Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History











Azaria: A True History

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


On a cool August night 40 years ago, in the shadow of Uluru, a mother laid her baby to sleep in a tent while she and her husband and her other two children sat under the stars outside – and unknowingly began a scandal that even today, still divides opinion. For that baby was Azaria Chamberlain and before the night was over, a story that made world headlines had begun.  Because when the mother heard a rustling in the tent she turned and saw a dingo making off with the baby and called out… sparking one of the most controversial episodes in modern Australian history.

For despite the baby’s jumpsuit being found by the Anangu trackers the very next day, people had not heard of a dingo taking a baby before and so the rumours and gossip started. Fuelled by media reports of a baby with an unconventional name, a family from a different religion and a mother in such deep grief she couldn’t cry, everyone had an opinion and so the story of Azaria Chamberlain captured the world’s imagination.  It would be 32 years before the truth was known and even then, many didn’t believe it. Still don’t.

At first when I received this book I wondered why this story would need to be known by our young readers, many of whom would have parents too young to remember the events. But as I read it it became clear – just as Uluru is “ten times bigger underground than it is above”, the message that we must look further and deeper for the truth than the surface headlines is very powerful, particularly in these days of fake news and deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of facts. Azaria’s story, widely identified as Australia’s first modern trial-by-media, is just the vehicle that carries the more important concept that our older students need to bring to their research.  Look at sources for purpose, perspective, accuracy and  authority before accepting them  and relying on them as truth; that everyone brings something to a situation depending on their beliefs, values, attitudes and motives and that the truth can soon be lost under a myriad of layers.

The story of Azaria became “like a fairytale from long ago , with a wolf in the forest, a cruel king and angry townsfolk” and just like fairytales, a kernel of truth gets overlaid with embellishments and changes with every new teller. However in this beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers who now, more than ever, need to learn about the need to be critical thinkers and to not take things on face value Coote has demonstrated the evidence of every character in a story having its own perspective – even the dingo, often now maligned and vilified by humans, was just doing what dingoes do.

For those of you wanting to demonstrate why our students need to walk the extra mile, this would be the perfect introduction. 




Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed










Cat Science Unleashed

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Matthew Rakola 

National Geographic Kids, 2019

80pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


 This is part of the NatGeo Kids Hands-On Science series and complements their website aimed at 6-12 year olds.  But rather than just facts and figures about cats that can be found in any book about them, this encourages the reader to participate in  22 safe and cat-friendly activities that let  them work alongside their cat to discover what makes it tick.

They can learn the effects of catnip  and why it can see so well in the dark; how it balances so well and always land on its feet as wells as toys to make.  Each activity is paired with step-by-step instructions, clear and interesting scientific explanations, and cool photographs shot specifically for this book. Hands-on activities and fun information for budding scientists prompt further learning and offer a behind-the-scenes look at current feline research.

Using a magazine format with lots of photos and diagrams as well as information in accessible chunks, it is divided into four chapters, each accompanied by relevant explanations and activities. There is also a glossary, an index, and other extra information to help students build their information literacy skills as they learn to navigate non fiction texts. 

There are often queries to TL networks about what are the best magazine subscriptions to continue as popularity tends to wane, and for the primary school age group, Nat Geo Kids is always near the top of the list proving it has stood the test of time as an investment.  With such a focus on the environment well beyond the curriculum, it just make sense to make it available to our students.

Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered

Brain-fizzing Facts:  Awesome Science Questions Answered

Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered










Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered

Dr Emily Grossman

Alice Bowsher

Bloomsbury, 2019

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


Children make sense of their world by asking questions, often starting with “why”.  This was the case for the author as a young child and in this collection she has gathered together some of the wacky questions that little ones ask such as “Why is your elbow called your funny bone? How could you escape the grip of a crocodile’s jaw? Which animal can breathe through its bottom? And how do these things all link together? “

But the difference with this book from others that are just a Q & A, is that the reader is urged to try to answer themselves before they read the answers, and if they can’t explain it, then try to select from the information provided.  And, all the while, they are being reassured that getting it wrong is not a problem -in fact the most important scientific discoveries come from wrong answers and investigations into why is it so. Heavily illustrated with cartoon-like characters and bite-size chunks of information that speak directly to the audience, the presentation will appeal to both genders who are curious independent readers wanting to know more. 

While young children have no trouble asking endless questions, once they start school something happens and they see their role as one of only answering those posed by others.  So the emphasis on asking questions and even providing space for the reader to do just that is welcome, as we try to teach students to be both critical and creative thinkers.  

One for the Christmas stocking, or even better as the foundation for a STEM display in the new year as students are encouraged to develop their information literacy skills  in meaningful research, authentic to their interests and needs.

Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures

Fauna: Australia's Most Curious Creatures

Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures












Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures

Tania McCartney

NLA Publishing, 2019 

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Eyes, legs,  tails and tongues peek out at you from the cover of this new book from Tania McCartney, beckoning you to open it and discover who they belong to. The intrigue is repeated on the endpages, enticing the reader to search for the whole that matches the snippet as they are introduced to a variety of Australia’s unique indigenous creatures. Given that Australia is home to more animal species than any other developed country, and 87% of the mammals, 45% of the birdlife, 93% of the reptiles and 94% of the amphibians are only found on this landmass, it would be impossible to highlight every single indigenous creature so McCartney has made a judicious selection of familiar and not-so so that there is a well-rounded introduction to tempt the reader to discover more.

From those that are already extinct through to those of least concern, each creature is identified with its conservation status as well as a range of interesting, easily-accessible facts and illustrations, several of which show McCartney’s quirky humour. With an animal family tree that helps show how the puzzle pieces fit together, two indices and a comprehensive glossary this is something more than just “a tourist’s guide to…” offering budding naturalists who are independent readers something that is written for their level and also has enough information to satisfy and spark their curiosity  including breeding and feeding habits, physical characteristics, habitat and other unique features that will leave them wanting to discover more, while trying to match those vignettes to their owners. 

Usually books about this topic can be dry and cold, but the combination of text and illustration that is so uniquely McCartney make this warm and engaging and one to treasure. She has called is “a labour of love” and that shines through.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country










Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country


Mouni Feddag

Walker, 2019

80pp., hbk.,  RRP $A29.99


No continent’s political borders seem to be as fluid as those of Africa and so this new publication is an introduction to all 55 countries on the African continent.  It captures Africa’s unique mix of the modern and the traditional, as its geography, its peoples, its animals, its history, its resources and its cultural diversity are explored in accessible text and colourful illustrations.

The book divides Africa into five sections: South, East, West, Central and North, each with its own introduction. This is followed by a page per country,which provides the merest taste of the riches of each that can be explored further if desired. The richest king, the tallest sand dunes and the biggest waterfall on the planet are all here, alongside drummers, cocoa growers, inventors, balancing stones, salt lakes, high-tech cities and nomads who use GPS! 

With so many classes now including students of African origin, this is a wonderful way to begin exploring their background, showing them that they are represented in the library’s collection and have a unique heritage to share – as the author says, Africa is the birthplace of the world’s population. It could be a great adjunct to an EALD program using the child’s home country to introduce meaningful reading and information literacy skills.

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas










Searching for Cicadas

Lesley Gibbes

Judy Watson

Walker Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


It is one of the distinctive sounds of summer in Australia and Grandpa and Child are going in search of its creator – the cicada.  Packing up their tent and other supplies in the little wagon, they head off to Apex Reserve to wait and watch with the other families. At sunset the noise starts  – the male calling for a mate – and the hunt begins.  Last year they saw Green Grocers, Yellow Monday sand a Floury Baker.  Will they be lucky this year and find the elusive Black Prince?

Packed with facts both in the story and in the accompanying  information paragraphs, this is another in the stunning Nature Storybooks collection that teaches our young readers about our unique fauna within the context of a picture book story.  In this case it highlights one of those special relationships children have with adults, that when they themselves are an adult, they will look back on with fond memories and perhaps try to replicate them with their own offspring.  I know my memories of time spent with my grandfather have shaped my relationships with my granddaughters. 

As well as the information within the story, there is also a summary about the cicada and an index to take the reader back to the relevant pages so that even from a very young age, little ones can begin to understand the structure of non fiction and how to use it to learn more.

Fact or fiction? This is a line-crosser that is quite simply, brilliant.  Loved it (even though I’m not a fan of anything with more than four legs.)

Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Children's Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]










Collins Children’s Picture Atlas [Third Edition]

Collins Maps

Steve Evans

Collins/Times, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


In all my years of teaching (nearly half a century!) either as a classroom-based teacher or a teacher librarian, it has never ceased to amaze me how little ones are fascinated by maps and atlases and they pore over them for hours, dreaming dreams and making plans for the future.  I remember as a youngster spending endless hours with an atlas mapping out a route around the world that would take me to every capital city, and surprisingly (not) that atlas is now among my treasured possessions inherited from my wanderlust mum, (along with an amazing dictionary that got just as much attention!)

So there is no doubt that this new atlas for young children will have the same sort of fascination for your young readers. 

Designed to take children on a journey of discovery around the countries of the world, it begins with intriguing endpapers of the world’s wildlife and then plots a contents journey around the continents that is perfect for its target audience.  Funky, colourful illustrations  depict a range of themes of the iconic features of countries, building up a hankering to see these in real life when they are older.  Minimal text provides basic information and there are the usual non fiction features like an index to help them navigate their way through the book as well as around the world.

Guaranteed to provide hours of engagement and entertainment! 

The Encyclopedia of Animals

The Encyclopedia of Animals

The Encyclopedia of Animals










The Encyclopedia of Animals

Tim Harris

Chartwell Crestine, 2019

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Discover the lifestyles, habitats, and behaviours of the animal kingdom in this new Encyclopedia of Animals written for independent readers who want to find out more.

Each page of this comprehensive guide is packed with amazingly detailed scientific artworks, full-colour photographs and text, captions and key fact boxes highlighting features of the animal’s anatomy, diet, and genus of familiar and not-so creatures of this planet.  Map icons illustrate the animal’s distribution around the world

Rather than being alphabetical order like a traditional encyclopedia, this one is divided by class and family with each section clarifying the distinguishing traits of the animals, so to find a particular species the young reader has to use the contents and the index pages and each section has a coloured tab for easy reference, all  contributing to their understanding about how non fiction texts are arranged and navigated easily.  

This is more than a beginner’s guide to the animal kingdom but the layout and language make it very accessible to young readers who are discovering the importance and permanence of print resources.

Living In Space

Living In Space

Living In Space









Living In Space

Lucy Bowman & Abigail Wheatley

Rafael Mayani

Usborne, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A9.99


With the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon approaching on July 20; the loss of the Mars Rover  after 15 years; and the Chinese landing a probe on the dark side of the moon space happenings are taking a prominent place in news bulletins this year and young minds start to think about what life in space might be like – something that is a distinct possibility for them.

Living In Space is from the Usborne Beginners series, a collection that is ideal for young readers to explore topics of interest as they are written in accessible language with lots of photographs and illustrations and supported by all the key cues and clues to support their independence in information literacy such as a contents page, index and glossary.  In it, they can learn about what it is like to work, eat and sleep in space with enough information to satisfy their initial curiosity and this, in turn, is supported by links to specifically chosen websites that will tell them more.  And if they want to learn about other aspects of space, they can search the Usborne Quicklinks site for “space” and find books and links to whatever they are curious about.

Up-to-date, easy-to-access and an in-demand topic make this a valuable addition to a collection that will get a lot of focus this year. 


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.