I Wish I Had a Wookiee

I Wish I Had a Wookiee

I Wish I Had a Wookiee














I Wish I Had a Wookiee

Ian Doescher

Tim Bugden

Quirk Books, 2021

128pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


The timing of writing this review is one of those serendipitous moments that seem to happen every now and then.  

Looking at my growing pile of review books I closed my eyes and selected one at random and pulled out one I had looked at and rejected a few times because, not being a Star Wars fan, I had no idea what it was about.  That was until a conversation around the breakfast table this morning when talk turned to favourite series and my family, being who they are, each had Star Wars at the top of their lists and Miss 10 declared she would like an AT-AT! “My response was, “Whatever that is…” and so I was informed.

So when this literally was a chance selection from the pile and the blurb says that, “In these pages you’ll meet a ten-year-old [the same age as my wishful thinker] who dreams of playing fetch with an AT-AT…” I knew it was meant to be.

But still being in the dark about such an alien world even though I am surrounded by its greatest fans, I will have to rely on the publisher’s blurb for the precis… “Inspired by the beloved world of Star Wars, and in the tradition of She; Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, this collection of over 75 whimsical and original poems is a celebration of childhood, creativity, imagination, and the early years of Star Wars fandom.

In “My Pet AT-AT,” a ten-year-old dreams of playing hide and seek and fetch with an AT-AT. In “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine,” a child opens their dad’s untouched action figure but, instead of getting into trouble, helps their dad re-discover his own sense of play. In “T-16 Dreams,” a little girl imagines herself flying through the galaxy, the Empire hot on her trail, to help with her real-world fear of flying.

Set in the hearts and minds of young children who love Star Wars, and filled with the characters you know and love, I Wish I Had a Wookiee is the perfect gift for the young Star Wars fan—and the young at heart”

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Each poem is accompanied by a quirky illustration but as well as drawing on the familiar characters for the focus, many touch on issues important and relevant to the age group so they are more than just ditties.  For example, A Galaxy of Families begins…

Stan’s mom and dad adopted Stan

And loved him totally

Like Bail and Breha welcomed Leia

To their family. 

It continues with other less-than-traditional relationships highlighting the diverse nature of family units these days, each one resonating with a reader somewhere.

But the greatest recommendation is that from Miss 10, currently curled up reading the poems, having abandoned her phone’s screen and enjoying poetry for the first time.  Usually, you take statements such as “the perfect gift” as publisher’s hype but in this case, it’s true.  I could have given her nothing better. 


The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide











The Supernatural Survival Guide

George Ivanoff

Puffin, 2021

176pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


All Hallows Eve, that special night dating back to the 0th century Celtic festival of Samhain when its celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical and spirit worlds blur, allowing more interaction between humans and the inhabitants of the Otherworld. It was held on October 31 to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the long dark winter, particularly in those northern regions of what is now the United Kingdom and bonfires were lit to entice the sun to remember to come back.  It was the final night that the souls of those who had died could roam before ascending to heaven or descending to hell.

As time passed, civilisations rose and disappeared and beliefs and festivals waxed and waned,  the time known as Hallowe’en and all the traditions of witches and ghosts, and masks, costumes and jack-o-lanterns to scare them off has evolved.  So the release of this book, which attempts to make the paranormal more normal is timely.  Drawing on his personal long-term fascination with “the supernatural, the paranormal, the mysterious, the unknown the unexplained and the downright weird” and taking on the role of a child caught between a dad who believes that things like UFOs, ghosts and the yeti are true – “the truth is out there” – and a more practical, pragmatic mum who has a sensible explanation for noises in the night and strange sky shapes; Ivanoff has investigated the more common phenomena and offers a scientific explanation or debunks them.  “The truth is in here!”

Using the child-friendly format of The Australia Survival Guide and The Human Body Survival Guide he tackles topics like  Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Does Big Foot exist? Are there scientific reasons for hauntings? What is cryptozoology? What can explain UFO sightings by multiple witnesses? So young readers will be well-armed as the spooky season approaches.  (And given that The Australia Survival Guide was published just before the Black Summer of 2019-2020, this could prove particularly useful!

Space Detectives

Space Detectives

Space Detectives











Space Detectives

Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is hurtling on a collision course with the moon they know they need to step in. This is a case for the SPACE DETECTIVES!

Can Connor and Ethan find the culprit and save Starville from its impending doom?

Fitting perfectly into this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, this is a new series for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen.  And concluding with an epilogue that sets up their next adventure it promises to deliver for those who like to get to know their heroes better as the series unfolds. 

When someone recently asked for recommendations for series for this demographic to help them consolidate skills and grow their reading, all the old-familiars were suggested – many popular when I was in the library full-time 20 years ago- and while they remain quality reads, this is a new series that could be added to the list. It has all the right ingredients to engage those young lads looking for excitement and adventure. 

Funny Kid Prank Aliens

Funny Kid Prank Aliens

Funny Kid Prank Aliens











Funny Kid Prank Aliens

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Max is back in the 9th in this series that has become the favourite of so many young independent readers, especially boys.

Bored as during the school holidays despite the Mayor having organised a fun fair to entertain them, yet not wanting to join in the Clean Up Redhill movement Max decides that it would be much better to prank the people in the toilet queue at the un_Funfair. And because that is successful he dreams bigger and better, answering the Mayor’s call to “put Redhill on the map” by trying to convince the residents that aliens have invaded.

And one thing leads to another….

Stanton is very much in tune with what kids in those middle years like to read about, particularly characters that they can relate to and secretly wish to be.  The place that the edgy humour of Jennings, Gleitzman and Milne played in their parents’ childhood is now being filled by him with great success, demonstrating that good stories with lots of humour and over-the-top situations are always winners, particularly if they have a slightly serious side that anchors them in reality and adds depth to the story.

He now has his own YouTube channel that features lots about his writing and drawing, including this intro to Prank Aliens with the promise of much more to come including a sequel to The Odds

Young, independent readers will be rapt.

Over the Moon

Over the Moon

Over the Moon










Over the Moon

Wendy Wan-Long Shang

HarperCollins, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99



Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl named Fei Fei builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures.

Based on the Netflix original animated film, this illustrated novel retells the story of Over the Moon and includes original concept art!

Directed by animation legend Glen Keane, and produced by Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, Over the Moon is an exhilarating musical adventure about moving forward, embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.

Although I am unfamiliar with the screen version of this story, this novelisation offers an engaging tale of a modern young miss who likes both sides of the story – the one her mother used to tell her of the fantasy and the scientific explanation of the same phenomenon given by her father.  Does the moon change its shape because the Space Dog bites chunks from it until the Moon Goddess Chang-e makes him spit it out, or is there another explanation? There is a delicate balance that keeps the reader entertained as Fei Fei fulfils her quest, at the same time as offering the reader another, deeper layer to accompany the screen version.  

Just as very young readers like to connect with the print versions of their favourite screen characters, so too those who are older and independent.  The subtle nuances of the written word add substance to what might be lost in the whizbangery of the animation. 

This will be a great addition to those who have a focus on screen-print matches this year while offering a quality read to take our girls to new worlds. It also opens up the world of traditional tales that have carried the stories of generations over generations.

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl's Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science











Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Karl Kruszelnicki

ABC Books, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00


“The year 2020 has reminded us that science is a bit like a wave. By that , I mean, that science is a dynamic process that ebbs and flows, rather than being something set in stone…. science is NOT a collection of facts- that’s what you have an encyclopaedia for.  Instead science is a process of discovering facts through curious exploration and then using them to understand the Universe around us…Science is an ongoing process,  It’s self-correcting- which, let me emphasise, is a strength not a weakness,,, That might sound confusing at first, but scientists are flexible and willing to look at results and tweak the advice accordingly…”

So like its predecessor Dr Karl’s Random Road Trip Through Sciencethe familiar Dr Karl takes a journey through a broad range of subjects in which the scientific thinking has changed over time or there is a greater understanding of the why because of new thinking and developments. 

Aimed at older, independent readers there is a more in-depth look at some of the more unusual phenomena from what it means to be winded to vegan diets to the 5G network, as he explores all sorts of topics assisted by an augmented reality app which has a hologram of Dr Karl offering a more in-depth introduction and then buttons to explore even further information. 

Mist students are familiar with Dr Karl and know he not only talks sense but he speaks in a language that is easily accessible to them – you don’t have to be a scientist to understand what he says.  So this book, which stands alone without the technology but is definitely enriched by it, is one for both the novice and the more experienced with an interest in the world around them.

Bear in Space

Bear in Space

Bear in Space










Bear in Space

Deborah Abela

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


Bear is different. While all his friends were noisy and busy and never seemed to stop, Bear preferred his own company and the quietness and solitude of his books – particularly his books about space.  Because even though the other bears sometimes laughed at him and called him names, Bear was absorbing all he could learn about the mysterious place beyond the planet because he had plans…

This is a charming story for early readers that has so many layers.  Firstly, it is a tribute to those children who are more introverted, who are happy and complete in their own space and who single-mindedly pursue their dreams, prompting discussions about how there are all sorts of people in the world who may have different values and dreams to us. But it also shows how those dreams can be enriched and enhanced when they are shared with like-minded souls and friends, changing perceptions of relationships and how the world works.  It also has lots of facts about space embedded into it so as well as sharing Bear’s adventures, the reader also learns a little on the journey.

This is one of those perfect pictures books where the text and illustrations are seamless and one would be so much less if the other weren’t there.  Even though both themes of being a loner and having dreams of space travel have been visited in children’s stories before, this is a stand-out because of the story’s layers and that integration of words and pictures that entertain and educate at the same time. A marriage of imagination and information.

Puffin Littles (series)

Puffin Littles

Puffin Littles


















Puffin Littles





The Solar System



9781760897024 (Sept 2020)


9781760897680 (Sept 2020)

The Ocean

9781760897666 (Sept 2020)

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


A familiar symbol in and on children’s literature for 80 years, Puffin introduces our young readers to a whole range of interesting information in this new series of non fiction titles, the perfect size for little hands. In them, he talks directly to the reader sharing information in manageable chunks in a layout that not only appeals but also supports their reading skills and their interests.

Little Cook: Snacks focuses on the fundamentals of cooking and preparing food; Little Environmentalist: Composting teaches them about composting and recycling to make a difference while Little Scientist: The Solar System takes them on a journey around the planets. Planned for September are three more which explore the ocean, robotics and the ANZACs. 

Not all children like to read fiction and so this series caters for both the newly independent reader and those who are almost there using its narrative style voiced by that iconic character to offer more than just a book of facts and figures. The contents page to help them navigate to a specific page and the glossary to build and explain vocabulary help develop those early information literacy skills while the quiz on the final page consolidates what has been learned.

Young readers will appreciate this series because there has clearly been a lot of thought put into addressing their unique needs as emerging readers as well as tapping into subjects that appeal. 


The Astronaut’s Cat

The Astronaut's Cat

The Astronaut’s Cat










The Astronaut’s Cat

Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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


The astronaut’s cat is an inside cat.
And she likes it like that.

But unlike other inside cats, the astronaut’s cat is on the moon, where it is so hot during the day a bowl of water would quickly boil, and so cold during the night it’s ten times colder than being in a fridge freezer!!  So each day Cat looks out the window at Astronaut working while she watches and snoozes and dreams of going outside to pounce and bounce lighter than a birthday balloon.  But when Earth rises on the inky black horizon she dreams of being back where there is colour and movement and shapes and forms and Mother Nature fills her with sights and sounds and scents…

When the masterful Mr Riddle created this book he would have had no idea that it was going to be released at a time when many of its readers were going to be cooped up inside, just like his cat. That being able to go outside and breathe fresh air and savour the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors would be as much a risk for them at this time as it is for Cat. That they would gaze through their windows and dream of earlier times… 

He probably thought that he was just creating a story about his cat Pom Pom who is just like the cat in the story – completely white, odd eyes and pink ears – and who, being an inside cat, spends her time gazing at the window outside.  While he has cleverly superimposed Pom Pom and Astronaut onto real backgrounds of the lunar landscape to help intensify the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, here on Earth it is a deadly disease keeping people indoors rather than a hostile environment.  But unlike Cat we can connect so perhaps sharing this story could be the catalyst to connect our kids with the Through My Window activity. Have each one look out their window as Cat did, and draw or photograph what they see, including the sounds and the smells they are missing (good or not-so) and write an explanation to share with their friends. Maybe they could pop a teddy or something in the scene and challenge others to find it. 

Here’s what is outside my window this morning…

But here’s what I am missing…


A great way to think about how Cat might be feeling and the things we take for granted. As Joni Mitchell sand in Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone…”

Meet the Planets

Meet the Planets

Meet the Planets










Meet the Planets

Caryl Hart

Bethan Woollvin

Bloomsbury, 2020 

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


Young readers are invited to join an aspiring young astronaut and her trusty dog to climb into a rocket and fly on a journey to meet the planets that they see in the night sky, beginning with the sun and going out to the dwarf planet Pluto in a series of informative rhymes and intriguing illustrations designed to make them appear friendly.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Useful as both an introduction to the solar system and perhaps to allay fears of the dark, this is a unique approach to help young readers learn about what’s out there in that night sky. Its bold palette and its humour (in both text and graphics) bring each planet to life –  Venus is the ‘goddess of beauty’; Jupiter the ‘king of the planets’,  Saturn is ‘your beautiful queen’ while the reader is called “lucky” to have Earth as there is no other like it – giving them a presence that makes them real rather than remote, and inspires an evening of sky-watching to see what can be seen.  Share this website to help inform their viewing.