Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story











Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Rebecca Lim

Cai Tse

Albert Street Books, 2023

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


Starting on  February 10, 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and the family, like so many around the world, are making all the traditional preparations ready for this special celebration.  The house is clean so all the bad luck is outside with the rubbish, special foods have been cooked, and so much else has been done as the anticipation of the dragon’s arrival reaches fever point. 

The advent of the Lunar New Year is celebrated not just in Asia but around the globe as people from many nationalities honour the traditions and customs of their heritage and this new picture book is the perfect introduction to this time as its sense of expectation and energy builds through both words and pictures. As both a classroom teacher and teacher librarian, this was always one of the richest festivals to draw on, not just because of all the teaching and display opportunities that it offered but also because it touched so many children and their families. Then, as well as exploring all the possibilities that that topic offers, it can be extended into a broader investigation of how and when New Year is celebrated by the school’s families.

Many of our students will be starting the new school year with the excitement of such an important occasion looming, and this is a great way to share that joy as well as acknowledging their culture. 


A Chinese New Year display

A Chinese New Year display


What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm











What You Need to Be Warm

Neil Gaiman

Bloomsbury, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


I have neither the desire or the skill to review this book because anything I say or write pales into insignificance in the presence of the wondrous Neil Gaiman. Thus I am going to use the foreword and the publisher’s notes to show what this book is about and why I immediately recommended it to colleagues who were seeking just such a piece…

in 2019, before COVID, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the current Israeli conflict, winter was coming to the northern hemisphere and people were going to be cold , especially people who didn’t have homes because they had fled the fighting in their countries or their homes, often their villages and towns, had been destroyed.  To draw attention to their plight Neil Gaiman asked his social media followers  what reminded them of warmth.  And from the tens of thousands of replies, each with a specific memory, he wove the responses into a long green scarf, so symbolic of being snuggled in warmth, and into a poem that became a film and now a book illustrated by people like Chris Riddell, Benji Davies, Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Daniel Egnéus, Pam Smy, Petr Horácek, Beth Suzanna, Bagram Ibatoulline, Marie-Alice Harel, Majid Adin and Richard Jones, with a thought-provoking cover from Oliver Jeffers.

It is  “an exploration of displacement and flight from conflict through the objects and memories that represent warmth in cold times. It is about our right to feel safe, whoever we are and wherever we are from, and about welcoming those who find themselves far from home. “

Sadly, in 2023, winter is again coming to the northern hemisphere and more people than ever are without a home, or warmth whether that’s wrapping your hands around a baked potato on a winter’s night or wrapping yourself in a blanket knitted by your grandmother or just the warmth of feeling safe indoors, so sales of every copy of this book will help support the work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which helps forcibly displaced communities and stateless people across the world.

And if you want to do more, check out Wrap With Love and perhaps start a knitting group in the new year.

What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?

What's In A Dumpling, Grandma?

What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?













What’s In A Dumpling, Grandma?

Linda Meeker

Sandra Eide

Thomas Nelson,2023

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


It’s a special day for  Grey and his cousin Mila because they are going to  Grandma’s and she is going to teach them how to cook bánh loc, traditional Vietnamese dumplings.  But it becomes more than just a cooking lesson as Grandma tells of her memories of sharing this heritage comfort food with other loved ones.

Celebrating the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, this is a story that shows that there is so much more in traditional family recipes beyond the physical ingredients. As well as inspiring young readers to investigate their traditional family recipes so they too can learn to make them and pass on their heritage, it has the recipe for Grandma’s fish sauce and a guide to the pronunciation of some of the key Vietnamese words used in the story, perhaps an encouragement for them to learn their ancestral language too. 

The names we have, the way we look and the food we share are perhaps the most important cultural ties that families share, so used with Joanna Ho’s Say My Name , Eyes that Kiss in the Corners,  and Eyes that Speak to the Stars, this could form the basis of a significant unit that not only welcomes all children to the class but encourages each of them to explore and share their heritage. 















Sarah Darwin, Eva Maria Sadowski

Olga Baumert

What on Earth Books, 2023

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99


Since human life emerged on this planet, people have speculated on how it all began with many communities developing creation stories to explain what they didn’t know or understand – stories that still guide life today in some places.  But in the mid 1800s, two scientists – Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – independently developed a theory known as evolution by natural selection,  and in this easily accessible, beautifully illustrated book, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin explains the theory –  what it is and how it works.

Feature spreads explain the important things that you need to know, a timeline plots the history of life on Earth., maps and charts show the Tree of Life, and extensive back matter includes a glossary, and index, a bibliography and the whole is backed by both the Natural History Museum in London and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin making it a model of authoritative presentation. As well as what has gone before, there are also sections on how humans have changed their own worlds, how evolution continues to influence adaptation and survival and a suggestion as to what the future holds, as long as we are willing to learn from the past.  

As well as being an excellent introduction to the history of life on this planet spanning 4.5 billion years, this is also an important addition to both the environment and sustainability curriculum and collection because “The better we understand evolution, the better we can protect the planet”.



Ruby’s Repair Cafe

Ruby's Repair Cafe

Ruby’s Repair Café











Ruby’s Repair Café

Michelle Worthington

Zoe Bennett

New Frontier, 2023

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


If you broke something, tore something or just needed something to go again, then you (and everyone else in town) went to The Repair Café and Ruby would mend it for you.  It was the busiest shop in town, long before the phrase “reduce, reuse and recycle” was mentioned.  That was until the new department store opened next door and suddenly everyone wanted new and shiny and, instead of going to Ruby’s, the local tip filled with ditched and discarded stuff.  Sadly Ruby’s Repair Café  had to close down even though the stink from the tip wafted over the town and the piles pf garbage threatened to bury it! 

But one night a huge storm sweeps through the town causing immense damage – even though it destroys so much, can it be the thing that saves it?

This is a captivating and original  story that not only focuses on the environmental message but also has a touch of David and Goliath about it as the big chain store swallows up small business. a story playing out in rural towns like mine almost every week.  (We’ve just seen our beloved pet shop close its doors because of one of the arrival of one of the chains.)  So, as well as consolidating the message about our impact on the planet through our incessant demands for new and shiny, it has the potential to introduce students to that old biblical story and start them thinking about shopping locally and supporting all those mum-and-dad businesses in their neighbourhood. Just as they are aware of their environmental choices, can they also be more-informed consumers?  Is price necessarily the most important factor? 

Young children will appreciate the solution of how both Mr Bigg and Ruby resolve their dilemma but they might also start to look at their own habits, particularly as Christmas draws near and there is going to be another wave of stuff to swamp them.  

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art












Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Hannah Salyer

Clarion Books, 2023

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Give a child a flat space and the means to make a mark and that is exactly what they will do.  And not only will they make marks but there will be a story that goes along with them, one that the child can visualise and tell in greater detail than the marks can depict and the viewer can ascertain. 

And from this stunning and intriguing book we learn that such activity is almost instinctual as it traces human history and “the lives, dreams and stories of our ancient ancestors” through the images portrayed in rock art. From the earliest known markings – those of prehistoric man discovered in the Biombos Cave, South Africa – these time capsules demonstrate the vital information and connections made between peoples around the globe who, despite the difficulties and dangers they faced daily still took the time to create, even though each etching might have taken many days and many people to complete.  From the making of tools to make a mark to the choice of medium to use as an enduring pigment, the effort to create these becomes apparent and underlines their historic importance, with a strong message of why they need to be both appreciated and  preserved.   

With its clever title, Ancestory takes the reader on a short journey of a long period showing how the creation of pictorial works is an integral part of who we are, and then, in the final pages, offers more detailed insight including links to more information for those who want to know more, making this a book that spans not only its topic but also age groups and the curriculum.  While young readers are often fascinated by the lives of the “cavemen”, older visual arts students can also discover much that will satisfy the upper bands of the Australian Curriculum. 


Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind

Cosmic Wonder: Halley's Comet and Humankind

Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind












Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind

Ashley Benham-Yazdani

Candlewick Press, 2023

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


Over 4.6 billion years ago,  about the same time the rest of our solar system was created, a comet was born – one that now visits this planet on its long orbit around the planets and the sun and beyond, only once is a person’s lifetime.  Unlike many others that are comparatively short-lived because they lose ice and debris each time they pass a star, this one has survived and for those lucky enough to be alive in 2061 it will light up our skies once again.

Named after the Edward Halley, the astronomer and mathematician who calculated that the comets that had been seen in the skies in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were one and the same and accurately predicted that it would return in 1758, Halley’s Comet has been orbiting since time immemorial, the last time being in 1986.  During that time it has seen so many changes on this planet as humans developed and with their curiosity and creativity have transformed it.

Essentially then, this is a history of Earth seen from the comet’s perspective as it makes its regular sweeps told in simple, almost lyrical, language and depicted in stunning artworks.  Tracing the changes (which are summarised in the final pages) it tells the story of the planet’s development from a time when nothing and no one saw it light up the night sky to that of a lone teacher fascinated by it perched like Humpty Dumpty on a wall in her garden  in 1986.  (I have no idea why scaling a 2 metre wall would give me a better view but there I was…)

As well as giving the reader a unique perspective on history, showing us just how small we are and how short our time here is, this is one not only to explore the other bodies in the universe but also to consider what the comet might see when it returns in 2061, provoking all sorts of textual and artistic responses.  What would they like it to see? They might even consider what their contribution to those changes might be. 

Innovative and visually outstanding, this is such a different way to view the world that it will capture not only those budding astronomers but also those who dream and wonder and imagine… Another reason to have a rich and vibrant non fiction collection. 

Beasts of the Ancient World

Beasts of the Ancient World

Beasts of the Ancient World











Beasts of the Ancient World

Marchella Ward

Asia Orland

DK., 2023

144pp., hbk., RRP $A37.99


The myths, legends and folklore of civilisations, generations and destinations are peppered with stories of brutal beasts and mysterious monsters, and, on the surface, this is a collection of those stories from around the globe. There are stories about fantastic creatures such as the Japanese baku, which had the power to devour nightmares, the wise Egyptian Sphinx, and the fearsome Minotaur who went head-to-head with Theseus in Greek mythology, and a map that shows just how widespread the stories are. Stories are collected under the headings of Our Worst Fears, Battles with Monsters, Kind Beasts and Harnessing the Power of Beasts, and accompanied by colourful illustrations that are not too scary.

But there is also an analysis of why people believe in these creatures, why they evolved and what they actually represent that can persuade the reader to read them through a different lens, seeing the similarities between the stories and the differences in how the beasts were vanquished – if indeed they were.  The concept of a monster has been used over time to represent the unknown, dangers and even feelings,  particularly fears,  often serving as a warning.  There is also the suggestion that rather than defeating the beasts that we could perhaps learn to live with them as we begin to understand the origins and purpose of the stories, because “things are never really as simple as brave human defeats monster.”

Thus, while younger readers can learn the stories surrounding the monsters so often associated with mythology, more mature readers can start to analyse the back story – what circumstances might have promoted the invention of such a creature, how it might be similar to other stories and why the imagery persists today. Are today’s generations very different to those who have gone before?



Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day

Emma Memma's Alphabet Day

Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day











Emma Memma’s Alphabet Day

Emma Memma

 Puffin, 2023

26pp., board book, RRP $A16.99


Behind the the curly red hair, pink shirt and orange dress of the main character is  Emma Watkins, once known as the “yellow Wiggle” but also a woman passionate about raising awareness  of Australia’s deaf community, who already has formal qualifications in Auslan and who is currently undertaking her PhD in “the affective, artistic integration of sign language, dance and film editing.” In consultation with artists who themselves are deaf, she is producing and releasing a range of formats that as well as the storybook will include, an ebook, audiobook and an Auslan video translation so that all young readers can be entertained through “movement, creativity, inclusiveness and friendship”.

In this new release Emma Memma takes a walk through her day teaching young readers how to sign each letter of the alphabet relating the letter to something she sees or does. 

There is a lot of research relating to learning a second language in early childhood, not just because it is easier for the child but because of associated benefits so learning Auslan alongside learning the English alphabet makes a lot of sense.  By using a recognised character, everyday situations and multi-modal delivery, Emma Watkins is doing much to normalise this way of communicating so that all children can be included.  

Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and the Hermit Crab

Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and the Hermit Crab

Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and the Hermit Crab











Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and the Hermit Crab

Sean E. Avery

Walker, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99


In the ocean there is no closer friendship than that between Mr Clownfish and Miss Anemone.  She protects him with her stinging tentacles if a big fish threatens him, and he protects her from other fish, cleans her tentacles twice a day and finds delicious small morsels of food they eat together, although Miss Anemone does get lonely when he swims off because she is tethered to the side of a large rock. They are each other’s heroes, 

On Miss Anemone’s birthday, Mr Clownfish gives her a hermit crab as a present and then goes in search of something special for their birthday tea. But when he returns, Miss Anemone has disappeared!  Convinced she has been kidnapped he follows the tracks in the sand and finds Miss Anemone riding on Hermit Crab’s back delighted in being able to explore the ocean at last. Mr Clownfish is devastated, convinced he is  no longer needed. But he has a very important lesson to learn about friendship… 

For those who have seen Finding Nemo (and this is a good reason to show it again),  the fun and friendships of the cheeky clownfish will be well-known as will the diversity of life on the ocean floor that is so beautifully depicted in Avery’s iconic, quirky illustrations, as Mr Clownfish delivers dinner in a scoop of seaweed rather like an underwater Uber Eats.  Apart from being a most engaging story of a special friendship that opens opportunities to explore the symbiotic relationships of creatures, not just in the ocean, and their interdependence so they can survive. it also puts the intricacies of human friendship into the spotlight.  Written for an age group that is just starting to build relationships beyond family ties, and often being very possessive of those, it raise questions about whether it is possible to have more than one special friend and how to respond if our special friend finds someone else.  While they might not need their friends to protect them in the way that Mr Clownfish and Miss Anemone interact, what are the unique attributes of their friends and how do they enrich each other’s lives? 

As with Frank’s Red Hat, shortlisted in the CBCA 2023 Book of the Year awards, Avery has offered our younger readers a most delightful read but with many more layers than meet the eye,