Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby









Pea Pod Lullaby

Glenda Millard

Stephen Michael King

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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


I am the lullaby

You are the melody

Sing me

It starts like a gentle lullaby, perhaps a story you would share with your very youngest children to help them slip into sleep at the end of a long happy day.  But turn the page and a different story emerges from this remarkable collaboration between author and illustrator that grew as a special project at the Manning Regional Art Gallery in NSW.

The first hint that this is not a traditional lullaby comes when you turn the page and you are confronted by the image of a baby being passed into a tiny boat despite the stormy sea, safe into the arms of a young boy, while high on the rugged, isolated cliff barbed wire tangles it way down, clearly designed to prevent such departures. Yet despite this ominous scenery, the words evoke a feeling of trust, safety and comfort…

I am the small green pea

You are the tender pod 

Hold me.

This message of security and belief that there will be protection threads throughout the rest of the story in its gentle, lyrical text and despite the pictures portraying a somewhat different, more threatening story, the inclusion of the red bird constantly with them and appearing somewhat like the dove from Noah’s Ark towards the end of the journey is reassuring.  

The symbolism is strong  – a polar bear found floating on a fridge is taken on board and returned to its family with the help of the whales, the boat expanding to accommodate all shows that this is a story about the planet, not just its people – and all the while the little peapod boat sails on towards it destination regardless of the sea’s moods, just as love carries us all through life. While the final stanza – I am the castaway, you are the journeys end. welcome me – might suggest the story is over, the final pages and the endpapers show that this is a bigger story than that of the family in that little boat. 

While the family in the boat give a focus to those who find literally launching themselves into and onto the great unknown a better prospect than staying where they are, this is about that uniquely human emotion of hope – the family believe they will reach a better destination and they will be welcomed with warmth and compassion and even in their midst of their own struggle they find the wherewithal to help others, just as they hope they would be helped.

There are teachers’ notes available that take this so much deeper than any review can, but don’t be surprised to see this amongst the CBCA Book of the Year winners in 2018.

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros










Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Meg McKinlay

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, Australia, 2017

3299., hbk., RRP $A24.99



While her family and friends wallowed in the mud and bathed in the sun and did all the other things that rhinoceroses do, the little rhinoceros gazed at the boats sailing past on the nearby river and dreamed…

“Don’t you wish that you could see the world?” she asked the others.

But they were not dreamers  or adventurers – they had everything that a rhinoceros needs right there and told the little rhinoceros so.  “You belong here”, they told her. 

However that didn’t stop the little rhinoceros dreaming and one day she began to put her plans in action.  First, she gathered the things she needed to make a boat blocking out the negative comments of the older rhinoceroses, and one day all the mud-wallowing, grass-grazing, tree-scratching, sun-bathing rhinoceroses gathered in alarm as they watched her sail out of sight…

As soon as I picked up this story it resonated with me.  It could have been the story of my mum who watched the ships leave Bluff, her home town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, headed not just for the vast oceans of the world but also the Antarctic.  And her heart was captured, her hope stirred and her determination to follow in their wake cemented.  Despite all the comments about where she belonged, what she as a child of the 1940s should be doing, the belief that Antarctica was a men-only domain, she “built her own boat” and in 1968 she sailed south too – the first female journalist to do so, a trailblazer for women in both Antarctic exploration and journalism.  Its publication on the 3rd  anniversary of her death is particularly poignant.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Others will write about the literary and artistic merits of this book – I just adore it because of its power to show that stick-in-the-muds can stay stuck; nay-sayers can be ignored and that dreams can come true.  This is one I will be sharing over and over with my grandchildren who were privileged to know their great-gran and to be inspired by her.


Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile










Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95



Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring










Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Hannah Barnaby

Andrew Joyner

HarperCollins Children’s, 2017

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


Garcia the Rabbit and Colette the Fox cannot agree on where they want to go exploring – Garcia is fixated on space while Colette wants to see the sea.  With no agreement in sight they agree to go their separate ways.  Garcia builds a snazzy, silver rocket while Colette makes a gold and glorious submarine.  Packing peanut butter sandwiches, a notebook, a pen and their lucky charms, each heads off on their own adventure. 

But is exploring new and exciting places all that much fun when you don’t have your best friend by your side?

Cleverly written and illustrated so that each character remains connected despite their physical separation, this is a charming story of friendship and compromise that will appeal to a broad range – those who love the sea and those who love space.  Is there a middle ground and how can it be reached? A great way to introduce the art of negotiation and seeking win-win solutions while younger children can have fun contributing to murals of what each friend saw on their travels.    

Rose’s Red Boots

Rose's Red Boots

Rose’s Red Boots










Rose’s Red Boots

Maura Finn

Karen Erasmus

New Frontier, 2017

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


It’s a perfect Autumn day with fairy-floss clouds and a gentle breeze – ideal for pulling on your red boots, taking your dog and heading off to the open spaces to fly a kite.  

So that’s exactly what Rose and Banjo do – her little red boots marching, marching, marching merrily on their way. 

And what’s Autumn without playing in the leaves so your little red boots can be crunching, crunching, crunching to hear that crunching sound?

Rose and Banjo have a wonderful time exploring the sights and sounds of this season, all the time experiencing the sensations through those little red boots.  And when that beautiful blue sky turns threatening and rain and thunder and lightning shatter the idyll, they are still there to go racing, racing, racing…

Miss 6 adored this story as she has little red boots that she loves to pull on and go exploring and we had lots of fun investigating all the sorts of actions and sounds her boots could make on a particularly cold frosty morning.  Her favourite was the creaking, squeaking, creaking as she stomped on the ice in a frozen-solid puddle watching it splinter and crack as her boots sank into the muddy water beneath. That was closely followed by the thunking, clunking as she kicked them off ready to come into the warm for hot pikelets and jam!

The stunning illustrations capture the sights and sounds of Autumn perfectly and little people will enjoy not only recognising those they are familiar with but also anticipating what they can do the next time they pull their own little red boots on.   Both text and illustrations reinforce the idea that the journey is as important as the destination and there is fun and wonder to be had everywhere. The refrain encourages them to join in predicting what sound or action the boots will make as they extend their vocabulary and really engage with the story.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of Autumn being a time to wrap up in coats and hats and boots and go scrunching in the leaves, they might like to think about what their little red boots would do. while those who can relate might think about what the little red boots might do and see if the story were written in winter .

A great introduction to exploring the changing of the seasons.



Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse









Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Richard Jones

Libby Walden

Caterpillar, 2017

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


Living in a bustling town is exhausting for a little mouse and she dreams of a quiet place in the country.  So she writes to her country cousin to see if she can visit for a while, swapping homes so they each have a holiday..  Country Mouse is very excited because he has always wanted to be “a mouse about town.” But things are not quite as wonderful as they expect and neither is sorry when their holiday is over and it’s time to go HOME.

This traditional fable from Aesop has been retold in rhyme, bringing its powerful message of what it means to be home and to belong to a new generation.  Cleverly illustrated with a gentle palette and strategic cutouts it’s a story that has endured over time because of its timeless message of “the grass always seems greener” .  Little ones can have fun imagining what it might be like to live the life of their hero or in another place, but then also reflect on the things they would miss if they were really able to make the swap.

A classic.

A Canadian Year – Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada's Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids









A Canadian Year -Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

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


Continuing this fabulous series which includes A Kiwi Year , An Aussie Year and a host of others, young children are introduced to the children of Canada.  There is Chloe, who speaks both French and English; Oki who is Inuit, Ava who is of Chinese heritage; Liam of Scottish heritage and Noah whose dream is to place ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks – kids just like those found in every classroom in Australia but whose lives are subtly different because of their geographic location.  Whoever heard of it being -30° in January and instead of being at the beach kids are skiing, skating and sledding?  And as we currently shiver through early winter and another Big Wet, it’s hard to imagine there are children on summer vacation for two months, kayaking, salmon fishing in the ocean, swimming, camping in the wilderness and visiting Santa’s Summer House just outside Toronto.  If nothing else, and there is SO much more, students will learn about the seasons being somewhat different in the northern hemisphere.

Offered as vignettes for each month, young children learn that there are places beyond their immediate horizons and there are kids who do things that are a bit different but overall, despite the timeframe, they enjoy and do the same things as kids everywhere so there is more that binds than divides. 

Intercultural understanding is a mandated part of the Australian Curriculum so that students “understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture” and this series is the perfect way to start this with young children whose concepts of the world are just developing. 

As usual, there is the is a double-page spread featuring intriguing facts and figures which just invite comparisons with Australia – if ‘Canada” comes from ‘kanata’ meaning village, where does “Australia” come from? If Canada is the world’s second-largest country, what is the largest?  What’s the difference between large as in area and large as in population? While teachers’ notes are available, the children themselves will generate enough questions to drive their own investigations. 

Why not use it as a model for a class calendar, highlighting the important events of each child’s life in each month visually exploring the unity and the diversity and promoting an important bond of belonging and acceptance so that lives and heritage are celebrated.  Create a wall display for each month and invite the children to contribute to it, and then compare what is happening with other children in other parts of the world using this series as the key resource.

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook






Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook



Dangers and Emergencies




Maps and Navigation


Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99


Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge









The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls


128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  


Caterpillar Dreams

Caterpillar Dreams

Caterpillar Dreams










Caterpillar Dreams

Clive McFarland

Harper, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Henri is a little caterpillar with a big ambition.  He wants to fly and go on an amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventure to see the world outside his garden.  But how can such a little caterpillar make such a huge dream come true?

His friends want him to stay where he is – safely in the garden with them.  But Toad tells if if he doesn’t chase his dreams, they will get away.  And so with the help of other friends like Bird, Mole, and Fish he is on his way.  But it is not until he sees a tethered hot air balloon that he believes his amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventure will begin.  If he can get to the top he is sure he will be able to see the whole wide world.  But as he begins to crawl up the ropes, something happens to him and he finds himself shackled and sleepy.  And then when he wakes…

This is a charming story that will appeal to young readers, especially those who know the life cycle of butterflies and can predict what will happen to Henri.  But it is also an inspiring story about believing in yourself, having a dream and making it happen, even if it means stepping w-a-y outside your comfort zone.  It’s ending is comforting – knowing that there is nearly always a safe haven we can return to.  It is a soft, gentle story cleverly echoed in the soft gentle palette and is a perfect bedtime read as children snuggle down to their own dreams.














Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2016

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


Most of the time Gary is like all the other racing pigeons in the loft.  He eats what they do, sleeps with them and is always dreaming of adventures.   He even keeps a scrapbook based on the information they share with him after a race because that’s where Gary is different.  He doesn’t go on the races because he cannot fly. He listens to everything they say and records it in his scrapbook – he has notes about wind speed and directions, stop off points and flight paths. as well as a lot of other stuff they collect for him.

So when one day Gary accidentally finds himself far from home, his scrapbook comes in very handy. His brain becomes more important than his wings and suddenly he has adventures of his own to share that the other pigeons envy.

This is an engaging and clever combination of text and illustrations that require the reader to really interact with them in order to discover how Gary solved his problem. The reason for Gary’s disability is not disclosed – it could be physical or emotional – suggesting that it is not important; what is important is that he overcomes it and leads a full and happy life.  In fact, as in real life often, his adventures inspire others.  Gary, in his cute striped beanie and the racing pigeons in the red-hot jumpers will quickly become favourites with young readers – it deserves to be part of the CBCA 2017 shortlist for Early Childhood..