The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd









The Bird in the Herd

Kathryn Apel

Renée Treml

UQP, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


There’s a bird in the herd that stalks as it walks, eating slugs and the bugs that the herd stirred. 

After half a century as a teacher, most of it spent focusing on teaching our youngest readers to read, I am quite vocal with my criticism of the current push to have phonics as the basis of instruction and while I could write much about why, I won’t.  However, this is a clever and quirky read which mainly relies on rhyme, rhythm and  repetition to carry it along but central, and most importantly, there is a charming story at its core. 

Beginning with a bird stalking a herd of cows to snap up the slugs and bugs they disturb, the scene is tracked back through all its elements – there is so much more than just the cows wandering along the track- with a repetition reminiscent of The House that Jack Built until an ignorant, impatient idiot  upsets everything.  So rather than the traditional set of disconnected pictures with sentences declaring the cat sat on the mat and the frog sat on the log, this is one that young readers can not only apply their new knowledge of phonemes but can actively engage with Treml’s illustrations and their existing knowledge of farm animals to read it for themselves.  They learn that the best books tell a story that is worth reading, that the words and pictures are integral to each other and this reading thing is something they can master. Such empowerment. If only all that we asked our beginning readers to read were as good as this…

Teachers’ notes are available.

The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!










The Thing That Goes Ping!

Mark Carthew

Shane McG

Ford Street, 2021

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


In the faraway town of Figgy-tra-ling, you may hear the faint ring of a thing that goes ping!

But this ting’s hard to find though its sound is quite loud

As the thing that goes ping can get lost in a crowd.

If you wish to know where you can find this ping thing

Let’s ask the good people of Figgy-tra-ling…

And so begins the quest to  discover this thing that goes ping, whatever it might be.  Moving through the town using rhyming couplets that instantly reminded me of a recent favourite, The Dingle-Dangle Jungle, the reader is taken on a journey that introduces a variety of creatures in a range of settings around the farm until eventually that thing that goes ping is revealed.  And it is a satisfying solution that makes the trip worthwhile!

This story works on a number of levels for all ages, particularly younger readers who are not only learning the names of common creatures but who revel in the sounds and rhythms of our language.  The rhymes roll off the tongue in a most satisfying way and with the repetition of the phrases and the very supportive illustrations they will not only be joining in but also be predicting the next text. Perfect for early reading behaviours, encouraging readers to suggest, write and illustrate their own resident of Figgy-tra-ling who could help the quest.  It is also excellent for using with students for whom English is an additional language as not only can they connect the English words with creatures they readily recognise, but again, the predictive text and the rhyme will help them explore the language easily.   As well, there are comprehensive teachers notes, song lyrics and even card games to download, making this the complete reading experience. 




















Float or Sink?

Float or Sink?

Float or Sink?












Float or Sink?

Kylie Covark

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


There is a stick in the creek bobbing along

Rolling on, light but strong.

What do you think?

Float or sink?

Most will answer “float” because who hasn’t whiled away some time putting sticks into the water and watching them start their journey to the unknown?

But what if there are those who see the stick as their personal raft, and climb onboard like a ladybug, a flea, a fly, a gnat, even a slug! Will the stick survive?  And is there danger lurking as it floats along, oblivious to its passengers and its surrounds?

The rhythmical text and the bold bright illustrations carry this story along as smoothly as the river current, encouraging young readers to make predictions about what will happen as they bring their scientific knowledge to the fore. So much potential for investigation of all sorts of things and lots of fun, but first and foremost a charming story. 



You can’t take an elephant on the bus

You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus

You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus









You can’t take an elephant on the bus

Patricia Cleveland-Peck

David Tazzyman

Bloomsbury, 2021

26pp., board book., RRP $A12.99


You can’t take an elephant on a bus and you shouldn’t put a monkey in a shopping trolley or take a tiger on a train ride.  Because if you do, they will cause havoc and this delightful rhyming story explores the hazards they create.  In fact there is a problem with every mode of transport for these exotic creatures except…

This is a fun-filled story that will have even the gloomiest child laughing out loud and wanting to suggest new ideas.  If you can’t ask a whale to ride a bike, then what would work – or not?  With quirky illustrations that are as funny as the text and a rich vocabulary that has been carefully crafted – the pig’s trotters totter – this is a surefire winner for young readers who are learning about the fun to be had in stories.

Ten Little Yoga Frogs

Ten Little Yoga Frogs

Ten Little Yoga Frogs










Ten Little Yoga Frogs

Hilary Robinson

Mandy Stanley

Catch A Star, 2021

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


Imagine learning some basic yoga poses at the same time as learning to count,  This is a bright, colourful, traditional rhyming counting book but with the twist of all the characters doing yoga and an invitation to the reader to join in.. 

One to one matching and the conservation of number are the foundation skills of early maths as children learn that no matter how it is arranged, a group of three (or whatever) is always a group of three, So we can’t underestimate the value of books such as these as they teach or reinforce the same concepts and eventually the child is mature enough to grasp them. At the same time, the rhyming format helps them predict the text so they have power over it. Win/win for littlies, in my opinion. 


Learning to Count (series)

Learning to Count

Learning to Count

10 Naughty Numbats


10 Bush Babies


10 Lively Lorikeets


Grace Nolan

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2021

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

Learning to count, add and subtract is one of the key reasons little children believe they go to school and so this new collection of three readers endorsed by Australian Geographic will be a welcome addition to the resources to assist this . 

Focusing on 30 signature Australian creatures, each book encourages little ones to count, add or subtract as they use the rhyming text and charming illustrations for cues and clues.  Each illustration has a humorous twist to add to the fun of learning  and the concept for each page is clearly displayed as a conventional number story.  As well, there are extra activities at the end to reinforce the concepts and encourage the 1:1 matching and conservation of numbers that are the foundation skills of early maths.  

Never underestimate the power of these sorts of texts to encourage our little ones to learn much more than we ever set out to teach!

My Spaghetti ABC

My Spaghetti ABC

My Spaghetti ABC










My Spaghetti ABC

Deborah Niland

Puffin Books, 2021

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


Is there anything more delicious, more fun and more messy than a big bowl of spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce? Spaghetti that can be twisted into glasses, butterflies, a giggly face with wiggly feet and anything else that grabs the imagination?  How about the entire English alphabet?

i love spaghetti with heaps of sauce
and always make a mess, of course!
I use my fork, my spoon, my hands.
It’s so much fun to twirl the strands!

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Perfect for kids (but perhaps not for parents) this is a delightful romp through the messiest, yummiest tea ever that culminates in a four-page spread of just how versatile wriggly spaghetti can be.

And what story about spaghetti would be complete without learning the classic children’s song On Top of Spaghetti?

Just for the joy of it.



Moonlight Mums

Moonlight Mums

Moonlight Mums










Moonlight Mums

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2020

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


Bedtime and time to snuggle down. But in this family, like so many others, it is dad who is putting the little one to sleep because her mother is still at work. 

And as he acknowledges that her mum misses her too, he tells her of other mums like the owl, the frog and the wombat who must also be awake and alert at night so they can keep their babies safe and snug.

This is one of those gentle stories that help little ones understand that there are many different types of family circumstances and each family works out just which is right for them. There is no right or wrong, just different. My own granddaughters were tucked up and in by their dad every night because of the different shifts their parents worked and they just accepted it for what it was.  Of course it was a treat to have mummy home to read the bedtime story when she could but otherwise, life went on to its own rhythm.

The gentle rhyming text and soft palette add to the atmosphere of drawing the curtains on the day…

Mums with many things to do
All miss their little ones, like you.

As well as reassuring little ones that Mummy will be home and will kiss them goodnight, using the creatures as illustrations opens up ideas to explore what other creatures are awake at night and why they are.  Why is the dark the safest cover for some? 

Reassuring, restful and recommended for families whose working hours are not the conventional. 

Let’s Go! (series)

Let’s Go! (series)

Let’s Go! (series)

On a Plane


On a Digger


Rosalyn Albert

Natalia Moore

Catch a Star 2020 

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

This new series of books created for our very youngest readers reflects a new approach that has been emerging in hoard books recently – that of real stories that engage, entertain and even educate our littlies as, at last, the importance of having quality stories for this age group is recognised.  There has been so much research into how critical reading to the very young from birth released, that those who create for this age are now providing more than one-word concept books and the understanding about how print and stories work combined with actually holding the book for themselves is doing so much for early literacy development.  Young readers are demanding stories that relate to them, have context and meaning that is familiar and a physical product that requires input from them rather than being passive recipients,  

So kudos to the publishers  for recognising that our youngest generation need and deserve quality stories that are as entertaining as any screen device placed in front of them. 

This particular series focuses on two children enjoying rides on a variety of transport. Familiar topics, catchy rhymes and colourful illustrations not only make for an enjoyable read that they will be able to retell themselves endlessly, but also promote what can be expected from story books. 

Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost











Snow Ghost

Tony Mitton

Diana Mayo

Bloomsbury, 2020

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


“Snow Ghost came whispering out of the air,

Oh, for a home to be happy – but where?

Snow Ghost is looking for a home. Through the dark winter sky, she swoops and swirls, past the whirling traffic of town, into the dense, tangled wood and to the top of the blustery hill, searching endlessly to no avail, unwanted. And then on the moors she spots a small farm where children are playing in the snow. She has found her home at last.

This is a beautiful story, written in rhyme with rich imagery and exquisitely and delicately illustrated that, on the surface, would appear to be about the weather. T But what if it were a metaphor for the refugees and the struggles they face when they have to flee their country and find it difficult to find friendly shelter, particularly in these times? That theme opens up a whole lot of possibilities that not only take the reader into a different world but raise their awareness of the challenges that have to be faced, racism being just one… It is about hope and an inner knowing that there will be the perfect place to belong, and having the resilience to find it. So even though it is not winter, and there are few places here that see snow, it has a much broader appeal and application.