Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson's Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather









Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sally Murphy

Celeste Hume

New Frontier, 2018

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world sharing their knowledge of food and cooking with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, and lucky Sage gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this new addition to the series, the Cooksons are off to Townsville but there is a cyclone looming and Sage is quite concerned about their safety.  Even though it is the perfect opportunity to research a weather phenomenon as part of the schoolwork she has been given to do, nevertheless the grey skies, stormy seas and increasing wind are frightening, particularly when they have to evacuate their hotel rooms for the safety of the makeshift shelter downstairs.

This is the 7th in this series for young, newly independent readers who like adventure and cooking together.  As well as a yummy recipe for mango cheesecake dessert cups included, there is also Sage’s website with more recipes and activities to explore.


Total Quack Up

Total Quack Up

Total Quack Up









Total Quack Up

Sally Rippin & Adrian Beck

James Foley

Puffin Books, 2018

262pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Put two of Australia’s favourite authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck in charge of gathering together some of their author-mates like Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks,  Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton so each can contribute to a book of short stories to raise funds for the Dymocks Children’s Charities and the result is a Total Quack Up.

Criminal cats, superheroes, pigs dressed in footy gear, crazy robots, hippos who love the beach and birthday parties that end in disaster are all features of this collection of short stories designed for younger independent readers who not only like funny stories but also still need a little support as their reading skills develop.

As part of the process, Penguin Random House ran a writing competition for young writers and the winner, 12-year-old Ella Wallace has her story Who Blocked Up the Dunny included.

All the royalties from this book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities, a group of initiatives created to support children’s literacy within Australia encouraging students from priority schools “to cultivate a love for books and read every day “just because they want to”. Quite simply it’s about getting great books into kids’ hands!”  So, apart from the fun of reading that your own students will have, your money will go to help others experience that too. 

Paddington Bear – 60th anniversary

Paddington at St Pauls

Paddington at St Pauls










Paddington at St Pauls

Michael Bond

R. W. Alley

HarperCollins, 2018 

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


Sixty years ago today, on October 13, 1958 a small bear with a blue coat, a red hat, a suitcase and a note pinned to his coat which read “Please look after this bear” was found by the Brown family at Paddington Station London.  Sent from darkest Peru by his Aunt Lucy who has gone into a retirement home, the little bear was a stowaway on a lifeboat where he survived on marmalade until the Browns renamed him Paddington and took him to their home at 32 Windsor Gardens near Notting Hill. 

And so began a great series of adventures culminating in this final addition, completed before Bond’s death in June 2017 and issued to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Paddington’s arrival.

Also being released are anniversary editions of the main Paddington Bear series, each of which has a number of chapters which work either as a continuing story or a stand-alone episode, making them perfect as read-alouds to get the child used to the concept of the continuing characters in novels or read-alones for the newly independent reader.


The Paddington Collection

The Paddington Collection

With more than 35 million copies sold worldwide, translated into 40 languages, television and features movies, Paddington Bear is arguably one of the most favourite bears in the world.  To have the stories republished, an exquisite gift edition of the first story with the original illustrations by Peggy Fortnum, and this final chapter is indeed a fitting anniversary gift to introduce a new generation to this series inspired by a lone teddy that Bond saw on a shelf in a London toy store and the children who were evacuated from English cities during World War II. 

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark










Ariki and the Giant Shark

Nicola Davies

Nicola Kinnear

Walker Books, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Washed up on the shores of Turtle Island in her cradle, no one knows quite where Ariki has come from and the islanders wanted to put her back on the waves, but Arohaka said she was a gift from the ocean and a gift should never be refused.  So he becomes her guardian although no matter how long she lives there, she is not accepted as one of them – by the adults or the children.

Protected by her distinctive tattoos which are different from those of the other children, Ariki loves to spend her days in the sea rather than doing chores.  An excellent swimmer, her favourite game is to catch the tail of the baby yellow moon sharks and hitch a ride around the lagoon while they are too young to turn and bite her.  She is more at home in the sea than on the land, and on the day her life is saved from the jaws of the nihui by a shark bigger than she has ever seen, life changes for her.  Struck by drought, the islanders are struggling to find food and when two of the island’s fishermen tell a tale of a large creature that scares the nihui and almost bites their boat in half, leaving behind a tooth bigger than a man’s hand, then fear strikes and the islanders are frightened to go into the sea. They are determined to kill this monster but Ariki, her friend Ipo, Arohaka and the children have other ideas…

This is the first in a new series from zoologist Nicola Davies and as well as being an entertaining read, her knowledge of the ocean, its ways and its creatures gives an added dimension of authenticity.  Ariki is a strong, independent feisty heroine who is content with herself despite the ridicule of her peers and her friend Ipo also shows similar resilience as he deals with his own issues. Highly original, well-written and utterly engaging, this is the perfect read for those who are independent readers moving on from beginner novels. 


A Different Boy

A Different Boy

A Different Boy









A Different Boy

Paul Jennings

Geoff Kelly

A & U Children’s, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Anton is lost, lonely, hungry and bewildered as he is led into Wolfdog Hall, a home for boys without parents. He is handed his tag – O. Muller – and told the O is for “Orphan” although he will most likely end up as a C – ‘custody’ or ‘criminal’, the tag for those who try to abscond.  As gloomy and as dismal as his future, which was to have been on the great ocean liner he can see sailing to  “a warm, sunburnt country -a land of sweeping plains and rugged mountains which ran down to golden beaches surrounded by a jewel sea,” Anton soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  He is either going to be strapped by a brutal teacher for drawing a rude picture of him or be beaten up by the boy who did draw it for dobbing on him.  But then he recalls his dead’s fathers words – ‘If you’ve got a bad deal, get out of it and move on.” – and so he walks out of the orphanage altogether.

His steps lead him to that ocean liner but how is he to get aboard with no boarding pass, no family, no money and no luggage?  Is he doomed to be returned to the orphanage and fulfil the officer’s prophecy?

Confronted on the first page by just two paragraphs of text surrounded by razor wire, it is obvious that this is not going to be one of Paul Jennings’ more light-hearted stories. And indeed, it isn’t.  Despite its initial appearance as a stepping stone for newly-independent readers, this one has a lot of twists and turns that need a more mature mind to get the most from it.  Although Australia is clearly identified as the “New Land”, Anton’s origins are not defined beyond being a country that has recently been devastated by war, which may resonate with some readers, and the events on board the ship are complex, especially the final resolution.  

As an adult reader, this is Jennings at his best but don’t be misled thinking that this is one for younger readers.  That said, it is unique, different and utterly absorbing for those who are ready for it.

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names











The Dog With Seven Names

Dianne Wolfer

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


A tiny dog, the runt of the litter, is born on a remote cattle station. She shouldn’t have survived, but when she is given to Elsie, the station-owner’s daughter as a Christmas gift, and is called Princess, she becomes a cherished companion. Life is perfect … until War arrives.

With Japanese air raids moving closer, Elsie’s family leaves the Pilbara for the south and safety. But the small dog has to stay behind. Found by Stan and Dave, two drovers intent on signing up for the Army, but who have a mob of cattle to deliver to Port Hedland, she becomes just plain “Dog”. But tragedy strikes and she is taken under the wing of a flying doctor,who calls her Flynn, and becomes a hospital dog and experiences the impact of war on north-western Australia. She witnesses wonderful and terrible things and gives courage to many different humans… 

But through all her adventures and many names, the little dog remembers Elsie, who girl who loved her best of all. Will she ever find her again?

Told through the voice of Princess, this is a heart-warming story that not only tugs at the heart-strings but also brings to life the events of the early 1940s and their impact on north-western Australia, a region as historically remote to many as it is geographically,  in a way that alerts children but doesn’t scare them. 

Many of Dianne Wolfer’s books have an historical theme which brings the past to life for young readers (Light Horse Boy was a CBCA Honour Book in 2014 and Nanna’s Button Tin is a Notable for this year) and once again, her thorough research is a hallmark of this new release.  There is a timeline of the events of World War II aligned to the events in the story as well as other historical notes, all of which not only add authenticity to the story but also provide new pathways for interested readers to follow.  

Independent readers who like animal stories will adore this. 

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

Help Around the House










Help Around the House

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2018

198pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Eleven-year-old Ludo is on his way to live in Canberra because his father has just been elected as the new Independent federal representative for Culliton, but beginning with being seated in business class he is overwhelmed by the luxury and ostentation that come as part of a federal Member’s salary and entitlements.

A boy who lives (almost) strictly according to Scout Law and his deceased mother’s mandate of helping others, Ludo vows to turn things around and get the politicians to understand and act on how much their generous remuneration would help others who are not so fortunate, particularly the homeless.  But it is not as easy as it seems and while his father is off on a fundraising trip, Ludo, with his new Scout friend Henry, soon finds himself embroiled in the seedier, selfish side of Canberra’s political life, hampered by Mike, his father’s aide who can see no further than votes, the next election and power, but helped by Mrs B, the housekeeper who knows more than a regular housekeeper might. Ludo is determined to ensure that fairness and justice prevail, even though that finds him out late at night, bending some of the rules instilled in him by his mother with whom he has regular ‘conversations’ and who Gleitzman says is modelled on his own mother who died while he was writing the book.  She is certainly a strong guiding presence for Ludo in a place where moral principles seem to have departed, and while the ideals learned from her may get shaken at times, nevertheless, Ludo’s core beliefs about who he is and what he should do are unshaken.

This is the latest release from the current Australian Children’s Laureate (his next is the finale to the Once series) and like all his books since his first, The Other Facts of Life written in 1987, this is a cracker.  Over 30 years of writing for children. children whose  own children will be getting ready to share his work with their children, and Gleitzman still has the rare gift of combining credible, likeable characters in almost-plausible situations with a message softened with humour.  Ludo who sees life through the idealistic eyes of a typical 11-year-old who has been brought up in kindness and selflessness and who has absorbed the tenets of Scout Law into his psyche learns some tough lessons about the reality of life, particularly how personal perceptions shape responses, while his father also has to reassess his future as the truth about political life becomes apparent.  Given the recent events in federal parliament, this is particularly relevant as questions are asked about who among our young people would want to become a politician.

Having spent 30 years living in Canberra, this book has a personal connection and even though some of the places are fictitious,  many of the events in the story are not and Gleitzman’s exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations and motivations was unsurprising to this somewhat-jaded senior citizen.  But to the young reader, perhaps meeting Gleitzman for the first time,  it may be disappointing that adults are so self-centred but the ending is uplifting and will reaffirm their belief in the basic goodness and good intentions of most adults.  A page-turner! 

The Champion Charlies (series)

Champion Charlies

Champion Charlies






The Champion Charlies

Adrian Beck

Random House, 2018 

152pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


The Mix-Up


Boot It


The Knockout Cup


The Grand Finale



Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team and Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.  But this season they’re both playing in the same mixed team.

Is there room for two champion Charlies on the one side? Can they get past their rivalry to help form the greatest football team Jindaberg Primary has ever seen?

Developed in partnership with Football Federation Australia and released in time for the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans will enjoy this new series, particularly those who are newly independent readers as there is a lot of textual and graphic support to sustain their efforts. With characters the reader can relate to, familiar obstacles to overcome and an in-built rivalry as well as the external one of playing another team, each episode builds up into a page-turning climax that makes you want to find out what happened.

There are four in the series – The Mix Up, Boot It, The Knockout Cup and The Grand Finale – each leading on from the other and fans will be happy that the final two have now been released! 

Currently soccer-mad Miss 7’s favourite series, they have been the perfect bridge into novels for her and she is eagerly waiting for these new ones to be in her mailbox so she can find out what happens and put what she learns into practice on the field! 

Another great series focusing on Australian sports and familiar names that not only encourages our children to read but also get outdoors and play.

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT










A Boy Called BAT

Elana K. Arnold

Charles Santose

Walden Pond, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Bixby Alexander Tam, known to those who know him as BAT because of his initials, his love of animals and the way his arms and hands flap when he gets excited, prefers life to be logical, predictable, routine and without surprises. He’s not good with noise (so wears his sister Janie’s earmuffs often), doesn’t like the mushy texture of some foods, is sensitive to the feel of fabrics on his skin and finds it difficult to make eye contact and hold casual conversations. Clearly, to even a non-teacher who doesn’t know the signs of being on the autism spectrum, this is a little boy with  special needs. But Bat is not unhappy or frustrated – his mum, sister and teacher are sensitive to his needs, his peers seem to accept him for who he is, and although his father, whom he stays with “every-other-Friday” seems to struggle a little with his non-sporty son, generally Bat is content and just gets on with things.

But when his mum, a vet, brings home a newborn skunk that needs special care, Bat comes into his own, devoting his life to caring for the kit and planning how he will be able to keep it and care for it beyond the initial few weeks before the local wildlife refuge can take over. He needs to show his mum that he is responsible and committed enough, even contacting a skunk expert for advice. 

This is an engaging story that shows the reader the world through Bat’s eyes but which is not patronising, sentimental or emotional.  Bat’s autism adds a different and interesting perspective to the relationships between the characters but the concept of an eight-year-old taking care of an orphaned animal and hoping to keep it longer is a story that could be about any young person.  I believe that all children should be able to read about themselves in stories, and those about autistic children are rare, so this one which has such a solid, familiar storyline so every reader can relate to it while learning about the world through unfamiliar eyes, is a must-have.  Its sequel Bat and the Waiting Game is also available in hardcover. 





Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater









Boy Underwater

Adam Baron

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old, is the third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint), second best at roller-skating. Even though he has only one parent while his friends have two or even four, he is  fit, healthy and totally normal in every way.  Yet, despite living in Lewisham in south-east London he has never been swimming.  His mum has never taken him near a pool, a lake, a river, the seaside – always brushing away his request with seemingly plausible excuses. 

So when his teacher says that the class will be starting swimming lessons the following Monday, Cymbeline is somewhat daunted.  He doesn’t even own a pair of swimmers!  But encouraged by his best friend Lance (named after the disgraced cyclist) and goaded by the class bully Billy, he agrees to a race against Billy in the pool.  Naturally, things end very badly for Cymbeline, not the least of which is losing the swimmers he found in his dad’s things in the attic, but it is the response of his mother who is called to the pool that is the most startling of all.  

As a result of this incident, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital taking Cymbeline’s beloved soft toy Mr Fluffy with her.  And Cymbeline is forced to stay with his rich Aunt Millie and Uncle Chris , to whom he is a burden, and cousins Juniper and Clayton who make it clear they want nothing to do with him. Totally alone, his mother hospitalised and not well enough to see him, and no cuddly toy to take to bed to comfort him, Cymbeline is bewildered and scared but determined to find out what is wrong with his mum to have had such an extreme reaction.  Surely the world seeing his willy isn’t enough to provoke such a response. And why has she taken Mr Fluffy?   Befriended by super-smart Veronique and even Billy, who has his own issues at home, Cymbeline is determined to get to the bottom of things.  And when he does, it becomes clear that adults really should paint the whole picture when they tell a child something big, not just the bits they think the child can handle.  Sometimes honesty can prevent a lot of heartache – the child isn’t left to fill the gaps with their own, often wild, imagination.

Written in the first-person in a voice that really echoes that of a 9-year-old boy, this is a story that will engage the independent reader with a storyline that has some meat to it and is totally credible. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty issues, this is done with a light hand, humour and empathy, providing an insight into the lives of some of the children in our care that we might not always see. Families falling apart for whatever reason is a common story, sadly, and it’s not always the teacher, in this case Mrs Phillips, who is the confidante.  Many children, like Cymbeline, are carrying  unseen burdens.   

For me, a quality novel is one that engages me to the end and I can hear myself either reading it aloud to students or book-talking it.  Boy Underwater is indeed, one of those.