Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Fluff, Bullies Beware!











Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2023

216pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


According to the official government report, Gilbert’s dad disappeared in outer space but Gilbert knows that the truth is his dad died while defending the Earth from an aggressive army of aliens that wanted to turn the planet into a poo-processing plant.   Whatever the reason, Gilbert’s dad doesn’t live with them any more and to compensate, Gilbert’s mum gave him a big fluffy bunny toy.  But this is no ordinary squishy soft toy – Fluff can talk and he has attitude.  

So when Gilbert’s underpants are found hanging from the school gate – everyone knows they’re his because his mum has written his name on them – it is time to get revenge on the bully who put them there, especially as every gate in the street sports a pair of them too …

And so begins another series from the popular Matt Stanton, written for young readers embarking on their independent reading journey with minimal text on each page and lots of illustrations that carry the story forward.  With series like The OddsFunny Kid  and Bored to his credit, Stanton his continuing the legacy of authors like Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths who turned kids, especially boys, of a previous generation on to the fun of reading by knowing just what it was they wanted to read about and how they wanted to read – pared down text that wasn’t complicated and didn’t take a lot of time.  And with the second in the series due early next year, this is another win not just for Stanton but also all those boys who are still looking for a reason to read. 

A Bear Called Blue

A Bear Called Blue

A Bear Called Blue











A Bear Called Blue

Frances Stickley

Lucy Fleming

Andersen Press, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


He sat in the shop window by himself all summer – the last teddy left until Harriet falls in love with him. Harriet never goes anywhere without her beloved  Blue, so when they become separated because he gets left at the beach, he knows that Harriet must be searching for him. Blue might be lost, but he never loses hope. Days, months and years pass, until one day Blue finds himself on a stall at a summer fete. He catches sight of a little girl who looks just like Harriet… but it can’t be, wouldn’t she be grown up by now? And why does the little girl’s mum look so familiar to him? 

Told in rhyme from Blue’s perspective, this is a story that will touch the heart of any young child who has ever been separated from a favourite toy that will give them hope that one day they will be reunited.  That there can be happy endings. 

Introducing Teddy: A story about being yourself





Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy









Introducing Teddy: A story about being yourself

Jessica Walton

Dougal Macpherson

Bloomsbury, 2016

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



Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends.  They do everything together and go everywhere together.  Riding the bike, planting the veges, eating sandwiches in the treehouse, and having tea parties indoors when it is raining. 

But one day Thomas seems incredibly sad and nothing Errol can do can cheer him up – not even playing on the swings in the park. 

“What’s wrong, Thomas. Talk to me,” said Errol.

“If I tell you,” said Thomas, you might not be my friend any more.”

“I will always be your friend, Thomas.”

Thomas the teddy took a deep breath.  “I need to be myself, Errol.  In my heart. I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy.  I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.”

Does this revelation affect Errol’s friendship with his teddy?  Not at all. It’s their friendship that matters.  Neither does it bother their friend Ava, who scoots by and joins in the fun of the park.  And at the very next tea party Errol and Tilly have a lovely time with Ava and her robot.

The publisher’s blurb for this book says it is “a ground-breaking children’s book about gender identity and friendship’ and indeed it is for if you have ever tried to find stories about this topic for young people, you will know they are few and far between.  In fact, anything that touches on gender diversity is scarce and yet it is an area that needs and deserves attention.  Written in response to a personal need, its Australian author has really highlighted that gender orientation should not be that which defines us, and for kids, it isn’t.  Being a friend is much more important.  Having witnessed the transition of a girl to a boy first-hand, what was very evident was that the other students just accepted the child for who he was.  There was no fuss or bother, teasing or bullying.  Perhaps this was because of the way both the parents and the school handled the matter, but it was very apparent, that as with any form of discrimination, it is the adult generation that finds things hard to accept and imposes sanctions.  Just like Errol, the existing friendship was stronger and more important than anything else.

Through a wonderful marriage of text and illustrations, Walton and Macpherson have explored this concept perfectly – the repositioning of the bow tie to hair ribbon is just exquisite.

However, while I believe that this book and others like it have a place in the school library collection, there are those who are likely to object and therefore it would be prudent to make sure that your Collection Policy includes a statement such as “no resource in the general collection will be shelved, labelled or displayed in a way that discriminates or marginalises a user on the grounds of ability, culture, ethnicity, religion sexual orientation, or any other consideration”.  It would also be prudent to talk to your exec so they are in the loop as they are usually the go-to people when parents complain.  (For more information on this go to The Tricky Topics Hat )

“Inclusivity” and “diversity” have to be more than just buzzwords in the current educational jargon, and we need more writers like Jessica Walton to enable us to ensure that all our students are able to read about themselves in the resources we offer them.

Originally published June 1 2016

Updated February 2023

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear












Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick

Sophie Blackall

Little Brown, 2015

56pp., hbk



Cole asks his mother for a bedtime story – a true one about a bear.  And it just so happens that Lindsay Mattick is the great-great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian vet who, in 1914, was conscripted to join the war effort to look after the soldiers’ horses. On his way to the training ground far from his native Winnipeg, the train pulls into a station and Harry spies a baby bear on a rope held by a trapper who is unlikely to raise him and love him as Harry did all animals.  After a lot of thought, twenty dollars changes hands and Harry finds himself back on the train with the bear cub and a lot of curious mates and one astonished colonel.  But the bear whom Harry has named Winnie after his home town, wins over the troops and she soon establishes herself as the regiment’s mascot. 

Winnie travels with the soldiers to England, but when it is time for them to embark for France, Harry knows Winnie can not go.  So he leaves Winnie at The London Zoo where she is loved by hundreds of children including a certain little boy named Christopher Robin Milne – and from there a whole other story begins.

2016 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, this is a charming story that has that intimacy of a story shared between mother and child. Beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall with meticulously researched details in muted watercolour and ink colours which reflect the mood and emotions, it also contains photos of Harry with Winnie and other memorabilia that demonstrate the authenticity of the tale.    The conversations between the narrator and her son which are interspersed throughout the story not only add to its reality but also make it more than just a non-fiction recount.  With its undertones of A. A. Milne’s writing, and the final pages that trace the lineage of Harry Colebourne to Cole, this is a very personal account that is as engaging as it is interesting. Because she is telling the story to her own young son, there are several occasions where she chooses her words very carefully so he will not be upset and this then makes it suitable as a read-aloud for even the youngest of listeners. 

One of many stories published to coincide with  the centenary of World War 1 continues, there are many stories commemorating the contribution that a whole range of creatures made to the conflict, but this one with its direct ties to the beloved character of Winnie-the-Pooh which all children know, is one that will linger in the mind for a long time.  

You could also trace Winnie’s story with Christopher Robin from the time he first appeared in A A. Milne’s anthology, When We Were Very Young, as a poem called Teddy Bear …

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: “If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?”
He thought: “It really isn’t fair
To grudge one exercise and air.”For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
“Is quite” (he said) “as fat as me!”
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
“I mean” (he said) “as fat as I!

Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings –
Old tales of “Once upon a time,”
And history retold in rhyme.

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: “King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed ‘The Handsome!'” There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub )
Might yet be named “The Handsome Cub!”

“Might yet be named.” Or did he mean
That years ago he “might have been”?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
“Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is ‘Handsome Louis’ with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget.
Next morning (nose to window pane)

The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
“Is he alive or is he dead?”
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled “Oh!”
Our Teddy disappeared below.”

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
“Well, well!” “Allow me!” “Not at all.”
“Tut-tut! A very nasty fall.”

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It’s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That ‘handsome’ King – could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
“Impossible,” he thought. “But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!”

“Are you,” he said, “by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?”
The other answered, “I am that,”
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, “Excuse me,” with an air,
“But is it Mr Edward Bear?”
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, “Even so!”

They stood beneath the

window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that….
Then said His Majesty, “Well, well,
I must get on,” and rang the bell.
“Your bear, I think,” he smiled. “Good-day!”
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about –
He’s proud of being short and stout.

Or listen to this 1929 sound recording by the Dominion Gramophone Company in which Milne reads the third chapter of his classic, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” or the movie A Bear Named Winnie with Stephen Fry and Michael Fassender. 
Of all the stories written about teddy bears over the generations, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear are arguably the most enduring and to discover that Winne was real, and had a life and following long before Disney discovered it, will delight both young and not-so-young.  A must-have book for any fan. 
Originally published February 16, 2016
Updated February 2023

Hop Lola Hop

Hop Lola Hop

Hop Lola Hop











Hop Lola Hop

Kathy Urban

Siski Kalla

Little Steps, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


Lola is a little toy bunny who likes to go on fun adventures. But one day, she goes a little too far. Meanwhile Ella her owner Ella is heartbroken when her beloved bunny goes missing. How are they going to find each other again, especially in a big town?

This is a heart-warming tale about an adorable lost toy bunny that young readers will relate to because they will know the feelings and emotions that come with losing something special.  No doubt they will have their own stories to share, or perhaps they might imagine the adventure that their toy had while it was away.  Stories like this that have a simple, relatable plot are valuable for getting littlies to tell their own stories, learning to organise their thoughts, sequence the events and build their vocabulary as they describe what happened and how they felt.  


The Gift Shop Bear





The Gift Shop Bear

The Gift Shop Bear











The Gift Shop Bear

Phyllis Harris

Worthy Kids, 2022

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


From a cosy box in the attic of the Nana’s Gift Shop, Bear watches the seasons pass waiting for the last leaf to fall because he knew that’s when Annie would come to get him and place him in pride of place at the bottom of the Christmas tree in the shop window. He knew that for the next few weeks he would do all sorts of things with Annie to mark the coming of Christmas but this year was different – the shop was closing for good and Bear was really worried about never seeing Annie again…

This is one of those feel-good, traditional Christmas stories that is timeless and thus likely to be one that endures for generations as a family favourite.  It features all the elements that we think about at Christmas, regardless of it being set in the northern hemisphere with snow and carolers and people rugged up in their winter woolly warms. It leaves a feeling as warm as a teddy bear’s snuggle. 


A Very Play School Christmas





A Very Play School Christmas

A Very Play School Christmas











A Very Play School Christmas

Jan Stradling

Jedda Robaard

ABC Books, 2022

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


Since it first aired on Australian television on 18 July 1966, the toys of Play School have shared so many adventures with young children and now they are back to spend Christmas together at Jemima’s caravan park.  

Young children will delight in seeing the familiar friends share the joys and fun of an Australian Christmas as they take part in the Christmas present hunt and lucky dip.

And given that is more than 55 years since we first met them, this is one to add to the favourites collection to be shared and shared again, perhaps even 55 from years from now! 

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy











Freddy the Not -Teddy

Kristen Schroder

Hilary Jean Tapper

EK Books, 2022

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


Jonah’s favourite toy is Freddy, but Freddy is not a teddy – he might have been a funky duck, a peculiar platypus or even a punk rock penguin – and that causes a problem when there is to be a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at school.  Does Jonah take Freddy who means so much to him, or a teddy that he finds hiding, forgotten, under his bed?

This is a heart-warming story that will appeal to all our young readers who have a favourite stuffed toy that is not a teddy, especially if they have had to make a decision about whether it “fits the brief” for an occasion like a Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  Jonah’s solutions to both his own problem and that of Cassie will inspire them to be brave enough to be themselves despite peer pressure. 


The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit











The Velveteen Rabbit

Margery Williams Bianco

Hélène Magisson

New Frontier, 2021

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


Sitting at the top of the Boy’s Christmas stocking is a stuffed rabbit, sewn in a snuggly fabric called velveteen, and by far the most impressive present amongst the nuts, oranges, chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse.  But in a time of new-fangled mechanical toys the wonder doesn’t last long and the Velveteen Rabbit is soon discarded for toys with more whizbangery and it sits forlorn and forgotten in the nursery.

Wondering what it has done to deserve this fate, it confides in wise Skin Horse that he longs to be a real rabbit.  Skin Horse tells him that toys do become real when they are loved by children.  But the chances of that happening seem unlikely until the Boy becomes ill with scarlet fever and his nanny gives him the rabbit for company…

Reimagined with new illustrations in the softest of palettes, this is a classic story  first published in 1922, that epitomises this year’s CBCA Book week theme of Dreaming with eyes open.  It is not only quite an intense story with a number of twists and turns meaning it is probably one better shared and discussed with a child over a few sessions, but as with the stories of that era, it was intended to teach young children lessons about life and there are a number of these embedded in the narrative.  So it throws up issues such as whether one’s looks really matter – it is who we are rather than what we look like; that there are hills and dales and ups and downs in everyone’s life and having the resilience to see them through shapes who we are and builds us for the next drama; that loving someone can be painful and that it can mean letting them go; to be careful what you wish for because the grass may not always be greener; and most importantly, IMO, is that who we are is enough.  We don’t need to depend on the validation of others for our self-worth and confidence.

It might even spark a philosophical discussion about reality – what is real and how do we distinguish between the various versions of reality that the author presents with such conviction and so convincingly? If reading is dreaming with your eyes open, where is the border? 


Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where's George's Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?











Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


George is looking for Mr Dinosaur but he can’t find him anywhere and he’s distressed.  So Mummy Pig suggests they retrace their steps through the day, but no matter how promising things look, what’s revealed under the flap is not Mr Dinosaur.

In a book reminiscent of the advertisement for a particular brand of car in which a family retraces their steps in search of Gonzo the missing toy rabbit, little ones can not only follow George’s search as they resonate with his rising distress but they learn that there can be a logical sequence of events to follow rather than throwing a tantrum. So that when they misplace something, parents can draw on George’s experience to guide them in theirs.

Again, the use of a familiar plot, favourite characters and a lift-the-flap technique mean the book will engage even our youngest readers and those crucial concepts about the value of print will continue to develop.  There’s something special about quietly observing Mr Nearly 3 taking himself off to a quiet spot and retelling himself the story using his own vocabulary as he recounts George’s adventures.  But there was also something disconcerting when at the conclusion he said, “I bet his mum put it there out of her bag,” suggesting that maybe he had been exposed to that advertisement once too often!