A Christmas Wish


A Christmas Wish







A Christmas Wish

Beatrix Potter

Eleanor Taylor

Puffin, 2017

18pp., board book, RRP $A12.99


It’s Christmas Eve and Peter Rabbit and his sisters are excited, but Peter is worried too. They have all wished for a special present but Peter can’t sleep, and he knows Father Christmas won’t visit if he’s still awake. As the hours drag by anxious Peter hears a little creak here, and a little bump there, so now he’s even less likely to fall asleep, especially as he is convinced each noise must be Santa and he gets up to investigate. Then he decides to sit and gaze at the lights on the Christmas tree…will Santa come while he’s there?

The charm and delight of Beatrix Potter’s tales about Peter Rabbit have endured over decades and this adaptation is no exception.  Perfect for that final sleep on the BIG night, little ones will empathise with Peter as they share his excitement and find it just as tricky to get to sleep it will become a classic part of the annual Christmas Countdown.


Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas











Down Under The Twelve Days of Christmas

Michael Salmon

Ford Street Publishing, 2012

Pbk., RRP $A12.95


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … no, not a partridge in a pear tree. But a kookaburra in a gum tree! In this quirky re-release of Michael Salmon’s version of the traditional Christmas song, Santa has landed in Australia’s outback and is checking his list.  Although the kangaroos are in charge of the presents, their koala helpers are not helping very much at all.  Are six sharks a-surfing and seven emus laying really what someone wants to find under their tree – or anywhere?

Most of us are familiar with the bright, colourful illustrations that are a signature of Michael Salmon’s work and from the cover to the final page which is a blackline master to be photocopied and coloured in, they just delight the readers and put a smile on their faces.  Not only is the original song one of timeless tradition, but this book is one of timeless quality which will bring joy to yet another generation of little ones.  With ski-ing snakes and dancing dingoes, they are introduced to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures in situations beyond their normal bush habitats and daily habits.  And of course, the whole just begs to be the basis of an improvisation that lets the students demonstrate their knowledge of our fauna and alliteration.  Imagine eleven echidnas eating…

Christmas Day in Australia IS very different from all those snow-covered Christmas card scenes we seem to still hang on to, and this classic proves it!

If your library copy from way back when is tired and over-loved, this is the opportunity to renew it with a sparkling new version.  And don’t forget to introduce the children to the fun and games available in the cave!

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls









The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton

Angela Barrett

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99



For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Each girl – Frida, Polina, lorna, Ariosta, Chessa, Bellina, Vita, Mariella, Delilah, Flora, Emelia  and the youngest, Agnes – has her own special talents and interests, talents and interests that had been encouraged by their mother but of which King Alberto knew nothing.  To him, girls were of little value, useful for getting married and bringing further wealth to his kingdom of Kalia and so as they grew up, he knew nothing about rearing girls and certainly didn’t approve of them being educated – “a girl may as well have been a sunflower or a trumpet”. So deep in grief at his wife’s death and afraid his daughters will suffer a similar fate because their mother had encouraged their independence and freedom, he removes all the things they love – their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. When Princess Frida defies him, as in the traditional tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm that the story mirrors, the girls are locked in a small room where they spend all their days and nights, except for one hour a day in the garden “to stretch their legs”.

When they find an escape from their cell-like room, sneaking off through a hidden door to a different world 503 steps down underneath the palace, life becomes a bit more bearable but Frida is made aware that there is always a price to pay for such freedom.  And, just as in the original, it is the girls’ worn out dancing shoes that give them away and Frida finds she has to use all her intelligence and ingenuity to keep her sisters safe and eventually free them…

This is a modern day version of that old German tale and by expanding on it, describing the settings, giving the girls personalities and emotions,  breathing life into characters that are usually one-dimensional, although it is somewhat disappointing that when the pilot arrives to try to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing shoes, that each is struck by his looks at first.

This is a story for independent readers who like a bit of meat in their fairy tales, while setting up the question, “Is freedom free?


Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls











Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey Backwards











Riding a Donkey Backwards

Sean Taylor & Khayaal Theatre

Shirin Adl

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


The full title of this book is Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin, a traditional beloved Muslim storyteller known as Hodja in Turkey, Afandi in Central Asia, Joha in the Arabic world and Mulla Nasruddin to millions of other Muslims.  His stories make the listeners laugh, think and maybe “even make your thoughts do somersaults inside your mind!”

Therefore to have a collection of traditional stories so well-told and beautifully illustrated that not only opens up a whole new world of stories for our students but also allows a large percentage of our school populations to see their stories alongside the common English ones like Cinderella et al, is a gift.  This is the first collection of these stories that has been published for a young Western audience.

So, why does Nasruddin spoon yoghurt into the river?  Why does he paint a picture that is blank? Is he crazy to move into the house of the man who’s just burgled him? And why does he ride his donkey backwards?  The answers are in the stories, each just a page or so long with stunning illustrations, and each very funny and often with a strong underlying message that makes so much sense and which will provoke discussion and debate. 

Stories are what binds a culture together; these ones will help cross the divide between them.  

The King with Dirty Feet

The King with Dirty Feet

The King with Dirty Feet










The King with Dirty Feet

Sally Pomme Clayton

Rhiannon Sanderson

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

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


Ask a child to draw a picture of the king and they will always give him a crown.  They would never give him dirty feet!  But that is the problem for the Indian king in this story inspired by a Bengali folktale called The King and the Cobbler.

Even though the king lives in a beautiful palace in a kingdom filled with trees, flowers, animals and a broad flowing river, he himself is not so beautiful because he loathes bathing.  To put it bluntly, he stunk so much that it even offended him and so he reluctantly decides to bathe in the river.  But when he steps out the riverside dust dirties his feet and so he has to get in the water again. But again they are dirty when he steps out. Realising the problem he orders his servant Gabu to remove all the dust and dirt in the kingdom and gives him just three days to do it or…

Gabu’s first two solutions work but the king doesn’t like them.  The third solution works but then a wise old man shows him that the land won’t like it.  Is there a way  for the king to have his clean feet and the land to still produce the plants and animals that make it so remarkable?

This new version of an old story is brought to life by an acclaimed storyteller so it is easy to hear yourself reading it aloud to a captivated audience while the colourful, detailed illustrations  show a different kind of king and kingdom to challenge the stereotype.

Something a little different to share and spark a range of conversations from the importance of hygiene to the purpose of clothes to the stereotyping of particular characters .


Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods











Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.


The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty








The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

David McAllister

Gabriela Tylesova

Little Hare, 2017

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


“From the stage to the page”.

Based on the Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of this iconic ballet in which Creative Director David McAllister wanted to preserve the original choreography by Pepita “while introducing modern pacing and narrative logic” this is a ballet lover’s must-have. 

Following the traditional story with no Disney additions in sight,  the story of Aurora, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the handsome prince is told in simple narrative,  accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations created by Gabriela Tylesova who was also the designer of the stage production. In all the shades of grey and pink all the characters have a magical quality filled with intricate detail that makes their balletic movements jump off the page. You can see the ballet and hear the music, even in the silence of awe.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…


From the intriguing front cover to the stunning back one, this is a book that will needs to be in the ballet-lover’s collection as well as that of anyone who just likes beautiful things.  It thoroughly deserves its CBCA 2018 Notables nomination.












Susanna Davidson

Sara Gianassi

Usborne Pop-Up Fairy Tales, 2017

10pp., pop-up, RRP$A14.99


What do you get when you combine one of the world’s most popular stories – there is a version in almost every culture with 345 of them being documented in 1893 – and the popular format of pop-up pictures?  You get this new version of this age-old tale recreated using the core of Perrault’s text and the most stunning paper engineering that will absolutely delight young readers.  

While maybe not suitable for general circulation through the library, it has its place in a collection of versions of the story that could be compared and contrasted with other versions both those we know and those from other cultures to identify the core elements which appear in each one as well as the central meaning. 

A new look for an old favourite.

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock









The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

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


A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.