David Walliams

Tony Ross 

HarperCollins, 2021

384pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

. On a volcanic island, in the middle of shark-infested waters, stands The Cruel School. The lessons are appalling, the school dinners are revolting and the teachers are terrifying – especially the mysterious Science teacher Doctor Doktur.

When Larker is sent to the school, she quickly realises something very odd is going on… something involving Doctor Doktur, a pair of strange spectacles, and a ‘Monsterfication Machine’. And ultimately she finds herself face to face with a real life Megamonster.

There seems to be no escape – but for Larker, nothing is impossible…

Walliams has previously said that his current writing for children is done to put a smile on the face of his readers, and while this book appears somewhat dark from its synopsis. nevertheless it is a prime example of Walliams knowing his audience and what they want to read.  Using predominantly dialogue and a range of graphic techniques,  it is easily accessible to the newly independent reader and my informal research shows that Walliams is the go-to author at this time, particularly for boys.  

  One to suggest to your students in lockdown – it’s readily available online – or one to save to welcome them back. 


There’s Something Weird About Lena

There's Something Weird About Lena

There’s Something Weird About Lena










There’s Something Weird About Lena

Sigi Cohen

James Foley

Walker Books, 2020

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


On my first day back at school I met a girl called Lena. Every time she acted mean she laughed like a hyena.

But it is not only Lena’s laugh that is weird – look closely at the illustrations and you will see the reason for it. Lena loves playing pranks and gets great delight in seeing others’ humiliation and fear. But finally the others have had enough and decide to play a prank on Lena…

Given the number of storybooks I’ve read over the years, I expected to discover that Lena had some sort of social impediment that hampered her interaction with other children and that this would be resolved through friendship, kindness and understanding so when this is not the case it was a big surprise.  Lena probably does have issues with socialising but whatever they are, she’s content to continue being mean and scaring the children, and the readers. It seems she is happy to be different, on the outer and disliked (although the teacher in me wonders if it’s a case of hurting before being hurt.) Perhaps there could be some discussion and speculation about why she is like she is, just to  help the students understand that there are always reasons for behaviour, and it is not a surface thing. 

Created by the duo who also created My Dead Bunny about a zombie rabbit, told in Cohen’s signature rhyming text and illustrated in a monochromatic palette with splashes of bright orange, this is one for those who love horror, unexplained weirdness and all things gross! Probably a perfect bedtime read for tonight given the restrictions on Halloween activities and one that might introduce a new genre to those craving a bit more than the usual in their stories.