R. J. Timms

Albert Street, 2023

304pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Deep under the ocean in the Shallow Side of Chumville Finley the reef shark lives with his dentist parents Su and Shi, and his siblings, Dash, Smash, Crash, Flash , Splash and Bash.  During the day Finley goes to school with his mates Hunter the tiger shark, Gnash the pointer shark and Gilleon the lemon shark, but at night, they are secretly the super-famous rock band JAWSOME!  But not everything is cruisy. Can JAWSOME get to the bottom of an ocean of shady shark-nanigans while keeping their secret identities watertight?

This is a new series for those emerging readers who like a light-hearted read, peppered with pun humour and plenty of illustrations.  Verging on a graphic novel because as much of the action happens in the illustrations as it does in the text, it will also appeal to those students who like to be seen with thick books – it has over 300 pages because of the large font and copious graphics.  But woven among the puns and other fishy jokes are facts about sharks that will de-mystify and maybe un-demonise these creatures so there is learning as well as laughing, as well as a strong lead character that has to learn to face his fears of singing in public step up to help his mates.

One to look for and perhaps give to some reluctant readers to determine if it is worth adding upcoming additions to the series to the library’s collection. 

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures











How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2022

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


Just as Earth’s atmosphere has five major zones –  troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere – so do it’s oceans-sunlight, twilight, midnight, the abyss, and the trenches – and within each live very different creatures, each adapted to the particular light, depth and temperature of the water they live in.  

“Evolution is the process of a living thing changing over millions of years to survive better in their environment and ensure their species continues” and in this stunning book by Sami Bayly, known to many of our younger readers as the creator of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly AnimalsThe Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature, we are taken on a voyage far below the sparkling surface to discover what lives there and why they are the way they are. 

In her special diving suit Sami takes the reader to the various layers, acting as a narrator interacting with the inhabitants in speech-bubble conversations while short fact boxes are scattered like bubbles to explain various phenomena that she encounters – sadly, including plastic bags in the very depths  of the darkness. 

In the first few weeks of this year, I reviewed a number of books  that focused on the origins of this planet and those that share it, and this is another to add to that collection.  With such an emphasis on environment and sustainability in our everyday lives,  if we are to have any hope of children growing up with a desire to protect what they have then they need to understand it and how it works – what they can’t see as well as what they can. Sami Bayly has made a significant contribution to both that collection and to that knowledge, and this is no exception – it’s a fascinating read even if the underwater world is not your scene.

(A category search of this blog for ‘environment and sustainability” will offer many suggestions to grow their knowledge).



Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark











Sunny the Shark

Surviving the Wild 3

Remy Lai

Allen & Unwin, 2022

112pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99


Usually Sunny the whitetip shark is a fierce predator, cruising the ocean with a shoal of pilot fish friends, looking for food. However, when she mistakes a plastic ring for food and it gets wrapped around her fins making  it tricky to hunt her life is in danger.   

For despite their willingness to help her, even following whale songs to try and find food while being terrified of the presence of any boat, Sunny is cranky and snappy – emotions provoked by fear rather than anger. So will she be able to break free by herself, and find food before winter sets in, or will she need to accept her friends’ help?

This is the third in this new graphic novel series  designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it.  The new NSW English syllabus, particularly, requires students to be able to “to express opinions about texts and issues… both objectively and subjectively”, so as well as empathising with Sunny whose problems may be similar to those they are facing,  they also learn about the perils of things like pollution, the dangers of plastics for wildlife and why we all need to be responsible consumers as well as disposers. Being in the shoes of the main character – this one inspired by a true story about another shark, Destiny, who was found in similar circumstances – helps them be more engaged and understand the situation better, hopefully inspiring them to become not only more aware but more active in environmental protection. 

Hallmarks of quality literature include having characters and a plot which are engaging and interesting for the students, offering layers and levels of complexity that are revealed with multiple readings and which enrich discussion and challenge perceptions, thinking and attitudes.  Add to this the appeal of a graphic novel format and this is another winner for this talented creator. 

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish









I Wish I Was a Fish

Laura Bridekirk

Vanessa Fernandes

Little Steps, 2022 

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


Oh, what a thrill it would be to have a tail and gills! Imagine breathing underwater water! The idea gives me chills.

The little lad in this story is fascinated by fish and the world they live in so he takes the reader on an imaginary adventure under the water as he dreams of what his life would be like if his dreams came true.  But wait! What would he have to give up  as a little boy if they did?  Is there a compromise?

This story-in-rhyme is not only an introduction to the creatures of the watery world for our young readers, but it is also an opportunity for them to share the things they wish for – and reflect on the price they would pay if they actually came true.  A chance to think about the meaning of “Be careful what you wish for.” 

Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim











Swim, Shark, Swim

Dom Conlon

Anastasia Izlesou

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

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


The sun shines down on the West Australian ocean, highlighting the shape of a blacktip reef shark just below the surface.  But when a boat drops a net the shark knows he has to “open a tunnel of bubbles and swim, Shark, SWIM.”

And off he goes, on a trip around the world searching for the place he calls home, meeting other sharks and sea creatures during the journey, some friendly and others, not-so. 

While blacktips do not normally migrate as this one does, it offers an opportunity for readers to meet various species of sharks around the world, sharks which , as the apex predators, keep the ocean waters in balance by helping maintain the diversity rather than the dominance of one creature. With lyrical text and arresting illustrations, young readers can learn to respect the creatures of the deep and unknown rather than fearing them because their only knowledge is sensational news stories, scary movies and sinister music.  Building knowledge through information rather than imagination develops understanding much more effectively. 

Accompanied by comprehensive teachers’ notes for Years 2-5 that will build an even greater understanding of the planet’s different marine habitats, their inhabitants and their particular characteristics, this is a book that celebrates the natural world and encourages students to delve deeper than the surface.  Makes me wish I was still allowed to dive – so many of my hours have passed well below the sun’s sparkle and I miss it.



Let’s Go! On a Submarine

Let's Go! On a Submarine

Let’s Go! On a Submarine











Let’s Go! On a Submarine

Rosalyn Albert

Natalia Moore

Catch A Star, 2021 

16pp., board book., 2021


‘Let’s go on a submarine
And cruise beneath the sea.
Discovering strange creatures
Who swim so fast and free.’

This is a new addition to the Let’s Go series, this one taking our youngest readers under the ocean on a yellow submarine to discover some of the wonders that are usually hidden beneath the waves. 

The series focuses on two children enjoying rides on a variety of transport. Familiar topics, catchy rhymes and colourful illustrations not only make for an enjoyable read that they will be able to retell themselves endlessly, but also promote what can be expected from story books. It also helps build vocabulary as not all will be familiar with  farm life or riding a train or a ferry, and those like this that take them under the sea or travelling in space on a rocket introduce them to otherwise out-of-reach worlds. Thus, when they encounter other books with those sorts of settings, they are able to bring their existing knowledge to the page, predict what they will see and what might happen so the story makes sense, as well as being in a better position to get their mouth ready for unknown words.

We should never underestimate the role that these sorts of readers have in our children’s literacy as they develop those early concepts about print, and by using sturdy, durable board books we can start that process earlier and earlier. This is just one of a number of series from this publisher that is bringing quality stories to our youngest readers ensuring they develop those vital concepts about print that must be in place long before they embark on trying to master the skills if they are to make connections between what’s in their brain and what’s on the page. 

In the meantime, the adults who share this with their little ones will enjoy the  memories of that other yellow submarine  that it brings back, rather than the current controversy of they said, we said…

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller











The Shark Caller

Zillah Bethel

Usborne, 2021

368pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller like her waspapi Siringen. 

“I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways,” she begs him for the hundredth thousandth taim but he refuses, telling her she knows why he will not. 

Instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing’s island. At first, the girls are too angry to share their secrets and become friends. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, they must journey together to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all… and it’s not a great white.

Papua New Guinea is just as a mysterious land now as it was when I lived there 50 years ago, steeped in history, legends and traditions going back to the earliest civilisations and when the author moved from there to the UK (and had to wear three jumpers even in summer) she was peppered with so many questions about her life there that she wrote this book to help answer them.  And in doing so, she has woven an intriguing tale of adventure, friendship, forgiveness and bravery with such a real-life background that I was taken back to the days when I was there with all sorts of memories that I thought were forgotten, including the pidgin phrases.  

Even though physically it is at the upper end of the readership for this blog, competent independent readers of all ages will immerse themselves in the story which, even though it has such a diverse backdrop, still has a universal theme threaded through it. For those interested in finding out more there are the usual Usborne Quicklinks, as well as a most informative note from the author and some questions for book clubs that delve deeper.  One for those who are ready to venture into something a little different.  

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

Great White Shark












Great White Shark

Claire Saxby

Cindy Lane

Walker Books, 2021

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


Open the cover of this latest in the Nature Storybooks series, and there, swimming right at you, is a great white shark. 

But those piercing eyes and sharp white teeth are not looking for you.

The great white shark swims on. Her tail sways side-to-side; her fins keep her balanced. She travels the fast lane where she can, cruising invisible seaways towards warmer waters as her pup grow inside her and where they will thrive in where there are plenty of fish.

Claire Saxby’s name is synonymous with this series, known for crafting intriguing stories based on meticulous research that personify the focus creature so it comes alive for the reader. And given the emotions that this apex predator evokes whenever its name is spoken, this is going to attract and captivate a wide range of young readers. When she catches a young fur seal and an unwary turtle. it is viewed as her needing a feed to sustain herself and her babies rather than an act of cruelty or menace – it is the cycle of life. 

As the story unfolds to the birth of the young who must immediately fend for themselves because their mother swims on in her relentless quest, leaving on the endpages as she came, it is accompanied, as usual, by short pieces of information that explain her behaviour in factual terms and these are brought together at the end is a brief piece about great white sharks in general. 

The illustrations are stunning, particularly the depiction of the water and its colours and moods and I was immediately reminded of the beginning of The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp whose autistic mind 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”.  Illustrator Cindy Lane says she “loves to make her own paints with materials she finds in nature, and collects waters from all over the world to use in her paintings. Seawaters from across Australia were used in Great White Shark” and while this is  her first picture book, hopefully there will be many more.

Sharks of all kinds fascinate young readers and this one is going to be a favourite so enriching its exploration with the teachers’ notes  is a must.