Sangma Francis

Lisk Feng

Flying Eye, 2019

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


It is the highest spot on planet Earth, known to many as the roof of the world and the ultimate challenge for mountain-climbing adventurers. It is Mount Everest.

Mount Everest is undoubtedly the most famous mountain on Earth. Hundreds of people clamber to its summit every year, following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, hoping to experience Earth’s highest peak. But there is so much more to this mountain than the people who climb it.

In this new release, readers travel back to the mountain’s ancient origins as 50 million years ago the two tectonic plates that we now know as India and Europe collided forcing the land upwards and creating the Himalaya (a Sanskrit word meaning “home of snow”), the biggest mountain range on the planet, one which is still rising at up to 10mm a year. Known to the Tibetans as Chomolungma or “Mother Goddess of the World”,  to the neighbouring Nepalese as Sagarmatha or “Goddess of the Sky” and in English as Everest after Sir George Everest who was head of the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1865, this magnificent mountain rises 29029 feet (8848 metres) into the heavens between Tibet on the northern side and Nepal on the southern.

The author covers a wide range of topics from how to measure a mountain- it’s all done with triangles – to the flora and fauna that live at its various altitudes, to the sacred stories, myths and legends that have built up over the years.  Of course, being a New Zealander I was very interested in seeing if Sir Edmund Hillary was given credit for being the first to conquer the peak in in 1953 and even though the attempts to the top are seen through a British lens, with Sir John Hunt getting a greater focus as leader of the whole expedition, there is a special section dedicated to that final push on May 29th as Hillary and Tensing Norgay finally conquered that which had been tantalising many for so long – and still does as thousands make their way to Base Camp each year.

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 this book, which is perfect for younger readers wanting to know more, took me to aspects of the mountain that I didn’t know – as it will for those independent researchers who are looking for a starting point to discover this unique landmark. 



Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party










Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World











Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Sam Maggs, Emma Grange & Ruth Amos

DK, 2019

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Superheroes continue to be as popular as they first were when they were introduced in comic form in the 1930s.  The historic nomination of Black Panther for the Golden Globes Best Picture award, the first in this genre to be nominated, and the current success of Aquaman at the box offices around the world, attest to this and this new release from DK focusing on the female heroes of the Marvel world demonstrates that women can also save the world.

It features 50 of the incredible female Super Heroes from the Marvel Comics universe, classified according to whether they are predominantly determined, daring, compassionate or curious , and inspires women of all ages to be powerful, passionate, and persistent.

In graphic novel format, the collection profiles dozens of aspirational female comic-book characters, all of whom use their strength, intelligence, and courage to help others. Fierce fan-favourites such as Captain Marvel, Gamora, and Jessica Jones feature alongside little-known faces from all corners of the Marvel comic-book universe. Young girls will also discover modern, diverse heroes they can relate to and look up to, including America Chavez and Kamala Khan. 

Illustrated with stunning comic-book artwork, each short biography is carefully curated to focus on the character’s abilities and achievements. This book for girls and women of all ages will create new fans of comics, as well as inspiring comic-book creators of the future. Further reading suggestions are given for each character, so readers can follow the adventures of their favourite hero into the panels of Marvel’s finest issues.

While all of those featured were created in the imagination of an author,  nevertheless they can encourage our girls to think about real-life heroines – those that inspire them to be braver, stronger, more influential – and examine how they achieve this without those superhuman powers of their fictional counterparts.  And while people like Anne Frank, Helen Keller and Florence Nightingale will always feature in “famous women” studies, there are thousands of more contemporary figures whose stories can be investigated and told, perhaps in the style of those in this book. Perhaps such investigations may even persuade our girls that they themselves are mighty and have the qualities that will make them their own superhero.

One for inspiration and aspiration.

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories

DK Life Stories









DK Life Stories


Diane Bailey


Albert Einstein

Wil Mara


Helen Keller

Libby Romero


Katherine Johnson

Ebony Joy Wilkins


128pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

At last the people with the power of the purse strings are beginning to realise that not everything is available online, and what is there is unlikely to be at a reading level accessible to our developing readers, and publishers are responding to the resurgence in demand for quality non fiction resources in print format.  While DK have continued to produce quality print materials throughout this misguided era of everything having to be screen-based, their new Life Stories series, biographies for younger readers, is a welcome addition to a genre that can be the entry point to a world of inspiration for a new generation.

Currently comprising about a dozen  titles, including most of the usual subjects found in this sort of series, the one that caught my eye was that of Katherine Johnson, she who is now the famed NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of the best-selling book and movie Hidden Figures. Miss 12 was just awarded her school’s Science and Technology prize for her work in coding and so this is just perfect for inspiring her to maintain her passion and continue to break down barriers as she moves on to high school.  

Using accessible text, photographs and the usual DK production quality, this series tells the stories behind the celebrities bringing them alive for students who now understand that their world is much larger and older than they are and that many have gone before as pioneers, often against incredible odds, so that they can enjoy the life they do.  Perhaps others would eventually have done what Katherine Johnson did, but for Miss 12 who has the self-doubt and mood swings so typical of her age group, it is Katherine’s story of resilience and determination that is as important as her achievements, just as it is for all the others featured in this series, so it is inspirational on many levels.  When she feels overwhelmed, hopefully she will draw on Katherine’s story to find the courage to take the next step.

That sort of engagement doesn’t come from reading a dispassionate fact-and-figures webpage and so this book in particular and the series in general will be a superb addition to both private and school libraries this year.   


47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees








47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 


DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation










DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Being the daughter of journalists who were sticklers for correct grammar, the structure of our language was drummed into me from an early age and I have to say that all these years on, I’m still what is commonly called a “grammar Nazi.” In fact, just this morning I corrected this image on a friend’s Facebook feed stating that it should read, “What would you do if you knew you COULD not fail?”

And with the return of the “back to basics” of the English strand of the Australian curriculum where even our youngest students are expected to know what “rime and onset” are, the syntax of our language can be overwhelming.  Thus, having a ready reference text that helps young children understand the common parts of speech like nouns, verbs and adjectives and supports their growing knowledge of more obscure things like prepositional phrases, fronted adverbials and reported speech will be a welcome addition to any young student’s collection, (and perhaps, even their teacher’s.)  

While text speech and spelling seems to have overtaken much of our everyday writing, being able to put words on paper that carry a message over time still remains part of that which makes us human and so grammar and punctuation both have a vital place in our learning if we want to be understood by others. 

But although the more formal aspects of writing might seem daunting to those moving on from writing random thoughts and having an adult interpret and transcribe them for them, students are reassured that they know much of what they are going to learn already because every time they speak they use grammar – the purpose of this book is just to show them the different kinds of words and how they fit together.  There’s a clear explanation of how to use the three parts of the book – parts of speech, sentences and clauses, and punctuation – as well as a demonstration of what grammar and punctuation are and how they are critical to both speech and writing. 

We are all familiar with memes like this…

so teaching young children from the get-go the difference is essential if they are to realise those big dreams.

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes First Children’s DictionaryFirst Science EncyclopediaFirst Maths GlossaryFirst Encyclopedia and First How Things Works Encyclopedia, and is going to be a valuable addition to Miss 7’s writing toolkit as she enters the new phase of her formal education. 


DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary









DK First Reference Dictionary

DK, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


I love this time of the year – the madness that is Christmas is over, the new school year is becoming real and it’s time to reflect on just where Miss 7 and Miss 12 are at with their learning, and how much they have accomplished in the past 12 months.

This year, Miss 12 begins the whole new adventure of high school while Miss 7 moves into Year 3, already an independent reader and wanting to start writing her own stories.  She has a big imagination and big dreams just like May Gibbs so this new Australian dictionary from DK is going to be the perfect addition to her desk.  As part of the generation that believes having a broad vocabulary and using and spelling it correctly is critical for engaging the audience and getting the message across, I believe dictionaries are an essential part of the writer’s toolkit and this one is perfect for the budding storyteller.

With more than 4,000 words and definitions, and featuring a full alphabet on every page to make finding words easy, colourful photographs that bring words to life, and helpful information on word families, spelling and writing, this essential dictionary for Australian children is the perfect reference book, both for home and at school. Each entry provides the part of speech and the word’s plural while the definition is in everyday English so that it is accessible to the user.  It acknowledges that the user has moved on from junior picture dictionaries so there is not a picture for every entry, allowing space for exploring the words that children of this age use. 

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation, First Maths GlossaryFirst Science Encyclopedia and First How Things Work Encyclopedia., all of which will be important additions to Miss 7’s bookshelf this year as well as being extremely useful in any library collection as they could be the central focus of teaching this age group the value of reference tools and how to identify the cues and clues to use them.   Alphabetical order is an essential skill that reaches well beyond understanding how a dictionary works, but the dictionary is the ideal place to master it. 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium










Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

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


Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 


101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)









101 Weird Words (and Three Fakes)

David Astle 

Allen & Unwin, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Young readers who love playing with words and learning new ones to baffle their parents can journey from ambidextrous to zugzwang in this new book of words from “full-time nerd word” David Astle. He is the devious crossword-setter in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age but children will also know him as the “dictionary man” on the TV show Letters and Numbers.

In this pop-in-your-pocket volume, he has collected lots of new words that children will delight in getting their tongues around and using in their conversations and stories.  And just to add some extra zing, he has included three fake words as well!  Each word, real or fake has a roll-off-the-tongue appeal and is presented with its meaning, pronunciation, history, fun facts and examples of use in a way that is engaging and demands to be read to the end. 

Extending children’s vocabulary is one of the primary goals of reading and writing, and as well as being a great Christmas present for the family word nerd, it would also be an ideal gift for the teacher who likes to challenge students with a word of the week.  There’s always room for a thumbs-up or more tangible reward for the student who uses the word correctly in a conversation or a story. It’s fun books like these that make me wish I was back in schools again!


Marvel Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse The Official Guide

Marvel Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse The Official Guide

Marvel Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse The Official Guide











Marvel Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse The Official Guide

Shari Last

DK, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99



“Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into the one and only Spider-Man. When he meets Peter Parker, he soon realizes that there are many others who share his special, high-flying talents. Miles must now use his newfound skills to battle the evil Kingpin, a hulking madman who can open portals to other universes and pull different versions of Spider-Man into our world.”

This is the synopsis of the new Spider-Man movie about to be released in Australia on December 26 and so this official guide to the story and the new characters will be a must-have in any fan’s Christmas stocking.  They can discover everything they ever wanted to know about his astonishing costume, loyal allies and frightening enemies, and find out about his amazing origin story and his fiercest clashes as  he juggles high school life with his status as a Super Hero.

Written in graphic novel format crossed with the usual DK clarity for accessing information, this is the perfect way to combine what is likely to be a blockbuster movie with the power of print to provide more information, particularly as reviews from the movie suggest it is likely to be very popular these holidays.