Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Professor Astro Cat's Solar System

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System









Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Dr Dominic Walliman

Ben Newman

Flying Eye Books, 2017

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


Professor Astro Cat is the smartest cat in the alley, in fact so much so, he’s got a degree in just about any discipline under the sun.  In this, the latest in a series to help younger readers understand science better, he takes young explorers on a journey around the solar system, visiting each planet and explaining its various features in simple to understand language and appealing illustrations that will answer the questions and pique the interest of those who want to know more.

From the time they are able to distinguish night and day, little ones want to know more and so this is an excellent beginning book that will help them understand how things work. In keeping with the demands of the young and the potential of the digital environment, there is also an app which has a four-star review from Common Sense Media

With the heavy emphasis on STEM in the curriculum and the NSW government investing $80 000 000 in STEM over the next three years this would be a worthwhile investment for your collection for littlies.


Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?

Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?

Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?











Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


Just over a year ago, on November 14 a devastating earthquake struck the Kaikoura region of the South Island of New Zealand and the image of two cows and their calf stranded on an island in the devastated land went around the world eventually giving us the charming story of  Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too.

Now Moo and Moo are back, happily living on the author’s farm in the Clarence Valley and about to give birth to two new calves.  Told in rhyme and charmingly sharing their new adventure this is a wonderful follow-up that helps city kids understand country life through both the story and the explanations included at the end.  

Even though they can be big and seem a bit scary at times, little children love cows so this is the perfect introduction to the concept of non fiction and getting information from stories as well as entertainment. And of course they will love the happy ending to what was a confronting situation!

The Slime Book

The Slime Book

The Slime Book









The Slime Book

DK, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


If littlies love the tactile qualities of play-dough, then older kids love the same qualities of slime… and this new release from DK will teach them how to make the most of it!

While the basic recipe is a mix of cornflour and water, which in itself has quite magical properties, with the addition of a few other safe and easy-to-get ingredients, there are over 30 recipes for all sorts of varieties including popping slime, monster slime and even glow-in-the-dark slime! There is even a section for edible slime!

Each recipe is a double-page spread with clear photographs as part of the easy-to-follow instructions as well as safety tips, some science and suggestions for extending the experience.

Perfect for teachers looking for something new for their science lessons but also a great suggestion for the Santa Sack as the long January days stretch out and kids are looking for something to do!













DK  Publishing, 2017

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


If there is one section of the library that is just as popular as 567.9, it is 597.3. And if there is one piece of music that still sends shivers up the spine of many it is this

As the Australian summer and holiday season approaches, these creatures will be in the news as people venture into their territory and the debate about their continued existence will rage again.

So this safari with Professor John Bigelow Finnegan (aka Big Finn), a ’round-the-globe expedition to study these mighty and mysterious creatures” visiting shark haunts and hideouts to study the habits and habitats of a variety of  species will be a welcome addition to the collection.  Using photos, diagrams, headings, accessible text and a clever variety of other devices this will appeal to all those who are fascinated by these creatures and who want to know more.  As well as the usual facts and figures, it dispels myths, looks at current research and even introduces some of the stories, movies and television programs that feature sharks, painting a whole-well-rounded picture that demonstrates that these creatures not only have a right to their existence but play a critical part in the planet’s ecology.

Done with the usual DK thoroughness and understanding of what young readers want and how they want it, this is perfect for both the experienced and novice shark-trackers.

This Book Isn’t Safe

This Book Isn't Safe

This Book Isn’t Safe










This Book Isn’t Safe

Colin Furze

Puffin, 2017

192pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


According to Wikipedia, “Colin Furze is a YouTube personality, stuntman, inventor, filmmaker, and former plumber from Stamford, Lincolnshire, England. ” He has his own YouTube channel  with over 5.5 million subscribers  which is “the home of crazy inventions, brilliant world records and constant disregard to health and safety” and he has now encapsulated his philosophies and inventions into print to continue his desire to inspire kids to embrace engineering, invent and create things and be comfortable and confident with the tools and materials that he uses daily.  

It contains contains ten awesome inventions for girls, boys and parents everywhere to make at home with a basic tool kit. Ever wondered how to make concrete shoes? Or how to build your own downhill trike? Or how to tidy your room in three seconds using a lever?

With the current focus on STEM, makerspaces and encouraging students to be both problem posers and solvers this will be a great addition to the collection.  Laden with photographs that are explained with captions or step-by-step instructions it may just be the way into reading that you have been searching for for those reluctant readers. Beginning with making a pair of concrete boots as a taster, there is a series of pages about inventions and inventing and the tools needed followed by pages of the things he has done and how he did them as well as more inventions for the reader to try for themselves.

As a book that encourages kids to have a go, this is brilliant and with all the accompanying online sites, easily found by searching for “Colin Furze” there could be a new generation of engineers spawned!!  


Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Experiments

Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Experiments

Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Experiments











Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Experiments

Barry Hutchinson

Quentin Blake

Penguin Random House, 2017

96pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Once upon a time George Kranky decided it was time to get his gruesome, grouchy grandma who had a mouth pinched in like a do’s bottom into a better mood by making her some special medicine.  But being neither doctor nor scientist, George just combines and cooks things he has on hand – and the results are not as he expects.

Building on from this favourite Dahl tale of George’s Marvellous Medicine  is this collection of science experiments that might not have the results that George’s concoctions had but which will be equally spectacular, just as much fun and importantly, they are all tested and safe (although some adult supervision might be needed.) With chapter titles such as Marvellously Messy, Excellent Eruptions and Vivacious Vehicles and full-colour illustrations by Quentin Blake, this is a science book like no other that is going to appeal to all those who like to explore what-happens-if and spark an interest in things scientific in those who are yet to discover the magic and fun.  Experience has shown me that kids are entranced by the ‘magic” of chemistry and having seen a result are keen to find out the how and the why so it’s a superb one to add to the teacher toolbox too.

And if you’re not sure yourself and are not confident following the easy-to -read instructions (which in themselves could serve as a model, start with these…


Too cool for school. And put George’s Marvellous Medicine at the top of you class read-aloud list for 2018!

Taller and Shorter

That's Not My Taller and Shorter

That’s Not My Taller and Shorter









Taller and Shorter

Fiona Watt

Rachel Wells

Usborne, 2017

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


One of the trickiest maths concepts for the very young to grasp is that of conservation – that a group of three is three no matter how it is arranged or a 10cm stick is still a 10cm stick even if it’s moved or turned.  It’s a part of the maturation process but once understood then it is a natural progression to compare things and learn words like taller, shorter, smaller, larger, longer and so on.  Little books like this one are an essential part of the process of both the understanding and the development of the vocabulary.

Beginning with a little mouse floating in a life ring on the pond, it compares the height of a number of different creatures each taller than its predecessor.  With cutouts to peer through and a progression that emphasises the left-to-right nature of text, it introduces the very young to a wide variety of creatures in bright unfussy pictures culminating in a fun fold-out that introduces the tallest of all.

Little ones will have fun predicting what might be next in the chain as they share their knowledge of the world around them and comparing themselves to those things around them. Try to access What is Big? in Sounds of Numbers   by Bill Martin Jr for lots more fun and teach them words like ginormous and humongous and all those other superlatives that littlies like to use!  Make maths fun!

Healthy Kids Cookbook

Healthy Kids Cookbook

Healthy Kids Cookbook










Healthy Kids Cookbook

Dorling Kindersley, 2017

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


So many cooking shows get huge ratings on television and so much has been written about the ‘obesity crisis’ amongst our students that it is clear that food is a dominating force in our lives and the interest in it has never been higher. Gradually the tide is swinging towards the healthy end of the scale as we try to nourish our bodies but still cope with the hectic lifestyle we impose on ourselves and our kids. Even the famous ‘Golden Arches” is now producing healthier fast foods that are getting a nod, if not the tick of approval, from nutritionists.

But if we are going to make and have sustainable change in our diets, we need to start from the beginning and get children knowing and appreciating what they are putting into their mouths.  If they are actively involved in the growing and preparation of their food they are more likely to build habits of good nutrition that will last them a lifetime.  Experience has shown me that those children who are subjected to a healthy food regime imposed on them by well-meaning parents are usually the first to grab the “naughties” at parties as they seek to taste the ‘forbidden fruit’.

So to have a cookbook that is directed specifically at children cooking for themselves is very appealing and as usual with DK publications, both the content and the presentation are directed squarely at the child.  Beginning with a brief explanation of why  a balanced diet is critical and other things that all budding cooks need to know, it is set out with lots of photos, simple captions and just the right amount of information to inform but not bore.  The recipes follow a similar sort of presentation with stunning full colour photos to help understanding but also to make the most ordinary food look good – we know we eat with our eyes first. Who knew a rainbow salad could be so tempting?  Or how many good things could be packed into a pita pocket? Or even that so many vegetables could be included in yummy cakes?  Parents will love this book!!!

With plans for the new school year already on the horizon, this could be the centrepiece of a display encouraging our students to nourish themselves throughout the year, and perhaps even encourage the establishment of a cooking group so they can learn and hone their skills and tastes in a community atmosphere. 

Definitely one for the two budding chefs in my life…

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Creatures

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Creatures

Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Creatures












Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Creatures

Matt Sewell

Pavilion, 2017

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


If there is one section of the library that can never have too many items, it is 567.9 – the home of the dinosaurs.  There seems to be an eternal fascination with these long-ago creatures that has been the door into reading for so many children, particularly young boys who like to get the biggest and thickest books and pore over them with their mates.

So this new addition by Matt Sewell that introduces favourites and familiars and also some first-read-abouts will be welcome as it is targeted at those who want to know something but not so much that it is overwhelming. Who knew there were so many – but then they were on the planet for 170 million years! Each creature has a one or two page spread dominated by the illustration, an illustration that is somewhat different from the norm as they have been inspired by new ideas from palaeontologists that the creatures were not only colourful but some may have had feathers rather than the traditional scales and hide.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Each entry includes the length and weight which can always lead to some interesting maths activities and well as the time period (delve into history and create a chart) and their diet with ‘proper’ descriptors like ‘carnivorous’ to extend the vocabulary.  There are other basic facts written in a conversational tone that makes the language accessible to those early readers. Given that not every dinosaur is included, perhaps they could produce an extra page exploring and explaining their favourite dinosaur as an initial information literacy exercise.

Produced in conjunction with the Natural History Museum in the UK. this is a worthwhile addition to that critical section of the collection.

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet








Aussie Legends Alphabet

Beck Feiner

ABC Books, 2017

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


A is for Adam Goodes . An Aussie Rules superstar who fought hard for his footy team and even harder for his people.

B is for Bob Hawke. A lovable larrikin who helped make Australia fair dinkum.

And so it continues throughout the alphabet with a well-known person personifying each letter, introducing young readers to some of Australia’s more colourful characters and perhaps inspiring them to find out more about those who interest them.

However, while the concept is interesting, I was confused about the target audience – IMO definitely not for three year olds as suggested by the publisher because little ones of that age are more interested in E for Easter Bunny and S for Santa Claus. But do those who are ready to learn about those who made Australia require an alphabet book with text suitable for the very young and pictures that have been contrived to echo the letter they represent?  Even though there is an expanded thumbnail sketch of each person on the final three pages, the content, format and intended audience did not gel for me.

Similarly, there is confusion with the alphabetical order because the format is not consistent… while most entries draw on the first letter of the personality’s first name some resort to the first letter of the surname while “D” refers to Dame Edna Everage, X is for INXS and Z is for “Shazza, Wazza, Kezza and the rest”. 

However, those issues aside, this could serve as a model for those who are investigating significant people who have shaped this country to build their own Aussie Legends Alphabet as a shared project.  Not only would this give them purpose and practise with note-taking, extrapolating and summarising but it would also be an interesting insight into those whom they think are important as they justify their choices. Challenging them to provide evidence is an important skill as they learn to build an argument that can be defended in a discussion.