Song of the River

Song of the River

Song of the River










Song of the River

Joy Cowley

Kimberly Andrews

Gecko Press, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


High in the mountains where he lives, Cam tells his grandfather that he wishes he could see the sea and his grandfather promises to take him there “one day.”

But as winter turns to spring and the snows begin to melt, Cam watches a trickle of water running through the pine trees, water that splashed and sang in the voice of the snow, 
Come with me. Come with me. I will take you to the sea.” And unable to resist its song, Cam follows it and begins a journey that broadens his horizons in so many ways.

The beautiful, lyrical words of one of New Zealand’s premier authors for children, Joy Cowley and the stunning, detailed, muted illustrations of Kimberly Andrews which echo both the high country of New Zealand and the Canada of her childhood come together in what is indeed a song of the river.  With a text that builds much like the river itself, rises to a crescendo and then returns to its original melody like a piece of music, this is indeed an aptly named story both in content and style. It lends itself to all sorts of mapping activities, more than just the physical journey of the trickle to the sea. Even exploring why the author named it “Song of the River” rather than “Story of the River” will open up the beauty of the language and the build-up of the journey.

With a landscape very different from those of the illustrations, and much of the country in one of the worst drought’s ever, this is an ideal book to begin an investigation of Australia’s rivers and compare their origins and uses to those of the river in the story.  A search of the NDLRN using Scootle will bring up a number of units of work focusing on the Murray-Darling Basin such as A Sense of Place (TLF ID R11374) (written by me for Year 3-4 but which could be adapted for both age and situation) that could be the perfect companions to maximise the impact of this book.


Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay


Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay












Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Alexandra Stewart

Joe Todd-Stanton

Bloomsbury, 2019

64pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99


Prior to the lunar landing 50 years ago, climbing to the top of Everest was seen as perhaps the greatest physical feat that had been achieved.

In the late morning of May 29th 1953, the sun was shining brightly on the roof of the world, a gentle breeze was blowing and two men were there to witness it for the first time ever … Their names were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and the roof of the world was Everest.

This is the breathtaking story of how two very different yet equally determined men battled frost-biting temperatures, tumbling ice rocks, powerful winds and death-defying ridges to climb the world’s highest mountain. Join these two unlikely heroes on the most amazing of adventures and discover the impact of hundreds of men and women that helped Hillary and Tenzing achieve their goal. But triumphs can be marred with tragedy as not everyone who climbs Everest survives …

With a  foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, this  book combines fresh and contemporary illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton with Alexandra Stewart’s captivating writing and has been published to concide with the celebrations of f Edmund Hillary‘s birth in New Zealand on January 20, 1919. This unique narrative tells the story of how Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their mark on the world from birth right up to their final days and the impact they’ve had on Nepal today.

Perhaps because Sir Edmund became a friend of my mother’s and once took her down Aoraki (Mt Cook in New Zealand) on the back of a skidoo so she could be home in time for my birthday, Everest has always held a fascination for me. So to learn about the story behind the climb that made him a household name at a time when New Zealand was not, has been a most fascinating read.

Something to capture the imagination of those who like their superheroes to be real.

Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Children's Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]










Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Maps

Steve Evans

Collins/Times, 2019

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


In all my years of teaching (nearly half a century!) either as a classroom-based teacher or a teacher librarian, it has never ceased to amaze me how little ones are fascinated by maps and atlases and they pore over them for hours, dreaming dreams and making plans for the future.  I remember as a youngster spending endless hours with an atlas mapping out a route around the world that would take me to every capital city, and surprisingly (not) that atlas is now among my treasured possessions inherited from my wanderlust mum, (along with an amazing dictionary that got just as much attention!)

So there is no doubt that this new atlas for young children will have the same sort of fascination for your young readers. 

Designed to take children on a journey of discovery around the countries of the world, it begins with intriguing endpapers of the world’s wildlife and then plots a contents journey around the continents that is perfect for its target audience.  Funky, colourful illustrations  depict a range of themes of the iconic features of countries, building up a hankering to see these in real life when they are older.  Minimal text provides basic information and there are the usual non fiction features like an index to help them navigate their way through the book as well as around the world.

Guaranteed to provide hours of engagement and entertainment! 

William Bee’s Wonderful World Of Trains, Boats And Planes

William Bee's Wonderful World Of Trains, Boats And Planes

William Bee’s Wonderful World Of Trains, Boats And Planes











William Bee’s Wonderful World Of Trains, Boats And Planes

William Bee

Pavilion, 2019

48pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


“Once upon a time , the only way for people to get around was by walking, or on the back of a horse, or in some sort of contraption that was pulled by a horse. And then along came…”

Young readers who are fascinated by transport can join the lovable William Bee as he and his dog and a collection of traffic cones wander through the world and history of trains, boats and planes. Part true and part imaginary , his adventures are based on actual facts and these are woven into the narrative to make an engaging story that educates and entertains. With its humour and bright detailed illustrations, young readers have much to pore over and discover and perhaps even be inspired to design their own craft. 

This is one of a series of three – William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trucks and William Bee’s Wonderful World Of Tractors And Farm Machines that would sit very well within a unit on transport and travel.


Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six









Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Jane Godwin

A. Yi

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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


Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself. 
‘We won’t know where you are!’ cried his father.
‘I’ll know where you are,’ said Ivanhoe. ‘And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!’

This is a touching story about the young child’s need to push the boundaries and explore the world beyond the grip of their mother’s hand or the garden gate.  Ivanhoe’s parents understand this and are prepared to let him go, but knowing that some of the things he will see and the people he will meet might not be as nice as they are, they ensure that he knows he is loved and is always welcome home. 

Go well, as you travel, over the world as you roam…

But if you grow weary of your journey, then let the sea bring you home.

So armed with his bag , a hat and a pencil, the map from his wall, his kite and the songs in his head, he sets off on his adventure.  And sure enough he meets the nice and not-so-nice, braves the woods and sees the ocean  but when his kite. now battered and tattered, is taken by the wind, he knows it’s time to head home.

Young children will resonate with Ivanhoe’s desire to see the world and be inspired to create their own journeys, but will their parents be as trusting as Ivanhoe’s?


Amazing Transport

Amazing Transport

Amazing Transport











Amazing Transport

Tom Jackson

Chris Mould

Bloomsbury, 2019

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“Every day, all over the world, people are busy travelling – short hops or great, long voyages, moving slowly and steadily or racing along at super-fast speeds,  They make their trips in cars, trains, planes, ships and on bikes – and some people even blast off in rockets!”

People have always sought ways to make travelling easier and this book traces the development of some of the most popular methods of travel including the first canoes of over 7000 years ago, the earliest railway of the Ancient Greeks and the Chinese invention of rocket power 700 years before the birth of Christ. 

Each mode of transport is presented first with an amazingly detailed timeline that wends its way across the double-spread like a huge maze, full of monochromatic cartoon characters and comments, and then as snippets of critical information in a second double-spread that expand on some of the key developments, often focusing on unusual events that have almost been forgotten over time. . It is a unique presentation that will appeal to those who want to know the basics but not be swamped and it is one of those books that young boys will pore over together and talk about, a critical part of their literacy development.  It will also appeal to those who need to know but whose skills are still challenged by large amounts of text, perhaps encouraging them to find out more. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

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.