Go, Go Pirate Boat

Go, Go Pirate Boat

Go, Go Pirate Boat










Go, Go Pirate Boat

Katrina Charman

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Designed to be sung to the tune of the classic Row, Row, Row your boat…” this is an engaging story of all things pirate for very young readers as they join two seafaring pirates and their captain on a nautical adventure to find a treasure chest. From finding treasure to walking the plank, each activity has its own verse that they will love to sing over and over again, doing great things to develop their literacy skills as they engage with the text, use the bright pictures to bring their existing knowledge to the page and predict what the text will be about and understanding that there really is treasure in books.


The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra










The Flying Orchestra

Clare McFadden

UQP, 2019

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


No matter what is happening in our lives, the Flying Orchestra has a solo, a symphony or a sonata to accompany it  Whether a happy, joyous occasion, or one that disappoints or even invokes sadness there is a piece of music to go with it and the orchestra is ready to play regardless of whether we are in the suburbs, at the airport, or out in the country.

This is the paperback release of of the hardback version which won the CBCA Crichton Award in 2011 and is perfect for introducing a new generation of young readers to the music around us.  It includes a list of appropriate orchestral pieces that may be the child’s first introduction to this sort of music, provoking plenty of discussion about why a particular piece was chosen and introducing them to how music can both provoke and reflect a variety of emotions and moods. While the notion of an actual orchestra flying around might be a piece of fantasy, nevertheless the concept that music surrounds us and that somewhere, sometime, someone has composed just the right piece of music to match our actions, thoughts and feelings is one that many children will find fascinating and may make them even more sensitive to their world and what it offers.  Just imagine the sounds that would accompany a day “so windy that even the angels lose their balance from the top of City Hall.”

Teachers’ notes for early childhood are available here while those for older readers are available here, while McFadden herself reads the story with a musical accompaniment on You Tube.

If you or your teaching colleagues are planning to introduce young students to the wide world of music this year and are looking for something beyond the traditional Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, this could be it.

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence











Sonam and the Silence

Eddie Ayres

Ronak Taher

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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


When Sonam turns seven, she is deemed no longer a child and her big brother orders her to cover her hair and begin to work. But the streets of Kabul and its market are too loud and scary for Sonam, the cacophony making a storm in her head and so she runs.  As she runs, she hears a strange sound and follows it, finding an old man with milky eyes and a curved spine in a garden of mulberry and pomegranate trees.  In his arms he is cradling a rubat, making music that Sonam has never heard before because in Taliban Afghanistan music has been banned.  

The music captures Sonam’s heart and each day she visits the old man, learning to play the rubat that he has given her – the one he played as a child.  But when her brother hears her humming and investigates further, he takes Sonam’s rubat forbidding her to sing or play again.  And as the noise builds in her head again, and the roar of gunfire and rockets is so close, she becomes withdrawn and her heart shrinks.  Until one day, she knows she just has to go back to the pomegranate garden…

This is “a lyrical fable-like story by the well-known musician, author and broadcaster Eddie Ayres, about the irrepressible power of music.” Based on his own experiences in Afghanistan and a young girl he knew there, he challenges the reader to think what a world without music would be like, particularly as it is often the key connection between peoples with no other common language. But as Sonam discovers, even if there is no audible external sound, there is still music.  

Illustrated by Iranian-Australian visual artist Ronak Taher using sombre colours and many layers and textures, which offer uplifting features like Sonam floating above the noise and chaos of the city, this is a thought-provoking story about how other children live in other parts of the world, and, indeed, how some of those in our classes have lived. While music has now been allowed in Afghanistan, the six years that the silence reigned must have been devastating for those for whom music is as essential as food. Readers are challenged to consider what their life would be like if something they held dear was banned, and if others prevented them from indulging in it because of the dangers such behaviour could invite.  Ayres suggest an Australia without sport, but what about a country without books? As with no music, how would the stories be told and continued?

As Christmas draws closer and the hype escalates, this is a book to share and consider those whose lives are very different and for whom joy comes from something other than a brightly wrapped present. 

The Dam

The Dam

The Dam









The Dam

David Almond

Levi Pinfold

Walker Studio, 2018

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


It looks like death will come to this valley as the dam is almost completed, and when it is and the waters rise, so much will be washed away, drowned and never seen again.  In tribute to all that have gone and for all that are still to come, the musician sings and his daughter plays her violin as they wander through the empty houses that were once homes. But even though the physical things may be gone or going, the music plays on, locked in the memories as new opportunities await.

Forty years ago when a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland,  UK, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place.  But while much of the natural landscape was lost, a new one was created, one which brought new activities and adventures and allowed for new memories to be created.

While this is the story of a dam in the UK, it could be the story of places in Australia like Adaminaby, moved in the 50s to allow for the creation of Lake Eucumbene, nine times larger than Sydney Harbour and part of the might Snowy Hydro scheme that changed Australia forever.  Yes the valley was drowned, and as droughts wrack this country, sometimes, as now, remnants of what was lost rise from the deep, but in its place is a haven for fishers, boaters and artists, and the influx of European refugees who came to help build it changed the shape of Australia forever.

It could be the story of parts of the South Island of New Zealand as dams like Benmore and Aviemore reshaped that landscape as the need for electricity grew; parts of Tasmania where building dams on Lake Pedder in the 60s and the proposed damming the Gordon below the Franklin River in the 70s shone the brightest spotlight on the environment and its conservation that this country had seen.

It could even be the story of those living near Badgery’s Creek where Sydney’s new airport is at last being constructed after 50 years of talk.  It could be the story of 1000 places where human needs have outweighed those of Mother Nature and “progress” moves inexorably onwards and outwards.  

But this is not a morbid book, despite its dramatic, monochromatic sombre palette, vignettes of things lost like fleeting memories and the haunting text which is like music itself.  While it is a memorial to those who have gone before it is also a promise that there will be new life, new different memories  waiting to be made and celebrated just as the change in colours and mood of the illustrations indicate. 

Change throughout our lives in inevitable – some visible and dramatic, others not-so and more subtle – but each alters the path that we have planned or dreamed of.  While this book might be overtly about a true story of the Northumberland wilds, it is a conversation starter for all those who are facing life-changing circumstances, physical or emotional.  The musician and his daughter chose to remember through a musical tribute but were also ready to embrace the new landscape, illustrating that it is how we deal with and embrace that over which we have no control that shapes us.  “That which doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger” has never been more apt. 

Play This Book

Play This Book

Play This Book










Play This Book

Jessica Young

Daniel Wiseman

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


Seven instruments sit alone on a stage –  guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trombone, drum, maracas and cymbals – waiting to be played so there can be a show.  But without the reader lending a hand, there can be no band.  And so how to play each instrument and the sound it makes becomes the focus of this interactive book featuring lots of different children introducing each instrument. By the end of the story, all the instruments have been tested and are brought together in a grand cacophony of sound appreciated by the audience.

This is a wonderful opportunity to acquaint young readers with some common musical instruments and the invitation for them to “play” them will be irresistible.  Interactive in a similar fashion to the Hervé Tullet books like Press Here, this one will engage very young readers as they return to it again and again. 

The importance of music in a child’s life cannot be underestimated and is encapsulated in this infographic from The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra  and this research from the University of Canberra so Play this Book would be an important addition to your early music teaching resources. A natural follow-on would be Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf supported by Energy in the Air: Sounds of the Orchestra  To round out the experience, Birdsong by Ellie Sandall gives the children the opportunity to make their own music by using their voices and their bodies!



As is proclaimed in another classic, “Let the wild rumpus start!”



Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)







Lottie Perkins (series)

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2018

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Movie Star




Pop Singer


Fashion Designer



Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each book – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of this new series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

This is a new series for young girls who are becoming independent readers, with its large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations supporting their efforts.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. Something new for this age group who are transitioning between basal readers and novels with the first two books available now and the next two to come in November 2018.


The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra











The Walkabout Orchestra

Chloe Perernau

Quarto, UK, 2018

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


The orchestra have an important concert to play… but all the musicians have gone walkabout! But each has sent a postcard to  the Maestro saying where they are. So the challenge for the reader is to help him and his faithful assistant find them using the clues in those postcards.

From Reykjavik to Rio young readers will enjoy this search-and-find tour of the world that introduces them to the instruments of the orchestra as they test their powers of observation using the pictures of each in the introductory pages as a starting point.

With busy pages that test the eye (although not quite as busy as Where’s Wally?) this book encourages readers to examine the details in things rather than just glancing quickly at them and moving on.  To add to the mix there is a little yellow bird on each double-spread with his own quest that adds a further challenge.  All eventually come together in a concert hall with some interesting audience members, and for those who just can’t find them, an answer key is provided.

While this ostensibly introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, it works better as a search-and-find book which is much more fun and informative.  

A great addition for those who have pored over Where’s Wally and who are looking for a new challenge in that collaborative reading activity that is so important to emerging readers, particularly boys.





Pete the Cat – Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete








Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

James Dean

HarperCollins, 2017

18pp., board book., RRP $A12.99


From posts sent to a US teacher librarian network, Pete the Cat is one of the most popular characters for preschoolers and now our youngsters can meet him and his friends in this new tabbed board book.  With each character having its own tab, little fingers can easily turn to the page that they are seeking – a very early manifestation of the role of an index in the information literacy process!

With a strong emphasis on songs and music and a myriad of online resources to enrich and enhance the child’s experience, this little cat is sure to become a favourite here too. 

Disney Pixar Coco: The Essential Guide

Coco: The Essential Guide

Coco: The Essential Guide










Coco: The Essential Guide

Glenn Dakin

DK, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Hundreds of young people are going to Coco the latest holiday release from Disney Pixar, the story of a Miguel a young Mexican boy who loves music even though it is banned in his family.  On the eve of Dia de los Muertos, the night ancestors return to the Land of the Living, a magical incident takes Miguel to the Land of the Dead where he discovers a family secret that explains the ban.

While Miguel doesn’t want to fight his family, music is his passion and he needs to find a way to be able to express it in his home. 

This new release from DK enables those young people to explore and understand the movie more thoroughly as it introduces the settings and the characters as it moves through the significant parts of the plot.  It even has a double-page spread which sets up Miguel’s’ dilemma – should he follow tradition or should he follow his heart?

One of the surefire ways to get young children to transition between screen and print is to offer them resources that feature their favourite screen characters so there is a feeling of familiarity and connection already, and when those resources enrich and enhance the screen experience as brilliantly as DK do, then they have to be valuable.  From the popular sugar skulls which decorate the endpapers through to the vivid, full-colour illustrations, many using graphics from the movie itself, through to the enticing layout, small snippets of information in text accessible to the target audience and a voice that talks directly to the reader, this is a book that will extend the movie experience long after its 100 minutes on the screen.

Common sense media offer a review of this movie (and many others) so parents can determine if it is suitable for their child.

Lucky Button

Lucky Button

Lucky Button












Lucky Button

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Foreman

Walker, 2017

176pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


May 8th, the one day of the year that Jonah dreads because it is the anniversary of the accident that left his mother in a wheelchair two years previously and left him as her carer.

He regards it as ‘the day the music died’ because despite her love of music and American Pie being her favourite tune, his mother has not played or sung since the accident.  Jonah himself loves to sing and has been given an important role in the upcoming school play because of his voice. However, because of having to care for his mother – a fact he keeps secret although his teachers are aware of it and are compassionate – he finds it hard to fit in at school, has no friends except for the thread of one with Valeria, a newly-arrived Russian girl, and is teased and bullied because of his name.

During play practice one of the other boys deliberately injures him, and after being attended to by the school nurse, Jonah flees to the school chapel, his place of refuge where he can cry, and yell out his anger and sing his heart out till he gets back to a place of balance.  There on the floor he finds a brass button and as he picks it up, the church’s pipe organ begins to play and a remarkable story that impacts him profoundly unfolds…

As with stories like The Fox and the Ghost King, Morpurgo weaves the facts of history with the fiction of his imagination into an engaging, memorable story and Lucky Button is no exception.  Focusing on the story of Nathaniel Hogarth, an orphan of the Foundling Hospital, created by Thomas Coram in 1739 with help from William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel, music becomes the centre of the story as the young boy is befriended by the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister during their time in England. Sensitively illustrated by Michael Foreman, this is a story for newly independent readers who like historical fiction and something a little bit different.