LEGO Star Wars Choose Your Path

Lego Star Wars Choose Your Path

Lego Star Wars Choose Your Path










LEGO Star Wars Choose Your Path

Simon Hugo

DK, 2018

125pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


What more fitting book to review for May the 4th than one with a Star Wars theme? Even though it is not released till May 28, there is no harm in building up anticipation for something new and different that is going to encourage even the most reluctant of readers to explore.

With the book comes protocol droid U-3PO, a small toy suitable for those 6+, who accompanies the adventures, gives advice and maybe even leads the adventurer astray. The reader chooses one of three quests- Hunt the Sith, Fight the Empire or Defeat the First Order – and then sets off to achieve it while meeting favourite characters and creatures, travelling in awesome vehicles as they move from planet to planet, all the while remaining in charge of the journey as they select the route according to the choices on offer.  

Along the way there are photos, facts and figures and information about a range of incredible Lego models that can be purchased – Star Wars fans like my son are so easy to buy for! –  as well as challenges to build new, original models.

The power of choose-you-own-adventure has long been proven as an inducement to read and discover, so to combine it with both Star Wars and Lego is just genius.  Perfect for that collaborative reading that young boys who are verging on independence love and need, or for any Star Wars fan. 

The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra

The Walkabout Orchestra











The Walkabout Orchestra

Chloe Perernau

Quarto, UK, 2018

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


The orchestra have an important concert to play… but all the musicians have gone walkabout! But each has sent a postcard to  the Maestro saying where they are. So the challenge for the reader is to help him and his faithful assistant find them using the clues in those postcards.

From Reykjavik to Rio young readers will enjoy this search-and-find tour of the world that introduces them to the instruments of the orchestra as they test their powers of observation using the pictures of each in the introductory pages as a starting point.

With busy pages that test the eye (although not quite as busy as Where’s Wally?) this book encourages readers to examine the details in things rather than just glancing quickly at them and moving on.  To add to the mix there is a little yellow bird on each double-spread with his own quest that adds a further challenge.  All eventually come together in a concert hall with some interesting audience members, and for those who just can’t find them, an answer key is provided.

While this ostensibly introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, it works better as a search-and-find book which is much more fun and informative.  

A great addition for those who have pored over Where’s Wally and who are looking for a new challenge in that collaborative reading activity that is so important to emerging readers, particularly boys.





The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth

The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth

The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth











The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth

Ellie Hattie

Karl James Mountford

Little Tiger Press, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Bong! Oscar is woken by the town clock striking midnight and strange noises in the street.  As he looks out his window he sees a huge, hairy woolly mammoth. Instead of being scared, he is dressed and outside in a flash where Timothy the mammoth explains he is searching for his little brother.  Together they continue the search which leads them to the town museum where the door opens a crack to reveal the inhabitants have come alive and are having a party.  Continued through the interactivity of gatefolds, lift-the-flaps and speech bubbles the search progresses through the various sections of the museum until… It is certainly the most extraordinary hour of Oscar’s life.

Apart from kids’ universal curiosity of the mysterious creatures of the past, this is a book that will delight young children as they explore it over and over as it combines so much information as the quest continues.  There is so much detail included that there will be something new to explore and learn with every reading. It is certainly an intriguing way to help them discover their world and enjoy having to be part of the action to move the story along.


AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity










AFL Factivity

Michael Panckridge

Puffin, 2017

48pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


ANZAC Day has come and gone and so that means it’s officially time to be indoors more often than not and watching footy on telly is a sanctioned activity.  

For those who follow AFL this bright colourful, carefully constructed factivity book is the ideal accompaniment as fans of all ages can test their knowledge, learn new things and participate in some brain-tingling activities that focus on their favourite sport.  Some of the activities are challenging, such as writing a player profile for the back of the Crunchy Crispies cereal pack; others will require some research while there are also the usual word searches and the like.  However, it can also be used as a teaching resource as many of the activities can be made open-ended, having students apply the challenges to a sport of their choosing or to have them create a similar challenge for their chosen sport.Developing your own crossword involves a lot more than just completing one.

Hooking kids into learning by engaging them with their passion is a surefire way of getting them to learn-by-stealth so even the most reluctant readers can find something that will help them understand reading does have a purpose, it can be fun and it IS for them.  A double sheet of stickers at the end could add to the motivation!





Big Bug Log

Big Bug Log

Big Bug Log










Big Bug Log

Sebastien Braun

Nosy Crow, 2016

16pp., board book, $A14.99


Bugsy Bug is going to visit his grandma.  She lives somewhere in the Big Bug Log but Bugsy is not sure how to get there so the reader has to help him.  Solving clues to find the right doors, lifting flaps, following directions, trails and mazes, escaping from the scary spider, through the log he travels until he reaches safety, this is an interactive read perfect for the parent and very young child to enjoy together.

The shape of the cover with its cutout says, “Explore me!” and the bright colourful pictures are enticing. There is much to discover and discuss in their fine detail as the child seeks to solve the clues.  While there needs to be an adult to read the commentary and clues, the child will delight in looking for things like the bee in the bow tie, using their finger to follow snail trails and so on, all of which reinforce the left-to-right direction of reading and the delight of story. 

The benefits of having children enjoy stories from a very young age are well documented but having those stories being interactive and demanding input from the listener is a bonus.  This is much more than a story about Bugsy getting to Grandma’s house – it demands the child’s attention and input, all the while consolidating that subliminal message that stories are not only fun but that the child and the activity are worth the attention of the adult sharing it with them.  This is not a disembodied voice encouraging them to tap this or swipe that – this is someone who cares about them making the time to get involved and help them solve Bugsy’s problem.

Perfect for preschool and even younger and a wonderful opportunity to create some original artwork, a map of the log, and to team with some early non fiction about bugs!

You Choose…

You Choose

You Choose










The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove



Mayhem at Magic School



The Haunting of Spook House



Maze of Doom



Night of the Creepy Carnival



Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars



Super Sports Spectacular 



Trapped in the Games Grid


George Ivanoff

Random House,2014-2016

pbk, 140pp., RRP $A14.99


It seems even our youngest children have been lured by the appeal of computer-based games as they allow each player to have control of what happens to the characters driven by the decisions he/she makes about the decisions the characters make. So when that power is made available in book form, propelled not by graphics and a controller but by words, reading and understanding, everyone is happy – those who like to control the adventure and those who like to see their children reading.  Harking back to a very popular format of about 20 years ago, where books were the most accessible form of self-driven entertainment and where the reader chose their own adventure by making a choice about what action to take and therefore where to move next in the story, this series ‘You Choose’ puts the power back in the reader’s hands, rather than the author’s predetermined storyline. And each time the book is read a different choice can be made and a new story created.

Written by an author who, himself, was a devotee of this sort of format and only became an avid reader after he discovered it – something I found happened frequently when I offered them to my reluctant readers of both genders- this is a series that not only combines interactivity and reading, but also enables the reader to think about cause and effect, to consider the options, to take the time to make a decision, and to take risks in a safe environment -all traits we encourage. 

The settings are those that will appeal to adventurers with just enough of the dark stuff in them to maintain the suspense but not scare them off completely.  

In ‘The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove’ the reader finds an old map supposedly belonging to One-Eyed William, a fierce pirate who was buried with his treasure.  So the first decision has to be made – to follow the clues in case it’s real or hand it in to a museum curator. In ‘Mayhem at Magic School’ the reader suddenly discovers magic powers which cause strange things to happen so a decision has to be made about whether to visit a therapist and seek help or keep them secret and use them?  Is the outcome a place in Magic School, a spy for the government or something else?

 Maze of Doom is set in a “lame-looking” sideshow at the fun fair.  However, its exterior belies what it contains inside and if the reader doesn’t discover its secrets, they may be trapped inside forever. The Haunting of Spook House is all that is expected.  The reader is dared to go inside to investigate if a man was indeed mummified there and now haunts the place. 

Night of the Creepy Carnival is set in the new funfair in town but there is something very strange about the creepy clowns and something scary about the freak show tent with its disturbing display cases.  Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars takes on a science fiction slant when a flying saucer lands and lizard aliens disguised as humans emerge intent on invading the planet.. 

Super Sports Spectacular has the reader involved in a scary game of basketball while Trapped in the Games Grid has the reader is all set for an afternoon of arcade games but not all the games are not what they seem with secret programs, alien tests and other worlds inside a new virtual reality. 

Extreme Machine Challenge and In the Realm of the Dragons are due for release in June 2016.

The appeal and importance of gaming within the formal education setting is becoming the focus of a lot of research and literature and this series provides a great foundation to actively engage and explore options.  Map the story, its choices and consequences on a flow chart; have students add a few twists of their own and discuss how these can have an exponential effect on the outcomes; perhaps even venture down the Technologies strand of the Australian Curriculum and let your budding programmers start to design the coding.  Then set a new scenario and start to explore the pathways and fun of “what if…”, encouraging the students to let their imaginations go, push the boundaries, think beyond the usual as they draw on all they’ve seen and experienced.  As well as offering an engaging read, skilled teachers could use these books as models for an absorbing, integrated project that would draw in their writers, their illustrators, their mathematicians, their computer experts, and their gamers to create something new that accentuates the need for a team, encourages negotiation and compromise as well as the skills of seeing things from another perspective and looking for alternatives, and perhaps, even, the concept of empathy.

So glad this format is back on the reading agenda of the younger readers in my life.

Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out

Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO's Day Out

Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out











Adventure Time Which Way Dude: BMO’s Day Out

Cartoon Network, 2015

124pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95


BMO is the cutest, tiniest little robot in the Land of Ooo but the future of Ooo is in the hands of the reader because at the end of each chapter it is up to the reader to decide what happens next.  By solving riddles, puzzles and codes the reader can alter the characters paths thus leading them on to new adventures.  It’s a chance to let BMO be the hero for once.  Along the way the reader gathers Adventure Minutes and the challenge is to read the book many times, make different choices and try to better the number of Adventure Minutes gained.

A new take on the popular Choose Your Own Adventure format, written in the present tense to increase the pace and sense of urgency, this is likely to appeal to those who enjoy cartoons and computer games and can visualise the action. They will enjoy its interactivity as they try to solve the puzzles and the challenge to gain Adventure Minutes gives that competitive element that is a characteristic of the gaming environment.

If we are looking to capitalise of the interest in cartoons and computer games that our younger readers are so familiar with, offering them that in print format may be the way to hook them into a whole new world of adventure.

Where are Santa’s Pants?

Where are Santa's Pants?

Where are Santa’s Pants?











Where are Santa’s Pants?

Richard Merritt

Little Hare, 2014

pbk., RRP $A9.95


 Santa has been on a diet – perhaps he has been paying attention to all the messages about healthy eating – and now he’s so trim his pants have fallen off!!  Shock!  Horror! Christmas cannot have a Santa with no pants and so the readers are challenged to find them hidden in these brightly-coloured, strikingly-detailed, double-spread pictures that cover a variety of locations from the North Pole to the Post Office.  Each pair is a different colour and pattern so they blend in well with the background.  There is also a lucky sixpence (the UK equivalent of Australia’s 5c) as well as eight reindeer to be found, adding to the puzzle as well as the shareability of the book – each child can search for something different. And as they search within particular contexts, there is much to see and talk about.

In the style of “Where’s Wally?”, this Christmas title proved a winner with Year 3-4 on Friday!  Given over 30 brand new books to choose from, this one created the most interest and the person who “won” was so engrossed in the puzzles that she didn’t get around to doing the review.  That says it all to me.  If you’re engaged with a picture book for over 45 minutes, then it is offering something special.

Puzzle books of this nature intrigue younger readers (even Year 6s like the challenge, and, in this case, even adult eyes were tested) and they all contribute to the development of the child’s visual acuity – the ability to see fine detail and essential for writing, spelling and information literacy as they examine pictures for clues. This is a new, seasonal addition to your Pick-a-Puzzle section that will delight a new audience each year.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…