The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within










The Butterfly Within

Natalie, Layla and Scarlett Drake

Annabel Cutler

Little Steps. 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95


Inspired after finding a milkweed bush full of Monarch caterpillars and taking them home to watch their development, this is a beautifully illustrated story that follows the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly from the adult playing with its friends and eventually laying eggs to one of those eggs hatching and eventually emerging as a butterfly to start the cycle again.

But rather than being a factual narration of steps, the butterflies have been personified as the author’s children and the focus is on their having the courage to take the next step in their lives. In fact Guillaume Apollinaire’s oft-quoted poem is included in the dedication offering encouragement to others to take the next step in their lives, something that is very relevant as a new school year begins. 

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

Whether you choose to use this book to inspire students to have the confidence to greet the new adventures ahead with confidence or as an example of biological metamorphosis, or even as an example of personification to satisfy the English curriculum, it is a worthwhile addition to the collection. 


I Think That It’s a Monster

I Think That It’s a Monster

I Think That It’s a Monster












I Think That It’s a Monster

Steven Krygger

Andrew McIntosh

Little Steps, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


The little boy is looking for a monster, and although several candidates appearing from the ocean, high in the trees and even the depths of the forest, none of them meet the boy’s criteria.  Physically they each meet the physical characteristics of a monster…

It’s tall and thin and dark

It’s standing on its hands

and its face looks like a shark!

Its legs are long and skinny

it has a million toes

its mooing and meowing

and dripping from the nose.

but the boy has his own definition and within it is a lesson for all of us who might view strange creatures or those who look a bit different with suspicion There is a lot of truth in the old axiom about judging a book by its cover, the meaning of which is itself an opportunity for discussion by older students.   

Told in rhyme accompanied by digital illustrations that give the story the feel of a computer game (the illustrator specialises in pixel art, 3D modelling and UI design, giving it a modern appearance that will appeal to young readers, this is a story for the ages that can offer reassurance to both children and monsters alike! 

What if … ?

What if … ?

What if … ?











What if … ?

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2021

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


Issy’s mind was always very busy. She was always wondering “What if…” and then imagining all sorts of situations that scared her.  She worried about monsters in her cupboard, aliens taking her in the middle of the night, her bedroom floor turning to quicksand and sucking up both her bed and her.

But her wise mother recognises the anxiety her imagination causes and the power of those two little words, and as she tucks Issy into bed she takes her turn at the “What if…”” But instead of scary things, she takes Issy and her imagination on an amazing and humorous trip of people walking on their hands and wearing their undies on their head; of clouds of different colours that smell of fairy floss and popcorn… Then she invites Issy to try and when she takes her mind in a new direction, her anxiety vanishes.

This is another beautiful offering from the pairing that gave us stories like Tree, and the Little Anxious Creatures series as the author draws on her expertise and experience as a clinical psychologist to acknowledge children’s big feelings and then articulates them in a way that both resonated with the child and helps them develop strategies that empower them to deal with them for themselves.  Changing thinking from what if a storm brews, a tree crashes through my window and a vampire bat flies into my bedroom to what if there were hot air balloons that could take me anywhere I wanted to go following a path made by the stars is as powerful as those two words themselves. As Jenkins says, “we are the bosses of our brains” and thus we can choose what we want to think. Lonergan’s illustrations in soft pastel colours are as gentle as the story itself,  and would be the ideal model for little ones to think of their own what if and then illustrate it, thinking of the way colour can portray mood as much as any other element.  A physical reminder to look at whenever their mind starts to wander down dark paths…

There has been much talk about the impact that the last 18-20 months has had on the mental health of our children and so this book, and the others by this couple, are more critical to know about and share than ever.

As well as teachers’ notes, Jenkins shares the story herself.


I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing











I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes

Gordon C. James

Egmont, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP  $A14.99


I am a non-stop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference-maker. A leader.

“Step inside the mind of the confident narrator of this book! He is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and will see them through. He’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny. A good friend. A superhero. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s often misunderstood. So, slow down, look and listen as he shows you who he really is …”

Oprah Magazine says this book is “one of its essential books for discussing racism with kids” and other quotes from reviews all refer to the main character’s above all else.  Yet, when I read it I didn’t even notice his colour, although the illustrations are so lifelike and full of energy, because I saw it through the lens of the performances at the Olympic Games – and not just those by Australians.  So often, as I watched (as an alternative to the ad infinitum of COVID 19 and lockdown), the back story of the athlete was shared and so often it was a story of triumph over tragedy, of hard work, perseverance, resilience, overcoming hurdles and obstacles, staring the impossible in the face… and that is what I took from this book.  

So many of our students would have seen performances that have inspired them – the silver lining of lockdown being the access to real-time coverage rather than a news snippet – and dreams will have been dreamt, particularly with some of the sports being so accessible, like skateboarding, and the age of the competitors so close to their own..  And within this book is the sort of motivational, inspirational language that will fan the flames of the spark of those dreams. 

So while this book may have been intended to help young black children to rise above the racism and be the person they are, and sadly, will resonate on that level with some of our students,  it can be used in lots of ways to affirm and reaffirm, to challenge and to change, to build not just dreams but hope and expectation.

There are so many clichés about it being the inner person that counts, and while that is true, we all know it’s not that simple.  So help students see their potential by having them identify the highest wall facing them right now, whether that’s understanding a science formula or improving their lap time, and then help them put in place a plan to climb over it.  Dreams. beliefs and goals can be the driving force but sometimes we need some strategies to make them happen. Have them add a page to the book that celebrates them.














Remy Lai

A & U Children’s, 2021

240pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99


Every Saturday, Pawcasso trots into town  on his own with a basket, a shopping list and cash in paw to buy groceries for his family. One day, he passes by Jo’s house, where she’s peering out the window, bored and lonely. When Jo sets out to follow him, a group of kids from school mistake her for Pawcasso’s owner and, excited to make new friends, she reluctantly hides the truth. But what starts as a Chihuahua-sized lie quickly grows into a Great Dane-sized problem when Pawcasso gets his own internet fan club … will Jo be able to solve the mystery of the dog’s owners before she is caught out in her web of lies, will Jo risk her new friendships by telling the t? Are hew new friendships more important than telling the truth?

This is a graphic novel which provides many hilarious moments as it delves into Jo and Pawcasso’s adventures as well as setting up a dilemma that students may well debate the solution for as the various layers impacting Jo’s life are considered.  What drives us to tell “little white lies” and when do they become untruths that can trap us?  Is a “little white lie” ever acceptable?

The community which Jo finds herself venturing into reflects the communities that we all live in – there are always everyday issues that take on a life on their own and divide residents – and Lai uses clever techniques such as having Jo join a book club to discuss philosophical questions such as “If love comes from the heart, does hate come from the brain?”  offering scope for lively class discussions within an at-arms-length context.

While its graphic novel format may entice hesitant readers  to engage with reading, this is a story that poses questions in a way that demonstrates the power of story to address those big questions while being entertaining at the same time.  There are several downloads for teachers available on the publisher’s website.  Intriguing.

Dino Love

Dino Love

Dino Love








Dino Love

Michelle Worthington

Veronica Montoya

Catch A Star, 2020

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


It is time for Little Dinosaur to start preschool and even though she is apprehensive, she soon learns that there is fun and friendship and love to be had beyond that of her family if she just takes some deep breaths and is open to new experiences.  And that although love can be expressed in words, it is also shown in all sorts of actions, and between all sorts of characters regardless of their size, shape, or colour.  That it doesn’t matter if you are a  this-osaurus, a that-osaurus or an other-osaurus, you all just want to have fun on the merry-go-round and know your parents are proud of you.

Brightly illustrated, this is an eye-catching book that will appeal to our youngest readers as it taps into the universal fascination with dinosaurs, the natural concern about stepping out of the family and into the world, and the reassurance that there is someone to catch us if we fall. Perfect for this time of year when so many are taking that next step.

Share it and then talk about how each little person has experienced love from both a family member and a friend that day so they start to understand that love is as diverse as they are.

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

What We'll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future











What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2020

48pp., hbk., RRP $A 24.99


What shall we build, you and I?

I’ll build your future and you’ll build mine.

We’ll build a watch to keep our time.

Sitting perfectly alongside its predecessor Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth in which Jeffers tries to offer an explanation of this planet and how it works so that his young son Harland  (and any other little children) will be able to negotiate it successfully; this time Jeffers is talking to his daughter Mari about how they will build their future together with a home to keep them safe, love to keep them warm and memories to cherish. Thus it is as much about satisfying the tangible, physical needs as the intangible, emotional that are perhaps even more critical.

Given the year that just was, this is the perfect start to a new year – one which has never been more anticipated and had more hope built into it by our young students – so that they can look forward rather than back and think about their dreams and how they might build these, while for the adult sharing the book it is a time for them to pause, look at their children and grasp that there, is one of their dreams come true – a happy, healthy child. And the future for each is inextricably intertwined.

Jeffers has a unique style of both text and illustration which is perfectly suited to this sort of philosophical text; one that might be directed to his daughter but which has universal application for starting this new year.  If 2021 is to live up to expectation what do we need to do to ensure that it does?

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird











How To Make A Bird

Meg McKinlay

Matt Ottley

Walker, 2020

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


“To make a bird you will need a lot of very tiny bones.  They will be smaller than you imagine, some so tiny they are barely there, And they will be hollow, these hundreds of bones – so light that when they rest in your palm you will hardly feel them.”

So begins a haunting, almost ethereal, picture book that takes the reader through the process of how a bird is made – particularly timely for me as I watch our resident Father and Mother Magpie patiently raise this season’s twins.  Like them, the girl is also patient and extremely careful as she patiently adds all the other elements like the feathers (saving the longest for the wings and the tail) and a heart that will beat sure and steady to carry the bird across oceans and continents at the end of a long winter, eyes, beak , claws and a song to sing.  But just the physical stuff is not enough – it is having the courage to let go of what you have made so it can find its place in the world that is the final piece of the jigsaw.

This is a stunning book, beautifully illustrated in a soft, calming palette that emphasises the care and the patience needed to create anything, and it could be an allegory for any creative process.  First you have to have the mechanical, physical elements and the know-how of how they fit together, but it is having the faith to let others see and test your creation and offer feedback that takes it from being an object to something more. Just as the little girl sets her bird free to explore the wild blue yonder so that it can truly reach its potential as a bird, so have McKinlay and Ottley set their creations off into the unknown to be explored, accepted, appreciated or not.  Just as we encourage our kids to take what they know and be brave enough to transform it and test it in new situations.   Just as we raise our own children and our students the best we know how, we have to give them that ultimate freedom of independence and making their own way in the world.  Are we able to relinquish our control and just let go?

This is a story that can work on many levels for many ages.  It can help a little person understand how birds can defy gravity and fly even when they cannot  but it can also work on that allegorical level of knowing you have done all you can and taking that leap of faith. Comprehensive teachers’ notes demonstrate how it can be used across the ages, stages and curriculum.

It would not surprise me to see this among the award winners in the future. 

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows










Rain Before Rainbows

Smriti Halls

David Litchfield

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun…

With pictures as stunning as its title and as gentle as its message, this is a beautiful book that encourages children to hang in there, that whatever they are facing right now will pass and there will be a brighter time coming. The text is quite simple on the surface as the girl and her friendly fox climb mountains, face dragons and endure dark days as they strive towards their dreams.  Along the way they discover that there are friends to help, alternative paths to follow and ropes to hold on to as they seek the treasure of a new day.  While younger readers can follow along seeing the journey in a literal way,  it is the metaphorical message that will resonate with the older reader who is able to operate at a more abstract level.

This is a story about trust, resilience, optimism and hope that will empower young readers to have the courage to keep moving forward, to follow their dreams, to see obstacles as opportunities and to be willing to be open to new things and be proactive.  That, for all the storm might be noisy and scary, there is nevertheless beauty in it and  the calm on the other side is savoured even more deeply because of the contrast.

These themes of courage, resilience and hope are featuring in many recent books for our young readers but given the calamity that has been 2020, it could be argued that the more we have access to the better, because at least one of them has to resonate and reach out to a child in need.  And if it does, then the work of the author, illustrator and the adult who placed it in their world, is done. 

The Goody

The Goody

The Goody











The Goody

Lauren Child

Orchard Books, 2020

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


Chirton Krauss is a good child – the very goodest. He does everything he is told, when he is told. He even does good things without being told. He eats his broccoli,  cleans the rabbit hutch without whingeing, he goes to bed on time and he never, ever sticks his finger up his nose. His parents are so impressed with his behaviour that they gave him a badge with Goody on it.  Chirton’s motto is”If people have decided you are good, don’t disappoint them by being bad”.

Meanwhile, his sister Myrtle is just the opposite.  Her motto is “If people have decided you are bad, do not disappoint them by being good” and she goes about living up to their expectations by doing as she pleases. On the outside, it doesn’t seem to bother her that she is not invited to parties, because the pay-off is not having to eat your broccoli, not having to clean the rabbit hutch and being able to stay up all hours because the babysitter has given up fighting with you about bedtime.

But one day, Chirton discovers the benefits of Myrtle’s philosophy and things start to change…

Lauren Child is well-known and well-recognised for writing children’s books that have an edge to them and this is no different.  Accompanying the storyline is an independent commentary in  red text, aimed squarely at the reader and challenging them to think more deeply about the story. Indeed, it should spark discussion about whether one should follow Chirton’s example or Myrtle’s or whether there might be a middle road…

Little ones do not often chooses a story because of the author – their reading experience is not broad enough for that yet – but Lauren Child is one whose work is well-known even by our youngest readers and this one will be snapped up as soon as they discover that it is a new one from the creator of the infamous Charles and Lola.