Nicole Godwin

Christopher Nielsen

Walker, 2020

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


The little jellyfish has fallen in love with a big and strong jellyfish, and even though her family didn’t like him because they had seen his type before and declared them dangerous, the little jellyfish is besotted and can’t let go.  But Jelly-Boy is not what she thinks.  Her family is right and while trouble continues to find him, she follows.  Will she escape his clutches before it is too late?

Nicole Godwin, author of both Ella and Billie, has made it her mission to be the voice for those creatures who don’t have their own, and in this new release she has taken on the cause of our ocean creatures and the pollution of their habitat, particularly by plastic bags. Even being caught in the propeller of a boat’s motor does not destroy Jelly-Boy as he floats on carried by the currents and in one dramatic double-page spread the reader is shown just how lethal these items can be.  In a fact page we learn that each year over 1 000 000 seabirds and 100 000 sea creatures die from eating them or becoming entangled in them.

The message in this story is very clear – by reviewing, reducing, reusing and recycling our use of plastics, each one of us, including the young readers that this is intended to teach, can make a difference to help prevent great islands of plastic waste that can be seen from space from forming in our oceans. By writing the story from the perspective of a love-struck jellyfish so it entertains as well as educates,  Godwin raises awareness without being didactic and Nielsen’s illustrations are perfect because the reader seems to be in on Jelly-Boy’s ‘secret” identity before the main character! You can hear them willing her to know and understand the danger before she is entangled in it herself.

A must-have   addition to any unit focusing on the environment, its threats and sustainability – such a hot topic that even our little ones understand it from a young age.

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus










No Place for an Octopus

Claire Zorn

UQP, 2019

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


At that special time when the ocean pauses its ceaseless movement, a little one goes for a walk to explore the mysterious water worlds in the cracks and crannies in the rocks that have been left behind by the retreating tide. Rockpools reveal all sorts of secrets and there, hiding behind the seaweed is an octopus!

Long. curly arms/legs, suction caps and a blobby head, perhaps a little afraid and definitely looking lonely,hungry, wet and cold. Imagine the fun it could have if the little took it home, fed it, bathed, it, made it comfy and snug, an interesting friend that could play games or even ride the roller-coaster…  Or could it?

With its intriguing front cover and stunning illustrations, the author’s first foray into illustration, indeed picture books, this is a story that will resonate with every child, indeed adult, who has wandered among the rockpools and been mesmerised by the life within them, and determined to take a creature home with them.  How many show-and-share sessions have we seen starfish and shells and other creatures carefully preserved in buckets of sea water, but so far away from their home they can never see it again? The message that the rockpool is the perfect place for the octopus, and all the other rockpool creatures, is very strong, despite the adventures we humans might think it would like.  Thus, this is a timely story to share and discuss as summer holidays loom and visits to the beach and rockpools are anticipated. No matter the temptation we need to take only photographs, leave only footprints whether that is the rockpool or the desert.  

Zorn says, “I wanted to engage with the child’s love of the absurd by placing the octopus in all sorts of silly scenarios…[but] I also sought to create an exercise in empathy where the child is able to identify the octopus’s feelings about the situation it finds itself in.”  She succeeded.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa's Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure










Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


When Peppa wins a colouring competition, nobody can believe the prize is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef! Peppa and her family head to Australia to explore the wonders of the reef with Kylie Kangaroo and marine biologist Mummy Kangaroo. There are so many incredible creatures to find in their underwater adventure.

With its usual mix of entertainment and education, this is another brilliantly coloured addition to the Peppa Pig series that is so appealing to our youngest readers. Years ago I was somewhat sceptical about these sorts of books that were clearly spin-offs from movies and television but after seeing the joy of a little boy who suddenly discovered The Wiggles among the titles on the shelves of Kmart and demanding that his mother buy it for him (if she didn’t, I would have) I realised their power and importance in discovering the joy of reading. 

To discover favourite and familiar characters in books not only sets up expectations and anticipation but also encourages the child to bring what they already know to the text, to test what they expect and what happens against that prior knowledge and understand that books can be better because you can enjoy them at your own pace, flick back and forth and return to them time and again is a critical step in the learning journey.

Creators and publishers have also realised this and the quality of the stories has increased exponentially so it’s worth capitalising on the appeal and giving our little ones a headstart.  Being a successful reader is as much about having a positive attitude as it is about the skills involved. 

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Don't Worry, Little Crab

Don’t Worry, Little Crab











Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Chris Haughton

Walker Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


In the rockpool above the sea, live two crabs: Big Crab and Little Crab. Today, they’re going for a dip in the sea. “This is going to be so great!” says Little Crab as they go tic-a-tac, tic-a-tac over the rocks, splish splash, splish splash across the pools and squelch, squelch, squelch through the slimy, slippery seaweed. “I can go ANYWHERE”, says Little Crab.

But when he reaches the sea and sees the size of the ocean waves, he is somewhat daunted and very reluctant to take that final leap.  Will he find the courage?

The illustration style  is very distinctive and it tells as much of the story as the text does, about a little one finding the courage to face their uncertainty. This is a common theme in children’s picture books, this time inspired by the creator’s observations of crabs and their human-like way of moving. and the way they braced for the impact of a wave but then went about their business once it frothed away. In fact, the story of the story’s evolution gives a real insight into where authors get their ideas and how they are shaped, so it is worth sharing that too. It wasn’t so much the message that came first, but thinking about what was in front of him and working from that! Perhaps a lesson for budding writers about being observant and curious and working backwards!


Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life










Australian Sea Life

Matt Chun

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2019

36pp, hbk., RRP $A29.99


Even though Australia is surrounded by ocean, not everyone has the chance to visit it regularly and even fewer have had the opportunity to explore it as a scuba diver and really see the diversity of life under the waves.  (Believe me, it is a fascinating world and even more diverse at night.) So in this companion to the 2019 CBCA  shortlisted Australian BirdsMatt Chun has taken his talents beneath the surface to give us a peek at what is in the waters that enclose us.  

From the Great White Shark to the Dugong to the Weedy Sea Dragon, readers can explore and discover pictorial and textual descriptions of familiar and not-so creatures that are part of our natural seascape. The attention to detail is again superb, and while most children won’t recognise as many of the species as they might have in Australian Birds, this is the perfect time, with summer and beach holidays around the corner, to pique their curiosity raise their awareness and inspire thoughts of conservation.  

If Australian Birds inspired your class to be involved in this year’s Aussie Bird Count later this month, then perhaps there could be an in-school project to identify the marine creatures the students discover over summer. 

If we are to protect our planet and its inhabitants, knowing about them first so they are valued is essential and this is the perfect starter.

Mermaid Holidays (series)

Mermaid Holidays series

Mermaid Holidays series









The Talent Show


The Magic Pearl


The Bake-Off


The Reef Rescue


Delphine Davis

Adele K. Thomas

Puffin, 2019

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Sophia, Willow, Chloe and Olivia have been best friends since they were merbies. Even though they don’t go to school together, whenever they come home to Turtleville for the holidays, they are inseparable. And these school holidays, their home town Turtleville is holding its first ever talent show, and of course the mermaids have to enter.  But Sophie insists that their act has to be led by her singing, even though none of the others can sing and dislike doing so. Chloe prefers to rap, Willow plays the shell trumpet and Olivia loves to dance.  But when even Sophia’s compromise act still focuses on her singing, there is a danger of their entry being all about Sophia…

This is the first in a four-book series, each episode featuring on a different mermaid and their cast of ocean family and friends and each with underlying themes of friendship, teamwork, individuality and compassion.  Written in short, easy-to-read chapters and with lots of illustrations, it will appeal to young female readers who are transitioning to novels from their instructional readers. The second in the series, The Magic Pearl was released in July, the third,The Bake-Off in September and the fourth, The Reef Rescue will be here before Christmas, so readers don’t have to wait too long in between one story and the next. 

Mermaids, along with unicorns, are very much part of the lifestyle of young girls these days, so this is a series with characters that will appeal immediately and encourage our emerging readers to keep reading. 

Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja

Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja

Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja









Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja

Kylie Howarth

Walker Books, 2019 

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


New to the realm of supportive novels for newly independent readers is this title from graphic designer cum author Kylie Howarth. 

Using the popular superhero theme as its foundation, this is a series with a difference because as well as being entertaining, it also teaches those young readers about the ocean environment and its inhabitants.  Bodhi’s parents are right into the underwater world – his dad is a marine biologist and his mum an underwater photographer – and they travel the world together to explore what really happens beneath the surface. But Bodhi isn’t into this world as much as they are, preferring dry land but then he discovers he has magical powers…

Each book is set in a different oceanic environment where Fish Kid befriends an amazing marine creature. As he bonds with his new animal friend, he discovers a new fish power. Every chapter contains a rollicking fiction romp (with illustrations to match) plus a focused nonfiction animal fact box (with more realistic illustrations). In this, his family are in the Galapagos Islands and he finds himself stuck on the boat with the captain’s daughter Emely, who likes to play pranks on him, although the innocent looking green smoothie with its secret ingredients would make even the reader have the same reaction as Bodhi. 

Full of action, adventure and humour, and all the techniques proven perfect for supporting those transitioning to longer novels, this series also includes fact boxes about the various creatures encountered and draws on the author’s personal knowledge of the world under the waves enriching the reader’s understanding and awakening an awareness to protect it. 

Although I haven’t dived the Galapagos Islands, this book took me right back to my experiences on the Great Barrier Reef and for that, this is one destined for Miss 8 so she can share the wonder her grandmother, grandfather and father still have.  Perhaps she, too, will be tempted like Bodhi.


Little White Fish (series)

Little White Fish  (series)

Little White Fish (series)






Little White Fish (series)

Guido Van Genechten

Catch A Star, 2019

board book, 16pp., RRP $A12.99


Originally published in Belgium and The Netherlands in 2004, and well-known throughout Europe, the Little White Fish series is now available to tiny Australian readers. With its bright illustrations set against a black background it is immediately eye-catching and appealing and with its simple, repetitive text about familiar situations, our very youngest readers will be able to listen to it and then be able to tell themselves about Little White Fish’s adventures – the precursor to “real” reading. 

Featuring Little White Fish, Little White Fish is so happy and Little White Fish has a party , each book has a storyline that will be familiar and each builds on the other, consolidating the characters and the knowledge that the child has learned. 

Something new to encourage the very young away from the screen and into books, and with their board book format, able to withstand the treatment they will get. 

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

Welcome Home











Welcome Home

Christina Booth

Ford Street, 2013

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A26.95


Once upon a time, although not that long ago, whaling along Australia’s shores was a thriving industry and vital to the livelihoods and life of the communities at its centre. Whaling is again becoming a thriving industry along Australia’s shores, but it’s the marvelling at these awesome creatures, not the killing of them that is its focus. How far we have come in just a handful of generations.

In this beautifully, gently illustrated book by Christina Booth a young boy hears the call of the whale “echoing off the mountain like a whisper while the moon danced on the waves”. Neither his parents nor his grandparents could hear it – it was a sound for his ears only.  And each day he hears her call and learns something new about the treacherous path her ancestors followed and the murderous intent his ancestors had.  Can there be a reconciliation between humans and these magnificent creatures? Will she feel safe enough to show herself as he waits under the night sky? Will a whispered “Sorry” give her courage?

The tone of this book is set in the dedication on the title page – “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” (Chief Seattle)  And it is one of the most sensitive, beautifully told stories that I’ve had the pleasure to read for a long time.

Although the setting is not identified, the story was inspired by the birth, in August 2010, of a southern right calf in the Derwent River, Hobart – the first in 190 years! While those who witnessed this and the gradual return of the southern right (so-called because they were the ‘right’ whale to hunt) to the Derwent and whisper, “They are back”, this story explores “Where did they go?”  Known in the 19th century as a whale nursery, whalers hunted the southern right almost to extinction but since 1935, when they became the first species to be declared protected in either Australia or New Zealand, the whales are slowly returning knowing that once again, there is safe haven where only their photographs are taken, not their lives.

Is the whale in the story, sighted in July 2013, the same one who had the courage to give birth back in 2010?  Only time will tell.  But for all those children who ask, “Where did they go?”, not just about the southern rights but also all the other species that migrate northwards and still inspire a sense of awe and wonder, this is a perfect introduction to a past that is an integral part of Australia’s history and the foundation for an opportunity to build a more glorious future. Fitting into the cross-curriculum priority of sustainability perfectly, there is such scope for not only looking at what happened and why, but also the changing perspectives of humans towards their environment over time and what can be done and achieved, as well as giving background to the questions and arguments that arise when the Japanese begin their annual whale hunt, or even looking at how science, particularly that emanating from World War II, has produced viable alternatives. Riches indeed to capture the passions of all.

“Welcome Home” is one of my top five books for teaching children about treading lightly on this earth – it is not ours to destroy.