Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop










Funny Kid Belly Flop

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


I have a confession to make.  Sometimes when I’m in the children’s book section I earwig on conversations, particularly those about what book to choose.  Truly, it’s because I want to hear what kids are choosing for themselves but sometimes I find myself joining in and making recommendations, particularly if it is a perplexed parent or grandparent. Last Saturday was one such occasion when a mum wanted something for her newly independent reader who was just stepping out into novels and liked “funny stuff.”  So I reached for Matt Stanton and said that she wouldn’t go wrong because everything he writes is funny. Whether it’s a picture book or a novel, Stanton’s philosophy is  “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and so he deliberately sets out to engage the reader in something they can relate to and enjoy.

This is #8 in this series about Max, his friends and family and his duck. Despite having 250+ pages, it is one for newly independent readers who are ready to tackle something a bit meatier but still with the support of short chapters and plenty of graphics, which showcase Stanton’s talent as a cartoonist as well as a writer. This time max and his mate Abby, who seldom agree, are determined that the upcoming swimming carnival has to be cancelled – Max because he doesn’t want to appear half-naked in front of an audience; Abby because she would rather train for the online maths Olympiad.  So when these two, who are usually at each other’s throats, team up, there can only be one outcome – fun and laughter.

Our students may be disappointed to see the school year end as they head for summer holidays and missing their mates but at least with authors like Matt Stanton on our team we can keep them reading and looking forward to the new year which will come quickly enough.  I’m sure the person who was getting the book I recommended will be on the look out for the others in the series. 

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl's Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science











Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Karl Kruszelnicki

ABC Books, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00


“The year 2020 has reminded us that science is a bit like a wave. By that , I mean, that science is a dynamic process that ebbs and flows, rather than being something set in stone…. science is NOT a collection of facts- that’s what you have an encyclopaedia for.  Instead science is a process of discovering facts through curious exploration and then using them to understand the Universe around us…Science is an ongoing process,  It’s self-correcting- which, let me emphasise, is a strength not a weakness,,, That might sound confusing at first, but scientists are flexible and willing to look at results and tweak the advice accordingly…”

So like its predecessor Dr Karl’s Random Road Trip Through Sciencethe familiar Dr Karl takes a journey through a broad range of subjects in which the scientific thinking has changed over time or there is a greater understanding of the why because of new thinking and developments. 

Aimed at older, independent readers there is a more in-depth look at some of the more unusual phenomena from what it means to be winded to vegan diets to the 5G network, as he explores all sorts of topics assisted by an augmented reality app which has a hologram of Dr Karl offering a more in-depth introduction and then buttons to explore even further information. 

Mist students are familiar with Dr Karl and know he not only talks sense but he speaks in a language that is easily accessible to them – you don’t have to be a scientist to understand what he says.  So this book, which stands alone without the technology but is definitely enriched by it, is one for both the novice and the more experienced with an interest in the world around them.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End

The Deep End

The Deep End









Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The Deep End

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Greg Heffley returns to delight readers in the 15th episode of this popular series, one that will resonate particularly this year because, like many Australian families searching for a summer holiday, Greg  and his family hit the road for a cross-country camping trip, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.  But things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves stranded at an RV park that’s not exactly a summertime paradise. When the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation – or if they’re already in too deep.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a series that has gone from strength to strength since its inception over 12 years ago as new waves of young lads hear his story about trying to fit in to middle school and relate to it.  Written in the first person as a diary and liberally illustrated with stick-like figures it is an easy read that has hit the mark for reluctant and ready readers, ensuring they continue to find reading a pleasure.

A great one to pop in the Santa Sack to give a few hours of pleasure during those seemingly endless kilometres or the inevitable wet day stuck inside!


Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell










Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Rebecca McRitchie

Sharon O’Connor

Angus & Robertson, 2020

320pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


In Jinxed!, the first in this series, we meet  eleven-year-old Cora Bell who  is a foundling with no memory prior to her life with the elderly Dot and  her cat Scratch. They live in a room hidden behind a wall in the  crowded, industrial city of Urt, where everyone looks out for themselves, and their survival is dependent on scavenging and trading such as rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish amidst fierce competition. Life takes a terrifying turn for Cora when she finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper. She takes it home and says the words aloud. Suddenly, two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx.  Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants as her home is destroyed, her family goes missing and she’s pursued by the menacing and powerful Jinx.

Despite the danger she discovers the power of friendship, finds courage, and channels incredible strength against the overwhelming forces seeking to destroy her.

Now in this second episode, Cora Bell has accepted she is full of magic b without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake. When she begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

Continuing the popular trend for storylines about ordinary children having extraordinary powers, this is a series for independent readers consolidating their skills and starting to explore the power of words that take them into worlds other than those they know. Miss 9, who started her fantasy adventure a few years ago listening to Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men is thoroughly enjoying it, being proud of her ability to read it to herself. The short chapters and the illustrations support her developing independence.

With the summer holidays on the horizon, this is a series worth recommending to parents who are looking for something special to put in the Santa Sack. 

The Time-travelling Caveman

The Time-travelling Caveman

The Time-travelling Caveman











The Time-travelling Caveman

Terry Pratchett

Doubleday Children’s, 2020

336pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99


For the newly independent reader who loves wacky humour, this is a brand new collection of short stories from one of the most popular authors for that audience at the moment.  

When Pratchett was just 17 and a junior reporter for his local newspapers, he started writing the stories in this book, often based on the people and incidents he was sent to cover for the paper, but embellished with a touch of Pratchett magic. With lots of crazy illustrations to enrich the text, this is a collection that will entice those straddling that decision of whether reading for pleasure is going to be a thing for them or not to keep reading.  Being short stories they are quick reads, complete in themselves and in a few minutes; but being Terry Pratchett they are well-written and well-rounded full of imagination and wit, perhaps leading the reader to more of his works like Father Christmas’s Fake Beard .


Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money











Show Me The Money

Sue Lawson

Karen Tayleur

Wild Dog, 2020

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



For hundreds of years goods and services have been exchanged for money, and “cash is king” was an oft-used slogan. But since the advent of ubiquitous digital devices and particularly the outbreak of the pandemic, how we now pay for those same goods and services has changed dramatically.  Payment has become almost invisible as we tap-and-go, use afterpay and seemingly go to a machine in a wall that dispenses money on the insertion of a card.  Will there soon come a day when our little people will never know the thrill of tinkling coins in their pocket or the smell and feel of a crisp new note? Already the excitement of finding a threepence or even a sixpence in the Christmas pudding seems to be a memory reserved for us oldies!

Much of Australia’s history and heritage is told in our currency and this wonderful book collects it up and packages it in an accessible read for young independent readers who want and need to know more about this thing that makes the world go round, that seems to be the driving force behind every decision that governs their lives right down to how well their school library is resourced. Going back to the days before European arrival when First Nations followed trade routes along sacred paths and songlines where knowledge and stories were traded as much as goods and goodies,  the story of Australia’s currency has been traced through to the recent introduction of New Generation banknotes that are almost indestructible and counterfeit-proof, providing a solid foundation for  a fascinating investigation of this essential part of our lives.  

Using the resources of the Royal Australian Mint , this book uses clear, sharp illustrations of our notes and coins which are clearly labelled to explain their different features and icons as well as the stories of some of those featured on them.  There are defined rules for the production of our banknotes and those who can be featured on them so this book also serves as a springboard for students to design a range of new notes, investigating and justifying their design choices.  

An understanding of money, how it is earned and spent, budgeted and used is an essential life skill that we can and must teach children from an early age, even if it seems like our transactions for goods and services are seamless and almost magical these days. Using this book as an introduction and a springboard to all sorts of investigations would be a logical starting point.



Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)














Tilly and the Bookwanderers 



Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales



Tilly and the Map of Stories


HarperCollins, 2018-2020

400+pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99



“From outside on the busy north London high street, Pages & Co looked like an entirely normal bookshop. but once inside it didn’t quite make sense how everything fitted inside its ordinary walls. The shop was made up of five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas and squashy armchairs, and a labyrinth of bookshelves heading off in different direction.  A spiral staircase danced up one wall, and painted wooden ladders stretched into difficult-to-reach corners.  Tall arched windows above made it feel a little like a church when the light spilled in and danced on the air. When it was good weather the sun pooled on the floor and the bookshop cat – named Alice for her curious nature- could often be found dozing in the warmest spots.  During the summer the big fireplace behind the till was filled to bursting with fresh flowers, but at is was October, a fire was roaring there…”

Does this not conjure up every booklover’s dream of a magical place, a bookstore where magic and mysteries, adventures and escapades beckon?  And for it to be the home of Tilly who prefers the company of book characters to the people in real life and, although not having been outside London, is a seasoned traveller within the pages of the books that abound on the shelves just shouts that this is going to be a series for booklovers and readers that will deliver all that is expected and more.

But what if your favourite characters could not only come out of the books and have real-life conversations with you but could also take you back into the book to have your very own adventure within the story? Tilly discovers that this is part of her relationship with her books and that, unlike other series where it is a secret power, this one is shared by her family,  There is much more to her grandfather and grandmother and the family’s history and lives than she ever imagined. Bookwandering is what this family does, and it might explain the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the absence of her father.

Created for independent readers or perfect for classroom read-alouds, this is a series that really needs to be read from the first one in order so that the subsequent adventures have context but it will have the book lover hooked from the start, regardless of their age, and wishing they too could bookwander into the magical, mystical world of their favourite characters.  I just loved it!!! Once your students know about it they will be queuing up!


Tree Beings

Tree Beings

Tree Beings











Tree Beings

Raymond Huber

Sandra Severgnini

EK Books, 2020

96pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Look closely at the cover of this book.  Look closely at the bark of the tree and the gaps and spaces in between the branches and roots.  For there you will start to discover the purpose of this book, its importance to the planet and why so many people are passionate about their preservation, particularly those whose stories are told within. 

More than 30% of the planet is covered with forest providing clean air, pure water, shelter and employment for both people and animals but the rate of deforestation and degradation is alarming and changing the planet irrevocably.  With a foreword by Dr Jane Goodall , and a focus on four big ideas…

  • Trees give life to the planet.
  • Trees can help save us from climate change.
  • Trees are like beings.
  • Trees need our help and protection.

our children will learn about the value of trees and how essential they are to the healthy life and biodiversity of the planet. As well as understanding how trees give the Earth life, how they ‘talk’ and why they are our best allies in the fight to slow down climate change, readers will meet some of those who have devoted their lives to bringing attention to the plight of the forests and their preservation, the eccentric British professor who travelled the world for seventy years telling people how trees can save us. Written for independent readers in a style that draws them in and keeps them reading, and beautifully illustrated with diagrams, vignettes, close-ups all botanically correct, this is a stunning book that will be eye-opening to many. Trees are so much more than a home for a bird.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

And for those who want more, there is this clip from Gardening Australia that opens up even more understanding.

In a world where students are so aware of climate change, where they have seen the destruction of our bush from the Summer of Fire, where “environment” and “sustainability” are words that even our youngest know and understand and want to act on, this is a book for all ages that will offer yet another avenue of awareness that will allow them to make a difference. Maybe they will be inspired like the 9-year-old-boy who has a plan to plant a trillion trees to save the planet and start their own project!



Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones










Yorick and Bones

Jeremy Tankard

Hermione Tankard

HarperCollins, 2020

144pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99


This is an hilarious story about a skeleton who is roused from his death when a hot dog vendor collides with a witch causing a potion she’s carrying to spill from her hands and seep into Yorick’s grave. He awakens, surprised to find he has slept so long that he has lost his memory until a dog digs him up. All that Yorick wants is a sausage and someone to share it with but while he finds the sausage easily enough, finding a friend is a harder task. 

Subtitled “The lost graphic novel by William Shakespeare”, this is a graphic novel for the upper end of the readership of this blog because the text has been written in Shakespeare’s language and iambic pentameter rhythm, making it one for those independent enough to cope with that.  At the same time, it may well capture older readers’ imagination, particularly those familiar with Shakespeare’s works as there are references that have been cleverly adapted throughout. 

Something different to offer those who declare that they have ‘read everything”. 

Timeline Science and Technology

Timeline Science and Technology

Timeline Science and Technology











Timeline Science and Technology

Peter Goes

Gecko Press, 2020

80pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


There is no doubt that the technology and tools available to us on a daily basis shape the way we live – it’s only 10 years since the iPad was introduced – and this large format book with it easy text and whimsical illustrations takes us on a journey from the Old Stone Age to the present day sharing how man changed his way of life.  Luckily, in early times change wasn’t so fast and so each double spread has been devoted to an era but as things evolve, the spreads are reduced to covering  a decade. So the tools of wood and bone of the Paleolithic Age gradually evolve to the tools that will probe the universe in the future.

This is a succinct timeline of development that will whet the appetite of the young historian, the young scientist and the young computer enthusiast or anyone with an interest in how we got to where we are. It is a dip-and-delve book that probably raises more questions than it answers, but that’s a good thing because it will send readers off on new paths of investigation and exploration as they seek to know more about whatever catches their interest.

More than worth the purchase price.