Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated









Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99


“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..


Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World











Wonders of the World

Isobel Otter

Margaux Carpenter

Little Tiger, 2018

16pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


The sub-title of this book is “An interactive tour of marvels and monuments” and indeed, that it what it is from cover to cover as it explores the wonders of both the ancient and the modern world.

More than 2000 years ago, Antipater of Sidon, a Greek writer identified seven must-see sites of the small world around Greece (world exploration was limited and the Mediterranean was seen as the centre of a flat world) and these became known as the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”, still referred to in books and quiz shows as such. However, in 2000 AD a new list was compiled from the popular votes from a list of 200 man-made landmarks and these are considered to be the seven wonders of the modern world.

All 14 are explored in this colourful, interactive lift-the-flap book beginning with a world map showing their locations and whether they are ancient or modern selections.  Each has an illustration of the building, an introduction to it and then several pertinent facts that are often hidden under a flap or other device demanding interaction.  

While Australia has no entry in the man-made wonders, it does feature in the list of natural wonders on the final endpapers, which are presided over by a magnificent pop-up Paricutin Volcano, the youngest volcano in the world.

As well as perhaps laying the seeds for future travel and discussions about why these monuments have endured,  this is one of those books that groups of young boys love to pore over and discuss, a behaviour that appears to be crucial to their reading development as they seek to discover the wonderful and the weird and out-do each other with their discoveries.  It is worth having in your collection for that alone!


Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Into the White - Scott's Antarctic Odyssey

Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey











Into the White – Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Joanna Grochowicz

A&U Children’s, 2017

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


In the early 1930s, living in the southernmost port in New Zealand, a young girl watched through her bedroom window at ships departing from the wharf heading south for Antarctica.  They fired her imagination and inspired her to learn all she could about this unknown continent and her personal hero, Robert Falcon Scott, vowing that one day she would follow in his footsteps.  This she did in 1968, becoming the first female journalist to go South and while she didn’t get to the South Pole like her hero, she did get to visit his memorial.

Dorothy Braxton - Scott's Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica, 1968

Dorothy Braxton – Scott’s Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica, 1968

Her love of the Antarctic was passed on to me, her daughter, and by the age of 10 I had already read The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a member of Scott’s final expedition. One of my earliest writing memories was deciding to write my interpretation of that expedition, and an enlightened teacher allowing me to skip all the other lessons for the day as he realised I was gripped, on a mission and interruption would have been disastrous.  He even lent me his fountain pen so I didn’t have to keep dipping a nib into the inkwell and blotching my missive.  While that essay has disappeared somewhere in the last 57 years, I still remember the comment he wrote – “This is the best essay on this topic I’ve read from a child of your age, ever!”  Although my passion for the ice in general waned as other interests took over, my mum’s remained and the stories of Scott were common conversation in our household for many years.

So to see a new book emerge focusing on the events of 1910-1913 that would bring the story to a new generation, the great grandchildren of my mum, was exciting and I knew I had to read and review it, so other children could learn about real-life derring-do just over a century ago and Miss 7 and Miss 12 could have a better understanding of what had shaped them, the legacy that has been left and be inspired to create and chase their own dreams.

Told in present-tense narrative that makes the reader feel part of the adventure, rather than an observer of facts or the consumer of a diary, it follows the journey of the Terra Nova from Dunedin’s Port Chalmers through the wild Southern Ocean and then the expedition to one of the last unconquered destinations that lured men like Robert Falcon Scott and his crew as they battled not only the extraordinarily difficult conditions with just ponies, dogs and wooden sleds but also time as they strove to be the first, knowing that Norwegian Roald Amundsen was on a similar mission coming from the other side of the Ross Ice Shelf.

The routes to the South Pole taken by Scott (green) and Amundsen (red), 1911–1912.

The routes to the South Pole taken by Scott (green) and Amundsen (red), 1911–1912.

Even though the outcome is known before reading starts -“If you’re into happy endings, you’d better look elsewhere. This story does not end well” – nevertheless the reader hopes against hope that history will be rewritten and that this band of men who so willingly followed another into the deepest of unknown territories, who never gave up on themselves or each other, would pull off a miracle like the recent rescues from that cave in Thailand.

A finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards 2018  this is one for those who like their superheroes to have been alive and real; who like to delve into a time gone by when the world was very different and who like real-life adventure.  But my copy is for two little girls who know and loved their own superhero, one who had a dream and followed it and inspired them to follow theirs. 


Blast Off!

Blast Off!

Blast Off!











Blast Off!

Shelly Unwin

Ben Wood

Random House Australia, 2018

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


Eight planets in the solar system.

spinning round and round.

Let’s climb aboard our rocket ship

and zoom off planet-bound.

Young readers can join two intrepid astronauts and their dog on this rollicking adventure around the solar system full of fun and laughter as well as facts.

Expecting to be able to fry up some bacon and eggs and make woofles, they discover “Mercury is mega-hot and closest to the sun.  You couldn’t visit Mercury, the heat would burn your bum.”

Combining clever, engaging text-in-rhyme with illustrations that add so much more to the adventure, as well as a chart at the bottom to show where each planet is in the scheme of things, this is a clever introduction to the solar system that will introduce our youngest readers to what is out there and whet their appetite to find out more. The journey back from Neptune contains more ‘formal’ facts about each planet including a brief explanation about why Pluto is no longer included as a planet.

A fun way to take a journey out of this world.


Little Dog and the Summer Holiday

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday









Little Dog and the Summer Holiday

Corinne Fenton

Robin Cowcher

Black Dog, 2017

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


“The long, lazy  days of summer holidays waited like parcels in a lucky dip” and under Little Dog’s supervision Jonathan and Annie are packing their shiny new caravan ready for the summer road trip!  From Melbourne to Sydney and back there are many places to visit and things to see – crossing the Murray River into NSW, visiting the iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox five miles from Gundagai, battling Sydney traffic to cross the Harbour Bridge, swimming at Bondi Beach, taking the ferry to Manly… but when it all comes down to it, there is one place that Little Dog likes better than any other!.

While the text alone could be that of a story today, Robin Cowcher’s gentle watercolour illustrations take this story back to the late 50s when caravans were rounded and there were no New Year’s Eve fireworks on the harbour.  Just as Little Dog and the Christmas Wish celebrated Melbourne, this new adventure celebrates Sydney.  Road trips remain a popular way to holiday for many families – mine included – and readers will have fun comparing their experiences to those of Jonathan and Annie and Little Dog.  Has anything really changed? If the story were written for 2018, what would be different?

The shape and inclusions may have changed, but has the fun?

The shape and inclusions may have changed, but has the fun?

A great story to share as students return from holidays and have their own stories to share.

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep








Car, Car, Truck, Jeep

Katrina Charman

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2018

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


There are many more ways of getting around than just the blue family car, and as the family go on a trip they see a vast array of ways to travel.

Car, car, truck, jeep,
have you any fuel?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
three tanks full.

One for the red bus,
one for the train,
and one for the pilot
in her jumbo jet plane.

Written to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep and with bright, bold illustrations, this is one for the very young that will become a favourite.  It could also be the basis of an I Spy list for that next road trip!


My Australia

My Australia

My Australia







My Australia

Julie Murphy

Garry Fleming

NLA Publishing, 2018

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


Over a century ago Dorothea Mackellar wrote her iconic poem My Country and shared the beauty of Australia’s diverse landscape as she wrote about the amazing contrasts that make it unique.  Now Julie Murphy has used a similar theme to share her interpretation of its remarkable environments and habitats from the “wild wind-carved mountains” to the “white salty foam.” 

But this version is not a collection of words to be memorised and analysed and trotted out in response to literature assignments – this is a journey around and across this country that is lavishly illustrated in almost photo-like style by wildlife artist Garry Flemming, making it both an audial and visual celebration of what is on offer.  Followed by several pages with easily-readable explanations of each of the biomes in the stories, which themselves are accompanied by photos held by the National Library of Australia, this book would not only be the perfect souvenir for the traveller but also opens up the country for those who have not yet travelled.

The final words can be the beginning of something as magnificent as this country.

Here in my country I’ll live and roam

My spirit sings here – this is my home.

But home for me is very different to the home of my family and my friends – we stretch from mountains to cities to seaside and the views from our windows are vastly different, and where we live shapes how we live.

Young children tend to see the world immediately around them as indicative of what the whole world is like, so this would be a perfect kickstart to broadening their horizons through teaming up with schools in a totally different landscape perhaps through a Travelling Teddy exchange or a Through My Window art collaboration, both of which not only connect the kids but help them to look closely at their own environment so they can share it with others elsewhere.  Where we live also shapes how we live and what we consider to be normal routines so comparing and contrasting things such as school and leisure time activities can also open doors and minds to difference. My Australia expands to become Our Australia.


The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra











The Walkabout Orchestra

Chloe Perernau

Quarto, UK, 2018

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


The orchestra have an important concert to play… but all the musicians have gone walkabout! But each has sent a postcard to  the Maestro saying where they are. So the challenge for the reader is to help him and his faithful assistant find them using the clues in those postcards.

From Reykjavik to Rio young readers will enjoy this search-and-find tour of the world that introduces them to the instruments of the orchestra as they test their powers of observation using the pictures of each in the introductory pages as a starting point.

With busy pages that test the eye (although not quite as busy as Where’s Wally?) this book encourages readers to examine the details in things rather than just glancing quickly at them and moving on.  To add to the mix there is a little yellow bird on each double-spread with his own quest that adds a further challenge.  All eventually come together in a concert hall with some interesting audience members, and for those who just can’t find them, an answer key is provided.

While this ostensibly introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, it works better as a search-and-find book which is much more fun and informative.  

A great addition for those who have pored over Where’s Wally and who are looking for a new challenge in that collaborative reading activity that is so important to emerging readers, particularly boys.





Road Trip

Road Trip

Road Trip











Road Trip

Danny Parker

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Little Hare, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


It’s a familiar scene on Australian roads – cars packed to overflowing as the family heads out on a road trip.  And, inside, the conversation is just as familiar… “How long till we get there, Dad?” “About an hour.” “How long is an hour?”

Clearly, for this father and son that’s the start of this new adventure because in clever rhyming verse Dad lists all the things that take an hour…

It’s sixty short minutes, not one moment more.

A bike ride, 

A boat trip,

Ice cream by the shore.

It’s a hammock in summer; or the park with the dogs.

It’s a snuggle in winter; hot chocolate with rugs…

But as the drive continues from the city through magnificent countryside his son gets more and more frustrated urging his dad to go faster.  But Dad is quite content to stick to the speed limit and enjoy the journey as the scenery unfolds.  Until finally…

This story will be familiar to most families who have ever undertaken a journey that goes beyond the regular routine of shops, schools and sportsgrounds.  Parents will relate to the joy of just getting away from those clogged, crowded roads and breathing the country air, while their children will be full of the excitement and anticipation of the destination and couldn’t care about the journey.  And why does it always take longer to get there than it does to get home?  And how long is an hour anyway? What are the fun things that a family does that fill in an hour?

Apart from the charming illustrations which bring the journey to life for the adult reader but which tend to show the countryside as somewhat bland and featureless as a child sees it, illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom has cleverly added some ideas in the endpages which suggest ways that child passengers might like to engage with the journey- making maps, writing a journey, recording a diary (although the concept of a cassette tape might baffle)… Anything other than “I Spy” or playing video games …  This grandma who lives 90 minutes through the countryside from her granddaughters just might have to get creative. Perhaps a scavenger hunt looking through the car windows, or a count-the-clouds competition…

A CBCA Notable for 2018, it is worthy of that honour.  


Thomas & Friends Character Encyclopedia

Thomas & Friends Character Encyclopedia

Thomas & Friends Character Encyclopedia












Thomas & Friends Character Encyclopedia

Julia March & Rona Skene

DK Publishing, 2018

180oo., hbk., RRP $A129.99


One might wonder if the Reverend Wilbert Awdrey  ever thought that the stories about trains that he created in 1943 to amuse his son Christopher while he recovered from measles would still be creating such interest and joy all these years later.  While there are photos of him with the realisation of his creations not long before his death in 1997, 20 years on the characters and stories about them are as popular as ever.

Now, in this new release from DK, little ones are able to learn more about the Island of Sodor, its trusty railway system run by The Fat Controller and each of the steam engines he is in charge of, each with the common goal of being Really Useful.  There is the Steam Team comprising Thomas the Tank Engine,   Edward the Blue Engine, Henry the Green Engine, Gordon the Big Engine, James the Red Engine, Percy the Small Engine,Toby the Tram Engine and Emily the Stirling Single Engine as well as Harold the Helicopter, Sir Topham Hatt, and all the other steam engines, diesels, vehicles, and characters from Sodor.

Each has its own entry describing where they fit in, what they do and a lot of other information and photographs that will make them come alive for the young reader.  

Not only would this be a great addition to the home library of the young Thomas fan who can begin to relate to books as being sources of information as well as imagination using both the contents and index to find their favourites, but at this time of the year with thousands of littlies starting big school for the first time, it is a familiar link between the familiarity of home and preschool and this new, often overwhelming world that they are venturing into.  A display of Family Favourites featuring all those familiar faces was a top priority for the first few weeks of school and this one, with its cute little Thomas that rolls along the top of the book, would be the perfect addition.