Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop










Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Matthew Cunningham

Sarah Wilkins

Puffin, 2020

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


Like all children her age, Abigail often has BIG questions about the world around her as she strives to makes sense of it.  And those questions can consume her until she gets an answer.  Today, as she gets ready to jump in the puddles made by the incessant rain, her big questions is about where the rain comes from.  And, again like all children her age, she isn’t satisfied with the first answer she gets from her mum – that it comes from the clouds – and she has to delve deeper, wanting to know how the water gets into the clouds.  

So using a lot of imagination mixed in with information, her mum tells her of a little drop of water who always wanted to fly and gently and gradually Abigail comes to understand the water cycle.

Investigating where the rain comes from was always an intriguing investigation as my classes explored the science, the maths, the language and even the story of Noah’s Ark and tho have had this book as an introduction would have added another layer.  Putting that big question which always started a unit into such an engaging story, giving the children the opportunity to reflect on what they know and believe to be the answer so that their imaginations are captured and they are invested in the investigation brings those big questions down to their level. 

Tagged with “a curious girl explores BIG ideas” , this is the second in this series – the first explores the birth of the sun– in which Abigail wants answers and her family members help her discover them in a way that combines the facts of science with the magic of story.  The final picture in Abigail and the Restless Raindrop hints at what her next big question will be and young readers can have fun predicting what it is as they wait for the next instalment. 

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud












Happiness is a Cloud

Robert Vescio

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2020

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


Out for a walk with his father and dog, Jasper, Harry sees a flying pig! Well. it’s actually a cloud shaped like a flying pig and suddenly the walk is made more interesting as the two spot all sorts of shapes in the clouds overhead.  Even when dark, ominous ones roll in with menacing shapes like a rhinoceros and a wolf that make Harry shiver,  his dad shows him how they are good for the earth and all that grows in it.

 Just as the clouds change shape and colour so does Harry’s mood, particularly when Jasper disappears, and Vescio has cleverly mirrored these changes so young readers can understand that while they may be sad and unhappy now, there will come a change to happier times, just as the sun will always return to peek through and fill us with joy and hope again.  We just need to be patient and resilient to wait for it. That is the silver lining of clouds.

As well as being an engaging way to help young children understand the cycle of moods and feelings, this is also a wonderful way to build imagination and vocabulary as there are few things more peaceful than lying down and watching the endless patterns of clouds. Harry even touches on the question of what clouds are and why they can’t be touched, so that opens up another avenue of investigation while Bevington’s illustrations of Harry, his father and Jasper superimposed onto real cloudscapes will attract the artistic mind.

Living in a rural landscape with no pollution, reading the clouds to predict the weather and just appreciating their diversity of shape, colour, density and speed is one of the joys of the simple life. This book will connect our kids to these oft-overlooked phenomena while also showing them that there is always hope on the horizon.

Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Tippy and Jellybean

Tippy and Jellybean










Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Sophie Cunningham

Anil Tortop

Albert Street Books, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Tippy and Jellybean live in the beautiful eucalypt forests bordering Australia’s high country in Victoria. Life is as it should be for mum and bub until one day in Summer 2019 just as it is turning over to 2020, they wake to smell smoke on the hot, windy air. While the kangaroos and wallabies bound away, the wombats crawl deep into their burrows and the cockatoos take off in noisy flight, Tippy and Jellybean can do none of those things.  As koalas, their only sanctuary is to climb to the top of the tree and hope they will be safe from the fire dragon that is on the warpath.

Curling herself around Jellybean, Tippy protects her baby from the flames even though she herself is burned…

Amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 , one of the enduring stories for our young readers is that of the impact on the wildlife. So to have this charming true story that not only tells of Tippy and Jellybean’s recovery but also of the dedication and expertise of veterinary professionals to preserving what they can offers a feel-good followup that will go a long way to helping the children heal too. And we are desperately in need of feel-good stories right now.

As fate would have it, Gelantipy was on my list of go-to places after having seen a documentary about in on ABC Back Roads, (it’s a comfortable drive from here) and we had a trip planned, but the fires beat us to it. Then we ourselves had to evacuate… So to know that there is a happy news story, the words interpreted in gentle, non-threatening illustrations by Anil Tortop, and that this is just one of so many creatures saved and treated by carers (many volunteers, some from overseas) strengthens my desire to explore this area as soon as.

To show our young readers that there can be happy endings, that in a time that seems so relentlessly harsh and tough there can be hope and help on the other side, and that Mother Nature can rise up no matter how beaten she is is what our students who have endured the fires, both first-hand and vicariously need right now.  Reassurance can sometimes be the greatest gift and this book provides that.

Dedicated to all the creatures that were not as lucky as Tippy and Jellybean, the publisher will donate $1 from every copy sold of this book to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, to help fund emergency veterinary assistance and scientific intervention.

Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip

Roma the Road Train's First Road Trip

Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip










Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip

Debbie Camps

David Clare

Little Steps, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


The road from Darwin to Alice Springs is almost 1500 km long and travels through some of Australia’s most scenic but inhospitable country.  Getting freight between the two centres can be arduous and hazardous even for the huge road trains that make the trip regularly.

This story about Roma the road train’s first journey takes young readers through that  outback country showing off not only the countryside but also the life of the driver who makes it, one typical of the men and women who do it frequently as they earn their living.  Driver and truck become one as the journey unfolds, the driver attuned to every nuance of the motor, every sensation felt through the steering wheel and then every night time sound as he curls up in the bunk behind the cab.

If you have young students, boys or girls, who have a hankering to be a truckie, or are just wanting to demonstrate another different lifestyle found in this vast country, then the road train drivers, the distances they travel, the country they travel through and the sort of freight they carry offer that. 

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea











The Giant and the Sea

Trent Jamieson

Rovina Cai

Lothian Children’s, 2020

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


There was once a giant who stood on the shore of the sea. She looked out across the water the water, because that is what she had promised to do long, long ago.

On the shore there was a young girl who would often come and sing and while the giant never moved or spoke, she listened. Then one day, she warned the girl that the people in the city had a machine that was causing the sea to rise. If the machine were not turned off, the people would all drown. The girl tried to warn the people but they would not listen.  They loved their machine and could not imagine that it would ever do them harm, until….

In the style of Armin Greder and Shaun Tan, this is a picture book that has a powerful message that in these days of climate change conversations, even our younger readers will grasp. Even though the little girl remains nameless, each of them could see themselves as being her as they try to make the adults in their world listen to their fears. While the palette of the illustrations is dark and moody reflecting the tone of the story, there is also a thread of hope when the giant returns and rescues those that heard the girl – not all the ears were deaf.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet but it reinforces the power of children’s voices at a time when the adults seem to have lost their way.

The best picture books are those that span all age groups with a meaning and message that speaks to each, and this is one of those. 

Teachers’ resources with salient discussion points particularly for older students are available to help you make the most of it with your students because it is one that will linger in the mind long after it has been shared. 

Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue

Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue

Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue










Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue

Candice Lemon-Scott

New Frontier, 2020

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


Best friends Ebony and Jay are the Eco Rangers,. They love helping others and looking after the environment  rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured wildlife through their local conservation centre. And in this third episode in the series, there’s been a devastating wildfire in the bushland and Ebony and Jay are doing their best to find injured animals. As they rescue a cute little possum with burned paws, they also discover that some people have been camping in the area that was devastated by the fire. What were they doing there? This is a mystery that Ebony and Jay just have to solve.

This is a story that is going to resonate with many of our newly-independent readers who have just endured the most horrific summer and been confronted with the vision of rescued animals from every state. So while the focus for Ebony and Jay is on the possum and what the campers were up to, readers can reassure themselves that like Mira, many animals were saved and their rehabilitation is progressing. 

The fires have put a spotlight on the impact of fire on the animals and so this series is timely for younger readers wanting to know more about the bush and its creatures, perhaps even becoming Eco Rangers themselves.  There are tips at the back for guidance and with Pelican in Peril  shortlisted for the Wilderness Society’s 2020 Environment Award for Children’s Literature , perhaps there will be more in the series. to encourage both reading and conservation.

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under










Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

Puffin Books, 2020

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


It would seem that the song Baby Shark is the most popular tune our littlest ones have engaged with for a long time, (or the most annoying for the adults in their lives.)

However you view it, this clever rewriting of it which introduces the audience to the sharks seen in Australian waters is quite ingenious. 

Using the same bright illustrative style as the video, but changing the text to phrases such as funny shark, scary shark, even silly shark, young readers are taken on an underwater adventure with some other ocean-dwellers to discover which of these fascinating creatures can be found around our shores. Each double-page spread features a different shark with one side having the song lyrics and the other, a basic fact file.

Our youngest readers will engage with this from the get-go, learning not only about a most-maligned creature but also that information books can be as much fun as a screen. They might even be encouraged to create their own dance moves, just as in the original!

Not surprisingly, as a scuba diver from way back and having had my own adventures with these creatures, I loved it but beware of the ear-worm!


Do You Love Bugs?

Do You Love Bugs?

Do You Love Bugs?











Do You Love Bugs?

Matt Robertson

Bloomsbury, 2020

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


From an early age many children develop a fear of bugs – perhaps it’s because of their imagining the feel of all those legs crawling over them, or they are warned about being the target of the creature’s defence system.  So in this book with its accessible text, quirky illustrations and engaging layout, Matt Robertson attempts to show that the minibeasts that inhabit both the indoors and outdoors are actually beneficial and essential to both our planet and our well-being. 

Bees, worms, stick insects, grasshoppers, snails, butterflies and moths, ants beetles, even spiders are all put under the microscope and shown through the lens of being critical to the environment and its health.  Robertson has used a clever technique of portraying the critters in cartoon-like style so that they have personality and are not a scary exact likeness, and that coupled with fun facts like snails being deaf and bees communicating by dancing brings each species into focus in a gentle way.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Before sharing the book, young readers might even like to identify the bugs on the colourful endpapers setting them up ready to learn more about those they know.

Much as I appreciate this approach and the value that bugs add, I’m still not convinced about the usefulness of spiders and flies yet…

Scientists who changed the world (series)

Scientists who changed the world

Scientists who changed the world







Scientists who changed the world(series)

Charles Darwin


Rachel Carson


Sir Isaac Newton


Anita Grey

EK Books, 2020

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

It could be said that never before in the lives of our young students, has science been at the forefront as it is at the moment.  Every night on the news and in other programs they have access to, science is featured along with the obligatory white-coated scientist as there are reports of progress in the race to a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, the disease keeping them trapped inside. The importance of research, testing, trials and all the other vocabulary associated with the discipline is becoming a natural part of their vocabulary and there would be more than one little one who now has aspirations of finding that one thing that will save mankind.

So this new series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and so if immunology and epidemiology don’t appeal, then there are endless other facets that might. The first three in the series introduce us to a physicist, a marine biologist and an anthropologist, all of whom changed the world’s thinking with their discoveries .

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to each including not just their discoveries but also their early life that influenced the paths they took. With at least three more in the series planned (Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Stephen Hawking) this is a series that will be a most useful addition to the library’s collection because of its modern presentation and timely release as children return to the classroom with big dreams of adding their names to the list of world-changers.


Dugong Magic

Dugong Magic

Dugong Magic










Dugong Magic

Deborah Kelly

Lisa Stewart

Lothian Children’s, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780734419965 |

In the warm waters of a shallow bay, a dugong calf is born…and as she learns to swim and eat and pull up the seagrasses of her diet, she learns the stories of long ago, the legends of mermaids. She learns the dangers of reef predators and what to do when they are near, but nothing can teach her about the dangers posed by the humans who treat her home as their personal playground…

With illustrations and a colour palette as soft and gentle as the underwater world. this is a wonderful introduction to one of our least-known creatures that is so mysterious and in need of protection.  As well as the fact page at the end, it has a strong environmental message, offering a new topic on which to kickstart an investigation into our impact on the environment with comprehensive teachers’ notes available to assist with this.  With winter knocking on the door, this might not be the time we are thinking about the ocean and its creatures, but that just means there is more time to think and act before next summer.  Maybe the dugongs will be able to tell their young of the stories and legends, because of the consideration of our young, and maybe dugongs won’t be just part of the stories and legends we tell.