No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus










No Place for an Octopus

Claire Zorn

UQP, 2019

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


At that special time when the ocean pauses its ceaseless movement, a little one goes for a walk to explore the mysterious water worlds in the cracks and crannies in the rocks that have been left behind by the retreating tide. Rockpools reveal all sorts of secrets and there, hiding behind the seaweed is an octopus!

Long. curly arms/legs, suction caps and a blobby head, perhaps a little afraid and definitely looking lonely,hungry, wet and cold. Imagine the fun it could have if the little took it home, fed it, bathed, it, made it comfy and snug, an interesting friend that could play games or even ride the roller-coaster…  Or could it?

With its intriguing front cover and stunning illustrations, the author’s first foray into illustration, indeed picture books, this is a story that will resonate with every child, indeed adult, who has wandered among the rockpools and been mesmerised by the life within them, and determined to take a creature home with them.  How many show-and-share sessions have we seen starfish and shells and other creatures carefully preserved in buckets of sea water, but so far away from their home they can never see it again? The message that the rockpool is the perfect place for the octopus, and all the other rockpool creatures, is very strong, despite the adventures we humans might think it would like.  Thus, this is a timely story to share and discuss as summer holidays loom and visits to the beach and rockpools are anticipated. No matter the temptation we need to take only photographs, leave only footprints whether that is the rockpool or the desert.  

Zorn says, “I wanted to engage with the child’s love of the absurd by placing the octopus in all sorts of silly scenarios…[but] I also sought to create an exercise in empathy where the child is able to identify the octopus’s feelings about the situation it finds itself in.”  She succeeded.

Teachers’ notes are available.

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space









The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space

Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2019

26pp., big book, RRP $A39.99


As soon as they are old enough to notice the difference between day and night, perhaps even before that when they first ask “Why is the sky blue?”, little people have questions about space.  This book with its rhyming text, provides the first introduction to that mysterious world beyond our planet.

Designed to help little ones become more observant, such as looking at the changing phases of the moon, it also encourages their imagination as they think about what it might be like to land on the moon.

Now in big book format so it can be shared with groups it is perfect for preschoolers with questions! 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends










The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Friends

Eric Carle

Picture Puffin, 2019

12pp., board book., RRP $A16.99


Australia has some unique wildlife in a variety of habitats and Carle takes our very youngest readers on a journey through these with his iconic illustrations to discover some of them.  Using a lift-the-flap format, littlies will delight in discovering who lives where, identifying familiar creatures and meeting new ones. But where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?  

With its rich colours, interactivity and familiar theme, this is the perfect gift for the young reader just learning about the fun and excitement of books. 

Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life

Australian Sea Life










Australian Sea Life

Matt Chun

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2019

36pp, hbk., RRP $A29.99


Even though Australia is surrounded by ocean, not everyone has the chance to visit it regularly and even fewer have had the opportunity to explore it as a scuba diver and really see the diversity of life under the waves.  (Believe me, it is a fascinating world and even more diverse at night.) So in this companion to the 2019 CBCA  shortlisted Australian BirdsMatt Chun has taken his talents beneath the surface to give us a peek at what is in the waters that enclose us.  

From the Great White Shark to the Dugong to the Weedy Sea Dragon, readers can explore and discover pictorial and textual descriptions of familiar and not-so creatures that are part of our natural seascape. The attention to detail is again superb, and while most children won’t recognise as many of the species as they might have in Australian Birds, this is the perfect time, with summer and beach holidays around the corner, to pique their curiosity raise their awareness and inspire thoughts of conservation.  

If Australian Birds inspired your class to be involved in this year’s Aussie Bird Count later this month, then perhaps there could be an in-school project to identify the marine creatures the students discover over summer. 

If we are to protect our planet and its inhabitants, knowing about them first so they are valued is essential and this is the perfect starter.

Give Me Back My Bones!

Give Me Back My Bones!

Give Me Back My Bones!










Give Me Back My Bones!

Kim Norman

Bob Kolar

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk.  RRP $A24.99


A stormy night and the fast-flowing ocean current has uncovered and scattered the pirate’s skeleton all over the seabed and he is desperate to put himself back together. And with clever language and a rollicking rhyme, young readers not only help the pirate gather himself but also learn how their own skeletons go together and the correct names for all the bones.

Help me find my head bone,

my pillowed-on-the-bed-bone,

the pirate’s flag-of-dread-bone-

I’m scouting out my skull.

But as he comes together, a danger even greater than storms and currents is lurking.  Will this be his last hurrah?

From the scattered bones on the front endpaper to the complete skeleton on the back, this is engaging, entertaining and educational and little ones will love to have it over and over, soon chanting the rhymes for themselves. Lots of fun and lots of learning, the ideal way to introduce the body’s anatomy.find their own bones and the potential for the children to try to piece the body parts together for themselves.

And because I can, and because it fits, and may even spark an idea for a discussion with older readers…

No photo description available.

Animology: The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts













Animology : The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2019

72pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


Every part of me’s a letter!

Does that help you find me better?

Look very closely- can you see

The hidden letters that find me?

Sometimes letters may repeat

To make more eyes or fur or feet

Look back-to-front,

Look upside down,

Every letter can be found!

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve reviewed for a long time and one of the most fascinating. Paired with an informative verse about its subject, each illustration is created by using the letters of the creature’s name and the reader is challenged to find each one. From the vibrant mandrill on the front cover, the challenge is set to take a journey through the natural world discovering everything from swans to budgerigars, all cleverly constructed from their letters.  

Readers have to examine the details in each illustrations, honing their visual acuity skills amongst others, as Coote has had fun with fonts, their shapes and sizes to tease even the most discerning eye. One for those boys who like to gather round the same book and test themselves.  And having got the concept by looking, students can then be challenged to try for themselves, remembering that they not only have to spell the name correctly and use all the letters, but make the finished design resemble to creature!! Something very different for an art/biology lesson that could be a shared activity as the artists draw and the wordsmiths research to create the verse!

A significant step up from the usual look-and-find books for younger readers.


A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

A Curious Menagerie

A Curious Menagerie










A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

Carin Berger

Greenwillow Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


We’ve all heard of a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, but what is a group of giraffes called?  A murder of crows is a common trivia answer, but what about a mischief of mice?  Exploring collective nouns is always fun and in this book the ringmaster and the monkey investigate 64 of them opening up a menagerie of creatures for little ones to learn and perhaps wonder about and perhaps research their validity.  A parliament of owls?  Really?  That could either be flattering to some parliaments or insulting to some owls!

Berger has used her skills of making cut-paper collages to create fascinating illustrations and tying the collection together with the ringmaster and the monkey makes it a bit more engaging than the usual word book, especially the final pages!  One that will encourage small groups to share and delight in, and perhaps try to make up their own.  Would a group of koalas be called a cuddle?  Or a group of cockatoos a squawk?


Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas










Searching for Cicadas

Lesley Gibbes

Judy Watson

Walker Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


It is one of the distinctive sounds of summer in Australia and Grandpa and Child are going in search of its creator – the cicada.  Packing up their tent and other supplies in the little wagon, they head off to Apex Reserve to wait and watch with the other families. At sunset the noise starts  – the male calling for a mate – and the hunt begins.  Last year they saw Green Grocers, Yellow Monday sand a Floury Baker.  Will they be lucky this year and find the elusive Black Prince?

Packed with facts both in the story and in the accompanying  information paragraphs, this is another in the stunning Nature Storybooks collection that teaches our young readers about our unique fauna within the context of a picture book story.  In this case it highlights one of those special relationships children have with adults, that when they themselves are an adult, they will look back on with fond memories and perhaps try to replicate them with their own offspring.  I know my memories of time spent with my grandfather have shaped my relationships with my granddaughters. 

As well as the information within the story, there is also a summary about the cicada and an index to take the reader back to the relevant pages so that even from a very young age, little ones can begin to understand the structure of non fiction and how to use it to learn more.

Fact or fiction? This is a line-crosser that is quite simply, brilliant.  Loved it (even though I’m not a fan of anything with more than four legs.)

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There's a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!










Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Idan Ben-Barak

Julian Frost

A & U Children’s, 2019

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99


Quog the armless blob and Oort the gas cloud are on their way to Kevin’s party in their spaceship but they have run into some strife which they are having trouble fixing.  Being amorphous, neither of them have the means to open the spaceship door and so the reader is invited to help them.  Quog is fascinated by the reader’s hands which are first used to open the spaceship door, and then examines them more closely as other tasks are complete, discovering bones, muscles and nerves. As she investigates the purpose of each through the simple explanations offered, she grows her own so that she and Oort can get on their way to the party, once again.

This is another ingenious story from the creators of Do not lick this book to help our youngest readers understand how their body works.  Rather than examining the whole skeleton, just focusing on the hand, the body part that is helping repair the spaceship, the reader can interact with the text very easily without being overwhelmed.  By placing their hand on the picture and allowing Oort to look at it through x-ray type eyes, the bones, muscles and nerves are revealed and their function explained making it very interactive and engaging.  There is a more in-depth explanation about how to grow hands at the end of the book, but it’s what Quog does with her new hands that is the most appealing.

The original concept,  bright illustrations,  and cartoon-like format make this a book that will draw young readers back to it again and again as they learn more and want to know even more than that, perhaps taking them to other body books about their body parts and how they work. Non fiction for littlies at its best. (And just for fun, check out the origins of Oort‘s name! What about Quog?)

Frost, the illustrator, says  he uses his hands to “draw and write and make silly sculptures” while Ben-Barak uses his “to write, hug, scratch itchy bits and poke things to see what happens.”  What do you do with yours?


Little Kids First Board Book: Space

Little Kids First Board Book: Space

Little Kids First Board Book: Space









Little Kids First Board Book: Space

National Geographic Kids, 2019

24pp., board book,RRP $A14.99


Little people have endless questions about their world, once they begin to explore it, and the world of the night sky is particularly fascinating.  So this latest publication from Nat Geo Kids which explores the basics of the solar system with amazing photographs, super-simple facts, and lively, age-appropriate language is perfect to introduce the very youngest to what is out there and spark both  their curiosity and imagination.

So often the board book format is restricted to learning the alphabet, colours and counting or to simple stories, so to have non fiction available in a way that it will stand up to little hands is a bonus. Let them learn that they can learn from books as well as the screen.