An Artist’s Eyes

An Artist's Eyes

An Artist’s Eyes











An Artist’s Eyes

Frances Tosdevin

Clémence Monnet

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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


When Mo looks at the sea, she sees “dazzling duck-egg blue, a swirl of peacocks and the inky indigo of evening” but all Jo sees is blue.  

When Mo looks at the forest, she sees “shiny apple-green, the lime of gooseberries and the springy zinginess of moss” and shadows that make the green go darker.  But all Jo sees is green, making him more and more frustrated because he can’t see what Mo does.  But Mo is patient and gradually Jo begins to use his imagination although instead of seeing the shades and hues that Mo does,  he starts to see something different…

This is a powerful yet gentle story that reminds the reader that two people can look at exactly the same thing and see it differently- that each of us has artist’s eyes that are shaped by our imagination, experience and perceptions and it can take us a while to align them.  Monnet’s watercolour interpretation of Tosdevin’s lyrical text is enchanting and with their shapes, lines and colour choices the reader will view them through Mo’s eyes or Jo’s eyes or their own eyes…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the age where our children are exploring a new independence and making a wider friendship group, they look at those around them and think that being like them is the key to “success:” and they try to change who they are to be like those they admire.  So this familiar message of being comfortable in your own skin, being the unique individual you are, perhaps even being the ‘you’ that others admire and seek to emulate is important and cannot be shared too often.  So this iteration of that truth is not only important but being a completely different interpretation gives it added reach and recognition.  Whether our eyes kiss in the corners or speak to the stars, sees shapes or colours or sparkles, what we see is unique to us and is as valid as what our neighbour sees. 

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish









I Wish I Was a Fish

Laura Bridekirk

Vanessa Fernandes

Little Steps, 2022 

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


Oh, what a thrill it would be to have a tail and gills! Imagine breathing underwater water! The idea gives me chills.

The little lad in this story is fascinated by fish and the world they live in so he takes the reader on an imaginary adventure under the water as he dreams of what his life would be like if his dreams came true.  But wait! What would he have to give up  as a little boy if they did?  Is there a compromise?

This story-in-rhyme is not only an introduction to the creatures of the watery world for our young readers, but it is also an opportunity for them to share the things they wish for – and reflect on the price they would pay if they actually came true.  A chance to think about the meaning of “Be careful what you wish for.” 

Peppa Pig: My Peppa Adventure

Peppa Pig: My Peppa Adventure

Peppa Pig: My Peppa Adventure











Peppa Pig: My Peppa Adventure

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2022

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


Although formal reading instruction usually doesn’t begin until a child starts “big school”, so much of the rate of success and achievement is dependent on the groundwork that has gone before.  Mem Fox has said, ” If every parent -and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy in one generation!” 

But this new Peppa Pig adventure offers an even greater opportunity for our littlest readers to start developing those early reading behaviours that are crucial to underpinning reading development because it requires the child to create their own story. This is a choose-your-own adventure for the very young.   

Starting with a page of pictures of possible destinations, the child chooses where in the world they want to travel – to the jungle, the ocean, the desert, the city or even outer space – and then on succeeding pages they use the picture cues to decide which of Peppa’s family and friends they will take with them; their clothing; their lunchtime menu; how they will travel and so on, building an entire adventure as they turn the pages. There are musical instruments to play, shops to visit, parties to attend – and each is the child’s choice,  And when they return home safely, they can go back to the start and map out another adventure to tell!  The power of print over the fleeting screen! 

While listening to stories and building the pictures in their imagination is vital, having the scaffolding to build your own story with your favourite character is brilliant – there are so many skills involved and learning that takes place, not to mention the empowerment of being the author and making the decisions that this is, IMO, a must-have in the library of any beginning reader.  In all my years of reading and reviewing, showing and sharing books with little ones, books that are interactive with lift-the-flaps and other devices, I don’t recall one in this choose-your-own format for this age group.  Love it! 



When You’re Older

When You're Older

When You’re Older











When You’re Older

Sofie Laguna

Judy Watson

A & U Children’s, 2022

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


Baby brother, I can’t wait until you’re older.
Just imagine the adventures that lie ahead…

As he watches his baby brother sleep, the little boy begins to dream with his eyes open as he imagines the adventures that the two will have together “when you’re older’.  From riding their bikes through a jungle whose branches are festooned with snakes to being marooned in Arctic wastes, they will have the most magnificent adventures together… each bigger and better and more daring than the last. And each having them side by side through thick and thin. 

Laguna’s words are brought to life by exquisite illustrations that carry the reader along on the tide of the boy’s dreams, sparking dreams of their own, until we return, grounded, by the final page.  This is a celebration of the bonds between brothers that will resonate with all who have a brother or who have wished for one. Perfect for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme. 



The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns











The Secret Lives of Unicorns

Dr Temisa Seraphini

Sophie Robin

Flying Eye, 2021 

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


Every parent, or grandparent, of a young girl up to about 9 will be aware of the fascination that unicorns continue to hold, their mystique never waning. Thus this is the perfect book for those who want to find out more about who and what they really are, where they live and the various species of them.  For not all unicorns are the same with short hair and rainbow manes.

This exposé by the equally mysterious Dr Temisa Seraphina (who may or may not be the expert behind The Secret Lives of Dragons  and The Secret Lives of Mermaidsreveals everything about this magical creature from its origins and evolution to the truth about the myths and tall tales.  It shows how they are so rarely seen these days because the world is no longer what it used to be, and encourages today’s believers to think about the present day environment and what they might be able to do to improve it so unicorns can once again roam as freely as they used to.

As with the others in the series, taking a fantasy subject and treating in a factual way, just as any non fiction text on any other species, is an intriguing way of not only feeding the child’s thirst for knowledge about the particular creature but also to the concept of non fiction itself, bridging the gap between imagination and information in an absorbing way.  

About 20 years ago, a collection of books known as the Ology series which focused on a range of fantasy and not-so creatures in a similar way, began appearing, offering the newly independent readers of the time an insight into the lives and times of creatures like dragons, wizards, ghosts and others and it was the lucky looker who found one on the shelves. I predict this new series (and hopefully there are more) will be just as popular when this new generation is introduced to it, and what better way to transition from fiction to non fiction, both as reader and teacher.  


The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids











The Secret Lives of Mermaids

Prof Anuk Tola

Anja Sušanj

Flying Eye Books, 2020

34pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


At the School of Merology (SoM), Professor Anuk Tola (aka Anja Sušanj has been studying the lives, habits and habitats of merpeople for many years in an attempt to be able to communicate with them and those studies have revealed that

  • The word “mermaid” is a misnomer because there is more than just one gender, their societies are large and varied, and each is a unique individual
  • Merpeople are “a highly complex, curious, social, fierce, intelligent and incredibly secretive” species and what little is known has taken hundreds of years to glean
  • Because the ocean is changing so are the merpeople and they and the merologists (those who study merpeople) have to find new ways to work together. 

In the meantime, she has gathered all that is currently known into this highly informative book, a companion to The Secret Lives of Dragons   and  The Secret Lives of Unicorns. Beginning with a section entitled  “What is a merperson?” the reader is introduced to the species, visits the various kingdoms in the world’s oceans and learns about their beliefs, language and so forth. But perhaps the most important section is the final one which examines how and why the oceans are changing , how that is affecting them and what we, as humans, can do to protect both them and their environment. 

Mermaids (and unicorns) continue to be a source of fascination for many, particularly young girls, and this is a really imaginative way to introduce them to the concept of ocean conservation as well as non fiction generally, . To build a complete world in this way, albeit one based on a fantasy, is a clever way to make the reader stop and think about what might live between the waves and pause before they chuck their plastic bag in the water or let their balloons go into the sky.  Somehow it gives a whole new slant on this year’s CBCA Book week theme, “Dreaming with eyes open…”


The Think-Ups

The Think-Ups

The Think-Ups












The Think-Ups

Claire Alexander

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


It’s a rainy day, and Anna and Kiki are stuck indoors, wondering what to play next. Suddenly, Kiki has an idea for a new game. “All you have to do,” she explains, “is think up a Think-Up and it will appear!” And she thinks up … BUNNIES! Then they conjure up the most marvellous, magnificent MOOSE! And octopi! And nine HUNGRY koalas! – who discover the kitchen! Oh dear … is it possible to UN-think a Think-Up?

This is a story that will appeal to both little ones and their parents because it offers a game they can play on the next rainy day.  While they might not have such dramatic results, nevertheless, it would be fun imagining what might happen of your home was invaded by wandering wombats of a little can’t-catch-me lion. 

Half-cut pages that make for funny surprises at every turn build up anticipation and allow for predicting what might happen when the think-up comes true, enabling the child’s imagination to roam free.

Different, engaging and offers a unique opportunity for the child to create an extra page or two. A case of dreaming with your eyes open…

The Odds: Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run











Run, Odds, Run

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

In this addition to this series, The Woman in the Suit is here. She wants to know about the ten odd characters who escaped Kip’s imagination and now live with Kip and her dad in their two-bedroom apartment and she’s asking questions Kip doesn’t want to answer.


The problem is … Lance the rabbit and Ninja-Nina are duelling, Racer’s trying to drive, Booster the rooster wants to leave and Unicorn and the family cat are not getting along. Kip is hiding secrets from her dad, Diana the dinosaur keeps giving her a fright and the Woman in the Suit seems to know their every move.

Fans will be delighted that this is a series that is going to continue and even moreso with the news that Stanton has signed a new 13-book deal with his publisher – his popularity with his audience proven by becoming one of just a handful of Australian authors to reach the million book-sale mark – and that there is a new series coming in March. Much fun and laughter (with serious, solid undertones) to look forward to. 

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children's Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing













Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Andy Jones

Olaf Falafel

Walker Books, 2021

176pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Over my 50+ years working with children, and particularly following my passion for developing their literacy skills, I have been exposed to as many “magic bullet” pedagogies for getting them to write well as there are theories of child development.  From a tightly structured approach where the writer is given topic, focus, essay-length and limited vocabulary to the revolution of the freedom of Donald Graves’ ‘process writing” – his books are still on my shelf – and back again, the one constant is that putting pen to paper is an individual task, and the ‘best’ approach is as unique as the individual doing the writing.

Some find writing to be their preferred way of expressing themselves, others like to sing, dance, paint or just talk. Of the writers, some like to write fiction, others prefer mon fiction; some like to draw first, others loathe drawing; some like to let the thoughts run free and edit at the end, others like to fix as they go… 

So this book is not a one-size-fits-all that a parent can give to their child and envisage another J. K. Rowling; it is not a step-by-step guide for a teacher to follow as their writing syllabus for the year; and it is certainly not a tool to teach all those obscure technical terms and techniques so beloved by today’s English teachers and curriculum writers. What it is is a guide for those who already like to write to help them hone their skills and develop their ideas. Begun as a way to amuse the author’s daughters on wet days, it presents a monster as a muse – because monsters are “exciting, unpredictable, powerful” – and by speaking directly to the reader, they are encouraged to work through the book (or dip and delve if they choose) engaging in a series of exercise and story prompts to learn the basics of stories, developing characters, settings and plots as they develop their vocabulary – all the fundamentals of story writing but at their own point of need and their own pace.  

With its easily accessible text and myriad of cartoon-style illustrations it takes the would-be writer on a personal journey of development, tapping into their existing desire to write.  However, while it is not that do this-do that guide for the busy classroom teacher, it is one that is more than worthwhile having because it offers explanations and explorations that the teacher can pass on to the student to encourage them to try new things, to delve deeper and expand their horizons.  It encourages originality and diversity rather than the cookie-cutter approach and there’s none of that technical jargon in sight.

Being the child of journalists, I could use a typewriter before I could use a telephone and it was expected that both my brother and I would be able to put words on paper as easily as we spoke. But even in such an environment, one of us went much further than the other and neither of us wrote in the style of our parents.  Certainly, my preferred genre is non fiction and mastery of my imagination eludes me.  But with this book in hand, perhaps I could try again and find a new path… 

Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of Holiday Stuff to do!

Terry Denton's Bumper Book of Holiday Stuff to do!

Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of Holiday Stuff to do!











Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of Holiday Stuff to do!

Terry Denton

Puffin, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


It’s approaching that part of the summer holidays when the excitement of Christmas has worn off, the anticipation of the new year is over, the fun of a holiday away is almost forgotten and the familiar “I’m bored” starts to creep in.  Perhaps even moreso these holidays with COVID leaving its mark across so many families.

So this is a timely release which is packed full of ideas that will entertain as readers are encouraged to share their ideas by expressing them in drawings and words, and requiring some everyday items – pens, ideas. senses, time and a desire for fun – to participate. From finding things in a line drawing of the school concert; to imagining your octopus outfit to scavenger hunts, Denton provides the impetus and the reader just supplies their imagination. 

Whether it is used by just the reader as a starter or by the family as the inspiration for their evening’s entertainment, Denton demonstrates that there are so many ways to entertain and be entertained using just paper and pencil – there really is no limit to the imagination.

While it is a must-have for families, it is also a grand addition to the teacher toolbox as the ideas can be used throughout the year as tension-breakers or early finishers. I could write more but I have an urge to draw acrobatic sheep!