven-year-old growing up in poverty in Bundaberg in 1901, was given away to Marizles  Martin an equestrienne and a sister of the Wirth brothers. With big dreams and a desire to become the greatest bareback rider in the world, she transformed her ability for acrobatics into being able to perform them on horseback, even able to perform a Charleston as her horse moved around the ring!  Determined, resilient and tenacious she worked hard for perfection eventually performing for King George V and Queen Mary.  The Queen of the Circus was performing for the Kings and Queen of England.  Her dreams had come true!

Laced with photos and posters from the collection of the National Library of Australia, this new addition to the author’s Heritage Heroes series follows Miss May’s journey and introduces the reader to characters and times gone by which were so important to the shaping of this nation.  At a time when most young women were not encouraged to be more than a decorative appendage to men, May was a role model for an alternative lifestyle and she was a champion of women’s rights and suffrage and in 1964 she was one of just three Australians to ever be inducted into the American Circus Hall of Fame.

In 2016 Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony  won the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, and my prediction is that Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus will be amongst the awards this year.  But whether it is or not, this is an inspirational read that celebrates an Australian of the past, a heroine unknown to many in an entertainment unfamiliar to many in this age of screens, that adds yet another layer to this country’s history. 

For those wanting more…Wirth’s Circus Home Movies , Wirth’s Circus Archive, May Wirth  and of course, the collection at the National Library of Australia detailed in the acknowledgements.

The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files







Life of the Party


Game Changer


Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

I’ll Love You Always

I'll Love You Always

I’ll Love You Always








I’ll Love You Always

Mark Sperring

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., board book, RRP $A13.99


How long will I love you?
A second is too short.
A second is no time
for a love of this sort.

A minute is no better,
for minutes fly by!
They’re gone in a moment
like a sweet butterfly.

Moving through the day, the seasons and then the years, this is a charming tale that would make the perfect gift for new parents who want something special to welcome a new child and use as a lilting lullaby over those early months.  While it features Mother Mouse and her baby in gorgeous full-colour illustrations that change with the time, it is perfect for little ones or even bigger ones who want to declare their love.  

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe








Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Phil Cummings

Amanda Graham

Little Book Press, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Wilbur the dog is as much in love with the new twins Grace and Joe as their parents. He becomes their furry, four-legged guardian angel as he shares the exciting days and the sleepless nights as they grow from newborns to toddlers with all that that entails.

This is a charming family story with a soft palette that emphasises its gentleness and which families will relate to as a new baby enters the world of a couple and their dog.  A lovely bedtime story for a young reader with a faithful dog who will want to know if that’s what their life was like too.


An Aussie Night Before Christmas

An Aussie Night Before Christmas

An Aussie Night Before Christmas










An Aussie Night Before Christmas (10th Anniversary edition)

Yvonne Morrison

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic Press, 2015

32pp., hbk.,



Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.

We’d left on the table some tucker and beer,

Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here…

So begins this iconic salute to Christmas in Australia drawing on the familiar sights and sounds of a night that is usually so hot and it’s hard to sleep because it’s still daylight outside, never mind ‘dreams of pavlova’ dancing around heads.  And when there’s a ruckus outside that needs to be investigated, who would be surprised that it’s Santa in a rusty ute pulled by eight mighty kangaroos? Kangaroos called Kylie, Kirsty, Shazza and Shane, Kipper and Skipper, Bazza and Wayne?  

There are many stories that put the Aussie spin on Christmas, but this is such a rollicking good yarn, funny and engaging that it’s no wonder this is a 10th anniversary edition and it is popping up all over the Internet in full, although the YouTube version loses some of its charm with the American accent and the change from ‘beer’ to ‘root beer’.  Australian Santas drink real beer!

Accompanied by the distinctive illustrations of Kilmeny Niland, this is the perfect story to read to the little ones before they settle down, and the perfect story to end our Christmas Countdown for 2015.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…


One Christmas Eve




One Christmas Eve

One Christmas Eve










One Christmas Eve

Corinne Fenton

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Black Dog, 2016

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


“One Christmas Eve, Grandpa puts on his best shirt, Bella passes him his favourite hat, and they wave goodbye to Gran. Together they walk along the tape measure streets and roundabout corners until there, before them, is Luna Park.

When Bella visits Luna Park on Christmas Eve with Grandpa, he hands her a single silver coin to use on a ride. Bella enjoys the excitement of the roller-coaster, the squeals from the ghost train ride and the laughter from the giggle palace, but she is drawn to the sparkling carousel and it’s here she spends her precious coin.

When Bella climbs onto her dashing carousel horse, something magical happens when they launch into the velvety night sky where they encounter a jolly man in a red suit and his prancing reindeer. But the magic doesn’t end there…”  

This is a nostalgic, charming story of Christmas in the less-hectic times of 1968 that will arouse memories with many as they share it with their children and grandchildren in this Christmas Countdown. Reminiscing about Christmas in a time that wasn’t so dominated by big,  bold, bright and brassy -spent my 1968 Christmas coming to terms with the heat of Port Moresby – and just taking the time to enjoy the simple things.  And regardless of the season, who hasn’t dreamed of a magical, mystical ride on one of the beautiful carousel horses and Fenton’s beautiful text and Crosby-Fairall’s stunning illustrations are a perfect match as we soar high above the clouds and discover the magic that is there.  The power of imagination and dreams transcends all timeframes and generations. 

One Christmas Eve was the focus of the Melbourne and Brisbane Myer Christmas windows for 2016 and these are now in Ballarat for 2017.   Lucky are those in a position to go to see them!

What Do You Wish For?

What Do You Wish For?

What Do You Wish For?









What Do You Wish For?

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Viking 2015

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


Each year the children in Ruby’s street put on a Christmas show with songs and costumes and real curtains during the party in the park at the end of the street.  Before that they decorate the big tree and each writes a Christmas wish to hang in it. Everyone has a wish but Ruby knows that the wish deep inside her is too big to put on a small piece of paper.  What could it be?

This is a charming story that reminds us of the warmth of Christmas traditions, the magic of wishes and a child’s timeless dreams – the patchwork of events and activities that make the memories for when they are older.  It reminds us as adults that no matter how old, tired, jaded, it’s-Christmas-again-already? we get, it is a most magical time for our children and the things we do will be taken on through their lives to their children.  They DESERVE our time to make it special for them, and if that’s the only thing we can give them then that is the biggest gift of all. To know that we are willing to pause our busy lives to bring some magic to theirs is often all they want – just like Ruby.

That Christmas Feeling




That Christmas Feeling

That Christmas Feeling










That Christmas Feeling

Lili Wilkinson

Amanda Francey

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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


This Christmas sure isn’t like last Christmas.  This year Jem and Dottie and Shortbread the dog are staying with Grandma and Grandpa and the fizzy, exciting feeling where everything is a bit magical just isn’t there.  No matter how hard Grandma and Grandpa try to replicate the events of last year, the feeling isn’t happening and Jem and Dottie are so worried that their mum and dad won’t get home in time. There is no sparkle.

Come bedtime and with still no parents, and a concern that Santa won’t find them, Dottie is really despondent,  To cheer her up Jem suggests they go outside and find Christmas… and as they marvel in the stars which are their twinkly lights and sing some carols they hear a noise.  Is it Santa?  No it’s a car…

Every year authors’ imaginations come up with a host of new stories for this festive season, and That Christmas Feeling has to be one of the most special for this year.  Sometimes, for lots of reasons, it is hard to get your Christmas on and no matter how hard you or others try, it just doesn’t happen. Lili Wilkinson, who established, the Inky Awards and the Inkys Creative Reading Prize at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria, has created a gentle, loving story that will resonate with lots of children who are missing their parents at this time and whose absence is all the more poignant because of the dates.  While there is a happy ending for Jem and Dottie, others are not so fortunate so sharing the story could be a catalyst for our children to think of those who can’t get the feeling this year and how they might be able to reach out to them in some way.  

Something very special to add to your Christmas Countdown collection.