Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry









Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Vikki Conley

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2019

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


When Mrs Gooseberry was in her front yard she always seemed grumpy, slamming her door and making the children afraid to ask for their ball when they accidentally kick it into her yard.  But when Ella, who lived next door, saw Mrs Gooseberry in her backyard, it was a different story.  She had a lovely vegetable garden  and chickens that she talked to and she seemed happy.  Confused, Ella asks her mum how a person could be grumpy in their front yard yet happy in the back and she learns that Mrs Gooseberry has “lost her love.” That confuses her even more because she didn’t know that you could lose love and whether it might be found again.

She asks the important adults in her life what love is and gets a different answer from each one, and gradually realises that love can be many things. When she sees her cat’s kittens snuggling into their mother’s warm tummy, she has an idea…

This is a charming story that will help young readers understand that love can take many forms and it doesn’t always have to be encased in the words, “I love you.”  It can be expressed in the things we do (or don’t do); the way we look at and treat others; the care we take; the extra gestures or actions we make… It is an ideal way for them to start thinking about how those who are important to them show their love and how they reciprocate those feelings.  It cries out for an activity where children inscribe one side of a heart with “My —— loves me because —–” and the other side with “I love —– because —-” where the blanks are filled with the little personal things that show love without being words.  Apart from raising awareness of how they are loved, it might also inspire them to think of new ways to express their love such as cleaning their room or doing the dishes so the adults have one less thing to do. And perhaps it might show those who think they have lost their love, that they haven’t – it’s just in a different shape now.

Rabbit’s Hop: A Tiger & Friends book

Rabbit's Hop

Rabbit’s Hop









Rabbit’s Hop

Alex Rance

Shane  McG

Allen & Unwin, 2019 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Jack Rabbit loved Rabbit Island. He loved his friends and family and all the little rabbits. He loved being the best at hopping and chomping and (nearly the best) at zigzagging. As he taught the little rabbits to hop and chomp and zigzag, he encouraged them to be kind, work hard and enjoy themselves, a mantra that he finds himself putting into practice as he makes his way from his comfort zone of Rabbit Island to the unknown of Big Island at the invitation of his cousin Roo.

This is an entertaining tale that encourages young readers to have the confidence to take risks and explore a world wider than the one they know. A sequel to Tiger’s Roar it continues the positive message of self-belief, unselfishness and perseverance that young readers need to hear and see in practice.  And to add a twist, a series of letters from the key characters on the final page sets up the series for its next episode.  

Just a happy, charming series about friendships and our dependence on one another to be our best selves.


100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better









100 Ways to Make the World Better

Lisa M. Gerry

National Geographic Kids. 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


From something as manageable as forgiving someone or leaving a complimentary note in their locker to more complex ideas such as taking a First Aid class or letting your trash be someone else’s treasures, this is a small book full of big ideas about how to make the world a better place both physically and emotionally. 

With philosophy such as being the kind of friend you’d like to have and being inclusive, it covers personal issues that can help the individual be more calm, more mindful and more responsive to their world while also taking actions that can help shape the world into what they want it to be.   Ideas are presented as simple concepts with engaging graphics and photographs, and many are followed by detailed supporting information, including advice from Nat Geo explorers, interviews with experts and weird but true facts. readers can get a sense of their own power to make a difference and an understanding of what actions contribute to positive outcomes and how they can change things by themselves.

While journalling and personal challenges are becoming a popular way to have students focus on the positives and support their mental health, sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming so this could be used to guide that journey by having students set themselves the 100 tasks over the school year, and help them structure their progress that way as they work their way through them. They might also have spaces for another 20 ways they discover that are not mentioned in the book and these could be added to a class wall chart to inspire others to look more widely. 

While these sorts of books always inspire when you first pick them up, without accountability life can go back to routine quickly so offering ways to keep the ideas in focus and support the reader over time will not only help them, but also the adult offering that support. We can all make our world better. 















Grégoire Solotareff

Gecko Press, 2019

36pp., pbk. RRP $A16.99


Once upon a time there was a rabbit who had never seen a wolf, and a young wolf who had never seen a rabbit.The pair meet and become good friends. Tom the rabbit teaches the wolf to play marbles, read, count and fish. Wolfy teaches Tom to run very, very fast.

But eventually their friendship is tested by the classic game Who’s-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf? Can the little rabbit and the young wolf remain best friends in all the world?

With its striking artwork, this is a story about how opposites can be friends despite their differences – not a new theme in children’s literature – but the twist is in the resolution.  When Wolfy frightens Tom so badly during their game that Tom scurries to his burrow vowing never to come out again, Wolfy doesn’t get it -until he does.  It’s the young child’s version of “walk a mile in my shoes” that sets this book about friendship apart and which has lessons to teach those who find it hard to empathise with the results of their actions.  Plenty of scope for discussion and reflection. 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses









The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

Susanne Gervay

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

EK Books, 2019

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


Superhero Sam has had to get glasses – big blue ones – but he doesn’t like them. They make his ears hurt and even though, his well-meaning parents and  grandparents and even his teacher say he looks handsome in them, he hates that.  It’s as though it’s all about his glasses and he, himself, is invisible. They make such a fuss about this new superhero, it’s as though they’ve forgotten the old superhero he was before.  

His best friend George still knows him and plays with him though, but then the day comes when George is not at school and the other children start to make fun of him…

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Sam was me 60+ years ago, my son 40 years ago and my granddaughter seven years ago.  Each of us had to go through the trauma of appearing in public wearing glasses, and despite the well-intended comments of others, it’s tricky to know who you are when you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror but you know you are still you inside.

Sam is just one of hundreds of other kids who face this situation, and author Susanne Gervay is well-known for taking those everyday but confronting situations and putting them into the spotlight so the extraordinary becomes ordinary, and inspiring hope for happiness ahead.  No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  Yet inside you know you are just the same person you were the day before when you didn’t have glasses.

Superbly and sensitively illustrated, this is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers and which should be actively promoted because so many children will see it as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves. Others might see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Sam and others feel and how they can be more empathetic, rather than unkind like the children in the story who call Sam “googly-eyes” and “pufferfish”. It might even be an opportunity to  explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Excellent, down-to-earth, and one for everyone, glasses or not!

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl









A Quiet Girl

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


Mary is one of those children who treads lightly on this planet, preferring to look and listen and learn its wonders and secrets rather than be an in-your-face master of it. But when she tries to share her discoveries her voice is too quiet for most people to hear, and even though she tries to speak up she is still not heard.  And so she withdraws more and more into herself, becoming more and more invisible to the world, even her parents.  And then one day one of her little bird friends comes to the window and suddenly her mother discovers that she has no idea where Mary is.  She begins to look, shouting and calling and soon the whole neighbourhood is looking for Mary. Will they be able to find her?  What must they do if they want to discover where she is?

Peter Carnavas is a master at crafting stories out of very ordinary situations, turning the gentle and everyday around so the pack a powerful punch. A Quiet Girl is no exception and he reminds us of those more introverted souls we know, who really do have much to say and share but just are not heard over the raucous, busy, noisy world that seems to be today’s norm.  (No wonder there are so many successful television programs about escaping to the country!)  Rather than be constantly on the chase for the “next big thing”, to be over the fence on the greener grass, or being the Joneses that other strive to keep up with, perhaps there is more calm, peace and pleasure in living life at a gentler pace; being the meandering stream rather than the rushing river.

Mary can teach us all lessons about listening, looking, thinking and appreciating and how it is often as important to be an observant bystander as much as an active participant.  And she can also teach us lessons about embracing and encouraging those who are not as bold as we are, but rather than urging them to join our noisy world we should visit theirs. She can also teach us about being true to ourselves and who we are, believing in our strengths and talents and being resilient enough to withstand the criticism and demands of those more outgoing, and understanding that being loud doesn’t mean being more confident. 

There could even be a broader message here as Australia heads towards a federal election – who are the quiet voices with concerns and considerations who are being drowned out by the big voices and the big bucks? Will those quiet voices still be there when the noise dies down?

The teachers’ notes offer some questions and activities that may help you explore this book and its concepts with your students, particularly as we strive to help them become more mindful. 



The King Who Banned The Dark

The King Who Banned The Dark

The King Who Banned The Dark










The King Who Banned The Dark

Emily Haworth-Booth

Pavilion, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


As a small boy, the prince was afraid of the dark and so be vowed that when he became king he would banish the dark.  And, despite the people’s protests, that’s what he did. Employing a popular political tactic of spreading disinformation so that the people thought the dark was a bad thing and demanded it be banned, he “succumbed” to their wishes and the ban was put in place. He had a huge artificial sun hung above the palace so that the night was as light as the day,  and light inspectors were employed to report and punish anyone who turned lights off in their houses.

At first the people thought it was a great idea and celebrated the light, but then their opinions began to change…

As well as being an engaging read for young readers that could have them investigating night and day and how life needs the dark to continue its cycle,  it could offer them an opportunity to talk about their nighttime fears, perhaps discovering that they are not alone with them and finding some strategies to deal with them. Would the prince have been better to find another way to ward off his fear of the dark? What sorts of things could he do?

It could also provoke a lot of discussion with older students about current political practices, acting in haste on a tide of popular opinion and the collective power we, in democracies, have to make change.  There could also be philosophical discussions about how we need dark to appreciate the light, rain to appreciate rainbows and so forth, focusing on the need for ups and downs in our lives and that like the night, the downs will pass and the ups will come again and we will value them all the more.

The predominantly yellow, black and white colour palette is perfect for spotlighting the messages of the story, whether literal or figurative, and given the depth of the story, one that spans many age groups.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl









Dress Like a Girl

Patricia Toht

Lorian Tu-Dean

Harper, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Time for a sleepover and the guests have been instructed to “dress like a girl”.  But what does that mean? 

Does it really mean dresses and high heels, buttons and bows?  Or could it mean a space suit, a wetsuit, a medico’s coat or something entirely original?  

Told in rhyme the opening stanza sums up the focus and purpose of this book perfectly…

What does it mean to dress like a girl

Many will tell you in this big, wide world

that there are strict rules that must be addressed,

rules you will need when looking your best.

But when you are given these rules to obey,

the secret is heeding them-in your own way.

The strong message is that we are each individuals and we should be dressing to suit ourselves rather than what others might say about our appearance, or what “fashion” dictates or other external influences. Written for the young girl who is becoming more aware of the world around her, what others are doing and wearing and starting to shape her own tastes and preferences, this is a timely release that should spark lots of discussions not just about what is “acceptable” but also self-acceptance and the influence of peer pressure. Do “clothes maketh the man”? 

While Tu-Dean has depicted a diverse range of ethnicities and origins in the illustrations, there is a strong theme of events like slumber parties being about the friendships and fun that are common desires of everyone, rather than differences that divide or separate or having to conform to a given look to be accepted. Great for the mindfulness collection.

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly












Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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


At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives










Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!