The Odds: Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run











Run, Odds, Run

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

In this addition to this series, The Woman in the Suit is here. She wants to know about the ten odd characters who escaped Kip’s imagination and now live with Kip and her dad in their two-bedroom apartment and she’s asking questions Kip doesn’t want to answer.


The problem is … Lance the rabbit and Ninja-Nina are duelling, Racer’s trying to drive, Booster the rooster wants to leave and Unicorn and the family cat are not getting along. Kip is hiding secrets from her dad, Diana the dinosaur keeps giving her a fright and the Woman in the Suit seems to know their every move.

Fans will be delighted that this is a series that is going to continue and even moreso with the news that Stanton has signed a new 13-book deal with his publisher – his popularity with his audience proven by becoming one of just a handful of Australian authors to reach the million book-sale mark – and that there is a new series coming in March. Much fun and laughter (with serious, solid undertones) to look forward to. 

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)











Space Detectives


Extra Weird Creatures


Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is overrun with cosmic chaos! Boys have two heads, dogs have three tails and even aliens who normally have six arms are growing extra ones!  What is going on? Can Connor and Ethan get to the bottom of this intergalactic mystery?

This is the second in this  series  for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen. With the third episode, Cosmic Pet Puzzle,  coming in August 2022, the beginning of the new school year is the perfect time to entice those emerging readers into continuing their reading with series written and formatted just for them.  This is one to recommend. 


A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes












A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

While We Can’t Hug

While We Can't Hug

While We Can’t Hug











While We Can’t Hug

Eoin McLaughlin

Polly Dunbar

Faber, 2020

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


Hedgehog and Tortoise are the best of friends. They met when each was trying to find someone to give them a hug but now this nasty disease has hit the world, they are not allowed to hug each other any more. And that makes them sad.  But then Wise Owl shows them that there are many ways to show your love even if you can’t actually touch each other,

This is the sequel to The Hug, and is equally as heart-warming. Even though it was published a year or so ago it is a timely then as it was then with similar social distancing still being in place, although the pandemic is not mentioned because there are many reasons why friends might be separated and unable to hug each other.  And while Hedgehog and Tortoise offer a number of suggestions for connections, no doubt the children can offer more and can have fun doing so, putting them into practice so they can catch up with many different unseen people.  Remember when people put teddies in their windows so little ones could see them on their daily walk?  If not then, why not now? It all goes to telling each other we are seen and loved and thus, protecting and promoting our mental health. 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat











Winston and the Indoor Cat

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


Winston is an outdoor cat and because that’s all he has ever known, it suits him perfectly.  Then he spies the Indoor Cat and thinks that it is trapped so he devises a plan to free it so it, too, can enjoy the outdoors as he does.  But the Indoor Cat soon learns that it prefers the indoors – can the two ever be friends?

In the vein of the old story of the town mouse and the country mouse, this is a story that introduces the concept of being able to be friends even if you have differences in beliefs, values and habits.  Both the simple but powerful text and the gentle illustrations in their subtle palette convey a tone of harmony even though the cats are distinctly different.  

A good one for the beginning of the school year when new classes are formed and friendships forged even though everyone is a unique individual. 



Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat











Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Monica McInerney

Danny Snell

Puffin, 2021

256pp.,  hbk., RRP $A19.99


The Christmas break is not working out for Marcie Gill the way she expected or intended.  Her family own the caravan park at Snorkel Bay, SA but rather than being the idyllic time of past summers, this time her mum and dad have had a big argument and her dad is living in one of the empty caravans, her beloved Gran has had a fall, broken her hip and is slowly recovering in hospital and there are big financial worries as well.

Marcie, like most 10-year-olds, prefers things to be predictable but they’re not helped by Fred, her younger brother that we all know and may even be, or Jemima, her tennis-mad older sister who has all the wisdom and arrogance of a new teen but is still just a kid.  It seems Marcie’s only peace comes when she is visiting George, Gran’s beloved cat who has stayed on in Gran’s caravan. However, after a visit to her Gran who gives her a ‘wishing stone”, a treasured family heirloom, things begin to change, starting with George the cat being able to answer Marcie’s questions…

McInerney has turned all her skill and experience in writing for adults in crafting this charming story for children combining a relatable family with all its foibles and flaws with just a teensy bit of magic so it straddles the real-life/fantasy fence just as its intended audience does.  Even the sceptics can suspend their belief to accept the wisdom of George but can argue that the wishing stone is perhaps what Marcie believes rather than having special powers. Because George can only speak if Marcie asks him a question, McInerney has used a smart technique that enables the reader to get inside Marcie’s head as she ponders some questions and articulates others, demonstrating that sometimes adults underestimate not only just how much this age observes of the relationships and events around them but how much they deserve an explanation so they don’t continue to blame themselves or fix what can’t be fixed. While the wishing stone plays its part in the narrative, it also helps us realise that wishes don’t necessarily come true through magic – we can make them come true with some thought, logic, and application. 

Deep thoughts for a book that is, above all, a delightful, well-written read that will resonate with so many, particularly those who have spent time in a caravan park and who will be able to visualise Marcie’s life. The addition of Claude and Helen to the cast adds even more reality, especially Claude’s shyness being overcome by the “public” life of the typical park.

A great read-aloud to start the new school year and to encourage students to set some goals and then develop some plans to achieve them.  



The Claw

The Claw

The Claw










The Claw

Karen Witt

Aaron Pocock

Little Steps, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


‘Clive was charming, friendly and chipper, and on each side of his body, he boasted a nipper.’

He had many friends in the mudflats and played with them during the day although there were occasions when he had to defend himself.  and during one fight he not only lost a nipper but also his confidence.  He felt that because he was not whole and perfect like the others he had no place among them and despite their efforts to entice him out, he spent the day hiding in the weeds 

Mud crabs are born to be BIG and STRONG

But with only one nipper, I don’t belong.

But when his friends are captured by Mr Beerbellio a greedy fisherman, who is intent on crab sandwiches regardless of the storm raging, Clive is forced to set his self-pity aside to help his friends.

While the premise of this story of lacking confidence because of being different is common, interpreting it in this way is new and young readers will enjoy predicting if and how Clive can be a hero, and particularly what might happen in the future given the twist in the end.  The illustrations are the highlight bring Clive and his environment, and particularly Mr Beerbellio to life with their clever choice of colour and use of shading producing a 3D effect. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as resonating with those readers who might also be lacking confidence because they believe they don’t meet the demands of the invisible, anonymous body police, this is also an opportunity to examine the behaviour of those like Mr Beerbellio and consider whether it’s right to take more than you need. Many will have been fishing for all sorts of species over summer and may have been frustrated by bag limits, but what is their purpose?  A gentle way to introduce the concept of sustainability even to our youngest readers. 


Peppa’s Australian Christmas





Peppa's Australian Christmas

Peppa’s Australian Christmas










Peppa’s Australian Christmas

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2021

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


When Peppa and her family land in Australia for Christmas, Mr and Mrs Kangaroo are surprised to see them – clearly there has been a communication breakdown – but nevertheless they all pile into the Kangaroos’ Kombi and head for the beach.  This is a surprise for Peppa because she is used to a cold Christmas and so are all the activities which are so different to what she is used to.  Santa surfing in on a surfboard is something to behold!

Even though the day is far removed from what Peppa is used to, young readers will recognise and relate to it as we experience summer – although perhaps like Kylie Kangaroo they yearn for snow!

Bluey: Christmas Swim





Bluey: Christmas Swim

Bluey: Christmas Swim











Bluey: Christmas Swim


Puffin, 2021

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


It’s Christmas Day and it’s the perfect weather for a family swim! Bartlebee is Bluey’s new toy – how will he cope with his first Heeler Christmas? He finds them a bit rough and ready and wants to go home but a few words from Aunt Frisky, also new to the family, reassures him. 

Based on the television episode of the same name, this is another adaptation of the adventures of these much-loved characters that will appeal to our youngest readers and help them understand that there is fun and joy in books as they meet characters with whom they are familiar and to whom they can return time and again, unlike their fleeting screen counterparts.

They are also more likely to be familiar with the fun and games of Bluey’s family as they celebrate in the typical Australian style, sparking conversations about how different places celebrate differently and how in some countries, the landscape is covered with ice and snow rather than the sunshine we are used to. 

Bluey is always a favourite and this is one to add to the collection. 

Christmas Always Comes





Christmas Always Comes

Christmas Always Comes











Christmas Always Comes

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2021 

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


Christmas Eve, 1932 and both drought and The Depression have driven Joey’s family into living and droving on the “long paddock”, that narrow strip of land between the road and the farmers’ fences that has become saviour for many as they seek fodder and water for cattle who have long ago eaten what was available in their own paddocks. 

Young Joey, sitting in the dray with his older sister Ellie, remembers Christmases past and is very concerned that there seems to be little preparation for this one. “There’s always a tree at Christmas. With red and gold decorations and tinsel. And Santa finds everyone!” But Ellie is more pragmatic and tries to keep him from getting his hopes up. “you can’t have a Christmas tree droving the long paddock,” she tells him.

As the mob finally find some puddles to drink, a gift in itself, the family pulls up deciding to stop for Christmas Day and although Ellie warns him there is no money, Joey is determined to have Christmas pudding and presents and hangs up his old sock on the barbed wire fence in anticipation.  But what will await him when the new day dawns?

This is a heart-warming story from one of Australia’s best teams for creating picture books, and both French and Whatley have crafted words and images that cut to the core of what we really remember and celebrate at Christmas regardless of the time or circumstances.  That Christmas comes in many guises apart from the stereotype “perfection’ of television advertisements and programs because love and friendship and compassion can be found anywhere if we choose to look.  

After another year of COVID-19 overshadowing our lives like a black cloud,  as adults we are reminded of the irrepressible spirit and joy for life of our children who live in the moment as Joey’s belief and determination to find Christmas show us that this is a time for family, for simple things, and for delighting in the share joy of sharing and just being alive. Whether it is in the city, country, bush, beach or on the long paddock, it is those we share the time with, the things we do together and the memories we create that make Christmas uniquely special regardless of artificial trappings and trimmings. So whether it is a big party celebrating reuniting after borders open or something small and Zoomed, everyone can have a Christmas.

As always, Jackie packs so much more into her stories than just the words on the page (and Whatley has a gift for interpreting them with such insight) but regardless of the settings, her stories invariably have an underlying theme of hope and love – and that’s really all we need.