Weird School

Weird School

Weird School











Weird School

Damian Callinan

Adele K Thomas

Puffin, 2021

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Welcome to Wally Park Primary, the Weirdest School in Australia!

Some people think that all schools are the same. They might have different uniforms, slogans and emblems but in the end, there isn’t much difference between them … THESE PEOPLE ARE WRONG! They have not been to Wally Park PS.  A normal day at Wally Park would be the weirdest day in any other school’s history. There’s an annual Extreme Walkathon that is not for the faint-hearted, a talking Naughty Tree and an Out-of-Bounds Area you might truly never return from and the meanest (and most vain) principal in Australia.

In fact Wally Park has been classified as a Weird School and while every Weird School is unique in its own way with peculiar features or have unusual rules or offer strange subjects, Wally Park is distinguished by having many of these and thus is classified a Class A Weird School.

With this introduction the reader is invited to sign the school’s Visitors’ Book and explore all the reasons that the school has its title. Using a variety of textual techniques, illustrations and short-stand-alone chapters that are loosely linked by a likeable cast of characters who will resonate with the reader, independent readers will enjoy reading this book and feel blessed that their family does not live in the catchment area for Wally Park – although in these days of seemingly endless lockdown, there will be those who would be grateful for any school experience right now.

There are teachers’ notes and a Q&A with the author but overall this is just an entertaining read – which is what it’s all about really.

Mertales (series)

Mertales (series)

Mertales (series)










Mertales (series)

The Best Friend Promise


The Daring Reef Rescue


Rebecca Timms

Albert Street Books, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Newly independent readers will love this new series about mermaids and sea creatures that is written to encourage them to keep reading.  With all the supports needed for those transitioning to more complex novels including short chapters and lots of illustrations, the adventures of the mermaids of Cockleshell Cove will delight those who are fascinated by these mystical creatures but who want some substance to their stories.

With the second due in September, the series with its focus on friendship and female characters  with a can-do attitude will be a welcome addition to the school library’s offerings when students are finally able to return to school. In the meantime. parents might like something to continue the excitement of Book Week to keep their girls reading.

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal











A Different Sort of Normal

Abigail Balfe

Puffin, 2021

240pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


It begins with a poem, the last stanza of which says,

This is for ANYONE

Who has ever felt out of place

You don’t have to be the “odd one out”

You’re unique and that’s just great.

It continues with a childhood memory of a Punch and Judy birthday treat that she hated and when she later asked her mum why, her mum said, “I wanted you to be a normal child.  I didn’t want you to be an outcast like I was.”

The blurb says the rest…

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*.

This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself.

There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.

If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in . . . this book is for you.

While there are a lot of books that explore autism so others can have an insight, such as Annabel’s Dance; The Chalk Rainbow; and A Boy called BAT this is the first I’ve read that is written by someone on the spectrum for others on the spectrum.  It maps her journey through childhood through a time when she didn’t know that there was a scientific reason for her difference, just all the while feeling confused, unwanted and left out.  

It is a unique book, one for children and adults alike and made all the more poignant because of its honesty, truthfulness and lack of sugar-coating.  The author explains her reasons for sharing her story and while she had to navigate the world alone because she did not have a diagnosis, to help others pave a different path she has produced a poster that helps us to be an ally to those we know. 

Even though it is written directly to encourage children who are autistic to understand that while they ae unique, what they experience is not unique to them and they are not alone, it is one for anyone who has anything to do with children.  Because if we don’t understand we can’t empathise.

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive











Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Chris Colfer

Jon Proctor

Little Brown, 2021

330pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99


When we first meet her in The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, Goldilocks is a beautiful and tough-as-nails outlaw. In this brand new, lushly illustrated full-colour graphic novel, readers learn her origin story as she takes you on adventures where she may or may not break a few laws along the way.

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of the fairy-tale world lived in perfect harmony under the guidance of the Happily Ever After Assembly. But not all creatures and territories have been invited to this peaceful union. Monsters and criminals have found refuge in the Dwarf Forests, a land without rulers or law. When a plot by the Charming brothers is unveiled and threatens to push society’s unwanted from their homes, the fairy-tale world’s harmony and Goldilocks’ home are put in jeopardy…

Not being able to read graphic novels (not even comics as a child) I drew on the wisdom of my colleagues for advice about the suitability of this book and series for those in the target parameters of this blog and I was assured that it would be very suitable for mature independent readers at the upper end of its reach, so late Year 3 and beyond.  The series features on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for Years 5 and 6  and when I mentioned it to Miss 10, she immediately said, “Save it for me, Grandma.” (The series is now heading for her Santa Sack.)

I love when one book leads to so many more that can satisfy our readers, particularly at a time when reading will be filling many hours. 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea (series)

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea











The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

It’s Owl Good


Squeals on Wheels


Renee Treml

A&U Children’s 2021

64pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

This is a new series in graphic novel format for young readers transitioning from the basal readers of commercial reading schemes to less-controlled books offering a stepping stone to more complex “early chapter books”. Treml has endowed her characters with the usual charm so they appeal to her audience and Owl’s constant corny puns offer an introduction to this play on words as a humorous concept.  Told as a continuous conversation primarily between Owl and Bea, unlike her Sherlock Bones series, this one has blank backgrounds that therefore place the emphasis on the characters and what they are saying, another opportunity to explore the concept of how critical dialogue can be to carry the story.

Young readers will relate to and like Ollie and Bea, seeing parts of themselves in each, and will no doubt look forward to further adventures. 
















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. 


I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing











I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes

Gordon C. James

Egmont, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP  $A14.99


I am a non-stop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference-maker. A leader.

“Step inside the mind of the confident narrator of this book! He is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and will see them through. He’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny. A good friend. A superhero. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s often misunderstood. So, slow down, look and listen as he shows you who he really is …”

Oprah Magazine says this book is “one of its essential books for discussing racism with kids” and other quotes from reviews all refer to the main character’s above all else.  Yet, when I read it I didn’t even notice his colour, although the illustrations are so lifelike and full of energy, because I saw it through the lens of the performances at the Olympic Games – and not just those by Australians.  So often, as I watched (as an alternative to the ad infinitum of COVID 19 and lockdown), the back story of the athlete was shared and so often it was a story of triumph over tragedy, of hard work, perseverance, resilience, overcoming hurdles and obstacles, staring the impossible in the face… and that is what I took from this book.  

So many of our students would have seen performances that have inspired them – the silver lining of lockdown being the access to real-time coverage rather than a news snippet – and dreams will have been dreamt, particularly with some of the sports being so accessible, like skateboarding, and the age of the competitors so close to their own..  And within this book is the sort of motivational, inspirational language that will fan the flames of the spark of those dreams. 

So while this book may have been intended to help young black children to rise above the racism and be the person they are, and sadly, will resonate on that level with some of our students,  it can be used in lots of ways to affirm and reaffirm, to challenge and to change, to build not just dreams but hope and expectation.

There are so many clichés about it being the inner person that counts, and while that is true, we all know it’s not that simple.  So help students see their potential by having them identify the highest wall facing them right now, whether that’s understanding a science formula or improving their lap time, and then help them put in place a plan to climb over it.  Dreams. beliefs and goals can be the driving force but sometimes we need some strategies to make them happen. Have them add a page to the book that celebrates them.

Truly Tan Shocked

Truly Tan Shocked

Truly Tan Shocked











Truly Tan Shocked

Jen Storer

Claire Robertson

ABC Books, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


Dear Diary

I am writing to you with the aid of my Ballerina Panda pen. You know, the one that makes your words dance across the page.

Guess who is number one on my Secret Spy Watch List?

Go on. Guess!

It’s Miss Dragone.

Miss Dragone has always been an ordinary, boring, Grade Four teacher with no surprises and a loud voice.

But not anymore.

These days she is acting weird, strange and highly suspicious.

I’ve been watching her very closely.

Conclusion: Miss Dragone is in danger.

I just know it!



Described by Megan Daley of Children’s Books Daily as “the 21st century version of the Secret Seven”, Truly Tan is a series for independent readers confident with their skills and ready to immerse themselves in more complex novels which feature characters and scenarios that they recognise and relate to. She is  the youngest of four very different sisters, each with their own personality- bossy Emerald, girly Amber, and  Goth-aspirant Rose – while she, herself, loves adventure, new words and making the most out of being a kid.  She loves a mystery and uses her ‘Great Detective’ brain to solve them. But she is also very real with a mix of determination, humour, smarts and quirkiness to appeal to her audience.

The first book in the series  begins…” Dear Diary It’s official. Our whole family has moved to the country. The pets are disturbed and restless. My sisters are disturbed and restless – although that’s normal. What is not normal is a cursed fox and a haunted clubhouse. That is definitely unnormal. At least the country people now have an expert in their midst. Someone with a cool head and a sharp eye. Someone who can solve intriguing mysteries and knows how to keep detailed Secret Spy Files. Really, it’s lucky I came along when I did.” and sets the scene for the seven that have followed. 

With enough intrigue to keep the reader engrossed but not scared, this is a series that will particularly appeal to girls and given the threat of looming lockdowns, would be perfect to have on hand for a binge read if it is new to the reader, or to catch up if it is already a favourite. 


Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World











Mina and the Whole Wide World

Sherryl Clark

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


More than anything else in the whole wide world Mina wants her own bedroom . And it’s almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it’s hers.

But then Mina’s parents take in an unexpected guest, and give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She is so devastated by her loss and she doesn’t care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay. Her loss is almost too great to bear. 

At school, the other kids call Azzami names but throughout the bullying, he stays silent.  Mina wishes he’d stand up for himself especially after she ends up in strife for hitting Oliver, the worst of the culprits.  But although Azzami doesn’t speck he draws and he as a tale to tell in his drawings,  a tale made all the more poignant when Mina goes with him to visit his very sick mother.  For the first time she really thinks about the life and loss of the quiet boy, what he has seen and escaped from, the death of his father and the illness of his mother, being the least of them, and gradually the loss of her own bedroom is put into perspective. 

This verse novel for younger readers is an important addition to the collection and a vital inclusion to any study of refugees because it gives the silent among our students a voice.  Even though Azzami himself doesn’t speak, his silence is powerful because it echoes that of so many of those we teach who have experienced trauma and fear that we will never know.  Sadly, there are those like Oliver in every class who cannot cope with difference and manifest their lack of understanding and empathy through a display of power and disdain, but there are also Minas who have a more open mind and benefit by finding friendship and tolerance and gratitude. And there are also wise teachers like Ms Smart who know when to step back and when to step up.

This is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this “whole wide world” and the teachers notes will help guide students’ awareness, knowledge, understanding, compassion and tolerance so that the conversation about acceptance, diversity, and caring for others has a new tone.  In addition, there is much to be learned about Clark’s choice of format, vocabulary and using only Mina’s perspective as a vehicle for  a narrative that needs to be had (seemingly over and over, even though refugees have been a critical part of this country’s fabric and fibre since the end of World War II). 

Look for this among the award nominees in 2022.  


Shockingly Good Stories

Shockingly Good Stories

Shockingly Good Stories











Shockingly Good Stories

R. A. Spratt

Puffin Books, 2021

240pp/. pbk., RRP $A19.99


Begin a collection of short stories with the foreword…

This collection of short stories was created to be shared during a challenging time. They were written to be read aloud, preferably in silly voices. So be brave, set dignity aside and go for it.”

Couple that with tips like inserting family members into the roles of the wicked and the weird to personalise the stories and adding in a shouted BOOM or KAPOW deliberately to startle the child so they don’t fall asleep before the end and you know this will be collection that will engage and entertain,  But better still, have the creator of the stories be the same person behind such memorable characters as Nanny Piggins, Friday Barnes and the Peski Kids   and immediately you are building anticipation  for a fun family reading time. 

Fractured fairytales, new adventures with Friday Barnes and a host of other weird and wacky adventures make this a great collection to share and there is also a collection of 75 stories on Spratt’s Spotify channel. Details are on her website.

And having shared and laughed your way through all the tales, the backword encourages the reader to make up some “outrageously silly and unbelievably wild’ stories of their own, even providing a blank page to get them started!!!