David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins GB., 2024

224pp., graphic novel., RRP $A22.99


Chump the chimpanzee from Central Park Zoo, New York was always being silly. He would make rude noises from both ends, pick his nose with his little toe, eat the skins of bananas, hurling out the tasty part inside…  NASA’s scientists thought he’d be the PERFECT chimp to send into space. Little did Chump know that he had been selected for a deadly-dangerous mission. If a chimp could orbit Earth, then chances were a human could too.

With Chump the chimp at the controls of a spacecraft, what could possibly go wrong? Just about everything, it would seem, because when he has a celebratory banana after the launch,  he is catapulted 50 years into the future and confronted by Dmitri, a dog who claims to be a Hellhound of Space,  a notorious space pirate feared across the galaxies. Blasted into space many years before by humankind, but with no plans to bring him home, Dmitri rebelled and stalked the galaxy attacking and taking ships to add to his own. Chump is his latest conquest, and soon to be one of his worst. 

And so begins a series of adventures, with dog and chimp at loggerheads to begin with but realising that they are going to have to work together to survive that will appeal to those who enjoy David Walliams’ brand of humour, this time in colourful graphic novel format.  Yet, underlying the crazy plotline is the more serious issue of how all sorts of creatures, including fruit flies, a gerbil, dogs, cats and others, have been launched into space to determine whether it is a viable environment for humans – all with no plans to return them to Earth.  Walliams has taken those journeys a step further to explore what might have happened next…

For many, this will be a light-hearted read that continues Walliams’ intention of providing stories that kids want to read so they actually do so, but if some want to find out more about those early experimental flights then Laika the Astronaut could be a good start although there are a number of authoritative summaries available online.  


Step Inside Science: The Solar System

Step Inside Science: The Solar System

Step Inside Science: The Solar System











Step Inside Science: The Solar System

Rob Lloyd Jones

Teresa Bellon

Usborne, 2024

14pp., board book, RRP $A19.99


With night falling so early these days, and winter skies being clear and crisp it is the perfect time to introduce our youngest readers to the wonders of the night sky as stars and planets are so clearly visible.  But with such beauty so readily available, especially of you live where there is little light pollution comes lots of questions so it is also time to invest in some books especially written for this age group so those questions can have answers while they are fresh in the mind.

Enter yet another wondrous publication from Usborne which uses its iconic lift the flap format to explain the solar system to the budding young astronomers and whet their appetite for new explorations and new discoveries.  Beginning with the sun, we take a journey past the four rock and metal  planets of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, then through the asteroid belt and out to the gas giants of Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus, and beyond.  All in full colour, all with flaps to lift and peepholes to peer through making an interactive experience that engages and explains, while for those who want to know more there are the specially selected Quicklinks  to accompany the book, as well as other equally intriguing publications (each with their own links) to continue the curiosity.



Astronomy for Curious Kids

Astronomy for Curious Kids

Astronomy for Curious Kids











Astronomy for Curious Kids

Giles Sparrow

Nik Neves

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

12833., hbk., RRP $A32.99


Ever since humans first walked the Earth, they have marvelled at the night sky and wondered and imagined, dreamt and explained. And even though science has moved us along significantly from the ancient stories of why there is night and day, how the sun travels across the sky, and all the other myths and legends associated with the things we can see when darkness falls, our children are still asking the same questions…

Where did everything come from?

Is there life on other planets?

How do stars shine?

Why does it get dark at night?

How big is the universe?

And as the total solar eclipse on April 8 draws closer, even though it will be mostly visible across North America and not be visible from Australia, nevertheless there will be a heightened interest and news bulletins build.  Thus the release of this book for young independent readers is very timely as it provides the answers to many of the questions that will be raised.  Beginning with a chapter about hoe to watch the stars and the safest and most effective way to do so, it explains why the sky changes,  how to find certain objects at particular times and even being able to identify what you can see without using a n app or a smartphone.  And so begins a journey that offers brief but complete explanations of many of the phenomena providing readers with a solid understanding of the basics, that can then help them understand not only what they are seeing but also any study of indigenous astronomy they might engage in, as part of the curriculum, perhaps even sparking a deeper interest and further investigations.

Like any CSIRO publication, this is authoritative, tailored perfectly to its target audience and a valuable addition to your non fiction collection. 



Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind

Cosmic Wonder: Halley's Comet and Humankind

Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind












Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind

Ashley Benham-Yazdani

Candlewick Press, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Over 4.6 billion years ago,  about the same time the rest of our solar system was created, a comet was born – one that now visits this planet on its long orbit around the planets and the sun and beyond, only once is a person’s lifetime.  Unlike many others that are comparatively short-lived because they lose ice and debris each time they pass a star, this one has survived and for those lucky enough to be alive in 2061 it will light up our skies once again.

Named after the Edward Halley, the astronomer and mathematician who calculated that the comets that had been seen in the skies in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were one and the same and accurately predicted that it would return in 1758, Halley’s Comet has been orbiting since time immemorial, the last time being in 1986.  During that time it has seen so many changes on this planet as humans developed and with their curiosity and creativity have transformed it.

Essentially then, this is a history of Earth seen from the comet’s perspective as it makes its regular sweeps told in simple, almost lyrical, language and depicted in stunning artworks.  Tracing the changes (which are summarised in the final pages) it tells the story of the planet’s development from a time when nothing and no one saw it light up the night sky to that of a lone teacher fascinated by it perched like Humpty Dumpty on a wall in her garden  in 1986.  (I have no idea why scaling a 2 metre wall would give me a better view but there I was…)

As well as giving the reader a unique perspective on history, showing us just how small we are and how short our time here is, this is one not only to explore the other bodies in the universe but also to consider what the comet might see when it returns in 2061, provoking all sorts of textual and artistic responses.  What would they like it to see? They might even consider what their contribution to those changes might be. 

Innovative and visually outstanding, this is such a different way to view the world that it will capture not only those budding astronomers but also those who dream and wonder and imagine… Another reason to have a rich and vibrant non fiction collection. 

Mr Chicken Goes to Mars

Mr Chicken Goes to Mars

Mr Chicken Goes to Mars











Mr Chicken Goes to Mars

Leigh Hobbs

A&U Children’s, 2023

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


Mr Chicken has been everywhere – Paris, London, Rome, and all over Australia.  But now, tired of being at home swamped by boring, everyday household chores, he is ready for a new adventure. And as he looks out at the night sky he knows just where he wants to go – Mars.  So, with the help of his friend Boris the rocket builder, within a week he is off. 

Undaunted by a myriad of complex levers, lights, switches and gauges, he uses his trusty guidebook to safely navigate his way past asteroids and other space travellers, and after a brief visit to a space station for lunch, he gets to his destination.  But will the inhabitants welcome him or…??? Will he return safely to Earth for another adventure in the future? 

For more than 10 years, the adventures of Mr Chicken have delighted young readers and led to all sorts of engaging, intriguing learning experiences  – read some ideas in the linked reviews – and this one is no different.  Imagine being here one day and on Mars in seven! 

When Mr Chicken asked Boris to build him a rocket, he says he wants “all the comforts of home” so that could set the designers in the class planning and drawing to show just what its interior might look like, and while Hobbs has had fun with naming all the gidgets and gadgets the linguists could not only work out what they are for but suggest new ones (with labels) for the class models. Those with a penchant for space travel could investigate the history of its exploration, the astronomers could identify, explore and explain asteroids, planets, stars and even Mars itself, while the practical thinkers could investigate what is currently happening in travel to Mars.  The writers could dream up Mr Chicken’s next adventure to another planet and the illustrators could bring that to life.

And all the while, everyone is enjoying this new adventure with this intrepid explorer as he enriches their learning and lives in a way that few ever do.  


The Secret Science Society In Space

The Secret Science Society In Space

The Secret Science Society In Space











The Secret Science Society In Space

Kathy Hoopman & Josie Montano

Ann-Marie Finn

Wombat, 2023

101pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Mona likes to moan.  Kiki is a worry-wart.  Bart loves following rules.  And Zane HATES following rules. When the four of them are put into The Secret Science Society together, they have to find a way to work that suits all their particular idiosyncrasies.  And their task is to  come up with a prize-winning experiment.  

This is the second in this series  that will appeal to those independent young readers who like to combine science and reading, while being able to appreciate and value the fact that sometimes it takes some very diverse characters and thinking to achieve something spectacular and even the wildest ideas should be considered. 

Lots of Things to Know About Space

Lots of Things to Know About Space

Lots of Things to Know About Space











Lots of Things to Know About Space

Laura Cowan

Alyssa Gonzalez

Usborne, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Every time a child looks to the sky, whether it be day or night, they wonder and ask questions.  

What is the sun?

How many stars are there?

Are we alone?

And so there is a large collection of books available to help them investigate the answers to their questions, and this new one from Usborne is a worthy addition to the collection. Using catchy subject headings like “The Universe Awards” and “How to garden on the Moon”, and using funky diagrams and illustrations with minimal text to explain them, it answers all the regular questions and a few more.   There’s even  peek into the future where the concepts that propel sailing ships might be applied to space ships!

As always with Usborne publications, the subject is explored in a novel way that makes for engaging yet educational reading and is supported by Quicklinks for those who want to know even more because their curiosity has been sparked.  

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





The Trip

The Trip

The Trip










The Trip

Paul Beavis 

Little Steps, 2022

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


When a little girl and her dog take a trip into outer space in their hot air balloon, they are quite comfortable until they see footsteps in the surface that are not theirs… Are they afraid or do they get together for a picnic?

 This is a deceptively simple book about the nature of inclusiveness because the story is told solely through the use of pronouns – me, you, us, mine, yours, ours,  and so on – and the reader really has to interpret the illustrations to tell the story making it perfect for encouraging those connections between text and picture that are critical early reading behaviours.  It also means they can tell the story using their own language as they expand on the illustrations to explain what is happening , particularly if the astute adult sharing it with them guides their reading with targeted questions to draw out the events. and thus enabling the child to return to the story independently when they wish, helping them to understand that they do have power over print and they can  read. They also learn that print stays constant – they can return to it again and again whenever they wish and take as much time as they like to absorb and tell the story.  

This is another story evolving from The Book Hungry Bears television show in which the main characters share picture books, hungry to learn all they can from those they settle down to share together, encouraging young readers to do the same. 



Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth













Meanwhile Back on Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


“In all the cosmos, this one place in our solar system is where all of the people have lived for the whole time we’ve been people. We have always thought that Earth is so big that it’s best to divide it into smaller bits/ It seems we humans have always fought each other over space.”

And so, taking the well-known quote from Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14 in February 1971, who said, ” From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that…” as inspiration, Oliver Jeffers has created  this intriguing book in which a father takes his two children on a thrilling out-of-this-world adventure into space and invites them to look back at Earth and the conflicts that have taken place since the beginning of time.  

Calculating time using the speed that most people drive at (37mph or 60kph),  he drives the children to the various planets and then takes them back a similar amount of time in Earth’s history to show the conflict that was occurring at the time. So driving to the Moon would take a year and then a left turn would be a 78 year drive to Venus which would take them back to the middle of the 20th century and World War II. Each destination is tied to something catastrophic happening on Earth. 

While this is an interesting way of looking at history, the ultimate futility of conflict and encouraging young readers to strive for peace in the future, the concept is quite abstract, almost esoteric and thus more suited to older readers who have the maturity and ability to look at things from beyond their realm of personal experience. Although the text appears simple, and Jeffers has added some wit to lighten the load, and a timeline on the endpapers encapsulates both the time and space aspects of the journey, this is one best shared in a situation where discussion and clarification can take place.