That Cat

That Cat

That Cat











That Cat

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2022

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


All over the country I meet lots of interesting cats

Cats of all shapes and sizes in many different guises…

Using simple rhyming terms but very clever, detailed illustrations to completely engage the reader, this is a brilliant book for all cat-lovers and all ages.  For the Mat Cat is not a modest moggy curled up on a rug in front of the fire as you might expect, but a very fit, energetic yoga expert!  The Rat Cat hasn’t caught something nasty to leave at the front door but an echo of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

While young readers will love being able to read it for themselves because of the simple rhyming pattern, it is drawing the connections between the words and the pictures that adds depth, humour and a storyline that has the most comforting ending. Author and illustrator first met when Harvey taught Scott at school and that relationship shines through this book as though Scott knew that Harvey would never intend for a Fat Cat to be a self-satisfied feline surrounded by dead mice. 

Adorable in itself, and never written to be an instructional text, nevertheless this is one that could be shared with a class focusing on phonics and word families (don’t get me started…) but in a fun way where the children search out other -at words and then use their imaginations to illustrate them in surprising ways.   Or just re-interpret the words in the story.  Either way, they will not only learn a common sound for the -at combination but also start to look at character and how that can be expressed in the details of an illustration.  Can what has happened to Scat Cat be any more obvious even though there are but three words on the page???  The cues and clues offered through the pictures in a picture book are a critical, integral part of the child’s early language and reading development and texts like there that require a focus on both are an essential part of any book collection. 


An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip











An Amazing Australian Road Trip

Jackie Hosking

Lesley Vamos

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


We’re travelling from Melbourne on a birthday trip west, our aunty is sixty and we’re off on a quest

She’s keen for a picnic and fancies a view, a cake and a loud “Happy Birthday to You!”

So off they go with their 4WD loaded to the hilt, the most magnificent birthday cake taking pride of place on the roof rack.  But despite circumnavigating the country, including Tasmania, and visiting significant scenic and cultural attractions  in each state and territory, Aunty cannot find the perfect picnic spot until…

In my review of Ancient Wonders  I suggested that families could use it as an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard, and here it has been laid out already.  Iconic destinations such as The Twelve Apostles, Coober Pedy, Port Arthur, Kakadu, Uluru, Canberra and others have all been included in this itinerary and as well as the ongoing story of Aunty’s objections (and the very fitting ending), there are also factual notes about the significance of each.  The maps on the endpages summarise the journey so well – and any adult sharing  the story will empathise. 

So the challenge to set students, having the model in front of them, is to create a new itinerary that the family could try foe when Aunty is 65!  Differentiate the task by setting it up as either Australia-wide, state-wide or even just town-wide… what places would be perfect for a picnic celebration and why?  Even though our national borders are opening up, there is still so much to see and do in our own country.  By sharing their plans, students may discover new places in their own back yard! 

To me, the best picture books are those that set the reader up for further journeys (both literally and figuratively), that have layers for them to explore and build their understandings on, those that educate as well as entertain.  This is definitely one of those and an essential addition to any collection focused on Australia’s geography. 

I am…

I am...

I am…










I am Angry


I am Hungry 


Michael Rosen

Robert Starling

Walker Books 2021 – 2022

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

In this new series by the author of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which will include I Am Happy and I Am Wriggly, Rosen draws on his observations of his own children’s emotions and feelings as they grew up.

By addressing them. he validates  them acknowledging that little ones do have big feelings, often made bigger by the frustration of not being able to articulate them clearly but by using humour and rhyme, he shows that while they are real and natural they also don’t last for long.

In I am Angry, the kitten has the biggest tantrum ever threatening all sorts of things but as suddenly as it appears, it disappears.  In I am Hungry the squirrel lists all the things he could eat, some funny, some revolting and others impossible. In both, the rhymes, humour and illustrations will make the child laugh out loud so the next time they have a big feeling they can think about managing it as the animals do.

A series for our youngest readers.


Boss of Your Own Body

Boss of Your Own Body

Boss of Your Own Body











Boss of Your Own Body

Byll & Beth Stephen

Simon Howe

ABC Books, 2021

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


You’re not the boss of many things
because you’re little and still learning.
You’re not the boss of anyone else,
you’ve got to let them be themselves.

But you ARE the boss of one thing …

How often have you heard a little one say, “You’re not the boss of me” as they try to exert some power over a situation?  From birth it is instinctive that we feel in control but as a young child, there are few circumstances  that we do have the  power  to make the decisions.  In this book, based on a song from Teeny Tiny Stevies, sisters who “make content for children filled with cheerful folk-pop tunes covering topics that explore important social messages in a fun and relatable manner.” young children are encouraged to understand that while they are not in charge of many everyday situations, they are in charge of their own bodies.  They decide how fast they can run, whether they do a handstand, join a game  or hold a grown-up’s hand.

As a teacher of 50+ years, I’ve attended many staff meetings and other PL but I always remember one particular meeting in 1989 when we were presented with the appalling statistics relating to child abuse including that based on these, there had to be kids within our school, indeed our classes, who were suffering and school had to be both their sanctuary and their saviour.  It came as mandatory reporting laws  became some of the first introduced after the ACT was granted self-government and for many, eyes were opened as we learned the facts and figures and what we could and must do about any instances we became aware of.  In many ways it was a turning point for the teaching profession as suddenly our role legally embraced the pastoral care of our students as well as their academic development.  Programs like Protective Behaviours were introduced (who remembers Try Again, Little Red Riding Hood?)  and we tried to negotiate both teaching the children how to protect themselves and the minefield that was the legal obligations we now had, particularly as children now had both a pathway and a voice so they felt it was safe and worthwhile to disclose.

And while organisations like A Mighty Girl have produced booklists that focus on abuse and violence , only a handful are for primary-aged students  and even fewer for preschool.  So this book fills a gap in what is available to our young readers, sadly having to teach them something they shouldn’t really have to learn.  Even though its words only touch lightly on the possibility of intimate abuse – “You see, you can give your uncle a kiss and you can decide to snuggle like this” – it is that repeated message that the child can choose that is the critical and powerful one. Unlike the animated version which features cartoon creatures, Simon Howe has chosen to interpret this with illustrations of children from diverse backgrounds so even the youngest child can relate to the words and the message.  This is something written just for them.

Ugly, sad and necessary though it may be that we have to teach our littlies this message which will eventually build into the No Means No campaign is a vital one so to have such a sensitive but appealing text to add to the armoury is very welcome.



Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Dinosaur

Little Dinosaur

Little Dinosaur











Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Dinosaur

Rhiannon Fielding

Chris Chatterton

Ladybird, 2022

28pp/. board book., RRP $A14.99


Magical creatures live in the Land of Nod, but each of them is not keen on going to bed because they are having too much fun.  But sleep they must if they are to be ready for more fun tomorrow and so using rhyme and enchanting illustrations, author and artist take both the characters and the young reader on a calming countdown to bedtime leading them gently to the land of sleep.

This time, it is Little Dinosaur who wants last adventure but as the minutes tick by, he finds himself going deeper and deeper into the jungle until he is lost. Even the appearance of a mob of much larger, older dinosaurs doesn’t deter him until the shadow of one in particular looms ominously close…

 With its rhyme which flows naturally, stunning illustrations and the countdown, it is perfect to share to settle even the most un-sleep-ready child as they learn that even the creatures they love to dream about have to sleep sometime.  It contains all the elements that little ones associate with the dinosaur world, including an erupting volcano, and they will love to identify the various dinosaurs that come out of the valley en masse.  Who belongs to those large grey legs? 

And this new board book format means that little hands and heads will be able to read it again and again and it will stand up to the wear and tear. Definitely a series for the youngest readers to collect. 

Big Green Crocodile

Big Green Crocodile

Big Green Crocodile











Big Green Crocodile

Jane Newberry

Carolina Rabel

Otter-Barry Books, 2021

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


Regular readers of this blog will know that I always promote early reading behaviours – those that come long before any direct interaction with the marks on a page – whenever I can, and that these include the acquisition of language in the first place. And this book certainly fits into that.

Over 50 years ago when I first began my formal teacher ed studies I became fascinated with how children learn to speak, and this deepened when my son was born and so I delved into the research with enthusiasm. Not to bore you with the details, but it was evident that oral language development is inherent and that children will learn their mother tongue by listening to it, engaging with it, practising it, having fun with it and a belief that they will master it.  Integral to that development is repetition, rhyme and rhythm so throughout the generations little ones have enjoyed rhymes and ditties that roll of the tongue and especially those that accompanied by body movement, particularly finger play.  

And while there are hundreds of well-known rhymes that are passed through families, it is always interesting to have some new ones and this book offers 16 of those, complete with imaginative illustrations and instructions for actions. They cover the activities of a child’s day and play, encouraging movement and imagination while being short and simple enough for the child to learn them quickly so they can join in enthusiastically.  

Written by someone who has been teaching music to nursery-aged children for decades, the book was one of just five shortlisted for the UK Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award (won by Michael Rosen for On the Move: Poems about Migration) and although it didn’t win, the fact that rhymes for this age group were acknowledged is significant. Recognition that this is a vital part of children’s language development will add weight to the writing and publishing of quality works for this age group. 

You can share Jane’s presentations of some of the rhymes here

This Tree is Just for Me!

This Tree is Just for Me!

This Tree is Just for Me!











This Tree is Just for Me!

Lucy Rowland

Laura Hughes

Bloomsbury, 2022

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


Jack was very excited. He had just received a new book in the mail and all he wanted was a small quiet nook so he could read it in peace.  But with blackbirds tweeting and squirrels eating, he was having a hard time finding somewhere secluded so he decided to find a tree of his own.  And there it was in the corner of the garden- the perfect tree!  Or is it?

The perfect book for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme Dreaming with eyes open, this is a delightful story about being careful what you wish for and learning that there are times when sharing your good fortune is so much better than keeping it to yourself.  With its rhyming text and vibrant illustrations, young readers will really be attracted to it and will want to share not only their favourite stories but their favourite places to read them.  It’s the perfect opportunity to share Dr Seuss’s iconic poem and develop a stunning display for the beginning of the year… students can draw themselves reading or better still, share a photograph.  Don’t forget to include yourself in it!















Gareth P. Jones

Loretta Schauer

Egmont, 2021

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


Rabunzel has a teeny tufty tail, a twitchy nose and two wide brown eyes. She also has VERY long ears – so long that her mother worries they will make her easy bait for the hungry creatures of the forest.

The answer? Rabunzel must be kept safe … in towering hutch, high in the sky. Here Rabunzel, bored to bits,  waits grumpily for her mother’s daily visit with carrots and fresh lettuce, letting down her ears so she can climb up the tower.

But one day, it isn’t her mother who climbs up Rabunzel’s very long ears…

Usually I’m wary of these fractured versions of fairytales because they can be a bit silly, but this new series is subtitled Fairy Tales for the Fearless and it has a feminist twist which sits with Neil Gaiman’s message perfectly.

With its rhyming text and lovely pictures, it is an entertaining story in itself and Rabunzel’s solution for dealing with the hungry animals and her rejection of her “saviour” Flash Harry Hare offer lots of discussion points that can initiate some critical thinking of other stories that our girls, particularly, are dished up as essential reading – still! It can also pose some provocative questions to challenge the thinking of some of our boys.

This video clip is the perfect accompaniment and summary…



And if you’re looking for more in this vein, this is from A Mighty Girl… The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess    ‘These princesses are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued – more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves! Fans of independent princesses will also appreciate our collection of girl-empowering dolls, which includes several of the princesses depicted in these stories, as well as our collection of dress-up clothing which features several independent princess outfits. Our clothing section also features a Princess Alternative section with shirts depicting both independent princesses and alternative princess themes. For a diverse selection of more empowering fairy tales, visit our Fairy Tale & Folklore Collection.”


The Claw

The Claw

The Claw










The Claw

Karen Witt

Aaron Pocock

Little Steps, 2020

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


‘Clive was charming, friendly and chipper, and on each side of his body, he boasted a nipper.’

He had many friends in the mudflats and played with them during the day although there were occasions when he had to defend himself.  and during one fight he not only lost a nipper but also his confidence.  He felt that because he was not whole and perfect like the others he had no place among them and despite their efforts to entice him out, he spent the day hiding in the weeds 

Mud crabs are born to be BIG and STRONG

But with only one nipper, I don’t belong.

But when his friends are captured by Mr Beerbellio a greedy fisherman, who is intent on crab sandwiches regardless of the storm raging, Clive is forced to set his self-pity aside to help his friends.

While the premise of this story of lacking confidence because of being different is common, interpreting it in this way is new and young readers will enjoy predicting if and how Clive can be a hero, and particularly what might happen in the future given the twist in the end.  The illustrations are the highlight bring Clive and his environment, and particularly Mr Beerbellio to life with their clever choice of colour and use of shading producing a 3D effect. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as resonating with those readers who might also be lacking confidence because they believe they don’t meet the demands of the invisible, anonymous body police, this is also an opportunity to examine the behaviour of those like Mr Beerbellio and consider whether it’s right to take more than you need. Many will have been fishing for all sorts of species over summer and may have been frustrated by bag limits, but what is their purpose?  A gentle way to introduce the concept of sustainability even to our youngest readers. 


An Aussie Night Before Christmas





An Aussie Night Before Christmas


An Aussie Night Before Christmas (10th Anniversary edition)

Yvonne Morrison

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic Press, 2015

32pp., hbk.,



Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.

We’d left on the table some tucker and beer,

Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here…

So begins this iconic salute to Christmas in Australia drawing on the familiar sights and sounds of a night that is usually so hot and it’s hard to sleep because it’s still daylight outside, never mind ‘dreams of pavlova’ dancing around heads.  And when there’s a ruckus outside that needs to be investigated, who would be surprised that it’s Santa in a rusty ute pulled by eight mighty kangaroos? Kangaroos called Kylie, Kirsty, Shazza and Shane, Kipper and Skipper, Bazza and Wayne?  

There are many stories that put the Aussie spin on Christmas, but this is such a rollicking good yarn, funny and engaging that it’s no wonder this is a 10th anniversary edition and it is popping up all over the Internet in full, although the YouTube version loses some of its charm with the American accent and the change from ‘beer’ to ‘root beer’.  Australian Santas drink real beer!

Accompanied by the distinctive illustrations of Kilmeny Niland, this is the perfect story to read to the little ones before they settle down, and the perfect story to end our Christmas Countdown.