Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats












Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Aleesah Darlison

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2024

140pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


On a remote itty-bitty island off the coast of Panama there is an itty-bitty community of itty-bitty creatures. And while the rest of these pygmy sloths are content to dwell in the trees and move around “as slow as a rainy winter weekend”, Romeo Fortez, is different.  At his naming ceremony, the heavens do spectacular and amazing things and  Romeo is imbibed with powers of speed, intelligence, and irresistibly hypnotic good looks. As he grows up, Romeo craves speed and adventure and even his parents know that Escudo Island would never be big enough for him. But then he overhears a reference to New York – the city that never sleeps – and he knows that that is where he must be…

In the second episode of this action-packed series for newly independent young readers, ,Romeo’s nemesis, the unhinged Professor Ian Weird-Warp, is at it again. Bent on revenge, he concocts a quirky catastrophe. Mixing chicken and goat genes, he spawns a gang of eccentric chick-oats and they’re on the loose in the Big Apple, destroying everything in their path all the while chanting, ‘Berk-berk-baa!’

As the team faces off against Professor Weird-Warp’s sinister demands for Romeo’s surrender, they must hatch a brilliant plan to thwart the mad professor’s wicked schemes once and for all. Can this unlikely crew save the city from the clutches of the chick-oats?

Apart from being a fun read, it ends with the professor obviously intending more shenanigans so readers might like to have fun imagining what his next mutations might be – firstly it was a shark and a wolf, now chickens and goats so what could be next?  Perhaps they could even draw what they visualise and develop their own story based on what they already know of the resident characters, Weird-Warp’s motivations and their own imaginations.  

Santa’s New Reindeer




Santa's New Reindeer

Santa’s New Reindeer











Santa’s New Reindeer

Caroline Crowe

Jess Pauwels

Faber, 2023

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


One week to go ’till Christmas Day,
The final touches underway,
A ribbon here,
a flourish there,
And presents piled up everywhere.

Santa smiled. ‘What could go wrong?’

It didn’t take long for him to find out.  Suddenly, there is a crash and a bang and Rudolph tumbles through the workroom roof after one of his flying tricks goes disastrously wrong!

And if that’s not bad enough, he has injured himself so now he can’t pull the sleigh!  And, on top of that, no one else has any flying reindeer to spare and using just seven will mean the journey won’t be completed in time!  What will they use instead>  The other reindeer make all sorts of suggestions, but each creature has an issue that makes them unsuitable, proving that only reindeer can pull the sleigh with its precious cargo.  But then Lizzie, the elves’ Head Inventor offers a solution…

For those familiar with the hijinks of Santa’s New Beard and Santa’s New Sleigh, this is another rollicking story that offers young readers an insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of that special place at the North Pole.  It’s a hive of activity all year round and they will have fun exploring all the details in the illustrations as well as suggesting solutions for Santa’s dilemma.

Every year there is a whole new wave of children who begin to appreciate the fun and excitement of Christmas, and their joy is palpable so to feed it with original and entertaining stories of the time is a privilege.  This series is definitely one to bring out during your Christmas Countdown.


The Blunders

The Blunders

The Blunders











The Blunders

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2023

384pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99


Blunder: a stupid or careless mistake or to make one

That pretty much sums up the family in this new release from one of the most popular authors for young readers. “The Blunders are the most blundersome family in the blundering history of blunderdom.  They live in a crumbling country house named Blunder Hall.  It has been in the family for hundreds of years in the heart of the English countryside. “

And like so many stately homes of its ilk, it is slowly crumbling and the family is constantly and desperately seeking ways to raise funds to maintain it. For Lord Bertie Blunder (“a classic upper class twit”), this means inventing something that will make the family a fortune but sadly, his inventions tend to be so silly and impractical that they cost more than they raise. But if he is to keep his family together and his home his castle, he needs to do something before The Man from the Bank who has his own plan to seize Blunder Hall can close everything down.

Fans of David Walliams will appreciate finding this either in their Christmas stocking or on the school library shelves, as will those who are just embarking on their independent reading journey because of its easy-to-read text liberally illustrated with line drawings that not only support the story but are also LOL in themselves.  The characters are caricatures, the humour is slapstick and the whole read one that will support the young reader in their belief that they can read, even thick books like this one.  

Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth


Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth











Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth

Steve Mushin

A & U Children’s, 2023

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


When the introduction to a book is entitled ” Ludicrous Ideas are Bootcamp for Brains” then you know you have something that is going to be out there and it’s going to appeal to your wild thinkers, your madcap inventors and all those other kids who dwell in the Land of What If?

This is a most unusual book in both format and content and yet it is also most intriguing.  The author himself says that he had been having “outlandish ideas” for as long as he can remember, some successful, some not-so, but he is on a mission to “crush climate change by transforming every city on Earth into a jungle (or whatever other type of ecosystem it was before humans trashed it)”.

So in a comic-like format that follows his thought processes, he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems and develops a deadly serious plan to transform cities into jungles, rewilding them into carbon-sucking mega-habitats for all species, and as fast as possible. But, as a highly-respected industrial designer, artist and inventor these are not the random machinations of a child’s wildest dreams, but serious collaborations with scientists and others who are concerned about the planet and which incorporate futuristic materials and foods, bio reactors, soil, forest ecosystems, mechanical flight, solar thermal power and working out just how fast we could actually turn roads into jungles, absorb carbon and reverse climate change. Each project has been researched and while not yet necessarily put into practice, each is theoretically possible and some are already happening,

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Underpinned by quotes from those who have gone before including 14th century philosopher William of Ockham who said that “the simplest solution is almost always the best” (Occam’s razor) this is one to inspire all those who are concerned about climate change but who want and need to do more than reduce their personal use of plastic and who can see that doing what has always been done might not work in time, let alone be successful. It validates the wacky and the wild ideas some students have and encourages them to go even further.

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope











Book of the Microscope

Alice James

Usborne, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Give a little child a magnifying glass and you will entertain them for hours.

Give a little child a pair of binoculars and you will entertain them for days,

But give them a microscope and you will entertain them weeks, if not a lifetime.

There is something fascinating that draws little people into looking at little things, so much smaller than they are and which captures their interest and imagination.  How well I remember the times it was our turn to have the school’s class set of microscopes and the anticipation and oy of discoveries made.  It didn’t surprise me that now Miss 16 had a microscope and a telescope on her Santa lists when she was but a babe!

So this book which explains what a microscope is, how it works and how to use it will be a welcome companion to a gift of the real thing. There are so many things to look at in and around the home that it can be overwhelming but with brilliant illustrations and accessible text, the reader is directed to focus on specific things such as the shapes and textures of thinks like moss or pollen and thus when they choose their own investigations they have learned the sorts of things to look for and at. There are even projects such as peeling a leaf or growing body bacteria  so the budding scientist is even more actively engaged.

Apart from being a brilliant suggestion for keeping young readers entranced as the long summer holidays approach, being an Usborne publication means there are safe links to follow to learn and discover more including using a virtual microscope.  

As well, the TL’s best friend Peter Macinnis still endorses the GoMicro, a device that attaches to a smart phone and for which he has written a series of free lessons for kids to use to explore the world around them.   More information about the device and how it can be purchased and used in schools (included purchasing a class set for $270) is here  or contact Peter directly for the teaching notes. 

Frankie Stein

Frankie Stein

Frankie Stein











Frankie Stein

Kylie Covark

Shane McG

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk.,  RRP $A16.95


Frankie Stein loves doing science experiments while her teddy watches on. She wishes she could chat with him … she’s sure he’s a bear with scientific flair!

But when she mixes up a formula that works, and Bear comes alive, he is not the friendly, cuddly companion she is expecting! Now it’s a race to fix him before everything is destroyed.

With strong links to the original novel by Mary Shelley, this is a junior rhyming version with an underlying theme of being careful what you wish for.  Like the original, it is the scientist not the monster with the familiar name, and the teachers’ notes explain the amazing link between Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace and why October 12 is set aside to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) (and the date chosen to publish this review.)

The teaching notes also focus on assisting our younger readers to think about what scientists  do, science in their lives, and offer some simple science that they can practise that is much safer than creating a monster bear.  The story could start discussions about the reality of monsters in general. Could Frankie Stein really make a potion to bring her bear to life, regardless of how clever she is?  Or it may also inspire more advanced readers to seek out a junior version of the original novel while others might like to investigate the meaning of the original’s subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. It could also start discussions about the reality of monsters in general. Could Frankie Stein really make a potion to bring her bear to life, regardless of how clever she is? Whichever path is taken, it offers an introduction to one of the enduring characters in literature that children will hear of as their reading journeys continue.







Frank’s Red Hat

Frank's Red Hat

Frank’s Red Hat











Frank’s Red Hat

Sean E. Avery

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


Frank is a penguin with ideas. Some are better than others but often they are  not so good.. So when he  he shows the other penguins his strange new creation, they are very nervous. It’s something they’d never seen or expected to see in their cold and colourless Antarctic world — a red hat. and when Neville puts it on and is immediately taken by a killer whale, they definitely don’t want anything to do with it –  or the lime, copper, apricot, cobalt, lilac versions Frank offered.  In fact, they didn’t care for any of his colour variations – it was the hat itself that was evil.

Despite his perseverance, Frank had to admit defeat and declared he would not make any more hats until…

Sometimes it just takes someone with a belief in their ideas, in what they do and can offer to bring colour into a monochrome world thus changing that world forever, and Frank’s determination and resilience to be and make the changes is a lesson to all those who have a talent or an idea. Encouraging those with the big ideas to not give up, to persevere while being willing to listen to their audience and even modify their prototypes to address concerns and meet new needs, this is a story that offers the boost to continue that might be needed.

On the other hand, it opens up opportunities for discussions from the penguins’ perspective about how we are naturally resistant to change that takes us beyond our comfort zone, this is a great story to share with those about to embark on new adventures such as moving house or graduating to high school.  While there will be anxiety about leaving what is known, there is also the chance for new, exciting doors to open, such as the new friends Frank meets and the potential to expand both ideas and learning.  

While the publisher recommends this as a story for 4-7 year olds, it has the potential to have a much wider audience in the hands of a skilled teacher. 


What’s The Big Idea? Australian Inventions That Changed The World

What’s The Big Idea? Australian Inventions That Changed The World

What’s The Big Idea? Australian Inventions That Changed The World












What’s The Big Idea? Australian Inventions That Changed The World

Sue Lawson 

Karen Tayleur

Wild Dog, 2022

44pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“An invention is something created to solve a problem or make life easier. Inventions can start as a question: ‘I wonder if there’s a better way to do this?’  Or they can come about by chance…”

In this new book that focuses on things created or developed by Australians, young readers can discover the ingenuity of those who have contributed some of the most significant items to make the world a better place and which have endured over time. From the development of firestick farming , the yidaki (didgeridoo), woomera and eel traps of First Nations peoples to wifi, flashing cricket stumps and the mobile laundry for the homeless, the collection is divided into categories such as agricultures, medicine, technology, and communication with short easy-to-read summaries of the invention and all neatly brought together in a useful, colour-coded timeline at the end. As well as the readily-accessible text, there are lots of photos and the usual supports to help junior researchers navigate the contents. 

This is a timely release  when we are particularly encouraging students to dream with their eyes open and to let their imaginations soar, including those with a penchant for non fiction, making it one to highlight. 

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci's Life Of Invention

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention











Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life Of Invention

Jake Williams

Pavilion, 2022

96pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Whether you’re looking into art, architecture, engineering, mathematics, music or just about anything else, the name of Leonardo da Vinci keeps cropping up. Born in 1452 in a small town in Tuscany Italy, more than 550 years later his inventions and discoveries live on being the foundations of many of the things we take for granted.  Known now as a polymath – someone whose knowledge spans many different areas and subjects – he was responsible for so much more than the Mona Lisa

This new book written to introduce the man , his talent, skill and world to young readers who are as curious as he was, is a fascinating read that follows his life, his discoveries and their continuing impact in a way that is easily accessible and full of illustrations. Through his passion for sketching and note-taking that left a legacy of “wild ideas, futuristic inventions, fearsome creatures and beautiful works of art”, the author has pulled together an authoritative, engaging biography not just of the man but his contribution to his society and ours.

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything











The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

Mara Rockliff

Daniel Duncan

Walker, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


A century ago, as Britain emerged from the horrors of World War I,  Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. Instead of spending any pocket money on sweets, she bought tools. She could make anything. She could fix anything. And when she took a thing apart, she put it back together better than before. When Beatrice left home to study engineering, she knew that as a girl she wouldn’t be quite like the other engineers – and she wasn’t. She was better. Still, it took hard work and perseverance to persuade the Royal Aircraft Establishment to give her a chance. But when World War II broke out and British fighter pilots took to the skies in a desperate struggle for survival against Hitler’s bombers, it was clearly time for new ideas. Could Beatrice solve an engine puzzle and help Britain win the war?

This is the intriguing story of a remarkable woman whose dismissal of other’s opinions about what women should/could do, and whose ingenuity, persistence, and way with a wrench (or spanner) made her quite unlike anyone else, adding to the growing list of remarkable women whose ground-breaking stories are only just being told. For even though she changed the course of the war and was awarded an OBE , she retired 20 years later never having held a top post in the Royal Aircraft Establishment because even then in 1969, those jobs were only awarded to men.  Shilling is another woman to introduce students to when they are looking for heroes to investigate and model, and because this has a clear explanation of the problem with the Hurricanes and Spitfires and how it was solved, it will appeal to those with an interest in engineering and mechanics as well.  

An extended biography and selected resources for further exploration round out this amazing story.