Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash










Hickory Dickory Dash

Tony Wilson

Laura Wood

Scholastic Press, 2018

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


Mother Mouse  – the one in the rhyme, the one that climbed the clock at one, then ran back down – is frantic with worry and in a desperate hurry to find her two bold sons.  They had been playing outside in the moonlight when the cat pounced quite unannounced and they scarpered for safety.  Now  Mother Mouse is searching the house for them with the cat hot on her tail.

Where can they be?  They are not in the playroom or the kitchen; not the pantry or the garage or even the backyard.  Every room in the house is visited in this desperate dash,  as wherever she searches the cat is there, ready to pounce but being bamboozled each time  either by mouse savvy, swiftness or circumstance.  

Finally, exhausted and sobbing after two hours of searching, Mother Mouse sits on the verandah almost without hope – and then she has an idea…

Even if this hadn’t been selected for the 2018 National Simultaneous Storytime  it would have been an automatic hit with a wide range of readers.  As with his first book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon Wilson has drawn on a familiar nursery rhyme and given it new life with his own twist and message of perseverance and the lengths a parent goes to for the love of their children. Clever rhymes move the story along at a dashing pace and with the cat in hot pursuit, the reader wonders if this will have a happy ending.  As well as the suspense there is also humour – the cat’s fate in the nursery will produce a LOL moment- as each time Mother Mouse narrowly escapes a horrible fate.  Laura Woods’ illustrations  use so many different perspectives  that we can feel Mother Mouse’s fear as well as using light and shade cleverly to bring the house at midnight alive and  put critical elements in focus. 

Suggestions for using the story as part of NSS 2018 are available but as May 23 draws closer there are bound to be more and more available as it lends itself to many facets of the curriculum, including maths.  But even without formal curriculum-related activities, this is just a rollicking read that is likely to become raucous as the children are drawn into to its almost vaudeville-like humour.  Watch out, Mother Mouse!


Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back










Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


The 15 students in Room 12B are not happy.  As they walk into class, they discover the aptly-named Miss frost writing a list of rules on the board, none of which inspire positive behaviour but promise dire consequences for the opposite.  “Discipline is the new order” is her mantra and she further inspires their love and co-operation (not) by handing out 11 pages of handwriting exercises, and then walks around criticising everyone’s efforts. 

The class that had been labelled misfits and miserables who were just beginning to blossom and bloom with their quirky but beloved Mr Bambuckle, fired by Principal Sternblast, started to shrink back as though they had been sprayed with weedkiller. 

But Vex Vron has a plan and it’s time to put it into action… but he will need the help of his classmates and their particular and peculiar powers.

Readers who took a shine to Mr Bambuckle in the first of this new series will be glad to see him making a quick comeback – is there anything worse than having to wait a year for a sequel?- while others might be comparing their new year’s teacher with him and wishing they could be in 12B too! Ideal for independent readers with its humour, identifiable characters, short chapters, copious illustrations and other inserts that break up the text, this series is a perfect read-aloud to break the ice of the new school year and to encourage even reluctant readers that there is much fun to be had between the covers of books – they just have to open them!

Great thing that the ending of this one sets things up perfectly for yet another sequel.


Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose









Freaks on the Loose

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


When you pick up a book that not only has Leigh Hobbs’ name on the front cover but also a warning to the reader that if they see the characters within they should report them to the Education Department and run, as well as another to prospective teachers to reconsider their career choice, then you know you have a gem in your hands – one that your students are going to love.

Populated with the most amazing and diverse Year 4 students that a teacher could ever dread to have, Freaks on the Loose is a combination of 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy! In typical Hobbs’ style with compelling line drawings and minimal text he sets out to portray the class from hell, drawing on people he has met over time to create a novel that will appeal to all those who share his quirky sense of humour and like a bit of subversion.  He admits that he likes to go into bat for the underdog and while his characters may be somewhat extreme in their portrayal, underneath there is something that we can all relate to, all having felt freakish at some stage in our lives.

As the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016-2017, Hobbs did a magnificent job of spreading the word about the critical importance of reading, of reaching out to those for whom stories might not be entertaining or accessible, of showing that print is just as entertaining as the screen, and in this collection of two of his funniest books, he is spreading his message to even the most reluctant readers in our classes.


Don’t Leap, Larry

Don't Leap, Larry

Don’t Leap, Larry










Don’t Leap, Larry

John Briggs

Nicola Slater

Pavilion, 2017

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


Lemmings are small rodents that live in the Arctic regions and are best known popularly known for the misconception that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs, So when one little lemming decides to stand out from the crowd and not do as they do, there is great confusion and consternation.

This little lemming, who wants to be known as Larry, does not want to look like, sound like or act like his peers. When he is asked if he would jump over a cliff, he says, “No, ” but fronting up wearing a mask and fins just in case he has to.  Instead of digging a tunnel to keep warm, Larry goes sledging with the puffins; while the others squeak and squeal be plays bongos with the seals; and while they nibble moss from under a rock he prefers pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and hot sauce!  He is certainly a very different lemming who stands out from the crowd.

So when the other lemmings call a meeting and unanimously decide that all lemmings should be the same, Larry knows it is time for him to move on.  But he finds life with his other friends a little different from his expectations – sometimes the grass is not always greener.  Is there a new and better life for Larry or is he doomed to join them on that inevitable, fatal leap over the cliff?

Humour and appealing illustrations which begin with the front cover with Larry firmly attached to a parachute as he leaps off the cliff make for a quirky tale that nevertheless has a strong message about remaining true to yourself and encouraging others to question, interpret and think for themselves too.   A great discussion starter about being individuals even in a culture that has children dressing alike, looking alike and learning alike. 


The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files







Life of the Party


Game Changer


Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems










Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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


Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not. 


The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse












The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2017

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


When the wolf swallows the mouse, Mouse is very surprised to find that his cries of woe wake Duck who is safely ensconced in bed and trying to sleep.  Because it is dark in the wolf’s tummy, the difference between daylight and darkness can’t be discerned but when Duck discovers it is morning he declares it is breakfast time and produces the first of many surprises for Mouse.

Explaining that on the ‘outside’ there was always the danger of being swallowed, but now that that has happened Duck has no intention of being eaten and so has set up home in the ‘belly of the beast.'”You would be surprised what you can find inside of a wolf”.

But their celebrations give the wolf a bellyache and his howls attract the attention of a hunter…

Despite the limited colour palette, there is much that is included in Klassen’s illustrations that those attuned to looking for detail will enjoy and which will make the ending not only surprising but appropriate.

This story has a fable/fairytale quality that is enhanced by both the choice of characters and the language they use, and its conclusion cements that.  While primarily for younger readers, it also has a place in the library of those a bit older as the underlying message that it is those who are flexible who will flourish in a world and time of change is so relevant.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star




There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star









There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

P. Crumble

Louis Shea

Scholastic, 2017

24pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

So many of a certain generation recall this traditional rhyme from yesteryear and marvelled at how much one old lady could fit in her stomach.  Even the somewhat brutal ending didn’t faze us because it was inevitable.  Now Victorian author P. Crumble has taken this rhyme and built it into a series of hilarious editions that are so much fun for younger readers, encouraging them to read and recite them just for the delight of the words on their tongue and the pictures on their eyes.

So this one, newly released with 3D pictures and glasses, which features the old lady getting very greedy about Christmas, will be the perfect addition to Miss 6’s Santa Sack.    And I’m so glad that even though she swallowed Santa Claus (to wild applause) there is a happy ending.

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow











The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

Nicki Greenberg

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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


All the reindeer are fast asleep, tucked up in their beds resting before the big night ahead when their dreams are shattered by Ruby telling them it is time to get up!  Except it’s not.

But she is determined to get a head start on the Christmas deliveries because she is tired of taking the blame for time running out and everyone getting anxious and stressed and so she takes off on her own…

Luckily when she runs out of puff, she crashes into George and Amelia’s home – they are familiar with her from her previous antics in The Naughtiest Reindeer and The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo but what are they to do with her when she is a day early? Easy – they take her to school!!! Oh dear!

The naughtiest reindeer has become a Christmas favourite of the Christmas Countdown and this new adventure is no different.  It rollicks along with rhyme and illustrations each highlighting the chaos that only Ruby can cause! I know two little girls who will enjoy renewing their friendship with her before sharing this latest adventure this Christmas Eve. 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard




Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard










Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Terry Pratchett

Mark Beech

Doubleday, 2017

204pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Christmas and Christmas stories are a little bit different in the mind and hands of master storyteller Terry Pratchett.  Instead of the usual, sometimes twee, tales of reindeer, helpful elves and generous children this collection has  a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, and  a very helpful partridge in a pear tree. Father Christmas himself  goes to work at a zoo,  causes chaos in a toy store  and is even arrested for burglary!

This is a previously unpublished selection of seasonal stories from Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series, and perfect for the Christmas Countdown for slightly older readers who can appreciate his humour and perspective.  Stories are short, funny and liberally illustrated with pictures as wacky as the words.

Given it is nearly three years since his death, this may be the last original, unpublished work offered from this author so it may become a collector’s piece for that alone.