Oceans of Plastic: Understanding and Solving a Pollution Problem

Oceans of Plastic

Oceans of Plastic












Oceans of Plastic:  Understanding and Solving a Pollution Problem

Tracey Gray

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

120oo., pbk., RRP $A29.99


Take a look into the night sky.  If you’re lucky enough to live where there is no light pollution, as we do, you will see so many stars you will never count them.  Yet it’s now estimated that there are more pieces of plastic in the ocean than visible stars in the Milky Way!

THAT is the sort of analogy that might make the general public begin to appreciate why the movement to ban single-use plastics is gathering such momentum, but in this new book for upper primary+, readers learn how ocean systems and swirling currents bring plastics together into massive ocean garbage patches. It also uncovers the floating world of the ‘plastisphere’ – a mini community of microbes living on ocean plastics – and explains how plastic breaks up, not down, and can even end up on their dinner plate! 

But how did this revolutionary new material first invented in 1869 to free manufacturing from the constraints of natural materials and then its exponential explosion following World War II become such a problem, and why IS it a problem?

In easily-accessible text with lots of diagrams and photos, the reader is taken on a journey that covers everything from why the oceans are important, what the plastic pollution does and how we can make a difference, There are such simple, everyday changes that we can each make such as having a refillable drink bottle or nude food in our lunchboxes (as kids, our sandwiches were always wrapped in paper, not cling wrap) that collectively will make such a difference.  Now that single-use plastic bags are now banned Australia-wide with NSW finally coming on board on June 1 this year, it seems that the issue is now being recognised for the crisis it is.

This book gives our students the knowledge and understanding that they need, not only to argue with nay-sayers and justify their arguments, but also to move the changes forward.  Using the suggestions for individual change, what could be done at the school level so that our oceans have a fighting chance to keep everyone healthy? 

A must-have for any school that has the protection of the environment within its curriculum.

Cally & Jimmy (series)

Cally & Jimmy (series)

Cally & Jimmy (series)











Cally & Jimmy (series)

Twins in Trouble 




Twins Together


Zoe Antoniades

Katie Kear

Andersen Press, 2020-2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Cally has a twin brother Jimmy who has ADHD, finds learning tricky because of the way his brain works and is always getting into some kind of mischief – which usually means double trouble! Thankfully their Greek granny is usually on hand to help – or add to the mayhem! 

Each book in this series has four stories, perfect for newly independent readers who are looking for something that they can relate to but is short enough so they can consolidate their new skills without taxing them with longer reads involving complex characters and plots. As well as being entertaining stories, they also give an insight into being a twin but more importantly, they help the reader understand the world of those whose brains are wired differently and whose thought processes are different to what is expected.  

A new series to add to your Stepping Stones collection. 

Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace

Phyllis & Grace











Phyllis & Grace

Nigel Gray

Bethan Welby

Scallywag Press, 2022

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


Phyllis and Grace live next door to each other, and Grace like to take Phyllis little gifts like a slice of cake Mum has baked, or biscuits she has baked herself.  Phyllis is always grateful and invites her in, even though she doesn’t always remember Grace’s name or even her own…

This is a delightful story that is being replicated in many communities and families as the Baby Boomers move into senior citizenship and choose to stay in their own homes rather than “being a burden” on family.  Not only does it echo the difficulties faced as their independence declines, but it reflects the rewarding relationships that children and older people can share.  Grace sees Phyllis through the clear lens of a child, accepting her for het she is in the moment and responding to the moment, rather than getting impatient and frustrated as some adults do because they wish the old “Phyllis” who was sharp-thinking and focused was still there.

Grace’s visits give Phyllis the connections she needs, not just with her immediate community but also those she has known before, bringing back the memories of childhood in a gentle way,. Even when Phyllis can no longer live on her own, encouraged by her parents who clearly see this as a friendship that is as important for Grace as it is for Phyllis, Grace continues to visit, meeting Phyllis’s son and learning that this old lady is more than her dementia; that there is so much more to her than an illness or disability.

With soft illustrations as sensitive as the story, this is one to not only help little ones understand dementia better, but also to help them understand that whatever a person’s illness or disability, they are more than that with a rich life to share or dreams and wishes to fulfil.  While their condition might shape their life in the now, there is so much more that was and will be in the sufferer’s story. And that should be our focus as friends.

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari











Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Andy Fackrell

Ford Street, 2022

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


Have you heard of a flamboyance of flamingos?  Perhaps a bloat of hippos or even an implausibility of gnus?

Wilbur is on a journey through his local zoo, visiting his favourite animals and discovering the wonderful words that describe groups of them.

Written in rhyme with a repetitive refrain, it is an entertaining way for students to investigate some of the more outrageous nouns, as they develop their vocabulary and perhaps even speculate on how the groups got their labels.  They might even investigate the noun associated with their favourite creature to create an extra page for the book, including illustrations that offer  similar extra information as the originals.   Teachers’ notes offer other suggestions for using this book in the English strand.

However, Fackrell has intended this to be more than a romp through a zoo to build vocabulary.  He is a strong supporter of The Lion’s Share, a fund backed by the United Nation’s Development Programme – its mentor David Attenborough –and its work protecting our most vulnerable wildlife groups. Thus, each spread features a supporting cast of unnamed species, all biologically correct to the ecosystem. For instance, in the Andes, alongside the Flamboyance of Flamingos there is a Knot of endangered, Lake Titicaca Water Frogs.

The endpapers of the hardback version are a definitive and fun reference source with a world map of all known collective nouns  drawn on the inside front, with the matching animal names on the inside back.

To learn more about the book’s creation, there is a Q & A with Andy Fackrell here. 

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent

Antarctica The Melting Continent











Antarctica The Melting Continent

Karen Romano Young

Angela Hsieh

What On Earth Books, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Antarctica is one of the most isolated and harshest environments on the planet, often referred to as “the final frontier”. 

From her harbourside home in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, as a young girl in the 1930s my mum would watch the ships head southwards to the ice, literally the next stop after they left the safety of the port of Bluff.  And she began to dream. In 1968, after years of dedication and hard work, she broke the “petticoat ban” and she too, joined those sailing south from Bluff – on a converted fishing trawler that was the precursor to the luxury liners of today, as Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered Antarctic tourism and she became the first female journalist to go south.

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

The Magga Dan tied up at McMurdo Sound, 1968

Fifty+ years on and it is so different – or at least the getting there is, and the presence of women is no longer a novelty and the issue of where they might go to the toilet no longer a primary barrier!

Today, in the southern summer, tourist trips leave regularly for the ice, although most often it is via South America to the Antarctic Peninsula as the crossing of the Drake Passage is usually only about two days while scientists are there all year round and women work alongside the men.  So, this new book provides an up-to-date view of this isolated continent in a narrative that draws on the author’s own experiences as well as extensive research and interviews with scientists, combining a unique personal perspective with up-to-date information about the land and its inhabitants, the investigations being undertaken and the discoveries being made such as studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet. There is still so much to learn and do and the book’s scope offers many opportunities for students’ interest-driven investigations.

While most of its readers probably won’t have the wherewithal to afford a trip on one of the many ships that have made it a bucket-list destination, perhaps this book will inspire them to take another route under the Australian Antarctic program and dare to dream – just as my mum did all those years ago! For that truly was “Dreaming with eyes open…” 



I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I'm a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe











I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe

Dr Eve M. Vavagiakis

Ilze Lemesis

MIT Kids Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Somewhere, back in the hazy days of high school in the 60s, I learned about protons, electrons and neutrons but, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in science and physics was an absolute mystery.  Now, even having read this book it still is, but there is bound to be a budding young physicist who can get their head round the existence and purpose of these mysterious particles of matter that are the smallest known.

According to the publisher’s blurb, “Before you finish reading this sentence, trillions upon trillions of neutrinos will have passed through your body” and according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a neutrino is  an “elementary subatomic particle with no electric charge, very little mass, and 1/2 unit of spin. Neutrinos belong to the family of particles called leptons, which are not subject to the strong force. Rather, neutrinos are subject to the weak force that underlies certain processes of radioactive decay.”

So to have someone who is not only smart enough to understand the scientific definition but then distil that into an accessible poem the explains the phenomenon (and further explain it in prose as well), and another person to also understand it and be able to interpret it in illustrations is a phenomenon in itself.  Nevertheless, that’s what has been done in this book and there will be budding young cosmologists whose brains can travel to places that are a mystery to me. And if they want to know more, then have them listen to this conversation with the author. 


Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin


Cara and Silverthief


Ellis and Pathseeker


Mira and Flameteller


Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken











Cranky Chicken


Cranky Chicken Party Animals


Katherine Battersby

Lothian, 2021-2022

104pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99


In the first book, the reader is introduced to Cranky Chicken. Everything about Chicken is cranky. Cranky eyes, cranky eyebrows, super-sharp cranky beak, even cranky scratchy feet. And everything makes Chicken cranky. The sun is too bright, the dirt is too dirty…

By why is Cranky Chicken so angry? Could she be lonely? So what happens when a very cheerful worm named Speedy, who just wants to be friends, comes along? Could it be the end of the worm or a new start for Cranky Chicken?

In the second episode , Cranky Chicken is super hungry and the crank-O-meter is on high. What can Speedy the worm do to help? How about … a yummy snack? A day at the beach? An unsurprising party? It’s party time for Cranky and Speedy, two Best Feathered Friends!

This is a new series about mismatched friends who bring joy, companionship and a new perspective to each other’s lives for newly independent readers who are dipping their toes into the graphic novel format and are able to follow a story that is based on speech between the characters rather than having lots of extra descriptive test or illustration.  The action is carried in the conversation and captions in separate but connected stories that demonstrate that there are many ways to be a friend, particularly accepting each other for who they are as they are what is offered as friendship for all that it is. 

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth










Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2022

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


Miimi Marraal, she created us,
you and me …

Using a palette as soft and gentle as the accompanying text,  Gumbaynggir storyteller, artist and designer Melissa Greenwood, has created an ode between mother and newborn that tells the baby of the deep connections of First Nations Peoples have to Miimi Marraal (Mother Earth) from the moment of conception. While it is a story that echoes the feeling between any mother and newborn. it is expressed in a way that shows the long, strong threads of family that reach far into the past of First Nations families and, indeed, Greenwood says it was “channelled through my beautiful Nanny” and “inspired by my late great grandmother… and my own beautiful mother”, thus spanning five generations into “this life we will weave”. And, as well as that strong female thread, there is another equally strong one that ties them to the land on which they live and the need for its protection, thus from birth the baby is learning about their cultural heritage and tradition that is so important to our First Nations peoples..

Children learn their mother ;language, whatever it is, through listening to it.  They learn its meaning, its rhythm, its expression, its nuances from the first words that they hear. So while the baby may not yet understand the words that its mother is sharing, there is much that they are absorbing during these personal, precious moments. Therefore, these sort of lullabies have a unique place in language learning and should not only be among the gifts given to any new mother but also be the first in the baby’s library. 


At the Pond

At the Pond

At the Pond











At the Pond

David Elliot

Amy Schimler-Safford

Candlewick Press, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


The red-winged blackbird spreads his tail
and sings his hello morning song;
he has sung it since the bright
and misty world began.

When the soft pink of the dawn sun starts peeking over the pond, a new day has begun for all the animals who live in it and around its watery edges. The friendly duck family, the mysterious water striders, and the busy beaver are a few of the many fascinating and familiar animals included in this glowing poetic tribute to the lively ecosystem of the pond.

Pairing poems with pictures, this is an introduction to the animals and plants that call the pond home, and while they may not all be those that young Australian readers are familiar with, it sets up the opportunity to investigate what a local pond might have and would look like. Do we even call them ponds?  Or are they dams and billabongs? 

This is another invitation to look more closely at the world around us, especially those parts we tend to take for granted, to extend vocabulary and writing skills to describe it in poetry or depict it in artworks, or if that isn’t a strength, create a brief factual description using those included as a model.