Last Man Out

Last Man Out

Last Man Out











Last Man Out

Louise Park

Wild Dog, 2023

80pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


While most children in Australia and New Zealand learn much about the landing of their combined troops at ANZAC Cove on April 25, 1915 that built the legends and legacy that the bonds of the two nations are now so solidly built on, and that these days, they learn that from the get-go this was a disastrous campaign starting by the soldiers being dropped at the wrong location, not so much is known about the subsequent withdrawal in December 1915 masterminded by Australian Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Brudenell White.  And that for the plan to be successful, audacious as it was, there needed to be a handful of men to remain behind to the end to provide cover for their fellow soldiers, even though to be part of that mission meant that they, themselves, would probably not leave the battleground alive.

Author Louise Park’s grandfather was one of those chosen to be part of that rear guard – an assignment hotly contested amongst those who remained because of the bonds forged during those eight torturous months – and, using his letters home as well as meticulous research, she has crafted an eye-opening story that sheds new light on what those times and that miraculous evacuation (which he survived) were really like.  This is a personal account of what life was really like in the trenches, told first-hand rather than a third-party voice that can never truly capture the reality.  It tells of the deprivations, the lack of sleep,  food and water, the pain  of the never-ending digging of trenches, the illnesses like “Gallipoli Gallop”, the strategies employed to trick the Turks, the dangers and most of all, the mateship that grew between the soldiers and the respect that they developed for the enemy, because they are just defending their families and farms from invaders, as the ANZACs would do if it were their country.  

The reader is right there beside John Park, Charles Rankin, Freddy Woods, Francis Owen, and Lieutenant Riddell and all the others, including my own grandfather – ordinary men doing extraordinary things – and we learn about the true meaning of “loyalty, having each other’s backs no matter what, and valuing something greater than yourself”.  The Gallipoli Campaign took an estimated 400 000 direct casualties , an impersonal statistic difficult for young (and older) minds to comprehend, and while there have been many accounts written for all ages, this one for younger, independent readers stands apart because John Park and his buddies are real people with a real story rather than an anonymous fictitious character invented to carry the narrative along.  With my own dad named after Lord Kitchener, this could have been the story of my grandfather, my grandchildren’s great, great-grandfather, any of our students’ ancestors, regardless of the side they were on, and that makes it personal..

John Park was a seasoned soldier aged 36 when he was at Gallipoli and he clearly understood the importance of documenting his experiences, whereas my grandfather was a young lad of just 18 and even if he did write, the letters have long been lost.  And as with so many who finally did return, (after Gallipoli, he was sent to the Western Front and gassed on the Somme), he didn’t share what he had seen and done with those who had not been there; there was no 24/7 news cycle to bring pictures into the family living room and so it is left for people like the author to tell their family’s stories so that we can better understand ours, 

An essential addition to any ANZAC collection.

Can We Really Help the Dolphins?

Can We Really Help the Dolphins?

Can We Really Help the Dolphins?











Can We Really Help the Dolphins?

Katie Daynes

Roisin Hakessy

Usborne, 2023

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


When a group of children playing at the beach find a message in a bottle from a dolphin, they find themselves on an amazing adventure with a pod of talking dolphins who explain all the perils that they face daily in the ocean because of human activity. And, having been made aware of the issues, the children resolve to try to do something about it by making a video to show the adults in their lives that there are things that can and must be done to save the dolphins.

Written in a narrative non fiction style that speaks directly to the reader because the whole text is a conversation, this is an appealing book that alerts young readers to the dangers facing one of their favourite creatures.  This style engages the reader’s attention so they feel that while they are part of the problem, they can also be part of the solution making it more personal than just the usual facts and figures and appeals for help. For those who want to join the characters on their mission and want to know more  there are Quicklinks of assessed websites they can follow.

















Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2023

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


If you read the entry for Dorothy Wall, creator of Blinky Bill, in the Australian Dictionary of Biographyyou learn, “Dorothy Wall (1894-1942), author and illustrator, was born on 12 January 1894 at Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand, daughter of Charles James William Wall, soldier, and his wife Lillian, née Palethorpe, both English born.”

If you read the new biography by Tania McCartney, creator of Mamie (amongst many others), you learn. “On a frosty day , in a land of long white clouds and snowy peaks , a little girl was born. Her name was Dorothy but her family called her Dorrie.”

If you look at the ADB entry you get a formal photo of the subject…

While the McCartney version is this…


Two different styles for two different audiences, each appropriate for their situations, but Dorrie demonstrating yet again why it is essential that we, as teacher librarians, must continue to offer our students non fiction in accessible, engaging print format. 

As with Mamie, in which McCartney brought to life May Gibbs, the creator of the Gumnut Babies and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, so too has she created an appealing, readable biography of the author of the Blinky Bill series, focusing on her early life that helped shape the creation of the characters. As a child, Dorrie was  a master creator- singing, Dancing, sewing, making jewellery, designing patterns, painting nature and drawing illustrations, winning scholarships to prestigious art colleges in New Zealand and then migrating to Australia at the outbreak of World War 1. But it is when a cheeky koala appears in a tree outside her window, her world is turned upside down. A fascination and passion for Blinky soon becomes her life work – and not only is  a lifelong friendship born but also a series of stories that remain children’s favourites generations on.  Who hasn’t read The Adventures of Blinky Bill  or seen the television series or movie made from them? 

The little koala in the red overalls is a  literary staple in our children’s lives and this outstanding new biography is an essential addition to the collection because just as Dorrie captured the warmth and beauty of Blinky, his pals and their environment, so has McCartney.  Although in reality, if you continue to read the ADB entry, Wall’s life was not an easy one and she died from pneumonia at a young age, McCartney focuses on the joy and the fun of playing and singing and dancing like no one’s watching.  The final illustration of her books being displayed in an Angus & Robertson window (a company synonymous with books in times past) is perfect – not just for the book itself, but also for this year’s CBCA Book Week them of Read. Grow. Inspire.  Both Wall and McCartney encourage that. 


How Do You Say I Love You?

How Do You Say I Love You?

How Do You Say I Love You?











How Do You Say I Love You?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2022

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


In every country around the globe,
we all have ways to show
the people who mean the most to us
what they ought to know.

And whether through actions or words, the three most important we can utter are “I love you” and every language has its own phrase to express the emotion.

In this companion to What Do You Call Your Grandpa?What Do You Call Your Grandma? and What Do You Do to Celebrate?  young readers journey around the world from dawn to dusk, having meals and school days in a variety of places and learn that wherever they are, the bonds are strong and each country has its own way of saying “I love you.’ Whether it’s Sami saying munayki in Quechua, one of the official languages of Peru and Bolivia or Tala in the Philippines saying mahal kita in Tagalog, or Henry signing in Auslan, it’s obvious that regardless of the words, it is the love that is shared that is the main thing. 

While there are clues to the locations in the illustrations, there is also a glossary that explains where the children are, the language they are speaking and where they are living.  It just screams to be added to by the children in your care as they add their own special words in their language. No wonder it’s a CBCA Notable Book for 2023. 

Aroha ahau ki a koe

The Big Story of Being Alive

The Big Story of Being Alive

The Big Story of Being Alive











The Big Story of Being Alive

Neal Layton

Wren & Rook, 2023

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


What does it mean to be alive? The three things that are agreed on to define “alive” are that all living things grow, reproduce and they are made of trillions of tiny, but critically important, organisms called cells.  It is how these cells combine and work together that gives each living  thing its unique characteristics. 

Young readers can find out what a cell is and why they are important, including how they themselves start as two cells from their parents, in this engaging, fact-filled book written to entertain as well as educate.  Readers will empathise with the little robot who is not alive, but who, in the end would like to be because of all the things it means it could do.  In the past, and perhaps still, the foundation science unit for our youngest students was to distinguish between those things that were alive and those that weren’t beginning their understanding of comparing, contrasting and classifying and so this would be a great starting point to help them understand why there are differences, rather than just that there are.  They could use what they learn to develop a set of questions based on the criteria for being alive and then examine those things around them to see which they satisfy.  Perhaps it will start them on a lifelong journey of scientific discoveries. 



The Month That Makes the Year

The Month That Makes the Year

The Month That Makes the Year











The Month That Makes the Year

Inda Ahmad Zahri

Allen & Unwin, 2023

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



This month is different from the others.
It starts with the sighting of a new crescent moon.
‘Slow down, be kind to yourself and think good thoughts.’
This month, we learn to do big things by changing one little thing at a time…

For Deenie, the youngest member of a Muslim family, it is her first time to fast during Ramadan. She wonders how she will survive without food or water until sunset but although she faces some   challenges, by the end of the month, she learns that there is a lot more to Ramadan than giving up food and water.

This year, 2023, Ramadan is expected to begin on Wednesday 22 March, following the sighting of the moon over Mecca and last 30 days ending on Friday 21 April, with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr starting on Saturday 22 April or Sunday 23 April. While fasting is not compulsory for children, it is seen by many as a rite of passage as they come to learn “patience, gratitude, self-control, mindfulness and a sense of solidarity with everyone on the planet” as well as “strengthening [their] faith on [their] bond with Allah” and thus there will be many in our school communities who are going through this period of denial and for whom, as teachers, we must make allowances, not the least of which is ensuring other students have some idea of this important time in the lives of their classmates.

Told in the first person by a Muslim who has practised the tradition since being a child, its narrative format makes this a personal story that connects to both those of the faith, and those outside it.  Other Muslim children will enjoy seeing themselves in a book that acknowledges their beliefs while showing that it is a struggle to go without and there will be times that they, too, might falter but that there is much that can be gained by distracting their thoughts from hunger and thirst.  Sharing it with all our students will also raise awareness with non-Muslim children helping them to understand not just why their friends might be unable to participate as they normally do, but also the deeper reasons. As well as the enlightening introduction, there is also a glossary to help students understand not only the meaning of some of the terms but also their deeper implications.

From the first year of school, the Australian Curriculum has outcomes explicitly supporting “students to recognise the emotions, abilities, needs and concerns of others [and to] develop their understanding about how respecting the perspectives, emotional states and needs of others is essential to social interactions” and this is an ideal book to meet that goal. It might even be an opportunity for all to share their own religious beliefs, customs and traditions so that they can provide a foundation for investigation throughout the year as they occur.  

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear












Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick

Sophie Blackall

Little Brown, 2015

56pp., hbk



Cole asks his mother for a bedtime story – a true one about a bear.  And it just so happens that Lindsay Mattick is the great-great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian vet who, in 1914, was conscripted to join the war effort to look after the soldiers’ horses. On his way to the training ground far from his native Winnipeg, the train pulls into a station and Harry spies a baby bear on a rope held by a trapper who is unlikely to raise him and love him as Harry did all animals.  After a lot of thought, twenty dollars changes hands and Harry finds himself back on the train with the bear cub and a lot of curious mates and one astonished colonel.  But the bear whom Harry has named Winnie after his home town, wins over the troops and she soon establishes herself as the regiment’s mascot. 

Winnie travels with the soldiers to England, but when it is time for them to embark for France, Harry knows Winnie can not go.  So he leaves Winnie at The London Zoo where she is loved by hundreds of children including a certain little boy named Christopher Robin Milne – and from there a whole other story begins.

2016 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, this is a charming story that has that intimacy of a story shared between mother and child. Beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall with meticulously researched details in muted watercolour and ink colours which reflect the mood and emotions, it also contains photos of Harry with Winnie and other memorabilia that demonstrate the authenticity of the tale.    The conversations between the narrator and her son which are interspersed throughout the story not only add to its reality but also make it more than just a non-fiction recount.  With its undertones of A. A. Milne’s writing, and the final pages that trace the lineage of Harry Colebourne to Cole, this is a very personal account that is as engaging as it is interesting. Because she is telling the story to her own young son, there are several occasions where she chooses her words very carefully so he will not be upset and this then makes it suitable as a read-aloud for even the youngest of listeners. 

One of many stories published to coincide with  the centenary of World War 1 continues, there are many stories commemorating the contribution that a whole range of creatures made to the conflict, but this one with its direct ties to the beloved character of Winnie-the-Pooh which all children know, is one that will linger in the mind for a long time.  

You could also trace Winnie’s story with Christopher Robin from the time he first appeared in A A. Milne’s anthology, When We Were Very Young, as a poem called Teddy Bear …

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: “If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?”
He thought: “It really isn’t fair
To grudge one exercise and air.”For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
“Is quite” (he said) “as fat as me!”
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
“I mean” (he said) “as fat as I!

Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings –
Old tales of “Once upon a time,”
And history retold in rhyme.

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: “King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed ‘The Handsome!'” There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub )
Might yet be named “The Handsome Cub!”

“Might yet be named.” Or did he mean
That years ago he “might have been”?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
“Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is ‘Handsome Louis’ with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget.
Next morning (nose to window pane)

The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
“Is he alive or is he dead?”
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled “Oh!”
Our Teddy disappeared below.”

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
“Well, well!” “Allow me!” “Not at all.”
“Tut-tut! A very nasty fall.”

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It’s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That ‘handsome’ King – could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
“Impossible,” he thought. “But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!”

“Are you,” he said, “by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?”
The other answered, “I am that,”
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, “Excuse me,” with an air,
“But is it Mr Edward Bear?”
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, “Even so!”

They stood beneath the

window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that….
Then said His Majesty, “Well, well,
I must get on,” and rang the bell.
“Your bear, I think,” he smiled. “Good-day!”
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about –
He’s proud of being short and stout.

Or listen to this 1929 sound recording by the Dominion Gramophone Company in which Milne reads the third chapter of his classic, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” or the movie A Bear Named Winnie with Stephen Fry and Michael Fassender. 
Of all the stories written about teddy bears over the generations, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear are arguably the most enduring and to discover that Winne was real, and had a life and following long before Disney discovered it, will delight both young and not-so-young.  A must-have book for any fan. 
Originally published February 16, 2016
Updated February 2023

City of Light

City of Light

City of Light











City of Light

Julia Lawrinson

Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

Wild Dog Books, 2023 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


February 20, 1962 and astronaut John Glenn is about to become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth in a spaceship.  From his viewpoint he will be able to see big things, huge things, giant things like the Pyramids, the Amazon, and the Grand Canyon. But how will he see a little boy and a little girl in a little street, in a suburb in a small city like Perth?  There is a way – and he did!

This is a story based on the true story of how Perth turned its lights on to say hello to John Glenn and capture the excitement of one of the first forays into space by humans. It tells of a simpler time when life was very different and such events were huge news, and how the idea of two small children captured the imagination and brought a community together.  

For those of us who remember a time when the world really was a smaller place without television, let alone the internet and a 24/7 news cycle, life was very different and apart from exploring the enormity of this event in itself, readers are also taken back to that time through both the illustrations and the text – the time that their grandparents were children and could have been those kids in the story.  Teachers’ notes offer lots of ideas to compare and contrast the times including imagining how they might signal a spacecraft passing overhead in 2023.   Would  they run around the neighbourhood in an era of phones and text and email? A purposeful way of examining how a specific timeframe and context shape the storytelling.  

But as well as being an account of a real event, it is also a story of hope. Because amid the constant bombardment of overwhelming commentary of climate change, plastic pollution, the cost-of-living and more immediate disasters like the earthquake in Türkiye-Syria, our young readers need to know that they can have ideas and do things that will change big things, even in a small way.  But that small way can grow into something that becomes momentous.  

Lots of potential for lots of exploration of so many topics





Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain












Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

What If History of Australia (series)

Craig Cormick

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2022

190pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


As the dust begins to settle on the media coverage of the controversy over the date, events and perceptions of Australia Day, as the debate and  vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice  referendum  gathers momentum, it will flare up again and again. 

But had Captain Cook not landed here in 1770 and claimed this land for the British, would it have been left untouched by all except the First Nations people until now? What if Captain Cook’s ship sank when it hit the Great Barrier Reef in 1770? And what if the French settled Australia first? And what if King Louis 16th and Napoleon both ended up here, fighting over who was the rightful ruler in exile? And then the British arrived…

This is a new series (the second focuses on the gold rush) that looks at Australia’s history through a different lens, posing those alternative questions that we encourage students to ask as they delve deeper into common topics and start to form their own opinions.  As well as posing the questions, it also explores the possible answers such as what if John Batman’s treaty with the indigenous peoples of what is now Melbourne was legitimate and other treaties were initiated because of it. What if La Perouse had beaten the First Fleet into Port Jackson, would the aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution have settled here, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

While it is intended as a humorous look at times past, nevertheless it provides a lot of information not usually found in more traditional historical texts, and its value in encouraging our students to pose alternative questions and consider what might occur if there were a different outcome has value across all branches of the curriculum.  If we are to encourage them to be creative and critical learners  then they must have access to model texts that do this.  While it is more for those who are mentally mature enough to put themselves in the shoes of others and consider different points of view, it definitely has a place in both the primary and secondary school libraries. 















Pollination – How Does My Garden Grow?

Chris Cheng

Danny Snell

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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


When you live high up in an apartment in the city, it can be easy to take things like your food and clothing for granted, but take a trip to your grandparents in the suburbs and your eyes can be opened and your thinking changed entirely!

For even though young city kids might now know that bees are important, in this intriguing book they learn not only of the bees’ critical role in the survival of the planet as they flit from flower to flower, but also all the other pollinators who carry the precious gold dust – appropriate that it is gold, in the scheme of things – from plant to plant, not only providing food for humans but also for their own kind so that the cycle can continue on.  So, just as pollination itself is essential to the survival of the world’s ecosystems, so it is essential that we protect the pollinators.  As the child learns, something as simple as placing a bright-coloured flower in a pot on a balcony can contribute.

Linked to the Science strand of the Australian Curriculum, particularly the Biological Sciences understanding that “Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves ” as well as being used in conjunction with Bee Detectives,  Plantastic,The Butterfly and the Ants     and Wonderful Wasps, this is an excellent foundation for helping our youngest readers understand a concept that many adults wouldn’t believe they could even pronounce!

Extra notes and some suggestions at the end of the story offer further information as well as some ideas for the best plants to put in a “Pollinators Paradise” if the school were to go down the path of creating a special, year-round garden to attract and protect the local pollinators.  Imagine the investigations that would spark…