Speak Up!

Speak Up!

Speak Up!











Speak Up!

Rebecca Burgess

HarperCollins, 2022

272pp., graphic novel, RRP $A39.99


Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self.  Mia would be happy to just be herself, stims and all, but the other students have trouble understanding her and even bully her, while her mother is full of strategies to help her attempt to mask her autism.  Although she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.

Together, they’ve taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! Ironically, one of her biggest fans is also one of her biggest real-life bullies, Laura. But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.

She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say. Though she may struggle with some of her emotions, Mia does not suffer because of her autism. Rather than  a cure as though there is something about her that needs to be fixed,  she just wants acceptance, understanding and tolerance, just like the other characters who have other issues that drive their behaviour. 

For older, independent readers this is a graphic novel by an autistic author/illustrator offering a sympathetic depiction of one young person’s experience of autism, and because it is by one on the spectrum it is an authentic voice giving an insight into what it is like to be different at a time when peer acceptance is so important to who we are. 

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda











And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Eric Bogle

Bruce Whatley

Allen & Unwin 2015

hbk., 32pp., $A24.99



Is there a more haunting tune about World War I than Eric Bogle’s classic And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Beginning with

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover

From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback, well I waltzed my Matilda all over

it tells the story of a young man, almost any young man of 1915 in Australia, who took up arms to fight in the war at a time when Australia was trying to meet its quota for Britain and to not fight for King and Country branded you a coward.

They gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

Throughout the song and the journey, from the ship departing, the slaughter of Gallipoli, the hospital for the wounded and the arrival of “the crippled, the wounded, the maimed…the legless, the armless, the blind, the insane” at Circular Quay there is the poignant refrain of the band playing Waltzing Matilda, the iconic song that many believe should be our national anthem as it connects us in a way like no other. And finally, as an old man, he sits on his porch and watches the parade with his comrades passing before him and he knows that soon, as more old men disappear, “Someday no one will march there at all”. But how proud and amazed would those who came home -and those who didn’t-  be to see that this is not a forgotten war, they are not forgotten heroes and rather than no one marching, each year the crowds at the annual commemorations wherever they are get larger.

However, the most provocative stanza is   

And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore

They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question.”

Written in 1972 at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, many were wondering that aloud and as still engulfs parts of the world and threatens Australia’s future, we may well all ask ourselves the same question again.

With superb illustrations by Bruce Whatley that show every emotion of the text –drawn with his left hand because he has discovered he draws “with much more emotion” with that hand –using the restrained palette that one associates with Gallipoli,  this is a book that has to be in your library’s collection as it is a song that should be known by everyone before this year is done.  However, this is so much more than one of Australia’s leading illustrators putting pictures to an iconic tune. There are teachers’ notes  that provide many ideas for exploring the content, its imagery and its images and the full lyrics are available via an internet search

A memorable contribution to the collection of books on this topic. 

First published April 21 2016

Updated April 21 2023 

Song in the City

Song in the City

Song in the City











Song in the City

Daniel Bernstrom

Jenin Mohammed

HarperCollins, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Sunday morning in the city, and Emmelene is accompanying her Grandma Jean to church where there is a choir singing and trumpets blowing  and hand-clapping to hear and join in with. But Grandma Jean is getting cross because Emmelene is lagging behind because she is listening to the music of the city – the tap-tappa-tap, the yip-yippa-yip, the pitter-patter-drip and all the other sounds that her ears hear but her eyes can’t see.  

And in church, when Grandma Jean’s music makes little impression on Emmelene , Grandma gets even crankier and just doesn’t understand what Emmelene can hear – although she does try. And then Emmelene shows her…

A long time ago, I read a poem about the sounds of night falling and it made such an impression on me, that now, mosquitoes willing, one of my favourite wind-down activities is to listen to the dark creep across our bushland home.  I have to admit that I’m a bit like Grandma Jean and haven’t heard the music of the city so maybe I should sit in the park in town and close my eyes… Certainly, it is something we can do with our kids on a nice day – take them outside, let them lie on the grass in the sun and just listen to the music of the outdoors.  And if someone falls asleep, that’s fine – either they needed the rest or the activity had the desired effect of putting them in the zone for a while.  

But, while this is a great book to inspire an awareness of our surroundings and be mindful in the moment, on a more practical level it is also one for exploring the concept of onomatopoeia as the sounds of the vehicles and other things that Emmelene hears are illustrated in a way that makes you see them as well as hear them.  Another opportunity to explore and experience our language. 



One Bird Band

One Bird Band

One Bird Band










One Bird Band

Sacha Cotter

Josh Morgan

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


With its rinky-dink-dink, rat-a-tat-tat, toot-a-toot-toot, and clang-a-clang-CLANG, the little bird really is a one-bird-band, But as it makes its way through the jungle, it discovers other creatures who are really sad and to cheer them up, it gives away its instruments one at a time, until it has none left.  Now it is the sad one!  But then…

While the main focus of the story is the concept of sharing, little readers could have fun deciding which instruments make each sound, and then perhaps even discover what noises other instruments make and suggest vocabulary for them in the style of the author.  What would their one-man-band sound like? While onomatopoeia is a big word for little mouths,  it can be a lot of fun as the child pays attention to the sounds around and increases their vocabulary so this is a charming story to share and build on.


Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile










Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile: Junior Novelisation

Bernard Waber

Adapted by Catherine Hapka

HarperCollins US, 2023

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


When 12-year old Josh Primm and his family move to New York City, they are surprised to discover a crocodile living in their attic – a crocodile that is fun, playful, and can sing! Josh and Lyle become best friends but then Lyle’s former owner turns up to claim him for a new musical act and despite the issues Lyle has caused with a neighbour, the Primms realise how much Lyle means to them and that they need to keep him as part of the family.

Based on the original story by Bernard Waber , this is the novelisation of the film currently so popular with young children, making it an ideal addition to any family or school collection as we encourage them to read and revisit the fun they have shared.  Knowing the scenario will support those who are consolidating their skills while others may seek out the original as well as others in the series and others by the same author,  expanding reading horizons beyond the screen.

Cicada Sing Song

Cicada Sing Song

Cicada Sing Song











Cicada Sing Song

Pat Simmons

Katrin Dreiling

Little Steps, 2022

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


After spending so many years underground as nymphs, the warm winds have brought the cicadas to the surface and they are ready to get together to make their music, the loudest insects on the planer and the sound of summer evenings in Australia for so many.  

Yellow Monday, Black Prince, Green Grocer, Orange Drummer, Brown Bunyip, Floury Baker, Razor Grinder… all the males are pumping out their own particular song  to try to attract a mate and begin the cycle again. Even their rock star names suggest something special- which other insects have such tags? 

Written in rhyme, this is a fascinating book that brings the songs of the cicadas to life in what to some humans is just a cacophony because it  can be up to 120 dB at close range (approaching the pain threshold of the human ear), or so high in pitch that the noise is beyond the range of our hearing but which is unique to each species so that they only attract the females of the same species.

So as well as being entertaining it is also educational and combined with a book such as Searching for Cicadas could open up a whole new world of investigation for the young reader as they not only discover new things about this ubiquitous creature but perhaps the world of music too.  Which is their favourite genre? And if they were a cicada, what would their name be?

Diper Överlöde: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diper Överlöde

Diper Överlöde











Diper Överlöde: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (17)

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2022

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



When Greg Heffley decides to tag along with his brother Rodrick’s band, Löded Diper, Greg doesn’t realize what he’s getting into. But he soon learns that late nights, unpaid gigs, fighting between band members, and money troubles are all part of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. That it’s not all fame and glory and adoring fans. 

Can he help Löded Diper become the legends they think they are? Or will too much time with Rodrick’s band be a diper överlöde?

This is the 17th in this series that follows Greg Heffley and his friends through the trials and tribulations of middle school and remains as popular today as it was when it was first released in 2007 as  new waves of readers relate to his adventures.  And with a new movie Rodrick Rules  being released on Disney+ on December 2, it is likely to gather many more fans, particularly among boys.  Written in the first person that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, full of humour and heavily illustrated with cartoon-like figures, this is a series that will appeal to your reluctant readers as not only is it an easy read, but its popularity puts the reader in the in crowd, important to those who might feel marginalised because they’re struggling academically.

Definitely one for the library’s collection, and one to recommend to parents for the Santa Sack. 


Violin and Cello

Violin and Cello

Violin and Cello












Violin and Cello

Catherine Greer

Joanna Bartel

Alexander Lau

EK Books, 2022

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


While a high brick wall might separate the balconies of the two apartments and prevent the players from seeing each other, it doesn’t stop the music. One played a violin and the other a cello, and while each practised alone and at their own pace, both lonely, the music mingled.  And then the violinist had an idea and sent a secret message to the cello player.

Cello from a backpack.

Violin from a case

Each musician still played at their own pace.

It was tricky.

It took some time.

Then music flew from the violin and from the cello, too.  

And then the cellist made a paper plane and sent her own secret message to her new friend.  And together they played music from their balconies and connected many more than themselves. 

Learning and playing music can be a solitary activity, bringing pleasure to the music-maker but even greater isolation than has been enforced over recent times.  With between 45% of children (Australia) and 70% of children (UK) currently playing a musical instrument and even more (as many as 9 out of 10) wanting to learn -most beginning their classical music education with piano, violin or cello lessons- this is a story that will resonate with many young readers and show them that music is indeed a universal language and can indeed  “act like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens” as Maria Von Trapp declared in The Sound of Music. 

The score for the allegro and adagio movements of “The Mystery Friends”, the music which brings the children together, is  an original duet for violin and cello composed for the book by Australian composer, Alexander Lau, are printed in the book as well as being available via the links in this review.  Thorough teachers’ notes are also available so that even the most non-musical person like me can bring this book to life well beyond the words and pictures on the page. 

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar











Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Hilary Robinson

Mandy Stanley

Catch A Star, 2022

16pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


Tatty Mouse wants to play in her brother’s band, but given they already have a guitarist, a saxophonist and a singer, she has to find a place.  Known as the ‘mend-it, make-it mouse”, and so, after consulting a book she decides on maracas and drums and sets to, using everyday objects from her home to make her own musical instruments.

The board book format lends itself perfectly to a lift-the-flap experience for our youngest readers as they follow Tatty Mouse’s instructions, perhaps making their own versions as they do because everything she uses is readily available.  

Catch A Star continues to recognise the need for even our youngest readers to have engaging stories that are sturdy enough in their own hands so they can mimic the reading of those who read to them, a critical step in becoming a reader, and this is no exception. The text is simple but the story can be followed without being able to read it because the pictures are colourful and clearly amplify what the words say, while the lift-the-flap and the invitation to do so adds to the engagement.  Above all, this format shows little ones the value of the constancy of print – rather than being a fleeting image on a screen, it is one they can return to again and again, not just to enjoy Tatty’s inventiveness but also to explore their own. 


100 Things to Know About Music

100 Things to Know About Music

100 Things to Know About Music












100 Things to Know About Music

Alex Frith, Alice James, Jerome Martin, Lan Cook

 Dominique Byron, Federico Mariani, Shaw Nielsen, Parko Polo

Usborne, 2022

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Continuing this popular series which includes titles such as 100 Things to Know About Science,  100 Things to Know About Saving the Planet 100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding, 100 Things to Know About Food,  100 Things to Know About the Human Body, 100 Things to Know About Space, 100 Things to Know About the Oceans, 100 Things to Know About Planet Earth and 100 things to Know About History, young musicians can now investigate which tunes could save a life, and which should come with a health warning; how  talking drums tell the history of Africa; what happens in your brain when you listen to music; the part that termites play on creating didgeridoos and even how parachuting pianos into war zones helped win World War II! 

Without a contents page but with an extensive index, this is a dip-and-delve book that can lead the reader down all sorts of interesting paths depending on where they open the book.  Who knew that playing music to plants could make them grow faster or that sleigh bells and harmonicas were the first instruments into space?

With lots of illustrations and easily accessible facts in small chunks, this is the perfect book ( and series) to get reluctant readers who prefer non fiction to consolidate their skills as they  become engrossed in stuff they didn’t even know they didn’t know yet want to discover more about!