Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew










Pirate Stew

Neil Gaiman

Chris Riddell

Bloomsbury, 2020

48pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


Their parents are having a night out and so have hired a babysitter, but he is not your regular carer.

His hair was grey. His face was scarred.

Right leg a peg, left hand a hook.

He grinned a grin and said, “my card.”

It read

Long John McRon, Ship’s Cook.

Soon joined by others, each the quintessential stereotype of a pirate crew member, they set about feeding the children but it is no ordinary food they concoct.  They make pirate stew.

But rather than joining in the fun and games as all sorts of things are thrown into the pit, the children remain dubious, if not worried, , because if they eat the stew they will become pirates too. But nevertheless, a night of adventures lies ahead which gets even more interesting when their parents arrive home and hungry, devour the children’s bowls of uneaten pirate stew!

This is the most delightful tale from an author absolutely dedicated to getting children to read through entertaining stories, and so richly illustrated that it is impossible to summarise it in a few lines for a review.  Starting with two children who faces show what they think of their parents having a night out and who do not embrace the possibilities of having a pirate cook for a babysitter,  Gaiman’s rollicking rhyme and Riddell’s detailed illustrations offer an adventure that can be and demands to be read again and again and again. Just what was in those doughnuts?  The twist in the ending is unexpected and sets up a whole lot of opportunities for asking “what if…”.

Here’s a taste…

A wonderful opportunity for children and parents to find their treasure…. 


Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles

Puffin Littles


















Puffin Littles





The Solar System



9781760897024 (Sept 2020)


9781760897680 (Sept 2020)

The Ocean

9781760897666 (Sept 2020)

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


A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for 80 years, Puffin introduces our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in this new series of non fiction titles, the perfect size for little hands. In them, he talks directly to the reader sharing information in manageable chunks in a layout that not only appeals but also supports their reading skills and their interests.

Little Cook: Snacks focuses on the fundamentals of cooking and preparing food; Little Environmentalist: Composting teaches them about composting and recycling to make a difference while Little Scientist: The Solar System takes them on a journey around the planets. Planned for September are three more which explore the ocean, robotics and the ANZACs. 

Not all children like to read fiction and so this series caters for both the newly independent reader and those who are almost there using its narrative style voiced by that iconic character to offer more than just a book of facts and figures. The contents page to help them navigate to a specific page and the glossary to build and explain vocabulary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned.

Young readers will appreciate this series because 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. 


Ten Little Figs

Ten Little Figs

Ten Little Figs










Ten Little Figs

Rhiân Williams

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Walker Books, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99


Ten little figs are on my tree. 

I love figs and they’re all for me

Nestled amongst the rough leaves of the sandpaper fig are ten juicy figs, each one a tempting morsel of delight for the little boy.  But he is not the only one with his eye on them, and one by one, the creatures in the backyard carry them off for their own enjoyment.  Soon, there is only one left and it is too high for him to reach… will he get any figs at all?

In the tradition of count-backwards stories, this is another clever rhyming tale that will help our littlest readers understand both the number system and the concept of subtraction, while they predict what might be the next creature to spoil the little boy’s anticipation. Set in a backyard garden big enough for a tree, with the shadow of the city looming nearby,  the illustrations depict a scene that may not be known to every city child but nevertheless for those who do, the temptation to go outside to the fresh air and explore what is there is strong.  Who knew there were so many little creatures all with their hearts set on having figs? And all there for the seeing if you just look with close eyes.

This is a charming debut for this Australian author which combines so many elements that young readers will return again and again to discover something new.  Even if they don’t have the luxury of their own garden, this is one they can share and put themselves in the picture. And if they are not familiar with figs, perhaps that’s something that could go on the shopping list, a bit of research for a recipe, some cooking…and more in-context, meaningful learning accomplished!


Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens










Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Andrew Levins

Katie Kear

Puffin, 2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Nelson hates vegetables. He hates the smell of them, he hates the look of them. Most of all, he hates eating them, which can be tricky when you live in a family that loves them.  His grandparents grow them, his father cooks them and the family devour them – all except Nelson who has the grossest pile of smuggled, uneaten vegetables stored under his bed. His greatest hate is pumpkins but this is pumpkin season and his grandfather has grown his best crop ever – which he brings to town weekly so Nelson’s dad can cook them in every way imaginable.  

The other thing that Nelson hates is school, particularly Mr Shue who has been his teacher for four years, since Kindergarten.  They are always on a collision course. But when his grandmother tricks him into swallowing an entire bowl of pumpkin soup, and he discovers that he has superpowers, will he us them to save the school and Mr Shue from aliens from Neptune – aliens that he invented in a moment of desperation?

This is the first in a fast-paced series that will appeal to newly-independent readers who are ready for something more meaty but still having the short chapters and liberal illustrations to support them.  With its premise that will resonate with many, characters that are easily recognisable and the type of exaggerated humour that appeals to its target audience,  Levins has created a series that children will engage with and parents will love, simply because it may encourage a lot more vegetable eating and the battles about eating the daily requirement may be over. Unlike Nelson who was looking for ways to hide his veges, perhaps readers will even be moved to seek out pumpkin recipes and then cook them and share their opinions with their friends in this time of stay-at-home. 

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle










The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

Brenda Gurr

New Frontier, 2020

88pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Zoe Jones has a hidden talent and a secret identity.  Daughter of one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world, sadly dead now, and a secret globe-trotting international food critic, at the age on nine, she has inherited her mother’s interests and talents, and when she is not at school she creates masterpieces that are highly sought after, aided and abetted by her guardian Aunty Jam.  

In this, the first in the series, she gets a new pastry order for a special medieval crumbling cake, but she has no idea where to start! It needs to be ready in less than a day for the school fair and the clock is ticking. Will she deliver it on time and remain the undercover secret pastry chef everyone talks about?

Given the shortage of eggs, flour and other baking ingredients on the supermarket shelves at the moment, it can be assumed that there might be many budding pastry chefs like Zinnia Jakes emerging from kitchens and so this is a timely release that should have widespread appeal to young, newly independent readers.  While different to the Sage Cookson series, it nevertheless caters to a similar audience of younger readers with an interest in food, and while they wait for the second episode, The Tumbling Tortoises,  due in October 2020, they could indulge themselves with that collection.  


Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas










Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Lou Carter

Nikki Dyson

Orchard, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Oscar the unicorn is always hungry and on Christmas Eve he is eating his way through the palace Christmas preparations.  The stockings, the tree the presents… But the trouble really starts when he eats the reindeer food meaning the reindeer no longer have their magic power to fly.  How will Santa deliver the presents?

This is a bright captivating tale that will enchant our youngest readers as they continue the Christmas Countdown to that special night. There is lots of humorous detail in the pictures, particularly the one focusing on Christmas morning and this is likely to be one that is requested again and again.  

Pea + Nut

Pea + Nut

Pea + Nut










Pea + Nut

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99


Pea the panda and Nut the flamingo are best friends but they are also great rivals.  Anything Pea can do, the boastful Nut can do better!! So when Pea decides to make a cake, and Nut decides to make it a baking competition, there is a contest worthy of any seen in the showstopper category of The Great Australian Bake-Off!

Nut is convinced that  his cake will win while Pea’s will be put in the bin and driven by his ego (and a few mind-games from Pea) Nut begins “a complex production of layers and towers and major construction.” Will he create a cake  that meets his ambition and expectations? Or will Pea’s slow but steady approach take the cake?

Most readers will know that if it is a Matt Stanton book, it will be funny and this is no exception.  The rhyming text, the vibrant, action-packed illustrations and a concept that will appeal to younger readers combine to make this one of his best, and it is just the first in the series for these two oddball friends. But like all top-shelf picture books there is so much more than the story on the page – it screams out for experimentation in baking and stacking shapes; the contrast between the friends’ approach and how Stanton portrays this can teach little ones about characterisation and the need to look deeply at the detail; and there is also a comparison to be made with The Hare and the Tortoise and the lessons that offers.. Children can also ponder Pea’s final gesture – is this what they expected?

A great read for all ages.


Noodle Bear

Noodle Bear

Noodle Bear










Noodle Bear

Mark Gravas

Walker Books, 2019

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


Throughout the winter, instead of sleeping like other bears, Bear has been watching Noodle Knockout, a television game show that now has him addicted to noodles.  When Fox has a Welcome Spring party, and Bear finally turns up he is not interested in the food the other animals have brought – all he wants is noodles, particularly as he has eaten his entire supply.

When no one can help him he decides to travel to the city to be on the game show himself in the hope of winning a lifetime’s supply but ends up beginning to understand that too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.

Written and illustrated by the creator/director of television favourites such as Yakkity Yak, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie  and Caspar’s Scare School, this is an engaging read for young children that explores what we gradually understand to be the most important things in life – family, friends and home.

While young readers might like to share their favourite foods that they would like to eat for a lifetime (offering an opportunity for data collection and mapping), others might like to look at the way the cover has been designed and explore what they can do with the various noodles and other pastas available.  Cooking might also be an option so they start to be able to prepare themselves a simple meal and there is also the not-so-simple task of learning how to eat noodles in public! There are lots of ways to make this fun story come alive!


Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance

Dinosaur Juniors (2) - Give Peas a Chance

Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance











Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2019

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


The baby dinosaurs are having lots of fun together, but then Nancy is called in for dinner.  She’s reluctant to go because she is having so much fun but her dad insists, telling her she can play again when she shows him her clean plate.  But alongside the Dino Bites and fluffy rice, which she likes,  are peas! And Nancy doesn’t like peas – or anything green for that matter. 

But then she hatches a clever plan and it’s not too long before she is able to show her dad an empty plate.  But has she outsmarted him?

This is the second in this joyful series for preschoolers that will appeal to them because of the bright pictures, the clever rhyme and Nancy’s clever plan.  Many of them will relate to not liking green vegetables and enjoy Nancy’s subterfuge but the ending may well surprise them. 

Perfect for little ones who love dinosaurs and for encouraging the belief that reading is lots of fun. 



We Eat Bananas

We Eat Bananas

We Eat Bananas









We Eat Bananas

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury, 2019

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


The sequel to We Wear Pants, this is as equally engaging and fun as its predecessor.  On each double spread, a clutch of creatures is eating a variety of foods like a flamingo munching on a banana and a shark slurping on fruit smoothie, each in their own unique way.  Young readers are invited to find their favourite amongst them and with interactive speech bubbles and an eccentric little monkey to look for on each page, there is much to encourage them to search for details and develop their visual acuity. 

Designed to encourage children to try new foods and have fun at the same time, parents will enjoy this as much as their children.