Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra

Camp Canberra











Camp Canberra

Krys Saclier

Cathy Wilcox

Wild Dog, 2022

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


About this time of the year excitement begins to ramp up as students anticipate their school excursion to the national capital, Canberra – perhaps even moreso as there is a federal election due and government, its purpose, politics and people become a curriculum focus.  And so it is with the Mount Mayhem Primary School students, as readers are reunited with Farrel, Kira and Jack who introduced them to the mysteries of Australia’s preferential voting system in Vote 4 Me

Written in a diary format, the class has been divided into three groups – the Menzies, the Gillards, and the Holts, names worth investigating in themselves – and each visits a number of Canberra’s attractions including

Using Wilcox’s signature cartoon characters overlaid on to photographs of each location, this is a thumbnail tour of what to see in this city that makes it unique as the nation’s capital – having spent 30years living and teaching there, each was familiar so it became a trip down memory lane.

Thus the quiz at the end was rather easy but what wasn’t included is that under PACER, (Parliament and Civics Education Rebate) those students who come from more than 150km (calculated by road using the “most favourable” routes) can have their costs subsidised provided their visit includes an educational tour of Parliament House and where possible, an immersive learning program with the Parliamentary Education Office, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House, and the Australian War Memorial.

Any excursion sparks excitement as it is a break from the ordinary routine of things and IMO, those who come to Canberra should also include a trip to the top of Telstra Tower (although it is temporarily closed for refurbishment) or Mt Ainslie so the layout of this planned city with Walter Burley Griffin‘s vision of the National Triangle and the lake at its heart can be clearly seen.

Teachers beyond the realm of Canberra cannot be expected to know their way around this city nor the must-see destinations or even the fun recreational places like Commonwealth Park and other playgrounds  (my favourite is Boundless Park in the centre built for all ages and abilities)  on offer where kids can just romp and play so this book offers a valuable introduction so the itinerary can be planned so everyone gets the most from it. While there are teachers’ notes to accompany the book itself. hopefully the links in this review will add a little more to the physical experience. 

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip











An Amazing Australian Road Trip

Jackie Hosking

Lesley Vamos

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


We’re travelling from Melbourne on a birthday trip west, our aunty is sixty and we’re off on a quest

She’s keen for a picnic and fancies a view, a cake and a loud “Happy Birthday to You!”

So off they go with their 4WD loaded to the hilt, the most magnificent birthday cake taking pride of place on the roof rack.  But despite circumnavigating the country, including Tasmania, and visiting significant scenic and cultural attractions  in each state and territory, Aunty cannot find the perfect picnic spot until…

In my review of Ancient Wonders  I suggested that families could use it as an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard, and here it has been laid out already.  Iconic destinations such as The Twelve Apostles, Coober Pedy, Port Arthur, Kakadu, Uluru, Canberra and others have all been included in this itinerary and as well as the ongoing story of Aunty’s objections (and the very fitting ending), there are also factual notes about the significance of each.  The maps on the endpages summarise the journey so well – and any adult sharing  the story will empathise. 

So the challenge to set students, having the model in front of them, is to create a new itinerary that the family could try foe when Aunty is 65!  Differentiate the task by setting it up as either Australia-wide, state-wide or even just town-wide… what places would be perfect for a picnic celebration and why?  Even though our national borders are opening up, there is still so much to see and do in our own country.  By sharing their plans, students may discover new places in their own back yard! 

To me, the best picture books are those that set the reader up for further journeys (both literally and figuratively), that have layers for them to explore and build their understandings on, those that educate as well as entertain.  This is definitely one of those and an essential addition to any collection focused on Australia’s geography. 

Grandad’s Camper

Grandad's Camper

Grandad’s Camper










Grandad’s Camper

Harry Woodgate

Andersen Press , 2022 

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


There’s nothing she loves more than to visit her Grandad, snuggle up on the sofa and listen as he tells all about the amazing places he and Gramps would explore in their camper.  But these days, Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…

This is a delightful story of a little girl’s relationship with her grandfather, a bond that those of us who have been fortunate to experience it never forget.  But this story has a twist because there is no grandma – rather there is Gramps, her grandfather’s much loved partner. And while it is a reminder that there are many definitions and designs of “family” – the rainbow flag on the camper on the cover is an indicator- it is the little girl’s complete acceptance of the situation that is heart-warming because it shows we have come a long way, albeit there is still a way to go.  So while gender diversity is not the obvious in-your-face focus of the story, it is the memories that are so inextricably bound together by Grandad’s and Gramps’ relationship that are at its heart. 

Family diversity is so widespread and little ones need to see theirs in stories, so this is another opportunity to share and celebrate. 

Atlas Of Amazing Migrations

Atlas Of Amazing Migrations

Atlas Of Amazing Migrations











Atlas Of Amazing Migrations

Megan Lee

Matt Sewell

Pavilion, 2021

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


When Australians think of animal migrations, our thoughts tend to turn to the annual whale trails up and down are coasts as whales, particularly humpbacks, make their journeys from the cold, wintery waters of Antarctica to the warmth of the South Pacific to breed and give birth and then return to their rich feeding grounds of the south. To see these magnificent creatures “in the flesh” is a lifelong memory and on the bucket list of many. 

But there are so many other creatures on this planet that also undertake amazing journeys in search of food or warmth or a mate (or all of the above) and this book, richly illustrated in watercolours by Matt Sewell, traces many of them whether they involve journeys of thousands of kilometres like the humpback, or just crossing the road, which can be treacherous if you’re a snake, or takes generations as is the case of the monarch butterfly. And even though those trips and treks can seem long and arduous, migration is in the genetic makeup and the creature is compelled to follow its instincts following magnetic fields, temperature and light as their navigation tools. Throughout the book there are maps of some of the routes taken showing the enormous distances travelled, leaving the reader in awe of the undertakings. 

More for the independent reader with an interest in natural history, nevertheless the information is accessible, straight-forward and interesting, offering the opportunity to explore particular creatures of interest further.  It is a great follow up for those wanting to know more after reading  Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths   which explores the relationship between the rare mountain pygmy possum and its food source, the bogong moth and the impact that urbanisation has had on the moths’ migration. 

It could also be a follow up tangent to any stories or units about the travels and journeys that the students have made, particularly as places start to open up again.  Add a new dimension by having students think about their purpose for travel, the preparations they made, the navigation tools they used and so forth. Could take the ‘what I did/where I went in the holidays’ staple to a whole new level.  What if they were the humpback whale or the corn leaf aphid?

So while we can and do celebrate the return of the humpbacks to our waters each year, this book teaches us that there are many who make journeys and who may also be in peril of more than a speeding car. 




Peppa Visits the Australian Rainforest

Peppa Visits the Australian Rainforest

Peppa Visits the Australian Rainforest











Peppa Visits the Australian Rainforest

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2021

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


Peppa Pig and her family are on holiday in Australia visiting her friend Kylie Kangaroo and they are all off to visit the Australian rainforest.  To guide their explorations, they have a scavenger hunt to complete and so each page has a lift-the-flap experience to discover. 

As with her other Australian adventures , this is a novel way to introduce our youngest readers to environments and the creatures that live in them that they may not be familiar with.  Combining familiar characters and the interactivity of the lift-the-flap format, preschoolers can start to develop conceptual ideas and vocabulary about Australian landscapes and habitats they are likely to encounter in other stories.  It also offers the opportunity to introduce atlases and other non fiction texts if the astute adult asks questions such as “If we wanted to visit the rainforest, where would we have to go?”  or “What other things might they have found in the rainforest?’ or even, “Why does it rain so much in the rainforest?”  There is always the opportunity to model questions that start new investigations. 


Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Our Country: Ancient Wonders











Our Country: Ancient Wonders

Mark Greenwood

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Our country is calling…

There could be no more fitting way to start a new year’s reading journey than with this stunning journey around our ancient land visiting natural wonders that date back 2.5 billion years!

From the front endpage that maps out the route to the wonders gathered in the book – Lark Quarry, Undara Lava Tubes, Lightning Ridge, Great Ocean Road, Cradle Mountain, Franklin River, Naracoorte, Lake Mungo, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Devils Marbles, Kakadu, Wolfe Creek, Bungle Bungles, Zebedee Springs – to the final one that maps adventures still to undertake we are taken on an expedition in an old tour bus that both explores and explains a handful of the features that make Australia unique. 

Each double page spread introduces a ‘new’ phenomenon in a fascinating way that makes this book so readable.

History hunter Mark Greenwood is in his element with this topic as he combines both geology and geography beginning with  a basic statement such as “Our country had a fiery past” and “Lost worlds are found in our country” which not only set the scene for the basis of the visit but create a deeper appreciation of why our First Nations people feel such a connection to Country. Then there is a broad explanation with language reminiscent of a tourist brochure as well as a brief, fact-filled paragraph about the origins of the particular beauty.  And all set against a backdrop of Frané Lessac’s stunning artwork! 

At a time when travel remains so tricky, this is a book that is a must-have in both the home and school library.  For the family, it is an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard; while in the school setting, a class could go on a new journey every few weeks!  Set teams to investigate each location in greater detail to introduce it to their peers on a year-long journey that not only explores the feature in greater depth but also helps them understand the origins of the planet’s topography and the interplay between it and the environment, again strengthening that understanding of connection to Country. The historians can delve into the land before time, scientists can dig into geology, paleontology and all the other ologies; the mathematicians can plot timelines, distances, routes…; the artists can produce posters and brochures; the storytellers can dig into the legends and retell them (or invent a new one); the environmentalists can examine the interaction between landscape, habitat and inhabitants… there is something for everyone to show and share their strengths. 

Here are some useful links to start – making yourself familiar with what’s available through Geoscience Australia could be your best move this year…

Table of Geological Periods

Geoscience Australia – Education resources

Geoscience Australia classroom resources 

Australia through Time  (map)

Australia Through Time (poster)

Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia    this is a book with each chapter available separately

Australia: an ancient land (teacher notes)

And the best news is that this is just the  first book in the Our Country series which will takes readers on even more  journeys across Australia to discover  both our unique geology and geography! A whole year’s worth of lessons sorted!! If ever there were a book that deserved the tag Australia: Story Country or even Dreaming with your eyes open – this is it. 


Inside the Suitcase

Inside the Suitcase

Inside the Suitcase










Inside the Suitcase

Clotilde Perrin

Gecko Press, 2021

20pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Away behind the hills you’ll find a charming little house. Who’s inside? Knock knock… A boy packing his suitcase. Lift the flaps to see what he takes, and travel with him over oceans and mountains, underwater and into the forest. With every step on this voyage of obstacles the boy faces a decision that will lead to a new adventure and help him get home.

Suitcases have always fascinated me because they mark the start of a journey that was always an adventure.  We could have been going to my grandma’s house on the beach or my aunty’s on the farm.  Or somewhere else entirely.  So this book really captured my imagination, particularly with its layers and layers of lift-the-flap opportunities to explore and follow. Within each are the most unlikely tricks and treasures that help the boy to go full circle, rather like Alice in Wonderland, and the end is a surprise – although the reader imagines it will only be for a short time.  

While we usually associate this sort of format with stories for the very young, this one is more for the independent reader as not only is the font in cursive, but it uses the technique to unveil the action, rather than words.  As a shared story between parent and child, it would be so much fun.  And then they could track down its predecessor Inside the Villains, and explore inside the heads of an ogre, a wolf and a witch!

As many of our young readers demand the special effects of screen-based stories, Clotilde Perrin demonstrates that is it can be just as intriguing exploring the possibilities of print! 

Mr Men Little Miss in Australia

Mr Men Little Miss in Australia

Mr Men Little Miss in Australia











Mr Men Little Miss in Australia

Roger Hargreaves

Mr Men, 2021

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


Mr Topsy-Turvy is very excited – the Mr Men and Little Miss are heading  ‘up over’ . Little Miss Somersault is a little confused and then she realises he means Down Under. 

There is much to discover when they arrive in Sydney and make their way around the coast to visit the iconic sites, sights and scenery – Little Miss Somersault is excited about a game of cricket, Mr Tall is keen to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Mr Silly thinks he might enter the Melbourne Cup -before they head inland to the centre.

It’s 40 years since little ones were first introduced to these bold characters created by Roger Hargreaves, wrapped in their distinctive packaging of a bold block-colour illustration on a white background in a book the perfect size for little hands. Even after his death in 1988, his son Adam continued what his father started and the characters are as popular now as they were all those years ago.  So to have the whole crew come to Australia and go places and do things that will resonate with so many of our young readers is just perfect, setting them up to be fans and ensuring lots of reading ahead as all the previous titles remain available. With the characters being readily recognisable each time because of their consistent shape and colour,,their personalities reflected in their name and the antics they get up to told in a distinctive direct, unfussy narrative style,, even our youngest readers can develop and bring knowledge to new reads, so they will be pleased that Mr Wrong is still getting it wrong when he swims between the wrong flags and Mr Silly ends the story in a silly way.  

As parents and grandparents, we must never underestimate the power of sharing stories like this with our littlies, particularly if they are those we ourselves enjoyed.  The connections that that makes to the adult, the story  and literature is general are multi-faceted. Loving the books our parents loved can set us up for life. 















Neridah McMullin

Sarah Anthony

Walker Books, 2021

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


In 1889, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson in his tribute to the iconic Clancy of the Overflow, wrote…

In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And in this stunning book those pleasures are brought to life by the lyrical text and the evocative illustrations as the reader joins Drover on the trail as the herd of bullocks are moved over the vast interior of this country.  Even though each day seems to be a repeat of the routine of the one before it, the ever-changing land and sky scapes make each unique and enjoyable, even though they are bone-weary and saddle-sore and a tiny bandicoot spooks the flighty Shifty so the whole herd stampedes. 

But there is a twist in this tale – for it is only once they have wheeled the bullocks into Dajarra to the thrill of the gathered crowd, after thousands of kilometres and six months on the trail that the identity of “Drover” is revealed to be Edna Jessop, a real-life character and Australia’s first female boss drover who took this herd from WA to Queensland in 1950 after her father fell ill.  

Droving cattle is not just a part of this country’s history, but also its present as during recent droughts many farmers have been forced to send their stock out onto the long paddock,  the term given to the travelling stock routes that traverse outback Australia. Many has been the time when we have slowed to pass the herds as they graze the verges of the highway, drovers and dogs on high alert as the traffic passes within metres.  So as well as celebrating the remarkable story of Edna Jessop, it also opens up another avenue of exploration to explain where we have come from, perhaps even inspiring them to plan a family journey to discover those pleasures that Paterson, Clancy and Edna all experienced.   

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael











The Song of Lewis Carmichael

Sofie Lsguna

Marc McBride

Allen & Unwin, 2021

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.

But one day, while reading in the park, Matthew befriends a crow with a broken wing and that night  Lewis Carmichael taps on Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything… A hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic and now Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.

Parents looking for quality stories to slip into their child’s Christmas stocking this year are spoiled for choice – and this new one from Sofie Laguna is no exception.  Matthew is that quiet child, withdrawn, unable to make friends who prefers to read and make friends with the characters in his books because he feels like he doesn’t belong that so many parents and teachers will recognise. But, to my knowledge, none of those I know have befriended a crow, particularly one that can talk, and get taken on such an extraordinary adventure… Yet, this is so well-written and so delicately illustrated (the Aurora Borealis spread is exquisite) that it is utterly believable and the reader is swept up in the adventure. And while he is away, this child of helicopter parents has to learn to be resilient, independent, decisive, courageous and confident – all those things that we want for our children but are sometimes too afraid to let them develop. 

Presented entirely in a blue monochromatic scheme, including the text, this is one that is either a read-alone for independent readers, a read-together between parent and child as the perfect bedtime story or a read-aloud with a class and the opportunity to explore a mysterious land with Matthew.